Beverly loved her job, she really did. She liked her team, she liked her boss, she even liked poking through dead people's clothes—if there was any part of it she didn't like, she would've quit a long time ago.
She'd been having kind of a crappy day to begin with, though, and the multiple homicide they'd just cleaned up on Virginia Beach wasn't exactly helping. The bodies had been wrapped up in colorful Walmart beach towels, which meant that if she hadn't already worked about thirteen straight hours, she would've been in the lab dusting flakes of skin off of tiny cheap cotton fibers for another four or five.
"Great," she muttered as they bagged the last towel. "I get to sweep Spider-Man's face all morning tomorrow. These guys could at least shop at the mall."
"I like how that's your idea of a bad time," Jimmy said, rolling his eyes. "You're getting catty. Go home. Sleep."
"I'm not sleepy, but 'catty'? Not a bad guess."
"Oh, no," Jimmy said, his eyebrows drawing together and his lips puckering. "Still nothing from Patrick?"
"Worse than nothing." She considered stopping there, but with a lead-in like that she'd just be getting text messages all night. She bit her lip. "The guy is engaged."
Jimmy touched his hand to his chest, aghast. "No!"
"He's coming by tonight to pick up his shirts," she continued, feeling a surge of irritation at how plain put out she sounded. She'd barely known the guy. "If it's between dealing with that and our Walmart mummies, I might hold out a little for mummies."
Jimmy tugged off a glove to give her a warm pat on the shoulder. "You should stay at somebody else's place tonight, Bev. Let him take his stuff and go." He withdrew his hand, grinning. "But my place is a no-go. I got guests."
"Thanks for almost offering, anyway." She tilted her head towards where Will was pacing back and forth on the ruddy sand, probably retracing the steps of the killer. Or maybe he just liked pacing. "Is he almost done, Dr. Lecter?"
Lecter glanced down at her with raised eyebrows, as though he hadn't expected to be addressed. He had been standing like a statue since he climbed out of his car, watching the cleanup procedures without comment. "You are going to ask him if you can sleep with him?"
"What? No. What?"
"Just checking," Lecter said, mirth crinkling the corners of his eyes. Then he turned his attention back to Will with an intensity that used to be creepy but now seemed basically normal. Truth be told, Beverly had quickly gotten used to the gargoyle-like way Lecter lurked around crime scenes. He was easy on the eyes, never got in the way, and always had some left-field philosophical or scientific insight to offer if somebody asked. Also, yeah, mostly incredibly easy on the eyes.
As if he was reading her mind, or in the more likely event that he was just being a jackass, Jimmy piped up with, "Dr. Lecter! You got a place for Beverly tonight? She got dumped."
"I heard," Lecter said at length, most likely biting back a retort about how he'd been standing there the whole time. "Are you alright, Miss Katz?"
Beverly weighed her options, a long list of possible responses, and decided to go for broke. Not like she had to hang out with the guy if this went badly. "I don't know. Is there an answer to this question that leads to me sleeping over?"
Lecter stared at her.
"What do you say, Doc?" Beverly continued, pulling off her latex gloves with a snap and throwing a wink in his direction. "You wanna get out of here?"
Lecter looked at her again with that same expression of modest surprise. "Miss Katz," he said, the ghost of a smile flitting across his face, "this is hardly behavior befitting a grisly crime scene."
"This is my nine-to-five."
"Beverly," Jack said, stepping close from the shoreline, "Will needs him here. Will—?"
She glanced over at Will, who to her surprise had been actually paying attention to them and not the zipped-up cadaver pouches that were still being hoisted carefully from the beach. He was looking between her and Lecter, eyeing her up and down the way he always did when he couldn't look at her face—but he'd never seemed to have the same trouble with Lecter, and during a last, lingering staring contest between the two of them, his mouth and hands twitched like they were trying to do something his voice couldn't.
If Will did have some kind of secret spasm language, though, Lecter's internal translator was taking the day off. He only turned to Jack and said, "We're finished here, are we not?"
"Everything's bagged and tagged," Beverly piped up.
"Well. How does dinner at my place sound, Miss Katz?"
Lecter stepped over to her and offered her an elbow, because apparently he was a transplant from a different century or some kind of gentleman planet where everyone wore paisley ties. She slipped her arm through his, shooting Jack and Jimmy a victory smirk as soon as Lecter wasn't looking.
"Lecter," Will said suddenly, the sound kind of staggered.
Lecter turned to him, concern writ all over his face. "What is it, Will?"
Beverly liked Will a lot, she really did, but the look on his face clearly suggested one therapist wasn't enough if that therapist had a social life. He opened his mouth to say something else, then closed it and shook his head.
"It can wait," he said tersely. He turned back to the scene and hunkered down over the bloody sand without another word.
Lecter tipped his head to one side, probably his version of a shrug. Then he looked down at Beverly.
"Let's go," he said, cheerful somewhere in all that granite, leading her to his car.
Lecter's house was gorgeous in a way Beverly had only seen in Martha Stewart catalogues, though she suspected Martha Stewart would've opted for a little less red. He helped her out of her windbreaker as she stood gazing distractedly at the walls, upon which hung landscape paintings on canvasses that stood at least as tall as schoolchildren.
"I squeezed out all the art in my brain to make room for fun with fibers," she said, "but these are ink wash paintings, aren't they?"
"Correct. They call it sumi-e in Japan." Lecter shrugged off his own coat and hung it carefully the rack as well. Then he folded his blazer over his forearm and fell in step beside her, though he seemed bored at the sight of his work. "A relative took an especial interest in my artistic education, and lately I've found myself inspired."
"Good investment," she murmured. It was way too easy to picture him in front of a canvas, ink spattered on his massive forearms, Beethoven or Schubert in the background and a forest translating itself from his mind's eye to reality. She'd always had kind of a thing for artsy guys. It was probably that whole theory about opposites attracting, since she'd been up to her ears in chemistry since she was a teenager.
"You're very privileged to be seeing these, Miss Katz," Lecter said, the corners of his mouth lilting upwards. "They were only meant to be up until I completed something better."
"What're you working on now?"
"Quite a lot of things at once, unfortunately. But at least one future masterpiece, given time and patience." He extended an arm to the kitchen and bowed at the neck. "Now, I believe you were here for dinner."
He did, in fact, like to put on classical music while he cooked. Nailed it, she thought, as Tchaikovsky began to waft through every passage in the house.
He sat her down across the burners with a glass of chardonnay. "1999 Montrachet," he said, "in pursuit of excellence. Cheers."
"Cheers." The wine had a little citrus tang. Beverly nursed it silently, watching him pull spices and sauce from the cabinets, vegetables from the fridge, a hand-packaged cut of chicken from the freezer. "You don't have to go the whole nine yards, you know. A girl could get the wrong idea."
Lecter gave her a knowing look from beneath his hair. "But you won't, Miss Katz, hence you are here." He arranged some onions and ginger on the cutting board and then gestured to the remaining ingredients. "Besides, I would hardly call stir fry 'the whole nine yards'."
"Jack said you fed him some kind of French biscuit, and I get stir fry?"
"Nights like these are rare for me," he admitted, his knife whispering quick and clean over the cutting board. "I have to balance a natural inclination towards pleasing my guest with a more urgent, carnal one."
"Towards pleasing your guest?" Beverly supplied, eyebrows arched, her gaze lingering on his arms and the cut of his shirt. She'd checked him out before, yeah, but at least this time she'd been invited.
He laughed. "Was that not already implied?"
If it were up to her, she wouldn't have picked the big expansive dinner table. She tried to protest when he was lighting the candles and dimming the chandelier because, okay, if this wasn't nine yards then it was at least an excessive seven.
But the food was fantastic for a quick meal, and even if Beverly hadn't come here with one thing on her mind, it wasn't so bad talking about nothing with a guy she'd gotten kind of used to seeing around. One of the softer candles had even burnt out halfway before she realized there were about two inches left in the bottom of the Montrachet, and while it was hardly enough to get her drunk, it sure explained why they were talking about Will.
"Honestly," she found herself saying, her chin on her hand, "Jack should be paying you more. It's one thing to ask you to be somebody's personal therapist, but it's another thing entirely to have to shadow a grown man."
Lecter shook his head. "It is not the role of a shadow I play, but rather a necessary light in a pervasive darkness."
"You don't learn how to see in the dark by staring into lights all the time."
"Who said I wanted him to be able to see in the dark?"
Beverly had only been half-listening at that point, but something in the tone of his voice snapped her attention back to his face.
In the dim candlelight, his eyes were utterly serene; his mouth was spread in a beatific smile. She couldn't see his eyes, not really, but the candles made them gleam around the edges like hot coals in the dark.
"What does that mean?" she asked, because. She wasn't sure she knew.
He spread his hands on the table. His fingers drummed it lightly, as if he were playing a piano. Then he stood up, folding his napkin and weaving his way around the table.
"It means that whenever you step into a place where your eyes are useless...a labyrinth," he said, extinguishing the candles one by one with his elegant fingertips, "the only exit you can always count on is a minotaur."
Finally he was at her side. He reached down and tipped her chin up with a knuckle. His face was utterly blank, appraising. An alarm sounded in her head with a vigor she hadn't heard since college—back when she was drinking until sunrise and she'd known, in the back of her mind, that every one-night stand was an active gamble.
There was one last lit candle. The light of the fire and a reflection of the red on the walls was beginning to overwhelm the brown in Lecter's eyes. For a terrified second, her pulse crashing in her ears like a thunderstorm, she wondered if she'd be fast enough—if the knife on the table was close enough, if she still knew how to hot-wire a car—
Lecter curved his hand into her hair instead and kissed her, deep and decadent, lapping up the taste of grand cru in her mouth: oh, she thought, clutching his arms—they really were huge arms under all that linen—never mind, also, finally.
He eased her out of the chair and turned her around, pressing her hips flush against the edge of the table. She scrabbled for a grip on the tabletop and arched up into him, hooking a leg around his waist—but then he was leaning into her, spreading her flat as a platter on the dining table, so close to the last candle she could've reached out and burned herself.
She curved her legs around his waist. "What, here?"
The buttons on her shirt seemed to fall apart at a mere brush of his hand. He leaned down, nosing his way along her neck and hair, breathing in deep, breathing her in. "You may have already guessed," he whispered, breath and tongue flicking hot against her ear, "but it is my favorite place to eat."
"Would you like me to take you home, so you may change before work?" Lecter asked as they peeled out of his gated driveway the next morning. There was a smile in his eyes that went nowhere near his mouth.
"As much as I'd love not to do the walk of shame in front of Jimmy for the fiftieth time, I live in basically the opposite direction," Beverly muttered, checking her pockets for her keys and smoothing down her hair in the rear-view. "Thanks for offering anyway. Alana was right, you're a stealth sweetie."
"Dr. Bloom does think she knows me well."
Beverly grinned. "Does knowing you biblically count as knowing you better?"
He frowned a little. "Please don't be crude, Miss Katz."
"I would hate for you to leave a bad taste in my mouth after having been such a pleasant morsel last night."
She looked sideways at him: there was that smile again, with a little white glimmer of teeth this time. He looked, as he did in the dark of his guest room, like he was up to no good. She couldn't look at that face too long without heat creeping up her neck, so she opted for looking out the window, stuffing her smirk into her knuckles.
They pulled into the parking garage, where Will seemed to have arrived only moments before. He was pulling his briefcase out of his car and brushing lint off his slacks until the sight of Lecter's car made him straighten up a little. She glanced at him in the side mirror as she unbuckled her seatbelt. His face was shuttered.
Lecter swiftly climbed out of the car to open the door for Beverly, a gesture which she was pretty sure had to count for extra credit somewhere in her one-night stand gradebook. He even held his hand out, for the love of God.
"Alright, Casanova, show's over," she said—though she took his hand anyway, because she'd watched Disney movies too. "If we're not inside soon, Jack is gonna throw a hissy fit... Morning, Will. You look sleepy."
"So do you," Will said. "I mean, good morning."
Beverly rubbed her eyes with the heel of her hand. "That obvious? Yikes."
"Hello, Will," Lecter said, stepping forward with his hands in his pockets. At least one of them had the chance to clean up, she thought. "And how are you today?"
"In a word, energetic." He flicked his gaze to Beverly, who bit the inside of her cheek and tried for sheepish. "I received a text from Jack Crawford late last night, though, that suggested I may have been hasty in leaving you yesterday. I do hope you can forgive me."
Will spread his hands in a broad sort of shrug, then clasped them back at his sides. Then he barked out a laugh that tapered self-consciously into a snicker. "Forgive you? That'd be sort of a—a lofty move on my part, wouldn't it? You didn't do anything wrong."
Lecter tilted his head. "My place is at your side, Will. In the future, you need only call."
Will's face underwent another series of speechless convulsions. Finally, he said, "But you—"
"Just call," Lecter said.
In the silence that followed, Beverly sidled her way out completely from between Lecter's car and the next. "Hey, guys," she said, lifting her hands as if the air needed to be physically cleared. "Am I interrupting something—oh, hey. What's this?"
She had a bandage on the inside of her arm. She hadn't noticed that earlier.
"You were somewhat inebriated," Lecter said, his gaze flickering between her and Will, "as was I. There was still silverware on the table... You didn't notice then, either. I tended to you, when we were done."
"Oh." Beverly shook her head to clear some of the fuzz, and—oh, there it was, somewhere in the heady blur of a thrilling night—wet warmth on the inside of her arm. "That's...incredibly stupid. Well, thanks for looking out for a lady, Dr. Lecter." She almost patted his butt as she went, then she thought better of it and gave his arm a passing squeeze instead. "In all the ways a lady can be looked after."
"The pleasure was all mine," he said.
They didn't follow her, oddly enough, though inevitably they were all going in the same direction. She held the elevator door open just in case, but honestly she didn't mind taking it down by herself if Will and Dr. Lecter were having some kind of tiff. Besides, the hazy reflection of the doors was the first good look at herself she'd gotten all morning, and she needed to do some damage assessment.
Her hair was fluffed out like a cat's, her neck was covered with dark mouth-shaped bruises, she apparently nearly severed her basilic vein mid-coitus, and she just couldn't keep a shit-eating grin off her face.
See you in hell, Patrick, she thought as she entered HQ, veering immediately towards the cafeteria to see what was left of the coffee.