All of their cases have involved solely humans so far; Will mocks himself for thinking that would last. The body strung up in the tree by its own entrails - the third one this month - looks ravaged, claw and bite marks having ripped flesh from bone everywhere one looks. One bite is so deep, the bone underneath is fractured.
All of these things are distractions, of course, from the core of the destruction: the first mouthful. Teeth sinking into the neck, seizing flesh in their grip, then ripping it all away like the wrapping of a present. Reveling in the blood that spurts forth like oil from the ground. He puts his mouth to the bare muscle, drinks from his prey like he would a fountain. He drinks until he is sate, then leaves his prey strung up by their ankles, draining every last drop of their precious lifeblood.
"They'll be collecting the blood." he says, pulling back into reality. "It's too important to them; they wouldn't waste it like that."
"What are they doing with it?" Crawford asks.
"Drinking it?" Will guesses. "Keeping it as souvenir? Hell, they could be using it as dye."
"Any of those things something a werewolf might do?" Crawford says it carefully, and Will can feel his eyes on him. He elects to keep his eyes on the victim rather than meet Crawford's gaze.
"We don't work by any different rules than humans. If a human might do something, so might a werewolf."
Crawford sighs. "Let me rephrase: do you think this was a werewolf?"
Will tilts his head. "The bite and claw marks will be consistent with that of a werewolf. I'm sure you'll find fur somewhere on the body, or perhaps even saliva."
"But you don't think it's a werewolf."
"I think someone tried very hard to make it look like a werewolf." Will frowns at the body, then turns to Crawford. "The other two victims, were they werewolves, too?"
Crawford looks to the body in surprise. "We hadn't thought to check."
"It could be a coincidence. Or our killer could have a taste for wolf blood."
"I'll have the lab check." Crawford steps away to make the call, and Will turns back to the body. With as much reverie as the killer had for the blood, they had no such consideration for the body it coursed through. No, to them, their victims are little more than blood bags.
Will looks up from his plate incredulously. Hannibal only raises a brow.
"You're serious." Will looks back to his plate, piled with eggs, bacon, toast, and, of all things, blood sausage.
"Is it not to your tastes?" Hannibal inquires, taking the seat across from Will.
"Not really, no."
"I apologize. Is it the meat? It would be understandable if you were averse to it, considering your history."
"Yes, and no." Will picks up his fork, poking at the sausage, shifting it to the far side of his plate. There are days where just the thought of meat makes bile rise in his throat, and others where he craves it like nothing else. He's unsure which he despises more. "Meat itself isn't the problem."
"Then it is what the meat calls to mind for you. I can make you something else, if you'd prefer."
"No, I wouldn't want to trouble you any more than I have." Will starts in on the eggs, saying, "My problem isn't that it's meat. It's more the… poor timing of the variety."
Hannibal nods, cutting into his sausage. "The recent killings. Victims drained completely of their blood, then strung up like animals in a slaughterhouse."
"Whoever it is, they're working very hard to make it look like a werewolf did it."
"This upsets you?"
"Well, it doesn't make me happy."
"Does it make you feel defensive of your kin? Or perhaps worried for them?"
Will scoffs. "They're not my kin. Even when I was-" He trips on the words, the proper descriptors for what he used to be lost to him. Letting out a huff, he continues, "I never really felt any sense of kinship."
"No one would fault you if you did, Will. It is natural for us to seek understanding in others. I'm sure being in a field comprised almost entirely of humans must have been very isolating to you."
"Didn't seem much different from before, really."
"But perhaps there was a new layer of disdain from your human peers."
Will smiles ruefully, lip curling. "Something like that."
"Are you glad to have been cured?"
"If that's what you can call it. I'm indifferent to it."
"If you were truly indifferent, you wouldn't resent your gifts so much."
"Who says I resent them?"
"You do: it is in your tone and body language when you speak of them. Do they bother you because they remind you of the incidents that occurred before you were cured?"
Will glares down at his plate. "No."
"Then perhaps it is because we all refer to them as gifts when they are the result of something you consider to be a curse."
"I thought this was supposed to be a friendly lunch."
"It was. I apologize for getting off track. Would you rather discuss the case?"
"I think I'd rather discuss you. It occurs to me that I don't actually know your stance on werewolves and other… cryptids."
Hannibal sips from his wine, considering. "I don't believe I have any particular stances."
"Your personal thoughts, then." WIll amends. Hannibal's mouth quirks in a smile.
"Very well. I think they each have their unique gifts that, when utilized correctly, can offer great benefit. Some to a greater degree than others, of course."
"Of course." Will repeats dryly. "Then am I to assume werewolves don't frighten you?"
Hannibal tilts his head, inspecting Will's face just as closely as Will is inspecting his. "I am aware of the threat they can pose, but I have no reason to fear them any more than I fear my fellow man. In fact I would say that in many cases, mankind has inflicted far worse things on itself than any cryptid."
"Our penchant for violence doesn't concern you?"
"I would say it is a symptom, like any other. A werewolf is as inclined towards violence as a pitt bull. Despite their reputation, much of their perceived nature is in how they are raised. Any dog can be trained into a vicious killer, and yet the pitt bull is viewed as a brutal animal. Guilty until proven innocent, as it were."
"You say that as though all dogs are the same. Like a pomeranian or a chihuahua poses as much threat as a german sheppard."
"In some ways, I would say they can pose even more of a threat, because no one expects such violence from them."
"Which do you think I am?"
Hannibal looks down at his plate, slicing another bite from the sausage. "I think most see you as a neutered tamaskan. Jack Crawford certainly does."
"I didn't ask what Jack thinks of me," Will points out, "I asked what you do." Hannibal smiles.
"I'm not sure you are a domesticated breed at all, William. Perhaps your bloodline is something more wild."
Will snorts. "You're saying I'm a wolf? I would have thought that was obvious."
"Perhaps. Or perhaps you are something else. A fox, maybe. Or a dingo. I will need more time to determine which."
"Let me know when you have." Will shoves another forkful of eggs into his mouth and, fuck it, he cuts into the sausage. There's a curious glint of satisfaction in Hannibal's eye that disappears as quickly as it came.
"I'll be sure to do that."
Lab results show the victims were all werewolves, just like Will thought. He mulls this confirmation over in his head as he listens to Katz, Zeller, and Price run through their findings.
Was it the taste? Once they'd had a sip, they couldn't stop there, they had to have more? No, no, that's not it. They worship the blood, but the taste isn't the strongest factor here.
"It's hard to make out under the, uh, damage to the throat," Price says, tracing a point on the victim's neck with a gloved finger, "but there are puncture marks here."
"He was stabbed?" Crawford guesses.
"Not quite." Zeller says. "They're shallow, almost like- like teeth. "
"Well we already know his throat was ripped out, how is that odd?"
"It's the shape of the bite marks." Kats rounds the table to point out the marks. "They're neater than anything here, and it's not a full bite. Only the canines punctured the neck. The other two victims have the same injury in the same spot."
"Great, so our killer thinks he's a vampire."
"The bites were made before the throat was ripped out." Will says. Zeller nods.
"We think so, yeah."
"A taste test. To make sure the blood is worth the effort."
"Wonder what happens to the ones that don't make the cut." Katz huffs.
"We'll check incident reports." Crawford decides. "Werewolves who have been assaulted and left with bite marks on their necks."
"I doubt you'll find anything." Will says. "We're already reluctant enough to seek out help from the police, what makes you think a werewolf is going to report being bitten by a vampire?"
"We still have to check." Turning back to the other three, Crawford asks, "Anything else I should know?"
"He died from blood loss, just like the others. We tested his urine, and there's no sign of any drugs used on him, not even prescription."
"None of them will be drugged." Will says. "Medicinal, recreational, or otherwise. It will change the taste of the blood. They want a pure flavor."
Crawford shakes his head and takes his leave. Will follows at length, finding it difficult to drag his eyes from the bodies. He finally manages it, and as he returns to his office, he tries to shake the taste of blood in his mouth.
"Do you believe in vampires, Dr. Lecter?" Will asks, staring into the fire in Hannibal's office. The room is silent for a minute, save for the crackling of the fire and the sloshing of wine being poured.
"I do not rule out the possibility." Hannibal finally says, appearing at Will's side with a glass offered. Will accepts it without looking. "There are already so many strange things in our world, what's one more?" Hannibal sips from his own glass, watching Will closely. "What about you, Will? Do you think vampires are among us?"
"Our killer certainly does." At Hannibal's silence, Will glances at him. He's staring at Will patiently, waiting for a proper answer. Will sighs. "I think it would be foolish not to. Just fifty years ago, we thought werewolves, wendigoes, and rugaru were a figment of fiction, and yet here we are. Maybe vampires are just more careful about revealing themselves."
"Certainly they should be; they have had ample practice, if their immortality is to be believed." Will nods, finally looking at his drink properly. He snorts.
"I don't know whether I should laugh or be appalled." He tilts the glass, swirling around the blood red wine. "Either way, I believe this is in bad taste, don't you?"
"I assure you, the taste is fine." Hannibal smirks as he sips his wine. "Though I do admit, the color did slip my mind. Would you like me to get you a glass of something else?"
"I'm inclined to question the ethicalness of you offering a patient alcohol at all." Nevertheless, Will sips from his glass. He's never been one to notice a marked difference between top shelf cabernet and box wine, but he will admit that this, whatever it is, is pleasant.
"I agree, it would be unethical of me to do so. However in this moment, you are not my patient, but my colleague - your appointment does not begin for another fifteen minutes. So until then, we are free to share a drink."
"Oh, then by all means." Will smiles wryly and takes another sip.
"You say your killer believes himself to be a vampire. Do you agree with him?"
"I believe they have all the tendencies of one. Whether that is by nature or by their own design has yet to be revealed." He sips again from his glass, more of a fidget than any real desire to drink. "They take werewolves to put us in our place; vampires are higher beings, resting comfortably at the top of the food chain. Werewolves are at the bottom, below even humans, but we're clawing our way up. They need to remind us where we belong."
"Restoring the natural order, as it were."
"And where do you think werewolves belong?"
Will is silent, mind turning over the question as he stares into the fire. He sips at the wine, trying to distract himself from the sensation of Hannibal's eyes on him.
"I think the world has a thing or two to learn about treating people fairly."
Hannibal watches the wine in his glass as he swirls it slowly. "You refer to werewolves as if you were still one of them."
Will looks down and away. "You know what they say about habits."
"It is only natural to feel a connection to a group one once belonged to. Especially one with shared sufferings. I imagine it's not much different from the other group you were forced into."
Will glances at the clock on the mantle. "Our session isn't for another eight minutes."
"My apologies. We will table that discussion for another time, then." Will would rather drop it entirely, but he knows saying that will guarantee the opposite, so he bites his tongue and takes another swig of wine.
Another victim is found. Will knows instantly that it's not the vampire. No, it's the copycat's hands at play here: the body is strung up like others, but their blood pools beneath them, hands stained red from slit wrists.
"Puncture marks." Katz calls from her inspection of the torn out throat. The copycat went deeper here than the vampire, ripping out muscle and exposing the windpipe. Visceral enjoyment rushes through Will; this was a rare treat - a brutal gesture not often indulged in.
"He didn't bother mutilating her like the others." Zeller notes.
"They have no need to frame werewolves for this." Will says. "They have a different purpose for this display." He steps closer, eyes locked on the pool of blood. "This is a gift-" he falters, amends, "no, an offering."
"To the original killer?" Crawford asks.
Will runs his eyes over the display. The victim is hung by just one foot, where the others were hung by two. Their arms are tied behind their back, rather than at their sides. The hanged man, in a sense. "No." he decides. "They're mocking the vampire - the vampire's displays offend them. But as they ridicule, they extend an invitation to someone else." His eyes come back down to the pool of blood. Water drawn from the well, left for expected company to partake from.
Will turns away. "They're looking for company."
"The copycat is lonely?" Price asks incredulously.
"Not lonely. They simply find the notion of a companion entertaining."
"Who do you think the invitation is for?" Crawford asks.
Will shakes his head, looking down at the ground. "No idea." Crawford looks at him like he doesn't quite believe him, but he lets it pass for the moment. Will lets out a breath and goes to wait until he is next summoned.
"I'm starting to think you have a cruel sense of humor, Doctor Lecter." Will says to the blood pudding being placed before him. "Did no one inform you there was another victim found this morning?"
Hannibal tilts his head, amused. "I was not aware. But I assure you, I have had these dishes planned since long before I knew of your current case. I do not mean to be cruel."
"I believe you." Will relents. "And it does look delicious."
"Thank you." Hannibal smiles, pouring Will a glass of wine before taking his own seat across the table. As Will takes an experimental sip, he notes it's the same wine he had at Hannibal's office. It brings about a bitter reminder of what was almost discussed over it, but Will is able to dispel it and enjoy the wine unhindered.
He fills Hannibal in on the copycat's latest victim over their meal. Hannibal drinks in every detail like a fine wine, then offers his own shrewd opinions in return.
"Do you think he drank the victim's blood, as the vampire did?" Hannibal wonders, wiping at his mouth. Will scoffs.
"Of course they did. They wouldn't have offered it otherwise. You can't seal a pact if only one of you cuts your palm."
"Very true. Who do you think is the other half of this pact?"
Will's not going to get away with a lie here, and he knows it. Half-truths, then - lies by omission. "Someone who understands them, or they hope will come to. They're seeking companionship. I might even go so far as to say they want a friend."
"Another vampire, made lonely by years of isolation?" Hannibal prods.
"They keep perfect company by themself. They have no need for a friend. And yet they seek out company."
Hannibal tops off their glasses, musing, "Then perhaps it is not companionship itself that he seeks. Perhaps he is only concerned with the attention of a sole individual."
"They're special to them, somehow." Will agrees. "A god choosing their consort; offering the sweet promise of immortality." Hannibal's brows raise.
"He seeks to make another vampire."
"If that's what they are." Will sighs, scrubbing a hand over his face. "I don't know, it could be a metaphor. They could very well mean to immortalize their consort in death. A magnificent display that will sear their consort's image into the minds of all who cast eyes upon them."
"He is putting tremendous effort into wooing this consort. You believe his only design for them is their death?"
Will shifts the remains of his meal around on his plate. "I'm not sure they've decided yet." He sets down his fork, then folds up the napkin in his lap and returns it to the table. "I suppose it depends on how their proposition is received."
Hannibal hums. "Yes, I suppose it does. Dessert?"
Will is used to waking in sweat soaked clothes, nightmares firmly slamming the door to sleep shut on their way out. He's not so used to being unable to get to sleep in the first place.
He gets up and shuffles to his kitchen to down a glass of water. He considers the sleep aids Alana stocked his medicine cabinet with, but those tend to only make his dreams more vivid. Instead, Will goes for a walk.
He lets himself get lost in his woods, knowing full well that his residual instincts won't allow him to get truly lost. Traces of his curse still cling to him, staining his skin like grease from an engine, reminders of it cropping up everywhere he turns. The universe does not want him to forget the trials it has put him through. As though he were likely to forget in the first place.
His house floats like a ship in the night. Will loses track of how long he watches it before thirst scratches at his throat, and he makes his way back to down another two glasses of water. It doesn't quench his thirst like it should. He drops into bed and buries himself in blankets, letting his dogs pile on and surround him in their warmth. He screws his eyes shut and wills his mind to quiet long enough for sleep to catch hold of him.
The next day, Alana watches him chug a whole bottle of water between classes with concern.
"Been drinking a lot lately?" she asks carefully, perching on the very edge of his desk. Will doesn't catch her drift, shuffling through his papers in a muted franticness to get his notes together for his next class.
"I've been thirsty lately." he explains.
"Are you coming down with something?"
"God, I hope not." Will rubs under his glasses with a sigh. "It's probably just from the stress of working in the field again."
"You sure? You haven't had any other… unusual cravings?" she asks it as casually as possible, but Will catches the implications. He peers at her through his fingers.
"I haven't had a taste for raw meat, if that's what you mean. This isn't like when I was bit, Alana."
"No, of course, I just- I guess I'm always going to be worried for you, waiting for that other shoe to drop."
Will shoves the previous class' notes in his bag rougher than strictly necessary. "I appreciate your concern, Alana, but I would inform you and Jack if I thought I was coming out of remission."
"I know you would." Alana says quietly. She opens her mouth to say something else, but Will's second class starts to trickle in, and Alana abandons her words, pressing her lips into a tight smile. "I guess I'll leave you to your teaching. Let me know if your symptoms get worse, I can refer you to a friend."
"I'll keep that in mind." It's non-committal at best, and Alana's lips tug down in disappointment. She leaves with an awkward nod, and Will finishes off his fifth bottle of water that day before latching his focus onto his lecture.
The vampire responds to the copycat, none too gracefully.
The picture painted is crude, with none of the delicate care that was taken with the hanged man. This was designed in heated anger, a scathing rebuttal to a calm assessment.
Wire coat hangers, unwound and bent out of their shape, hold the victim's limbs in their position. They hang upright, entrails wrapped around their neck rather than their ankles. A white rose is nailed to their left hand, the petals stained an ugly brown by dried blood.
Will can't help thinking the copycat would have done better.
"The Fool." Crawford huffs, staring up at the body. "Just what we need, a pissing contest between serial killers."
"It won't go on endlessly." Will says. "Our copycat will make sure of that. Their reply, whatever it is, will be final. They're not interested in anything the vampire has to say after that."
"He likes getting the last word in." Katz says. "Who wants to bet he doesn't even let our vampire get in a second rebuttal?"
Will echoes Katz's sentiments to Hannibal as he paces Hannibal's dining room, waiting for him to finish meticulously setting the table. Hannibal tilts his head, something like a smile ghosting his lips.
"An interesting thought. Cutting out the vampire's tongue to ensure he has the last word."
"Very poetic." Will agrees. "And after the absolute mess of that display, I don't imagine the copycat will tolerate such a shoddy existence within their scope of awareness."
"It certainly doesn't seem in his nature to do so. The question is whether a gnat like the vampire is worth swatting to him."
"I imagine we'll find out in the next week or so." Will halts his pacing as Hannibal pours them each a drink. Still that same blood red wine. Will downs it in one go, earning a somewhat offended look from Hannibal. It occurs to Will that this wine is probably meant to be savored, not pelted at his liver like a cheap box wine.
"Sorry." he apologizes, awkwardly setting his glass down. "I haven't been able to get rid of this thirst all week."
"Perhaps a glass of water is more suited, then." Hannibal says smoothly, ducking into the kitchen. He returns with a pitcher of water and a tall glass, and Will nods his thanks. "The thirst is a recent development, you said? You're not coming down with something, I hope."
"You sound like Alana, Dr. Lecter."
"It is in our nature to be concerned for those we keep company with. And as I am entrusted with your mental well being, it is not much of a stretch for me to be concerned for your physical being as well."
"Well, as much as I appreciate your concern, I can assure you I'm fine. Dehydration aside."
"Nevertheless, I'll be sure to switch the wine for something more hydrating when we share meals in the future."
"No, the-" Will bites on his words, yanking back his eagerness. "The wine helped, actually." He stares at the table, feeling something like embarrassment heating the back of his neck.
"In moderation, then." Hannibal takes Will's wine glass and fills it, but sets it to the side of his own plate rather than returning it to Will. "Once you have finished your water, you may have another glass." Will tamps down on a wry smile.
"Sounds fair enough." He finally takes his seat, and Hannibal dishes out their meal for the afternoon. "At least you've finally taken the hint about your blood themed dishes." A saltwater bass sits in the middle of the table, and Hannibal removes its fillets with surgical precision, delicately laying them in an arrangement of greens. A light sauce tops them off, something that tickles the nose with a promise of tartness.
"Your comments were meant to be subtle?" Amusement flickers in Hannibal's eye, and it coaxes a small smile out of Will.
"Something like that." Will waits for Hannibal to take his own seat before picking up his fork and digging in. It's as good as every other dish Hannibal has served him. Will tells him as much.
"You flatter me, William." Hannibal says, smiling demurely. "I don't usually cook fish, but this one was too good to pass up. And I thought you might enjoy it."
Will tenses, his hackles rising. Alana brought him nothing but fish and vegetables during the months after his remission. He hadn't had much an appetite for red meat anyways, but she was always so tightly wound while they ate, watching him so closely. Crawford still awkwardly pretends he has a valid reason to eat his burgers away from Will. And even if they don't say anything, Will knows his fellow agents question if crime scenes make him hungry.
"I would love to try a fish you have caught sometime." Hannibal continues, pulling Will out of his thoughts. "I imagine it tastes better if caught yourself, the same way preparing a meal yourself brings satisfaction. It would be an honor to cook it for you."
Will blinks, relaxing despite himself. "Oh. I thought-" he cuts himself off, shaking his head. "Nevermind. I would be equally honored to provide a fish to your kitchen. I'm sure you would serve it justice with your preparations."
"Indeed, I would." Hannibal raises his glass, and Will lifts his water in kind.
Will invests in a refillable water bottle. It replaces his usual coffee runs, but he doesn't notice any marked difference in his awakeness without it. Despite the steep drop in the number of hours he manages to sleep, Will feels perfectly awake, if somewhat cloudy-minded. Distraction picks at his mind like nails tapping on glass, but offers no alternate point of focus.
It's four in the morning, and Will has been staring at the ceiling for nearing six hours. His mind races, but it's the roar of rapids, individual thoughts lost to the rush of the water. He clings to his sheets, part of him terrified he'll get swept away, the rest of him yearning to be dragged into the current.
He wraps his hand around his phone like it's a lifeline. He doesn't know how he intends to use it to haul himself to dry land until Hannibal picks up the other end.
"William? It is four in the morning. I hope this is important."
Words catch in Will's throat. He feels stupid for calling him, but it's too late to turn back now.
"Will?" Hannibal asks, sounding more awake as Will's silence stretches on. "Are you alright?"
Will doesn't know how to explain that he's drowning, water rushing in his ears.
"I can't sleep." he finally croaks.
Across the line, the bed creaks as Hannibal shifts. "Alana tells me she has supplied you with sleep aids."
"They make the dreams worse."
His throat clicks with a dry swallow. "Yeah."
"Are these nightmares keeping you awake right now?"
"No, it's-" Will looks about the room, casting for the right words. "My mind won't quiet, I guess."
"Would you like me to stay on the phone with you until you calm down?"
Will hates himself for how good that sounds. "No- no, it's late, I shouldn't have woken you."
"It is alright to seek comfort in times of duress, Will. I would be glad to be of help to you."
Will closes his eyes. The rapids beat against his eyelids, trying to drown his brain.
"Will." Hannibal's voice pierces through the roar. Will can see it, Hannibal standing on the shore, holding a hand out to him. "Talk to me, Will."
"I feel like I'm getting pulled under."
"You are afraid of drowning."
"Yes." No. Not quite.
"Tell me, Will, what kind of water is pulling you in?"
"A river. The rapids are beating at my chest, trying to drag me down."
"Would you like me to pull you out?"
"I'm holding out my hand to you, Will. Do you see it?"
"Can you reach me?"
Will reaches out. His fingertips graze Hannibal's. "No."
"Yes, you can. Try again."
This time Hannibal's hand lands solidly in his. He lets out a breath of relief.
"It's alright, Will, I have you. Hold on tightly now."
Will nods, distantly aware that Hannibal can't actually see the gesture. Hannibal drags him out of the current, hauling him up onto dry land. Will collapses on the bank and gulps down large breaths of air. Hannibal places a hand on his chest.
"Beathe, Will. You're safe now. I have you."
Will keeps sucking in breaths, mouth working uselessly at words. Hannibal starts counting to him in a low, even tone. In time, Will's breaths slow, evening out to Hannibal's measured counting. Winston noses at his hand, and he releases the sheets to absently pet at his ears.
"Thank you." he says quietly.
"It is no problem, Will. How are you feeling?"
"Better." Will's eyes stay closed, now heavy with sleep. "Thank you, Hannibal."
Hannibal is silent for a few beats, long enough for Will to start to drift off. "Would you like me to stop by tomorrow to check on you?"
"Sure. Sounds good."
"Then I shall see you tomorrow. Good night, William. Rest well."
"You, too." Will murmurs, letting his phone fall to the side. He isn't sure how much time passes before the phone clicks in disconnect, but he thinks maybe it's a little longer than socially acceptable. With the call ended, the Hannibal in his mind stands and departs, leaving him with a towel laid neatly over his chest. When Will rolls his head to the side to look at the river, it runs red.
"I was thinking of going to see Abigail today." Hannibal says, carefully transferring an omelette to Will's plate. "Would you like to join me?"
Will takes a drink of his water, considering. It's been a while since he's visited her, the vampire case and upcoming finals taking up much of his time. Finally, he says, "That'd be nice."
Hannibal asks him about the night before on the drive over.
"No," Will says, "that was the first time."
"Would you like to recount the vision? You were understandably vague last night."
Will shakes his head, lips pressed tight.
"Very well. When you're ready." He shifts the car into the left-hand lane to make a turn, and at the light, he asks, "How are your classes going? Finals are next week, correct?"
Will groans, rubbing a hand over his face. "Don't remind me." Still, he's glad for the subject change. He finds himself launching into a rant about his students, indulging in complaining about their ultimately small infractions as though they were the worst kind of suffering that could possibly be inflicted upon him. Hannibal humors him, nodding along and making empathetic noises and comments at the appropriate intervals. Will knows it's constructed, and part of him envies Hannibal's confidence in correctly responding to social cues, but it's nice all the same.
Abigail is still somber as ever when they arrive - as she has every right to be - but she does seem to warm up at their presence, however slightly.
"Will has promised to deliver a fish to my table." Hannibal says over a chessboard, moving a pawn. "I was wondering if you'd like to join us for dinner that evening."
"Depends on the fish." Abigail says honestly, frowning at the board. She hovers over her knight, glancing at Hannibal, then moves her bishop to capture his rook.
"Any preferences?" Will asks, sitting back in his chair with a bottle of water resting in his lap. He watches them interact at ease, glad to hang back and let them do more of the conversing while his mind rests.
"I never liked salmon. Or sardines."
"How do you feel about trout?"
Abigail purses her lips slightly, watching Hannibal capture her bishop and place her in check. "I've never had it."
"Perhaps we'll side it with some perch, if Will can manage it." Hannibal says, flashing a charming smile. Heat creeps up Will's neck.
"I like perch." Abigail's lips twitch into a smile as she knocks over Hannibal's queen with her knight. "Checkmate." The corner of Hannibal's mouth ticks up.
"So it is. Well played, Miss Abigail."
"I've never been fishing," Abigail mentions, slowly putting the pieces back to their rightful places. Will blinks.
"Would you like me to take you?" he asks softly, afraid of being presumptuous. He won't lie and say he hasn't thought about teaching her to fish, or that his heart doesn't warm when he does.
Abigail turns to him, smiling almost shyly. "That sounds fun." Will can only nod, a smile of his own pinching his cheeks.
The moment, whatever it might have been, is interrupted by Will's phone going off. He checks it with every intention to send it straight to voicemail and apologize for not turning it off, but it's Jack's name that lights up the screen. Will curses.
"Crawford?" Hannibal guesses.
"Yeah. Sorry, excuse me." He gets up and walks to the other side of the room before answering.
"We have our response."
Will glances over his shoulder at Abigail and Hannibal. There's a note of disappointment in Abigail's eyes before she schools her expression and turns away. It makes his heart sink. "I'm in the middle of something."
"I don't care. Get here. Now." Crawford hangs up before Will can come up with an argument, as meek as it would have been. Will stares at the disconnected call screen until Hannibal's voice breaks his thoughts.
"Everything alright, Will?" Will turns to look at them, and it's clear in both their gazes that they know exactly what that call was.
"You have to go, don't you." Abigail says. Will ducks his head.
"It's fine." There is, of course, a note to her tone that says it isn't fine. "Go do your sleuth thing, catch a killer."
Will nods, retrieving his jacket from the back of his chair. Hannibal stands, but Will waves him off. "No, you stay. I'll grab a cab." After a moment of consideration, Hannibal nods.
"If you say so. Let me know when you're finished at the scene - I'll take you home."
"Yeah, sure." He only has the barest intention to actually do that, but his agreement seems to please Hannibal, lowering him back into his seat. "Goodbye, Abigail, I'll, uh, I'll come visit you again soon."
"I'll look forward to it." she says, smiling faintly. With a final nod, Will goes to work.
Temperance stands at the edge of a pond, one foot in the water. They are hung by their neck by their own entrails from the branch of a tree, and branches are tied to their limbs to keep their manipulated shape. In their hands are two goblets, one tilted as if to pour the blood it contains into the other. Jabbed into their shoulder blades are two large branches, spreading out behind them in the imitation of wings. Their neck is sliced cleanly, no need for the theatrics of ripping it out.
"Is it the other killer?" Crawford shouts across the pond. Will turns his head slightly to show he's heard, but keeps his eyes on the body.
The lower goblet is held forward slightly, tipped towards the pond; towards the viewer. An offer to partake of their own blood, to join them for a drink. A chill runs up Will's spine, like being watched, and he has to tear his eyes away from the blood.
"They're human, like the other copycat victim." he says as Katz, Zeller, and Price descend on the body. Crawford huffs.
"So our 'vampire' is just a deranged human with a thing for blood." he surmises. Will frowns, looking over the body.
"Thank goodness." Price says, taking a sample from the goblets. Katz and Zeller look at him. "What? I'd rather have human wackjobs than vampires. No? Just me?"
"This is not our vampire." Will murmurs. His skin itches, his gut telling him the copycat would have made a more mocking display of the actual vampire. "This is someone they cherished. The copycat stole them, and made them into a symbol of virtue. Stillness in the face of the vampire's chaos, humility in place of their arrogance. Forgiveness for their accumulated transgressions."
"He's trying to be the bigger man."
"In a way."
"So the other killer is still out there."
"It would seem so."
"Are they going to kill again?"
Will closes his eyes, viewing the display through the vampire's eyes. "Yes. But you won't find any more bodies. Not like this."
Crawford makes that face he does when a case leaves him no actionable paths. He works his jaw, then says, "Let me know what you find." and turns on his heel to stomp back to his car.
"Their heart's missing." Katz supplies helpfully.
Hannibal has a fresh bottle of water for him when he picks Will up, and Will eyes the fancy label for only a moment before twisting the cap off and downing a third of it.
"Perhaps you should see someone about that." Hannibal suggests mildly as they pull away from the scene. "Excessive drinking is a symptom of many things."
Will grunts in response. Hannibal gives him a look, and he amends, "I'm sure it's nothing. If it keeps going after this case and finals, I'll think about seeing someone." Hannibal seems to accept that as the best he will get, and probes instead at the crime scene.
Will gives him light details, mentioning the missing heart last. Hannibal's brows go up.
"Intriguing. What do you believe the motivation behind that to be?"
Will shrugs tiredly, sipping his water. "A message to their consort. And a message to the vampire. I think they saved the heart. They're going to give it to the vampire. An olive branch, of sorts. Or an amendment."
"A post-script." Hannibal adds, mouth ticking up in a smile. Will snorts.
"Yeah, exactly." His eyelids slip, and he drifts for a few moments before dragging them back open. "How was the rest of your visit with Abigail?"
"Very good. She seems excited about your fishing trip."
"I am, too."
"I think it will be good for the both of you."
"I'd offer to bring you along, but somehow I can't picture you thigh deep in a river, wearing rubber overalls." The look of pure disgust that crosses over Hannibal's face is all the confirmation Will needs.
Over Will's laughter, Hannibal says, "I find fishing to be an interesting pastime. But you are correct, you could not get me to wear those if my life depended on it."
"Mm." Will tips his head back against the headrest, letting his eyes fall shut. "You stay out of my rivers, I'll stay out of your kitchen."
The humor in Hannibal's voice as he says, "Agreed." sends a nice burble of something through Will's chest. He elects not to examine it too closely, instead letting the gentle thrum and bumps of the car lull him to sleep.
The red river rushes past, frothing pink and washing viscera onto the shore. Will's mouth is dry with thirst, and he grapples with the urge to kneel by the water and drink.
Movement in the water catches his eye, the pitch black form standing out starkly against its red surroundings. The ravenstag stands perched on a boulder in the middle of the rapids. It meets Will's eyes steadily, then nods to the water. Will runs his tongue over his dry lips, telling himself he's not dying of thirst.
The ravenstag tilts its head, then huffs, almost in disappointment, before turning and wading into the water. It is engulfed up to its neck, but it moves effortlessly upstream and out of sight. Will steps back from the water to keep himself from diving in after it.
"Will." Hannibal shakes him gently, rising him from his slumber. Will blinks sleepily, panicking for half a second before he gets his bearings. They're in front of his house, his dogs all peering out the windows, eagerly waiting for him to come inside.
"Sorry, dozed off." Will sits up, rubbing his neck in embarrassment. "Thanks, uh, for driving me."
"It's no trouble." Hannibal assures him. "Would you mind terribly if I came in and made you dinner?"
"You don't have to-"
"For my own peace of mind. Your sleep seemed troubled."
Will looks down at his lap. "Yeah."
"The river again?"
"I was to the side of it this time. I was so, so thirsty, but…" He can't bring himself to say it, to reveal the pull he's been feeling.
"You were afraid of falling in." Hannibal finishes for him. Will nods. It's not lying if he doesn't correct Hannibal's assumptions.
"Let us go in and eat." Hannibal says, opening the driver's door. "Easier to discuss things over a hearty meal." A smile tugs at Will's mouth, and he fumbles with his own door for a moment before Hannibal appears to open it for him. He nods an awkward thanks and lets himself be led up to his front door.
His dogs swarm him once he's inside, a few of them nosing Hannibal for treats but abandoning that endeavor quickly. Hannibal heads straight for the kitchen, and Will trails after him to feed his dogs.
He settles at the counter to watch Hannibal cook, and Hannibal supplies him with a hot mug of cocoa. Will wasn't aware he had any cocoa, but as soon as he takes a sip, it becomes abundantly clear that this didn't come from a packet.
Will curls around his mug of liquid comfort and muses when Hannibal had the time to stock his kitchen. Between visiting Abigail and coming to pick him up? Or maybe he snuck the groceries in this morning while Will was still groggy with sleep and frayed with embarrassment. Whenever he did it, Will suspects Hannibal got enough to keep Will decently fed throughout the week.
Hannibal slides a plate towards him. "Salmon, jasmine rice, and walnuts, with a cherry glaze. Perfectly formulated to encourage restful sleep."
"A cup of chamomile tea wouldn't do?" Will asks amusedly.
"I thought some rich chocolate and a good meal were better suited to your needs."
Will can't really argue with that. "Thank you."
"I'm taking the liberty of preparing you a few other meals for this week." Hannibal continues. Will nods, unsurprised. "They will help you rest easier, and hopefully lessen your dehydration problem to some degree."
"Worth a shot," Will shrugs, accompanying his words with a gulp of his cocoa before folding into his meal.
After dinner, Will leaves the kitchen to Hannibal and retires to his bed. Probably a placebo effect, but he does feel closer to restful sleep than he has in a long while.
He curls up with his dogs around him and falls asleep to the soft sounds of Hannibal cooking.
Alana brings him soup between classes. It's in a thermos, pureed so finely that he can sip it as easily as any other drink. When he tells her he appreciates it, he means it. She tells him it's no problem and bites back another offer to set an appointment up for him. He appreciates that, too.
"I hear you went to see Abigail yesterday." She broaches the topic softly, leaving him room to decline it.
"Yeah," he says, letting himself smile. "It went well, I think. She wants to learn to fish."
"That sounds fun." She returns his smile, much more relaxed as he accepts the conversation. "I'm glad. For the both of you." He wilts under the raw emotion in her eyes, ducking his head. She leans back in her chair, poking at her salad and giving him space to recover.
Once Will can look back at her, she asks, "How did it go with Hannibal?"
Heat creeps upon him, his mind calling forth Hannibal in his kitchen yesterday morning, last night, and the voicemail he'd woken to this morning. It was a brief message, simply expressing that Hannibal hoped he'd slept well, and a suggestion to follow the dates on the food he'd left in the fridge. It left something warm in Will's chest that persisted well through the morning.
"Abigail said they played chess." Alana prompts when Will pauses for too long. "She didn't offer much else. I wanted your perspective on their interaction."
Will blinks. "Oh. Yeah, they- they get along well." He clears his throat, taking a sip from his soup for a moment to clear his head. "I think she feels closer to him than to me." He realizes how that sounds, and quickly amends, "I don't mean that in a bitter way. I'm just stating facts."
"Of course." Alana nods easily. "I think she needs more time; to process what's happened to her and how you - the both of you - fit into it. But if she's asking you to teach her to fish, then she must be making progress."
"I hope so." He imagines a world where Abigail is released from the hospital, and she comes to live with him. Or maybe she'd prefer to live at Hannibal's. Either way, Will would make sure to take her fishing regularly. He imagines Hannibal would teach her to cook. She'd be a quick study for both. She'd never call either of them father, but in time their names might become synonymous with it in her mind.
Will wonders what parenthood with Hannibal would be like.
He listens to the voicemail again as he heats up dinner. That same warm feeling burrows into his chest, making him wish Hannibal were here with him in his kitchen, cooking side by side, rather than Will standing alone, reheating the remains of his visit. Hannibal's cooking is fantastic, even reheated, but something is lost in the time it sits in the fridge. Maybe it's the same thing missing from the voicemail.
He sets his phone across the room when he goes to bed. His mind wraps around the morning sun lighting Hannibal as he cooked breakfast, the fond crinkle in his eyes with Abigail, his voice pulling Will out of the water.
Sleep finds him with an ache he can't identify.
Three bodies lie at the edge of a forest, piled on top of each other as though someone simply shoved them out of a car and drove on. Their throats are ripped out, their ankles and wrists marked by absent bindings. Will feels the vampire in his mind when he looks at them.
"They're giving up." he says. "It's not worth doing this without her."
"He's going to stop killing?" Crawford asks skeptically.
"No. But they'll be quieter about it. The motivation to display them is gone."
"Thought we were thinking the motivation was to shit on werewolves." Katz says, looking up at him.
"They were doing it for her. She was attacked by a werewolf, or someone close to her was. The vampire had their own motivations added onto it, but at the core, it was for her."
"He didn't do a very good job of cleaning these." Price says, finding a hair on one of the bodies. "All the others were scrubbed clean before they were staged."
"I want to know everything you find on these." Crawford orders. "Down to the last particle."
"With all this and Temperance's ID, I think we might have enough to catch them." Katz flashes Will a hopeful smile. Will almost returns it.
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves." Crawford says. "Get these back to the lab and comb 'em. Double time."
Will rides with Beverly back to Quantico. She plays rock music at a comfortable level and offers him a bottle of water from the back seat. She expresses her relief that this case might finally shut, and Will nods along.
"So," she says at length, easing onto the freeway that will take them home. "Lecter picked you up the other day?"
Heat washes over the back of Will's neck. "We were visiting Abigail when I got called away. He offered me a ride home when I finished."
"Mhm." When he glances at her, Will finds Beverly's lips quirked in a smile. "Don't worry, I'm just teasing. That's the closest I've seen to you having a personal relationship."
Will opens his mouth to deny it, to insist his and Hannibal's relationship is one of patient and psychiatrist, but the words die on his tongue. He flushes and drinks to wash away the faint bitterness of lies. He digs for better words. What he comes up with is, "I have friends."
Beverly laughs lightly. "Well, Alana, me, and the boys are a given. There's still that distance, though. Don't worry, I'm not offended by it. I get it. But I didn't see as much of that distance with Lecter."
She's right. Fuck, she's right. Will thought, if anyone, he was closest to Alana, but maybe-
"You should totally tap that."
Will splutters. Beverly's laugh rings clearly through the car, unashamed.
"That's not-" Will stammers. "I don't- I've never-" He presses a hand over his mouth, muttering, "Jesus, Beverly."
"Kidding! Man, the look on your face." She laughs at his expense a while longer, then with a fond sigh, she says, "Oh, you're so much fun to mess with."
"Thanks." Will says dryly. He kind of likes it, though. Beverly makes talking to her almost effortless.
"You ever thought about it?" she asks a while later, quieter, more genuine. Not teasing. Will considers. Into his silence, Beverly adds, "It's totally cool if you have, man. I'm not one to judge crap like that." Will wasn't nervous about that aspect, but he appreciates the sentiment.
"I'm not sure if I have." he answers honestly. In his waking moments, he knows he hasn't. But on the rare occasion his dreams present him a warm body, he always wakes with the details fogged over. He thinks about Hannibal in his kitchen, humming a faint tune as he cooks, warmth curling through Will as he sips his cocoa and watches. His face heats. "I don't think I'd be opposed."
"Then by all means, you should definitely tap that." She flashes him a wide grin, and Will ducks his head as he returns it.
He finds himself thinking about it as he warms dinner. He casts the thought out quickly and focuses on his meal: honey-glazed slices of elk over iceberg lettuce and topped with shaved almonds - Hannibal clearly labelled every dish.
It comes back to him as he's settling into bed. Relaxed with a full belly and feeling sleep gently pulling at him, he indulges in the thought.
He pictures Hannibal's skilled hands on him, moving over him and into him with his surgeon precision; his mouth running over Will's chest, first kissing, then biting into his skin. He bites Will's hip hard enough to draw blood, then immediately soothes it with his tongue. Will tangles his hand in Hannibal's hair as he takes Will's cock into his mouth. Will can only take so much of it before he tugs on Hannibal's hair, dragging him up to grind against him and lick into his mouth. It tastes like that wine Hannibal keeps giving him.
Will shoves his hand against his mouth, biting down on it as he comes more intensely than he has in a long while. Copper bitters his tongue. He lets himself savor the aftershocks, entertaining the idea of trying to roll into another orgasm, but he knows that more likely than not it will just leave him disappointed. Instead he strokes himself until discomfort starts to tint the pleasure, and lets his hands drop to the side.
Regret seeps its cold fingers into him quickly. He kicks himself out of bed and goes to rinse the wound on his hand, then chugs two glasses of water before hiding under his covers, suddenly wide awake.