Actions

Work Header

Heart, Meet Bullet

Chapter Text

 

 

heartmeetbullet

 

HEART, MEET BULLET
chapter one

The evening was a quiet one, and Dr. Hannibal Lecter enjoyed the last sputtering of the fire in its hearth accompanied by a lovely sifter of brandy. Its slightly orange citrus tones were the perfect accompaniment to the banker's human fois gras, his liver suitably fatty and deliciously tender on the tongue after a gentle sear. He was in the mood for Beethoven this evening, and he closed his eyes as a recording of his Piano Concerto no. 4 in G minor competed with Hannibal's memory of a similar, superior performance he had enjoyed in Milan.

The fois gras had been enjoyed with a fennel leaf and winter greens salad and a light cranberry infused dressing, a bit of tart to cut the richness of the fat. The small quail's egg hiding near the salad was symbolic of the fleeting attention we often give to our health. Though the grossly obese provided precious delicacies, Hannibal was reminded not to make a habit of them. Still, waste not want not. The trimmed fat would make excellent larder and well marbled roasts from the thighs a suitably tender meat.

He swirled the brandy in his glass and wondered what his Will was up to. No doubt laying in bed, sweating through another nightmare of black stags and mysterious Pan like creatures roaming the woods. He wondered how often he himself featured in Will's imaginings, for he certainly took up a considerable amount of Hannibal's own. A bit too much, perhaps.

When he sat here, alone, with his brandy, he was often forced to be more honest with himself, an affliction that he was not keen to examine too closely. From the moment he'd met him, with his strange, fantastical abilities, a man of pure empathy who was intelligent enough to find his way into Hannibal's mind and start wandering its dark corridors, he'd been transfixed. Such uniqueness had to be carefully handled, the moulding of it as delicate a work as thinly spun glass. If he was to fully bring Will Graham into his universe he would need to pull the strings with deft clarity, every small step in his development as a true partner carefully plucked into a quiet symphony. Obsession was not only to be encouraged but was necessary. No detail was to be overlooked.

And how could there be, with memories of the man so keenly placed in the very foyer of his memory palace, every strand of wavy, dark curls framing his nervous face, where brilliant blue eyes shone out in fragile need. The beauty of his suffering had played upon Hannibal's more aesthetic sensibilities, and then to discover he was as articulate as he was lovely was a precious gift he was not about to waste.

He contemplated the fire as he thought about his obese offal in the cellar, wondering what shape his massive bulk could be twisted into. He had considered making him a metaphor of excessive wants, stuffing his body cavity with fast food take out boxes and chip bags, but the concept was a tad hypocritical. He did not deny himself anything, and his current indulgence in his obsession with Will Graham was a gluttony that was parallel to his victim's love for greasy food.

His cell phone buzzed and he took it out of his side jacket pocket, annoyed by the intrusion into his reverie. A fairly long, involved text from Jack Crawford, bidding he come to Quantico in the morning with Will to go over that last cadaver again, this time as a careful comparison and contrast to what they'd found in relation to the Hobbs murders. Hannibal checked his watch, the late hour surprising him. Jack never slept either if the hands reading one a.m. were any indication. He sighed, noting the text had been sent to Will and Alana and whoever else Jack deemed necessary to include in his own brand of obsession, which currently revolved around catching the Chesapeake Ripper. He would destroy everything and everyone in his path to close the case, Hannibal knew, and he regretted that Will Graham was set to become a part of Jack's fallout.

He would shield him from it best he could, but Jack was a persistent man. He was sure to damage the manipulations Hannibal would painstakingly put into place. Best to tread carefully.

As he thought on Will Graham and the noose that was being so tightly closed around his tender, sweet neck, Hannibal was reminded of a painting by Dutch painter Dirck deBray, 'Still Life with a Dead Rabbit and Falcon'. Not one of his favourite pieces, but significant in its depiction of a falcon sitting proudly beside its prey. There was no doubt why Will Graham figured in his mind in reflecting upon this work, for the subdued yet proud image of the rabbit's corpse being watched over by the chained hawk was a startling parallel. Predator and prey held in captivity to one another both in life and death.

Checking his watch again as though willing time to move backwards instead of forwards, Hannibal conceded it would be best to retire for the evening, and leave his artistic endeavour for another night. He had to properly ruminate upon it, for he had decided the man's large carcass would be an excellent repository for holding the growing interest in the FBI profiler who was nudging formerly stagnant parts of his heart.

Hannibal did not fully realize he was sculpting a love letter, however. As a madman and a monster, he did not have the perception needed to recognize that interest and love are eventually tightly braided together.

As he stood by his fire, ready to down the last of his brandy and retire to bed, his focus was broken by the ringing of his doorbell. Frowning, Hannibal tensed, going through a mental checklist of a what seemed to be a never ending scroll of possible enemies who would be more than keen to snuff him out.

He kept his brandy glass in his hand. It would be useful to smash against a potential enemy's face should they be stupid enough to attempt to harm him. The jagged shards could slice through a jugular given enough force.

He opened the door and, in an act that is highly unbecoming for a quality monster such as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, the brandy glass fell from his grasp and onto the front step, smashing into a thousand pieces. There were many, many people Dr. Lecter imagined would haunt his door at such an unwelcome hour.

He did not expect it would be himself.

~*~

His 'guest' plunked his suitcase in front of the dwindling fire and used it as a footstool as he draped himself in one of the two winged back chairs Hannibal had placed before the fireplace. He smiled with easy charm as he pulled a package of cigarettes from the pocket of his hideously ugly bowling shirt (were those prints of 'dachshunds' on its surface?) and shook out one of the cancer sticks. He slid it between his lips, quite an effort since his shit eating grin was taking over more than half of his face.

As he lit his cigarette, Hannibal said, "I don't smoke and I would prefer you didn't in my home."

His double, who Hannibal learned was named Nigel, merely sat back in his chair, ignoring the request. "You have a fireplace, what more harm can I do? You think burning fucking pine logs is some kind of organic bullshit? You've been sucking on nature's poison all night and you're going to deny me a smoke? Tell you what, I'll put out the fucking cigarette." He butted it out on the arm of Hannibal's chair, burning a thick hole in it. "There. Now you can get me a big glass of what you are drinking because you are such a goddamned amazing fucking host."

"My twin," Hannibal said, doing what he could to make what Nigel had told him cement into reality. It was a hard sell and Hannibal wanted to make sure the story he was being told held up to his more exacting scrutiny. "Tell me again how it is possible you exist without my ever having any knowledge of you. For it is a strange thing that you show up on my doorstep at an unpleasant hour of the night, seeking refuge and family when you have had no interest in doing so until now."

Seeing that Hannibal made no move to get him a drink, Nigel decided to help himself. Without getting out of his chair he sloppily grabbed the decanter of brandy and captured an empty tumbler between two fingers. He poured himself a generous amount and then set the decanter on the floor beside his suitcase. He swirled it in the exact manner Hannibal had not an hour earlier, his mannerisms a bizarre pantomime of his own movements. "As you know, father was an asshole."

"I barely knew him," Hannibal said, shrugging. "Mischa and I were raised by nannies." He thought back to the few times he had interacted with the man before his untimely death when Hannibal was still a child and remembered a stern, miserable disciplinarian whose love was solely for hunting and the nobility of their family line. Hannibal's maroon gaze turned towards the dying fire in unreadable concentration. "However, yes, he was an asshole."

"He was used to having enemies, and I'm sure he knew exactly what would eventually happen to his happy home. I am well aware of that bit of history, dear brother. An unfortunate and bloody end for the descendents of the house of Lecter, but then, you managed to escape its destiny and I...Well, I was the result of our wonderful father's adoration for family lineage. He shipped me off when I was a baby to his cunt mistress in Romania and left me there. He must have been so happy to know his prick made the perfect insurance policy. Of course, when he died all the funds went with him and then to you, his supposed last living relative. Fucking jackass left his cunt mistress to raise me with nothing, and she didn't do a good job. No fucking father, no fucking mother, some kind of sad story, am I right?"

"If you are looking for money what amount are we talking about?" Hannibal said, his eyes never leaving the face of his twin as they narrowed him into their scrutiny. He didn't like the way Nigel laughed at the suggestion, the brandy gulped with ugly wanton pleasure rather than with appreciative sips. "If who you are is genuine, I have no qualms with sharing what is left of the family fortune. However, I warn you, if you try to take more than is your fair share, I will fight you and it will end messily."

"I don't doubt it would," Nigel laughed, his grin filled with a mirth Hannibal didn't understand. He knocked back more brandy and followed it with yet another full glass. The decanter was diminishing by the minute. "I'm not here for money, dear brother. I don't need a fucking dime, I have enough cash to get me and the next four generations through the next hundred years. Father's old, crusty dimes mean fuck all to me and I hope he died with wads of our family fortune shoved up his miserable ass. No, I'm here for something far more important than money, dear brother." He downed the brandy in one gulp, and set the glass down beside the near empty decanter on the floor. "I'm here for sanctuary."

"Sanctuary," Hannibal repeated. He licked his lips and wondered what it would be like to eat a portion of himself. If Nigel was his identical twin, as he so clearly seemed to be, making him a part of his next meal would be the ultimate act of narcissism. Will would probably find the consumption a fascinating aspect of the Chesapeake Ripper's personality. Repulsed first, of course, but inevitably, the fascination would prevail.

"Let's just say I've run into some trouble with some former business associates and I don't want them fucking with my retirement."

"Are you in the habit of making these kinds of enemies?"

"Only when they try to fuck me over. Loyalty only goes so far when you're a free agent anyway, and it's not like I have any close ties to any of them. Not like here, am I right, dear brother? Business is war, fighting dirty is part of the package. But family, there's the difference. Family will fuck you personally and say it's for your own good."

Hannibal frowned at this. "If that is how you feel what are you doing here? I am more than willing to turn on you and throw you to whatever dog it is that is salivating for your blood."

"Ahhh, there it is..." Nigel tapped the side of his head with a long finger, his not so pleasant grin mocking Hannibal's threat. "That good old Lecter bitchiness. I was wondering when it was going to show up, your mouth is so clean its like you eat a bar of soap every morning. You must shit bubbles." Nigel's crooked grin was grating on Hannibal's last nerve. "You see, the thing is, dear brother, you may not have known about me, but I have known about you for a very, very long time."

"How fascinating. Your interest in family history is quite impressive as I have had no inkling of you. I wonder why that is. Perhaps our asshole father thought this would be a good way to divide and conquer within his own family. Hoping for a fight to the death over the family jewels, as it were. Or for title."

"I told you I don't give a shit about any of that."

"Then please, speak plainly. You have known of me for quite some time and yet you sit before me a complete stranger. You claim to want sanctuary and thus the concept of family is only something that is to be used when it is convenient for you. Why, then, should I help you, or even recognize you as a brother when you have offered no extension of yourself to me, even though you knew of my existence." Hannibal's lip curled as he looked on the street rat masquerading as his blood in the chair beside him. "Strangers we have been and strangers we shall remain. Out of courtesy I will allow you to spend the night, but first thing in the morning I want you out of my house and never to darken my doors again or I will finish you."

Nigel's eyes opened wide and he openly laughed at Hannibal's denial of him, the very real threat he offered taken in ignorant stride.

"It is not amusing, I am perfectly serious."

"I am sure you are, dear brother, I don't doubt it one bit."

"Stop calling me your brother."

"Why the fuck wouldn't I? Just because you don't like me doesn't mean we didn't slide out of the same cunt."

The black gaze Hannibal gave him at this gave Nigel pause, and he backed down in his bravado slightly. "I'm not meaning disrespect, if that's how you take it. I got denied an inheritance, sure, but I don't feel any ill will towards you for it. Shit happens, and like I said, I've got my own legacy to take care of. Funny thing, legacies...They can start early or late. In your case, I know it started way before you moved to America and settled up here in Baltimore. I knew you in Italy, dear brother, but it wasn't our father's name that they shouted in fear and respect. People had a different title for you there. Over cups of grappa and in between the breasts of whores they'd whisper your name. *Il Monstro*."

Calming himself into the most blithe version of his person suit he could, Hannibal regarded Nigel with the all the slick concentration of an art historian studying a velvet clown painting. How very vile he was, this creature who dared to share every facet of his DNA in mirrored glory. Classless and moronic, to say Nigel was a disappointment was an understatement. Still, he was cunning and had a certain degree of finely tuned street smarts that had preserved him within a business world that was definitely part of the fringe element. He wondered what it was that kept Nigel in riches. Drugs? Money laundering? Human trafficking? Probably a combination of all three, though Hannibal doubted he was ever a true kingpin. More like a right hand man, a sitting dog who would be ordered to bark.

Murder for hire sounded about right. How distasteful.

"See, I used to divide my time in those days between Romania and Italy, a bit of side business that was fairly profitable. And there were a few times where I ran into some strange scenes, one of the most memorable being when I swore I saw myself arranging the corpses of a young couple within a wooden cart, surrounding their bodies with flowers. Italy is such a fucking beautiful country, isn't it? Not so black and dark like Romania, full of fucking corpses even when you can't see them. But Italy, ah, que bella! Even the dead celebrate the fact they are there and love that ends in murder and blood is just a pretty little fresco waiting to happen."

"I do remember hearing about those murders," Hannibal said, admitting and denying nothing. "How strange that you would believe you committed them."

"Oh, I did no such fucking thing, I'm not that kind of a sick fuck. Might be more the kind you are, though."

"That was a long time ago as I recall." Hannibal's words were dark. "Perhaps your memory is imperfect when recalling the details."

"I remember the details just fine. But maybe you're right. Maybe things get cloudy sometimes. It was such a strange thing to see, I simply had to take some pictures. I was a bit of a photographer in those days, mostly of tits and assholes, no accounting for taste, I know. People buy anything. And there it was, me arranging two dead people. Imagine my surprise. But fuck me, if I didn't have the best alibi you can imagine. I'd just been arrested for assault, a charge that didn't stick, of course. The cop that dumped me off was this little cocksucker keener who wrote up a nice fat report. So there was no time for me to do the deed, you see, and that was the day I learned the value of the occasional paper trail."

Hannibal cocked his head to one side, taking in this information and processing it in meticulous calculation. Nigel had known, for quite some time, that Hannibal was the feared serial killer Il Monstro that had terrorized Florence, a place where he had added his own notes of incredible beauty. He hadn't gone to the police, probably because he was in trouble already, but the photos were problematic. All this time and he could have been outed and thrown into prison but his brother had refrained. This blackmail was rather tacked on, almost as an afterthought, and Hannibal's curiosity was dangerously awoken. Why?

He heard his front door swing open and both Hannibal and Nigel rose in unison, ready to confront a new threat. But it was with both surprise and amusement that Hannibal saw it was only his dear Will, looking confused and sick, an expression that delightfully increased tenfold as he looked from Hannibal to Nigel and back again, his head shaking as he broke eye contact and began to back away.

"I...I'm sorry, I just..." His mouth twisted into a grim line. "I know it's insanely late, I couldn't sleep and I know you keep late hours and I wasn't thinking, I know it takes two hours to drive out here." He ran a shaking palm through his tangled dark mess of curls and backed away slightly from the dual image of Hannibal. "Alana..She kissed me. Then she said she didn't want a relationship because I'm too unstable and...Jesus Christ, Hannibal, why are there two of you?"

"Rest assured, Will, there is only one of me." With a tense smile he guided Will into his home, easing his jacket off of his shoulders and bidding him to have a seat before the now dead fire. "This is my brother, Nigel. He is visiting me from Romania." Hannibal gave him a terse smile. "He will not be staying for long."

"You never said you had a twin brother," Will said, and Hannibal did not like the accusatory tone creeping into Will's voice.

"As I recall, you have never been very keen to talk about family in our sessions and I tend to be of the same mind. Please, have a seat."

"No introductions, then?" Nigel stood aside, allowing Will his own seat out of exaggerated courtesy. He held out his hand, and Will took it, much to Hannibal's distress. The less he knew about his estranged brother the better.

"How very rude of me. Apologies. This is Will Graham, he is a profiler from the FBI and my patient."

"I am not your patient, we have 'conversations'," Will reminded him. He pressed shaking fingertips to his forehead and looked as though he wanted to shrink into nothing in Hannibal's chair. "I shouldn't have come here."

"Nonsense, Will. My door is always open for you. I would offer you brandy but it seems there is none left." He plucked the empty decanter and glass from the floor and put them back onto the side table that was in fact an antique mini-bar. "Perhaps a glass of port, to settle your nerves."

He turned with the offering to find, much to his dismay, that his brother had absconded his seat and was now directly across from Will. Nigel looked at the nervous man with a mixture of blatant predator leering and curiosity.

Never a good combination in the Lecter mindset, Hannibal mused.

"Y-Your Hannibal's brother?" Will asked. "Romania. Hannibal, I thought you were from Lithuania."

"We are," Nigel answered before Hannibal could respond. "I just happened to jump a few borders." He leaned back in his chair, long fingers drumming the armrests. "FBI profiler, hunh? There's a shitshow of a job if there ever was one. Must do a real headcase on you, seeing mutilated bodies all the fucking time. But people are pricks, am I right? You know that already, though, you're the profiler, you got that information a long time ago." Hannibal wanted to interject, but Nigel continued to prattle on. "So how do you do it? That's gotta be stressful, figuring out how the sick fucks think."

Hannibal did not appreciate the jibe, and he gave his brother a stern unspoken warning with a hooded glare that left no question he was walking the tightrope between life and death. To have him taunting his dear Will like this was out of the question and, ever ready to assist when it came to manipulating an emotionally distraught patient, Hannibal turned to his brother and said, "I hate to remind you of this, Nigel, but Will is under my care..."

"He said you guys have 'conversations.'"

"However you interpret it, Will and I have things to discuss which fall under the blanket umbrella of doctor and patient confidentiality. The hour is late and it would be best if you retired for the night and allowed Will and I to have one of our 'conversations'. You must be tired from the long flight, and adjusting to a new environment and schedule can be difficult. There is a guest room, two doors down to the left, upstairs. You may use it."

But Nigel wasn't quite finished yet, and he spoke to Will with a half smile, as though he held the answer key to what was really troubling him. "So some woman you know kisses you and then says you're too fucked to fuck. Believe me, I understand your pain. Women never know what they want, they toy with your heart just so they can rip it apart. I was married not so long ago, and she dumped me for some American brat. I don't suppose I should unhappy about it, the whole thing was a fucked up mess right from the start. But if you ask me it's a cruel thing to walk on a man's heart and then wrench it all away like she did to you. Like mine did to me. I'm swearing off all those bitches for a long while. Fuck them. I'm not afraid of slipping on a different pair of boots." He put his hand up against Hannibal's miserable glare. "I'm going, I'm going. Have your little 'conversation'. Don't know why you'd bother, every fucking thing that needs to be said has been fucking said, am I right Mr...ah?"

"Will. Just Will."

"Yeah." Nigel smiled widely, and earned a tentative one in return. "Goodnight. Will."

He went to grab his suitcase and Hannibal snatched it up before he had a chance.

"Follow me." Hannibal stormed up the stairs, his posture as erect as a statue's while his brother sauntered up behind him, stealing glances at Will who was likewise stealing curious looks his way as well. This was disastrous, Hannibal thought, the fury welling within him so palpable it was a wonder he didn't just turn around and shove Nigel down the stairs, let him lay with a broken neck at the base and wait for him to slowly suffocate to death.

He opened the guest room door and practically tossed Nigel's suitcase into it. "I trust there shall be no more interruptions from you tonight. We shall continue to discuss the parameters of this situation tomorrow."

"I see you and I have some common elements," Nigel said, and he pulled out his pack of cigarettes and shook out a fag, putting it between his lips in pure defiance. He craned his head around the door to get another peek of the enigmatic little bundle of nerves still sitting beside a dead fireplace. "We both like pretty things."

Furious, Hannibal snatched the unlit cigarette from his twin's mouth.

"No smoking."

~*~

"Your brother is a bit of a character."

"That is one way of describing him." Hannibal fussed over his french press, making coffee for both of them. The very thought of sleep was banished, especially with the second text Jack Crawford sent, which was a list of demands at least two screens long, insisting they go over photographs and itemized lists of the evidence found at the last scene first before coming in for the morning meeting. Unreasonable, yes, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

For now there were more pressing, personal matters to deal with, and he hoped his mysterious brother's intrusion hadn't caused too much damage. He gave Will his cup of coffee first and then took the second, the extra dregs in his mug fuelling more caffeine. "I don't know my brother," Hannibal admitted. "We have been estranged for a very long time, decades in fact, and we are virtually strangers. I do not know his motives for showing up on my doorstep as he has and I am not happy that he is here." A white lie, as he did not know his brother at all, but the proper, more believable balance had been struck in Will's mind. "I have suspicions he is involved in criminal activity and this concerns me a great deal."

Will blandly sipped at his coffee, the lack of sleep something he'd been getting used to, though his body was taking the toll. Will's eyes were ringed in black, his nerves frayed and edgy due to lack of rest. A late meeting may have to be in order, Hannibal thought. Their was no point having their star profiler collapsing at the scene, no matter how entertaining the look on Jack's face would be.

"What kind of criminal activity?" Will asked.

"The usual, I imagine. He is a thug."

Will frowned, contemplating this over his coffee. "No. Not entirely." He caught Hannibal's quizzical eye as he brought the mug to his lips. "I don't get the impression he's only a thug, that's all. He's more...He's got an earthy intelligence."

"Is that what they call a guttermouth these days?"

"Self made. On the fringe but knows how to work it to his advantage. Not immune to human interaction and all of its foibles, but knows when to step out and recreate himself. Simple as his outlook seems, he's not a guy I'd want to get on the wrong side of. He's passionate. Every feeling he has is fully exposed, it's like he's walking around naked." Will raised a brow at Hannibal. "It's kind of refreshing, actually. He doesn't wear masks, he isn't a liar. But he's still extremely dangerous. I hope he isn't trying to extort money out of you or something, he's that kind of guy."

"I'm not sure," Hannibal said, surprising himself with his honesty. "There may be underlying motives but I think his need to be here says a lot about his current state of mind. He expressed to you the loss of a relationship. Perhaps he is searching for reconnection and is looking for it within the framework of family."

Will pinched his brows, his tired eyes finding it difficult to focus, the constant encroaching fever rising and lowering him within him in a pulse that beat hard against his skull. He would be so easy to push right now, so lovely to break.

"Do you think I should turn him out?"

Will frowned over this, his eyes blinking as though just waking up. "No. He's your brother."

"Even if he is dangerous?"

"Especially if he is dangerous."

"You fear he will retaliate if I try to implement a boundary."

Will laughed at this, his hand rubbing the back of his neck, working out kinks. "You aren't very good with boundaries, Hannibal." Will smiled at the bland expression Hannibal gave him at this. "I don't know if he would attack you, per se. I get the distinct feeling he's reaching out for something and it might be in your interest to know what it is. He just said he was forced out of a messy marriage, so maybe he's looking for a safe place to lick his wounds."

"You think his need to be here is due to his emotional turmoil?"

"I think he has a few reasons, and when a 'thug' as you call him has to hide it might be because his enemies are circling in. I'm just warning you that I'm not getting the impression your brother is as simple as he seems. There's layers to his motives."

"Thus, I find myself at the precipice of a drama that is not my own. A play that I was not wanting to attend." Hannibal brought his mug up to his lips, sniffing the heady aroma of a good Columbian blend before closing his eyes and taking in its pleasant, dark flavours. "It seems you also had an eventful evening, otherwise you would not be here. I'm sorry if I am compounding your stress with more of my own troubles. Please Will, tell me what is on your mind."

Will shrugged, much to Hannibal's consternation. "Actually...I don't really think it's that big a deal anymore. Weird as it is, your brother summed it up pretty good."

"You are taking advice from a very dubious source, Will."

"It was just panic." Hannibal watched carefully as Will scraped at the surface of the mug in his hand with a light draw of his thumbnail across the white ceramic surface. "I'm just tired of being in everyone's test tube. Picked at, analyzed, questioned and pulled into scrutiny, like I'm some kind of new species of lab rat. Knowing that everything that makes me who I am is the prime reason for rejection. I don't know, it was just nice hearing something unadorned with therapy for a change. Solid words, not analysis."

"I understand. I shall have to add a significant amount of expletives to our future conversations."

Will grinned at this. "Don't judge him too harshly on that. People who curse a lot tend to be more honest." Both their cell phones buzzed and they gave each other exasperated, knowing looks. "Jack has been doing overtime tonight."

"I'm considering prescribing him a sedative."

"If it will help the rest of us sleep, I'd say that's a good idea."

~*~

Insomnia was a polyamorous bitch. Nigel puttered about the guest room, taking in the overly baroque style that would make a Victorian whore jealous. Though the large four poster bed in the centre of the room was inviting, his nerves were itching and on edge, a feeling compounded by the constant ache pressed deep in his side. He tossed his cell phone onto the soft white duvet, a familiar name blinking red against the black background on the screen.

Darko was a goddamned prick, that was obvious, and if he thought he was going to get his 25 million back, he might as well give himself a blow job first. The text on his cell phone, written in Romanian, was nothing more than a long, curse laden diatribe full of all sorts of creative threats as to what they were going to do with his body when they caught him. His brother might be a sick fuck serial killer, but he had nothing on Darko's rage, not when that kind of cash was at stake. Nigel grinned as he closed his phone, not responding to the text. He couldn't trust this phone not to reveal where he now lived, so Darko would never have a reply--a bit of unfinished business that would pick at him and leave him simmering in constant rage. He'd make stupid fucking mistakes in that state. He'd get a new cell tomorrow and toss this one. Darko could send all the texts he wanted then, to all the fish in the fucking sea after Nigel tossed the cell into the ocean.

As for his current arrangement, it wasn't much better if he was honest. His long lost twin brother, better known as a vicious serial killer and probably still creating works of human art, was hardly a good place to fall. Family was family though, right? He hoped some of that good old fashioned Lecter family ties psychosis could be counted on to keep what he was doing here under wraps, at least for the time being. He'd done the murdering bastard a solid all those years ago, and it was about time he cashed in on that payback.

Nigel winced as he moved towards the bed. He still hadn't fully healed and when he sat on the edge of the bed he could feel the twinge in his side where the bullet went through. He supposed he was lucky it was a rookie cop who had done it. A more experienced shithead detective would have made sure he got a bullet through the heart.

It was a full circle sort of love affair, he and Gabi, their love starting off with a similar injury and now ending like this. But that's how life was, you rode it hard and then when it came to an end, well, fuck it. All your dreams come true and then they fucking implode. Circle of fucking life.

He pulled out a smoke and lit it, taking a long drag as he looked around the guest room. Quite the fancy faggot was his brother, obsessed with the finest linens, the best antiques, flawlessly put together pieces that were the realm of a detail oriented artist. But then, his brother never did became an artist, Nigel realized with no small amount of surprise. Doctor Hannibal Lecter. A goddamned psychiatrist. Of all the things he could have become. The world was one strange fucking place.

He lay back on the bed with a heavy flop, his cigarette lit and poised beside him between nicotine stained fingers. He took a long drag and dropped ashes onto Hannibal's priceless oriental rug. He was tempting fate by staying here, he knew this, for Hannibal was more dangerous than any flunkie Darko could send over and it was clear they'd already decided they didn't like each other. A shame, really. Brothers should look out for one another, that's what they do. It's why he'd never gone to the police with his photographs--Oh the deals he could have struck with those assholes! But you didn't do that to family, you didn't turn in blood. Even now the threat of the photos was an empty one, and if Hannibal one day had enough of him and decided to make some kind of bouquet out of his dick, so what? Gabi was gone and he was alone and he'd already been dead twice.

As for the money, it was a ridiculous sum. He'd have to get rid of most of it, he didn't need to be greedy. He wasn't aiming to ruin the man at first, but fuck Darko and his saving face bullshit. All he wanted was a decent buy out retirement package and Darko, fucking asshole that he is, wouldn't go for it. That's the trouble with these fucks, Nigel mused. They didn't understand loyalty and what that was supposed to mean. Maybe it was because of who he was that put that word on too high a pedestal, that whole Lecter nobility bullshit creeping in, but there it was. You take care of the pricks who watch your back, Darko. He should have known something like this was going to happen.

The tip of his cigarette grew into a long line of ash that he flung over the side of the bed. Nigel was not a stupid man, though he was sure his brother thought otherwise and in comparison maybe he was a lot simpler. But not everyone could just unhinge their minds away from practicality and live inside of books and memories. He was perceptive enough to know that his brother lived a sad and lonely life here in America, surrounded by beautiful things that touched his soul in thought only. The desperation was rather telling. Really, who else would let their patient storm into their home at zero in the morning just to have a 'conversation'?

Ah, fuck yes. Beautiful things.

He was perfectly serious when he'd said he'd sworn off women.

Will Graham--That was his name, wasn't it?--His brother was keeping some close enemies company by bringing him into his house like this, establishing a little--what was it?--ongoing tea party full of 'conversations'. He could just imagine the fucking games being played with the poor man's mind, while Hannibal deflected and obscured the truth from him. He couldn't be sure if Hannibal was still killing, but he did know America was the perfect place for a serial killer to set in some roots. There was lots of competition on this frontier, and a fuck up like his brother could easily slip beneath the radar while more obvious threats walked around in bloody t-shirts advertising themselves.

Still, he was taking a huge risk playing with that pretty little profiler. Nigel finished his cigarette and put it out on the edge of what his fingers thought was a nearby trash can, no doubt leaving a scorch mark on the brass surface. The rounded surface of it made him pause and think maybe it wasn't he thought it was...He picked it up and found it to be a weird hollowed skull fashioned out of brass. He'd put his spent cigarette in the eye socket. He shrugged, no matter, it had a cigarette butt rolling around in it now, and would be full of them by the time he knew it was safe to leave.

Pretty Will Graham. Such a strange thing to say about a man, but it was true, and Nigel couldn't fault his brother for developing an unhealthy interest in him. Fuck it, he was finding himself drawn to that little jittery mess, big blue eyes fragile with inner turmoil, a big fucking Help Me sign shining through loud and clear. A pretty little broken man coming to Dr. Hannibal Lecter in hopes of getting glued back together. What a fucking joke. He didn't need some stupid 'conversation' to fix him, what Will Graham needed was something strong to hold him up, some kind of brute to stand at the gates of his mind and say to all the horrible monsters trying to get in to go fuck themselves. He needed someone with plenty of bullets for every one of them.

Now nestled in a fairly safe zone, Nigel was ready to relax, insomnia fucking off while he drifted into an easy sleep, one he hadn't had in quite a while. The bed was pleasantly soft and he again inwardly remarked on how much his brother adored his creature comforts. He sank into the bed, his body and mind seeming to float within it. Funny how when he closed his eyes he could see pretty Will Graham, his mind already transfixed on that distraught mouth as he wondered what it would look like wrapped loosely around his cock.

If he was thinking it he was sure his brother jacked himself off every night at thoughts of fucking every one of Will Graham's orifices. Just that fact alone was enough to make Nigel want to get to know him better.

He fell asleep, not recognizing the terminal illness that afflicted so much of his family line had begun to take root. Will Graham was interesting, and the seed of that interest was already sprouting and twisting its way through Nigel's heart.

Of course, he'd have to prune out his brother's interest first. There was a pang of brotherly guilt at the thought of moving in on what wasn't his, after all he knew what that felt like. But then there it was, that trembling hand going through soft brown curls shoved to the fore of his memory and that was it, Nigel had fallen.

Fuck 'Il Monstro'. All's fair in love and war and all that shit.

 

Chapter Text

HEART, MEET BULLET
chapter two

"I'm not happy about this either, Jack, but the DEA was perfectly clear." Purnell placed her palms flat on the surface of her desk, her frustration and forced control keeping her fingers tensed. "They want Will Graham. They want him now."

Jack paced her office, hating every pore in her sanctimonious body and hating the DEA even more for wandering into his territory and marking up the place with unreasonable demands. He couldn't just 'hand over' Will Graham like he was some kind of empathy machine, passed around from department to department, his unstable condition left unchecked. It was a guarantee he'd burn the man out before he could finish the work Jack needed him to do, and if it sounded heartless it's because it was. Will was his to use, and whatever idiot in the DEA thought he was some kind of magical dowsing rod for the Columbian cartels they could kiss their request goodbye. Jack wasn't budging.

"Let me get this straight, you want me to just hand over my key team member to some outside department knowing full well he is barely hanging onto his sanity as it is. You got some kind of nerve, Purnell. The answer is no. We're working on the Ripper case and that is all he can handle right now."

Purnell was not unsympathetic. She loosened the tension in her fingers and clasped her hands, staring at them for a long moment, her shoulders hunched together in determination. She wouldn't look at Jack and he found the omission distressing. "Any other time, I would agree with you, and I want to agree with you now. But the problem the DEA is facing is just too big not to bring every weapon at our disposal into the arsenal, and right now Will Graham is their best hope." She saw the way Jack kept staring at her open door and she nodded at it. "Shut the door and the blinds, Jack. We need to have a talk."

Purnell's caution gave Jack pause, and he did as requested, taking his time as he twisted the blinds closed, obscuring the bland image of a white hallway in the door's window. Purnell let out another sigh and pointed to towards the sunlight streaming in from the large window facing the Quantico jogging track, the light leaving a triangle on the ground before her desk. Jack glanced out the window. There were already several joggers doing laps.

"That one too," she said.

Frowning over the sudden paranoia, Jack did as requested, closing the blinds and pulling the beige curtains over them. He then returned to the seat in front of her desk and sank into it as though she had a gun pointed at him. "What's this all about?"

"We're talking national security, Jack. I can't be too careful."

Much as he was curious about her predicament, Jack couldn't stop himself from checking his watch. The meeting in the lab was supposed to have happened half an hour ago and instead he was sitting in Purnell's office, wondering why the woman wouldn't get to the damn point already. The priority in his mind was to stop the Ripper, not pander to the whims of the bullshit that the DEA was flinging in the background.

It was way too quiet and isolated in her office right now. Jack could feel his mouth go dry.

"There's a power shift in the drug coalitions in the Eastern Bloc. It's creating some serious waves between factions and there's a good chance it could start an all out war. Most of the problems will be concentrated in Europe, but there are ties here along the Eastern shoreline. So far the factions are keeping the peace, but if word comes down that war has begun we can expect to have some bloody streets in Philadelphia and New York."

"That's a real shame," Jack said, shrugging. "And it's not my department. I'm hunting a serial killer, Kade, not an army of drug addicts. I can't see how Will's work is supposed to help the DEA."

"We have intel that the war is starting due to a theft, one that has crippled the faction in Romania. Word has it the person responsible was in the upper echelons, working directly under a drug kingpin by the name of Darko. He owns over a hundred strip clubs throughout Europe and he's a skin trafficker over here. He's been known to come to our shores and occasionally get friendly with the Columbians."

"This still means nothing to me," Jack reminded her. "You haven't answered the question, what does the DEA want with Will?"

Purnell wouldn't budge and instead kept talking as though he'd said nothing. "Darko cut a deal on a massive cocaine shipment, he was the central figure between a deal with the Russians and a smaller drug portal from Turkey. Two and a half billion dollars was to be electronically divided between the two factions involved, an untracked transfer of funds that avoided the physical problems with transporting that kind of cash. A clever enough system and near impossible to trace. The funds were to be filtered through several different aliases and false accounts and from what our white collar geeks can figure they had created an independent online banking system. Of course, it didn't happen the way they wanted. The money went entirely into one account, and it's since been closed. All that money, gone without a trace. Not one dime went to Darko and because of the shady way the deal went down no one is willing to give him a loan. There's rumours he still owes almost a billion to the Columbians for the purchase of the cocaine. Our sources say he's being a hothead and that's causing a lot of conflict, especially since his backup funds are systematically being quashed."

"Two and a half billion going missing would cripple the economy of a small country," Jack said.

Purnell nodded. "Darko is in very bad shape, and the missing money is not making him or his Romanian group many friends. European law enforcement has been shutting down his strip clubs on a tip he's been using his strippers as mules. The massive cocaine shipment was discovered when Turkish police got an anonymous tip and showed up at the main holding facility they were housing it in--a warehouse near a dock in Izmir. There are no friends left for this guy. Darko made an enemy, and we're here to make sure no one on this shore pays for it."

"The poor, bullied drug dealing scumbag."

Purnell gave him a stern glare at this, and then, shoulders relaxing, she opened a bottom drawer in her desk and to Jack's shock brought out a tall bottle of rum and a couple of shot glasses.

Jack couldn't breathe.

This was damned serious.

"What's really going on, Purnell? You didn't call me down here to steal my agent to sniff out drugs like a German shepherd, what the hell is this?"

She poured two shots. "National security."

Jack sat back, understanding washing over him.

"You talking about guns?" She nodded, and Jack could feel the tendrils of something rotten coiling in his stomach. "So Darko dabbles in the gun trade as a financial backup. What kind of firepower are we talking?"

"A lot."

"On our shores?"

"Yes. Sold to suspected terrorist cells in our country that we have not yet been able to get a handle on." Purnell poured the shots and took one before continuing. She grimaced and shook her head before setting the glass back down on the surface of her desk. It was clear she was meaning to fill it again. "Like I said, Darko's funds are gone, so he's heading for the alternative route in a big way. He's dumping firepower where ever he can to offload his debt to the Columbians. We know he's had domestic buyers, and the firepower is considerable. We're not talking semi-automatics and handguns, we're talking rocket launchers, portable launchers of anti-aircraft missile systems. The threat is real."

"Well." Jack took up the shot glass and downed the rum in one quick gulp. Its heat ran through him like crawling fire. "Fuck."

"We need Will to help us find the guy who took down Darko. There's rumours but nothing concrete that he might be here in the States. He was Darko's main assassin and he knows all of the details of Darko's business dealings. We're hoping Will can look at the crime scenes from his past murders and get a read on the guy. We need to get to him before anyone else does."

Jack narrowed his eyes at this, a nagging unease twisting around in his gut even more. "For the information he's going to just hand over to you, of course." Jack placed the shot glass back onto her desk with a heavy slam. "You bastards are planning on giving him immunity."

Purnell was tight lipped. "This is a matter of national security, Jack."

"He's a goddamned killer for hire!"

"Lower your voice."

"You've sunk too low!"

"Is that what you think?" she shot back. "So are you ready to watch the news and see reel after reel of bombed out hospitals and churches and schools, because that's we're talking about here, Jack! Any moron with an agenda walking around with enough firepower to wipe out a city block! We need this guy on *our* side!"

Jack shook his head, the firm roots of right and wrong refusing to let him go. "Goddammit, Purnell, I thought you would know better than to go to bed with the CIA manual. You're telling me you want *my* star team member pulled out of a case to go and find some international murderer so you can give the guy a smile, a milkshake, and a Big Mac. Fuck you, Purnell."

"Say whatever you want to me, Jack, now's your chance. The only thing you're not permitted to say is no. The DEA team assigned to the case is heading to the lab in an hour to rendezvous with Will Graham. You don't have much time to get him up to speed, so I suggest you get on it."

~*~

Will Graham, FBI profiler, cursed with the gift of empathy and working his way through another morning full of demons, sipped at his double shot espresso and wondered how Hannibal could remain so refined and perfect after getting no sleep. They had left just a few scant hours after coffee, and Will wasn't entirely sure he had the timing right, there seemed to be an hour or two missing in between, but he was getting used to that feeling as of late. He'd probably dozed off in a chair, though it was weird that his sleep was blissfully dreamless. No black stags, no encroaching, piercing threats to cage him in, shuffling his consciousness around nightmares.

He stared at the body of the young woman before him, a corpse that was the work of the Minnesota Shrike's copycat. He had already gone over with Jack and subsequently the team over why he'd thought her death was different from the others, mainly that her body had been dumped upon the antlers with sloppy disregard. Garrett Jacob Hobbs had a great reverence for his victims, he wanted to show his appreciation and exaltation for what their deaths offered him. This was wasteful and tactless, the killer had no regard for the victim and even held her in contempt.

"I don't know what Jack expects us to find here, we've been over this woman with a fine toothed comb. If we took her body apart to the molecular level we couldn't be more thorough." Beverly Katz shook her head, going over the woman's arms, once again, with a black light, searching for trace evidence she knew she wasn't going to find. "Jack's getting really weird about this."

"Jack's obsession with closing the case is what makes him an excellent FBI agent," Hannibal reminded her. "His frustration is understandable, and given that we may have a second serial killer on our hands his determination has naturally become accentuated." He glanced at Will, who was finding it difficult to focus on the woman before him, the flicker of the black light making the back of his head ache. "Sometimes the abrupt death of a suspect can leave an investigation without a sense of closure. This may be what Jack is truly seeking."

Will pinched the bridge of his nose with his forefingers, trying to ward out the pain that was now creeping along the back of his skull and journeying quick behind his eyes. "What do we know about the victim?"

Beverly shrugged, and handed Will the file, which he tentatively took from her, as if the thin weight of it was too heavy to keep in his grasp. "Her name was Gail Ferdinand, she was a real estate agent. Thirty-three years old, not married, no kids." Beverly clicked off the black light and set it aside. She peeled off her gloves and tossed them into the wastebasket at her feet. "She was making an awful lot of money for a woman who sold third rate condos for a living. According to the people in the real estate firm where she worked she had a habit of stealing other agents' commissions. Would offer to type up the mortgage agreements and then would put her name onto the sale. There were a few other things, but that's the big one that earned some formal complaints, which of course went nowhere. A sale is a sale as far as the agency she worked for was concerned."

"I imagine that made her quite a few enemies," Hannibal said.

"Yeah. Pretty rotten thing to do to your co-workers who aren't exactly pulling in the millions on house flipping these days." She placed her hands on her hips as she looked down at the body. "Sorry, Gail. You were a bitch."

Will yawned and checked his watch. Jack was over half an hour late, and the fact bothered him. Jack was never late for anything, and it was strange that he wasn't already in the lab when they arrived, putting in an all nighter himself as anxiously waited on his team. "I hope Jack shows up soon, I just want to get this over with." He crossed his arms as Hannibal gave him a reassuring look, forcing him to face him in a gesture that was more intrusive than comforting.

"You look very tired, Will. Are you sure you are up for this?"

While he appreciated the concern emanating from both his friend and psychiatrist, he bristled at the suggestion of weakness. What he really needed was to be in his bed, surrounded by his dogs, the afternoon uninterrupted by nightmares and his waking self free of hallucinatory visions.

What he said instead was, "I'm fine."

He could almost sense Jack's anger before he saw the man, the rolling wave of fury getting ever closer as his heavy, marching steps led him into the lab. He ignored both Beverly and Hannibal as he stormed into the room, and with a curt nod at Will bid him to follow him into the hall outside of the glass enclosure. Beverly gave Jack's brusque entrance a confused pause, while Hannibal remained impassive, his usual stance when confronted by stressful situations and one that Will borrowed in order to deal with the tidal wave of emotions practically pouring out of Jack's skin.

"What's going on?" Will asked, and Jack grabbed him by the elbow and pulled him further away from the lab, to around the corner and out of their sight.

"The goddamned DEA. They want you."

"What?"

"I just spent the last hour soothing the nerves of Kade Purnell. I have been ordered to send you to the DEA to do a consult on one of their cases, and believe me, Will, if it wasn't an important one I wouldn't be sending you to those war dogs. I still don't want you to go."

"What are you talking about?" Will's head shook, his headache taking such firm root in his skull he thought his brain was about to leak out of his eyes. He pinched the bridge of his nose again, doing what he could to keep the grey matter in. "I'm a profiler, I get into the minds of serial killers, what the hell do they need me for?"

"Mr. Will Graham?"

Will blinked his eyes beneath the harsh lighting of the hall, the two DEA agents standing before him with a heavy stack of paperwork and bad attitudes leaving little imagination as to what the rest of his day was going to be like. "Jack, I'm in the middle of the Ripper case, I came here after a night of no sleep to work on it, I am not in the right mindset to go playing crystal ball with people who have no understanding or appreciation for what it is I do."

"For what it's worth, Will, I understand how you feel."

"I doubt that very much," Will said, annoyed. He pressed his fingers against his temple and grimaced at the DEA agents standing like tin soldiers waiting for him to follow them. "About the victim, Gail Ferdinand. She had a lot of enemies at her workplace, she had a habit of stealing their commissions. It's not an obvious lead, but I get the impression it may be why she was chosen to die. Explore that angle, you'll get something out of it."

"I want you in my office when these idiots are done with you, we can go over any of the additional findings Beverly and Dr. Lecter uncover."

"There won't be any more evidence," Will said, sighing with exhaustion. "Jack, I can't...Please. Can't it wait until tomorrow morning?"

Jack made a move to protest, only to take a step back and maybe realize, for once, that he was pushing his team too far. Will closed his eyes and willed Jack away. When he opened them, he'd gotten his wish and Jack was already halfway down the hall, abandoning him to the cold, ignorant clutches of the two DEA agents who were now flanking him.

"Need a coffee, 'bro?" the one with a blonde brush cut said. She jiggled change in her pocket and nodded at her partner. "I'll be back. We've been told to treat you right, so it's all lattes and cake, the good stuff."

"Get me a brownie and a mocha," barked her partner, a meaty, red faced man in his mid-thirties with a wide chest that looked like it bench pressed pianos every night.

"Fuck you, Trey, get your own."

"Charlene, it's too early in the day for you to be a cunt."

"Too early in the day for you to be a little bitch."

Great. Not only was he insulted enough by being forced out of his prepared state of mind to deal with the Ripper case, he now had to contend with two bickering agents who hated each others guts. Will followed the agent named Trey down the long corridor leading to an empty meeting room that he had no desire to be in. He collapsed into one of the orange plastic chairs and was appreciative that it was uncomfortable. At least there would be no risk of him dozing off in here.

~*~
"What the fuck, do you think this is, nap time? Wake up!"

Will was startled into consciousness and he looked around the meeting room in a confused daze. DEA agents Charlene and Trey were seated at the end of a long table, a pile of papers and photographs strewn all over it. A small laptop had been brought in at some point, the images of two murders being committed in grainy relief replaying over and over again.

Stunned, he pulled some of the papers towards him and realized he was looking at international police reports, specifically ones from Romania.

"So tell us again how you think these two murders tell us something about this guy. Frankly, I'm not buying this whole evolution shit you've been spewing for the last hour, if a son of a bitch is a killer, he's a killer, full stop." Charlene rolled up the paper a sub sandwich had been wrapped in and tossed it into the wastebasket in the corner. Lunch. They were eating lunch.

'Review what I've been saying. That's going to be a hard request,' Will thought, 'Considering I haven't got a clue what's been happening since I stepped in the door.'

"I shouldn't have to repeat myself," Will said, by way of a save and from the annoyed looks the agents gave each other it was clear they were hating him a lot more than they hated each other.

"Look, you said these murders happened decades apart, right? That's pretty obvious, I mean, one is clearly from an old VHS tape and this one is a digital image. The MO is the same in both, single shots to the head and a disappearing act. The murderer manages to stay out of the view of the cameras..."

"Because he's been caught once before..." Will said, the words slipping out of his mouth automatically, as though his subconscious was taking up the slack. He shook his head, but the feeling of displacement refused to abate. He concentrated on the images before him, pushing away the thought that it was extremely dangerous to be losing time while he was on the job, and just where the hell did his mind go without him?

He hit play simultaneously on both opened screens and was instantly struck by what had no doubt already been said. "His MO did change," Will said, pointing to the grainier images on the right. "There's hesitation here, he paces a little, you can see his shadow. There's interaction off screen, maybe he taunts the victim. But over here..." He pointed to the clearer image. "No pacing, no interaction. Barely any movement at all. He's honed his killing skills to perfection and not only that, he's become bored of them. In neither of these images do I get the impression he is a man who enjoys killing. To him it is a job, and a pretty crappy one at that."

Will picked up the papers surrounded the laptop, the police reports detailing murders with near exact settings and enactments while a few were clear anomalies. The rough translations tacked onto the reports gave him a clearer picture than the images did, and he closed the laptop and pushed it away to get a better study of them. After a few skimmed readings he got the understanding that he was looking for a murder for hire gangster type, someone who had been in the business for a very long time, possibly decades.

"These." He picked three murders out of the descriptive stack and placed them in a line before him. The level of brutality described within them suggested a very different murderer, but Will had a feeling they were still the same one, only this time he had a personal vendetta. "There is something about these murders that give us a key into how he thinks. These are murders that occurred with large blocks of time between them. This one in 1998, this one in 2001 and this one in 2013. The one in 1998, the victim is a middle aged businessman, and he was clearly tortured before his death, as evidenced by the missing fingers on both of his hands and the removal of his left eye. Single gunshot to the temple killed him off. Same with the victim in 2001, only this was a fifty-seven year old father of three, and an upper level judge in the Romanian legal system. Found with both hands missing all fingers, he was missing his ears and was shot in the right eye, the barrel of the gun pressed against it, as evidenced by the burnt skin surrounding the wound."

Will drummed his fingers on the table as he concentrated on the third report, the pendulum swinging in the back of his head with a ringing clarity he wasn't sure he wanted to share. The last one was a politician running for the mayoral candidacy for Bucharest. He was found in the same state, fingers missing, along with his tongue. The pockets of his suit jacket were stuffed with DVDs, which were proven to have belonged to the victim. Hundreds of hours of kiddie porn.

"I am stealth and efficiency when needed and I feel nothing for those whom I am required to kill. They or those around them have made the choices that have created their destinies and I am outside of it.

But this one will have to suffer, this one will lose those things that he used to work his evil. This piece of meat is on a level far lower than even my wrongs can match. I am not vindicated for what I have had to do, but this one will give me my sense of peace. Through this I will right my greatest wrong, for even from the likes of me, lines must be drawn. I understand love and passion and this is the one who is its destroyer. I will take great pleasure in watching him suffer as he has made so many innocents suffer.

Go ahead and try to touch one of them again, you piece of fucking shit.

This is my fucking design, you diddling cunt."

"Hey!"

Trey's fingers snapped rudely in front of his face as Will pushed the papers away, the DEA agents both looking at him in what was angered worry. "You sleeping again or what?"

Will pushed his seat away from the table and stood up, gathering up his jacket in his arms. "I need to go."

"Woah, hold on! You haven't really told us anything yet!" Charlene tried to block his path as he made his way to the door. "We need to know where to find this guy!"

"At the very least can you tell us if he's in America?" Trey begged.

He hated his empathy, the way he could so finely tune into what other people were feeling, ferreting out those micro expressions and fragments of speech that told him everything he needed to know. Trey and Charlene both thought he was an incompetent, pointless stain on the FBI's roster and talking to him was the DEA's act of desperation. They didn't believe in his expertise any more than they believed in UFOs or television psychics. He sighed, their judgement pinning him in place, his head aching, his body tortured in exhaustion.

"I'm not a magic pointer, I can't tell you exactly where. What I can say is it would be stupid if he wasn't in America and he is a lot of things, but a moron isn't one of them. You want to find this guy but I think you ought to just wait and let him contact you. If he's here it's because he's pissed off those who hired him and he'll be looking for sanctuary. See what kinds of family and upper echelon criminal connections you can find that could make him comfortable in America. It's unlikely he left Bucharest unscathed, he likes confrontation and I'm betting he'll have an injury as a result of that. It's probably not fully healed yet."

There was a lot more he could have said, but he wasn't in the mood and frankly, the DEA didn't deserve it. He knew there was a bigger story underneath the cover they'd given him, he didn't buy the excuse of a 'gang war' about to erupt on the eastern coastline due to the embezzlement of cocaine funds. Jack wouldn't have pulled him out of his own investigation if he didn't think it was something a lot more important than a turf war destined to become more of a skirmish among the guilty than a real threat. He would have appreciated some honesty, but that was in short supply between departments and Will was already tired of navigating it.

The door was barely closed behind him when he heard Trey's voice whining at Charlene. "What the hell was that? The jerk gave us nothing."

Will slammed the door behind him and kept walking. If Jack thought he was going to his office to have a pleasant little chat about the Ripper case he was set to be disappointed. There was only one place Will wanted to go, and that was home to Wolf Trap, to his dogs who were infinitely more reliable and open minded than people.

~*~

Will's foul mood refused to abate, especially when he was forced to admit to himself he had to pay Hannibal's office a visit and let him know about the latest blackout. Will inwardly groaned at the thought because if there was one thing he wasn't in the mood for right now, it was therapy.

Traffic was busy this time of day and he was lucky he managed to get a parking spot a couple of blocks from Hannibal's office. He checked his watch, a habit he was getting into if only to ground him into the present, to ensure he hadn't skipped a few more hours as the day wore on. Three in the afternoon. His head was pounding and the bright, warm sunlight seemed to pierce the back of his brain like a dagger. He rubbed his neck with a sweating palm and worked out the kinks in it. The Victorian house that held Hannibal's office was still well out of view, and he inwardly cursed himself for not trying to find a closer parking spot.

"Will!"

Why had Purnell pressed Jack to torture him like that, leaving him locked in a room with two agents of ignorance who refused to listen to a word he said? The man they were looking for, if he was on the run, wasn't a threat to anyone per se--guns for hire usually weren't when they didn't have a job to do and from what he could glean from the man's sudden defection from Darko's gang was that he either had a death wish or wanted to retire. Maybe both. Not exactly the kind of criminal that would put Purnell on high alert, seeking out whatever divining rod she could to bring the guy into their fold.

Why would someone be allowed into the club of the good guys when they were so clearly on the opposite side? Just what, exactly, could this guy offer?

"Will!"

Hearing his name a second time, Will stopped at the intersection and turned around, searching through the crowd of people gathered at nearby cafe patios that littered this part of Baltimore's downtown core. Behind him, on the opposite side of the street, almost a full block down, a long arm waved frantically at him, and as he took off his sunglasses to get a better look (damn but that light *hurt*) he realized he was looking at a familiar face that did not belong to the one he was going to visit.

Abandoning the unwanted intrusion of therapy, Will shoved his hands in his jacket pockets and casually headed towards the cafe. A sea of people were going in the opposite direction and he liked the way he felt like he was going against the grain, changing some preordained destiny into a shape that was his own. In a bowling shirt that was more shockingly ugly than the last one he'd seen him in--this one was a collage of ink drawn pineapples and wine glasses--Nigel Lecter couldn't have been more out of place than if he'd been dropped on the moon and asked to sing the aria from La Boheme.

"Hello...Uh...Nigel, is it?"

"The only fucking one. What brings you here?"

"I..." Will was distracted by the large, nearly empty monstrosity of coffee and whipped cream topped with chocolate and what seemed to be a dozen cherries, kiwis and pineapples. It sat in a liquefying mess in a large plastic tumbler in front of the man. "I was just about to have a chat with Hannibal at his office and...What the hell *is* that?"

"I have no fucking clue. I asked for a cappuccino and they gave me this fucking thing. Coffee and these fruits don't mix, it's like sucking on ass."

Will gave him an amused shrug. "You know, you could have sent it back."

"I wanted to but the waitress who gave it to me is missing. I have been trying for half a fucking hour to give this thing back. They look at me, they wave, they nod, they walk away. Are they fucking saying hello or goodbye?"

"I'm not sure," Will said, and to his surprise discovered he was smiling. "A wave can mean many things in America."

"You're fucking telling me. You know what, I think that waitress quit. Walked right off the job. Left me here to fend for myself against whipped cream and poison. Well good for her. I wouldn't want to work with these cunts either." He pointed to the empty chair across from him. "You look like shit, by the way. Sit down before you fucking hit the concrete. I'll get you a coffee. But they'll probably bring you a goddamned green tea, the stupid fucks. It's that kind of place."

Will stood rooted to the spot, happy to be smiling and just standing there in the sun having a stupid conversation with a cussing Romanian thug in an ugly shirt. Was that something to bring up in therapy?

Maybe.

"I don't think coffee is going to cut it," Will said.

"You're probably right. I shouldn't force you to share my misery."

"I don't mind misery, just not the kind they offer here."

"You look like someone beat you with a bag of shit."

"You mentioned that already. I have had a shit day, and I was about to go wallow in misery over it in an uncomfortable leather chair. But now I'm thinking since we're both miserable, we could commiserate about it over a couple of real drinks."

Nigel tapped the side of his head as he gave Will a smile in return. "Intelligence is a fucking beautiful thing. It shines through a good idea. And that's a fucking good idea, my friend. It's shining right into brilliant."

Nigel tossed some money onto the table and Will inched out of the way as Nigel nimbly stepped over the low cast iron fencing that caged in the cafe's patrons. He felt a little guilty, almost as if he was playing hooky from school, but Hannibal wasn't expecting him and there were plenty of reasons why he could have blacked out. The lack of sleep being a big one.

Lies that you tell yourself, a little voice inside of him said, and he quashed it down as he walked with Nigel, a curious smile refusing to leave him. "How long do you plan on staying in Baltimore?"

"A long time. Forever, maybe. Unless somewhere better shows up."

Will raised a brow at this. "Hannibal said you weren't staying long."

"Not with that fucker, no." Nigel pulled a package of cigarettes out of the side pocket of his bowling shirt and shook one out. He cupped his hands over the flame of his lighter as he lit it, the ember turning to ash as he sucked it into life. He let out a slow release of smoke as he snuck a glance at Will. "Why are you seeing him? You fucked up in the head or something?"

"I am a FBI profiler, and as you said yourself last night, it's a sure fire way to become a head case, so, yes."

"You don't look fucked up. Not today, anyway. Just pissed off, maybe a little sick." They paused at an intersection as they waited for the light to change and Nigel, much to Will's shock, reached out with the back of his hand and pressed it against Will's forehead. He'd normally flinch from such a touch, but the coolness of Nigel's skin was such a welcome balm Will couldn't stop himself from closing his eyes and pressing against it. He felt a pang of sadness when a frowning Nigel took his hand away. "You're on fucking fire. A good drink will cure a fever like that. I know just the one. Follow me."

~*~

The bar was dingy and filled with smoke, the low light hiding the few regulars that dotted the place like flies. They sat together in a booth near the back, the leather seats torn and leaking dark yellow Styrofoam. Nigel had ordered him something called a palinka, his delight that the bartender had once visited Bucharest and always kept it in stock earned him a large conversation and a big tip, along with a promise that this was to become their favourite bar. Will forced it down with a grimace, the tart pear flavour making his eyes water. It tasted like rubbing alcohol mixed with fruit juice.

"You see?" Nigel said, clinking his long, thin glass against Will's. "Now we are friends."

Will pondered his glass, smiling sadly over it. "It's nice that it's this easy." He enjoyed the warmth the strange drink left behind, and despite his original misgivings he forced himself to take another sip. It was working wonders on his headache.

"So, Mr. FBI profiler, Mr. Fucked Up Mess, who has had a very bad day, but it is now better because you are with me--Why were you going to see my brother?"

Will gave him a good natured narrowing of his eyes. "Doctor and patient confidentiality," he teased.

"Ah, you are talking bullshit. We are friends now, we can say anything."

"Good," Will said, liking the way Nigel was looking at him, a little bit too curious, a little too interested. "Tell me why you are hiding out in America with a brother you hate."

Nigel's gaze didn't waver as he took a gulp of the palinka and set his mostly empty glass beside Will's. "I am a businessman, and as such I sometimes have to deal with people who are not entirely appreciative, or honest. Let's just say I've found myself a severance package that the cocksuckers refused to give me. Naturally, they are fucking pissed, but they will get over it. Some new bastard will come along and fuck them over with something else--that is how business is done. My transgression will be mostly forgotten."

"Mostly," Will said, watching as Nigel downed the last of his palinka in one gulp and motioned to the bartender to bring them another round.

"Well of course they are going to try and fuck me up no matter what, they are motherfucking bastard cunts. I just have to stay ahead of them long enough to die of natural causes before they can catch me."

"Seems like a kind of stressful way to live."

"Not as much as you would think." Nigel pulled out his package of smokes and took out a cigarette with his lips, a suave grace Will found alluring. The halo of smoke that surrounded him after he lit it spun threads around the two of them, a hazy ease that made Will feel relaxed.

"Are you telling me, Mr. Nigel Lecter, that you may be involved in criminal activities?"

Nigel shrugged, a stream of smoke leaving his lips. "If I say nothing else to you, I won't have to lie."

"You abhor lies," Will said, his gaze travelling up the length of Nigel's neck, taking in the serpent tattoo that crept up towards the back of his ear. "I killed a very sick, very bad man. I shot him five times in his kitchen. He slit his wife's throat, practically cut her head off and left her on the front porch to bleed out and just as I ran into the kitchen, before I shot him, he slit his daughter's throat right before my eyes. Her name was Abigail Hobbs, she was seventeen years old and she bled to death in my arms."

Nigel took a long drag of his cigarette as he continued to regard Will. "That's some hardcore hands on shit. Why did he kill his family like that?"

"Because I was there to arrest him."

"For what?"

"Killing and eating at least eight young girls aged seventeen to nineteen. Ones that we know of, anyway."

Nigel choked on his cigarette and nearly dropped it. "Jesus Goddamned Christ. Eating them? You fucking said that, right? *Eating.*"

"His freezer was full. He would use their skin as leather and make purses and handbags for his daughter and his wife. Some of the furnishings were stuffed with their hair. He used every part of them, nothing went to waste." Will took the glass of palinka and took a longer sip than before. It was getting easier to drink it. He rested his head on the back of the booth, closing his eyes. He could feel Nigel move closer, the cigarette dangling on his bottom lip as he brought his arm up to grip the cushion behind Will's head, caging him in on one side. "I had to get into his head. That's what I do. That's why I knew that he didn't believe he was doing anything wrong, from his perspective the killing honoured them. In his mind it made them more than what they were before." He kept his eyes closed as he smiled, knowing he had Nigel's full scrutiny, a rather sadistic part of himself enjoying the discomfort he was giving the man. In the past, he'd found this kind of blatant honesty had been a good tool for weeding out the shallow.

"I got so far into his head it was like I knew when he was pouring himself a cup of coffee. He's taken up space in my mind and shaking him out has been difficult."

"Is stupid bullshit."

Will turned his head to find Nigel's face close to his own, an inward fire burning.

"That's what it is," Nigel said. "You are just tired, you need rest, and you aren't allowed to have it. Fucking nightmares and sleeplessness and motherfucking meetings over corpses. Some asshole gets into your head, big deal. The cure is time. What's to fucking understand? I get what you are telling me, it takes time to shake that fucker out and put your own fucking head back on. Instead you are getting text messages all night to go over and over crimes when your boss knows you are unwell. Some fucking bitch toys with your emotions and calls herself a friend. My brother makes you have some fucking crazy chat session just to leave you a zombie for the rest of the day. What kind of fucking miserable people are these?"

"People who believe they know what's best for me," Will said, downing the last of his palinka. His headache was gone. He closed his eyes, enjoying the bliss of being free of pain.

"No, they fucking don't, they want what's best for themselves. Selfish pricks. They should know you ought be in the world's most comfortable bed, sleeping until noon every day and thinking of nothing more than what you would like to eat and who you would like to fuck. Darling, you are a mess. Why can't anyone see that?"

The sweetness of it was like a drug, and Will couldn't stop himself from indulging in it, the strong emotions Nigel was feeling wildly nipping at him, wanting to bite and tear into him, if only to subdue and comfort. Nigel slid his palm across Will's forehead, a similar gesture to one he'd had from Hannibal, only Nigel's touch betrayed a far more open intimacy.

"You do."

Will turned his head and opened his eyes, locking into maroon depths that were so similar yet so vastly different. There was nothing of Hannibal here within this swirling hurricane of uncontrolled feeling that refused to hold itself back. Rage, fear and love all lived in the same place in this man's heart.

Nigel put out his cigarette in his empty glass of palinka, and Will stole his mouth, lips soft and eager to please opening slightly to offer him the velvet tease of his tongue. He could feel the panicked speed of Nigel's heart, his soul fluttering in response as his breath caught up with the rush of unexpected pleasure the kiss brought with it.

Will pulled away gently, his head dizzy with the sudden assault of emotions Nigel was stewed in, questions, desires and need mixing in a complex miasma of longing. As Will pressed his face against Nigel's shoulder, taking in the strong masculinity of him, the scent of alcohol, cigarettes and sweat enveloping him, he could sense a strong, unyielding presence taking root in unexpected soil. Something honest. Organic.

"I'm a bad man, Will," he heard Nigel saying, but it was as though it was from a far distance, and all Will could really concentrate on was how was cool his skin was on his hot flesh, and how nice it was to just fall against someone and know there was no hidden agenda beneath their comfort.

"But you can better fucking believe it I won't let anyone hurt you."

Will was drifting as he lay pressed beside Nigel in the booth, the feel of Nigel's fingers softly petting locks of his hair so soothing it was like a sedative.

"Will, I'm warning you. If you kiss me again I'm going to fall hopelessly fucking in love with you."

Lifting his head slightly, the heavy weight of sleep making it difficult, Will's lips traced the hollow of Nigel's cheek.

"Too late," he said.

 

 

Chapter Text

HEART, MEET BULLET
chapter three

He can't see his fingers, they are so thick with her blood. He tries to hold her together, watching as the panic in her wide blue eyes subsides into acceptance, as death begins its slow, gruesome seduction and pulls her into its realm. Beside him, Garrett Jacob Hobbs breathes his last, his eyes dulling as he follows death to meet his daughter.

"You see? You see?"

He is alone in the kitchen, the pools of blood thickened to a flood that rises up an inch above the flooring, a layer that stains his bare feet as he stands. It ripples as he walks over it, blackish red splatters staining the backs of his calves. He hears the steady stomp of the black stag as it makes its way down the hallway of the house, its form passing him as it walks past the kitchen, raven feathers bristling at his presence. He goes to follow it, but the blood is thickening, sticky on the soles of his feet, and it's making it difficult to walk without slipping.

He leaves through the front door of the house, the stag moving into the woods that surround it. He can feel the sharp sting of the rocks beneath the soles of his bare feet. Flanked on either side of him, the bodies of the young women Garett Jacob Hobbs' murdered are laying in a decayed path that he is set to follow. He feels sick at how they are discarded, used, that this is not the intention meant for them, that someone has come into Hobbs' realm and perverted that which he worshipped.

The stag disappears, and a man formed of night takes its place, antlers stabbing high into the darkness, black eyes taking him in with intense, dangerous curiosity. The glint of a blade is in his palm and he reaches up, ready to slice across the air and cut Will in two.

But Will is tugged away by something nipping at his arm. He is gently pulled back towards the house, out of the forest and out of the influence of that thing made of night, small, nibbling, annoying little teeth drawing him backwards. He wants to know about the night, but the animal pulling him away senses the danger, and its fear is so sincere Will can't help but listen to it. He goes back inside of the house, while the antlers of that thing made of night expand into infinite, stabbing branches that pierce into the darkness, snuffing out stars. It watches him carefully, disappointed but patient. It knows that eventually it will get its way.

Will is in the Hobbs' living room, the floor free of blood, the dark oak beneath his feet cool and uneven. His steps make the floor creak as he heads towards the unlit fire, where a dog--no, not quite a dog. More like a coyote--is eating something wet and black. It swallows it with a gulp and then pads towards Will, tamed and expectant of his affection, and Will is overwhelmed with a feeling of grateful appreciation for it. He smiles and scratches the coyote behind the ears and it gives him a happy, alien yelp, nuzzling his palm with its head and licking Will's fingers in hopes of earning more of his touch.

He can feel warmth at his back and the smell of cigarettes and strong, masculine skin is a balm enough to make his eyes close. He can feel a passionate caress along his shoulders and along his neck, the press of warmth intoxicating against his body. The seductive power increases as Will sighs and returns it, lips tingling against the heavy press of a kiss that sets his body on fire. The windows of the house cloud over with steam as the temperature within abruptly rises. The darkness outside is banished and Will could care less about it. He likes this. He wants it.

Nigel's voice, breathless and tinged with expectant fear: "Will, darling...I fucking warned you..."

Will awoke in his bed, the sheets soaked in sweat. He groaned as he rolled onto his side, the morning wood he now sported so aggressive in its need it only took a few tugs to give himself a blissful release. Breath panting into his pillow, he blearily looked around his bedroom and wondered how he'd managed to get home. His last waking memory was kissing Nigel and liking the way he tasted, along how with inviting his body felt as he sank against him in the booth at that scuzzy bar.

Shit. He kissed Nigel. He kissed his psychiatrist's twin brother. He was sure there would be all kinds of Freudian analysis waiting for him in the leather chair in Hannibal's office. If he chose to tell Hannibal, of course, and his instincts told him keeping at least some things private would be best for all parties involved.

He slid onto his back, feeling sticky and chilled, a sense of loneliness creeping into him that he banished with thoughts of how good his body felt at present. Though the headache was still ever present, hovering like an aching bruise at the back of his head, he felt refreshed and alert, He rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands and blinked into the steady stream of sunlight that shone into his bedroom. He could hear the dogs whining at the back door, and as he sat up he realized he had slept for a very long time, long enough for the sun to hover somewhat lower in the sky, a suggestion of late in the afternoon. His hand blindly searched for his cell phone, and he found his jacket on the floor near his bed, along with tossed clothes he didn't remember taking off. He pulled out his cell phone and to his surprise saw that it had been turned off. He pressed the power button and the second it loaded up a pile of furious texts and notices for phone calls lit up the cell like a handful of knotted Christmas lights.

Curious, Will scrolled through them, seeing most of them were from Jack, and holding a note of increasing panic within them as each hour had passed and Will still hadn't answered his phone.

"The Chesapeake Ripper has struck again. Get your ass to Maritime Park, water taxi landing eight." A Google map was attached, and Will frowned over it as he got out of bed and headed for the shower, scrolling through at least another half dozen texts from Jack.

"We've been here for three hours already, you need to be here."

"Answer your phone. Maritime Park, loading dock 8. Get here now."

"Four hours later and you're not here. Answer the fucking phone."

"You'd better be a corpse, Graham."

"Will, Jack has informed me you are not picking up your cell phone and has instructed me to contact you, though I don't know how if, as I've explained, your cell is probably out of battery power and you are unaware of this. As I believe you have simply slept through these calls, I have offered to come and pick you up. I will be there within a couple of hours. I warn you, Jack is extremely angry and you would be wise to brace yourself.

The murder is particularly detailed and I think you will find the various components of it interesting. It is a shame you did not see it this morning as I believe the patterns of rising sunlight have shown some significance, though I would prefer if you could confirm my suspicions as the pattern is fairly subtle and I may simply be reaching for meaning that is not present.

I was not able to make you a solid lunch, one which you will no doubt require and I would prefer you not pollute yourself with fast food. I had taken the liberty of making you a simple sandwich made with slices of cured tongue to tide you over. I trust you will find the flavours agreeable.

I will see you soon."

That last text was from Hannibal, of course, with perfect punctuation and diction, and abnormally long for the usual span of text messages. Will inwardly smiled at the thought of him struggling with his thumbs as he typed it out. Hannibal was a stubborn classicist and Will wasn't sure the man even owned a television. The cell phone itself was a necessity he endured.

He left his phone on the edge of the bathroom sink and stepped into the shower. The hot water did wonders as it cascaded over him, washing away the sick feeling that lingered in his gut over what he was set to find. But there was an expectant excitement within him too, one he hated having to indulge and the Ripper was doing all he could to pull those feelings to the fore. He told himself it was due to putting together the strings of sentences the Ripper's murders left him, little pieces of a literary masterwork that Will was expected to paste into place and read the complex, highly personal message within. As he closed his eyes beneath the spray of hot water and revelled in its warmth, it was the ache in the back of his skull that spoke to him, its fever carrying Hobbs's voice.

"Do you see? You see?"

He turned off the shower and could hear his dogs barking madly in the living room as his front door was opened and he quickly towelled himself dry before padding into his bedroom and grabbing some clean clothes. Hannibal didn't have to say a word to announce his presence, the aura of Will's little house seemed to absorb him in. The dogs ran out the front door, eager to run and relieve themselves, and Will felt a tad guilty about sleeping in over their needs. But he did feel incredible and awake, the best he had in weeks if he was honest.

His cell phone alerted him to another message as he made his way down the narrow stairs to where Hannibal was, his face bemused at Will's clean appearance and unrushed attitude. A corpse was a corpse and there was no rain called for to threaten the scene. Despite Jack's constant panic, Will knew his expertise could wait.

"How bad is it?" Will asked as he shrugged on his jacket. He wasn't asking about the crime scene.

"Jack may behead you," Hannibal replied. He cocked his head to one side as he got Will fully into his sights, looking him up and down with critical assessment. "You look very well this afternoon."

"I'm feeling better," Will admitted and gave Hannibal a smile, which was returned. They walked outside and the sunlight didn't cut into his head like it usually did. He ushered the dogs back into the house and closed the door before following Hannibal to his Bentley. It was still running. Jack's orders to get Will onto the scene as quick as possible were crystal clear.

It wasn't until they were on the road and Will's face was stuffed with the last of a tongue sandwich that Hannibal said, "I trust your evening went well. I am happy to see that you are healthy and smiling this afternoon, Will, despite what is waiting for you. The forensic team has gone over the scene thoroughly already, of course, and they are suggesting that it will take several days before they can collect all of the evidence. Removal of the corpse has been held back while we have been waiting for your arrival."

"I didn't realize I'd turned off my cell phone," Will argued, and Hannibal held up a gloved hand, holding Will's ire back. Will swallowed his last few bites and brushed crumbs off of his jeans with the back of his hand.

"I do not blame you. I am sure the events of last night were taxing on you and I am not going to judge your need for a recreational respite." Hannibal kept his eyes on the road. "Toxic inebriation, indulged in on occasion, is not in itself indicative of a problem, though it may suggest a lack of control over one's stressors."

Will could feel the small ache in the back of his head start to creep over his skull in pulsing pain. "What are you talking about?"

Hannibal sighed and pulled open his glove compartment, revealing a manual for the Bentley and the thin outline of an iPad. He took out the iPad and handed it to Will. "I took the liberty of downloading the article. You got drunk with my brother despite my warning to exercise caution around him, and best of all to stay away from him."

"I don't understand," Will said, turning on the iPad, the article springing to life before his eyes. "I...I didn't get drunk with your brother."

"You didn't go to a bar with him?"

"Well, yes, I did, and I did have a couple of drinks, but I wasn't drunk..." He felt a sick ball hit the insides of his stomach as the image of Nigel tucking him into a cab came into full on colour view, cigarette dangling lazily from the side of his sultry mouth. More damaging was the second, smaller enhanced picture of Nigel with his hand pressed against Will's forehead just before he got into the taxi, the expression on his face one of concern. Lounds' had taken the liberty of pouncing upon what should have been interpreted as an innocent moment, and in large full caps the headline of her article read "DOCTOR/PATIENT CONFIDENTIAL--Killer Sympathizer Will Graham Courts Unethical Love"

"This is not at all what it seems."

"I know that, Will. This involves my brother, it is definitely something worse."

Will rolled his eyes, his headache taking full purchase across the entire expanse of his skull. "I was feeling sick, that's all. I had a fever. I was so tired, I hadn't slept in nearly two days and then Jack had me in that forced meeting with the DEA..."

"The DEA?" Hannibal gave Will a sidelong glance. "What do they want with you?"

"Nothing I can help them with, they won't listen to me anyway." Will sighed. "Some guy they are looking for...It was a complete waste of time. I went downtown, planning on stopping by your office and I ran into Nigel and, clearly wrongly, I went to a bar with him instead." Will shook his head and closed his eyes, doing all he could to shove the piercing pain in his brain away. "I lost time when I was with the DEA. A few hours, most of the meeting, actually. And until I read that article I had no clue how I got home last night."

"This increased loss of time is distressing, Will. And yet you seemed so in control of yourself this morning."

"I've slept for nearly twenty-four hours, I guess I really needed that rest."

The tense silence in the car didn't help his current state of mind, which felt like it was in a vice that was being squeezed shut, inch by tortuous inch. He pressed his thumb and forefinger against his eyes, blocking out the onslaught of yet another brilliantly sunny afternoon.

"Will, I do not want you to talk to my brother. As we have discussed before, he is not a good man. The friendship you are cultivating with him is an unhealthy one and I am very concerned that you feel a need to pursue it." Hannibal's expression was calm but Will felt an undercurrent of energy around him that was simmering with an emotion closely related to anger. "His influence can be highly detrimental to your therapy. He is an ignorant, violent lout. He does not have an understanding of the complexity of your needs."

'He understood I needed to relax and have easy company, for once,' Will thought, but he didn't voice it. Instead he closed his eyes and did his best to rest before they made it to the crime scene and all hell broke lose in his mind. He had a feeling the Ripper had a bone to pick with him and the message was destined to be viciously personal.

~*~
Gone were the milling crowds that lined the perimeter of the yellow tape. Gone were the police that marched back and forth before the body, securing the scene. Gone were the boats that surrounded the dock. Gone were the men and woman in forensic suits, their equipment likewise vanishing. Gone were the sounds and light that currently surrounded the body, and gone was the body itself, until all that was left was the metal framework upon which it was pinned.

"I take my time, spreading myself out to you, each portion carefully stretched onto the metal bars. The skin is representative of the vastness of my ability to cloak myself within it. It stretches wide behind me as I lay exposed.

Only you are permitted to see me as I truly am, the bones of my existence placed ahead of muscle and tissue. I want you to see me, to know me, to understand every facet of what I am and not shrink from it. I wear nothing before you, and I am filled with pride that you have finally dug into the very essence of what I am. I cannot hide from you.

I hold my heart to you in invitation. It is pinned to the bones of my fingers with careful dexterity, a painstakingly detailed weave that represents the detail I shall give the challenges I present to you. To see me as I am means to unravel me, as you have had to unravel this body, piece by piece to find the core.

I did not realize, however, how big my heart has become. And I'm not saying it but I am feeling it, unconscious in my desires. It will be your prize. It will be too much for you to take into your grip. Come and play with me, Will. I dare you.

This is my design."

Will stepped back from the display of the corpse before him, an obese male in his mid forties, a former banker at Wells Fargo. He had been carefully skinned, the fat, muscles and tissue within, along with almost all of his internal organs, discarded. His skin had been placed on a complex series of curved, hinged metal bars that enclosed his skeleton like a cocoon. Opening it released further hinges that stretched the skin wide behind the dwarfed skeleton, like a gory backdrop on a stage. The skeleton held the man's enlarged, damaged heart in its hands, the heart pinned in place with what looked like a thousand long darning needles arranged in a tight, overlapping series of spirals.

Will could feel Jack standing behind him, his ominous mood poisoning the air. "Outdid himself this time."

"He wants to make a good show," Will said, gesturing to the wall of skin that stretched behind the bones. "His elaborate display is part of his need to make sure I know how much better he is. That lesser mortals will never compare. He wants me to strip him down to his barest essentials, revealing his true nature and daring me to dance with it."

Jack grunted at Will's assessment. "That sounds more like a love letter than a challenge."

Will stepped back from the body, allowing the forensic team to finally be allowed to start carefully dismantling it to bring it back to the lab for further detailing. The crowd of civilians at the end of the dock looked both frightened and curious, like the way spectators would have looked when a prisoner of war was hung. He caught Hannibal watching him intently, looking for little nags to bring up in therapy, no doubt. "I want to come back to the scene tomorrow, so I can get a good look at what the place is like in early morning, which I'm sure is when he was expecting us to go over the body. I'm sorry I didn't get here in time, I overslept and the battery in my phone died." A white lie, told to spare Jack further anger.

Jack shook his head. "Don't worry about it, I'm not pissed about that." He gave Will a sidelong glance, one that quickly encompassed Hannibal within it as well. "So you know his brother?"

"You read the article."

"Who hasn't? There she is now, off on the side, taking pictures and making up as much fiction in her slandering head as she can. Freddie Lounds is starting to hinder this investigation and I have every intention of shutting her down." Jack's hands clasped into fists. "Hannibal clued me in about his brother and it still only makes half a bit of sense. My mother is an identical twin, I can't imagine her being estranged from her sister, hell they've lived next door to each other their whole lives. He doesn't like his brother, I got that message crystal clear. But then, who gets along with family? What's the guy like?"

Will shrugged. "He's kind of an asshole. But he's all right."

"Hunh. Just like my brother, then." Jack hunched his shoulders, warding off the sudden chill that crept along the water and slammed them as they stood on the dock. Will shivered in sympathy, though the cold eased his headache. "Purnell gave me shit this morning, said the DEA wasn't too happy with your work. I told her to shove it up her ass, you did what you were expected to do and if they don't like it they aren't to demand your expertise again."

Will shifted where he stood, the cold biting against the tips of his ears. The air felt refreshing and he found he couldn't gulp enough of it in, as though it was dousing a heat that was licking flames along the inside of his skull. "Why is Purnell so keen on me helping the DEA anyway, Jack? This guy they are looking for--what's so special about him?"

But Jack wasn't about to reveal what Will's sparked curiosity longed to know. However, he didn't try to cover it up with a story about gang violence along their shoreline, and that silence was significant for Will, as he was sure Jack knew it would be.

"It's big, isn't it?" Will dared to ask.

Jack set his jaw, and turned away from Will. "I'll drive you back to Quantico," Jack said, watching the forensic team with dogged concentration. "You still got a class to teach in an hour."

Will nodded, and headed back towards Hannibal to let him know he was riding with Jack. Remembering he still had an unseen message on his cell phone, Will took it out of his jacket pocket and lit it up with a swipe of his finger across the screen. A message from 'unknown caller' appeared and Will opened it, curious as to who it was.

"Darling, I am sorry. I have your car keys, they fell out of your jacket when I put u in the cab to take you home. Wanted to calling you, but I had to get a new phone. Fucking bastard idiots take forever, sign fucking this, sign that fuck thing. R U OK? So fucking sick, omg, nearly burning my hand when I touch yr forehead.

I turned off yr phone so the bastards FBI don't wake you up to tell u they need u to investigate someone taking a piss."

Nigel. The text had been sent before he'd arrived here, and two new ones had accompanied it within the hour.

"Darling, I am thinking of you all day. I wonder how it is a kiss can drive a man mad, such a simple thing and yet it is playing on my heart like little pieces of glass that are stuck inside of it. I must see you again. That kiss, was it from fever or is it that your heart feels little tears in it, just like mine?"

"Darling, I am worried for you. You were so sick, please go see a doctor. A real one, not my fucking useless piece of shit brother who can't diagnose a cold even if u are covered in snot."

Saving the number in his contacts and playfully labelling it 'Darling', Will texted Nigel back:

"Sorry, had to go to work. The wicked were busy, namely the Chesapeake Ripper. Have to go to Quantico right now to teach my class, tell you about it later. Meet me at the bar we went to yesterday, meet u around 5. My car is parked across the street in the alley.

I am feeling much better. Sleep helped. Thank you.

Not everything can be blamed on a fever."

He hit 'send' and closed his phone as Hannibal approached him, knowing full well he was going against doctor's orders in his continuing friendship with Nigel.

"I'm getting a ride back with Jack. I told him I'm coming back to the scene tomorrow morning, are you up for it? I want to see what I was meant to, and like you I have a hunch the time of day has some kind of significance. It would be good to have you here to bounce some theories around."

"I would like nothing more," Hannibal said, and to Will's surprise gave him a warm, gloved squeeze of his shoulder before heading towards his Bentley. "Tomorrow morning, then."

Will watched him leave, feeling the little worm of a puzzle creeping within him. Hannibal's warning him off Nigel was beginning to look a lot less like good advice and more like sibling rivalry.

Will chewed his bottom lip, heading towards Jack and subsequently Quantico. His headache was still there, but his fever was gone.

~*~

Nigel couldn't stop touching Will's keys. He kept them clasped in his fist, every now and again bringing them to his lips, the fact that they belonged to Will turning them into a love talisman that he wasn't sure he wanted to give up. Fucking stupid sentimentalist, he knew, but he couldn't help it, these keys, that kiss--and to meet him again at the scene of the crime, how fucking brilliant, fucking beautiful!

He twirled the keys around his index finger, tossing them in the air and catching them as he left his brother's house, the late afternoon air carrying a cold nip within it unlike yesterday. He wore his leather jacket this time, and a plain dark blue bowling shirt underneath. He pocketed the keys and dove his nose under the collar of his shirt, hoping he didn't overdo it on the cologne. He used the good stuff--Hannibal's, stolen from his dresser--and he made sure to use it everywhere on his body after he'd taken a shower because, well, because you never fucking knew where a few drinks and a car ride might take you.

Only now he was thinking such a dousing was a bad idea and he stank like some fucking faggot whore, and what if it turned Will off and what if it made him sick, some people are fucking sensitive to fucking reek ass cologne like this, and what the fuck was he thinking meeting up with him and stinking like Hannibal? Fuck.

He stepped off the front porch and it was then that he heard a twig snap behind him. Nigel pretended he didn't know he was being followed. A few steps later he was prepared when a man dressed in black dove out of the bushes and grabbed him, another diving after him from behind. A good few fucking punches took care of the one bastard, landing him on his ass, but the other was keen to drag him into the waiting car, his arm so tight on Nigel's throat he was seconds away from snapping his windpipe.

His friend recovered and lunged at Nigel, giving a good kick into his side and sending his injury into an eruption of flame and pain that would have left him groaning if he could just fucking breathe. The kicks and punches were relentless, he could feel bones cracking beneath the blows, blood swelling inside of his mouth in a thick, iron torrent.

With a high kick he struck his heel heavy against his assailant's knee, crippling him and loosening the man's grip around his throat. He caught the flash of a knife and managed to avoid it, slamming the man behind him onto the bumper of the car with enough force to break his ribs. He kicked at the hand that lunged at him with the knife, nicking his calf but the blow from his heel knocking the weapon free. As his assailant scrambled for it, Nigel managed to slide his fingers around the blade and picked it up, the sharp end slicing through his palm. It slid against blood to the handle and with a solid swipe he slit the man's throat as he lunged at Nigel again, and, breaking free of the one trying to hold him from behind, he shoved the knife handle deep into the bastard's fucking heart.

He stood back, breathless, as they lay on the ground in front of Hannibal's house, one quickly bleeding to death while the other, having his heart sliced in half, was already dead. He'd slumped to the side of the car and then to the side, eyes open in shock. He shouldn't have been so fucking surprised, Nigel thought. Fucking son of a bitch Darko and his stupid flunkies. He'd sent men after him who couldn't kill a cockroach. Fucking useless dick.

He gave the dying man groaning in front of the car a kick in the face for good measure.

"My fucking bastard brother," Nigel said to the two corpses now littering Hannibal's property. "After all those years I kept his ass clean and this is what he fucking does to me! Fucking bastard prick!"

Furious, he dug out his new cell phone and texted his brother, his thumbs dripping with so much blood he had to wipe off the screen with the hem of his shirt.

"Fucking bastard cunt. I left your mess in your garage, next time you betray me get ready to have me rip your throat out through your fucking hole. Your expensive cologne stinks like asswipe, you fucking jackass. I fucking hate you."

He began dragging one of the bodies towards the garage, and dumped it into middle of the space, right where he knew Hannibal would park his Bentley. He was halfway to bringing the other one in when his cell phone erupted into song ('Fuck U' by C. Lo)and with annoyed, bored forbearance he read the text his fucking two faced betraying bastard brother sent him.

"Photographs of you and Will at the bar were taken by a journalist named Freddie Lounds and posted online. If you knew how to read, I would suggest you take a look at the latest article on TattleCrime.com. Though the headline is misleading, there is no doubt your enemies have detected the large tattoo of a snake on your neck and are fully aware of your true identity. I can assure you, I do not appreciate being mistaken for you, and I am not the reason your enemies have discovered you.

Why are you wearing my cologne? Stay out of my room.

Hate suggests care. I feel absolutely nothing towards you."

He stepped out of the garage, cursing, and slapped a bloody hand print onto the button, closing the door. He was about to return an equally nasty text to Hannibal, only to hear a high pitched whine zing past his ear and hit the garage door button, tearing a hole into the corner of the brickwork. Diving low, he ran for the black car Darko's men had arrived in and sent it squealing down the street, bullets shooting out the back window and the doors as he made his escape. Fucking bastards were set to be everywhere now, and for him to stay in Baltimore would be akin to having a goddamned series of targets painted all over his body. Go ahead, you fucking morons, get a knife, spin the wheel and start throwing.

A cell phone on the passenger chair beside him cursed in Romanian, a familiar voice telling whatever fleet of pricks was out there that he was heading towards the highway. Losing them was going to be impossible, but the highway offered some protection. The last thing they wanted was a shootout on an American interstate drawing even more attention to Darko and his activities outside of Europe.

Covered in blood and left out of options, Nigel knew he had one safeguard left and he had better fucking use it or else he was set to have his brains splattered all over the back end of Baltimore.

He set the car's GPS and hoped this made Darko's man shit his pants. Considering the risk he was taking, he knew how the fucker felt.

"Quantico", the pleasant,digitized female voice said. "Six miles."

~*~


Nigel had done his best to clean himself up in the washroom next to the lecture hall, but there was no hiding the bloody nose and split lip, nor the growing bruises that started at his temple and ended somewhere near the tip of his jaw line. The wound in his side was killing him, and the kick had opened up stitches, leaving a bloody mess against the dark blue shirt. He washed his hands until the water ran clear instead of pink, but there was still dried blood stubbornly clinging to the wound slit across his palm. He swallowed, tasting more iron, his tongue experimentally testing the possibility of a broken back tooth.

He opened the door to the lecture hall and tried to enter in as secretive a way as possible, only to have an entire classroom of steely eyed future FBI profilers turn in their seats in unison to stare at him in expressionless scrutiny. Swallowing back blood and feeling sick, Nigel shrank into a chair in the very back, being careful to ease his way in lest the wound open up all the way and start gushing blood and pus everywhere. That would probably bring about some unwanted attention.

What a fuck of a day.

Will Graham pushed his glasses up his nose and gave Nigel nothing more than a passing glance, but just enough to acknowledge him and make his heart do all sorts of little shard injured jumps that made him wince in unbearable, silent pain. Jesus Fucking Christ, he was so fucking *cute* up there, with his little folders and his little glasses and fuck if Nigel didn't want to run down there and push him over that desk and fuck him until his toes curled so much they snapped right off. Ah, he was so pretty, deadly dark curls and all soft and sweet. He could die here now and be so, so happy. Will looked so perfect and lovely and he could fucking just collapse and become a corpse right here, especially if Will kissed him again, it would be okay. Fuck, his side hurt so bad. Kiss me better, darling.

"The evolution of a killer is one tempered by time and reflection. As the killer hones his skills and becomes more efficient, he will search for ways to express himself better. Though a killer is known to use the same modus operandi for the duration of their murders, the level of brutality increases as the frustration with the delivery of their message also increases. For killers, murder is an act of communication. As we discussed earlier, the Chesapeake Ripper has a clear message that is as grandiose as the display of the body. A manifesto that is becoming more and more detailed as time goes on. He is comfortable in his medium and seeks out unique ways to fully exploit it."

The students had thankfully reverted their attention back to their professor and Nigel was finally able to relax in his seat, his hand pressed against the wet stickiness at his side. He wasn't bleeding as badly as he'd thought, though he'd definitely need a good bandaging, maybe a couple of new stitches to keep him from feeling like a stuck pig.

The student in front of him, a skinny kid with a weirdly shapeless afro twice the size of his head, kept stealing glances over his shoulder at him and Nigel couldn't stop himself from harshly whispering, "What the fuck is your problem? Turn around and listen to your goddamned teacher, you little shit. Get out your paper and take out some fucking notes and stop searching for porn on your laptop, you sleazy little prick."

The kid rolled his eyes and turned around, as though he'd heard this a million times before. Fucking little problem student. He'd warn Will about this one.

"Which leads us to this example." Will pulled up an image of a man shot point blank in the eye, hands in his lap and missing all of his fingers. Nigel choked and sank further into his chair, the pain such a position caused nearly making him retch. "As I have noted, this was a killer for hire. His modus operandi was a simple bullet through the temple, killing his victims instantly in the majority of cases. It is unknown if he was hired to do these particular murders and as you can see the method is extremely different, making one believe that this is not the work of the same killer. However, they most certainly are. Police reports have eye witness evidence that offers the same description of the killer in all of these cases. Eye witness reports which were all summarily withdrawn, undoubtedly due to mob induced amnesia. Threats, beatings, that sort of thing."

Will leaned against his desk, gesturing to the screen in boredom. "In all instances the killer has remained out of sight of the camera, the victims die by a single, close range bullet to the head and note the cleanliness of the kill, no hesitation, no interaction with any of the victims."

Will then pulled up a video of some extremely ancient history, and Nigel felt a wave of embarrassment at the sloppiness of his early work. "As you can see in this early example, the killer does taunt the victims. As time went on, he has felt that this interaction is no longer needed, the medium by which he wants to portray his communication--the murder--is likewise held in silence when he is hired for a job. This is because he has no passion nor feelings for the act that has been committed and has no opinion of it. This is a fierce contrast to these three murders..."

Nigel reeled as though he'd been shot. Jesus fuck, all of them...How in the fuck did he know?

"As I have given you in the handouts, the police report specifies very clear similarities. Fingers missing, shot through the eye instead of the temple. Highly personalized murders, yet from the same killer." He held his hands open, a call to his students for answers. "How do we explain this discrepancy?"

"He's a vigilante," a pretty young woman in the front row said, pencil tapped on the table before her. "The last victim was found with DVDs full of child pornography stuffed in his jacket pockets. His murders felt justified."

"Justified." Will made a face as he turned towards the screen. "Why?"

"Because they were pricks that hurt kids," the little shit in front of Nigel blurted out, and though he still didn't like him, he appreciated the understanding.

"Really." Will paced the front of the class, his arms crossed. "I suppose a lot of you believe that is the motivation here." He paused and looked back up at the screen, a feeling of questioning sadness overtaking him. "I can guarantee you it's not."

The little shit in front of Nigel scoffed at this. "Then what is it?"

"Atonement," Will said, and Nigel could feel his blood run cold. Will couldn't have cut him down more than if he'd taken a large rock and began smashing every bone in his body with it.

"What, you think he's some kind of pedophile with a transference of self loathing going on?"

What the fuck? Disgusting little worm. Nigel figured he ought to take this mouthy little prick out in the hall and rip his eyes out and shove them up his asshole just so he could see how much of a shit he was.

"No. He was forced to harm someone he knew did not deserve it. Probably early in his career and it has haunted his conscience ever since." Will turned off his computer, plunging the screen into a blank slate, leaving the lecture hall in contemplative silence.

Students began gathering up their books and Nigel felt infinitely grateful that class was finally no longer in session. He shoved his seat back and winced as he stood up.

"Was he successful?"

Fuck does this little shithead ever shut up? He didn't write down a thing. He doesn't even study, the little fucker!

Will paused, contemplating the question carefully. "Yes. Yes, I think he was."

Frowning, the kid finally gathered up his books and laptop and slunk past Nigel, earning a glare that made more than one piece of shit piss himself in terror but did nothing more than annoy the massive fro bro. When the lecture hall was finally emptied, Nigel made his way down the steps to Will, who packed up his notes and didn't look up as Nigel slid beside him.

"I don't have your car," Nigel said. He reluctantly handed Will his keys.

"Ran into a bit of trouble, did you?"

"Fuck yeah. These guys...I thought it was Hannibal, fucking with me, but he said it was some article written by some cock pus named Freddie and they found me and..."

"We can go and get my car together, it's not a big deal."

Nigel felt the conversation was weirdly bland, and after everything he did for him the night before it didn't seem fair that Will didn't have any concern for his predicament or his wounds at all. Nigel grabbed his shoulder and forced him to turn around and face him. "Look, I was nearly kil--"

"Coming to Quantico was a great idea, we can just drop off the rental and go straight back to my place." Will smiled and pulled out his cell phone, typing in a text while leaning against his desk.

C. Lo started cursing in Nigel's pocket.

Frowning, he took out his phone and quickly read the text Will had sent him. "You are in FBI headquarters. Don't think for a moment that this building isn't *made* of eyes and ears. You are being way too obvious."

Nigel took the hint and pocketed his cell phone, his lips pressed into a tight line as he kept his big mouth shut.

"Come on," Will said, overly bright and cheery and grabbing Nigel's arm right where a nasty bruise was growing and making him cry out in pain. "Let's go get one of those fancy lattes!"

~*~

Nigel was right at home in Will's house in Wolf Trap, a fact Will found strangely endearing. It was late by the time they pulled into his long driveway, a thin dusting of snow covering the extensive expanse of his property. The dogs leapt through the flap in the door, bounding towards the car in insanely happy glee, tails wagging and tongues lolling. Nigel didn't hesitate to get out of the car, he opened the door and gave Will's pack a delighted hands on greeting.

"You like dogs," Will said to him.

"How can you not?" Nigel countered, looking at him as though he were mad. The pack accepted him instantly, playing and rolling around him while Nigel crouched down and cheerfully praised them in Romanian. He pulled out a cigarette and lit it, the chill night air mixed in steam and smoke. "You running some kind of kennel?"

"They're strays," Will said. "People abandon their dogs around here all the time. Drive them out to the woods, dump them off. When I find them, I take them in."

Nigel was quiet a long moment at this, his thoughts held in with cigarette ash. "People are fucking shit."

"Yeah," Will agreed. "They are."

He rubbed the back of his head with palm, the headache eased now that he was with Nigel, but lately it was always a lingering, annoying presence within his body. He was tired of the ache, and all he really wanted to do right now was go inside, get a roaring fire going and...

And see how many slips of the tongue it took to get Nigel into his bed.

Driving home was torture, with Nigel wanting to ask what the hell was going on in the classroom, and wanting to reveal far too much too soon. Will needed him to wait while he thought about everything he'd already figured out, that whole empathic understanding relationship killer getting in the way. The minute Nigel had walked into the classroom, his body busted up and bloody, Will knew he was the man the DEA was looking for. The car ride home was a tightly confined confessional, with Nigel begging for forgiveness for acts Will could share no real empathy for. In Will's estimation and from what he'd seen in Nigel's rap sheet he did kill people who deserved it. While Nigel's anxiety grew it was all Will could do to keep driving and not pull over and kiss the man and let him know none of it mattered. He had absolutely no intention of handing Nigel over to the DEA.

Nigel followed Will into the house, the dogs still gathered happily at the heels of their new best friend, who finished his cigarette and tossed it over the front porch before going inside. He sank into a chair at Will's fireside as Will quickly got to work lighting it up and sending the kindling into a flame that would lick at the log he'd placed above it. The beginnings of the fire spread quickly along dried grass and twigs, and Will took this moment to go into his small kitchen and grab a package of frozen peas out of his freezer.

"I have whiskey if you want some," Will offered and Nigel gave a grudging consent. He poured them both a couple of fingers over ice and with a balanced dexterity brought out the glasses and the bag of frozen peas into the living room. It was still cold in the room and the fire was taking a while to properly light. Nigel sat pensive and rather miserable in the near darkness, and took the glass of whiskey from Will in mute thanks.

Will placed his glass on the fireplace mantle and pressed the bag of frozen peas against the bruises lining Nigel's face. Nigel flinched slightly at the touch, only to warily accept it. "Are you going to turn me in?"

"Of course not."

"Why?"

"Because I like you."

"I fucking love you, darling. Like has nothing to do with this."

Will smiled and perched himself on the arm of the chair, his face leaning close to Nigel's. "I thought you were going to wait until I kissed you again to fall in love with me."

"I wanted to. But my heart is an impatient little fucker and all it ever wants to do is fucking smash my head into pieces. I go mad with love, I really fucking do. I can feel it doing it to me right now, this fucking shit called love. I put all my broken pieces of myself in front of you already. I don't want you to fucking fix anything, I just want you to love me like this. Is that possible? Or am I just being some fucking piss lick stupid cocksucker?"

Nigel's wild emotions were intoxicating and Will revelled in them like a drug. He pressed his lips against the bruising cut on Nigel's bottom lip, the kiss returned with tentative, anxious question. "Will.."

Will took Nigel's ignored drink and downed it one gulp, setting it beside his own glass on the mantelpiece. He tossed the bag of frozen peas onto the floor and bid Nigel to return his kiss with more force, an unspoken request Nigel heeded without hesitation. The heady pleasure of the scent of his blood and sweat rolled over Will's senses with an awareness that made his body tense in excitement.

He trailed his lips along the semi circle of Nigel's snake tattoo, following its lines with the tip of his tongue and diving towards the first button on Nigel's shirt. It was cold in the living room, but Nigel was quick to shed his leather jacket and fumble with buttons if it meant Will's lips came back to return his kisses, his mouth so hungry it wanted to swallow him.

Will's hardness matched Nigel's, a desire he made sure the man knew as he placed his damaged palm over the fabric of his jeans, his length straining against the zipper. "It's been a while for me," Will said between kisses, his teeth nipping at the eager hope of Nigel's tongue. "Have you been with a man before?"

"No, but I know what they do, I managed plenty of Darko's skin shops, I know how to fuck with variety." Nigel ran his hand through Will's hair, pulling his head back as he tugged the dark curls in his fist. He mouthed Will's throat, and dammit he had to stop or this alone was going to make him cum in his pants.

"What about you, darling. Am I a new world to you, too?"

"No."

"You're not as innocent as you look."

"I'm not innocent at all."

Will dove down Nigel's chest and slid to his knees, his face near buried in Nigel's crotch as he flicked open Nigel's trouser button and slid down the zipper. He nudged Nigel's cock with his chin, teeth nipping at cotton fabric. He pulled down his trousers, cotton snatched beneath eager fingers that clutched the strength of Nigel's thighs as Will decided to forgo the usual teasing, because fuck he just wanted this man, he just wanted to plunge his mouth on him and make him moan...

Nigel's hands were heavy on the back of his head as Will took his entirety into his mouth, hips bucking as he fucked against Will's tongue. Feverish, animal and needful, Will dug his fingertips into Nigel's thighs, making him curse.

Will released him and with shaking hands undid his jeans and slid them off, cotton boxers quickly following. "Holy shit, Nigel, I need you," Will said, capturing his slack mouth again and bringing the taste of sex forcefully onto his tongue. Will pulled away, half lidded eyes meeting his blue fire. "Make me ready for you."

Never letting his gaze waver, Nigel brought his hand to his mouth and licked his index fingers, enough to make them drip. He circled them around Will's ass, his free handing clutching his cheeks apart. "We can never go fucking back now, can we?" Nigel breathed and Will sank onto his fingers, a needful groan escaping him as Nigel began widening circles inside of him. "You are so fucking hot, so fucking beautiful. Make that noise again, darling. That one, like it hurts too good to even think."

Will pulled away and quickly dove his mouth onto Nigel's cock, wetting him liberally with his tongue before sliding back up along his chest, making Nigel wince in pain as he leaned too much against the partially healed bullet wound in his side. "Sorry, baby," Will said, and kissed him at the same time as he poised Nigel's hard, wet cock over his hole and impaled himself onto it.

It felt so good. Hurt like fuck, but it felt *so* good, and Will lost himself in Nigel's unchecked passion as he pounded back, words of endearment in expletive laced Romanian kissed into his hair, his mouth, his neck. Gone was the FBI, the images of death, the lies and demands. Gone was everything but this beautiful, rough scavenger who would stand in the way of any bullet that dared to harm him.

The press of his flesh, the perfect aim of his cock...Will pressed his face against the top of Nigel's head and kissed apologies against his scalp. "Baby, I don't deserve you..."

"Oh fuck, darling, say that again, call me your baby..."

A kiss at the bruise on his temple. "Baby." A kiss against the swollen panting of his lips. "Baby..."

Nigel came, cursing as he clutched at Will's hips, driving himself in deep. He grasped Will's cock and made him follow him, cum staining their bellies as Will cried out in release.

Breathless, Will collapsed on top of him, mindful of the pain in Nigel's side. His body felt shaky and feverish, Nigel's spent, softening cock still inside of him. He made no move to push away and Nigel held him tighter.

Kisses, lighter now, more tender than forceful. "Come to bed with me, Nigel."

"A little late for that request."

Will chuckled into Nigel's shoulder and nipped it. Aching, but in a good way, he eased off of Nigel's lap. Leaving his clothes in a heap on the floor he headed up the stairs pausing as Nigel followed him.

"Your dogs are perverts," Nigel informed him. Will looked over his shoulder to see seven dogs staring at them both with heads cocked to one side in interspecies curiosity. Will let Nigel catch up with him before planting a quick kiss on his lips.

"Yes, but you're my favourite one."

 

Chapter Text

 

Nigel sighed into Will's neck as he nuzzled his face into it, drawing his warm body close beneath the cool duvet. Will looked like an angel while he slept, not fluffy or pretty like the kind you see on cheap Christmas cards, he was like a real one, all fucking righteous, wiry muscle and pinched brow like he was holding all God's fucking shit together. Made perfect sense that he looked like this, with white sheets tangled around them both as Nigel pressed kisses on Will's shoulder. He felt so much love for him it really was Biblical, a fierce, storming kind of love pulled right out of the middle of Revelations. He wasn't a religious person, per se, but one couldn't grow up in Romania and not be absorbed into the Eastern Orthodox mindset, its mythology creeping in when matters of the soul were at stake. Whether he knew it or not, Will Graham had indeed stolen his soul to feast on it and Nigel was grateful. He was forever transfixed by him, by those dark curls framing his pale face, the dark shadows that lined the determination in his jaw--fuck he really was a goddamned angel, wasn't he? Michael, slaying Satan in his sleep. Fuck all the devils and their pointless pissing contest over the destruction of Earth, he was here, up in Heaven with his darling Will.

Will stirred in his sleep and twisted onto his side, facing Nigel. Pillows as soft and clean as clouds beneath them pulled Will into a lazy wakefulness and Nigel smiled at the softening of his features, reaching out to touch him and embrace him close as he kissed away the battle scars of his nightmares.

"Good morning, darling."

Will's gaze was still dreamy with sleep. He slid the back of his hand down Nigel's cheek, the touch sending a jolt of electricity that shot through every part of his fucking body, and ended at the tip of his dick.

"Hey."

"I'm so fucking hard for you already."

Will chuckled at this and slid his hand between them, grasping their cocks together and firmly stroking. Mutual precum lubricated the sensitive tip, and the pressure of Will's teasing thumb along his slit made Nigel press his face into the tangle of Will's hair and breathe in a moan.

"I'm going back to the crime scene this morning."

"Mmm."

"There might some details I missed by not seeing it early in the day."

"Mmm, your cock is so hot in my hand." Breathless, Nigel rolled on top of him, his grasp on their cocks tight as he pumped them together, his free arm tucked under Will's neck as he pulled him into a passionate kiss. "I like this, darling. A nice, easy morning fuck. Don't go, stay in bed with me all day. Just lie here and let me worship you, like the fucking gorgeous archangel you are. No monsters, no bullshit, just me and just our souls together, darling."

Will's left the work to Nigel and brought his arms around him, fingers digging into his blonde hair and pulling him down for a deeper kiss. He could feel Will was close, his hips rising to thrust into Nigel's fist. His head fell back on the pillow, eyes closed as desire began to overtake him. Nigel had to kiss him, he had to take all that pain out of that fucking gorgeous mouth.

"I have to go."

"No, darling."

"I have to slay the dragons, baby."

Will came as Nigel thrust against him and the slick, warm trickle of his cum against Nigel's cock was enough to trigger his own release. He cursed as his body tensed above the shuddering form beneath him, their cocks drenched in each others spent passion, Nigel's palm and their bodies glued together in messy evidence. He pulled his hand away and smeared his palm down the small of Will's back as he held him tight, the smell of sex strong beneath the sheets and achingly pleasant.

Will brushed the stray wisps of blonde hair out of Nigel's eyes as he stared up at him. "Come with me."

"I just did, darling."

Will laughed and it was the most lovely, endearing fucking thing Nigel had ever heard and he wanted to hear it every goddamned day. Could a person overdose on loving someone too much? Nigel's heart ached in all kinds of beautiful ways just looking at him, and to hear him laugh like that, to sound so happy...Fuck, he could feel his throat burning with emotion and it was hard to swallow it back.

"Come to *work* with me."

"A crime scene?" Nigel made a face and slid off from him with reluctance, though their bodies were still close and the morning was full of easy touches. "You want me to go with you to some fucking piece of shit serial killer's self congratulating dick lick of an amusement park? No offence, darling, I love you so fucking much it hurts but that is one sick fuck of a way to spend a romantic day together."

Will pressed his face into Nigel's pillow, his voice muffled. "The safest place for you to be right now is with me. The FBI will be crawling all over the scene and there is no way the men who tried to kill you will even come sniffing near us." He traced his fingertip along the length of Nigel's tattoo, his touch hot on Nigel's skin. "Why does the DEA want you so bad? They gave me a stupid story about the risk of a gang war along the coast, about you stealing 2.5 billion and crippling portions of the drug trade in the Eastern Bloc."

Nigel shook his head against Will's forehead. "Twenty-five *million*, darling." He smiled into Will's scalp, laughing at the idea of the ridiculous sum that had slipped from his lover's lips. "Two and half billion! What makes you think I'd take that much, you think I am that fucking crazy? I didn't even mean to take that amount, the twenty-five million, I'm going to have to dump more than half of it, it's too much for me to manage. Build a hospital or two in some shithole piss poor country or some goddamned fucking thing, not that I give a shit or anything, really, and maybe I should--Kind of a shit way to be, right? I feel bad that I don't care, but it's because it's Darko's money and who gives a fuck where it goes? Maybe give it to the fucking cancer people, make them fucking cure it or something. I'd like to see Darko ask for a fucking refund from something like that, make him even more of a shit on a stick than he is."

Will pushed away slightly, his forehead creased into a delightful little frown. He kissed it and gave Will a teasing grin, but the nagging little creases didn't go away. "No, Nigel. Two point five billion dollars. That is the sum, I've seen the seizure records from the bust in Turkey. Not twenty-five million, two point five *billion*."

Ha, his darling, such a good sense of humour. So funny.

Nigel propped himself up on his elbow, cautious of the serious look Will was still giving him. A sick feeling started creeping along his gut, circling inside the tight scar tissue around the still healing bullet wound in his side. "You are fucking joking."

He sank back onto his back when it was clear Will was not, his eyes wide and staring up at the ceiling as he felt a rising sense of panic well within him. For fuck's sake, he hadn't planned on doing this, he'd only ever wanted the padded up retirement package of two and half million and the damned kid had, he'd thought, mistakenly given him the full twenty-five. Only now it wasn't just twenty-five million too much, it was twenty-five shitfuck billion too much and he, Nigel fucking Lecter, was being held responsible for taking down the entire Eastern fucking Bloc and now they wanted to rape him up the ass until he spit more coin than a broken nickle slot at the Trump tower.

Fuck this was bad, really fucking bad, he finished Darko to the point the guy wouldn't care what kind of slaughter it would take to get to him, FBI be damned. Not only Darko, but the DEA wanted to cut off his balls and wear his nutsack around their necks as a trophy--What the fuck for? They should give him the key to the fucking city, he'd just done their job for them!

"Will, I think I might be in some big fucking trouble."

"Then you'd better stay close to me. Right now I'm the only thing between you and certain death." Will sighed and placed his palm over Nigel's racing, panicked heart. "The DEA shouldn't give a damn about your former boss going bankrupt. What is it that he has, Nigel, that's making them sweat so much they are pulling out every trick they can to find you?"

"I didn't even know he had that kind of money," Nigel said, still reeling over the extras zeros and the fucked up circus that was his life. "Fucking bastard wouldn't even give me five hundred thousand to buy me out and this is the fuck show I find?" Seething, Nigel sank further down in his pillow, his hand clasped over Will's splayed palm. "Fucking cheapass stupid shit prick!"

Will kissed his cheek and Nigel was momentarily stunned by it. "I need to take a shower. You should get cleaned up and dressed, too, we have to go soon."

He could barely feel the absence of Will as he slid away from him and off of the bed. The sound of water running in the shower was a background noise he couldn't quite process. Two point five fucking crazy shit billion dollars. How was he even going to spend that kind of money? How to even wrap one's head around it, it was how much when you put it in millions, ten million times ten million makes one billion times two and a fucking half too fucking much and he was a dead man made of money. If he took a shit it would be made of hundred dollar bills.

Fucking kid. That fucking kid. Okay, so he didn't want to totally blame the little shit, at the time he did have a big chemistry test the next day and took time out of studying to help Nigel out, and the whole thing was kind of rushed, but fuck he told him flat out the proper sum and as if the mute little weasel didn't add on a pile of extra zeros. Did he do it on purpose? Nigel honestly couldn't be sure. Who knew what was going on in the kid's mind, with a father like Darko he was set to be just as much of a twisted fuck, even if he was only ten years old.

The morning had started so beautiful, so perfect. He'd been stupid enough to think he was free of Darko and his past and all that bullshit and he was keen to make a brand new start, do something that felt good for a change, only to be pulled right back into a coffin and buried alive. Fuck this shit, he needed a goddamned smoke.

Tossing the covers off of him, he grabbed his pack of cigarettes and stormed, nude, down the stairs, Will's dogs happy to see him as they bounded up around him. He wasn't in the mood to be friendly with them, but he gave a few of the more anxious ones affectionate pats on the head. They bounded away from him when he opened the front door, and stepped out onto the front porch, cigarette already lit and pumping poison through his lungs.

The snow had melted in the early morning sunlight, and he stood in the gentle chill, the bite of it alerting his senses as the cold sent a caress across his flesh. He tested the bandage at his side, one Will had kindly refreshed last night and the pain in his side had subsided significantly. His darling knew how to take good care of him. Proof that some things were still going right and not everything was shit.

A car turned into Will's driveway and he gave it a narrow eyed assessment only to be relieved to see a now familiar FBI parking sticker fixed in the upper right corner of the windshield. Imagine, feeling *relief* at a sight like that! He tried to act casual and finish his cigarette in relative peace as the car parked near the porch. An attractive woman with long brown hair stepped out of it, her tall heels struggling to balance her as she walked across the rough terrain in front of Will's house.

The hesitant drop of her jaw which was quickly shut gave Nigel pause, and it was then that he remembered he was naked. He inwardly shrugged and stayed put, she'd already seen what she was going to see, a fucking thrill for one of Will's friends, who the fuck cares.

"H-Hannibal?"

~*~

The drive to the crime scene was painfully awkward, and he hated that his darling had to be tortured like this, forced to explain a relationship to a woman who had reeled him in just to rebuff him. If Nigel felt any threat from Alana Bloom, it was cured the second he'd met her and she started talking to Will. She was looking for a companion all right, and Will had been convenient, but he wasn't what she really wanted. Nigel had been around enough women in his lifetime to know when one made do with a man but would prefer to roll out the carpet for a girlfriend.

"So," she said, trying to break the awkward silence that continued to suffocate them in the car. "You're Hannibal's twin brother? He never said anything about you."

"We've been out of touch," Nigel said. He tried to keep the mood light, but it was hard going from the back seat, and both Will and Alana had silly little barbs shooting at each other, though clearly not due to thwarted romance. "You know how time and life can run away from you. I just wanted to reconnect with family and.."

"Will, are you sleeping with this man?" Alana snapped.

"I..." Will looked at her, dumbfounded, his face twisting in reserved shock. "What business is it of yours?"

"It's plenty of my business Will if you are sleeping with a man who looks exactly like your psychiatrist."

"Nigel is nothing like Hannibal."

"Seeing is believing, Will." Alana shot daggers with her eyes at Nigel in the back seat. "So. Nigel. Did Will tell you he's Hannibal's patient, or is this kind of line of communication not open in your family?"

Nigel shrugged, cautious of where this bitch's fury was coming from. "He said they have conversations."

"Right. Did Will mention he's been having trouble coping with the aftermath of his last case? I'm sure he's told you all about it, especially the part where he's losing time and he's been caught sleepwalking in the middle of a busy interstate."

Nigel wanted to rudely butt in this time, but Alana didn't let him.

"Did he happen to mention that the profiling he did for a killer *before* Garett Jacob Hobbs put him in institutional care for six months?" Alana drummed her fingers on the steering wheel and glared at the road ahead of her. "Right. Maybe that was better to have been left unsaid. That's the best way to start a relationship, on lies and secrets."

"Why are you doing this?" Will shouted at her. "If this is because of the other night..."

"Hannibal doesn't know anything about this, does he?" she spat. She shook her head, her mouth a thin line. "Honestly, Will, I'm trying to look out for you, and you just have to keep hitting that self destruct button. I warned you that you are too unstable to get into a relationship, that analysis will become too much a part of it, and the first thing you do is run off and fuck someone in an obvious act of transference...."

"This is not transference!"

"I want to believe you, Will, but you can't even stop lying to yourself."

"For fuck's sake, Alana!" Will shouted, loud and forceful enough to make Nigel wince. "You have no right to be questioning who I am with and what I am doing with them, I am not your little pet project! And for the record, you can stay the fuck out of my headspace!"

The ensuing silence was vicious, thick enough with brewing fury to keep Nigel from opening his mouth. Though it was unlikely, it was the kind of quiet that occurred just before a person got their brains blown out and made a puke piss of a mess inside of a car. Strange as it was, he couldn't wait to the get to the crime scene and rid himself of this little drama. Will looked feverish and unhappy. Alana Bloom, hunh? What a fucking bitch.

~*~

Forced to the sidelines, but not at all out of the picture, Nigel watched as Will paced in front of the space where the body had been discovered, his hands deep in his pockets, his body present while his mind was clearly wandering around in the pus of some madman. If he'd ended up in the nuthouse over this shit in the past, no wonder. Doctor Alana Bloom's care was all over the fucking map with this one, because if anyone truly gave a damn about Will Graham's mind they wouldn't keep shoving it back into the snake pit.

The article about the murder was open on his phone and he finished reading it with grim understanding. Beneath the actual facts of the case--gruesome, displayed body, no motive, the usual sick realm of the fucknut psychos--journalist (if he could call her that) Freddie Lounds had a very nasty beef to pick with Will, and wasn't afraid to let her personal views rip him to shreds. She accused him of being a killer, though Nigel couldn't understand how when all he'd done was shoot a serial killer and try to save the bastard's dying daughter. Apparently, Will Graham's big crime in Lounds' view was that he was able to think like a killer, which made him a killer. Stupid narrow shit kind of thinking, and she calls herself a journalist? That's like calling Steig Larsson a rapist for what happened to his Lisbeth Salander. Much as he was enjoying it, America was one fucked up kind of place when it came to knowing who their heroes and their villains were. Guy who takes out serial killers for a living equals the good guy, at least in the universe Nigel grew up in. Don't kill your coveting fucking adulterous lying neighbour and all that shit.

He scrolled down and read the article that had outed him to Darko's men and wondered, again, why Lounds was so quick to slander Will with cruel jabs at his orientation, dragging whoever was around him right into her muck. Maybe this was just how things were here.

The photograph of him placing his hand on Will's forehead brought back an unpleasant memory, especially after that fight in the car between Will and Alana, and her saying Will was losing time. Blackouts, then. Nigel wasn't surprised to hear it, Will was so sick that afternoon he'd nearly collapsed in Nigel's arms and there was no bouncing back from something like that, no matter how healthy he seemed the next day. Nigel had good instincts and his gut was telling him this was no simple flu. He'd sent him home in the taxi with strict orders to the taxi driver to take him to hospital if he got too sick along the way, and to make sure he got into his home at the end of the long trip. It took a lot of money and convincing to make the man take Will so far and out of State, and Nigel knew he overcompensated to ensure Will's safety. He felt badly now that he hadn't gone with him that night because he couldn't be sure if the driver had listened to his instructions and would have cared enough to help if needed. Kinship was not easily cultivated between strangers and helping one required a steep price.

"You are not the real Dr. Hannibal Lecter."

He glanced up from his cell phone to see a slender, tall Asian woman wearing a one piece white jumper with a hood. She was carrying a black plastic box with a handle and he knew this was her kit when she turned around to put it on the ground, the word 'Forensics' printed in big black letters across the shoulders of her jumper. "You must be Nigel Lecter." She held out her rubber gloved hand, and Nigel took it. "Beverly Katz. I work with Will."

"I see he's still doing his thing." She nodded at him off in the distance, still pacing and staring at the sun and then the edge of the dock, like it was going to give him a message. Nigel thought of the photograph of the flesh cocooned banker and shivered. Whatever sign Will was trying to get, looking in the heavens for it was the wrong direction.

Nigel wordlessly shook out a cigarette from his pack and lit it, the smoke an easy distraction. "Have you worked with him a long time?"

"No, just a few weeks."

"So you are friends?"

"What?" She gave Nigel a weird look, and shook her head at the question. "We work together, that's it. He's okay, I guess, we talked a few times. Frankly, from the look of that Tattle Crime article you know him a lot better than I do. He's kind of a closed book, but you probably know that already."

She grabbed her kit and dove under the yellow tape, leaving Nigel confused. Will had been open with him right from the start, and now that he understood the rarity of this gift he wanted more than ever to snatch him up from the edge of the dock and whisk him away from all those clutching monsters that were trying to pull him into the water to rip him apart while they drowned him.

Will stood back from the edge and turned, waving Beverly over to the scene. Nigel watched as her step quickened, her kit tight beside her as Will pointed to something on the ground not far from where he had been standing.

Nigel felt the skin on the back of his neck begin to crawl and he knew his brother was standing behind him. He took a long drag of his cigarette, his gaze never wavering from its concentration on Will. "Sorry about the mess I left in your garage. Sloppy as fuck, I know. My work is usually a lot cleaner than that."

Hannibal scrutinized the bruises along the side of his brother's face and the cut on his lip. "Your work seems to take you by surprise."

"I wasn't exactly expecting to have to do a job on my vacation."

Hannibal stood close beside Nigel, so close he could feel his brother's intake of breath behind his neck. He could sense the fury suddenly erupting through the thin space between them, an animalistic thing that Nigel was all too familiar with. One false move and this fucker was going to reach out and snap his neck like a twig.

"That is what this is to you," Hannibal said, his words dripping black with threat. "A vacation. A little holiday away from the rats racing in Romania. Pity they have found you. I have to wonder, Nigel, just how long do you plan on keeping this fallacious facade between us going because I warn you, I am fully prepared to end it."

Nigel let out a long plume of smoke. "I am not fucking going anywhere. I am in love." He turned to face his brother, not missing the hint of a curled lip that held back the animal fury residing just under the ice cold layer of his brother's exterior. "I don't care if you think I am pissing in your backyard. I know what you were doing, getting a good whiff, you can smell him all over me. That's right, I fucked him. I fucked him until he cried my name out in ecstasy and begged for more. I fucked him and I'm going to fuck him every opportunity I can because I love that man, with every shred of my miserable soul and if you step one foot into what is happening between us I will crush you until you turn into a goddamned shit shaped diamond, do you get me you pompous motherfucker."

"You've known him only a couple of days. What you are feeling is infatuation, not love."

"You're trying to analyze the magic of the heart? No wonder you had to give up being an artist."

"You are impulsive and unthinking. This relationship you have with Will is merely a symptom of your vices. We want very different things for him, and I would prefer you cease your pursuit. I do not share."

Hannibal's eyes flashed red within his maroon depths and Nigel took a small step back, readying himself to face the wrath of Il Monstro. "Do your worst, I share everything with you. Every molecule of my body is yours, and yet you don't even think about it, do you, you selfish jackass. You split from me, or I from you and we sat in that sack of water together, breathing and pissing and shitting all over each other while the cells divided. We walked into this shit together, you stupid prick."

"The only thing that we resemble of each other is flesh, Nigel. Nothing more."

"Because you are so fucking special, right? You think I don't understand your rage. You think I don't know you are alone. I know how hot my feelings get, I just don't bottle them up until they explode. I think that's something you do. So, sorry little brother, I just don't want the man I love getting in the way of your nuclear bomb."

Hannibal growled, like a fucking dog ready to rip out his throat. "Stay away from Will Graham."

"No."

"You will never be able to truly understand him."

"You will never be able to genuinely love him."

They stood back from each other at these confessions, mutually surprised at the depths to which their minds and needs appeared to collide. The fury in Hannibal's gaze abated, the confusion of the moment deflecting their hatred and shaping it instead into an uneasy truce until they both figured out what it meant. It was an odd, unspoken communication that transcended the complexity of speech and rode on the divide and conquer of cells split between them.

Hannibal gracefully stepped beneath the yellow tape and Nigel watched him as he made his way towards Will and the woman known as Beverly Katz, his leather gloves slid off as he reached for Will and touched his shoulder. They were deep in conversation and Nigel wished he knew what they were talking about, the idea of Will having any kind of solitude with his brother sitting like a stone in his gut.

Dr. Alana Bloom, who had disappeared not long after dropping Will and Nigel off, no doubt to cool off her bitch tongue, stormed past him, practically ripping off the yellow tape in her haste. She turned to the rookie cop standing on the other side of the street, the one not paying much attention to the rather steady stream of people wandering back and forth and beyond the barrier, some diving under the yellow tape as a shortcut. She seemed to be telling him off. He deserved it, it was a cushie fucking job for the guy, just standing there pretending to care. Fucking bastard idiot probably contaminated the shit out of the crime scene, who knew how many were let in when she wasn't there to scold him. Like this little redhead bitch, Nigel thought, as Freddie Lounds worked her way along the barrier on the other side, keeping an eye on a distracted Alana as she crept underneath the yellow tape and began crawling around the perimeter of the scene.

"There's shit in the corner!" Nigel shouted at her, and Freddie Lounds froze where she stood. Alana whipped around and, without hesitation, stormed up to her in a direct beeline, high heels marching and clicking on the concrete like a goddamned general.

"The public has a right to know that a psychopathic sympathizer is working this case. Dr. Alana Bloom, are you aware Will Graham is fraternizing with known criminals..."

She didn't get to finish. Dr. Alana Bloom cut her off with a sharp, nasty slap across her face, one hard enough to echo across the near empty dock.

Fucking bitch smack down! Nigel practically giggled around his cigarette, this was so entertaining! Fuck yes, this was much better than sitting around at Wolf Trap wondering if Darko's men had sniffed out his sweet little hiding spot. This wasn't a crime scene, this was a fucking soap opera!

"That's assault, you bitch! I'm pressing charges!" Freddie Lounds shouted at Alana, who was now stomping towards the group gathered around Will. He watched it with concern, wondering what it was that had everyone gathered around him, crowding him into their little gaggle of influence and refusing to let him up for air.

Nigel caught the near escape of Freddie Lounds and grabbed her arm before she could take off into her car, her camera caught with one hand before it dropped to the ground. Her cheek had the angry red welts of Alana's fingers spread wide across it.

"Let me go. I'll hit you with an unlawful detainment charge so fast you'll think you went back in time."

"I'm not the one on the wrong end of some bitch's whip. How about we try this one, you fucking illiterate hack--Explain to me why you hate Will Graham so much."

"Will Graham is a killer..."

"Who hasn't killed anyone *except* a fucking serial killer. Try again, bitch."

Freddie tore herself free of his grip and did her best to piece herself back into decorum. Hands smoothed down her skirt and she shook her hair forward in an attempt to hide the mark Alana had left on her face. "I know exactly what you are. You're a gang member, one from the Eastern Bloc, the Romanian faction. It's not like it would be hard to prove you and Dr. Lecter are brothers. So how about that, the good Doctor Hannibal Lecter has mob ties and is the therapist to a man known to empathize with murderers." Freddie Lounds' sneered at him with withering disdain. "I guess Will Graham is sleeping with killers now, too."

"So that's your piece of shit story for tomorrow. Here, get your camera, you can have a picture of my fucking hard on for the front page."

"You are disgusting."

"I get it, this is what you do, you find someone and piss on them until the lynch mobs on your mailing list get bored. Here's some advice, get some outside editing. I see you had some spelling mistakes, first paragraph too, you need a good line editor, maybe hire Ceausescu, he'd be the perfect cunt for your rag."

Freddie scrunched up her face in disdain. "Who?"

"Fucking journalist. Right. What did you do, look up my tattoo on Wikipedia? Yeah, I bet that's your kind of in depth research. Get the fuck out of here, your fucking Pulitzer is on its way."

He raised his cigarette to his lips and took a final drag and,before he could stop her and tear it out of her hands, Freddie Lounds lifted up her camera and shot him, point blank. She gave him the finger as she quickly escaped into her car. "See you in the funny papers."

Fucking classless cunt bitch. He'd admire her balls if he wasn't sure she was about to kick his and hard in her article tomorrow morning. A rotten little rag like that and people read it more than they do the fucking Times Magazine. Dumb it down and add more bullets and charge for ad space. Not a bad racket, but you had to have your confrontations ready, and Freddie Lounds clearly knew how to create conflict.

There were certainly plenty of those today, and he didn't know if it was the crime scene making everyone so punchy and edgy, seeking out fights or if this is how it was every damn day for Will, with everyone tearing out their little piece of him. He frowned as he saw Will slowly walking towards him, his eyes darting back and forth and unable to properly focus, his head shaking. He was agitated as he walked between Hannibal and Alana, who were clearly bombarding him with so much of their 'help' they were picking him to shreds.

He was ignored by the rookie cop at the tape as he slid under it and headed towards Will, Hannibal and Alana coming together like a brick wall around him. "You're finished already, darling? And here I thought this was going to be an all day thing."

"It is," Will said, drained and exhausted. He looked pale and increasingly unwell and didn't resist when Nigel slid an arm around his shoulders and steered him away from Hannibal and Alana, much to their mutual chagrin. "Baby, I'm sorry, I have to go to the lab and there's no way you can follow me there. You can wait for me in the FBI cafeteria but I'll probably be held up the rest of the day..."

"We're going for lunch first." Nigel remained cheery while Hannibal and Alana glared at him in sombre unity.

"Nigel, this has been a taxing day on Will, I don't recommend pushing him beyond his limits. It's best that he goes to the lab to do his work and go home, preferably alone." Hannibal gave his brother a bland study. "Surely you can understand that placing undo pressure on Will is detrimental to his needs. A healthy balance must be struck, lest Will succumb to mental instability, a danger that is very real."

"I'm not pressuring him to do anything but to take a fucking break for lunch. What the fuck is wrong with you people?"

"Will," Alana said, standing in front of him and preventing him from leaving. "You don't have to do anything you don't want to do."

Nigel's mouth dropped. He was talking about lunch for fuck's sake, not a fucking afternoon BDSM rendezvous! He caught Hannibal's eye and then part of the explanation, because the greasy fuck was giving him that creepy blank stare that spoke of all kinds of nasty manipulation underneath it. He'd been whispering poison into Dr. Bloom's ear, probably since before she'd even shown up at Will's house. Certainly explained her fury, and he had to concede he would have felt the same way. This was Hannibal's strategy, making him look bad, making Will look crazy. Rescuing Will from the slimy fuck was going to be seen as him being controlling, hell by the end of the day Hannibal would have him labelled an abusive influence, one who raped Will every night and made him suck cock on lunch duty. Fuck this, let them think what they want, there was no way he was letting him stay in the manipulative grip of his devil of a brother.

"Lunch is not a fucking crime, it's a necessity. Will, come on, we are going."

"Will!"

Will hesitated, shaking fingers rising to this forehead. His eyes were darting back and forth, like they were having trouble focusing. Beads of sweat lined his brow. "I'm just..." He closed his eyes, shutting them all out before taking a deep, cleansing breath. "I'm going with Nigel for lunch. I'll meet up with you in the lab in about an hour."

Alana glared at Nigel as though he was biggest pile of shit she'd ever stepped in. Too bad she couldn't realize the fucking prick standing beside her was the one who made it.

~*~

The bar was exactly the same as it had been the other day, the exact same patrons and hazy air, a decrepit, neglected feeling pervading every inch of the place. Palinka and a serving of overcooked, sad, wilted fries sat between them, and Will picked at it with tremulous fingers. He looked extremely pale and sick and again Nigel slid his hand over his forehead and face and felt the heat of Will's fever nearly burn his hand. "Darling, this is not good. Is there a clinic nearby or something like that? You need to see a doctor."

"I have to go back to the lab."

"I don't fucking think you do, your friend Alana said that you don't have to do a fucking thing you don't want to. She made that crystal fucking clear."

Will leaned his head back against the cushioning in the booth, his eyes closed as he rolled his head back and forth. "The Ripper wanted me to be at the dock early yesterday morning to see his display in the proper light. The reason became clear to me today as I stood on the edge of the dock. He wants me to put him in the spotlight, to make sure nothing else is distracting me towards the goal of truly knowing and seeing him." Will took up his glass of palinka and downed it in one gulp, grimacing when he was done. "The heart pierced with the circumference of darning needles was a compass. In early morning sunlight it pointed towards this." Will opened his cell phone and showed Nigel the quick picture he had taken earlier. A tiny, stainless steel anchor, affixed to the ground with a small nail and easy enough to miss. "He wants me to be anchored to him."

"The only reason anyone ties an anchor to someone is to drown them." Nigel pushed the plate of fries away, his appetite destroyed. The disgusting display the Ripper had made of the body crept to the forefront of his consciousness and like Will he felt infected by it. The inordinate amount of detail threaded throughout the display gave him a sick feeling he couldn't shake. He'd seen that kind of detail before and even though the evidence was plainly shoved in front of him he didn't want to admit that this was the doing of Il Fucking Monstro, his artistry improved and expanded upon as the decades turned him into a master sculptor of corpses.

He was one mad fucking bastard. His brother wanted Will to understand him, and through the metaphor of this macabre display, Will Graham understood his brother loud and clear where even Nigel, with all the mirrored genetics floating within him, couldn't fucking wrap his head around Hannibal's need for this brand of penis poetry. The thought of wrapping Will Graham around his cock wasn't enough for Hannibal, oh no, what he wanted more was the entirety of his fucking soul.

He wasn't getting it. Fuck him.

Nigel slid around the booth to sit close to Will, his arm encircling him in an embrace as he pressed a kiss on his perspiring forehead. Fuck, he was on fire, even more than the last time. Will sighed into the touch, resting his head on Nigel's shoulder.

"This is nice."

"Darling, I won't let him drown you. I will dedicate my life to make sure that doesn't happen."

"I appreciate that. I have to dive pretty deep to catch the big fish. I hope you are a strong swimmer."

"I swam with worse than this. This piece of shit Ripper is just some lone monster in the woods, picking off people here and there for some mental breakdown shit in his head. He's not some fucking dictator from some shit pit third world, handing over all of his country's money for weapons so he can wipe out villages."

He could feel Will's brow pinch at his shoulder at this, but he didn't raise his head, Will's voice muffled against his leather jacket. "Darko did gun running?"

"Sometimes. But those fucks are too unpredictable, first they are buying guns next they are ordering you to kill a whole family or they'll kill yours. Fucking politics bullshit, Darko learned early on to stay the fuck out of it. Drugs are so much easier, either the product is there and so is the money or it isn't. Simple."

Will pulled away from him, his body beginning to shake. "Will?" Nigel felt a mixture of horror and panic overtake him as Will's body began to convulse, his breathing erratic.

Will clutched Nigel's shoulder, desperately holding onto consciousness. "Baby...You have to go to the DEA...You have to..."

"What are you talking about, they will hang me like a piece of meat in front of Darko and let him chew my balls off before they take him out!"

"You have to...Guns...It's really important..."

"Will!" Nigel clutched him close as his body began to shudder and shake, Will's eyes rolling back white as he collapsed and slid out of his arms and under the booth's table. Nigel grabbed him and lay him on the floor in front of it, his free hand quickly dialling 911 on his cell. Will's convulsing body pounded the floor like a fish flopping on a deck, dying as it gasped and suffocated in the air.

"Am nevoie de un doctor! De urgenta!" Cursing himself he switched to English. "Fuck! Fucking ambulance! He's not fucking breathing!"

"Stay on the line, sir. Where is your location?"

"I don't...I don't fucking know, some dive piss shit bar, I fucking don't know!"

The cell was taken from him by the bartender who talked to the 911 operator in far more reasonable English, giving her the address and bidding the cook who had come out of the kitchen to roll up a dishtowel to put under Will's head. The entire thing seemed to swim in front of Nigel like a movie with scenes missing. Choppy and surreal, the events incomprehensible.

He held Will's shaking head in place with his strong hands, too scared to kiss him lest his grip weaken. "Te iubesc, Will. Te iubesc," he repeated, over and over as the scream of an ambulance siren tore with increasing ferocity into the afternoon's stunned silence.

 

 

Chapter Text

HEART, MEET BULLET
chapter five

Hannibal regarded the vile mess waiting in his garage with a mixture of profound hatred and reserved respect. The bullet that had taken out his garage door button was at his eye level, and the fact that Nigel hadn't joined the corpses on Hannibal's garage floor was a telling testament of his brother's survival skills when confronted with violent situations. A trait they shared, Hannibal thought with interest.

He dispatched of the bodies, the cold air keeping them fresh enough to keep in his cellar, ready for butchering. Alana was stopping by later for dinner, and this was a pleasant offering that he could take advantage of. The precious, innocent company of Alana would be a balm against the animalistic chaos afforded by his brother, and he was sure he could set her mind against him with ease. Though he couldn't be absolutely sure Nigel was still alive, it was best to make sure his reputation was placed well and good ahead of him.

He turned off the light in his now spotless garage, the pools of blood mopped up and bleached, as well as the dragging smears from the driveway and sidewalk which he scrubbed away with the jet spray of a power washer. Not for the first time he contemplated the glib simplicity of how easy it was to eliminate all evidence of a life. The bodies he chilled in his cellar would not be of men who would be missed, their violent lives always waiting for the snatch of death. An unfortunate career choice. His brother would have gained a similar fate had he not become so embroiled in the ferocious imaginings of his heart, fashioning himself into a romantic figure instead of a brute. He was curious what had happened to him for, in truth, it would be a pity if Nigel was dead. Hannibal hadn't had time to process the concept of what it was like to have a twin. From what he could discern it was like an alternate universe made flesh, an organic experiment in physics that he could openly observe and ponder its revelations. Pity it was such a poisonous, uncouth one, mired in a destruction that held none of the elegance of subtlety. Some universes weren't made to last.

Hannibal checked his watch, smears of blood dotting its face and nearly obscuring the hour. Alana was set to arrive at any moment. He'd best get dinner started.

~*~

"Hannibal, this is delightful. What did you call this again?"

"It is a traditional Romanian dish, something a bit out of the ordinary from my usually French inspired cuisine. Tochitura, served with a corn flour mixture known as mamaliga and wine, so the pork cubes can 'swim'. I am happy to see that the departure is pleasing to you."

"It's very flavourful," she agreed, and delicately speared one of the 'pork' cubes with her fork. The rump of one of Nigel's attempted assassins made for a deliciously tender meat, a surprise for he would have thought the bulky man would have retained more muscle than fat. A shame that his heart had been sliced in half and had to be discarded, it would have been perfect smoked with his liver and kidneys in sausage.

"Romanian," Alana repeated, mopping up some of the rich sauce with a portion of mamalinga. "Is this an evolution I see in your future culinary exploits?"

"As you know, I am very fond of pork. This particular cuisine is quite a fan of it as well."

"It's always nice to find things that follow your own interests." She took a sip of her beer (Alana disliked wine), cleansing her palate before she tackled her conscience. "I heard Will was really late getting to the crime scene, and you had to pick him up. Will told Jack his phone battery had died."

"That's what Will said," Hannibal replied, leaving the little seed of doubt she was seeking to grow.

"I don't think that's what happened." Alana reluctantly put down her fork. "Hannibal...Will kissed me. I'm not going to lie, I liked it and I returned it, but it was all sorts of wrong. He's too unstable and I know that I would just plunge him into a relationship that was made up of nothing but analysis. It would be unfair to him."

She gave him a wavering study before tentatively spearing another piece of pork. "Did he say anything to you?"

"Will came to my home to discuss it. He was distraught and fragile, a combination that prevented any hope of sleep. There is no need to look so shattered, Alana, you did the right thing. With all the of ghosts of a murder's echoes surrounding him at present, Will has no room for the challenges of an affair."

Hannibal was pleased to see Alana's conscience was eased enough to begin eating again, her mouth working over the piece of tender pork like it was butter melting on her tongue. It was Hannibal's turn to pause, his knife and fork held delicately over his plate. "I probably shouldn't tell you this, but I fear our dear Will may have plunged himself into a situation that is highly detrimental to his well being. You may have been a symptom, Alana, pulled into a sudden recklessness of behaviour that has expressed itself elsewhere."

She frowned, taking a sip of her beer. "What do you mean?"

"How do I say this most delicately? Will is already actively pursuing a relationship with someone else."

Alana's mouth opened in grim shock. "What? Who?"

"I have said too much already." Hannibal picked at his meal, though what he really wanted to do was enjoy every beautiful bite of it before it got cold. His agonized expression was for the food, but Alana did not know this. "I am concerned that Will is grasping for understanding in any realm he can find it, and in shapes that are familiar to him, at least on the surface."

"Who is this person?"

"Alana, please, I am unable to tell you more."

Angry and frustrated over Hannibal's sudden ethics, she stabbed into her plate with her fork. "The least you can tell me is what she's like."

"I can tell you exactly what *he* is like," Hannibal said, liking the way his revelation made her choke. "He has a great deal of resemblance to me. Uncannily so."

"I never knew Will was bisexual."

"There's a lot you can miss when you refuse to be alone in a room with someone. Really, Alana, labelling someone's sexuality is such a simplistic view of human intimacy. The fluidity of one's affairs is not to be so stringently categorized." He lifted his glass of wine and sifted it before his nose, taking in its delightful fruity notes before taking a sip. "As of late I have taken to wondering why we did not have one."

"Have what?" Alana asked, pausing mid chew.

"An affair."

"We could have, when I was working under you at the university. But as I recall, I was busy hunting down Ph. D. candidates while you were already embroiled in one." She gave him a rueful smile and to his delight finished the last of her meal as though she was still chewing on the idea he had planted.

"Ah yes," Hannibal said, his face flashing with a momentary look of distaste pulled from that not so ancient memory. "Perhaps we should not judge Will Graham too harshly, then. We are all at the mercy of our unfortunate decisions."

~*~
The hallway leading out of emergency was a flurry of chaos, and Hannibal could hear Jack's deep intonations, his voice booming across the gurneys and shaking IVs in his wrath. "You tell that jackass that if he doesn't let me in, I'm kicking in that goddamned door!"

Hannibal sighed, feeling an unpleasant, painful kink in his neck that was caused, as usual, by his brother Nigel. He hadn't come home last night and Hannibal had assumed he'd met a foul end, which wasn't entirely unexpected and his absence was welcome. Alana had spent the night and while the seduction was easy enough, it had all the hallmarks of a lustful boredom which Hannibal tolerated for a useful future alibi.

He had called Will's cell phone that morning and when there was no answer, he had a good idea of where his brother had decided to spend the night, and why. Turning off Will's cell phone when he wasn't looking was starting to become part of Nigel's infuriating, protective pattern. It had been an easy thing, asking Alana to pick up Will and he was equally delighted to know she had met his brother under extremely embarrassing circumstances.

She was ever so eager to slide snakes into Will's ear when she arrived at the crime scene, little warnings and barbs that he did his best to support. But none of it kept Will in their sights for the entirety of the day, and Nigel had managed to steal him out from under them, pulling Will's feverish fragility into the suck of his vile cigarette and whisking him away from their influence.

Jack caught Hannibal's eye and stormed down the hospital corridor with such fury Hannibal half expected him to draw his gun on him. "Tell your brother to get the hell away from Will Graham!"

Ah, if only it was that simple.

"I'm sorry, Jack. I have no control over the actions of my brother nor, it seems, the poor choices that Will is making. I understand he was admitted three hours ago, convulsing and possessing a high fever. Do they know the cause?"

Jack braced his hands on his hips, pulling himself out of his anger and forcing himself into a state of equilibrium. "The doctor diagnosed him with encephalitis, an infection along the lining of the brain. They've got him on massive doses of antibiotics and are monitoring him very carefully. They aren't sure yet if he's safe from any permanent damage, they won't know until he's conscious and they give him a full assessment." Jack bent his head and stared at the floor, refusing to look at Hannibal. "How in the hell did we miss this? The doctor said he's been fighting this infection for weeks."

"Will is not a person to give clues, Jack. I had no idea he was suffering in this way."

Jack rubbed the back of his neck with a meaty palm. "I didn't know you had a twin brother." He gave Hannibal a sidelong glance that held more pity than accusation within it. "I didn't know he was in a relationship with Will. Will never let on."

"My brother and I have been estranged for some time. His visit was unexpected. As was this sudden connection he has made with Will. I assure you, I am not happy with it. My brother is impulsive and prone to violence and I feel that Will is vulnerable to his explosive whims."

Jack raised a brow at this and to Hannibal's shock he didn't agree. "We dropped the ball and your brother was the one who got him here. He's holding us responsible and I can't help but think he's right."

"My brother has known Will Graham for all of three days. The feelings he has are based on his proclivities."

Jack let out a long sigh at this. "It took me less than a minute. Took one look at Bella and I *knew*. You're wrong, Dr. Lecter, you can't put an explanation on it, no time limits or measurements. So whatever you think about your brother, it doesn't matter. It's between your brother and Will."

"The heart wants what it wants," Hannibal blandly replied.

"The heart is not an instrument of reason, Dr. Lecter. Maybe that's a fact you need to brush up on." Jack nodded at the door and resigned himself to not gaining access. "Keep me informed of how he's doing. I'm heading back to the lab to go over the results of Will's findings. If anything changes, if he regains consciousness, contact me immediately."

With narrowed eyes Hannibal watched Jack make his leave, hating he way the man had so blithely chastised him. He caught the eye of a rather harried looking nurse at the station across from the room where Will was currently fighting for his life. She gave him a look that told him threatening to beat down doors was not about to gain him access to either his brother or Will Graham and if he tried to strong arm his way in she'd have security muscle his way out the building and onto his ass.

"I want to talk to my brother," he said to her. "Is there any way you can coax him out of the room?"

"Couldn't tell you," she said, her voice iron. She made a few notes on various reports and shuffled them into folders with military efficiency. "Try knocking on the door instead of shouting out demands and threatening to smash it down. A bit of courtesy works wonders."

He couldn't argue with that reasoning. He read her name tag. 'Brenda'. She had a picture of herself hugging an overweight Rottweiler taped to the shelf above the phone. Canine and human wore the same expressions of happy contentment. He found he rather liked her.

Taking her advice, he quietly knocked on the door to Will's room. Nigel opened it, and Hannibal was instantly shocked at the condition of him, his face pale and twisted into an expression of pain that was difficult to witness. So much emotion, overflowing out of his soul and messily littering his surface, anguish wearing Hannibal's face. A strange urge to comfort him overtook Hannibal and it refused to abate no matter how much he tried to quash it beneath the cold confines of his person suit. The pull of Nigel's sadness resonated within Hannibal's cells and stirred longings within his memory palace that spoke of the need to console himself.

He placed a hand on his brother's shoulder and felt a strong connection pulse within him when Nigel didn't flinch or shake him off. "Let's find somewhere to talk."

Nigel wordlessly nodded and bid Hannibal to follow him further down the corridor. Nigel opened the doors to the chapel and Hannibal cautiously followed in behind him, immediately noting there were two other prayerful souls offering their hope to God already in attendance. This was hardly a place he would find suitable for the conversation they needed to have, and he was unwilling to indulge his brother's cultural superstitions. He was about to turn around and leave for a more private arena, only to witness his brother approach both of the silent worshippers with his usual tactless speech.

"You, and you. Out."

The elderly woman counting beads on her rosary gave him a startled once over. "I'm praying for my husband."

"Then go pray in the hall, I need to talk to my brother alone."

"You can't kick us out of the chapel!" the man in the front row shot back.

"What is your fucking idiot problem? I need to talk to my brother, get the fuck out! Take your prayers with you, God is every fucking where, go pray in the hall, go pray in the toilet while you take a piss, it makes no fucking difference!"

Mortally offended, they left the chapel, the old lady cutting her eyes at Nigel in a way that said if she had a knitting needle handy he'd be getting to know the sharp end of it. Despite his insistence on God's omniscience, Nigel breathed a sigh of relief when the chapel doors closed behind them, and he faced the fluorescent lit suffering of Jesus who was painted in garish, prime colours. He gave the gaudy sculpture a mouthed apology, his fingers quickly working the sign of the cross above his chest.

It was entirely possible, given that they were alone, that Nigel could easily be dispatched with a quick smack of his head against the small metal cross placed in front of the larger crucifix, its edges suitably sharp enough to do the damage needed to his skull. His disappearance would be far easier to explain than his sudden appearance, and Hannibal was already constructing the words, explaining first to Alana how he'd had to kick his loutish brother out, how he was sure the thin thread that had held them together as siblings was now finally snapped, never to be tied again. As Cain slew Abel, he would deny him. The photograph he blackmailed him with would be easily explained--Nigel was the perpetrator, and the paperwork of the Italian police was suspect at best. Surely the fact he was arrested for assault the same night only strengthened the case against him. After all this time they would happy to have a break in the case and put a face to Il Monstro.

The muscles in Hannibal's arms tensed and he was ready to give his brother that final push that would shatter his skull and pierce his frontal lobe with the broken bone, killing him, and it was then that Nigel said, with a voice so brittle it was like burnt sugar: "Is he going to die?"

Hannibal's head shook with the slightest tic at this as Nigel turned around to face him. "The doctor said he has a one in five chance of dying. You're a fucking doctor too, is that true? Is Will going to die?"

Hannibal tried to hand him a lie, to be positive while he killed him, but the pain emanating from Nigel was so close and so personal he could feel his person suit slip and the darkness from within creep to the fore to take a proper peek at the sweetness of his brother's despair.

"I don't know."

He watched as Nigel collapsed into the front pew, his eyes welling with tears that spilled freely, choking sobs messily gorging themselves on his hurt. A latent tortured twist curled around Hannibal's heart as he watched his brother weep, the briefest, most fleeting echo of their sister Mischa's scream flashing across his memory and forcing him to take a step back.

This is your brother, his darkness reminded him.

Hannibal placed his palm between Nigel's shuddering shoulder blades, forcing himself to keep his touch comforting and not allow his hand to slide up and snap his oafish, ignorant neck.

"Do you really love him so much?"

"A crazy fuck ton of love." Nigel roughly wiped tears from his eyes with the back of his hand, his breath still ugly and catching. "If he can't live, neither will I. You can kill me then, my brother. I won't care."

~*~

They sat on either side of Will, who was still unconscious, Hannibal more reserved, biding his time with a thick book on renaissance architecture that was refusing to fully occupy his attention, and Nigel, his head resting on Will's chest, sleeping fitfully against the steady beat of Will's heart. Hannibal turned a page and it was enough to wake his brother, who sniffed deeply into Will's chest. He knew Nigel had the same olfactory superiority he himself did, and he wondered what the gesture in this context meant. He assumed he was seeking to know if Will had the scent of death creeping through his molecules, a musty, soured fruit aroma that Hannibal knew well.

"His condition has not changed," Hannibal quietly said.

"I want to embed his heart in my memory," Nigel whispered back. "He smells like the woods and cheapass cologne. I don't want to forget it."

Hannibal closed his book and placed it on the rolling table next to him. He crossed his legs, assuming his usual therapist's stance and figured his brother could use some worthy advice. "Will's chances of surviving are increasing with every moment. The swelling in his brain has gone down significantly since his arrival yesterday afternoon. He is getting better."

The hospital room was suffocated in shadows, the patter of nurses' feet a constant march outside of the door. Beyond it, wheeled gurneys, conversations and activity a revolving cycle of noise that spoke of life. In Will's room it was the silence that was most distressing, the long, relentless hush of time where Will's soul languished in a place of limbo between himself and his brother, an eternity of unrecognized affection that made him immortal.

"Does Will know why you came to America, Nigel?"

"He knows everything about me."

"He does not know you are a murderer for hire."

"He does. He knows everything I have done, right to the last detail. I don't hide myself, I have no need to. I'm a fucking open book, read my pages and fucking weep." He closed his eyes and seemed to drift over the beat of Will's heart. "He wants me to go to the DEA, and I don't know why. He kept telling me he wasn't going to turn me in, couldn't see the point and now all of a sudden he wants me to hang myself on their fucking noose. Fucking dickshit DEA. Putting on the pressure and getting into his fever. Pricks."

Hannibal wasn't so sure about this assessment. It seemed odd to him that the DEA would be interested in arresting his brother in the first place since his crimes didn't occur on American soil, and secondly, Will Graham was not a man who usually changed his mind. Something had changed in his estimation, a lucid point discovered that his brother couldn't, for all his hidden perception, see.

"Why would he want you to turn yourself in to the DEA?"

"I don't know. They've been bothering him about finding me. Something to do with Darko and how I took all his fucking money. I mean, it wasn't like it was done on purpose, I only wanted the two and a half million and that fucking kid--He had to have had a fight with his dad or some shit, no way he would have added those extra zeros otherwise."

Hannibal was completely lost. He uncrossed his legs and leaned closer to his brother, who was close to dozing off again on Will's chest, his heart dreamily beating in time to his lover's.

"Nigel, what are you talking about? Is this about money?"

"I've got way too much money," Nigel mumbled. "I don't know what the fuck I'm going to do with it all."

Not usually one to fuss over the materialistic silliness of sums, there was a strange omission creeping through Nigel's words that gave Hannibal pause. "Nigel, what kind of money are we talking about?"

"Two and a half billion."

Hannibal's calm person suit and dark hidden core collided in twitching shock at the sum. "Nigel, am I correct in understanding you have two and a half billion dollars at your disposal at present?"

"Every last dime of Darko's shit. I didn't want that much, the fucker wouldn't even give me half a million to buy me out and that's the kind of stack he is clinging to. Fucking piece of shit cheapass dick. How am I going to manage that? I can't just go and buy a fucking country, and I don't want to! I'm not some fucking bullshit dictator! Like I told Will yesterday, before he got his fever and ended up here--I'm not about to hang out with those fucks who shoot up women and children and stockpile their weapons in churches, the fucking pieces of shit."

Hannibal couldn't understand how his brother was making this kind of connection, the ridiculous sum interfering with his reasoning and wondering what was Will thinking in encouraging Nigel to turn himself in to the DEA? More importantly was that Will had glossed over the fact that his brother had been a vicious killer for hire and had welcomed him into his bed regardless. Such was the maddening morality around murder, it was only acceptable if the right people suffered. Who determined how that kind of justice was meted out? An idiot like his brother, pushing a bullet into anyone that earned him a dollar. How foolish Will was!

"Darko won't stop until I'm dead," Nigel mumbled into Will's chest.

"With a sum like that I doubt very much that you are the only one in danger."

Nigel was drifting, half in and out of exhausted consciousness on Will's chest. His breathing began sighing into the long press of sleep and Hannibal, irritated by his lack of focus, gave him a small smack on the back of his head to wake him up.

"What the fuck is your problem?"

"Two and a half billion worth of problems. Listen to me, you have put Will and I into a very precarious position. Nigel, your enemies will stop at nothing to destroy you, do you understand? Nothing. You have crippled him, cut him through the length of his spine, the person you have stolen from will stop at nothing to kill you and those around you to get to you."

Nigel blearily looked up at Hannibal, and it seemed to him that his brother was a sad, pathetic little moron needing every letter of the alphabet repeated to him ad nauseam so he could remember it. "The only fucking jackass Darko wants dead is me."

"I would not be so sure," Hannibal angrily replied. "Should the occasion arise that it would be easier to harm someone you care about, perhaps someone whose heartbeat is pressed against your ear, I would imagine this Darko character would be more than happy to make you suffer that loss. Maybe he would take out your kind, long suffering brother who has been so giving in offering you his home and hearth."

Nigel softly chuckled at this, and raised his head on Will's chest, to rest his chin in the hollow just above his heart. "As if Darko would ever be able to touch you, my brother. He can't piss in a river without missing."

"And yet he is still a significant threat." Hannibal sighed in the darkness, checking his watch and noting that it was one in the morning. The same hour that his brother had arrived on his doorstep, arrogantly seeking sanctuary. They had been strangers, then, but a bond that spoke of blood and flesh had grown between them. An understanding had developed within Hannibal as he looked on his younger brother, so rapt with concentration on the survival of his beloved, a man he'd instantly opened his heart for. Hannibal could see that Nigel's emotions had forced him into a spinning trajectory into a space of perilous want that left him childishly grasping for any hint of stability. Hannibal was earthbound, his life filled with slow and steadfast observations that had left him wiser, but with serious omissions within his soul. As he looked on his brother serenely resting his cheek on Will Graham's healing body, Hannibal wondered if the best solution to this problem of their twin paradox would be to eat Nigel. Though the concept was worth exploring, there was the problem that if he consumed his twin and absorbed that within him which Hannibal himself lacked, he would also be allowing in those childish aspects of Nigel that he found abhorrent. He would no longer be that person who was known so intimately to himself, he would become a pastiche of ignorance and knowledge, an oil and water mixture that could never truly coagulate. Perhaps this is why they became twins in the first place.

"If Will wants you to go to the DEA the problem Darko presents is significant. If you wish to avoid capture and certain death you must look to history to remember what has always been done. You must wipe out Darko and all of his family."

Nigel balked at this, his mood significantly darker at Hannibal's suggestion. "His whole family? I'm not killing a ten year old kid, are you crazy? What kind of fucking bullshit advice is that?"

"Leaving survivors will only guarantee they will hunt you down in future."

"His son is fucking ten years old, by the time he's old enough to want to hunt me down I'll be old enough to be begging him to blow my fucking dementia fucked up brains out. You're forgetting one big fucking piece of this equation, my brother. Darko's kid is the one who got me that money. The little shit knows everything about computers, he was the one who put it all in that account."

Hannibal's face was grim. "Then one day he will seek you out to return a favour. Are you prepared for that inevitability?"

"I guess I fucking have to be, don't I?"

~*~

The stag stood at the edge of the dock, its flank shivering in expectation. Will remained aloof from it, his coyote at his side, the gentle softness of its tongue lapping at his palm in persistent affection. He smoothed his hand over its head, and it leaned its body against his leg. It wanted him to stay with him but the stag was bidding he come forward, to see what it was guarding.

As he stepped closer, the black feathers of the stag began to rustle and then slowly fall off, dissolving into a grey mist that reached out and curled around him. As it twined its way around his legs and up along his midriff, Will was suddenly aware of his nakedness and the cold clutch of the misted dark that held pieces of black feathers within it, like velvet soot.

He could feel Nigel's strong arms around his shoulders, the tender pleasure of his kiss along the back of his neck. He turned and took his mouth, deeply, his tongue hungrily searching beyond the taste of cigarettes and bitter palinca. It felt like ages since he'd been held like this, and he could feel Nigel's hard length against his own, teasing promises of flesh. He wanted Nigel, every part of him, he wanted to lie on the dock on the slick, cold damp of the concrete and let Nigel make love to him. He wanted the comfort of his hot, burning heart and easy, honest company. The dock became a bed, cool, clean sheets beneath them, the mist now an ever present threat behind him. He could feel the creature made of night observing them as they made love, its attention a curious thievery. It participated without Nigel's knowing, but Will was uncomfortably aware. It stole its way into their intimacy with long, branching antlers that crept into infinite night.

Will's eyes slid open, banishing the darkness as he slowly regained consciousness. It wasn't Nigel's worried face he was confronted with, the one he would have preferred, but in a pinch Jack Crawford's would have to do. His head no longer hurt and his skin no longer had the usual clammy feel to it that he'd grown used to as of late and had resulted in night sweats that had left his sheets soaked. Will brought his hand to his forehead, the needle leading to his IV shifting beneath his skin and making him wince. The back of his hand looked like a giant purple bruise. Will closed his eyes again and sighed. "Where's Nigel?"

"Kindly getting me a coffee. Looks like he's finally decided I'm not trying to kill you, though all things considered my innocence in that might be premature." Jack balanced his elbows on his knees as he leaned closer to Will, the plastic chair the hospital provided too small for his large frame. "He never left your side all week. That kind of devotion isn't easy to come by."

"I probably should have told you about him."

"It was none of my business. It still isn't." Jack wrung his hands as he eyed the door, the bustle of nurses and doctors outside of it a stark contrast to the still quiet in Will's private room. "He saw what the rest of us didn't and he saved your life. You have to marry that foul mouthed crazy Romanian bastard. Even if he is an Eastern Bloc strong man. Sure. Why not. Drug runners need love too." He tossed his iPad onto Will's chest and bid him to read the article lit up on its surface. "For once Freddie did actual research. Nigel is definitely part of the upper echelon in Darko's gang, possibly his assassin. You really know how to keep some interesting company."

Will picked up the iPad and immediately saw the large photograph of Nigel's profile, caught mid smoke and leering with amusement at the camera. Will couldn't stop the small smile curling his lip. "Damn, he is hot in this picture."

He didn't bother to read the article and handed the iPad back to a very pissed off Jack. "Don't worry about him, Jack, I've got a handle on this. Nigel is retired, he's helping me close in on the guy the DEA is looking for. When he isn't busy watching out for me, that is."

He saw Jack twitch at the small dig, and Will felt a note of satisfaction over making him uncomfortable.

"He's a bad man, Will."

"He's good for me."

"I hope that's enough."

A messy flurry of activity wound its way into the hospital room and Jack had to push his chair back as Nigel, bearing coffee, flowers and a stuffed dog that sang 'Only Want To Be With You' came into the room. He had none of the grace of his brother and he clumsily struggled with the flowers, which he shoved in Jack's hand, along with his coffee, the tacky singing dog tucked beside Will in his bed before the flowers were gathered up again and presented to him.

"I know you don't like them, but look at how red they are! Fucking gorgeous, like you, healthy and full of life. Darling, you look well." Nigel crushed the flowers beneath him as he embraced Will into a passionate kiss. When he pulled away, smears of yellow pollen had collected in the shadow of Will's beard. Though he was outwardly happy, Will could see Nigel had lost weight in the past week, enough to make him look slightly malnourished. He'd have to chide Hannibal for that. Stubble remained on his hollowed cheeks and there was a worried darkness under his eyes that hadn't disappeared no matter how much sleep he claimed to have had.

Nigel brushed the pollen from Will's dark cheeks and Will knew it was just another excuse to touch him. "You're coming home tomorrow, darling. The doctor said so."

Jack peeked from around Nigel's midriff, forcing Will's attention. "Any word on how long your recovery is expected to last? You were in a coma for nearly twenty-four hours, you've been giving me different reports on what to expect all week."

Will gave Jack a slim smile. "Left leg is still giving out. Tremors in the hand on that side, too. It's likely the damage is permanent, but the good news is that I still have all of my memory and cognitive function intact. I guess trading that off for some mild motor function issues isn't so bad."

Nigel took the bouquet of flowers to the window ledge and traded out the slightly wilted ones sitting in a clear vase for the new, healthier version. Jack took up his space at Will's bedside, his hands in his pockets, his gaze looking everywhere but at Will.

"You know you've been pulled from the Ripper case."

Will's smile faltered at this. "They can't do that..."

"Purnell won't accept any other answer. We have another person put on the team in your place and it's working out fine." Jack sighed and leaned against the side of Will's bed as though seeking support. "Hannibal is working in your place. He's not you, but close enough."

The vase tipped and nearly fell from Nigel's grasp, its glass body noisily rattled against the window as he steadied it. Jack gave the intrusion of noise a glowering frown. "She's perfectly fine, however, with giving you homework. I left the files from the DEA with Hannibal, he said he'd drop them off at your house tomorrow. What time are you heading home?"

"Nice to know people want to keep me busy," Will said, half turning in his bed to watch Nigel as he picked at the arrangement of flowers in the vase, stopping every now and then to absently sip at his cup of coffee. He wasn't wearing a bowling shirt, Will noted, the thread and cut of the long sleeved dress shirt far too rich to be paired with a pair of grubby black jeans.

"Home? As soon as possible."

~*~

He didn't want to have some fucking dinner, he wanted to stay at the hospital and anxiously pace the night through, fussing over the details of when Will could come home and get him out of the sickening smell of antiseptic and lingering death and bring him into the happy fold of yelping dogs and the comfort of his warmed bed. But Hannibal had insisted that brooding in a hospital room all night was not going to make his discharge happen any faster and Will had already texted him, angry that Nigel was looking thin. His brother was annoyed that Will had practically accused him of being neglectful towards the needs of someone he cared about and who, as his twin, he should have understood to be suffering.

The truth was, he hated Hannibal's cooking. He'd always hated pork and that seemed to be the only meat Hannibal brought to the table, always swimming in some heavy, richly composed sauce and paired with overly sweet wine. His guests had consistently more genteel palates, and while a heavy meal like that was admittedly nice to enjoy once in a while, being trapped at a plate full of shit you couldn't pronounce and not being in the mood for anything but a fucking sandwich didn't do much for Nigel's appetite.

Resigning himself to more pork piss up, Nigel wearily made his way up the steps of his brother's house, senses keenly aware that Darko's men could be lurking nearby, ready to take him out with the steady aim of a rifle. So far he'd remained untouched, but that didn't mean there weren't dangers being secretly arranged in smoky basements, with Darko the King Of Pricks at the helm. Doing in the two flunkies had given Darko a brief setback, Nigel was sure, but he still couldn't wait to get back to the relative, cozy safety of Will's little house in Wolf Trap.

He stepped into Hannibal's living room and met the flustered face of Alana Bloom as she disentangled herself from his brother's embrace, her dark hair shook forward as she excused herself and went into the kitchen to replenish her tall stein of beer. Hannibal remained stoic, though there was a certain mischievous pride hovering in the air between himself and Nigel. Nigel rolled his eyes at how stupid an intelligent man like his brother could be.

"So Alana finally got herself a fucking girlfriend." He plucked his brother's glass of wine from his hand and downed it one gulp as he headed for the kitchen. There was a familiar stench emanating from it, one that he hadn't had to suffer since childhood. "What the fuck shit are you cooking now?"

Hannibal headed him off before he could get into the kitchen. He could see Alana over his shoulder, dumping her beer in the sink and getting ready to leave. This weird little affair of theirs was every measure of wrong and Nigel knew it, and he knew Alana on some level knew it and the only one who seemed to take comfort in how wrong it was took full enjoyment in everyone's displeasure.

But for all his pompous dick pumping, it was his brother's vanity that sent a crack through his facade.

"That's my shirt. Why are you wearing it?"

"I haven't had time to do any fucking laundry."

"I told you to stay out of my room."

"What the fuck is your stupid problem, it's a fucking shirt. A fucking ugly piece of shit shirt, you've got a closet full of them, get over yourself." Nigel felt his fury grow with every curl of Hannibal's thin lipped judgement. He'd had one hell of a week and Will still had a long recovery ahead of him and fuck, this was all shit and what the hell did he have to stand here and take this stupid shit from his brother for?

"You should have asked me first."

"Oh, you want your shirt back so bad you fucking prissy little baby? Here, here is your fucking shirt!" Nigel began unbuttoning it, hell he'd just rip it off of himself if it meant Hannibal would stop staring at him with that stupid, hooded hatred of his, a fire that was burning ever brighter the more Nigel tore at the fabric. "Fucking jackass...Here!" Nigel slid it off and tossed it at Hannibal. "I'll sit at the fucking table half fucking naked because my bitch brother can't lend me a fucking shirt!"

"Hannibal..."

They both turned to see Alana had inched towards the front door, her coat buttoned up to her chin. She gave Hannibal an apologetic shrug as she made her escape. "It's been a long day, and like I said, I wanted to visit Will...I'll...uh...I'll call you tomorrow..."

And that with that awkward good-bye she didn't wait for him to see her out, the door practically slamming shut on her ass as she slunk down the front steps. Hannibal tossed the shirt in Nigel's face as he stormed into the kitchen, Nigel sliding long arms into the shirtsleeves as he followed him. That malignant, sour smell pervaded Nigel's senses and he grimaced over the boiling mess in the pot on the stove, greasy steam tainting the air. "Smells like ass in here."

"Ciorba de burta. You were complaining my meals were too heavy and Will is insisting I feed you something you will eat."

"Tripe soup? You didn't need to make that shit, I don't have a hangover."

Stepping away from the stove, Hannibal stood far too close to Nigel, his black gaze pierced with a tiny pinprick of red that held every threat of Il Monstro within it. "Nigel, I do not believe you understand just how close you are every day to me taking whatever sharp instrument is handy and slicing through your jugular. I would happily watch you bleed out on my floor if Will wasn't so keen on your survival and if your need to nursemaid him wasn't so important. Sit at the table, you tantruming, foolish *child*."

Sulking, Nigel did as he was bid, though he didn't bother buttoning up the shirt that had caused the argument in the first place. He sat sloppy in his seat, feeling out of place and small in Hannibal's dining room, the overbearing ornamentation grating on his nerves. "So Dr. Bloom likes to the make the rounds, does she? What a fucking incestuous bunch you are. Don't worry, she won't be licking my stick."

Hannibal carefully poured the soup into an ornate, ceramic tureen shaped like a cabbage. "There's no fear of that, Nigel, she finds you absolutely disgusting." He finished the soup with a small grinding of pepper and brought the tureen to the table with theatrical aplomb. Every dinner with his hated brother was a chance for drama. "Whether you enjoy this or not means nothing to me. You are under strict orders to eat it."

Hannibal poured the soup from a ladle into Nigel's bowl and instantly the memory of his neglectful, adoptive mother, cigarette in lips, ashes falling into a soup full of questionable, cheap offal rose to the surface of Nigel's memory and he gagged at the thought of putting one bite of this shit into his mouth.

"I don't understand why you wouldn't enjoy this, from my research it is considered a staple of the Romanian diet." Hannibal regarded the creamy texture with proud accomplishment. "The tripe was especially fresh."

Nigel poked at it with a spoon if only to stop the nagging. "What did you do with the bodies?"

"If you are referring to the men who tried to kill you and who you so carelessly left in my garage, I have put them on ice for the time being."

Nigel frowned, the honeycombed shreds of tripe making his stomach curdle. "Why would you do that? What's the point in freezing them?" A nagging question rose up within Nigel, one sickly and unpleasant in its connotations. He wasn't one to leave things unsaid. "You're planning on stringing them up in another fucking sculpture display."

"I might," Hannibal said, enjoying his soup with gusto. "But the trouble with art is that it is a participatory venture. Without the proper audience, one's message becomes muted."

"A true artist is accessible to anyone. All you're doing is wiping your dick on corpses." Nigel took a bite of the soup and forced it down with a grimace. It wasn't as bad as his adoptive mother's but the memories around it were foul enough to taint it.

"Jack dropped off an interesting file to me, Nigel. The 'homework', as he described it that is to be sent along to Will. I find it fascinating that Will's abilities have been shifted towards the interest of the DEA, and I took the liberty of glancing through the files. Your work has all the delightful elements of modern minimalism. Clean lines and a completely unobstructed view of your message. Yet in three instances I notice you alter your usual style to delve into the chaos of Dadaism. Tell me, Nigel, what shift in your world view created this variety of expression?"

Fucking shitball bastard. Nigel pushed his bowl away, virtually untouched. He was not talking to Hannibal tonight and Nigel slid out of the chair and onto his feet in protest. No fucking words for that prick, even a twin brother had to mind his own business sometimes.

"I need a fucking smoke," was all Hannibal was going to get.

 

 

Chapter Text

HEART, MEET BULLET
chapter six

He parked the Bentley in the driveway, mindful of the dogs that erupted in a noisy pack as they surrounded it, greeting him. Hannibal had no real love for them and couldn't understand Will's obsessive need to take in strays, but then he'd allowed Nigel to take up a similar space. As it had been for the past three weeks, Nigel was calmly smoking a cigarette on the front porch of Will's isolated home, his gaze narrowed as Hannibal got out of the car, brandishing expensive Tupperware containers of food. Nigel would, of course, have no love for the delicacies Hannibal provided, but Will could be trusted to have his fill.

Hannibal nodded up at his brother, the cold biting through the questionable warmth of his Burberry camel hair coat. Nigel shrugged back in answer, clothed in a bowling shirt of which he seemed to have an indeterminable number, an ugly rendition of red cherries on a black background the latest pattern. "I have taken the liberty of bringing all of us breakfast. Will is quite fond of my protein scramble."

"I don't want any."

"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day."

"I've had my coffee and my cigarette, what more can I fucking need?"

Hannibal gave his brother an annoyed once over, wondering how it was Will Graham had thought fit to allow this ridiculous oaf into his bed when it would have made far more sense for him to choose his psychiatrist to entertain between the sheets. Romantic feelings between doctor and patient were common and Hannibal would have been eager to act on it, more because of rather than despite it being unethical and illegal. But Will had made his choice and Hannibal was not put out about it, in fact he found this new arrangement increasingly interesting. The little domestic events between his brother and Will became electrons solidifying the concept of shared unity, one that intrinsically held him within it.

Such as now, with Will stepping out onto the porch, trying to balance himself with his cane as he zipped up his winter jacket and being forced to leave it open. Nigel quickly observed Will's needs and without asking pulled the zipper together and up, ending it just beneath Will's chin and stealing a small, chapped lip kiss. Nigel took a few final drags of his cigarette before tossing the butt in the direction of Hannibal's Bentley.

"Hannibal, I wasn't expecting you this morning." Will smiled at him as he put on a pair of knitted wool mittens. Hannibal made his way onto the now crowded porch, the wind cutting through them all with an icy grip that made Will shiver regardless of being the only one outside with a proper coat and gear on. "I was just about to head into town to grab dog food. Is that breakfast?"

"Why are you going into town now?" Nigel cut in, his brows knitting together in concern. "I will go with you, just let me grab my coat."

Will let out a sigh of growling frustration as he was halfway down the porch stairs, his gait unsteady as he shakily held onto the rail. "Nigel, please...Just let me do this on my own."

"You're going to slip and fall on the goddamned ice, yes this is a very good fucking decision."

Will whipped around when he was on solid ground, his cane poking holes in the snow as he headed for his car. "Nigel, we have talked about this. I am not helpless, you don't need to babysit me every minute of the day and if I want to get dog food as a solitary activity, I'm going to damn well do it!"

Will's left leg gave out under him as he slid on a tiny patch of snow covered ice, sending him careening with a loud thump into the side of the car. He held onto the roof to gain his balance, cursing over it. Nigel, who Hannibal observed seemed used to these outbursts, left the porch to help Will, gently easing him away from the driver's door in order to open it and he held it steady as Will used it as a guide to ease his way into the driver's seat. His left hand was still quite tremulous, worse now that he was both angry and humiliated.

"You are one stubborn fucking idiot you know that?" Nigel rested his chin on the frame of the driver's side door. His bare arms were pink in the winter air but he was clearly impervious to the cold, not a shiver passing through him. "Don't you dare try to lift those bags yourself. Call if there are any problems, darling."

Will looked up at him through fogging, circular glasses that made him look cartoonish, and he slid them off to wipe them clean with the thumb of his mitten. He sighed in benign resignation. "I'll be about half an hour. Tell Hannibal to wait for me." He grabbed the door to close it, only to pause as Nigel stood back. He waved Nigel towards him, and he did as requested, Will's shaky hand reaching up to pull him down into a small kiss.

"I love you, darling."

"I won't be long, baby, I promise."

The car door shut and the engine sprung to life. After a slippery start the car made its way off of the Wolf Trap property and onto the main road, where dog food and precious solitude lay in wait. Hannibal slipped into the house, accompanied by a pack of dogs and his brother. Will's motor function skills had not improved this past month, regardless of the strict physical therapy regime he had forced himself to endure. The permanent damage was unfortunate, but it was good to see his brother was being realistic in the face of it, even if he was hovering a bit too closely.

"Will needs his autonomy," Hannibal said to his brother. He slid off his coat and carefully hung it on the hook near the front door, mindful of the dog hair that was everywhere, and probably already lined his lungs. "Affording him his independence is an important step in his recovery and in accepting the limitations he may have."

"He fell twice last week, he keeps forgetting to use the fucking cane." Nigel went into the small kitchen, a little herd of chilled dogs looking for treats happily following him. Hannibal was dismayed to see large chunks of his specially made breakfast being tossed to them, a hyper jack russell looking far more portly than usual. Nigel had been spoiling them. He watched as his brother poured himself a fresh coffee as well as one for Hannibal. They were both black.

Hannibal took the offering with polite grace. "You seem to be taking to this domestic life quite well."

"What's not to fucking love about it? It's peaceful, there is a roaring fire, no one fighting or bothering you, causing you stress, waking up every morning to a good fuck. There is no better fucking life than this." Nigel took a sip of his coffee, his eyes focused on the roaring fire. Hannibal sat in a chair alongside the worn couch, one he inwardly remarked was very similar to the chairs he used in his practise.

"I kind of have a question," Nigel quietly said.

Hannibal tilted his head to one side, his maroon eyes flashing black. "I will try to answer it."

"It's about fucking."

"Sexuality, then."

"Will did something and it was kind of weird. I mean...Really fucking weird." Nigel studied his brother's quiet, pensive reaction to this, taking in the clasped hands and the bland expression meant to show he took no offence, or curiosity, or felt anything at all. It put Nigel at more ease than it should have. "Yesterday afternoon he...He told me how to, you know...clean the fucking plumbing, you know?"

"Nigel, I'm not sure..."

"So I did and it's all fine, you know. I was *fine*. And a few hours later, we're in bed and he's sucking my cock and it's all good...Really good..."

"Nigel..."

"Then he starts moving in on my ass. Like...Doing things with his tongue. And at first I just thought it was kind of irritating, it didn't feel bad, just weird, and I was going to tell him to fucking quit it...Only then he starts *really* getting into it, and things start fucking changing...For me, right. Fuck." Nigel put down his coffee and turned away from his brother in embarrassment, choosing the flames to focus on instead. "He started eating me out like it was my fucking pussy. Oh my God, I've never felt anything like that. Ten minutes in and I'm going fucking crazy, I mean I'm chewing on a fucking pillow for fuck's sake, just fucking out of my mind. And he just wouldn't *stop*..."

"Did you want him to?"

"Fuck no!" Nigel shook his head, more disturbed by that than anything else. "He did that to me for an hour, and I blew my fucking load. Didn't even touch my dick. How the fuck did he do that to me?"

Hannibal fought the urge to roll his eyes. "If you achieved mutual sexual satisfaction from the act and no harm was done, what does it matter?"

Nigel snatched up his coffee, annoyed with Hannibal's flippant attitude. "It was fucking weird, that's all I'm saying."

Hannibal pinched his brow with his thumb and forefinger, an act he'd witnessed Will do countless times and a comforting measure he now found sympathy with. "Nigel, why did you feel the need to tell me this? Every single time I have come here to talk to Will about his progress you commandeer me into one of these vile conversations about your sex life. I'm sure the primitive construct of your animal brain finds this an endless source of fascination, but as I prefer to be more evolved in my ruminations, I do not." Hannibal sipped at his coffee, and grimaced. As usual, Nigel had made it too strong.

Nigel watched his brother carefully as he sipped at his own brew. "So you don't think it's weird?"

"I didn't say that."

"I'm not his first, you know. I wonder what kinky shit that little fucker's been up to in his past. He hasn't told me a thing about any of his past relationships. What if he's got some crazy fucker out there looking to stalk him or something, maybe that's why he went the fucking secret hideaway goddamned FBI profiling route."

"Will became a profiler with the FBI because he is gifted with pure empathy and can see into others more clearly than they can see into themselves. This makes for an excellent insight into the minds of killers and what motivates them. Obviously, his abilities are significant if he can see value in you. Then again, I may be reaching in that assessment. Perhaps he is more interested in having someone in his life who is willing to satisfy his fetish for analingus. Only Will can tell us for certain, I'll be sure to ask him when he returns home."

Nigel scowled over his coffee. "Seriously, do you have to be such a fucking bitch?"

Hannibal slouched in his seat, unable to hold onto the pretence of gentility around his earthbound brother. He wasn't sure when or how it started, but Nigel's influence on him had begun its work on the cellular connectivity within his brain, an unwelcome intrusion that began breaking certain things down into far simpler components than what he was used to. He'd discovered its presence during an unfortunate session with his patient Franklyn, who in his usual, snivelling, crying whining related how he had watched the latest episode of The Walking Dead and the subject matter had left him a ball of incomprehensible neurosis. With thin lipped patience Hannibal listened to forty minutes of plot points and ridiculous suspensions of disbelief all the while hearing his brother Nigel's voice screaming in his head "If the show upsets you that fucking much, stop watching the fucking show you emo little cunt!" Instead, he managed to explain to Franklyn that he did not own a television and could not relate to what he was talking about, only to be assailed with promises that the graphic novels it is based on are superior and far more gory and violent and he had all three omnibus editions and yes, yes, he would be sure to bring them in next week for Hannibal to read, all four thousand pages worth!

He wasn't sure if the phenomenon was also happening to Nigel, and he certainly didn't see any surface evidence of it. But Nigel was, in his own infuriating way, trying to reach out to Hannibal, and thus he forced patience onto the awkward attempts and did his best not to completely discourage it.

"While your bedroom exploits are a continued source of education, I do believe there are more pressing matters on your mind. Have you determined what you are going to do about Darko and your money problem?"

As the real crux of Nigel's issues came to the fore, his brother sank onto the couch as though willing himself to become smaller. The chubby jack russell bounded onto the cushions and snuggled beside him, and Nigel absently scratched it behind the ears, sending it into a tizzy of rolling adoration. It was Will's dog, but it had clearly decided Nigel was its favourite.

"Will wants me to go to the DEA in hope that they grant me immunity." He gave Hannibal's questioning lilt of his head a sigh of impatience. "He knows why they want me. Every time I turn around my fucking troubles get worse. Troubles times fucking ten, fucking unbelievable."

"What can possibly be worse than a drug lord demanding your death and calling on every shoreline assassin in the world to make it happen?"

Nigel scratched the jack russell's exposed belly with tickling fingers. "Will thinks Darko is gun running to recoup his losses and that's why the DEA wants me. They think he's selling to the goddamned fucking domestic terrorists. Fuck me, I've got more of a fucking bullseye on my fucking back than ever. They're going to ship me to fucking Guantanamo and beat the shit out of my freedom and fuck me up the ass with the shredded copy of my constitutional rights. I'll be a had an ass fucking corpse"

"Habeas corpus," Hannibal corrected.

"I know what the fuck that is and I won't get it because they will think I'm a fucking terrorist you fucking stupid fuck!" .

Hannibal took no offence at this particular outburst because Nigel's knee began bouncing nervously as the words left him, the fear palpable enough to send the jack russell into a worried whine that ended in it licking at Nigel's side. The wound had healed, but had left an ugly scar and Hannibal noticed that every time Nigel felt a twinge of uncertainty he had a habit of pressing his palm over it, as though stemming imaginary blood. He was doing it now, his fingers splayed wide against his side, fingertips grazing his ribs.

"You will not be mistaken for a terrorist, Nigel. All that needs to be done is to eliminate Darko and his closest associates."

"Darko is an idiot, but he's smart enough to know not to go walking around in public when his wallet is empty. When he puts his hands in his pockets all he has to hold onto is his dick. Drawing him out will be difficult."

"Leave it to me," Hannibal cheerfully promised. "I am quite comfortable with inciting violence in others. It shall be an interesting social experiment, watching your former associate implode."

"I'm glad you find my life falling apart so fucking *interesting*. Maybe you could write an article about it for National Geographic, 'The Ass Licked Trials Of A Romanian Fugitive'. You'd get more coin than that fucking hack Lounds for it."

Hannibal smiled in genuine amusement at this. "I would not discount the usefulness of Lounds, my dear brother. She is manipulative in her reporting but never let it be said that the reverse cannot be exploited."

The front door to the house shook open and Will unsteadily walked in, bringing a cold breeze and a half dozen dogs with him. The journey out appeared to have exhausted him, Hannibal noted with some concern, and Will didn't resist the help instantly offered by Nigel as he slid off his jacket, his hat, mitts and scarf shoved into the sleeve before being hung up on the hook beside Hannibal's more tailored coat. Nigel's voice was low as he crooned unintelligible concern into Will's ear, Will whispering back in gentle agreement. A kiss was exchanged, fleeting but significant, a caress that Hannibal was surprised to find burn against his own lips in that strange, taut, physical twin understanding. The more time he spent with his brother, the more these connections were awoken within him, the strands of their DNA sending echoes across each other. He understood, now, what Will meant when he said he could see as Garrett Jacob Hobbs had seen, had known when he'd gone to sleep, when he was having a cup of coffee. He was slowly becoming entwined enough with his twin to share in every experience. He wondered if his brother understood that those nights he made passionate love to Will, he was not always alone. He doubted it.

He was not alone now, for Hannibal understood without Nigel saying a word to him about it that Will had experienced some trouble at the local grocery store and it had rattled him enough to allow Nigel to openly comfort him in front of company. Will gave Hannibal a bland smile as Nigel disappeared into the kitchen to get him a cup of coffee to warm him up. He sank into the spot Nigel had vacated with effort, his gaze tired, wholly lacking his usual, inquisitive spark.

"I think you have wasted your time coming here today, I'm not really in the mood for one of our conversations," Will said.

Hannibal remained rooted to his seat. "Then I am here to visit family."

Will's smile faltered slightly at this, a little nag of interest rising within him. "I'm not your brother."

"On the contrary, you most certainly are. You are in the process of creating a life here with my identical twin. You share an intimacy that is rooted in deep emotional feeling and one I suspect to become far more long term in scope than either of you yet realize. Under these conditions, Will, it would be impossible for you not to be my brother." He watched as Will's left hand shakily twitched as he adjusted his slipped glasses further up his nose. "What happened at the store?"

"It was nothing."

"Did you have a seizure?"

Will closed his eyes and sighed, accepting the coffee Nigel wordlessly brought out to him and had been thoughtful enough not to fill to the brim lest his tremors spill it. "Not a seizure--More a flash of insight." He glanced up at Nigel who leaned against the fireplace mantel, his arms crossed in a casual pose. His presence put Will's mind at ease. "I keep getting these impressions....Like the Ripper isn't finished with me and he's annoyed that I'm not on the case. There's this, weird anticipation I can't shake." He sipped at his coffee, two creams one sweetener, just the way he liked it. It was like paint thinner to Hannibal, but Will didn't mind the strength. "I keep feeling like he's always watching me, he's always there and at the store it was like his...His mind was piercing me. Like branches, scraping along the inside of my brain."

Hannibal was quiet a long moment. It seems it wasn't just his biological brother with whom he was so in tune with in body and mind. "This must cause you a great deal of anxiety."

"I just can't be free of him. Not yet." He gave Hannibal an imploring look, shaky and needful. "Jack can't let me back on the case, but I know you are working on it. The next time he strikes, and I think it's going to be soon, I want you to bring me everything."

"I don't know if that is a good idea, Will." Hannibal pursed his lips, pretending to think on it. "This anxiety you are experiencing may be in relation to the effects of your encephalitis. Are you in regular contact with a neurologist?"

"Yes, In fact, I have an appointment tomorrow with Dr. Sutcliffe at the Noble Hills Care Centre. Funny you should mention it, he said he knows you."

"He does. We were in residence together."

"I don't like him." Nigel crossed his arms tighter around his chest. "He's a fucking weasel."

Hannibal fought the urge to smile at his twin's so very astute observation. "He is good at his job."

Nigel took no reassurance from his brother's words. "He'd better fucking be."

~*~

Contacting Lounds after his visit to Wolf Trap had been a risk, but it was clearly one worth taking. The article was better than he'd hoped. Hannibal read the morning headline with a renewed respect for the way Freddie Lounds could make a sensational story even trashier with the use of a few bold letters. "I AM A HIT MAN'S TWIN: 'I Live In Fear For My Life' Says Dr. Hannibal Lecter' " The content of the article was no less bold, with some key turns of phrase making him pause over their creative license. It was hardly a literary work, but then, the simple language was what worked best when dealing with the mindless gang members who would seek him out. He'd been sure to paint himself in as weak a position as possible, expressing his love for his brother while condemning the lifestyle that so clearly put those close to him in danger. The ironic fact that the article drew attention to himself and thus Darko's henchmen was not a part of Lounds' understanding, a facet he was happy to fully exploit.

A tentative knock at his office door signalled his first patient of the day, and he opened it, bidding Margot Verger to come in. Her arm still in a sling, she was birdlike and fragile within the large expanse of his office, but there was a resigned, depressed strength within her that she'd so far not fully realized. She avoided the chair offered to her, and stood in her usual spot by the window, the morning light catching the gold flecks of her blonde hair. "I've been considering what we talked about last time."

Hannibal crossed his legs as he sat in his usual spot, his hands clasped together over his knee. "About killing your brother."

"It's still a bit of a moral issue for me. Much as I'd love for him to be dead, I'm not sure murdering him is the right route. Sisterly love and all that--And the fact I'll lose my share of the family fortune. Wonderful Daddy Verger, always looking out for the boys."

Hannibal watched her carefully, the sarcastic tone of her voice bathing within it a myriad hurts inflicted on her over the years by her abusive brother, Mason. She touched the arm Mason had broken protectively with her free hand, fingers lingering along the place the bone had snapped. "In all honesty, Margot, your reticence surprises me. After all that he has done to you, I imagine a gentle push in this direction should send you on the righteous path to vindication. Make no mistake, you would not wallow in guilt over this if this is your concern. Your interests are better taken care of with his elimination, as is your confidence."

"Don't you find it kind of weird that, as my psychiatrist, you are encouraging me to kill someone?"

"I am not advising you to kill just anyone, I am advising you to kill your brother. There is a profound difference."

Margot sighed, her hopelessness so palpable Hannibal could hold it in his hand and watch as it grew. She held herself together with her perfectly put together ensemble, neat skirt and high heels and expertly applied make-up. But she was shattered glass inside, an exquisitely fashioned vase full of shards.

"He's renovating the playroom. There's a pile of new kids all set to come up from the projects next week. A big fat daycare, all for the benefit of the disadvantaged." She hesitated, her eyes glassy with unshed tears and inward trauma. "I've heard him talking on the phone with some film company. He's mentioned some of the kids in that playroom by name in those conversations. I don't think I can murder my brother, Dr. Lecter, because I don't think that will make me feel better. I've considered dying enough to know that it can be a comfort. I don't want my brother to have that gift." She blinked tears into the sunlight. "I want him to suffer."

Hannibal felt a foul taste in his mouth at the thought of Mason Verger's pederast activities, a vice that the massive Verger fortune managed to keep well under wraps despite numerous complaints and hard evidence that routinely 'disappeared'. It was rare for him to feel so deeply for the plight of a patient, but the vile nature of Mason Verger's crimes gave Hannibal pause and he wondered, not fleetingly, if his brother Nigel might useful in this regard. Though they were twins and the lines between them were becoming increasingly blurred, he had not yet discerned what had sparked Nigel's rage enough to deviate from his usual clean cut murders. Such an awoken talent would not be unwelcome, Hannibal was sure.

Though he wanted to expand on the need for Mason Verger to die, his efforts were suddenly thwarted by the appearance of an out of breath Dr. Alana Bloom, who burst into his office without warning, brandishing her cell phone in front of her. "What the hell is this?" she shouted at him, heedless of his patient who stood stock still at his window.

He took the cell phone with bland disinterest. "It seems to be Freddie Lounds working yet another brand of her fiction."

"Please tell me you did not allow her to interview you, that would have been insanely foolish!" Alana glanced to her right, the timid form of Margot making her ire falter. "Sorry, I didn't know you were with a patient."

"Freddie Lounds did contact me and I gave her the barest of facts, which was that I did not know my brother all that well. The rest of the article is her usual fill in the blanks variety of supposition and pure fantasy. I am not concerned about it, Alana, and neither should you be." He gave Margot a rueful smile at the intrusion. "Margot Verger, this is Dr. Alana Bloom, an associate of mine."

"Nice to meet you," Margot said. She held her hand out to Alana, who took it, only instead of shaking it held it for a strangely inordinate amount of time. Hannibal frowned over the fleeting gesture, not missing the sudden flush that crept over Alana's cheeks at the touch. An echo of what Jack Crawford had said to him when Will was admitted to hospital was dredged from his memory palace into the present, superimposing itself upon the minuscule drama playing before him. "One second, that's all it took, and I *knew*..."

"What article is she talking about?" Margot asked.

"Hannibal's twin brother, he's a bit of a rogue." Alana nervously fidgeted with her fingers. "I just hope this doesn't get back to Chilton, he'd have a field day with this."

"You have a twin brother?"

"One cannot pick one's family, Alana."

"Ain't that the truth," Margot said, and turned back to the window, heaving a weighty sigh. She glanced at Alana over her shoulder. "So, you're a psychiatrist too?"

"I am," Alana said, smiling way too much.

"Good to know," Margot said, her fragile gaze turning a tad more predatory as she locked onto Alana. "Just in case I need a second opinion." Her tall heels clipped on Hannibal's hardwood floor as she moved to grab her coat, making a good show of being helpless enough for Alana to assist her in draping it over her shoulders. "I was meaning to cut this short anyway. I'll give my driver a call."

"I am so, so sorry." Alana shrugged and stammered. "I didn't know he had a patient this morning and...Look, why don't I just give you a ride home? It's the least I can do."

Margot gave her a noncommittal, but to Hannibal, highly flirtatious shrug. "Sure."

"Are you coming over for dinner tonight, Alana?" Hannibal asked, and he wasn't surprised when she expressed an uncertainty, one that would expand into guilt later and by five o'clock a hastily typed text that suggested she was going to miss this dinner and many more to come. He gave her the usual pleasantries as she left with Margot and Hannibal was left alone in his office with the sickening, unwelcome knowledge that his brother Nigel had been right.

~*~

It was mid afternoon when he received a text from his brother, one filled with the usual expletives and highly incendiary.

"What the fuck bastard is this Sutcliffe pus? He's going over Will's chart and he keeps staring at my fucking package out of the corner of his eye, and then he starts fucking touching Will's shoulders and getting all weird and handy. The fuck is this guy?"

Hannibal was quick to reply, though his thumbs felt clumsy on the small screen. "You are not so desirable."

The screen instantly lit up again. Nigel had thumbs that could make a stenographer blush with envy. "He's a fucking creeper and I don't trust one fucking thing he says he's pushing pills on will its fucking weird why the fuck is prescribing shit when you didn't? Fucking asshole freak he's staring at my fucking crotch again."

Hannibal considered this information, its content troublesome. "What is the name of the pills he prescribed?"

It took a few moments before Nigel got back to him and this time it was an image he'd captured of the actual bottle. Hannibal read the brand name of the drug knowing well that it was a new prescription meant to treat delusion disorders and was highly experimental. It was also a Rohypnol derivative and had similar side effects. A substance Sutcliffe knew well.

Hannibal quickly texted his brother back. "Tell Will not to take it, and yes, I suggest you find another neurologist. As for Sutcliffe, leave him to me. I'll take care of it."

Nigel was not so happy with the connotations of what Hannibal suggested, believing (rightly so) that Sutcliffe had dangerous designs on Will. "How do you know this fucker? I just told him if he touches my boyfriend one more time I am going to snap every one of his fingers off. On his back, on his shoulder, on his neck, touching touchy piece of shit."

At the mention of snapped off fingers, Margot's abrupt morning session came to mind. He would have to have a longer discussion with Nigel about the ramifications of this subconscious need to cripple the digits of those who used them to harm the innocent, for it was becoming too much of a nagging perplexity within Hannibal's view of his loutish brother. He received another text and he read it with boredom. Alana, cancelling for dinner.

The remainder of the day was spent going over old patient notes and then discarding them in favour of his sketching, an activity that took up a great deal of his time as of late. As afternoon slipped into early evening, he was still hard at work on his latest project, a rendition of himself in mirrored study, his face and body superimposed upon the shadow twin that was Nigel. Interlaced between them, Will Graham's form ghosted amongst their flesh while Mischa, her cherub happiness a difficult outline to create amongst the confusion of brothers that nearly obscured her was deep in the background. It was a fairly complex sketch, the triad that was himself, Nigel and Will sharing muscle, bone and sinewy lines in seamless connection while the memory of Mischa remained faint, in the far distance, when he longed for it to be in the fore. No matter how hard he tried to call her into better clarity, this was where she remained, the confusion of brotherhood ousting her from their family. A bitterness welled within him at how she couldn't come into focus even in a simple sketch, and in tormented frustration he tore this image he'd been working on for hours to shreds, rendering it into pieces so tiny they were grey confetti on his desk.

Though the city had descended into darkness, it was only six o'clock and Hannibal had the evening rush hour to look forward to on his drive home. He cleaned up his desk and tidied his books before grabbing his coat, keys held in hand as he made his way to lock up for the night.

He turned off the light over his desk and immediately saw the shadow lurking back and forth across the bottom of his office door.

Placing his coat gently on the back of his chair so as not to overly crease it, Hannibal stood to one side and, with one hand, opened the door a tiny crack. It burst open as two men stormed in, one firing blindly against the far wall, while the other was quickly dispatched by Hannibal smashing the metal sculpture of a stag head into the back of the man's thick skull. As the other shouted in Romanian and pointed the gun at his temple, Hannibal sliced at his arm with the scalpel he'd hidden beneath his shirtsleeve, nearly cutting his hand off at the wrist. The gun fell to the ground and Hannibal kicked it away as the spray of blood from the screaming man's hand stained his lovely, plush carpet. With a quick swipe across his throat Hannibal finished him, incurring the expense and inconvenience of new flooring. Scandinavian Beige. Whatever had he been thinking?

He closed his office door and kicked over the fresh corpses, getting a good look at his assailants. Nigel was right, Darko's men were painfully useless and now he had two more to add to his rather burgeoning collection. A quick olfactory inspection told him they were healthy enough, though the one who had brandished a firearm was suffering a fatty liver, probably due to latent alcoholism. With this full plateau of corpses, the need to be creative presented itself and Hannibal felt a rising sense of excitement over this, for just yesterday Will had so much as begged him to bring the Ripper out to play.

But first, what to do with all of this food? Alana had cancelled dinner. It wouldn't do to allow such a fresh opportunity to go to waste.

He called a number he would have preferred to forget and it was answered on the third ring. "Donald," he said to Dr. Sutcliffe. "It's Hannibal. Yes, it has been a while, several years, in fact. I understand you are taking care of a very close friend of mine and I felt the need to reconnect. I was thinking dinner, at my place. Tonight. I am sorry about the short notice, but...Yes, of course. A late night dinner is more than acceptable. I will see you at ten."

~*~

"I don't know what game is being played here, this is just going to make him a target for your enemies."

Will scooted back on the pillows in their bed, piling them high against the headboard. Shortly after coming home from the hospital, Nigel had insisted on a more comfortable bed, and considering how much use he was getting out of it lately, it had been a worthy investment. There were hints of Hannibal in his choice, the bed was a heavy, overwrought king sized monstrosity with four posters and fashioned from carved walnut, the mattress so high off the ground Will practically had to hop to get into it. Considering the difficulties he was having with his left leg, hopping was more than out of the question these days. When it was delivered Will wasn't sure it was even going to fit in the bedroom and even now the far right side only left a sliver of space at the window. The bed took up the majority of the room and it had barely fit through the door, but then he hadn't used the upstairs bedroom for anything other than sleeping anyway, and he'd been doing a lot of that lately as well. Nigel had made sure to buy expensive linens, in rich, dark colours and ornate, gold embroidered designs over black silks and deep reds, adding touches of Romanian influence to the Quaker functionality of the room. Once the bed was permanently settled into place, Nigel implemented a strict no dog policy when it came to who was allowed into it. Considering the sprawling pleasure he took in draping himself around and over Will when they slept together, it wasn't an unwelcome rule.

Will had rules too. No smoking in bed, and when he was working he was not to be distracted. Nigel had a very hard time with the latter, as evidenced by how he was now crawling into bed, nude and fresh from a shower, his damp hair cold on Will's midriff as he pressed his cheek against his stomach. Nigel spun circles around Will's navel with the tip of his finger, forever amazed that Will wasn't ticklish.

"My brother is a fucking idiot, you should know that by now." He playfully kissed Will's belly button, earning a tangle of fingers in his damp hair as a result. If Will could describe Nigel in one word it would be 'silky'. He had more muscle tone than Hannibal, but his skin remained pliant beneath his touch, its texture almost the same softness as his sultry lips that were now tasting the dip in Will's chest.

"I don't understand why he would talk to Freddie at all," Will said, the iPhone he was using to read the article starting to slip from his hands as he was distracted by Nigel's attentions. He closed his eyes in bliss as Nigel tongued his throat before enveloping his neck in tasting kisses. "It feels like there was some other purpose to it, and it's bothering me that I don't know what it is."

"Mmm, darling, no talking about my brother in bed..."

Will brushed his fingers through Nigel's hair, sleepily enjoying the lull of his mouth on his body. Kisses trailed down his throat and towards his heart, the sweetness of the touch making Will's breath catch. "You know so much about me, baby...What do I know about you?"

"More than you should know."

"I'm not talking about your career choice. I still want you to go to the DEA, but you have to wait on me to give you the all clear for that first. I want to make sure you don't get double crossed and end up in front of a firing squad and considering the nature of what Darko's doing, that's a very real possibility if this isn't played out just right."

"That's fucking reassuring."

Will's hips shifted beneath the sheets, his thigh pressing against the length of Nigel's hard cock. He slid his fingers along the side of Nigel's jaw, and up into his hair, thoughtful touches that brought a renewed intimacy between them. "I know how these things work. I see these people and interact with them every day, remember? No, what I want to know right now is that life you left behind in Romania. You had a wife, you said. She cheated on you."

"With an American," Nigel said, and laughed into Will's neck. He placed a quick kiss on his lips, the smile infectious. He nudged his head onto Will's pillow, forcing him to share it. "She was a cello player and I thought I was in love. I was, but it's definitely not the same kind that I have with you. Gabi was an idea, some fucking stupid notion I got in my head about music and romance and the facts were she was just some stupid kid who wanted to fucking rebel against her dad. I was crazy in love with her once. But it's over and she has someone else and I'm fucking crazy over the top nuts for you, and it doesn't even begin to compare."

Will kissed him, his tongue softly exploring, teasing out words that had lain trapped in the heart. "I'm not asking for comparisons. It's good that you loved her, it makes me feel like this is going to work. I don't know what we have, Nigel, I'm not going to lie. But it's too precious to me now, I need to make it work."

The desperation at the thought of losing him, to Darko, to the DEA, it crept out without Will wanting it to and he knew Nigel was smart enough to know exactly what he meant. The encephalitis had left his body permanently broken and his mind in feverish shreds. Nigel's strong, collected presence was what he'd needed to keep him going, not head games and metaphors and constant pushing that forced him into spaces he didn't want to go into. When he thought of Nigel it was like being in that beautiful mental stream, fly fishing, thinking of nothing but the calm of the air and the gentle caress of nature patiently waiting him out.

Nigel traced his thumb along Will's lips and Will nipped at it, the action sending a fire through Nigel's gaze. "Darling, you have no idea...Like I said, with Gabi, it was a long process, more about the idea of romance than actual romance. I was recovering from being beat half to death by one of Darko's double crossing rivals. I was in the apartment above them, I'd hear her practice her cello with her father and the music was so beautiful while I was lying there, halfway dead and alive. Over time I had this idea that it was love. But that isn't how love works, is it, my darling? Love isn't sweet music drifting up from the floorboards, love is violent and messy, love punches you in the fucking face. What I feel for you, it scares the fucking shit out of me. It's not about possessing you, it's the thought that you almost weren't in my life and what was left was so wide and empty, like some fucking torn up parking lot and I was so alone in it...Darling, promise me you will never let me feel like that again."

Will's eyes filled with tears as he slid his palm down Nigel's cheek, emotion choking him. "I won't, baby. I promise."

Nigel kissed him, stealing all the words Will wanted to say. How he'd had lovers in the past who had meant little to him, their emotions tangling too much inside of him and confusing what he really wanted. How he'd put up barriers against relationships, settling for one night stands and shallow connections because it was just easier to have a hook up than it was to actually explore the feelings hidden beneath the surface, all the little hurts that added up to a break up and they were always the worst, they always hit too hard. But with Nigel, he'd been so open and unwilling to compromise, he hadn't given Will time to put up barriers and by the time he'd wrapped his body around him, he'd already fallen too far into his soul to ever truly leave. When Nigel said he loved him, he meant it. When he said he was scared, he meant that, too.

"Baby, when I was unconscious in the hospital, I could feel you there with me. I know you never left, I can still feel the weight of your head against my chest." Will bit down on his words, trying not to choke them out of tears and emotion, and Nigel kissed at his lashes, his eyes squeezed shut so he couldn't be hurt by how much Will's sweet pain tortured him. "I know Hannibal was there, on the side, but you, you were always right there. Always."

Will forced himself to meet Nigel's eyes and he didn't waver, he didn't blink his gaze away or focus anywhere else than on the shattering love that stared back at him. "You are as important to me as the blood in my veins. You are my family."

Nigel grabbed Will's trembling left hand and held it in his grasp tight against his heart. "Darling, family is a bond that cannot be broken."

Will took a deep, rasping intake of breath, a shiver of emotion coursing through him. "I love you, baby."

The sweet, unbearable tenderness of the kiss that followed shattered Will's soul into millions of pieces and he was falling into that blissful abyss that he had denied himself for far too long. This was Nigel's body, exploring and touching his, his cock hot and seeking entry, his beautiful, cursing killer who would stop at nothing to protect him. Will kissed him until there was nothing left of himself, arched his back and begged until words became meaningless. They were a collective of hot flesh and spinning emotion that tore Will's heart apart and reshaped it with pieces of Nigel's own.

He rolled his head back on the spilled pillows as Nigel took him, filling him so deep he couldn't speak. He spread his palm across the tattoo on Nigel's neck, drawing him close for a penetrating kiss that left him tasting every portion of his history. From the neglectful wound of a distracted mother that Will resonated in sympathy with to the allure of being a part of something, even if it was a gang. Had he not been part of a gang as well? Were they not all divided amongst their tribes?

They had both been rejected from them when it was convenient.

No more. He could feel inside of Nigel as well as himself, the sensation of belonging that destroyed every hurt in its wake. They were sketched together in a tangle of limbs and organs, impossible to separate, lines of ink too tangled to properly show the images beneath them. Tongues tied together in moans and declarations of passion. The darkness was not on the outside now, it was knitted within them, participatory and indulgent. They were a union. They were flesh made one.

They were family.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

HEART, MEET BULLET
chapter seven

Delectable neuropathways were set alight, his body arching in erotic agony. He threw his head back as Will devoured his cock, fingers expertly kneading the underside of his scrotum. Hannibal gripped Will's dark curls into his fist, forcing him down harder. He could feel Will gag on the tip and fight him, a smooth sucking motion applied before he came up for air. He could feel Will's laugh on him as he licked down his length, tongue teasing the inside of his thigh as he buried his face into his sex, the dark hint of his beard tickling the sensitive skin. Will nipped at the tender flesh between his balls and his ass, an exploratory tongue working him.

He could hear Will's dogs barking in the distance, a vague awareness of Nigel's silhouette on the porch as he smoked his cigarette. Will's mouth got to work and it was all Hannibal could do to stifle his cry of surprise into a moan that was lost in his pillow. Will, shockingly skilled at what pleased him. Beautiful Will, plucked from the arms of his sweaty brother to be cleansed in the eager bath of Hannibal's smooth flesh. Nigel was right, Will was relentless. The softness of his curls between his thighs drove him mad, the searching violence of his mouth a wholly unexpected instrument of pleasure.

"Will..."

Will laughed again as fingers dove in, roughly spreading him to give access to his tongue. It hurt but it didn't matter, Will could tear him to pieces all he wanted. His thighs tensed and quivered as fingertips slid along the inside of him, pressing against his prostrate and forcing milky cum to weep from his cock. He felt soiled beneath Will's touch and it was a highly sensual victory to understand how being sullied could equate into arousal. He liked this rough play, the animalistic dirtiness of it appealing to his predator cravings.

The pain of Will suddenly entering him was quickly replaced by the intense, unwavering euphoria of being roughly fucked, Will's wiry body taking what it wanted from him. Hannibal was close to orgasm, his hands dug deep into the folds of the sheet beneath him though for some reason his fingers fumbled, unable to get a proper grip.

"Will..." Hannibal breathed, and he wanted those dark curls to come into focus, for Will's features to coalesce into familiarity so he could enjoy the shared gift of their bodies, and kiss his sweet, soft mouth.

And they did, ever so briefly, his face bemused as he looked down at Hannibal, the looming shadow of Nigel in the doorway. "Will? Your brother's boyfriend?"

Something was seriously wrong with Will's voice. Hannibal frowned, his desire faltering.

"You haven't changed a bit, I see. Maybe you graduated, a little. Once a slut, now a whore."

The voice wasn't Will's. A headache was forming behind Hannibal's eyes and he broke free into clarity along its neuropathways, though when he did he wished he hadn't. He was in his bed and the face above him was not the lovely tragedy of Will Graham's lust, but the smugly over confident Dr. Donald Sutcliffe. The shattering of the fantasy made him wither and though his arms felt heavy he shoved Sutcliffe off of him, the man finishing in a wet smear across Hannibal's luxurious, expensive sheets.

Sutcliffe laughed, an ugly, disgusting sound. "No point shaking me off when we're already done. Come on, Hannibal, don't be pissed off. It's like the good old days in college, remember? Nights after seventy-two hours of internship, riding high on no sleep. Hiring a hooker for a threesome, only for it to end up just being about me...And you."

Hannibal fought the urge to gag in convulsed revulsion. He had to be honest with himself in admitting this was entirely his own fault, for he knew exactly why Sutcliffe had been so eager to accept his dinner invitation, to the point of visiting Hannibal at his home at such a late hour. There had been rumours when they had were in residence together that Sutcliffe was fond of knocking out a nursing student or two with carefully administered doses of Rohypnol. The accusations had spread so fervently through their group he'd earned a dark reputation amongst the female interns. They nicknamed Sutcliffe 'The Sleeper' behind his back.

So, it was no surprise when Hannibal turned his back to Sutcliffe to arrange a delicate line of gravy over his latest culinary creation, 'budinca de sunca'--a Romanian dish known as 'ham pudding'--and he saw reflected in the rounded metal swell of the gravy dish the image of Sutcliffe quickly dropping a heaping, powdery substance into Hannibal's glass of wine. He'd known exactly what it was, and what purpose Sutcliffe had in mind when he'd used it. While it took great composure not to gut Sutcliffe then and there, taking his serving knife and splitting him in half from his scrotum to his heart, Hannibal realized this was an excellent opportunity to employ his newly discovered resonance with his twin. Eavesdropping on Nigel's lovemaking with Will had only been hinted at amongst the fired shiver of his cells, neurons travelling across miles to send Hannibal into the arousal of his palm. To experience sex in an altered state, to resonate with the pathways set by his twin's insatiable nature and see if it actually took him into Will's embrace--this was too tempting an experiment to miss.

It had been a success, Hannibal reasoned, though there were clear imperfections in the delivery, the main one being Sutcliffe's rancid intrusion into the act. Though Hannibal had experienced the exact invasion he'd wanted, it was tainted with latent imagery of Sutcliffe moving his compliant, drugged body into bed, stripping and touching him without permission. Though the psychic imprint of Will's desires had melded with his own, it was fading beneath the other reality of Sutcliffe's ugly, selfish handling.

Though it had brought that layer of his twin's life into his own bed, the overall experience was displeasing. He would not do this again.

"Frankly, Hannibal, I'm surprised I even felt the need to resort to this, but you aren't exactly approachable these days. I was pretty shocked when you called me, considering how we broke up six years ago."

"Has it been that long?" Hannibal said, blandly. His words came out slurred, the drug still coursing through his system. "It seems a century ago. I don't really think about it."

Sutcliffe stood at the side of the bed, nude, hands on hips and seeming to dare Hannibal to touch him. He wouldn't. "Our affair nearly cost me my university post, it could have destroyed my life. I told you to be quiet about it, and you made it an open secret. Dammit, Hannibal, you damn near kissed me in front of a lecture hall full of students."

How selective memory was. Hannibal had an excellent recollection, a frightful, massive expanse of inner space that kept every experience locked into little catalogued boxes within his memory palace, every nuance carefully placed on mental index cards and itemized into row upon row of infinitely long wooden drawers. He pulled one out now, recalling the incident in question, and while the playful gesture had happened, it was in front of one student, not an entire lecture hall, and the flustered young woman had dropped her books and scurried from Sutcliffe's office in red faced mortification. That night she'd been attacked in her dorm, her head smashed in from above while she slept, the heavy blunt end of a hammer making quick work in three decisive blows. It had not been Hannibal's doing. She had stage two breast cancer, her meat was of no use to him and besides, she hadn't been rude. She'd been quiet about the non-incident and it was merely Sutcliffe's panic that had caused her unfortunate demise.

He had never desired Sutcliffe, the relationship was purely physical from Hannibal's standpoint and more than a little embarrassing in retrospect. The end of the affair was as anti-climactic as Sutcliffe's lovemaking, performed in passive silence, one that Sutcliffe tried for months to break with threatening messages left on Hannibal's voicemail and pathetic, needy pleading.

Sutcliffe continued to walk nude around Hannibal's bedroom, picking at items within it and puzzling over the stray cigarette butts he found hiding behind a vase on the dresser. "Now that you're awake, I wouldn't mind a round two. I told Betty I was going to be late at the hospital tonight, so late I might not even make it home."

"Get dressed and go home to your wife, Donald."

"I don't think so. This was a long time coming, and you know it. Not after the way it ended, the way you threatened me with publishing those photographs knowing damn well they would they put me jail..."

"Sleeping with unconscious, unwilling subjects is a crime." Hannibal shrugged. "I warned you to stop calling me."

Sutcliffe shook his head, a very different history playing out within his mind, as was his habit. "I just don't get how some pathetic, vanilla little bitch like you can suddenly turn around and ask me to do the things I did to you tonight--You've got one hell of a filthy subconscious, Hannibal, I wish you'd let it out to play when we were seeing each other. Always so reserved between the sheets, never wanting anything more than a lazy, by the book basics fuck..."

Enough. Hannibal lunged at Sutcliffe who stood in front of his dresser, his reflection in Hannibal's mirror one of animated shock. The large syringe plunged into Sutcliffe's neck contained a hefty cocktail of tranquilizers, ones which once steadily administered through an IV would keep him immobilized for quite some time. Hannibal's grip was firm on Sutcliffe's struggling body, and he was happy to feel it immediately weaken. He'd suffered through Sutcliffe's odious company for most of the night and he had much more important things requiring his attention--namely finishing the arrangement of the four dead bodies in his basement. They were coming together nicely, he mused, Will would be fascinated by the message conveyed within. It was a bit of a departure from his usual intellectual meanderings and far more heartfelt. He was confident it would be appreciated.

Sutcliffe's eyes fluttered as he began to slip into unconsciousness. "You are a terrible lover. You have all the moves of a necrophiliac and half of his passion." Hannibal grasped Sutcliffe beneath his shoulders as he collapsed. "You dare to judge me for giving you what you wanted. Really, Donald, this bitterness is pointless, especially as everyone must know you are the belle of the ball on the coma ward."

~*~

"I did forty minutes longer than you yesterday. Try and keep up , you're wrecking my rhythm."

"How am I wrecking your rhythm, Charlene? We're jogging, not dancing." Trey was well aware of their incongruity, he was larger than her petite frame and he took longer strides. He still couldn't understand why she insisted on these morning runs together when it was clear she disliked him. Her spiky blonde hair was plastered with sweat and while some guys might have found her stocky, muscular build cute, Trey wasn't one of them. The DEA had forced them to work together for the past five years and they had endured it in what they thought was hope of getting promoted and thus getting the hell away from each other. The unknown reality was that the DEA could care less about their feelings of mutual dislike. Angry team members were productive team members, and Trey and Charlene had the highest drug seizure count of their department. Torture as it was to work together, no one was going to tear apart a team that consistently brought millions into the DEA coffers.

Charlene stopped abruptly and Trey rolled his eyes as he lightly backtracked his jog. She held her sides and breathed deeply. "I told you, your pace is all off. I wanted to push past my limit yesterday and now you've fucked it up."

"If you didn't keep darting in front of me like a zig-zagging rabbit you would have been fine."

"You saying I run like a rabbit?"

"I am and you do."

"Kiss my ass, Trey." Charlene stretched her legs, pulling her calves against the back of her thighs to loosen her tensed muscles. Behind them, above the tips of bare branches, the DEA Headquarters loomed. "Ten more minutes and I'm done."

Trey wasn't about to argue that this was far too little time for him to have gotten in a proper run and she was always cutting these exercises short. He walked ahead of her to the bend in the path, sick of her excuses and her nagging.

He stood stock still on the winding pathway in front of her and it was a few more moments before she realized he was staring at an object placed in the centre of the path. It had been obscured from view by the sharp turn that lead back to the building. Frowning, Charlene took out her water bottle and downed a gulp of it. The morning chill crept around the thin layer of sweat the small amount of exercise had generated over her skin. She shivered as she turned the corner.

Charlene sure had a set of lungs on her. When it was all over and the future put this moment well behind them, Trey would wonder why Charlene never used her pipes to try on a singing career, or become an auctioneer. That day her terror had pierced his eardrum enough to blow it out.

~*~

Jack Crawford was not a patient man, and with the current vile display squatting before him, what little of the virtue he owned was quickly eroded. He paced in front of the mixture of bodies, his brows knit together in mute question over the strange, gossamer stretch of intestinal casing that was pulled taut above the reaching hands like a spider web. A tiny blob of flesh that resembled a foetus but which Brian assured him was a small bone from the inner ear hovered in its centre like a bloated pink minnow. "Beverly and Brian say it's four bodies. Two of them are older than the others and may have been frozen first, they'll know for sure when this thing is back at the lab." Jack hunched his shoulders together, unable to tear his eyes away from the pink flesh brutally twisted into the shapes of roots. "If you have any ideas, Doctor, I'm all ears."

Hannibal studied his work with a less than subjective eye. He had been very careful when designing this construction and while he always had a keen love for his past efforts, this one held a special tenderness within it that was far more personal than he had originally intended it to be. He was eager to have Will bring its vision to light and thus he tread carefully around Jack's expectations, faltering in just right the places where he knew his absent star would have shone.

"Your killer is telling a complex story here, Jack. One that is difficult for me to untangle. What I can say is that we are looking for someone who is methodical in their approach and has a definitive space within which to work. This construction took time, he would need a quiet place to create it, a cellar would suffice." Hannibal inwardly grinned at the frustration in Jack's posture.

"I hardly think the Ripper is working from an open garage, Dr. Lecter." Jack wrung his gloved hands together, his impatience beginning to morph, as it often did, into anger.

"The bodies are twisted in such a way as to represent a tree stump. Perhaps an allusion to nature?"

Jack shook his head. He crouched down, using the cap of a pen to lightly trace the rolled ropes of flesh moulded to represent bark yet still holding the distinctive original shape of the victims' arms. "I don't think nature has anything to do with this, Dr. Lecter. I got a gut feeling we're missing something big here."

Hannibal nodded in curt agreement. "The Ripper's messages tend to be very specific." His steps were careful as he made his way closer to Jack, who was still crouched beside the grisly sculpture, confusion reigning in the vein pulsing in his forehead. "You and I both know it is written in a language only one person can interpret."

Jack let out a low growl at this as he stood up. He tapped the pen cap in his palm, thinking on it, wanting it. "If I bring Will Graham onto this scene I'm risking a firing squad."

"If it makes you feel any better, Jack, Will is not the fragile man we knew a month ago. He is well and stable and has few intrusive thoughts in regards to the Garett Jacob Hobbs case. I would venture to say that much of his behaviour in regards to it was the result of his untreated, physical illness." He leaned towards Jack's ear, the whispering promise of Satan, leading the good astray. "He has expressed a desire to be an unofficial 'observer' in this case and has begged of me to reveal my findings to him. His obsessions do not leave him lightly, Jack, as I know neither do yours. We need his insight."

"How far is Wolf Trap from Springfield?"

"An hour."

"Bring him here. I'll clear the scene of non essential personnel as best I can."

~*~

"You are not fucking going anywhere, if that piece of shit Ripper has something to say he can send you a fucking postcard!"

Furious, Nigel grabbed his leather jacket as Will ignored him and headed for the front porch, his confident grip on his cane aiding him down the steps and towards the Bentley. Nigel dove his bare arms into the stiff leather sleeves, the cold biting into his skin in a half hearted breeze that he always found alien. In Romania, the winters were harsh enough to freeze a man where he stood, this mild nudge of cold was nothing. Will was trussed up like he was heading for the tundra and for some reason this worried Nigel all the more, it was like Will was adding extra padding to protect himself.

"You don't need to come, Hannibal is with me, I'll be fine." Will gave Nigel's insistence on getting into the back seat an exasperated sigh. "You weren't exactly a passive observer at the last crime scene."

Nigel slammed the passenger door shut as he slid across the back seat, noting well the slight sneer curling up the corner of Hannibal's lip. So, the Ripper had again come out to play at last and used the bodies of Nigel's fucking enemies as his chiselled stone. He'd received a text from Hannibal early in the morning and he'd gagged on his coffee over the macabre image his brother had sent.

"I am rather pleased with how this work turned out. What do you think, my brother?"

"I think you are a fucking sick fuck who wants to frame me. Those are Darko's men, the DEA will make connections and if not them then the FBI fuck that is gross."

"I am doing no such thing. This is the work of the Ripper, Nigel, not the revenge killing of a Neanderthal brute whose diction is comprised of sexual references and expletives. Though you may occasionally dabble, you are not an artful man.

This is a thoughtful masterwork, and I do hope as my brother you will put aside your gag reflex and narrow viewpoints long enough to understand the sentiments beneath it. The message is for you, as well."

He had no idea what his brother was getting at, and he really didn't care. What was important to Nigel was making sure Will didn't spend time alone with Hannibal, his gut was practically screaming to keep his brother away from him. There were no obvious threats or acts of harm, but lately Nigel had an underlying feeling that there was some unspoken plan being put into place, one that nagged under his skin, irritating him enough to keep him up for hours upon hours at night, long after Will had fallen asleep. He had the constant, eerie sensation that he was being watched. He'd gotten in the habit of leaving their bed to go smoke on the front porch, the howl of dogs and coyotes stretching long across the Wolf Trap horizon. He didn't like leaving their bed, but there were inexplicable nights where it felt crowded and he had to half wonder if Will had inadvertently invited spirits into his house with all of his empathizing with killers shit. If that was the case, he had some connections in Romania that could take care of that problem. Witches purged people's homes of demons all the time, they were useful to know.

The drive to Springfield was uneventful, and Hannibal had, as usual, packed them all a lunch. Grilled pork sandwiches accompanied with a thermos each of a hot soup made of a thick, jelly-like substance that ended up being lung. Nigel ate the sandwich with effort and wouldn't touch the thermos.

By the time they arrived at the scene, Will was in a far more sombre mood, Hannibal's description of the bodies a foul conversation that left both Nigel and Will silenced. He didn't like how the whole thing seemed to both pull and push Will inside of himself, creating a miserable ball of anticipation and disgust within his heart. The closer they got to Springfield, the more Nigel would reach out from the back seat to tug softly at Will's hair, fingers doing all they could to gently pull him back to him, tiny touches that broached the chasm of murder that Will was forced to dive into. There was a hint of the Will he knew and understood still evident in the smile he gave Nigel, but there was a sadness in it, too, one that braced himself for the tortured horror he was set to witness.

Nigel leaned forward as they approached the scene and Jack Crawford came into view, his bulky body framed by a thick halo of dead branches over the nature path. Nigel's lips touched the tip of Will's ear. "Darling, please, stay just as you are."

"We drove all this way, I'm going to the crime scene, Nigel," Will replied, impatient.

"No, that's not what I meant." How could he express it, make him understand that he was at such a desperate risk of bringing this back home? "Darling, I have a very bad feeling, a really bad fucking feeling right down from my heart to my fucking toes. Like a balance is about to tip and you are caught in the middle, you will get crushed beneath it as it hammers back and forth. Don't let that happen. I can't fucking lose you."

Hannibal was already out of the car, and Will turned in his seat, looking on Nigel with intense concern. "What's got into you?" He reached with effort towards Nigel, the back of his hand stroking his cheek, a comforting gesture that did nothing to calm him. "This is my job, baby. I'll be okay."

Will slid out of the Bentley and it was as if he took all the air out with him. Nigel cursed and forced his way out into the chilled afternoon, slamming the passenger door behind him with enough force to make Hannibal cut his maroon eyes at him. Let him glare all he wanted, the prick, Nigel didn't feel he owed him a thing. He'd gotten rid of Darko's men all right, but he didn't have to turn it into a overblown production, a bit of humility didn't hurt anyone. He trussed up bodies as if they were bauble encrusted lamps and then had the gall to accuse him of being tacky for wearing a bowling shirt. The green frogs printed on it weren't 'gauche' as Hannibal had described them. Stupid, snobbish prick. Nigel took out his pack of cigarettes and lit one up as he leaned against the side of the Bentley. It felt warm and poisonous in his lungs as he took a few unhealthy drags before following Will towards the scene.

He slipped past the yellow tape with ease, his brother gaining him passage. The path was a winding twist of concrete amidst thick foliage, the bare branches of winter holding a beauty in their dormancy that reminded Nigel of his childhood, where running and hiding behind the thick, black trunks of trees was the only game that ever mattered.

Hannibal loomed behind him as he walked the winding path, a dark shadow that Nigel was loathe to share steps with. No matter how much he tried to alter his gait, faster or slower, Hannibal would match his movements in a perfect mirror. He knew without looking at him that Hannibal noticed and was smiling over this, maybe even taking some sort of fucked up comfort out of it.

There was nothing comforting about what he'd done. Nigel turned the corner and took one look at the broken twisted mass of human flesh, pulled into the shape of a tree trunk like so much silly putty and, without warning, he vomited near the edge of the crime scene's perimeter. He heard Hannibal let out an impatient sigh at his brother's lack of decorum, but Jack Crawford was surprisingly forgiving and even went so far as to give Nigel a reassuring pat on his back. "It's hard to stomach, I know. I never get used to this myself, and maybe that's a good thing. The way I figure it, if I understand it I become a participant in it on some level, it'll get to me in a way I won't be able to cure. The day I come to work to something like this and not dry heave is the day I need to quit my job."

Nigel made sure to eyeball his brother as he wiped at his mouth with a napkin Jack provided him. "It's fucking disgusting."

Will wasn't so perturbed and what Jack had said reverberated through Nigel's consciousness, adding yet another level of worry. He watched as Will circled the mass of flesh with a critical eye, hands deep in the pockets of his coat. Will gave Jack a nod and the large man began to usher both Hannibal and Nigel away from the scene, leaving Will alone with that cancer sore of hatred that made Nigel's throat fill with bile.

"Jack," Will said, his voice oddly soft, almost wistful. "Tell Nigel to stay."

Both surprised, Hannibal and Jack exchanged glances while Nigel wished one of them would speak up and save him from having to stand so close to this fucking *thing* his crazy fucked up serial killing brother had thought was special enough to be called a fucking gift. Instead, they quietly and slowly stepped away, leaving him and Will alone behind the bend of the pathway, the scene far too claustrophobic, too deeply personal. He watched as Will closed his eyes, wiping the scene clear of all the mental debris surrounding it, as he had described the process to Nigel before. The serenity of his stance put Nigel ill at ease.

"These bodies mean nothing to me, their deaths even less. What they are is the is instrument of my message, and this time it has changed from my original construction, has become even more complex. I want you to know me in the way flesh knows its relative, the twisting,broken arms lining the inward core of myself reaching for filial love. I understand that we are entwined in ways that cannot be pulled apart, we are natural in our bond and so strong we cannot be cut down. The hands that reach upwards from the central stump are the new branches of our co-existence. We are in congruous formation."

Will opened his eyes and Nigel was well aware he wasn't seeing what was in front of him, his focus was intensely inward, filing through all the confusion of flesh and bone and pulling out the devil's tongue that spoke into his mind. "This membrane I have stretched upon our branches is the reminder of what must have room to grow. In the tangle of Us, this tiny creation in its centre is difficult to bring into being, its fragility exposed and neglected. It is of utmost importance that it become the focus of what We have become. We are known to one another and to celebrate this will bring about this beauty into a shocking, clarifying balance. It is a balance that is our burden, and will require a great deal of sacrifice. This is a snapshot of what is meant to come. This is our family portrait.

This is my design."

Will stepped back and into Nigel's chest, the dreamlike state he was in slowly ebbing away from him. Nigel dared to slide his palm across his brow, seeking an imaginary fever, and the touch only served to make Will sigh with pleasant happiness into it, a reaction Nigel found pretty fucking weird considering the state of the four corpses mangled before them.

"There will be organs and limbs missing," Will shouted to Jack and he calmly blinked away the last remnants of his study. "It's not enough that he treat them as if they are pigs, these men are hunters who have had their prey turn on them. I can see the outline of a tattoo on the neck of a couple of them, one similar to yours, Nigel. These men are part of Darko's gang. It's why they were dumped here, in front of the DEA. A personal, artful message for me and a taunt to the authorities all in one. Somehow, both are related, but I'm not entirely sure in what way."

Jack ambled back to the scene while Hannibal remained behind, lurking near his Bentley. "More limbs and organs missing. Can't see why he'd bother with this kind of sculpturing. Any idea why he needs those trophies?"

Will frowned, and Nigel let out a small groan of disgust as Will put on a glove and then peeled away a tiny layer of a fold of skin in one of the arms. He picked out a sliver of green and bid Jack to give him an evidence bag. "Rosemary," Will whispered, mostly to himself. His head shook as the realization washed over him, his tremulous left hand barely able to drop his finding into the plastic bag Jack held open.

"He's filling up his freezer," Will said, and bile, bitter and vicious began to rise again within Nigel's throat and it took every effort within him to swallow it back down where it lay in a yellow, acrid mess in the pit of his fucking recoiling stomach.

"He's eating them."

This was too much. Too fucking much.

Nigel stormed away from the scene, to where his brother was waiting and he was going to kill him, he was going to wrap his hands around his sanctimonious, pompous throat and squeeze until there was nothing left, no flash of fucking red in those devil's pupils. He'd stake his heart, call him Lucifer's fucking minion and fuck the consequences, he'd fucking cut off his head and fucking send him down into the dark abyss of Hell where he fucking belonged.

He could hardly hear Jack shouting his name, didn't register when the burly man caught up with him and grabbed his arm. He felt sick and tormented at the thought that this was Hannibal's putrid end game, that it was his own flesh and blood, his fucking *brother* who revelled in this monstrous, perverse taboo. "Nigel, Will has to come back with me to Quantico. He told me to tell you to go home, get Hannibal to drive you." Jack gripped Nigel's shoulder so tight he was at risk of dislocating it and he winced at the man's brute strength. "Look, I know you are not innocent, you've probably killed more men than this son of a bitch ever will in his entire lifetime. But I know you get the difference, otherwise you wouldn't have reacted the way you did." Jack stood closer, getting into his face and not at all being friendly. "I don't like you, Nigel, I never will. You are an amoral killer for hire and you will never equate to a good man in any measurement of the concept. But for whatever reason Will looks to you for strength and I need Will to be strong. I need to stop this guy and I think it's pretty obvious as to why when even a lowlife like you gets it. Can you do that for me, can you keep protecting him?"

For a moment Nigel wasn't sure if he was talking about Will or his brother. He shook Jack's grip off and stepped away from him in confusion as he headed back towards the Bentley. "Bring him home to me as soon as possible. Don't leave him with these fucking corpses, you bastard cunts."

~*~

"You sick fucking piece of shit, you fucking monster bitch. I fucking can't believe this." Nigel slouched in the passenger seat beside his brother, wanting nothing more in his life than to force him to the side of the road so he could grab whatever plastic bag was handy, pull it over his head and force the air out of Hannibal's lungs until he suffocated. Fuck, there had to be bag in the car here, somewhere, even the Saran Wrap that he'd wrapped the fucking sandwiches in would do if it was pulled tight enough across his smug fucking face...

Fucking sandwiches. Pork sandwiches. The cunt made fucking lung soup.

"Pull over the fucking car!"

"Nigel, you are being especially childish."

"Pull over this fucking car before I vomit in your cunt piss fucking lap!"

Hannibal brought it to a gentle stop near a wooded area, the road fairly secluded. Nigel only had time to open the door before he spilled his guts out on the tarmac, his stomach heaving to the point he thought it was going to leap out of his mouth. What would his brother do then, he wondered. Pick it up and wash it off and make another fucking bowl of hangover cure soup? Nigel retched until his eyes watered.

He shakily sat back into his seat, well aware that his brother was far more dangerous than his calm demeanour suggested and it didn't take a twin understanding to know he was disappointed in Nigel's reaction. "You already knew what I was before you arrived on my doorstep, Nigel, there is no point regretting that visit now."

"I didn't know you were a goddamned cannibal."

"So simply killing people and putting them on display is morally superior in your view." Hannibal smirked at this. "My dear brother, your twisted ethics are like a hungry rat in a maze that has the exit closed off. It disgusts you, therefore it is wrong. There are those in this world who would dare to say the same of your preferences--Are they justified then, in wishing you harm?"

He was well aware that getting into this ridiculous moral argument with his brother would only end in obscuring the truth, and this was how his brother lived in lies. Lies made up of deflection and conversations that had no meaning. Well that fucker could get away playing with words until his dick shot split infinitives with everyone else, but Nigel wasn't about to listen to pretty excuses wrapped in incomprehensible metaphors.

"You are going to be straight with me, you son of a bitch." There was only one question burning within Nigel and it was one that had fiercer ramifications for himself than it did his demonic brother. "You and I are made the same. I would never do this. Why are you doing it?"

Hannibal braced his gloved hands on his steering wheel, his lips pursed at the long empty stretch of road before them.

"Did you know we had a sister?"

He smiled when Nigel shook his head. "Her name was Mischa, and she was very special. I was her charge. When she died..."

Hannibal's confidence faltered, and Nigel caught it then, just the tiniest glimpse, a waver in the flicker of his devil's perception hooking onto an unimaginable pain that left his soul howling. "When she was murdered..."

"Did you kill her?"

"No."

"So her name was Mischa. How old was she when she died?"

Hannibal set his jaw, the plainness of the fact irking him. "Six."

"How did she die?"

He watched as Hannibal's fingers drummed the steering wheel, his dark gaze fixed on the silence of the road. A heavy mist had descended over it, pulling the forested area around them into a blanketed, mute witness. He could turn around and kill me, Nigel thought, and he knew with certainty that Hannibal had every intention of it should Nigel get just that bit too close to the truth. But Hannibal could plan all he wanted in his big, fat brilliant fucking brain, when the truth was already staring Nigel in the face, it lurked in the frightened reluctance of Hannibal to talk to him about their sister. He was a child, in the woods, in the dark behind black trees. He didn't want to be alone. He needed his big brother.

"She was murdered." It was a strange thing to hear in his brother's voice devoid of emotion and yet his eyes filled with the glassy sheen of tears as he spoke. Nigel couldn't be sure if it was performance or genuine feeling. It probably didn't matter. "By a close friend of the family."

"Did he suffer for his crime?"

The snap of the predator's response nearly cut Nigel's question out of his mouth. "He continues to."

Nigel observed his brother's tense stance carefully, wary of any movement or suggestion that would cause him to strike. He was like a wolverine, pacing and untamable, a mindless, raging thing made of claws and sharp teeth beneath his calm veneer. "Blaming her death on making you this way is a pretty shitty thing to do to her memory, don't you think?"

And there it was, the animal brought to the fore, the lurking Il Monstro sliding his scalpel from his sleeve to lash out at his brother sitting in the passenger seat beside him, nothing but frothing, growling rage and the urge to spill his blood all over the dashboard and his oh so precious camel hair coat. Nigel could feel the dull edge of the blade pressed so deep against his neck he could feel his pulse push the metal away in a steady, thrumming rhythm. Nigel shrugged at it. He knew he'd called the bastard's fucking bluff.

"You want to kill me for telling you the truth."

"You know nothing of me."

"Oh, but I do, dear brother. Isn't it strange, the whole twin thing, and how similar our lives can be even when separated." Nigel relaxed, the press of the metal against his neck a threat he refused to take seriously. "When I was ten, our father's cunt mistress dumped me in an orphanage because she didn't have money for rent. A Romanian orphanage was not a good place to be in those days, let me fucking tell you. Left me there to fend for myself in that hell hole for two years. By the time I was thirteen I was on the streets and part of a gang. A street rat has to survive, and there's no shame in that." He took the scalpel out of Hannibal's weakening grip and tossed it onto the dashboard where it fell with a tinny clang against the windshield.

Hannibal stared at his weapon as though contemplating picking it up again at any second.

"It couldn't have been easy for you."

"I was a tough kid, no one dared touch me in there, but I was a witness to some pretty bad shit. Seeing stuff like that as a kid, not being able to stop it...Rape, beatings, a few of the weaker ones fucking starved to death, can you believe that? Puts all of kinds of crazy in your fucking head, no matter how fucking tough of a little shit bag kid you are." He glanced at his brother and saw that Hannibal had once again slipped on his bland expression, the eerie calm that washed over him soothing the monstrous predator laying in wait. "I know you were in an orphanage too, Will told me. That our mother died not long after we were born. It's fucking weird getting these blanks in my history filled in by a man who was a stranger to me a few months ago. It seems it's just been the two of us, little loose ends in our father's noble plans to keep his family name and fortune going. Fruit for the family tree."

Hannibal's voice was clipped. "You could have asked me at any time, Nigel, I would have told you what you wanted to know."

"I like it better coming from Will. He's outside of it, it's easier to hear. He didn't suffer like you and I did. Will, when he talks about his father and he gets this warmth that makes him relax and he's this loved and wanted kid again, I like to share in it but I know those memories aren't mine and maybe I grasp at those feelings he has, hoping I can make them my own. I'm happy he had that, I fucking am, but I notice Will tries to keep that part of himself quiet and I've caught him apologizing to me about it, and I feel like a cunt making him feel bad about a good memory. He understands how much that warmth causes this constant, empty ache inside of me, in that place where someone who gave a shit was supposed to be."

Hannibal's hand slid towards him and Nigel tensed and flinched at the touch, waiting for him to grab his neck and start squeezing. But the glassy tears were back in his brother's eyes, and the hand that could so easily seek to kill slid across the back of his head in genuine affection.

"Nigel, you have no idea how much it hurts me to know that you have suffered in this way."

Nigel shrugged. "What happened to me had nothing to do with you."

"You are my brother." Hannibal slid his hand to Nigel's brow, gently brushing the hair from his face with his fingertips. "Your pain is my pain."

They'd had a sister, and she'd been murdered. He had never known her and yet he could feel the sorrow of it as if it had been surgically placed there at the corner of his heart, a protracted wail that forever coursed through its chambers. "You said you were her charge and it happened when she was in your care. This friend of the family...Was he left to watch over the house? Where was our father?"

Hannibal was tight lipped, the shadow of Il Monstro darkening his features once again. "This good friend of the family was a business associate of our patriarch. As for his absence, our father was in Romania, visiting his mistress."

Nigel wasn't surprised. He knew his father existed, but he had no memory of the man. Nigel would have been ten at the time, same age as Hannibal, and that was when he'd been shipped to the orphanage. Not because the rent was due and she didn't have a dime, but because a lover hard on his luck needed some room.

"Fucking piece of shit."

Hannibal wiped a lingering well of moisture from his lashes with the back of his gloved hand, leaving a long wet mark on the leather.

"Yes," he agreed.

~*~

A feast fit for a king, one steeped in the rich silks of royalty that would make the noble Count Lecter proud. Not that his father would ever have been invited to this table, though he was certainly disappointed that his twin had such culinary squeamishness that having him here to participate was out of the question. More's the pity, for as Hannibal raised his glass of wine and contemplated the still breathing torso of Dr. Donald Sutcliffe laid out as a centrepiece on his richly decorated table, he longed to share this rich victual with his twin. He'd made his dining room far brighter than usual with the aid of a few extra lamps and delicate white embroidery placed on every surface, a baroque collection of pale fruits and pastel iced sweets arranged around Sutcliffe with careful precision. A small skillet was placed beside Hannibal's plate setting, and he was ready to begin.

He'd amputated his legs and arms, leaving the torso intact, and while he would have preferred to use the internal organs for his favourite offal dishes, his freezer was now full to the brim and additions to it would be superfluous. He was overusing the freezer as it was for he always preferred, whenever possible, to have only the freshest of ingredients.

Such as tonight, with Sutcliffe on such open display, his nude torso split wide open in a coroner's 'Y' incision, revealing the beating heart and the heavy push and pull of his lungs beneath his rib cage, blood vessels scurrying along to deliver oxygen. He'd severed the spinal cord and the nerve damage had been an effective painkiller, thus the sedatives were minimal. Out of curiosity he currently had an IV administering the experimental drug Sutcliffe had tried to prescribe Will, and was delighted to find it was not only just as effective in delivering a bland, suggestible state as the Rohypnol, it also pulled considerable information out of Sutcliffe's subconscious. It was no doubt the same substance Sutcliffe had used to date rape him. He would have to keep it in his regular supply.

Hannibal sniffed at his swirl of chardonnay and considered its fruity loveliness before taking a tentative, flirtatious sip. "I must say, Donald, I found the entire conversation quite surprising. I am not used to having family, let alone the strange connectivity of a twin. How strange it is, that someone can have such similar experiences and shares identical genetic components as oneself and yet be so separated from one's passions in such a dire way. Nigel finds my hobbies abhorrent. It seems I am still searching for adequate understanding."

Donald moved his lips with difficulty, his voice strained as his exposed lungs stiffly sucked in air. "Nigel is fucking hot."

"Hm. If you say so. As he is my identical twin I shall take that as an oblique compliment for myself."

Donald laughed at this, and coughed into the effort, his lungs taking a beating as the exposure to air dried them. "Will Graham likes the bad boys. I bet he loves taking it up the ass from that hot mess every night. That hot piece driving him. Stinks like cigarettes and sweat. Should knock you and your brother both out. Suggest you fuck each other. You all pretty and him all rough. I know who would be on top."

Hannibal pursed his lips and delicately placed his fingers on either side of Sutcliffe's head. With a careful pull he took off the skull cap, revealing the pulsing grey matter held beneath. "I care very deeply for my brother. He is the last connection I have to any concept of family and that is not a fact I take to lightly. Coming back to parallels, I am fascinated by how he can commit acts of atrocious violence against those who harm innocents and yet compartmentalizes his hired killings into a sense of boredom. He wanted to break off your fingers, Donald, and no doubt would have done many other terrible things besides had he caught you messing with his lover. Quite a nasty risk you were taking. You would have fared no better under him, I'm afraid."

Hannibal tested the grey matter protruding from Sutcliffe's skull with the tip of his fork. One particular stab sent the man into a fit of giggles that ended with him gurgling in blood. "You have such a pretty mouth, Hannibal. I like it when you slide it around my cock."

Hannibal took his knife and began to slice into Sutcliffe's brain. He carefully took out a medium portion from near the centre, the left side, and seared it quickly on a portable skillet he had set up at the table before placing it on his dish. He cut off a piece and ate it, enjoying the melting, buttery flavour as it turned to jelly on his tongue. "The most surprising aspect of my brother is understanding that he is not at all fond of killing, not even those special cases where his sense of morality took over and forced him into action. He confessed to me on the drive home that killing create harm for him instead of release, and much like Will Graham when he uses the full openness of his empathy when investigating crime scenes, my brother finds great emotional distress in the acts. Even those he has performed with methodical precision have given him malignant guilt."

"Dream...dream...All that we see or seem...Dream..."

"True, but I fear I have difficulty understanding his perspective. This night I am spending with you, Donald, is the most enjoyable one we have had together since we met. It causes me great distress to know that my brother is missing something so wonderful."

He cut out another sliver of brain and this time Donald's torso went into a shuddering seizure, his eyes rolling white while his exposed organs did a fascinating, jumpy little dance within his open cavity. Hannibal watched, enraptured, as they twitched in violent trauma, organs shivering in shockwaves before finally collapsing into the stillness of death.

"You've gone and died prematurely on me, Donald." Hannibal set the second sliver of brain to quickly sear. "Highly representative of our relationship."

He ate the portion of brain speared on his fork and it was still delightful. How he wished his brother could enjoy this with him, but alas, he had such a peasant's palate. He could not fault him, however, and a reigning fondness for his twin overruled his pique. The uniqueness of his brother's preferences were to be celebrated, not judged. Considering the rudeness with which he had treated Will, Dr. Donald Sutcliffe would make an excellent present for Nigel. His battered moral compass would find this death easier to stomach, Hannibal was sure.

Besides, Will was healthy now, and he was keen to get back on the field and see what the Ripper had to offer. As he swallowed and Donald's brain slid down his throat, he had to wonder what Nigel thought of Will's fascination with murder. Sex had brought Will into their family fold. No sibling relationship was perfect, but Hannibal was grateful that at least his youngest brother understood him. Though Will had Nigel, his real passions were stagnating at Wolf's Trap. Hannibal smiled over his wine as he washed away the taste of Sutcliffe's mind from his tongue. He would be sure to keep Will Graham busy.

 

 

Chapter Text

HEART, MEET BULLET
chapter eight

Nigel sipped at his strong, black coffee as he sat across from Will at the kitchen table, watching him as he opened folder after folder of crime scene information, his scrawling notes already detailing several pages of foolscap. They were both still messy with sleep, the pack of dogs outside the back door playing merrily in the thick covering of snow that had blanketed Wolf Trap overnight. Though the air in the house was cool, Nigel was clad solely in a pair of flannel pyjama pants while Will sported cotton boxer shorts and a white t-shirt with holes in the sleeves. Nigel watched Will carefully as he used his good right hand to bring his mug of coffee to his lips, Will's attention riveted on the papers before him.

"It's Hannibal. Hannibal is the Chesapeake Ripper."

Will remained immobile over his coffee and continued to sip at it. He never raised his head from his study of the crime scenes in front of him. Nigel fidgeted in his seat, frustrated with Will's lack of reaction and Will finally wrenched his attention from the papers and photos in front of him to give his lover a sighing, but appreciative, once over.

"Nigel, we are done talking about this. That conversation ended last night when I came home and you tackled me with it in the living room. I spent over twelve hours at the lab going over that mess with the forensics team and then going over any findings with Jack. I was exhausted. The last thing I needed to hear was you making crazy connections to the murders with Hannibal because of whatever convoluted sibling rivalry you have with him."

Nigel felt cut to the quick. "How can you fucking say that?" He nearly slammed his coffee down on the table, the hot liquid spilling over the rim. He gestured with an angry hand at the reams of papers and folders littering the kitchen table. "So, what the fuck, you have this empathic ability that lets you into people's heads, and it's all about you wandering around in their fucking darkness, picking up chunks of people along the way and all that stupid shit and yet I tell the truth plain as fucking day and you can't hear it!"

Will carefully closed the folder he had open in front of him. "I know that you *believe* it's true."

"My brother is a fucking psycho serial killer! Crawl into my head and take a look! Darling, I am not crazy!"

Will laughed at this, and he took his last sip of coffee before pushing his chair away from the table and getting up to get more. "You absolutely are crazy, you wear your emotions and your thoughts on you the way some people put on a shirt." Will slid close to him and took a sweet tasting kiss from his lips, his dark, thin beard rasping against Nigel's unshaven cheeks. He combed Nigel's messy hair back with his fingers. "It's what I love best about you, baby."

Nigel didn't want to let the subject go, he wanted to force Will to sit back down and take a fucking genuine look at the disgusting pictures in his files and know, with certainty, that it was Hannibal's doing, that this was all Hannibal's goddamned manipulative tapestry, his precious, frustrated art student fucking *design*. But he had no concrete proof of his brother's murders on him, he'd deleted Hannibal's messages and with the way Will was looking at him he couldn't even be sure if he'd be believed if he fucking had Hannibal give Will a full on, real time demonstration of him cutting up a corpse right there in the fucking kitchen. Mise en fucking place.

"Hannibal..."

"...Is your brother. He's your twin. You may not see it so clearly because you are angry with him, but I know that the bond between the two of you is very strong." Will traced his fingers along the patch of hair on Nigel's chest with his tremulous left hand, the fast beat of Nigel's heart leaping towards the touch. The soothing tone of Will's voice and his soft lips against his temple were calming his resolve, pulling its urgency into a lull that relaxed his body and made his cock twitch. "I know that Hannibal has feelings for me and he is not acting on them out of respect for you. You're his twin, you've picked up on it and one way of dealing with your unspoken jealousy is to do everything you can to make him seem unworthy in comparison to you."

"He is fucking unworthy! Darling, if my brother says he wants your fucking heart it means he actually wants to cut it out and eat it!"

Will placed his empty mug on the nearby kitchen counter and then, with a playful groan and using the chair for support, Will straddled Nigel where he sat, his arms loosely draped around his broad shoulders. He kissed Nigel's frowning lips, and combined with the almost delicate warmth of his body seeping through the worn t-shirt against Nigel's bare chest, a renewed need began to course through Nigel's senses.

"My brother is playing with your mind."

"He can play with that all he wants, baby. My heart is yours, not his."

Fuck, Will's kisses were deadly, the grind of his ass over his cock making him hard enough to pain him. Grinning, Will was well aware of the effect his actions were having and he began his descent, placing suckling kisses along the centre of Nigel's chest, pausing at a sensitized nipple that left Nigel gasping. Will's face pressed deep against his belly and Nigel dug his hands into the softness of his dark hair, gently easing him further down. He closed his eyes in want as Will went on his knees and began nipping at the soft fabric covering his rock hard erection, desire tensing every muscle in his body.

The cell phone rang as Will began nudging the elastic waist of the flannel pants down with his chin, fingers hooking behind the waistband to bring his cock into the chilled air of the kitchen. Nigel rolled his head back, his eyes closing in bliss. "Darling don't answer it. Make your mouth too busy fucking me to care about it. No, darling, please, don't answer it..."

Groaning in frustration, Will snatched the cell phone from his kitchen table, resting his cheek on Nigel's thigh. He opened it and had only one angry, curt word for whoever was on the other end. "What?"

Nigel could hear the furious voice on the other end of the line leaking out from the cell, one he recognized and that made his blood curdle with rage.

"I want to talk to Nigel. Don't tell me he isn't there, I know damn well he's your fuck buddy and I don't care if you are FBI. I want him on this fucking phone right now!"

Will narrowed his eyes, but he didn't get up from his position on the floor, nor did he raise his head from Nigel's lap. "He's here. What do you want from him?"

"Give him the phone you faggot."

"Let me guess. You must be Darko." Will gave Nigel's stricken fury a saucy wink. "We've been expecting this call."

He handed the cell to Nigel, who to his own discomfort was still hard as a rock, especially with that vision of Will's head in his lap like that, so confident and unafraid in the face of Darko's intrusion it was as if he was looking forward to a bloodbath. "Its me, you fucking cunt."

"Just what kind of fucking shit was that, Nigel! I watch the news this morning and there's a picture of four of my men turned into a Tootsie Roll in front of the DEA Headquarters. You wanna fucking tell me what that's all about?"

"You don't watch the fucking news." Nigel sneered into the phone. "Let me guess, you got a tip and a photo from some cunt named Freddie Lounds."

"Maybe I did. Maybe I also got an invitation from the Pope himself to do an exorcism on you, you sick fuck."

"Don't be stupid." Nigel's free hand played with Will's hair, pushing soft locks back from his forehead as he remained leaning against Nigel's thigh, like it was a pillow. "You have to prove someone is possessed to get permission for an exorcism. You can't just ask the Pope."

"What does it matter? You're a sick fucking psycho!"

"Because it doesn't make fucking sense, why ask the Pope when it's obvious you ask a fucking priest first. There's a fucking process."

"For fuck's sake, Nigel..."

"Anyway, it's not like I'm possessed, and the guy who did it isn't either. Fucking wasting the Pope's time, that's all you'd be doing. And the priest's, too."

He could feel the simmering rage on the other end of the line so intensely the cell phone felt as if it would scorch his ear. "Listen, you piece of shit," Darko hissed into it. "I want my fucking money. I want your ass in Hell where it belongs. I want you to be the one turned into a Tootsie Pop..."

"Tootsie Roll."

"What?"

"Tootsie Roll, you said Tootsie Roll before. And like I fucking said already, that wasn't fucking me. You're in America, Darko, it's serial killer paradise over here, you'd know that if you watched the fucking news."

There was a scuffling fury on the other end of the phone, Darko's words spitting out Romanian curses that bounced harmlessly off of Nigel's ear. "So you're not just a thief, you're a cocksucker too. I want my money or that little man you've been banging is going be passed around my crew until he can't cough without leaving a snail trail."

Nigel looked down at Will's bemused, beautiful face in his lap and a sudden, overwhelming protective violence shot through him. For the briefest of seconds he had a perfect understanding of how his brother must often feel. It must have been reflected in his expression, because Will shifted his cheek on Nigel's thigh, peering up in question at him.

Nigel traced the outline of Will's cheek with the pad of his thumb in rapt affection. "You have never understood the destructive properties of the heart. You're fucking dead, Darko. Fucking dead."

"You're going to transfer my funds back, do you understand? I've got my laptop, you're to secure the money back where it belongs, I'll meet you at our drop zone in Chesapeake. You know the one. You come alone and you tell your little FBI killer lover whore that if I hear so much as a whisper of a double cross, I'll make sure you both suffer for it."

Nigel scoffed at this plan. "Why am I going to the fucking drop zone? The transfer can be done anywhere, in a fucking coffee shop for fuck's sake."

"I got a buyer I'm not sure about. Fucking jackass named Verger, haven't dealt with him before. Meeting up with his crew along with another goods buyer. As you can fucking guess, I can't afford to just cancel, I need my money ASAP. You've left me with a fucking shit rag to wipe myself with you asshole. Six o'clock tomorrow afternoon. Be there, punch in the transfer code and be on your ass fucking merry way."

Nigel let out a derisive chuckle at this. "So it's that fucking easy."

"Yeah. Don't fuck this up."

The cell phone died in Nigel's ear and he handed it back to Will, who immediately began punching in numbers. He held up his hand to Nigel's reaching question, the call answered on the second ring. "Hello, Charlene? Yeah, it's Will Graham. I just got a break in your case. Meet me at Quantico tomorrow morning at seven, we can use that same meeting room as the last time. Well, that's the only time I can fit you in on my busy schedule and I'm sorry if taking down over a billion dollars in drug money isn't worth your time. Right. See you then."

He closed the cell phone off, ignoring Nigel's incredulous, shocked expression, the hurt from the seeming betrayal cutting him in half. "Baby, I am perfectly aware of how dangerous this is, and I do not want you to fall into any legal cracks along the way. This is for your safety."

"They are going to throw me in a fucking Guantanamo jail cell and fist me up the ass until my organs pop out of my mouth."

"I will never refer to you as anything more than my consultant, and your participation will be explained as being part of a sting operation. DEA snipers will take Darko's men out. Instead of getting his middle man the DEA can take Darko alive and whatever department wants him after that can cull all the information they need about the terrorist cells he's been selling the arms to. Darko is scrambling and it's a good time to take advantage of this. Taking his gang down completely is exactly what they want and with your help putting billions in the DEA coffers, you'll be granted American citizenship on the spot."

Will's chin nudged Nigel's cock, which was beginning to reawake in the face of Will's self assured confidence.

"Are you sure about this?" Nigel asked, a sigh catching in his throat as Will's hand reached up and pulled the waistband of his flannel pants down with a rough jerk, exposing the bounce of his erection.

"I'm sure, baby," Will said, his lips roughly grazing the side of Nigel's eager cock. Tempting, big blue eyes stared up at him and Nigel thought he was going to fucking lose it there and then. "Now...I think this is where we were. Give or take a rewind or two..."

~*~

Hannibal had a very good understanding of what his brother would think of the surroundings he currently found himself in. Stuffy. Sparse and devoid of all personal sentimentality and personality, Dr. Bedelia DuMaurier's home, if one could call it that, had all the pleasant ambiance of a waiting room. As Hannibal sat in his assigned chair with the usual prescribed formality, he half wondered why Bedelia did not litter at least one surface of her home with bland, out of date magazines to bring the functionality of the space into honest reflection. Perhaps she was concerned this would reveal portions of herself, the selections of what she'd read a tired sampling of personhood. She need not be so worried, Hannibal mused, one had to have a personality first in order for it to be revealed.

She sat in front of him in her usual overly formal, careful construction of self, unadorned by jewelry, her silks and pastel hues muting whatever might try to peek through. Hannibal had enough to conceit to wonder if this guarding had a great deal to do with him, though in truth Bedelia was always this much of a fortress, forever building further bricks made of distance to keep herself as safe and far away from influence as possible.

It is because of this heavy buttress that she was able, without surprise or emotion within her, to say to Hannibal: "I hear you have a brother."

"Yes," Hannibal said, and he allowed a smile to appear with genuine happiness over this fact to slide across his features. "A twin brother. We had been estranged, for most of our lives, and it is quite pleasant to make such a reconnection."

"I see," As usual, Bedelia's silence said more than her words would allow. She clasped her hands, delicate and long fingers caged around her knee, and gave Hannibal a slowly upturned smirk. "It must feel good to have family."

"It does."

"The last time we spoke you were interested in starting a friendship with Will Graham. I understand he is now in a romantic relationship with your brother." DuMaurier's countenance remained bland as she left her fixed smile in place, so plastic in its construction Hannibal inwardly envisioned it being clicked on, like an addition on a mannequin. "I trust this has put a barrier towards your pursuit of getting closer to Mr. Graham. Your attentions are now divided between the relationship you are cultivating between your brother and the interest you originally showed in his lover."

Hannibal found the observation slightly distasteful. "I do not see it that way at all. They are now both my brothers."

"You believe Will Graham is now your brother?"

"Yes. Of course he is."

"A brother is bound by blood, Hannibal. Will Graham has no such connection to you."

"He is destined to become a steadfast fixture in Nigel's life and as such he has become part of my family. I have not gained one brother, Bedelia, but two. Before this, I was alone." Hannibal could feel a warmth welling within him that was wholly alien to his usual discussions with Bedelia, and it was the image of Nigel and Will, so interwoven into his life he could never shake either of them that created it. So many Biblical stories hinged on such reunions, the welcoming of a wayward brother home, the sorrow of Cain, the disciples, brought into brotherhood through Communion. As his twin, Nigel held sinews that tied them together in tight knots, experiences and hurts that only they alone could properly communicate with each other. A stray tear dared to escape and he quickly wiped it away with his fingertips, inspecting the moisture that stained his skin with a sense of surprise. "I had never believed I would ever have a family, and to find not one brother but two is a blessing I find overwhelming. It is a precious gift, one I am keen to explore fully."

Bedelia did not share in Hannibal's rosy view of this family he had thrown his beliefs into, and it irked him the way she sat there, so quiet and sanctimonious, cold as a frozen stream as she laid her judgement upon his joy. "Will Graham is not your flesh and blood, Hannibal. As for Nigel Lecter, your estrangement from your brother has caused considerable chasms between you, whether you are twins or not."

"They are my family."

"Yes, and unlike friendships, family is fraught with conflict and disappointment. You did not choose Nigel to be your brother, and even though you tried to choose Will Graham he has rejected you for your twin. It would be impossible for you not to feel some underlying hostility towards your twin as a result."

Hannibal's jaw clenched at her infuriatingly simple minded suggestion, and it was with great effort that he forced himself to understand that she had no frame of reference here, that she had no comprehension of what it was like to have someone in one's life who shared every physical aspect of oneself, was an actual, freakish mirror of all that one felt and desired. He knew he could not make her understand that like Castor and Pollux their bond was so tightly woven it was destined to upset the balance of life and death. He had to reign in his annoyance with her, for he also knew that Bedelia was nothing more to him than a sounding board for his own thoughts, an unfeeling surface upon which to gain perspective.

"I have no conflict with my brothers," Hannibal assured her, and couldn't stop himself from sitting up a tad more proud than usual. "I wish nothing but happiness for Will and Nigel for it will gain me happiness as well."

"Hannibal..." Bedelia pursed her lips and broke her eye contact with him, her thoughts carefully put into place, like words etched on a lithograph. "You are projecting yourself into a life that is separate from your own. I do not doubt you desire to have this form of family to give you a sense of cohesive union, but I warn you it is based on your wants and not on reality."

Hannibal cocked his head to one side, unsure of whether or not he liked what Bedelia was saying to him, for it sounded to him like she was discouraging his pursuit to find connection. He searched for motivation in her reticence only to come up empty. It upset him, and he found her dismissal of his need to find others of his kind to bring into his life extremely rude and uncaring. He wondered, not for the first time, what she would taste like on his plate, and he had to concede she would probably be the exact flavour she was now. Like boiled water and nothing more.

"Will Graham has the full potential to truly understand me. My brother, through his genetic construction, has already proven that he intrinsically knows me. For you to sit there and tell me to deny either of them is to encourage me to remain stifled in my relationships. I do not accept your observation."

Bedelia remained stone, her smile still bland and unresponsive to his pique. "Very well. You will do as you want. I only hoped to warn you that when it comes to family, our hopes in them meeting our expectations veers into the realm of wishful thinking." She unclasped her hands and carefully placed them on the arms of her chair, her legs uncrossed as she made a move to stand. "And so ends our session. I am stepping out of my role as your psychiatrist to encourage you to join me as a professional associate and have a glass of wine."

"I would like that," Hannibal said, smiling back. He hoped it was as bland and stupid as the one she constantly wore.

"I must say, I find it fascinating that there are two of you in this world." She cocked her head to one side, a mimicry of his own habit. "Your twin--I would like to meet him."

"There is no need for that," Hannibal quickly responded. "He has all the same information within him that I do. A mirror image will reveal nothing."

"It will reveal opposition," Bedelia said.

He had no retort for her.

Her smile never changed its shape, it truly was pasted on, a thing separate from her and hiding the chiding grin beneath it. He hated how cold and calculated she was, as though an emotion was the worst possible revelation. It gave him a sense of satisfaction to know that Nigel, with his vile diction and Shiva worthy tornado of emotion would destroy her placid, dentist's chair analysis, his cursing eloquence eating her alive.

Bedelia rose from her seat, her high heels digging into her carpet, steadying her. Not for the first time Hannibal wondered if she medicated herself before their appointments. He couldn't smell the drugs on her, but then Bedelia did love to douse herself in expensive perfume.

"How about that glass of wine?"

~*~
While Hannibal understood Will's need for isolation, the cumbersome drifts that had collected around his little house in the middle of nowhere had rendered it an impassable fort. He parked his Bentley at the side of the main road and began the long trek down Will's unshovelled driveway to his house, the snow clutching at his knees and slipping into his shoes, soaking his feet. The dogs were more than happy to jump and play within the soft patches of ice, and they rolled and ran through it, the jack russell digging burrows through the deeper drifts and popping its head out of the snow at odd intervals like a startled fox. By the time Hannibal stepped over Will's porch and entered his home, the snow clinging to his legs was already starting to melt. The soiling of a quality suit in this manner added a layer of humility to Hannibal's stance, a sensation he was wholly unused to. At least the fire was going strong. He gave his brother Nigel a formal nod as he slid off his camel hair coat and hung it on the hook near the door, his scarf likewise carefully arranged over top of it.

"I had to park on the road. Will is no doubt extremely busy as of late, it is up to you to take care of the details of running his home. You need to hire a plough service to clear the snow."

Nigel remained unmoved on the couch, an unlit cigarette dangling from his lips as he blackly glared at his brother. "You shouldn't have done it."

Hannibal bit down on a weary groan at this and took his usual spot in the chair by Will's fireside. Flames leapt up between himself and his brother, the orange light darkening in shadows upon their mirrored features, making their skin appear red in the dim room. "You would have preferred Darko's men remained alive to kill you and myself? I believe my work conveyed a fascinating dual message. One I am confident Will has deciphered."

"Listen, you sick fuck, I get it, you're having a great time playing with all your bits and pieces of people, a nice fucking Michelangelo of a corpse collage. But fuck me, you are being one hell of a shit to Will." Nigel leaned his cigarette towards the fire and lit the tip with effort before sucking back an unhealthy, long drag. He spewed the smoke out into the fireplace. "You're making a fucking fool out of him, and it's wrong."

Hannibal gave his brother a solemn once over. Nigel splayed his hand over his side again, taking comfort out of the healed wound's phantom pains. He was a ball of nerve endings needing focus and Hannibal knew it wouldn't take much to snap him. "On the contrary, this work is about challenging him. Will has incredible potential that the FBI is neglecting. The real tragedy would be him never realizing this great gift within himself. I plan to help him draw it out, help him understand that he is one with us."

Nigel's eye twitched at this and he took another drag of his cigarette. "Hannibal, what the fuck are you talking about?"

"We are a complex family, one that needs room for important realms to grow within it."

Nigel shook his head and took another drag, not bothering to hide his smoke in the fireplace this time and instead pouring it over his brother's space in poisonous purpose. "You want to fuck him, don't you?"

"I consider Will my brother."

"But he isn't, is he? Will is *mine* you fucking asshole, and with that stunt I saw yesterday there is no way in Hell I am going to tolerate you sending him these sick fuck love letters. If you know what's good for you, you will keep your hands out of my fucking pie."

"Your hands and mine are the same, Nigel." Hannibal clasped his primly over his knee, his chin held high as he regarded the fire between them in stoic pride. "What you touch, I touch. Surely you have already recognized that our hearts beat in synchronicity. The love you have for Will is greedy in its power and reckless in its delivery. I have found I am not immune to how much your emotions influence me. Though it is vicarious and you may not believe in it, my love for Will is just as strong as yours."

Nigel took another, smaller drag as he looked on his brother. "Your love, if you call it that, is some twisted fucked up idea in your head that has nothing to do with what's actually fucking happening around you. Get a fucking grip, Hannibal."

Hannibal was tight lipped at this, for Nigel's assessment was strangely reminiscent of DuMaurier's chiding, and he was loathe to give either of them victory. "I wouldn't dream of overstepping my bounds into the realm of the physical, Nigel. But it is undeniable that we have become a tightly bound family."

"Nigel! Are you smoking in the house?"

"Shit." Nigel quickly tossed his cigarette into the fireplace and waved at the air in front of his face to disperse the evidence. Will had a collection of crime scene photos tucked under his arm as he walked into the living room, his mood instantly soured as he detected the last malingering molecules of Nigel's guilt.

"I told you not to smoke in the house."

"Darling, it is very cold outside and there is a fire..."

Will wasn't hearing excuses. To Hannibal's great amusement, Will held out his hand, his palm open against Nigel's shoulder. "Give them to me."

"What? No, fuck, darling, it was just the one."

"We had a deal and you broke it and this is the consequence. You agreed."

"Oh come on, one more chance...Darling..."

Hannibal couldn't stop the delighted feeling winding within himself as he witnessed Nigel's whining distress. Nigel crushed his hand over his pack of cigarettes laying in wait in the pocket of his black bowling shirt, his ire reduced to pleading. "Please, darling, I won't light one up again, I promise."

Will shook his head and snapped his fingers. "Deal's a deal."

"Fuck." He took out the nearly crushed pack and slapped it into Will's palm. "Those are my last ones."

"That's right. Forever. Top drawer of the dresser in the bedroom, there's that e-cig kit to get you through the initial nicotine cravings." Will crushed the pack of cigarettes to the point the cancer sticks within were destroyed and then tossed its remains into the fire. He snickered and playfully tousled Nigel's hair before giving him a kiss on his cheek. "I'm so glad you made this decision, baby. It's important to take care of your health."

"Fuck's sake, watching them burn up in there like that...Darling, you are stressing me out and now I already need one, really fucking bad do I need one. Fucking e-cigarettes, it's like smoking a pencil, I'll be spewing steam like some fucking teapot, what's the fucking point?"

Hannibal moved out of the way as his brother impatiently sidled past him, eager to go upstairs and get yet another nicotine fix to round out the one he'd already enjoyed. Hannibal hoped Will had an abnormally large supply of nicotine cartridges as he was sure the wound in Nigel's side spilled smoke when he'd been shot. He was immediately brought back to their first meeting, when Nigel had stubbornly put his cigarette out on the upholstery of Hannibal's fireside chair. The fact that Nigel entertained Will's ultimatum in any form was quite telling of their dynamic. Though Will took a great deal of strength from Nigel's brute force honesty, it was clear he was no passive participant in their relationship.

Will's cane knocked against the side of the couch and he propped it next to his knee as he sank down onto Nigel's spot, the crime scene photos placed in a pile beside him. Though the encephalitis had done its damage and he would never walk without that particular aid again, Will was otherwise healthy and content.

"Alana stopped by this morning. She had a friend with her." Will's fishing didn't stop at the stream, Hannibal mused, but he wasn't about to bite. "Margot Verger, she said she's a patient of yours?"

"Yes, her and Alana seem to have struck up quite a close friendship."

"Is that what they call it?" Will raised a brow. "I thought you and Alana were seeing each other."

"Very briefly and I must admit it was not a good decision for either of us. The affair descended quickly into stagnation before it even began, a warning sign I should have paid more attention to."

Nigel stomped down back down the stairs, puzzling over the small box in his hand. "Don't worry, little brother, I'm sure there's a lesbian out there just dying to get a taste of your vagina. Will, how the fuck does this thing work? There's all these little fucking vials, are you sure they are nicotine, because they look like fucking liquid heroin." Nigel paid careful attention as Will wordlessly began piecing the e-cigarette together, the process clearly capturing his curiosity. Hannibal fought the urge to grab the lot of them and shove them roughly down his brother's throat and end it by stabbing the e-cigarette through his windpipe.

"About this Verger chick," Nigel said to Hannibal. "What do you know about her family? What kind of business do they do?"

"Pigs." Hannibal unbuttoned his jacket, revealing the tightly bound corset-like construction of his waistcoat beneath it. "Their family is the main supplier of pork across the north eastern sections of North America. The Verger empire is quite influential in the Baltimore region, and as he is among the elite philanthropists in the area, Mason Verger, Margot's twin brother, is often at many upper echelon charity functions." Hannibal licked his lips as he looked on his brother, who was experimentally trying out the e-cig, his mouth clamping onto it, uncertain about its strange weight. "Charities mostly involving children, of course. He has a certain fascination with them."

Nigel smoked the e-cig, his grim expression suggesting his addiction was not entirely eased. "She had a broken arm."

"Margot Verger is a sad victim of her brother's sadism and has suffered at his hand for most her life. I am not speaking out of turn, here, you must understand, there is no confidentiality being breached. Mason Verger was publicly found guilty of the assault, along with other accusations, but as his philanthropy is so important to the communities that depend upon it, he was able to avoid serious retribution for his crimes. I believe he has only ever been forced to do some community service, involving children--a highly questionable punishment considering his habits--and paying a few fines." Hannibal watched his brother carefully, but Nigel was strangely unreadable, his attention overtaken by the addiction supplement in his hand.

"This isn't bad," Nigel said, surprised. He let out a thick ream of steam with a low purse of his lips. "Like smoking fucking shisha, only it doesn't feel like you're swallowing an ashtray."

"Alana certainly knows how to involve herself in drama," Will observed. "I do like Margot, she has a great sense of humour despite how much she's suffered. It's a defence mechanism, I suspect, but she's a lot stronger than she looks. Maybe Alana can help her get out from under her brother's yoke. You know Alana, the more broken the bird, the more she wants to set its wing." Will held up the stack of crime scene photos and Nigel gave him a look of disgust. "Hannibal and I need to talk shop, and I know how much you love that."

"Fucking gross psycho." Nigel shot Hannibal a glowering look. "I'm taking the dogs out the back. I hear one bone pop or get whiff of one bleeding scratch and I'm back in here slicing your fucking throat open and pissing down your neck, you got me, my little brother?" He left them alone, a trail of dogs and steam following him through the kitchen and outside to the back porch.

"Nigel!"

The screen door slammed behind him.

Will sighed and slouched where he sat, his forefinger and thumb pinching the bridge of his nose, his eyes squeezed shut in frustrated concentration. "Never mind him, he thinks you're the Chesapeake Ripper."

Hannibal was shocked into immobility at this. Really, Nigel the foolish audacity... "You believe this to be a ridiculous prospect."

"Of course it is, he's just being paranoid and...Look, Nigel is in a lot of trouble and people who are in trouble and scared tend to lash out the most at those who are safest to them." Will implored Hannibal for understanding, and he was more than willing to give it. "It's his past catching up to him. I can't say too much without drawing you into it, but your brother is under some pretty life threatening stress right now. I'm guessing that coupled with taking care of me and then having to deal with that imagery from the crime scene--I shouldn't have let him come with me, I think it was the tipping point and it's hurting him. Lashing out at you in this irrational way of his is just a symptom."

"Nigel reacts with emotion," Hannibal agreed. He pursed his lips and contemplated on the beauty of this moment, on the long lashes of Will as he closed his eyes, tired from overwork, the tender domesticity he visited upon his twin on a daily basis a taming appeasement for his own, pacing monster within. "Though he has been under your good influence, I continue to warn you he can be wild and impulsive. I will not talk you out of loving him, but I have to wonder how it is you can so easily forgive his past violence."

"Can I be honest with you?"

"I should hope you always are."

Will sank back onto the couch, his head thrown back over the cushion, his trembling left hand pushing the crime scene photos away from him. "I was attracted to Nigel *because* of his violence. I could practically smell it off of him, he's steeped in this wild, uncontrolled strength. It frightened me a little, and I liked it." Will chewed his bottom lip in uncomfortable thought. "He's not afraid to challenge me, call me on my bullshit, especially when I get so involved in a case and fall headfirst stubborn into it, so deep I forget to take care of myself. I can count on one hand the nightmares I've had this month. I'm feeling more stable and healthy than I have for *years*. If accepting his past gives me that gift, I'm okay with it."

"This attraction to violence confuses me, Will. If my brother's bloody past is so easy for you to dismiss, then you must place all of your murderers in the same vein. This acceptance brings up some disturbing questions. You love my brother, despite the evil he has done. If that is the case, you can love the Ripper too, and discard your hatred."

"I don't hate the Ripper."

Hannibal bit his tongue on this, and he suckled the tiny droplet of blood that slid across his taste buds, searing his mouth with iron. Will picked up the crime scene photos and began shuffling through them, his attention to their details tender in his delivery. It was as though he was reading love letters and Hannibal felt a stab of adoration for this man shared within his blood.

"I understand the Ripper," Will clarified. His voice was wistful as he went over the photographs, each murder tenderly given his utmost attention. "He's a man reaching out, seeking connection, seeking family. He's never had that before and it's a messy, difficult thing for him to process and he's trying very hard to communicate with something or someone outside of it, to give the concept of family clarity for him. He wants this connection to be able to grow into a beautiful, unbreakable permanence."

Hannibal watched the flames from the fire lick their shadows across Will's pensive face.

"Can he make it happen?"

Will's brows knit together, the crime scene photos softly shuffled into a proper order before being placed gently beside him on the couch. "I think it already has, but it's too hard for him to see it past the obscuring, atomic cloud that is his rage. I have this inexplicable need to reassure him, but I have no way to prove that my intentions are genuine. That I understand his need for that kind of deep connection."

Hannibal kept his voice cold. Even. "You are saying you could love the Ripper."

Will blinked, his expression betraying his confusion with his own words. 'I'm saying I already do."

~*~

They lay in bed together, staring at the ceiling. Will could feel a tired lull doing all it could to pull him into sleep, but he didn't want to succumb just yet, not with Nigel's arm tucked so lazily behind him, full of a strength that could just as easily kill as caress. The meeting with the DEA tomorrow morning was going to set a series of dangerous events in motion that could leave Nigel incarcerated, or worse--dead--and Will would be standing alone, a scenario he wanted to avoid at all costs. The plan had to be implemented with perfection, otherwise this night could easily be their last one together.

He hoped Nigel couldn't discern his fear in the kiss he placed on his sleepy lips, silky flesh responding to his affection with a quick, gentle bite against his mouth. With cool sheets tangled around them, Nigel pulled himself on top of Will, the weight of his body a welcome crush.

His heart fluttered madly in his chest as he locked eyes with Nigel, biting his bottom lip as he ground his hips against him. He didn't want to look away, he wanted to drown in all the sorrowful love he found swirling in that vast maroon whirlwind that was ready to scoop him up inside and tear him into glorious little pieces.

Kisses, tortuously tender, the movement of his warm palm over the small of his back and across his hips. Will arched his back as Nigel took him in hand, long smooth strokes pressed against the twin hardness of their cocks. Nigel pressed his thumb across the sensitive tips, smearing precum across them, and Will placed a hand over Nigel's pumping fist, setting the pace.

Nigel buried his face in the curve of Will's neck, his body weightily pushing down on him, wanting him to open. Will wrapped his thighs around Nigel's hips, and without a word said between them, he kissed him tenderly before turning to slide onto his stomach, his erection pressed hard into the mattress. He could hear the drawer to the night-table open and close, the standard slick of lube coldly pressed against his perineum. He buried his face in his pillow as Nigel slowly fingered him, being sure to touch his sweet spot and send his body into a grateful shudder.

Limbs, long and languid, moved over him, kisses placed with sensual care onto the back of his neck. He was losing himself, the universe turning into a mixture of muscle and silk, the smooth, gentle rhythm of Nigel's cock as it slipped inside of him natural and beautiful. He let out a shivering moan that was captured by Nigel's mouth, his body framing Will's as he clasped his hands over his tight grip on the sheets, Nigel's hips grinding his cock deep inside of him in a steady, relentless pace.

Will moaned as Nigel's thighs spread him wider, the pace quickening and sending him close to the edge. He raised his hips, longing for Nigel to release his hands so he could stroke his cock and find relief. Instead, he flipped Will onto his back in one fluid motion, his cock released and then brought back in a slow, tortuous depth that made Will's thigh's tighten in anticipation.

Nigel sank over him, kissing him in a hunger that tasted his very soul. He kept his touch tender, the press of his lips on Will's body a sweetness that left him reeling. Tomorrow would mean nothing, it was this little death that would be burned into his memory, all these touches given solely to please, strength meeting strength in a blissful harmony that entwined their souls. Nigel tensed and groaned into orgasm against his lips, his fingers deftly pumping Will's cock and bringing him into blinding pleasure.

They hadn't said one word. Nigel collapsed on top of him, and Will kept him inside, not wanting to lose him just yet. In silence he locked eyes with him, hoping he could see how impossible this was, that eye contact was such an intimate act for Will it almost eclipsed fucking. He hoped Nigel could see the unspoken terror laying in wait that this wonderful union could be damaged beyond repair, the end coming by a bullet, by the law, by fickle acts of violence, that the end would shatter him. He stroked the silken hair that had fallen before Nigel's face, and Nigel braced his hands around Will's head, fingers buried in his dark tresses.

"Stay with me," Will whispered to him. He kissed a lock of tangled, blonde hair. "Have a life with me."

Rendered mute by emotion, Nigel's lips quivered as he pressed them against Will's, his eager tongue answering every question Will could possibly ask.

He wasn't sure when they fell asleep. Draped within each other's bodies, Will's ear pressed hard against Nigel's heartbeat, he could hear a droning intrusion that wasn't part of his bloodstream, or the thrumming of his pulse beneath his fingertips. Frowning, Will slid his brow across the deep rise and fall of Nigel's chest, delivering a press of soft lips against his heart before slowly moving over him to reach the night table, where his cell phone lay lit up in rude expectation.

It was a text from Jack Crawford.

"Hope you got your beauty sleep. On my way to pick you up and bring you to Noble Hills Care Centre. The Ripper pulled an all nighter."

~*~

Jack gave Will's distracted frown a serious once over. "Are you sure it was a good idea to leave him at home?" Jack crossed his arms, giving the scene a growl that belied his disgust. "You needed him the last time."

Will closed his eyes and sighed, his mind and body still in bed with Nigel, riding high on sex and sleep. He needed Nigel alert and free of distractions and this crap was adding a dimension of chaos to their plans that was most definitely unwelcome. He'd left him sleeping peacefully, with a note on the night table telling him where he was and to meet him at Quantico at seven in the morning. He checked his watch and felt a punch of queasiness hit his gut at the time mocking him. Four o'clock in the A fucking M. A day of relentless torture was about to commence.

The slightly swaying torso belonged to Dr. Donald Sutcliffe, Will's former neurologist, who Nigel didn't like and insisted he replace with a new one, which he did. He couldn't say it was a bad decision, Dr. Sutcliffe had given Will all kinds of unpleasant, slimy vibes, and he half wondered if the guy was trying to arrange some kinky threesome between himself, Will and Nigel, a suggestion not spoken in words but in the language of lurid glances and overly eager mind altering prescriptions and insistent pressing to get together for dinner. Will's empathy didn't miss much and he knew that Sutcliffe was a creep and of exactly which variety. Not a guy you'd leave your glass of water near, that was for sure.

Will stared at the torso suspended in mid air through the use of long cables attached to the ceiling. It had been opened with the typical coroner's 'Y' incision, the rib cage left intact. Arms and legs had been amputated and there was evidence of some cauterizing and healing that suggested this was done pre-mortem. No organs had been removed, save the brain, the absence of which left a polished, hollow cavity within the skull. With gloved hands, Will removed the skull cap that had been put back into place and stood on tiptoe to take a look at the prize within. A tiny blob of pink, another foetal representation from the inner ear suspended in a tightrope from one side of the skull to the other with clear fishing wire. The little pink blob seemed to float in the centre of the emptied bone.

"Plenty of room to grow," Will said to it.

Jack coughed into his fist. "I'm sorry?" When he didn't get an answer, Jack paced in a slow circle around the suspended body, a frown burrowed so deep between his eyes he looked fierce. "Ever see that old movie from the seventies, 'Coma'? Reminds me of that. It was a movie about harvesting body parts from coma patients, but he didn't reap much from this one."

"He's growing something." Will traced a gloved fingertip around the tiny pink shape hovering in suspended space within the place where Dr. Sutcliffe's mind was supposed to be. "There is a harvest planned, but what he needs to do first is plant the seed. He has exposed himself, laid himself bare, but this is the surprise, the end goal that will bring him completion. This is a pruned host, the wild tangles pulled away. Perfect for germination."

"Sounds like a real interesting garden." Jack stared at the suspended torso for a long moment, remaining in thoughtful silence next to Will. It was an appreciated empathy. "What is he growing in there?"

Will shook his head. "I have absolutely no idea."

 

Chapter Text

HEART, MEET BULLET
chapter nine

Nerve endings felt flayed, a sensation he hadn't experienced since he'd collapsed in the bar and ended up in a coma for twenty-four hours. Will's left hand violently shook as he picked up his pen, the tip tapping uncontrollably against the slick tabletop, the low hub of conversation in the crowded meeting room hiding the sound. He wasn't going to be able to be of much help on the ground, the DEA wasn't about to give a frail looking profiler with a limp and a shaky hand a firearm for protection. He looked around the room with highly critical assessment, seeking out those who would be weak points and suggesting they sit this one out. He wanted Nigel to get out of this alive and he wasn't about to allow anyone on this team who wasn't keen on killing Darko's men if they dared to show a hint of aggression. The wall of DEA officers in riot gear, already brandishing semi-automatics and chatting amicably with each other like it was just another day in the desert put a renewed tremor in his grip and he was forced to drop his pen. These people weren't FBI, they were an army. He was sending Nigel off to war.

Charlene nudged his arm and he nearly jumped out of his seat at the simple touch. Every feeling within him was on fire, anticipation a springboard across his skin. She wordlessly handed him a coffee and if she noticed how jumpy he was she didn't show it. "So this guy of yours is familiar with these pricks? How does he know them?"

Will tried to keep his antagonism light, and failed. "He has some ancient history that's come into good use."

"Oh yeah?" Trey flanked him on the other side, his wide shoulders seeming to take up most of the room. His hands were placed firm on his hips as he looked down at Will. Between the two of them, Will was trapped. "Something tells me this guy ain't so ancient, and maybe you got some kind of personal stake in this yourself."

"Nigel Lecter," Charlene said, and though her voice was bubblegum friendly, Will knew she was aiming for the jugular. "He's the guy we've been looking for, isn't he? I know you think we're idiots, but it doesn't take some crystal ball gazing profiler to tell us when someone has a conflict of interest in a case."

Will took off his glasses, his fingers not wanting to co-operate and shaking so bad he had to practically throw his glasses onto the table. "There is no conflict here, you are getting what you want."

"You're sleeping with him, how can there be more conflict of interest than that?" Trey said, looming like a giant in the room and to Will's dismay Charlene gave him an agreeing nod.

Charlene gave Will a malicious grin that he knew was ready to rip him to shreds when the time came and his actions were called into question. "You want this guy rescued, he'd better be our dream come true to end this case and we'd better get one hell of a payload out of it."

Trey leaned close to Will's ear on the opposite side. "Because if there's a slip up and we don't get this Darko guy, we're charging you with conspiracy and tossing your ass in jail, and his ass to the CIA."

"We know how much the FBI just loooves getting into bed with the CIA." Charlene smacked her gum, grinning at him. "You're going to lose a lot of friends, Graham."

"Jack Crawford knows I'm working for you on this, he'll back me up."

"Don't be so sure," Trey said. He remained standing, his thigh at Will's eye level and far too close for comfort. "Purnell ain't too happy about his lack of progress on the Ripper case, and that's something you're working on too, isn't it? Let's just say your buddy Jack hasn't got the clout you think he does these days."

Will wasn't too happy to be sandwiched between Charlene's stocky malice on the right and Trey's giant threat on his left. What simmering hatred the two DEA officers had for each other was now being transferred full force onto him. "We had a deal."

"There's no deals when it comes to the DEA, we're at war. We do whatever it takes to get the job done." Charlene nodded at their crew. "Time to grab your cane and start your hobbling. We're heading to scope out the Chesapeake dock now. It's been a loading point for some of the smaller Columbian shipments, we're familiar with it."

Will felt sick at how much of it was slipping out of his control. The bullet proof vest he wore weighed heavy on him, and he fought the urge to rip it off, call Nigel and surrender this whole thing to the DEA while he and his crazy Romanian thug lover took off to whatever shore would have them. It's not like they couldn't, not with that kind of crazy money sitting in the bank, and it would serve the bastards right for threatening to harm either of them.

But there was a far bigger picture looming that had nothing to do with their freedom or their comfort. Will's cell phone buzzed into life and he answered it immediately as he rose from his chair, his cane gripped with a strength he didn't feel.

"Is this Mr. Will Graham?"

"Yes."

"Yeah, Jerry from Mr. Plough. I just wanted to make sure this guy here has your permission to allow us on your property. It's just a formality, that's all, covering my legal ass. Once ploughed a driveway and got hit with a fine because the crazy old lady wanted her son in law to shovel it off instead."

Will shook his head at the unreality of it. Life went on outside of drug busts and serial killers, it seemed. "Is Nigel still there?"

"Yeah, he's on the porch, smoking. Jesus, you got a lot of dogs."

"Nigel can lock up them in the house if they're a problem."

"Nah, I like dogs." He shouted an unintelligible instruction and Will could hear the loud engine of the plough, the scrape of its heavy metal shovel hitting the earth. "Hey, you're that Will Graham in those articles, aren't you? Heck of a thing me talking to you, was just chatting with the wife about what happened to Gail."

Will slowly followed the DEA crew, the struggle with his cane increasing with every step. "You knew Gail Fernandez?"

"Yeah, my wife's a real estate agent, she nearly got grifted by that bitch. Her and that bank manager, Charlie Roach from Wells Fargo, they had long cons going on, stole mortgages and commissions. Couldn't have happened to two nicer people. You catch that Ripper give him a Thank You card from Margie and me."

Will's step faltered and he winced at the way Charlene was glaring at him over her round little shoulder as she marched with her crew down the corridor, her steely blue eyes bidding him to hurry up. "Are you saying Gail and the banker from Wells Fargo knew each other?"

"Like peas in a rotten pod. I'm just glad Margie didn't get under their bus, it would have put us in a real tight spot. It ain't winter year round, we need Margie's commissions. That last house she sold would have gone right into Gail's pocket. Heck of thing that, too. She sold that house to your friend there, whatsit Dr. Licker.."

"Dr. Hannibal Lecter." Will quietly corrected.

"Yeah." There was a massive cacophony of noise behind Jerry, the plough doing its work as it released Nigel from his snowbound prison in Wolf Trap. "Hey, my man's got a path cleared out for your fella. He's waving at me to let you know he's on his way."

"Thanks, Jerry."

"No problem. We'll clear a path to the barn too, that okay by you?"

He didn't answer. Will hung up the phone, the conversation swirling around him like snippets from a half remembered dream. The shock of it slammed against him, making him weak. Hannibal knew the victims. As the checklist went through Will's head he could cross them off one by one. He knew Sutcliffe, was in residence with him in college. The four men tied together were part of Darko's gang, they knew Nigel and thus, Hannibal knew them. Connections to Nigel were severed as they knotted tightly around Hannibal--He knew Gail Fernandez. He knew Charlie Roach.

One could have such fervent beliefs one moment and then the next the entire construct of one's life could be torn down, leaving a crumbling chasm in its wake. He didn't need forensics or photographs or Nigel's pleading insistence that his brother was a serial killer to finally put it all into shimmering clarity. He'd been a fool. The Ripper was a masterful manipulator but he couldn't predict a stupid phone call over a random annoyance that now clicked every bloodied puzzle piece in Will's empathic mind fervently into place.

"You're not fucking dreaming again, are you?"

Will blinked, his gaze meeting the wall that was Trey's chest, the letters DEA burning into his resolve. Nigel. He had to push away the Ripper for now, push away the hooves of the black stag that stomped against his mind and tore at it, demanding attention. He could feel the tips of Garett Jacob Hobbs' fingers against the inside of his skull, caressing the bone with gentle strokes.

"You see? You see."

"I'm fine," Will forced himself to say to Trey, his voice as shaky as his left hand and the leg that wanted desperately to give out beneath him. He limped forward and ignored their sneering judgement at his weakness. "Let's get this done."

~*~

Mr. Plough seemed to take forever, leaving Nigel to fidget with worry on the front porch. The owner of the plough was a burly, heavyset guy with wind burned cheeks and leathery skin and when Nigel asked him for a smoke he was more than happy to hand one over. They were a cheap brand, but Nigel didn't care, lighting it up with grateful ease and sucking the smoke deep into his lungs. It could damn well be the last fucking one he ever got to enjoy. He savoured the texture of the smoke on his tongue, the lingering poison of ash.

He pulled out his cell phone and dialled his brother. When Hannibal answered it was with clipped professionalism.

"Hello, Nigel. What can I do for you?"

"I need your help."

"Depends on what kind of help."

"Two and a half billion dollars worth." Nigel let out a stream of smoke at Hannibal's silence, the plough in the distance carving out an exit from Will's tiny home. "The DEA is taking out Darko. I need to buy my freedom and I know it won't be cheap, but I want my cut." He took another drag of the cigarette. "I just want enough that Will and I can be comfortable with, a retirement package. A million will do, I'm not fucking greedy." He finished the cigarette and tossed the butt into the piles of snow against the side of the house. "Are you listening to me?"

"I am listening very carefully, Nigel. What is it you need me to do?"

"I'm going to give you the access codes and the link to the accounts I've got the money hiding in. Secure the million in a new account, under Will's name."

He could hear Hannibal smack his lips. "Nigel, why do you want this under Will's name?"

The plough was finished. He grabbed his leather jacket and pulled out the car keys, the cell phone pressed tight against his cheek. "Hannibal, I know you are a crazy fucker psycho. I know asking this of you is a big fucking deal and I don't even know if you are capable of it. But you are my brother and where I come from that counts for something pretty fucking big. You said it yourself, our hearts beat the same and thus they obsess over what makes that happen in equal measure. I need you to take care of Will. Can you promise me that?"

"Such a promise need not be requested." Hannibal's voice seemed aloof, but Nigel knew this was not the case, that his brother had slipped on his most careful person suit in a bid to hold the simmering fury within him at bay. If he gave the word, Hannibal would more than happily sacrifice himself for either Will or his brother. Nigel felt a lump in his throat that was difficult to swallow, for he'd done the same all these years, the frayed thread of family holding him close to this monster who fashioned himself into a man. "The photographs were destroyed years ago. I never had any intention of turning you in, not even that first time I saw you. You are one sick fuck, make no mistake, but you are my blood."

"This day shall be auspicious in its reckonings. When all is said and done, whatever remains will be transformed and a great unity shall be achieved. Are you ready for it, Nigel?"

"I don't know what the fuck you are talking about, but I guess so, yeah."

"Goodbye Nigel." Then, not as an afterthought, but as a precious declaration: "My brother."

~*~

Quite amazing, really, the small amount of time it takes for everything to go to shit. Nigel stood in the midst of Darko's gang, all guns trained on his head in a tight circle. In his periphery vision he could see Will clasping his shaking hand to the side of his face, his neck and arm covered in thick rivers of blood. Two DEA officers were dead at his feet, with a third one behind Nigel, still wheezing the last tired gasps out of his lungs as he slowly died.

When they'd arrived, Nigel had been given strict instructions to wear a wire, one that he protested because even an idiot like Darko would look for one. It was buttoned on his bowling shirt pocket, the tiny pin lost amongst the colourful toucans and deep green leaves of the fabric. Will didn't know it, but he wore a small talisman of his around his neck, a tiny vial filled with enough small clippings of Will's hair to make it opaque. He'd tied it onto a leather strap, one that used to hold a seashell, which was now discarded for Will's far more meaningful charm. The more the plan was implemented, the more he brought the vial to his lips to kiss it. Nigel was sentimental, definitely, but the talisman had other uses, this kind of protection of a loved one a known powerful aid against the evil eye. Nigel was Romanian. He prayed to God, he believed in love, and magic is real.

He was instructed to park his car near the drop zone half an hour early, despite Nigel's insistence that Darko would expect him to be late. He was on high alert and filled to bursting with adrenaline. He wondered where Will was.

As if on cue, Nigel's cell phone rang. He closed his eyes as he answered it, wanting to preserve as much of Will into him as his soul could allow. "Darling, you shouldn't be talking to me. You need to focus."

"I know what you said was true." He could hear the catch in Will's voice, the desperation. "I know he is what you said he is..."

"Darling, what does it matter right now? I am about to get ass raped by a hundred snakes and you want to talk to me about my fucking psycho brother. Seriously, not the time, darling. Calm yourself, we will get through this..."

"I should have listened to you. I dismissed what you said because I thought you were just being emotional and I shouldn't have done that, I'm so, so sorry..."

"Don't apologize, I get it. I can be a hell of a shit when I want to be." He could hear Will struggling to keep his breath even, his composure slipping. An image of his bright blue eyes brimming with moisture sprang into Nigel's mind and he brought the vial to his lips again, unable to let it leave his caress until Will's soul was trapped inside of it. "Stop this, darling. This won't take long, and we'll be home sitting by the fire and fucking each other's brains out on the floor in no time."

Will struggled to form the words, sobs catching on the edges of vowels. "I'm fucking insane fucking crazy in love with you, baby."

That goddamned lump in his throat was never going to go down.

"I know the feeling, darling."

He hung up at the sound of voices on the far periphery of the dock, Darko and what had to be the last of his remaining henchmen coming into view. There were a few familiar faces in the lot, and Nigel was relieved to see none that were especially good fighters. He wasn't too sure about the men driving up in a Cadillac beside him, however, the air about them speaking all kinds of Mafioso intelligentsia. Old country too, by the look of them in their overly smart suits that hugged just a little too close for North American styling. One was young and wiry, his shoulders jerking at odd intervals like he had a nervous tic, his lips constantly wetted with a smooth smack of his tongue. That one liked coke, Nigel could tell a tweaker when he saw one. The one beside him was more subdued, a classier act but no less deadly. That was the one to watch. It was weird seeing Sicilian connections here, they weren't usually into gun running on the scale the DEA thought Darko was dealing in, so the pair were likely the goons sent by Mason Verger to act as his go-between.

He could hear the sound of the boat as it moved into the dock, a large crane at the ready to bring the shipment onto the creaking wooden boards. Nigel took a quick inventory of his surroundings, not finding much by way of cover. The late afternoon was quickly descending into the violet cold of sunset, purple clouds streaked across the sky like bruises. He waited until all of Darko's men and his buyers were gathered at the dock, the small tugboat pulling into the harbour and locking into the dock. As the crane began to lift up the large skid from its holding bay and swung it over to rest it on the dock, Nigel opened the door to the car and slid out. The DEA didn't know it, but he'd taken out the small revolver Will kept hidden under the passenger seat in his car. Always prepared, his darling. What Will didn't know was that Nigel also kept an emergency pack of cigarettes there beside it. He tucked the gun under the waistband of his jeans for safekeeping, his leather jacket tossed over it, concealing it. The pack of cigarettes he clutched in his hand.

"Here comes that piece of shit now."

Darko was scowling, his usual resting expression and one Nigel was well used to. He kept his gait easy as he approached him, and knocked a cigarette out of the pack into his palm, slipping it between his lips like a kiss before lighting it up with a match. He shoved the pack into the pocket of his bowling shirt, knocking off the DEA's wire, which he purposefully crushed underfoot as he made his way towards the dangerous group of men gathered on the edge of the dock.

Darko already had his laptop out as he saw Nigel approach, his curses flying. "Will you look at this, fucker just walks right over, doesn't give a fuck. Nigel I got to hand it to you, you are one suave son of a whore."

Nigel quickly took in his surroundings, mentally noting the DEA snipers hiding on the top of the low rise warehouse to the left of him, the rest tucked into the reeds near the dock. It was a fairly isolated spot, more for local sport fishermen than for unloading shipments, and the large crate was woefully out of place in the usually natural setting. Darko waved at Verger's buyers, who stood on either side of the crate, gloved hands touching the corners as if they owned it already.

"Mr. Verger doesn't like to wait," the older of the two Italian men said, and Nigel fought the urge to roll his eyes at how much of a cliche they both were. They looked like they stepped out of a scene from The Godfather, complete with leather fedoras and ties that were only fashionable in the seventies.

"Tell him to hold onto his fucking dick for a few moments, asshole, I have business to attend to here, first." Darko turned to Nigel, the laptop opened on top of the crate, waiting for his input. He made a move to punch in the links and codes, only for Darko to put his hand over the keyboard and place a gun at the side of his head.

"Hello to you, too, asshole."

"You think you're fucking cute."

"I'm fucking gorgeous.  You mind getting your cock out of my face."

"Thought you liked that these days."  Darko chewed his bottom lip, giving his surroundings a nervous sweep.  "I got a question I need answered first."

Nigel took a long drag of his cigarette, pretending the barrel of the gun pressed against his head was nothing more than an inquisitive fly. "That's what life's all about, Darko. One enquiry after another."

"Who was your fucking hacker? I want his name."

Fuck.

"It's a piss lick of a program, Darko, it wasn't hard for me to crack."

"Don't think I'm that stupid, you idiot, I know goddamned well you're no Steve Jobs. Who hacked the account for you?"

Nigel inched the laptop closer to him, his gaze never leaving Darko's. Shit, this bastard was always so damned stupid, he never knew when he was supposed to quit. Even now, with his dull little brain trying to work out some angle to fuck Nigel over, thinking he was getting an edge, he was digging himself in shit, like he always did. Nigel sighed as he looked into his former associate's angry, bull dog face and knew with grave certainty that whether he stole the entire two and a half billion or not, Darko would still be in the same situation without Nigel at the helm. He'd spent far too long in his criminal career fixing all of Darko's stupid mistakes.

"Do you want your fucking money or do you want a name, because you don't get both."

Darko pressed the barrel of his gun harder at Nigel's temple, the cold metal leaving a circular impression on his skin. Darko's puny brain tried to figure out which flip of the coin to accept and, thankfully for Darko's kid, greed prevailed. He stood back and shoved the laptop towards Nigel, who caught it before it slid off the surface of the crate.

The DEA was being way too observant and not active enough for his liking. Darko still had his gun trained on him, making Nigel wonder if they were looking forward to seeing his brains splattered all over the prick's shoes. That's what he got for trusting the DEA, he could see his brains there already, messing up the laces. Jesus. What the fuck did Darko have on his feet? Fucking purple loafers, what the fuck?

Darko saw that he noticed and gave them a shrug. "Kid bought them for my birthday."

"They're fucking purple."

"They're not purple, you asshole. It said right on the box, they're eggplant."

"Eggplants are fucking purple, you moron."

Cigarette dangling from his lips and wondering just how in the hell had he managed to spend too much of his life working for this knuckle dragging shot of piss, Nigel entered his account information into the laptop and waited for the transfer to go through.

The banking program didn't use the big warning letters like you'd see in the movies. Just a little Windows gong fist pump and a grey box stating 'Insufficient Funds'.

Oh fuck. Hannibal, you fucking fuck.

The barrel of the gun was at Nigel's forehead again, warmer now and just aching to fire off into his skull. "Give me the name of the hacker."

So, this is how it all ends. In blood and piss and adding a few tears for good measure. Nigel tossed his cigarette at Darko's ugly ass shoes and brought the vial with that little bit of Will's soul in it to his lips. He closed his eyes as he kissed it. I love you, darling.

A soft ping near his ear had Darko and Verger's men diving for cover. Verger's man took out his revolver and, with barely a half turn managed to take out the sniper on the roof along with two other DEA agents. Leave it to the Sicilians to be show offs.

Darko's men were disorganized, shooting wildly in all directions at whatever foe they thought they saw. Bullets flew overhead as Nigel dove down, the tiny missiles taking chunks out of the crate. One of his men fired in the direction of the reeds and Nigel heard the cry of pain muffled within them.

Where was Will? They couldn't possibly have him out here, and if they did what kind of idiots were these people, bringing someone along for the ride who had trouble holding a cup of coffee let alone a gun.

Darko kicked Nigel behind his knees toppling him to the ground. He once again aimed his gun at Nigel's head and ordered his panicking crew to do the same. "You fucker! You want to die so bad, consider this your wish granted. We're going to rip you so full of bullets they'll be scraping you up with a shovel!"

"Nigel!"

All guns were trained on Nigel, the circle so tight he could smell the separate scents of cheap cologne Darko and his men wore. Nigel glanced up to see Will, standing in the reeds, his bleeding hand at the side of his face, blood pouring down his neck. One of Darko's men aimed his rifle at him.

Nigel pulled out his revolver and shot Darko in the leg. It was enough to topple the too tight circle and Nigel made quick work of the rest of them, bullets pop popping one by one into thick skulls until all that was left was Darko and his pain and the DEA scrambling all over him like they were having a fucking orgy. "Thanks for showing up!" he shouted at the officers.

He spun around searching out Verger's men, but they were long gone, spooked by the feds and Darko's obvious incompetence. Darkness had fallen over the scene, and Nigel searched the shadows in the reeds, but there was no sign of Will. He grabbed a random DEA officer and shouted in his face: "Where's Will?"

He was roughly shaken off. His concerns meant nothing to them, they had their prey and they were too busy tallying up the dead and tearing apart the container full of their bounty. Officers Trey and Charlene attacked the crate with a crowbar, a bright torch lit up to give them a good view of the contents. With rapt faces they slid the cover off to reveal nothing more than a pathetic collection of handguns and hunting rifles and small packs of ammunition. Frowning, they dug through the straw and pulled out the true contents of the shipment. Vast collections of porn DVD's and print magazines that were set to shoot the load of a particular kink set. Mason Verger's variety, to be very fucking precise.

Trey slammed the crate's lid shut. "Great. Fucking nasty shit. And no payload, what a waste of time."

Where the fuck was Will?

Darko was cuffed and left to roll on the ground in a bloody mess, the close range bullet wound in his leg had clearly shattered his thigh bone. Nigel pressed his heel on it, sending the man into screaming paroxysms of pain. "You're fucking dealing in this shit now, Darko? Fucking low, even for you."

"You left me no choice you fuck, I had to get the money from somewhere! Verger's paying top dollar, he's got a whole distribution set up ready and he was giving me his cut. I hate those fucks, but the sickos got money and I'm taking it where I can get it!"

Adrenaline pumped hard through Nigel, the shouting of the DEA officers around him descending into a cold silence as his blood began to pulse, loud and deafening in his ears. A snapping, growling black thing rode along Nigel's childhood memories, flashes of light and screams of terror and that horrific sensation of being limbless, unable to move to, to rescue or attempt to help lest the attention be turned from the victim to bring the torture on oneself. And those fucking arms buyers all those years ago, one of his first jobs, that one time... 'Kill that family or we kill yours.' That was all Darko's pathetic fault, all of it, and Nigel had to swallow down the black bile monster inside of himself, but it was a hopeless effort as it kept rising up and up and clawing at his tongue, his throat burning with the scream of atonement, a wail that held an echo in the shape of a small child.

Nigel's heel kicked hard at Darko's wound, sending him howling in pain. "The hacker was your kid, you greedy, sick fuck." He aimed the revolver at Darko's face and fired.

~*~

Nigel sat in Will's car, his hands tight on the steering wheel as he brought the vehicle to a slow, rolling stop in front of Hannibal's house. He put the car in park, and stared at the looming, Victorian building that was his brother's home, a pretentious estate that was, Nigel believed, a reward in Hannibal's mind for all of the misery he caused upon the world, and it was a lot, his brother was fucking fastidious.

Nigel was not in the mood for Hannibal's vanity, what he needed now was advice only his brother could give, a fact that made Nigel shiver enough to hear bones clack. He pulled out his cell phone, checking it for the hundredth time for any word from Will. Nothing. He'd called Will's cell every five minutes until he was sure he'd wore out its battery. The mechanical tones of Will's voicemail earned Nigel's curses.

He'd taken advantage of the confusion after he'd shot Darko, hopping into Will's car and taking off before the DEA could tackle him and bring him into custody. He was a dead man, now, in every sense of the word. The image of Will, stumbling and bloody was too painful to hold onto, it obscured his vision as he travelled the highway, his driving wild and veering, aimless until he realized he was in front of Hannibal's house and instinctively knew what he was about to do.

He dialled his brother and held the cell to his ear.

Hannibal answered with a strangely affectionate lilt to his voice. "Nigel."

"You goddamned fuck you nearly got me killed with that stunt!"

"I am looking out for Will, as you requested, and I admit a certain need to ensure your enemy did not profit from your death. I am pleased it did not occur, but you must admit the possibility was great otherwise you would not have made the request. Is your enemy still alive?"

"Darko?" Nigel closed his eyes and tried to keep his breath even. "I shot him in the face. Didn't check his pulse, but I'm guessing the hamburger meat I left behind isn't about to get up and take a piss." He tried to keep the worry from his voice, though he knew his brother would detect it, that whole twin burden getting in the way. "Has Will contacted you?"

"No."

The silence after this made Nigel's head quake. He grit his teeth, his nerves so on edge they chattered. "I'm outside of your house."

"I am not at home, I am in my office going over patient notes. If you need to see me..."

"What happened to Mischa?"

The jarring question hit Hannibal like a punch across the jaw, Nigel knew, and he gained some small satisfaction from the way Hannibal hesitated, the cold, calm facade sliding into place while Il Monstro roared and gnashed just beneath it. "I already told you."

"You held back. I need to know."

"Nigel, why are you asking this of me?"

Nigel couldn't be one hundred percent certain, but he knew due to that strange, instinctive divide of cells that he had crept underneath Hannibal's second skin, and was poking at the silent monster underneath. There was a measure of hurt in Hannibal's voice. The monster stirring, its slumber nervous, even fearful.

"You spent most of your childhood in an orphanage, I had all of three years and I fucking know what it was like, Hannibal, It plunges a child into Hell." Nigel could feel that lump not wanting to leave him, it was a permanent stone in his throat, full of sharp, flaking pieces that rode his bloodstream and cut inside of his heart. "We had a sister. Tell me what happened."

Hannibal was quiet a long moment. When he spoke, his voice was cold and clipped, as mechanical as Will's voice mail only with less emotion. "Our father's friend lost his entire fortune overnight and went mad. He went into a delusional state and believed Mischa and I were his only means for survival."

Nigel frowned. "What do you mean?"

"He was convinced he was going to starve to death, and he had to make sure he could stomach killing and eating a human being."

"Mischa..."

"What better test of that resolve than to take the tiny body of a child and feast on its vulnerability. He locked me in a cupboard, and I stared through the knots in the wood--I saw everything." Hannibal paused. "He slaughtered our entire house. I was the sole remaining nobility of Count Lecter, or so I thought until I met you."

Nigel felt a sick, twisting tentacle of darkness wind its way around his gut. "Did he eat her?"

"Yes. He made a stew of her. Root vegetables and gravy. He pulled me out of the locked cupboard that night and sat me at the table with him and made me eat her, too. He used our family's finest china, and he served her with a vintage red from our family's wine cellar. I never saw what year."

Nigel's hand shook as he held the cell phone, his blood pushing along those sharp little shards of stone that were breaking apart in his arteries, cutting into every part of him, scraping cuts along his veins. "Hannibal...I am going to do something very awful and I want to know what that makes me. Am I like you even in this, my brother? I am so full of rage and sickness, I fucking want this fucker to hurt--Just how much of a mirror have we become, Hannibal? Tell me plain, am I also Il Monstro?"

"You are my exact mirror, Nigel," Hannibal evenly said. "Your rage must be expressed, but it is a reflection turned in on itself. You take no joy in it. You do not see its beauty."

"There is no fucking beauty in what I'm about to do, only you see that."

"Will can see it. He has the power of empathy and through this can stand directly into both of our opposing perspectives. This can't be easy for him, I imagine it causes him a great deal of confusion. And yet, his ability has become intrinsic for us to connect with one another. He is the link that binds us, and through him room will be made for that which has been taken from us to grow again."

Nigel shook his head. "You've lost me now, you mad fuck."

"You are my brother, Nigel. Whatever you decide to do, I am behind you."

Nigel closed his eyes, the effort to calm himself near impossible. "That's what I'm fucking afraid of."

He hung up his cell and pulled the keys out of the car. With fluid movements that didn't feel like his own, he got out and headed for the front steps, his footfalls light on the dusting of snow in front of the door. He opened it, and slid inside, the heavy door shutting behind him in the finality of a dungeon gate.

~*~

"You're shaking like a leaf over nothing, the bullet just nicked your ear." Charlene fussed over the injury with a fresh towel, the plaster that had been placed over the cut already seeping red. "I can see why the FBI didn't make you an official agent, you can't handle it in the field." She let the towel fall to the floor of the SWAT van. "That was stupid, standing up like that. You caused a bloodbath."

Will set his jaw and fought the urge to turn on her, to shove her stocky body against Trey's looming form and tell them both, in no uncertain times, as to why they would never get a promotion and be free of each other. They were the joke of the DEA, good only for bringing in the cash and leaving bigger fish to keep hunting. Instead, he forced himself into calm. "Did you find my cell phone?"

"No, it probably fell into the water near the edge of the shoreline. It's pretty swampy in that area, it'll be stuck under the muck forever now."

Will closed his eyes, doing all he could to shut out the image of Nigel shooting Darko point blank in the face, his expression so similar to the creature of night within Will's inward vision it was like it was brought to life. "What's going to happen to Nigel?"

Charlene smacked her gum. "What do you mean?"

"Nigel shot the man you wanted in custody, he ruined your chances of discovering the domestic terrorist cells he was contacting here. So cut the crap and tell me when do I get arrested and when does Nigel meet a firing squad?"

Charlene and Trey exchanged looks. Trey shrugged, his massive shoulders like a shifting wall. "We didn't see nothing."

Will frowned. "Nigel shot..."

"Darko was shot by a sniper rifle, and that's what you saw, got it?" Charlene held up Darko's laptop like it was the gold medal of the DEA Olympics. "We got everything we need right here. As far as we're concerned, we don't know anyone by the name of Nigel and he sure as hell has no connection to Darko."

Will's head shook as he took this in. A free pass, they were giving Nigel and himself a chance to just walk away. "I...I need to get a hold of him..."

"Not on my dime, you don't," Charlene said and Trey was in strict agreement. "Find a payphone to call your lover boy. We don't know the guy. We ain't sending along any Christmas cards, neither, so find your own way back to him. When it comes to your life, Mr. Graham, Trey and I are officially uninvolved."

Unsteady, Will grabbed his cane and made his way out of the SWAT van, a sense of disorientation washing over him. He could feel the thrum of his blood in his veins, his ear deafened from the bullet that grazed it, allowing in other sounds, like the beat of his heart and the clipped, steady pace of hooves on concrete. He could feel the black stag close to him, the coyote howling in the distance. Its cry was so mournful Will felt his stomach lurch in sympathy with its pain, and he wanted to go towards it, to comfort it. But it was a wild and angry creature at present and it remained on the periphery of his influence, skittish against the rising black shadow that crept along Will's back and sheered its massive, sharp tipped branches against the cover of night.

He knew without turning around that the creature of night had Hannibal's face, that it watched him with quizzical interest, its curiosity its own brand of longing. The black stag crept past him, brushing against Will's body with its shimmering, raven's feathers and leaving in its wake the pale form of Abigail Hobbs. She stood nose to nose with him, blood pouring from the wound in her neck, her blue eyes icing over as she slipped into death.

"I don't know what I'm supposed to see," he admitted to her.

She smiled, and cocked her head to one side, studying his study of her, a false portrayal of innocence for he knew she shared in the guilt of her father, that she had been used as bait for Garrett Jacob Hobbs' victims.

She leaned close and whispered in his cut, deafened ear. She echoed inside of his skull. "You see."

The sound of a car door slamming shook Will out of his reverie and he found himself once again in the hub of activity, DEA officers of every stripe crawling all over the scene. Flashing, rolling red light slid over him, the bodies of Darko and his men covered in white tarp as they were lain side by side, the dead remnants of the battlefield. Nigel felt disconnected from him, wandering in the opposite direction through a vast distance and he needed him right now, he needed to know he was safe so this awful, pervasive feeling of missing a limb could be healed.

"Will."

He turned, slowly, the shadow of the man he'd thought he'd known creeping over him in possessive pride. Hannibal gave him a concerned once over, his gloved hand sliding over Will's injury in what to others would be a doctor inspecting a wound, but Will knew better, he knew it was a caress, a promise that Hannibal had vowed to keep. It was there in the lingering touch of his fingertips and in the steady, relentless hold of Will's gaze.

"What are you doing here?" Will asked, fighting to get the words out of his rasping, ragged throat. Had he been crying? He couldn't remember.

Hannibal smiled, his palm slipping away from the wound to ascend in a tender caress behind Will's head. He pulled him closer, pressing his forehead against Will's in a gesture that was unmistakably intimate.

"I'm here to take you home, Will."

 

Chapter Text

HEART, MEET BULLET
chapter ten

It was nearly midnight, but that didn't stop some of the more, dare he say it, *hyperactive* kids from staying up and running around the playroom like infinite spinning tops. Mason Verger, heir and patriarch of the Verger fortune, watched the play intently from the two way window in his bedroom. The playroom itself was small enough, with low ceilings to give a sense of cave like comfort to the little critters, the walls carpeted in bright colours meant to stimulate the imagination and keep them good and ill behaved if they were prone to it. No pastel hued calm in this realm. A large disco ball in the centre of the ceiling flashed random colours throughout the small space, and while the overly long exposure to it gave some of the more sensitive kids a seizure, it also worked as a great tool to induce childhood insomnia. He never gave the kids who spent the weekends at Muskrat Farm any bedtimes or any rules at all, he liked the play to be unstructured and wild, because eventually it always ended up in one of them crying or getting hurt. Then he would swoop in, never reprimanding the ones who did it, of course, but he'd single out the little weeper all on his or her own and he'd whisper what a kid who was hurt and miserable and sad never wanted to hear. "You know, your mom dumps you here because she has to work three jobs to pay the rent. You're just a burden to her. Sometimes, I'm betting, she wishes you were never born at all. Have a piece of chocolate."

The day hadn't gone well, however, and Mason Verger stared through the two way glass into the playroom without his usual enthusiasm. One of the kids he had picked to be a special superstar in his latest project was still bouncing around in the room, and Mason knew he would draw in a good chunk of change with those emerald green eyes of his. But then, Mason never did make those films for the money, he had enough of that, for him it was all about the love...

The DEA now had his shipment and if there was one thing he couldn't stand it was nosy feds poking around in his personal business. A person should have a right to have a hobby.

He rubbed his hand on the back of his neck working out the kinks and wondering if it would be a good time to pull out the silk hangman's noose and play a bit of erotic asphyxiation. He was sure the little sleepless brats in the playroom would find the whole thing fascinating to watch. His concentration, however, was broken by the sound of his doorbell, echoing through the large, sprawling mansion. Curious, Mason used his massive one hundred and fifty inch television to tune into the security camera, and was surprised to see a very well dressed man standing at the Verger gate. Mason picked up his phone and hit the pound key before any of his servants could do the job for him. He was hoping this was some sort of fix it man for the destruction of his project, and the less witnesses the better. "Who is it?"

"Mr. Mason Verger, I am Dr. Hannibal Lecter." A foreign fellow, Mason thought. Eastern European, though he couldn't quite place which region. "I am here to talk to you about your sister, Margot Verger. I am her psychiatrist. I'm sorry about the late hour, but I'm afraid it's bad news."

Mason felt a punch sink in his stomach, and he wondered if Margot had any 'if I die release this information to the police' kinds of insurance waiting in the background. She was sneaky that way. "Oh no, not poor Margot." He bit his bottom lip and wondered which cruel act he'd inflicted that had finally pushed her over the edge, There were plenty to choose from. "By all means, come in, Dr. Lecter. I'll meet you at the front door."

Mason tied on his dressing gown, hoping his erection wasn't too evident, because after all, it was a *thrill* knowing he'd driven someone like Margot to suicide. He did feel bad about it a little, she was his sister after all, and he'd grown used to being able to torment her without repercussion for the majority of his life. Margot wasn't one to take the chocolate, and that had given them so many wonderful, tearful afternoons together.

It took him a while to make his way across the massive expanse of the Verger estate to the front door, the silk of his dressing gown not keeping out the chill that prevailed in such a museum atmosphere. Dr. Lecter had to stand outside the front door a good long while, and though it would have been easier to just ring up one of the servants, the facts were he wanted to be the one to catch the doctor first and to hand over a pile of supercilious tears drenched in brotherly melodrama. Poor Margot. Poor, poor Margot.

He opened the front door with a flourish and cheerfully bid Dr. Lecter to enter. "Please, follow me, we'll have plenty of privacy in the drawing room. So you are Margot's psychiatrist? I'm sure she's told you *wonderful* things about me, so I won't bother trying to pretend you aren't part of our little family circle. Margot is disturbed, very, very disturbed. It's a complex thing, a relationship between a brother and a sister, especially so for twins, and my father was quite adamant that when we were born we were to exploit that connection to its fullest capacity. A fascinating man, my father. He built this empire from the ground up, and he did it with balls. His balls, specifically. He married my mother, who was a hotel chain heiress."

He ushered Dr. Lecter into the drawing room, turning on a few lamps along the way to give the room sensual shadows. The lighting wasn't the greatest, but he was sure the filming of this auspicious event would be clear enough, the camera hidden in the massive portrait of his father, a little digital dot in his twinkling eye recording this private family moment of grief and titillation. The doctor's long strides easily kept pace, but he stayed two steps behind Mason. "I take it Margot has decided to opt out of the Verger legacy. Such a shame. How was it done, did she hang herself, did she slit her wrists? I hope it wasn't an overdose, it would be a shame to know she was found in a pool of her own vomit, nothing worse than leaving behind a gross corpse no one wants to take pictures of."

He thought about Margot suffering through the throes of death and damn if he wasn't hard again. "Seeing as how you are a psychiatrist, I know you can imagine how devastating this is for me. Grief takes on such strange forms, doesn't it? I find that I'm comfortable enough with you, Dr. Lecter, to just let loose and express mine in the best way I know how. Masturbation has always been a highly effective tool for me when seeking release from overly emotional situations, and I'm thinking this one counts." Verger's hand slid past the waistband of his pyjama pants and he began stroking himself in earnest. If the doctor was shocked at his actions, which he'd hoped he would be, he never showed it. Fact was, Mason thought in interest, he hadn't said a word at all since he'd introduced himself, and while Mason was fond of his own soliloquies, this mute witnessing of his grief was rather telling of the doctor. It felt to Mason as though the lack of discourse was a dismissal. No matter, he'd rub one out and shoot his spunk on the bastard's expensive shoes. He'd at least earn a sneer of disgust.

Just the thought was bringing him close already. He closed his eyes as the room was filled with the wet slapping fwap fwap of his hand in the silence. He kept an image of a childhood Margot in his mind, all pigtails and tears. Sweet, sweet release.

He hardly felt it when the barrel of a gun hit the back of his head, knocking him out.

Is there ever such a thing as justice? Perhaps the fact that Margot Verger is still alive and well and having a lovely life with her partner Dr. Alana Bloom and though the Verger fortune remains tethered to the gonads of its patriarchs, she did obtain that which would be forever lost to her brother--A happiness borne of soul. Thus, when Mason Verger was found by an underpaid, insomniac chambermaid in his employ, his fingers missing, his tongue torn out and hollowed to act as a condom for his now permanently flaccid cock, his eyes slashed from a handy letter opener, it wasn't her fault that no one heard her bloodcurdling screams for over twenty minutes. That tiny, overworked, timid housekeeper permanently mired in sadness is not to blame for Mason Verger's stroke which killed whatever hope he had of ever bringing his traumatized body into a full recovery.

What they have by way of blame is the unmistakable form of Dr. Hannibal Lecter on digitized security footage doing things to Mason Verger that made a seasoned FBI agent retch and swallow back bile. The FBI still has the images of Dr. Hannibal Lecter's arrival, his crime and his exit on file and they have even gone so far as to make framed prints of them for display in the forensics department.

After his initial introduction, not one word left the doctor's lips, not one expression of disgust or malice as he visited the horrors he did upon Mason Verger's body. Cold, clinical and with all the boredom of doing a job, the deed was executed with assassin precision and, when it was over and Doctor Lecter left the Verger estate, he paused and lit a cigarette, his gaze drifting up with bland curiosity to the security camera at the front gate. He finished the cigarette slowly before tossing it through the iron bars with a flick of his bloodstained fingers and walked with smooth, long steps out of sight.

~*~

Will's mouth was dry as he sat in the passenger seat, his ear aching. There was a decided hum of anticipation as he sat beside Hannibal, one he was sure the doctor picked up on and understood. He tried to keep his gaze ahead of him, to avoid Hannibal's eyes and the swirling darkness he knew lurked within them, its fury glinting red. In the periphery of his vision, running alongside the Bentley and keeping perfect pace with it, the black stag hurled itself alongside their path, its ribs heaving as its misted breath gasped in exhaustion. There was no point torturing it in this way, for his inward sight was wide open and as Garrett Jacob Hobbs and his daughter had so fervently insisted, Will Graham could damn well *see*.

"I know you are the Chesapeake Ripper."

Hannibal smiled as he continued down the dark stretch of road, presumably towards Wolf Trap. Will found he didn't have the energy to fight, that he was lulled into a deep sense of lethargy that washed over him in shockwaves. He had no weapon, no means by which to overpower him and why would he bother when he knew, without question, this thing of darkness sitting beside him was made of iron strength and fury and any attempt to harm it would only destroy himself.

Will grit his teeth. "Are you sure you don't know where Nigel is?"

"I am not my brother's keeper, Will. Though I am perhaps his consciousness." Hannibal turned his head briefly, giving Will a smile that slid across his body with affection. "I have not killed him, if that is what you are thinking. I do love my brother, Will, for how can I not when he is made of the exact sinews and bones of myself? What he feels, I feel. What he knows, I know." He dared to trace a fingertip along the plaster at Will's injured ear, his electric touch making it smart. "What he loves, I love."

Will shook violently, the tremors in his hand expanding across his nerve endings, moving along the length of his spine. "You don't know what that word means."

"I have grown to understand it a great deal thanks to my twin, and you. You must not judge me solely by the surface appearance of my crimes, Will, and I am disappointed that you are trying to. I have heard it from your own lips that you can forgive my brother's crimes, and that you likewise love the Ripper." Hannibal's index finger continued to lightly trace the plaster that held Will's injured ear, as though soothing him against the harsh reality of the words going into it. "Much as you desire to, you cannot pick and choose amongst sins, Will."

Hannibal's cell phone rang, a low buzz interrupting the quiet tension within the car. He picked it up and handed it to Will. "It's Jack. I imagine you would like to speak to him."

With a shaking hand Will took the phone and pressed it close to his ear. "H-Hello?"

"Will! I've been trying to get a hold of you for hours, what the hell is going on? Why are you answering Hannibal's phone?"

"He's giving me a lift home."

"Jesus."

Jack's voice on the other end was muffled as he shouted to people in the background, a fairly loud collection from what Will could gather. He was familiar with that sort of inquisitive hub and the frantic, snapping intonations of the FBI agent. Jack was at a crime scene. "Will, you need to stall Hannibal. He attacked Mason Verger earlier this evening. Verger is holding onto to life by a thread. It doesn't look good, Will, it's a real carnage factory in here. We've got Dr. Lecter on recorded surveillance, and from the brutality I'm seeing here, I wouldn't even be surprised he's the goddamned Ripper himself."

Will couldn't answer. In his mind the black stag was attacked by a coyote, its throat ripped out by its vicious, wild teeth, thick reams of black blood seeping onto the tarmac of the highway. The black stag staggered from it, collapsing onto its hind legs as the coyote went for the softness of the organs in its belly, ripping the flesh apart in a shower of black feathers that collected in the air in sheets of soot.

"It's going to take us a few hours to get to you, Will, especially with the new snowfall in your area. Half the roads aren't cleared yet, we're having a hell of a time getting cars through. Keep him busy and don't let on that we know, we'll be there as soon as we can!"

"Right," Will said. He felt dead. It was hard to remember his heart was still beating.

"Will? I heard about the work you did with the DEA earlier. Good job."

Will frowned. The sting operation seemed so distant and strange right now, as though it held no real importance at all, and in the grand scheme of what was happening at present, it didn't. He regretted being a part of it, hated himself for putting Nigel through that torture and breaking apart his love so much that his own form of monster decided to shine through.

"Thanks, Jack," He hung up.

Hannibal let out a low chuckle, surprisingly devoid of malice. "Uncle Jack is sending the cavalry to rescue you. Tell me, Will, what has my twin been up to?"

Will's sight was marred by the glassy sheen of tears that spilled over his dark lashes in furious desperation. "He attacked Mason Verger. I didn't get the details yet, but I imagine he cut off his fingers amongst other things." His head bobbed as he turned towards Hannibal, unable to keep the monster in focus. "They've mistaken him for you. I imagine that's perfectly in keeping with what you have been saying to me. You are both the same, after all."

Hannibal happily grinned. "On the contrary, my brother has exceeded my high expectations. Dear Will, do not be so stricken by these wonderful revelations. Wipe your tears before I have to do it for you--How can you judge my brother for this, when it's clear you have his actions in your imagination, pasted in black and white photos in your mind and only now that they are brought into full colour you recoil from them. This is highly hypocritical and not in your nature. Discard your shock, Will. Be truthful to yourself in understanding what you really feel is adoration."

Will bit down on his sobs, hating how his mind curled tight around the blood pounding through his heart, the image of Abigail Hobbs standing in the centre of his brain with her whitewashed, dead eyes staring at him in cataract certainty. "You see."

The fact was cold, wrapped in claws he couldn't pry away from it, its grip on his heart so steadfast he was refused denial. He was terrified here in this car, with Hannibal, with the Chesapeake Ripper and damn if it wasn't so *thrilling*, so very *seductive*.

Will could barely find his voice. "I fall in love with monsters."

Hannibal's finger on the plaster turned into a caress from his palm, one that dove into Will's curls at the back of his head and pulled him closer to his chest. Will acquiesced to the touch, laying his head on the warmth beside him, addicted to the brute force laying in wait. He was tucked under Hannibal's arm as the man drove, his forehead dotted with soft kisses that were Nigel's but weren't.

"I need Nigel," Will tearfully confessed.

"And so you will have him," Hannibal softly said, bringing the car into the driveway that led into the suffocating isolation of his tiny house that lay floating on a cloud of snow. Will's car was already parked. "Nigel is home. What an auspicious family reunion this shall be."

~*~

Nigel burst into the small house, the dogs gathering around him in worried relief, one jack russell in particular instantly jumping up and licking his hand in short, happy bursts. Breathless and unable to truly get his bearings, Nigel staggered into the living room, the blood soaked suit he wore stripped and tossed onto the chair by the fireside. What a fucking mess.

Will wasn't home, which was yet another problem he didn't know how to address, the prospect of his lover being dead one too unbearable to think about. Right now, he had more important things to do, like shower off the remnants of Mason Verger's filth and then figure out how the fuck he was going to get out of the country.

He went up the stairs with heavy steps, pain coursing through every nerve in his body. This was what a broken heart did, it ripped through the entirety of your fucking soul and pinched you out of existence. The constant vision of Will standing in the reeds, clutching his bloodied palm to the side of his head--Nigel choked on it as he made his way into the shower. He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and felt a renewed sense of nausea overwhelm him at this blood drenched creature that stared back, the thing so unlike himself it made Nigel retch when it copied his movements. "I'm not my brother," he said to it, and it pantomimed his protest, mocking his self doubt.

The water was hot enough to drench the tiny bathroom in thick steam, but Nigel wasn't sure it would ever be hot enough to wash away what he had done that night. He closed his eyes over the thick stream that poured over him, the cleansing heat awakening that person he knew he was inside of himself. His mind kept forcing him to face it, to see the way he'd executed Darko's men, the way he'd shot that bastard point blank and then...Then he'd gone to Mason Verger's massive estate and rode on the memory of what he'd done in Romania all those years ago. These were not murders he'd been hired to do, but he'd understood they were necessary. Just like this one was.

He wasn't his brother. He took no joy out of killing, it was simply another tool for either survival or showing his might and nothing more. He had no grand philosophical reasoning to give his evil actions excuse. Killing Mason Verger was just some fucking thing that the world would appreciate, a different sort of aberration that had to be eliminated. It wasn't his fault the world couldn't find the means to take down that brand of monster. Justice has a price tag and Verger could match it. He didn't enjoy killing him but he didn't feel bad about doing it. Some wrongs just aren't supposed to be tolerated.

Clean, he turned off the shower, blindly seeking out a towel as he slid open the shower door. He grabbed the one nearest him and was instantly hit with a familiar scent that left him near collapsing to the tiles. Will. He buried his face in the towel, breathing in the last remnants of the man, his heart caving in. The vial of Will's soul was still around his neck, the leather strap soaked and bleeding black dye onto his shoulders. He stood dripping in the middle of the bathroom, the towel pressed tight against his face as he breathed the last of Will in, his sobs muffled within terrycloth. He stood there long enough for the hot steam to dissipate and the cold winter air to creep in and clutch at the dew of the shower still clinging to his wet skin.

Dazed and still clutching the towel, he made his way into their bedroom and was immediately struck by the unmade bed they had shared just that morning. The imprint of Will's body was still outlined in the dip of the mattress, the sheets and comforter tangled in a ball on Nigel's side. When he closed his eyes Nigel could still see Will, sleeping, his brow puckered in dream only for it to smooth out with a slide of Nigel's fingertip across it, the contented sigh that escaped him sending his stomach into happy flutters. He was never to have that again. A sorrow built up within Nigel that pushed every thought of escape from his mind and collected in the anguish of his heart. He couldn't live without Will. No corner of the Earth was far enough to run ahead of this sadness.

He'd left his gun on the fireplace mantel.
He grabbed a pair of flannel pyjama pants to ward off the chill and stepped barefoot out of the bedroom. His skin was still wet and gooseflesh puckered his chest and back as he began his descent down the stairs, the dogs gathered in a row at the base of it, the gun waiting with black purpose on the mantel above the black, cold fireplace. He walked the gauntlet of dogs who anxiously stared up at him as he reached out, pulling the gun into his grip.

The front door opened, and Will stepped in. Nigel just about dropped the gun as Will ran for him, tugging him into a tight embrace infused with hot tears.

"I thought you were dead!"

"Never think such things, darling, I'm indestructible."

His soul sang over this moment and when time turns back and memory takes over, what's recalled with crystal clarity is the press of Nigel's lips on his rough cheeks, the harsh, fierce clutch of his hands in his soft locks and always that trembling, needful relief that sighed in happiness in his arms, never wanting to let go. It was this that Hannibal cemented when he walked in behind Will, took a look at his ruined suit on the chair by the fireplace, and said, "Nigel, I really wish you wouldn't keep going into my room."

The dogs ran outside behind him and Hannibal locked them out as they bounded through the darkness, scoping out the property in yipping innocence. He placed a hand on Will's shoulder, his brother loosening his grip on the smaller man, too overwhelmed by the miracle of Will's life given back to him to exercise caution. It was a mistake he would forever regret.

"My dear brother, all that I have wished for has finally come to fruition, and I have you to thank for it. You will understand, in time, but for now this reunion must be one chiselled into permanence. What happens here decides our portrait." Hannibal smiled warmly while Nigel looked on the mad bastard in stumbling confusion.

There was the glint of something sharp and before Nigel could react, Will was wrenched from his grasp and pulled close against Hannibal's chest, the blade of a scalpel nicking at his throat. In one fluid motion Nigel aimed the gun still in his hand at his brother's head, his arm steady and true, betraying the assassin he was. "What the fuck do you think you're doing?"

Hannibal crooned into Will's ear. "You love him, Will, just as you love me. You know what he did to Mason Verger and yet you fall into his arms. You are as much my brother as he is, but you have not yet been made part of our blood. You are, at present, an uncomfortable barrier, one that must be reshaped to allow room for that which is missing to grow."

Will struggled in his grip only for the blade to dig deeper. Nigel's gun was trained on Hannibal's forehead, "You goddamned mad fucking cunt, you crazy bitch, let him go!"

"Can you kill me, Nigel? This is what must be done, and I am fully prepared to make the sacrifice. Will, or me, and room shall be made. Do you dare remove me from your life, my brother, my twin. I, who alone shares in the understanding of that darkness within you."

"What the fuck are you talking about?" Nigel wanted to shoot him, wanted to end this, but it was impossible, this was his *brother* this was his blood, how could even think to do this when for all those years he'd protected him not knowing why. How cruel this was, to be given family only for this bastard to wrench it from him. "Make room for what, you fucking cunt lunatic!"

"For Mischa," Hannibal said, as if the answer was obvious, and Nigel felt his blood run cold, the lingering memories of a scream coursing across his veins, a memory that wasn't his but he knew nonetheless. How could he think this would rectify that horror, what madness was this his brother inflicted upon the world for his own selfish sorrows?

"She's dead, Hannibal, nothing changes that."

"She can return to us, but a price must be paid." Hannibal kissed Will's temple, a tear escaping him. "They will arrest me for your crime, Nigel. They will send you in front of a firing squad for your apparent treason. We are to join her, unless you kill me, or kill Will and bring Fate into the equation. Can you do it?"

"No! Hannibal, stop this! That's not going to happen, Nigel don't listen to him!"

Will struggled and Hannibal held him tighter. No matter what, Will was going to be lost to him and the sorrow he'd felt as he'd stepped out of the shower washed over him in bloody understanding and, because all of love can turn to blood in the blink of an eye, he knew there was only one answer.

"Darling. I love you."

He turned the barrel of the gun on himself, pressing it hard against the bare skin of his heart, and fired.

Will collapsed at the click, his body reeling as though he himself had been struck. He stared in trembling confusion at Nigel, at the gun still pressed against his chest, at the inert click, click that continued to echo through the living room. Fuck's sake. He'd used up all his bullets on Darko and his men.

Hannibal's eyes welled with tears and a genuine grin erupted over his reptilian features. "My dear brothers, it is as I had hoped. Fate has decided we are to forever to be intertwined, never to be destroyed. I must make you understand this gift, we must baptize it, acknowledging the spilled blood of an innocent so that we are sealed to each other destinies for all eternity. For that is family, Nigel. We will always make room for each other at the table."

Hannibal's wrist was quick. The blood began pouring out of Will's neck as he sliced across the jugular. Nigel dropped his gun and ran to the collapsed form of Will, who was now struggling to breathe and hold onto his consciousness. Nigel pressed his hand against the gushing wound, a thick puddle of red seeping out beneath Will.

He could feel Hannibal slide his hand down his arm, his hand splayed against Nigel's as he guided it over the wound. His voice was delicate, soothing, a calm meant for his twin that only increased Nigel's panic. "More pressure, like this. Jack Crawford is on his way, you can hear the sirens already. That's right, my dear brother, hold your hand just like that. He may yet live."

Hannibal slid his blood soaked hand across his brother's brow, holding him in a gentle embrace that ended with a filial kiss upon his forehead. Though he wanted to attack him there was no hope for it, Nigel had to keep his hand on Will's wound, the greying of Will's skin a clear sign he was dangerously close to death.

"No...Will...No..." Nigel's tears pleaded, they tried to bargain, but none of this was in his power, Hannibal had made sure of that.

"I am so proud of you both, my dear brothers. But especially you, Nigel. My monster speaks to yours. Into the mirror we walk, in honest recognition." Hannibal kissed his forehead again, as though reluctant to leave this carnage and the creation he had etched into them. "How beautiful it is, the love of family."

The sirens were coming closer, and Nigel hoped they had an ambulance quickly following on the heels of the squad cars. There was too much blood. Nigel's tears spilled onto Will's terrified face, and he dared not lean down for a kiss for fear of loosening his grip and rendering the caress fatal.

Hannibal stood up and gracefully walked out of the tiny house, scooping up his ruined suit along the way. He carefully walked down the steps of the porch and towards where his Bentley was waiting. The door was open and Nigel watched as his brother washed his hands in the snow. He wondered if the ice numbing his brother's fingers was similar to the anxious wringing of death.

Chapter Text

HEART, MEET BULLET
chapter 11

"Baby, we're out of coffee."

Nigel stared blearily at the contents of his mug, a sad tea bag floating in milky beige liquid poking past the opaque surface. He already had a caffeine headache brewing at the thought of having to do without, but there was no one to blame, it was his own fault. He'd meant to stop by the grocery store on the way home from the veterinary clinic the night before, and he'd been so distracted by Buster's tummy trouble it had completely slipped his mind. The jack russell sat on his hind legs and bid Nigel a happy good morning, tail wagging and eagerly expectant for his usual treats. It broke Nigel's heart that he had to tell the little chubby bastard 'No'.

Instead, he sipped at his tea that would have much preferred to be coffee and contemplated exhaustion. Will slid his arms around his neck and shoulders and bent down for a searching kiss, his clean shaven face making him appear more pretty than ever and a direct contrast to Nigel's unkempt whiskers. Will was freshly showered, wearing a pale blue dress shirt and a pair of casual Dockers, his usual attire when heading off to Quantico to teach his class. He looked so pressed and clean, a breath of fresh, scrubbed air that was next to Nigel at the breakfast table, his body imbibed with a scent that was less flowery soap and more an edible sweet. Will used his cane to ease his way down into his seat and then propped it against the kitchen counter directly behind him. Harsh morning sunlight bleached them both, the warmth and promise of spring making the dogs lazy on the back porch where they lay in a snoring, furry pile, soaking up the rays. Nigel watched as Will grimaced over his own mug of tea, sinews in his neck stretching, the thin, red line of near death still in evidence just beneath the top of his shirt collar. As usual, Nigel felt an overwhelming urge to reach over with dampened fingers and try to wipe it away, to get the permanent stain of his brother off of Will's skin. The fixation was destined to be permanent, along with the hatred he felt for the man whose madness had nearly destroyed them.

"I ran into Jerry yesterday afternoon, he wants to know if you want to go fishing on Sunday."

Nigel made a face and pulled out the dripping tea bag from his mug, tossing it unceremoniously into the sink beside him. "Why the fuck go fishing at this time of year? They're only just fucking spawning, let the fucking things grow past minnow size first. He doesn't think, that guy."

"So you're not going?"

"Of course I'm fucking going. Where else do you have an excuse to drink beer at five in the morning?" He scratched around the large, white square bandage on his bare chest leaving superficial red marks on his skin.

Will sighed, looking on the bandage with such an expression of naked affection it made Nigel's cock lazily take notice. "It should be mostly healed by now, is it really still that itchy?"

"It's the fucking glue of the bandage."

Will smiled and dared to pick at the tape holding the bandage in place, gently pulling it off and to the side. He loved the way Will looked at it, the pupils of his blue eyes widening, the soft, sultry bashfulness of his lips as he licked them, getting ready to kiss. The tattoo was a bit of an impulse, made when everyone was properly healed and it was clear that life, and all of its wide variables, was set to become some weird version of normal that Nigel had never quite experienced. He shivered as Will's cool fingertip traced the outline of the heart--not the Hallmark bullshit, but a real one, a Grey's Anatomy black and white rendition with a bullet hole ripped through its centre. In the negative space within that cavernous circle there could only be one name. Etched in delicate, Edwardian script, placed perfectly in the dip of his ribcage. 'Will'.

He had it done the week before, an entire day in Baltimore making sure it was perfect. With his chest aching, the prickling of a million needles still etched in memory and blood seeping through his white bowling shirt, he had gone back to Wolf Trap, back to Will who was on the worn couch, going over student assignments. He sank to his knees, opened his bloodied shirt revealing what he had done and had told Will he had him forever.

The kiss Will gave him now, at the breakfast table, had not lost any of its expectant passion since that night, and Nigel returned it with fervour, suckling against his tongue and drawing teeth gently across the bottom of Will's lip. Will pulled away, his fingers teasing the bandage that hung loose against the frame of Nigel's heart. "I was looking at chapels in Baltimore..."

"Darling, we are not doing this in some crappy little cheap chapel. I'm not having some day-glo coloured Virgin Mary giving me her fucking stink eye." He crossed himself quickly at the blasphemy. "It will be summer, we will have it outdoors and if there is a fucking hurricane it will just have to wait for us." His expression quickly changed from annoyance to eager happiness, his maroon eyes lighting up with an inner fire that had a secret love of sparkling, shiny, pretty things. "I've figured out the whole colour scheme. Silver and blue. Matching suits, of course, and we'll use sparkling lights along the centre aisle. We can have the band they use at the bar, the one with the guy who has one eye, he knows some Romany songs. Some of the whores who used to work the clubs for Darko and are now stripping in Philadelphia, they said they're okay with being bridesmaids or something, just to give some fucking flash, and they already got the back order ready on the puffy dresses with the sparkles in the tulle. They'd better not mess with the silver theme, and I told them no nipples showing, we're keeping this classy."

Will's face was stricken. "Oh my God...Nigel..."

"I know, incredible, aren't I? I'm so fucking good at planning things it's crazy. The bartender's Baba is from the old country and she can do all the catering. She just turned a hundred years old and doesn't speak a word of English and once a year she butchers a pig in her bathtub. He's assured me she can cook. I told him, though, no fucking pork, and she's okay with using lamb instead and goat and probably some blood sausage and I'll let her have her way a little because apparently her fried pork testicles are to fucking die for..."

Will frantically shook his head. "No! Oh God, no...Nigel we are *not* having a big fat gypsy wedding! We've talked about this, I want a quiet gathering, close friends and family--No puffy tulle, no...Silver..."

"You're right, maybe gold and orange would be better."

Will rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Maybe we should ride in on a white horse, with pink hearts painted on its flank in food colouring."

Nigel's eyes went wide. "Darling! You are so full of such fucking good ideas! That one is going on the fucking list for sure!"

Will kissed Nigel on top of his head, grabbing his cane along the way as he headed out with his briefcase full of student papers. "We can talk about that list later. Have you got clients coming in for training today?"

"A fat bastard with a wheezing Rottweiler. He doesn't understand why his dog doesn't want to go for a walk. The poor thing is too fat to sit. Honestly, a fucking fat camp diet for the dog for the week and it will be fine. This dog training thing is a joke. They are animals, doing what animals do, what the fuck is so complex? It's quite something to be making a living off of people being fucking stupid."

Buster yipped in agreement, and Nigel gave him a scritch on the underside of his chin. The pudgy little dog followed him as he accompanied Will to the front door, a cigarette pulled from the pocket of his pyjama pants. He lit one up as the screen door slammed closed behind him.

"You should be using the e-cigs," Will reprimanded him.

"These haven't killed me yet, darling." He gave Will's frown a kissing reassurance. "I'll meet you at Quantico after your last class. We can have a palinka or two before we come home."

Will's eyes were soft as he looked on him, hesitant to go to his car. Moments like this were Nigel's greatest pleasure, the life they were creating cemented into them with happy resolve. "You like returning to the scene of the crime, don't you?"

"Always, darling. Every time we go and we sit in that booth--our booth--near the back, I find more evidence of how I fell so insane in love with you."

He couldn't stop himself from walking to the car, helping Will get into the driver's seat and, to make sure he remembered what was waiting later that night, a passionate kiss to get his day started properly. Drawn out and full of promises, lips crushed together with time ticking long between breaths, Will's face was flushed by the time he closed the car door and started the engine. Good. He'd washed off too much of Nigel's scent that morning when he'd showered. He couldn't let a day go by without marking Will as his.

~*~

"Orange and gold?"

"Those are my options. Seriously, Jack, I'm spiralling into a technicoloured Hell filled with plush toys and glitter."

Jack Crawford laughed, his meaty hand meeting Will's back. The absurdity of it was infectious, and Will found he couldn't stop grinning himself, his imagination spinning wild images of unicorns slugging through mud, the deadly Disney cuteness of it marred by an ancient woman in a grey babushka and black knee-high stockings, spooning wet slop into plastic bowls with a large, rusted ladle and a miserable grimace.

"He's a hopeless romantic, Will. Guys like us can't get through a day without some colour blind adoration."

Will's smile faltered slightly. His classroom was now empty over the lunch hour, and it was just him and Jack alone in the lecture hall. Will leaned against his desk for support, his cane propped beside him, images of murder and violence littering the surface and brought into warm relief beneath a brass table lamp. "How is Bella doing?"

Jack nodded at this, but he had a hard time answering.

"The cancer is still kicking her ass. It's getting close, she can't leave her bed any more." A moment of silence passed between them at the thought of the graceful, beautiful woman who was Jack's light, a woman who, when he first saw her, he understood was meant to be his wife. The bittersweetness of what was happening wasn't lost on Will, for where one joining was ending another was set to begin. Will could only hope theirs could be as good and as strong as Jack and Bella's was.

"Have you heard from him?"

Will felt jolted, the normalcy of the feelings and conversation taking a sharp turn into a darkness that he hadn't wanted to contemplate. He blinked and broke eye contact with Jack, his head shaking slightly. "Last week, on Thursday. I didn't bother telling you because, as usual, Nigel got to the phone and you know what he's like when Hannibal calls."

Jack gave Will a grave nod. Hannibal had been in regular correspondence in one way or another, and the calls always sent Nigel into furious hysterics. Sometimes the messages were more subtle, like the bouquet of sunflowers sent to their small home when it was Will's birthday, a not so simple message attached to it: "Happy birthday, Will. In blood, we are brothers. In blood, we are one heart."

Nigel, naturally, went ballistic, tearing up the sunflowers and littering the kitchen with yellow petals, the stalks hurled over the front porch as he spewed Romanian curses at his brother. "Why does he believe he has us, Will?" Nigel would plead with him. "Why does that bastard think I want any fucking part of him?"

The phone call last week had been no different. Nigel had just finished with a client whose shih tzu had a habit of peeing on a specific rug in her house. The solution was to get rid of the rug and get the dog a check-up with the veterinarian. A urinary tract infection was the cause and with a bit of penicillin the yippy little thing was sent on its way, whizzer free. Nigel's no nonsense approach to dog training was comprised more of intuition than actual knowledge, but people bought it and were happy and it appealed to Nigel's hustler nature. So when Hannibal called, he had been in a fairly good mood, one that was instantly destroyed the second he heard his brother's voice.

"You fucking dipshit piece of shit, you are fucking calling here again after what I said the last time! You want to kill me, come here and fucking do it you shit bag cunt!" Nigel, white knuckled and shaking with rage, screaming into the phone like it was Hannibal himself standing in front of him. "I am not your brother, you made sure of that you cunt! There is no room made, you fucking lunatic! There is no Mischa! Don't you get it, yet? You can't change what happens, you can't go back, you can only go into the future you stupid fuck--You sliced up Will and the only thing that's changed is that I hate you even more!" Nigel shook his head, so furious every vein in his neck and face was popping. "There is no greater good being made, you fucker! Look into reality for once--You were jealous and you wanted to hurt us both! *That* is why you did what you did!"

Will recalled the phone call with a weary sadness that always invaded him whenever he thought about Hannibal. He didn't want to admit it to Jack, but his empathy was always in full force when it came to him, he knew the man was not entirely evil, though it seemed like that on the surface. Nigel couldn't understand that Hannibal, being insane, found it impossible to separate his delusion of Mischa's resurfacing from nearly killing a man he believed he loved. Every act of suffering was justified, he wallowed in his evil without guilt. Insanity is the belief that one is perfectly sane. Will wasn't entirely convinced that Hannibal understood that the acts he committed were wrong. In his brilliant, madman, monster mind, Hannibal was patiently waiting for God to stop him, and since He never did, Hannibal assumed he had Divine permission. Considering how easily he could slip away from the repercussions of his guilt, perhaps he actually did.

"Will, you need to stop Nigel from answering the phone. You need to keep him from calling Hannibal back on those disposable cells he uses. We can't get a handle on where he is if Nigel gets in the way like this, he's reacting emotionally when what we need is strategy." Jack gave Will's long suffering expression one of his own. "Impossible, I know. You picked a firecracker, Will, I understand how hard it is to try and keep him from getting lit up."

"I worry about how the way he shapes his relationship with Hannibal is hurting him. Much as you may hate the guy, that's his brother, Jack. His identical twin. I know that every time he hangs up that phone he's asking himself how much of Hannibal is in him. You know his history, you know he's not been a good man, he's killed people. He can't find any peace in himself about it, and maybe he's not supposed to. But it wrecks me, the way he goes quiet for days, withdrawing inside of himself and hugging me close at night like he thinks I'm about to dissolve."

Jack frowned. "Hannibal has a way of getting under people's skin."

"Jack, Hannibal *is* Nigel's skin. You can't imagine how hard this is for him."

Jack set his jaw and gave Will a low, understanding nod. He tapped his thick fingertips on the surface of the desk, a frustrated sigh leaving him. "Just call me the next time and we'll get that trace started. We figured out the sunflowers were ordered online from Paris, but he's long gone from there now. With the kind of money he's travelling with, he can be anywhere in the blink of an eye." Jack shook his index finger at Will in admonishment. "Promise me you'll call."

Will nodded his head, and was glad Jack was not so discerning to detect that Will was lying. "I promise."

~*~

"How do you measure the insanity of a man?" Will paced before the screen, images of mutilated bodies strung up in artistic aesthetics clicking past with every push of the button in his hand. "The progress is thus: it starts with an idea, which moves into belief which eventually finds a rich, complex life within delusion. Eventually, that delusion must be shared. As we see here, the Chesapeake Ripper is a man who believes in his vision, but it is not enough to keep it within himself. As I had covered earlier this year, murder is communication. As he flayed apart the bodies of his victims, making them suffer for crimes he deemed dire, the Ripper made his thesis known. He would turn their sins into a canvas and elevate their pig, base existence into a creation of beauty. Within that blank canvas of communication more layers of meaning were constructed, careful essays put into place for a very specific audience. As he evolved and reworked his vision, the Ripper began to focus on family. He became obsessed with this concept, throwing out other, more lofty aims to suffer for this most basic of human need. To belong. Much as we sometimes believe we are comfortable alone, we are social beings, needing honest interaction and those who hide behind masks are perpetually chasing brotherhood. Some are psychopaths, and while I believe the Ripper holds many of those traits, he is missing key components. He does not do his work out of a lack of empathy. In his delusion he is genuinely believing he is making his victims better examples of themselves."

Will turned to the class as the last slide lit up, the gory scene of his own near death, the outline of his body in the thick swaths of blood that lined his kitchen floor. "I think it's rather telling that, like most of us, family has been the Ripper's undoing. Who can tear off our masks better than family? Who challenges us most and dares to shed all semblance of decorum and poetry in order to deliver the cruelty of honesty? We may be kings among strangers, but it's family that pulls out your inner peasant."

The back door of the lecture hall opened and Will watched as Nigel slid in. He quickly hit the button on his power point presentation and brought the screen into blank, white light. "I'm curious as to your arguments in this case and I want a full analysis based on the theory that he either is insane or sane. Pick your battle carefully, it's going to be thirty percent of your final mark."

Nigel slid past the throng of curious students as he made his way down to the lecture podium, quickly kissing Will without discretion. He gave Will a small smile, and there was a certain something lacking in the enthusiasm he always gave Will when he'd sneak into the lecture hall to meet him, the thought of actually being in FBI headquarters without risk of being arrested still a head trip that made Nigel dizzy. Not so much today, he seemed nervous for a different reason, Will noted, slightly standoffish. Weirdly formal after that kiss.

"What's going on?" Will asked, frowning.

"Can't hide a thing from you, can I, darling?" Nigel handed Will his cane, his fingers lingering on the back of Will's hand as he gripped it. "There's a package at the post office."

Will closed his eyes and swallowed deeply, feeling the pulse of blood rushing through his veins, the steady thrumming echo of his heart booming through every point on his body. "We'll pick it up on the way home."

Nigel's face crumbled in misery. "Why does he do this to us? I just want to know why."

Will placed his palm along Nigel's cheek, holding in a warmth neither of them could feel. "You said it best, baby. He's batshit fucking insane. Where you can see a point from A to B, Hannibal has to traverse the whole alphabet. It's a chaos you don't want to understand."

"Fucking psychotic shit." Nigel let out a shaky sigh. "Let's just go and get this over with. Do you want to pick it up and just bring it back here, let Jack and forensics go over it first?"

Will shook his head. "It won't do any good, you know that."

Nigel firmly pressed his lips together, clearly wanting to say more but holding back because he didn't want to get into a big fight with Will in the middle of Quantico. It was what talks about Hannibal always descended into--Will's quiet understanding versus Nigel's blunt, brutal truth.

~*~

The package was small, half the size of a shoe box, and while Will hadn't planned on giving it over to forensics, he couldn't help but follow the usual procedure. With gloved hands he carefully undid the expertly folded parcel paper Hannibal had wrapped the box in, his neat, dark calligraphy clearly spelling out their address in Wolf Trap. To: Will and Nigel *Lecter*. This alone gave Will cautious pause.

The box exposed, it was plain white, like the kind that come from expensive patisseries, and it wouldn't be unheard of for them to receive that sort of express post gift--at Easter they were sent an entire box of macaroons from Lauderee Soho in New York. Will held his breath as he cut the thread holding the box together, the sides flattening in artful origami as the contents were meticulously revealed.

Sketches of wedding cakes, cut out and arranged around a very light, delicate figurine, fashioned, presumably, from human bone and perfectly depicting Will and Nigel. The couple's topper for the wedding cake. He removed it carefully to reveal an envelope which he opened with a pair of tweezers, pulling out two airplane tickets to Buenos Aires. There was another piece of paper beneath the envelope, thicker, more expensive stationary stock that was Hannibal's usual, only this time it was lavender in colour.

Will could feel Nigel stir next to him, leaving the relative sanctity of their kitchen counter to reach for the letter. Will knocked his hand away. "Don't. Rein it in, you'll contaminate it if you touch it. This is definitely going to Jack."

"Like he can do anything about it."

"You can read the letter with me, but you can't go flying off into a rage like you always do. So take a deep breath and let's just see what he has to say."

"A bunch of penis pulling fucking nonsense is what it will be. If he could fuck himself in the ass every night, he'd do it."

Using the tweezers on the lavender paper, Will unfolded it slowly, but there were no hidden treasures within the paper, just the black, perfect calligraphy of Hannibal's script written in a style that requested invitation.

Dearest Will and Nigel,

I am very happy to hear of your upcoming nuptuals. Though TattleCrime is hardly the epitome of society pagers, Freddie Lounds' continued interest in your lives has created a bit of a soap opera buzz amongst those who worship at the cult of tabloid celebrity. Apparently, the flower shop owner on Gwynn Oak Avenue in Baltimore has loose lips in regards to your enquiries. Do not order from them, for flowers are impermanent and will not bring the beauty you have come to expect. They will only disappoint.

As Nigel is no doubt fussing and trying to rip this paper out of your hands, dear Will, I shall make my explanation as to this gift very brief. You are aware that I am holding Nigel's funds in trust for both of you and have been generous in anything you have required. I wish to extend this generosity towards the joyous occasion of your wedding. The plane tickets enclosed are to Buenos Aires, and you are not the only recipients, though you will have the honeymoon suite at the appointed hotel. Arrangements have already been made, and all either of you need worry about is catching your flight.

Though I am sure my twin is exclaiming in colourful language how much he does not want to participate, I trust that you, dear Will, shall make him see the reason in this arrangement. I can only imagine the chaos that is swirling about you at present with any of it being left in his hands. I am not unkind, Nigel, though you may think so. A wedding such as this is a formal, delicate affair representative of the Lecter legacy. Will, though bound to us in blood, is to be a part of that ceremonial pageantry that must accompany royalty. Surely you would not deny elevating the love of your life to the status of a prince? Whatever petty squabble you have with me, Nigel, please put it aside and think of the celebration of your life partnership.

As I am certain that there will be plenty of questions, and in truth I long to hear the voices of you both, you may call me at this number at your leisure. Only once, of course. The cell phone is disposable and untraceable.

Love,
Your Brother,
Hannibal

"Explain to me right fucking now why we are not ripping those tickets into tiny shreds and making a paper mache dildo he can shove up his asshole."

Will carefully refolded the paper and placed it back into the tiny wedding cake diorama Hannibal had fashioned in card stock, using black ink and careful carved with a scalpel. "He's genuinely trying to be nice."

"Nice. Right. I'm going to call that fucking number right now and fucking tell him how nice it is that he wipes his dick all over our plans and our hopes for the future and he is not to be a part of it, he is not on the invite list, he is as dead to me as a strigoi with a stake through its fucking ugly rotted heart..."

"Nigel..." Will gently took the cell phone from Nigel's hands. "I will talk to him. Go in the living room, I don't want you trying to pry the phone from me."

Nigel crossed his arms and shook his head. "You should be calling Jack Fucking Crawford about this."

"Probably, but I'm not going to."

"Why?"

Will sighed and braced himself for Nigel's usual onslaught of curses. "Because he's sick, Nigel. I know that you think he's done the evil he does on a whim, but it's never like that. He always has some larger aim in mind, he actually thinks he is helping."

"Killing people is his *choice*!" Nigel crossed his arms, his lips a thin line. "You always come to his defence like this. I know him more than you do, I know what his motivations are and they are fucking childish, fucking tantrums because he isn't getting his way."

"Not always." Will picked up his cell phone and began to punch in the numbers. He gave Nigel's scowl a warning look and nodded towards the living room, but Nigel refused to budge. "The thing is, Nigel, I agree with you. I think his actual reasons for doing what he does are based on very simple hurts. But his mind layers on meaning after meaning until the bricks build up to the point he can't see past his own convoluted reasoning."

Nigel stood behind Will, his arms crossed as the cell phone rang and rang. When it was answered, Will held up a warning index finger to Nigel to remain quiet, and it was Will who broke the silence. "Hello, Hannibal."

He could feel the happiness from the other end of the line, a giddy joy that was wholly out of place in the monster Nigel and Will knew so deeply. "I have been expecting you, but it is a special treat to be able to talk to you first, dear Will. I take it you have received my package?"

"Yes, we have."

"Be sure to pack light, you will not need much. Tell Nigel his hideous bowling shirts will actually fit in well with the tourist crowd here. The criminal element is also quite prevalent, I am sure he will run into several old friends." Hannibal's smooth voice was like velvet in Will's ear, and though he couldn't see it, he imagined Hannibal sitting at a cafe in some private area of Buenos Aires, sipping a dark, black coffee and appearing the image of gringo gentility. "He is standing behind you, I take it. Still holding onto his grudges."

Will glanced behind him at Nigel, who was silently fuming. "It's hard for him not to, Hannibal."

"And Jack? Is he well?"

Will bit his bottom lip, a pang of guilt hitting him. He'd promised Jack he'd let him know the next time Hannibal sent along a 'care package', and he'd lied. "He's not here, he's not listening in."

"Interesting."

"He has too many other things to worry about. As you know his wife is dying."

"How unfortunate it is that which gives us most comfort, the companionship of those we love, is so easily wrenched from us. A man can only render so much, but it is nature that is the force of the cruellest blow. Tell me, Will, my dear, dear brother--Can you convince Nigel to put aside his anger and allow me to give you both this gift? For he is not the only one who is getting married, Will. I am bringing you into my betrothal as well, whether he understands that or not. This is our marriage, too."

"No, Hannibal, it isn't." Will pinched the bridge of his nose, giving Nigel's pacing a furtive glance. "I am not shared between you, that is something you have determined in your own mind, it is not reality. The only person I am marrying is Nigel." Will sucked in a breath, his bad hand shaky as he held the cell phone to his ear. "My marriage to Nigel is a declaration of separation, Hannibal."

The phone was quiet for a long moment. When Hannibal's voice returned, it was calm, like the surface of a lake made of glass. Smooth and unyielding. "We are intertwined, Will. The bonds were made in blood and severing our connection would require a far more serious surgery than a formal, rather outdated, ceremony."

"If I gave you strict rules that you were to harm no one in the wedding party, would you agree to that?"

Nigel gave Will a stricken cry at this, his head shaking back and forth in a fervent, determined 'No!' He was seconds away from snatching the phone, Will knew, and if this was to go as Will planned, he would need to be quick about it.

Hannibal was painfully slow to respond. "I believe I can hold back. It is, after all, a special occasion."

"Then we accept. We will be in Buenos Aires two months from now, ready to be married." Will could feel the happy relief washing over Hannibal, the sensation of a cruel victory propelling him through the flames as his soul danced within them. No doubt he was currently sporting Lucifer's grin, all manner of deadly cunning swirling through his brilliant, broken mind.

At this moment, Nigel wrenched the phone free from Will's grip, his muttered curses giving him away. "Listen to me, little brother, I don't know what you think you are doing, but I am not going to be fucking manipulated by you, do you understand? I don't agree to this, not one fucking bit, and I don't know how you did this, getting into his head and making him think this is a good idea...I won't let you destroy us, you fuck!"

Nigel choked on something Hannibal said, wanting to interrupt but unable to. Unlike his usual calls, he listened this time, his throat working a lump that filled Will with concern. Nigel hung up the phone without saying goodbye, and without saying a word to Will he stormed off the to front porch, to stew in his anger and his sorrow, that familiar silence standing between them, holding Hannibal's shape.

Will placed the cell phone onto the kitchen counter and followed Nigel outside, the warm spring air of the evening pulling the promise of summer into it. He gently touched Nigel's shoulder with tentative fingers, and was instantly pulled into a tight embrace, kisses tearfully pressed into his scalp. "What game is he playing now, darling?"

"The one that we are setting up," Will explained. He gave Nigel's curious kiss a return of his own. "The FBI still believes it was Hannibal who tortured and nearly killed Mason Verger. Hannibal is not going to kill us, Nigel, that is not part of his master plan, he believes he has fixed us, has made us a true family, we are not in danger. But the longer he stays out there, the more the FBI will continue to investigate and it's only a matter of time before they finally make the connection to Mason Verger and you. We can only rely on Jack's tunnel vision for so long. This wedding may be the only opportunity we have to stop him and make sure he's imprisoned not just for his crimes, but for yours as well."

The whole thing clearly sat uneasy with Nigel, who embraced Will even tighter than before. "Darling, he has us strung up like puppets, ready to do his bidding. I don't trust one fucking thing about this whole 'arrangement'. You are asking me to betray my brother, and you damned well know I couldn't do it even when he pushed you into Death's arms. Even now, after all the fucking awful things he's done, I don't know if I could do it. I can't pull a trigger on him. Darling, it's impossible."

"I will." Will pulled away, Nigel's maroon gaze taking him in with puzzled confusion, as though Will were some new creature he'd never seen before. "I'll betray him, Nigel."

There was an ache in his heart over this admission. He kissed Nigel's lips with open passion before stepping away and going back into the tiny house they shared, shadows gloomily creeping over the sparse, worn furniture as night descended. There was a heavy burden in Will's heart that had to be lifted. Nigel's outline was visible through the thin curtains of the front window, and Will was struck with a longing that hurt more than the prospect of a painful death. He loved this man. He needed to protect him.

Will walked into the kitchen and grabbed his cell phone. He needed to call Jack.

~*~

Under the pleasant bruise of a purpling twilight, a madman sits at a wrought iron patio set on the upper level balcony of his modern mansion, a pattern of black roses solidly forged together. His appearance is as immaculate as his surroundings, his hair cut short and slicked to the side, its careful coiffure accentuating high cheekbones that lead to a sultry, pouting mouth that tests the rim of his wine glass. Dressed in a highly formal, fashionable suit that would take most people in this particular region two lifetimes worth of work to buy, he swirls his malbec in its fat wine glass and contemplates the beauty of the Andes mountains, which are directly in his sight. A broken disposable cell phone on the surface of the bistro table is the remnant of his latest communication. He had just finished a rather heated conversation with his twin brother, one that ended more abruptly than he would have hoped, but it was not unexpected. Nigel would always be led by his emotions. It was Hannibal who contained the cold measurements of reason.

"...I won't let you destroy us..."

"I have made you unbreakable, Nigel. There is nothing that can be done to you now."

It saddened Hannibal a great deal to know his brother still held onto this negative assessment of what he had done. If he had the power to actually think it through, Nigel would come to understand that Will's near death had done far more to bring them together into permanence than any whimsical marriage proposal, for in the event of such momentous tragedy there was no choice but to braid their love for one another with it. Theirs was the miraculous reunion, the power of love over the greedy snatches of death. How his brother could not contemplate the beauty of such a gift was beyond him.

Likewise, his inability to see the bigger picture when it came to making room for their sister Mischa, for she was destined to arrive in some not so far future, a beacon of innocence and light that would finally quash the unsettled, raging monster within himself and all wrongs would be righted. The process had already begun, for his bloodlust had considerably waned since he'd arrived in the province of Mendoza, and the bone he had whittled for their cake topper was of a deceased patient who had died of wholly natural causes. A young woman in her prime, struck down by a previously undiagnosed breast cancer that had finally metastasized by the time she'd arrived at his clinic for an examination. Jack's wife, Bella, was no doubt now heading for a similar fate, if she hadn't already. Parallels upon parallels.

He could easily become comfortable here, and though he wasn't quite ready for full retirement its lull was pulling him through easy days of sunshine and warmth, with nights such as this spent enjoying a glass of wine and contemplating the immobility of the mountains before him. The isolated village had quite a bit of exaggerated gossip about this El Doctor who had opened up a free clinic in their midst, treating the sick and performing small surgeries when needed. Rumours spread that he was a wealthy aristocrat who had escaped persecution in some unnamable, anonymous country ravaged by communism and war. It amused him how stories were created based on the bias of one's own history. Mostly uneducated and poor, the one central theme to their odd, simple musings was that he had come here and opened his free clinic not out of the goodness of his corazon, but for atonement.

He found such an assumption strange, for he had nothing to feel guilty for.

A breeze caught the vineyards in the distance, the slightly bitter scent bringing him back to happier thoughts of the upcoming wedding. He had already sent out copious amounts of plane tickets and had received ample RSVP's from various attendees--an especially eager one from the conductor of the Romanian Symphony, the entirety of which were to come to Mendoza to perform for the wedding. The one convenience of having unlimited funds was that one could bring the entire world to one's doorstep and it would nary cause a dent in the riches. Of course, he was a careful investor, the money was already making more of itself, and should Nigel and Will ever decide to get over their petty arguments with him, he would be more than happy to relinquish several assets to them. They were getting married, after all, and it wouldn't be long after this that nature would insist they begin to expand upon their little family. He would be ready when they did.

"Mischa!"

He paused over his glass of wine, certain he'd heard her name being called from deep within the vineyards in the distance, a happy, childish shout answering it. A shocking jolt of joy hit his chest and he breathed deeply, unable to fully bring himself into his usual stoic calm. Where was she, where had that name been shouted from? Hannibal rose from his seat to peer over his balcony, his gaze searching across the horizon. But there was no one in his sights, the area too rural and sleepy to give up more than the howling of a coyote and the soft rustling of dried grass reposing in the encroaching dark. The landscape seemed to be waiting for his approval to bounce into life and he refrained from giving it, allowing it to drift into an easy somnolence.

Right now, he knew, Will was kissing Nigel on their front porch, soothing words whispered into his twin's ear that would soon end in passionate physical expression between the sheets. He wondered if Will would call Jack Crawford and tattle over the gift he had given them. There was no need, of course. He had sent Jack Crawford an airplane ticket as well. Only one. He knew Bella would not be able to attend.

Across the vast distance, the dishes would arrive, topiaries and music and a cultural whirlwind of colour and beauty that this small little place had never dared to know. Hannibal was keen to inundate this small canvas with his own wide brushstrokes, a celebration of family that would be talked about for generations to come. They did not know it yet, but Will and Nigel were set to receive infamy in the region. As the table is set, there is room for everyone.

Let the feast begin.


~FIN~