Red Lodge, Montana. Christmas Eve, 2013.
Will struggled to keep his eyes on the night clerk's left shoulder rather than the television playing a muted weather report behind her. Her expression, bored but with some tenseness in the jaw that suggested she wasn't interested in doing him or his companion any favors, was hard to look at in his current state but a necessity. Service people were sometimes leery of helping him when he was especially twitchy. It only got worse if he tried to rein it in.
Will licked his lips and tried to push away everything except what was important right in that moment; securing a place to weather the night's storm. "So," he started to try again, his hands braced as fists on the counter and taking more of his weight than was comfortable.
The night clerk, Shelly according to her nametag, twenty-oneish, working for her family's motel and not to pay her way through college or through anything in particular, pretended to type something on the ancient keyboard behind the counter. "Like I said, it's Christmas Eve. Everything's full. I checked twice."
Will's breath sputtered out of him like a suddenly punctured tire. He knew he outwardly appeared even more agitated than he actually felt, which was remarkable. Her apathy and irritation bore down on him, and he could still feel Dr. Lecter at his back, his hands in his pockets as he pursued travel magazines and—the next part was more of a guess—disdained every square inch of the Stop N' Go Travel Lodge Motel. Will's skin seemed to pull tighter with embarrassment for him and his suit over the indignity of having to stand inside the building. He tried again to push it all away. "There's a blizzard outside," he said, pointing to the window and the vicious flurries of white beyond. "We can't sleep in our—our car, can we?"
Shelly pecked at her keyboard again. "It's Christmas Eve," she repeated with an uncomfortable shrug.
Three seconds from yelling that he wasn't in charge of a serial killer's personal agenda and then slumping to the floor and declaring his intent to sleep there, Dr. Lecter stepped forward and hovered his hand above Will's bicep, taking over negotiations. More embarrassment started to grow, a combination of seeing Dr. Lecter lit by ugly motel fluorescent and also the knowledge that Will had been seen for the twitchy, overwhelmed mess that he was.
"Do you have rooms that have not been cleaned, or that perhaps require maintenance?" Dr. Lecter asked quietly. Will put his back to the both of them, not wanting to watch the strange bargaining. "These are desperate circumstances, yes?"
Her tone was slightly less disinterested than it had been with Will. "I'm sorry, sir. Like I told your friend, we were nearly booked before the storm warning." Will heard clacking, and that time it was earnest. Dr. Lecter did tend to inspire earnestness in people. "We, um, yeah, we're booked until New Years, basically, and we don't have any rooms on reserve—wait."
Will turned himself around again because her tone meant something, and even if it was a storage closet, Will would take it. He looked at Dr. Lecter's profile, at his version of an encouraging smile pushing lines into his face around his deep-set eyes. It was so wrong, the tableau of small-town Americana featuring Will Graham the shivering Chihuahua and Dr. Hannibal Lecter the bon vivant. But it was better than freezing to death in a rented Impala that smelled like Basic Ultralights.
"No one booked our honeymoon suite," she said, and Will watched Lecter's fake smile morph into something he'd never seen before. Probably horror, if he had to bet on it. "The next reservation is for the twenty-seventh, so—"
"We'll take it," Will said, fumbling for his wallet and slapping down his second Visa, the one the FBI picked up the tab for, and his I.D.
"Sure," she said slowly, and Will waited for the punchline he knew was coming. "It's just a king bed, though."
Will almost started laughing hysterically, but she hadn't processed his card yet, and he couldn't risk seeming any stranger than he already had. Instead, he pressed his lips together and worried the slick flesh that pushed back over his teeth with his tongue.
"That is fine," Dr. Lecter said tonelessly.
"It comes with champagne," she said, "and the room is one-fifty a night."
"That's fine," Will said tightly, taking back his cards when she slid them across the counter.
"Do you want the champagne?" she asked him, her amusement and discomfiture nearly tangible.
Will shook his head, and Dr. Lecter almost touched him again to get his attention. "They have vending machines. I will find us something to eat."
He heard the cheerfully jarring chime of the door when Lecter opened it, the howling of wind that Will would have to walk out into too, and Will pictured him browsing a vending machine for snacks. Laughter that would have sounded like a death rattle threatened to bubble up again, and Will was deliberately silent for the rest of the transaction.
It was a fucking nightmare inside. Basic motel furnishings met bed & breakfast kitsch, and nearly all of it was well-used. The air smelled like bleach and potpourri. Will took off his coat and scarf, wet fingers of snowflakes sliding down his neck, and shivered. Dr. Lecter was behind him, his big hands crinkling bags of whatever he'd scrounged up.
"Not used to the snow?" he asked, neatly placing their rations, chips and pastries with curiously far-reaching expiration dates, on the motel's fake wooden table. There was a white and red note left for happy newlyweds courtesy of the Stop N' Go, the edges of the paper scalloped to look like lace. It partially obscured a cable guide.
Will sighed and dumped his bag with his laptop and case files onto a chair. "No, I'll never be used to snow." Years away from Louisiana, he still had to bundle up to take the dogs outside during winter, and if not for their presence he would have hated every cold, wet moment of it.
Five and a half hours crawling along I-90 together in the Impala, and Will had only the sound of windshield wipers diligently clearing away slush and the wind to keep him company. Now Dr. Lecter decided it was time to chat? "This storm is not too bad," he said, using one finger to pull aside the heavy hotel curtain, lips pursing as he studied the scenery of a parking lot whirling with white. "It will not stick long." His free hand went to his neck and slowly tugged at his red cashmere scarf, the fabric gliding away from his body like water. Or blood.
Watching Dr. Lecter wasn't something he was practiced in, and their current setting made it even more discomfiting. Rather than focusing on his face, made so ghostly pale from the window it almost seemed to be a light source itself, Will went to the bathroom in search of a towel.
Above the icy rush of sink water in the bathroom, Will strained to hear any soft sounds of Dr. Lecter moving around in their suite. He had no need to wash away sticky pastry remains after their pathetic meal—Will would be forever fascinated and disturbed by the image of Dr. Hannibal Lecter methodically eating a Rice Krispie Treat—but Will ended up with crumbs on his sweater and a layer of sugar on his fingers so thick he didn't dare touch his laptop. After mumbling something about washing up and jerkily trotting over to the bathroom, he'd nearly fallen against the doorframe when Lecter unexpectedly told his back that he'd be changing into something more appropriate.
So Will scrubbed until the crevices under his fingernails were clean and what he thought was an appropriate amount of time for Dr. Lecter to change into whatever he'd brought with him had passed. Will brought very little, his laptop and a spare undershirt and a stick of deodorant, and Lecter whatever he'd packed into his leather messenger bag; they both assumed it would be a day-and-work-through-the-night trip. Jack hadn't been able to wrestle himself out of Virginia for it, he couldn't say no to Bella so close to Christmas, so it was just supposed to be Will, Dr. Lecter, and local P.D. A quick jaunt, in and out before the blood at the crime scene had time to dry and smell like feet. Classes weren't in session, so he was in no particular hurry himself to get back, but he'd bought a bunch of raw bones for the dogs. They were still in the back of his station wagon, he remembered. And presumably Dr. Lecter had something to do back in Baltimore, maybe a party; he didn't seem like the type to let an opportunity for a feast pass him by. Will might have felt bad that Jack roped Lecter into playing babysitter, again, in his stead, until he found out that Lecter had volunteered.
Will shut off the water. His hands smelled like rose. An examination of his own reflection told him nothing useful. Limp eyelids over road-tired eyes, the ends of his hair curling like his father's only did in the humidity of the south. He needed to cut it, but if he kept it too short he looked incongruously young and it impacted his ability to be listened to, which was a problem to begin with.
He brushed a few errant crumbs from his sweater and, remembering Dr. Lecter's declaration, pulled it off entirely. His white undershirt was yellowed from frequent cycles through the washer. It was cold in the suite, goosebumps drawing the hair on his forearms up like a static charge. Cold even after Will knocked the heater until it blew out air above fifty-five. The temperature of the sink water made him worry about old, shitty pipes freezing.
Maybe when he invariably woke up at three in the morning covered in clammy sweat from his temples to his toes, the cold water would shock his pores into sealing off. A man could dream.
Will folded his sweater as he walked out of the bathroom, despite the fact that it smelled like passenger plane and his own tired body. The lighting in the main suite was far more forgiving than that in the bathroom; most of it was a buttery cone glowing from one of the mounted lamps on Lecter's side of the bed. Excellent ambiance for grooms to wrestle with small faux-pearl buttons marching in a line down their bride's back. Mood lighting.
Lecter wearing a pilled white robe and sitting propped up against the headboard with his legs crossed was certainly moody.
"Umm," Will said, glancing down at the sweater in his hands. His careful fold was quickly balled up.
He was spared a look as Lecter flipped through Will's copy of the case file. Will preferred hard copy, at least as a backup, and apparently so did Lecter; he had his own copy on his tablet, but there he was, thumbing through photographs and Will's sporadic notes, done in the same red pen he used for his grading.
He was still wearing his socks and pants. Their dark, sumptuous colors clashed with the cheap robe, white as the wedding dress that should have inhabited the room.
"Do you have any thoughts?" Dr. Lecter asked, gesturing to the file.
"Are you going to sleep in that?" Will said, finally shoving his wadded sweater into his bag. "No." He moved his bag to the table and sat in the chair it vacated, hands sliding to his thighs for want of something to do. "I marinate. It's a bad idea to start making guesses until I've been in the oven." He figured a cooking metaphor would either get Lecter to relate or at least amuse him. Dr. Lecter was sometimes very punny. Delighted by how easy English made it for him.
"No," Lecter answered him. "It may be a day or so until we are able to access the crime scene."
Will didn't know if the bodies had been collected yet. It occurred to him that it was possible some cops, waiting for Will and Dr. Lecter, were still at the scene, trapped by the white-out storm. An uncomfortable sensation overtook him at the idea of being trapped overnight in a house full of corpses. He flashed to one of the pictures he'd examined in the case file; no two crimes were staged alike, but staged they all were, like mannequins in a window display.
The cold might keep them from stinking too much. But if they'd been removed already, or even if they hadn't, his scene was probably a mess. If some cop had pulled at a harness or moved a limb to get a closer look at the site of amputation, if they'd tripped on something … Every change was a fissure, a spiderwebbing crack in a mirror. His vision of the killer wasn't going to be as clear. Frustrated, Will ran a hand through his hair, dropped his head low until he was nearly bent in half in the chair.
He came back up, exhaling. "I'm fine."
Lecter gave his version of a dubious expression. "Would you prefer to do something else? If the storm hasn't knocked out the cable—"
"No, it would just make me more," he twitched a hand, "irritated. Um, what are you wearing to sleep? I have a spare undershirt if you don't have anything."
"That would suffice, thank you."
Will turned and pawed through his bag until he found it. His first instinct, his own instinct, was to toss it at him, but instead he held it limply for a minute before leaning across the few feet of space and placing it neatly on the edge of the bed.
"I would offer you something to read, but you seem especially ill at ease."
"I wouldn't be able to focus."
Dr. Lecter's gaze weighed him, and then there was muted rustling as he tidied and shuffled the case file into order. He placed it on the nightstand as casually as Will would a paperback book, the corner of a page peeking out from behind the innocuous beige cover until Lecter nudged it into place with a fingertip. "There is nothing we can do from our bridal suite. I am going to shower," he stood from the bed and rolled his shoulders, a curiously mundane gesture, and picked up Will's spare shirt with a chin inclined as thanks. "Unless you would like first use?"
"No, go ahead."
Will sighed into the empty room once Dr. Lecter disappeared behind the closed door. He settled lower in his chair, dropped his head to ignore the living space—or really the approximation of one—that surrounded him. Necessary skill. Months of traipsing around the lower forty-eight on the FBI's dime brought back coping mechanisms he'd acquired from years of moving around in his dad's pick-up. It wasn't difficult to acclimate to unfamiliarity in a hurry. Will's surroundings were the least uncomfortable thing about him, truthfully. If he were to close his eyes, he could imagine his creature comforts into existence; the usual sounds of Wolf Trap, low whines from dogs, insects, the hum of life that his pack of strays imbued into his house. But Will wasn't yet ready to close his eyes, and all he heard was the hiss of shower spray and the ghostly howling of snow outside.
"You seem more relaxed," Lecter commented. His voice seemed more sonorous when Will couldn't see the body it came from. The humid air of the bathroom trailed after him, scenting their room with cheaply sweet soap.
"Quick shower," Will commented, lifting his head and blinking back into focus. Lecter was in that same robe, only his legs and feet were bare. Lines from the teeth of his comb were still visible in his sleek, damp hair.
"Hardly. Ten minutes."
Huh. Will couldn't usually spend ten minutes by himself without his brain kicking into hallucinatory mode. But losing ten minutes wasn't exactly encouraging. "Maybe I dozed off."
"It wouldn't be the first time I found you asleep with your eyes open," Lecter said, but his tone was not an endorsement of the idea. He padded to the closet, took off his robe, and hung it neatly inside. Will averted his eyes, but not before he caught a glimpse of what normally lay beneath three-piece suits. Lecter's unwrinkled black boxer-briefs made Will remember the ratty pair on his own body, and he shifted in his seat, cleared his throat against disdain that wasn't wholly his own.
Walking back, Lecter could almost have been any other middle aged man who kept to a good diet and regular exercise. He bore Will's cotton-poly blend shirt with the tiny hole working itself bigger in the seam under his left arm as though still buttoned up to the neck with a Windsor knotted tightly for good measure. An unconscious trepidation over seeing his—colleague, psychiatrist, conversational partner, whatever he was—in such ordinary, private conditions had formed sometime during their fraught check-in, but it was ultimately unfounded. Lecter was only a person, and one who certainly did more normal-person things than Will. Will didn't know what he'd expected; opera before bed? Silk boxers that would ruin the lines of his suits? That Lecter never unwound at all?
Looking away would be good, he reminded himself, despite the lack of unease in the room.
Lecter pulled back his side of the covers, muscles in his back moving subtly under Will's shirt, shoulderblades cresting up like moving wings. "There's no need to go to bed early on my account. I'll be up reading for a while."
Will nodded, and Lecter took up his tablet from the nightstand and settled in to read. The frilly bed ensconcing him should have looked ridiculous, but he avoided the indignity somehow.
Will rubbed a hand against the taut back of his neck, massaging tenseness that might become a headache later. "Are you sure you don't want me to sleep on the floor?"
Over the top of his tablet, Lecter's mouth pursed. He used a stylus to navigate his tablet and flicked it along the screen to turn a page rather slowly. "And have you freeze during the night? I think not."
"I don't know if I can relax enough to sleep." He looked around at their suite, the uncoupled pair of them and the case file jarring in its blissful whiteness. "Especially not in this sad excuse for a marital chamber."
"No easy rest without your canine companions?"
"It's not the company, it's me. Um. This is probably a good time to remind you of the nightmares." Despite the location, their conversation was beginning to resemble one of those back in Dr. Lecter's office, with Will fitfully rubbing at his knees and muttering uncomfortable truths. He pulled his hands to his chest and crossed his arms to curb the urge.
"I didn't forget about your night terrors." Not so subtle distinction, there. Will huffed and let one half of his mouth rise in a smile. "Do you act them out in your sleep? I only ask because I fear for the safety of my spleen." He returned Will's rictus smile with a soft one of his own, eyes steady on his screen as he read. Will appreciated the attempt at levity for his benefit.
"No. I'm still. I'm always still." He paused, shook his head when he remembered the other time he had cause to see Dr. Lecter in anything less than full regalia. "With the exception of the sleepwalking."
"I can stop you if it comes to that, but you said that tendency has subsided?" Will had the sensation of being pierced by his appraisal, but Lecter still kept his gaze on whatever he was reading.
"It has, I think, I don't know for sure. I haven't woken up," he nearly said 'on the roof' but stopped his tongue as it made to push off from the back of his teeth, "in the road recently."
"I'm a light sleeper," Lecter said. "If you try to leave the room, I'll know, and I'll stop you."
Great. He was a light sleeper. What a bright side. And here Will had been alternating between hope that Lecter would sleep through Will's obligatory three a.m. shower and trying to figure out the best way to slip in his night sweats. He was caught between like I'm menopausal and like it's one hundred and three in Louisiana. Neither came out. Admitting his body's betrayal usually came after it was discovered, for Will. He didn't like to preempt his own shame.
In his dreams, the killer's—Will's—capabilities weren't constrained by things like time or the crude lines of harnesses and fittings. In his dreams, his girls were imperfect, with visible pores and razor scrapes and sometimes even little veins like spiders under their skin, and then, with his knife and bone saw, he fixed them. He spent less time with the unnecessary parts in his dreams; he didn't need to pack them away for later concealment. They simply vanished. The wet blood wasn't a slippery obstacle. He was able to cup a deltoid in his hand, still encased in its inferior skin, and gently guide the mannequin arm over it. An exquisite fit, like a glove slipping over a hand.
When Will was done, with none of the suction, the ear-splitting buzz, or the frustrating fastenings that his fitting required when awake, all four of her extremities were smooth, the perfect manufacturer's flesh tone. That was his design.
With everything in place, he could play.
He came to consciousness rubbing against the mattress, lower body sticky with more than sweat. His waking mind took a few moments to keep up with him, to fully realize the horror of what the killer's arousal caused him to do in and out of sleep. His mind seized, frozen totally with too many things to process; terror, shame, the vicarious arousal (he couldn't quite wash away the image of fucking them, stroking their cheap Kanekalon wigs), and the strange evocativeness of a warm body beside him in the bed. His erection refused to wilt.
Will squeezed a handful of his overstuffed pillow and flipped himself onto his side. He took in a few shuddery mouthfuls of air and focused on the present in his motel bed, the sweat that moulded the clothes to his body and prickled his scalp. In the dark, he could feel Dr. Lecter's eyes on him and knew he was awake. That Will's dreams had taken him out of his own.
He hadn't shared a bed with someone since GWU; the one-night stands he had on occasion were really more like one-evening stands, Will gone before the endorphins had worn off. His body trained him not to share intimate spaces, first with his insomnia, then with his sweating, and lately—as if he'd refused to listen—with his sleepwalking. The slight dip of the mattress to Will's left that alluded to Lecter's weight was disconcerting; he wanted to roll into it until he collided against the source.
Stop. He was awake. He was awake, and he was a mess. Will drew in another breath. "Why didn't you wake me?" he asked, voice trembling so much it concealed the petulant accusation he'd meant to include.
Lecter said nothing. But he did reach up and click on the light over his side of the bed. Will winced at the brightness, as he usually pulled himself out of bed and into the shower in darkness. He'd only tripped over the dogs a few times; for the most part they weren't underfoot, used to his nocturnal trips to the bathroom. Once his tender eyes adjusted, he caught Lecter staring down at him, mouth a flat line of—something. Disapproval? Concern? It was hard to tell. Will's attention followed him as he stepped out of the bed and started to walk around it. Of course Dr. Lecter would be repulsed by a damp bedmate that reeked of fear and arousal and perspiration. Humiliation curdled Will's stomach like bad milk. He opened a mouth he already knew was going to stammer to apologize, but Lecter forestalled him by ripping the covers off of Will, brisk as a matador snapping his cape.
The current of air it created puckered Will's skin into gooseflesh. He stared, stunned, as Lecter fit a hand around Will's bicep and used it to pull him up, his other hand bracing at the small of Will's back.
"Up," he said, when Will only sat like dead weight on the bed, looking up at Lecter's bangs falling across his forehead, not sure whether to lean into his hands or bat them away with prejudice. "It's all right," he said, when Will still didn't move.
Will stood on weak legs, his underwear bunching uncomfortably on his thighs. He had about found his footing and was going to brush Lecter off somehow through a thick throat when the hem of his shirt was gripped and tugged upwards.
Will's "what?" faltered as his arms went up out of instinct and his shirt was yanked over his head, deposited somewhere on the floor near their feet. He wanted to protest for his own modesty, but his underwear was clinging to the shape of his still half-hard dick. He had no modesty left.
"Shhh," Lecter said, or a sound like it. He seemed unaware of their indignities; his eyes missed nothing but also registered nothing.
Will heard him breathing through his nose in the quiet of the room, his chest filling and sinking with each breath, but Lecter kept his focus as he methodically and clinically stripped Will before leading him to the bathroom.
The overhead light in the bathroom was even more garish than it had seemed earlier in the night. Will squinted to avoid his own reflection in the mirror and the pervasive fluorescent. Naked, he stood by the shower as Lecter kept one sturdy hand around his bicep, not unlike the grip Will—no, the killer—would use on the girls as he carefully wedged on the artificial limbs, he remembered with a rush of nausea. He shook that thought off, but that seemed to spread residual shaking in a wave down his whole body.
Dr. Lecter tested the temperature of the stream of water he'd coaxed from the pipes with his wrist. He kept Will in his periphery, but he didn't turn to look at him as Will's trembling increased. He simply guided Will, steadying him as Will's feet knocked against the side of the stall, and only let him go when Will was standing under the lukewarm stream.
Will reached for the knob to fix it; he preferred cold showers, especially when murders were sexual and he woke up with erections he was too disgusted by to take care of the usual way.
"Don't shock your body, Will," Lecter said, startling him. "It's had enough stimulation for the night."
Will nodded jerkily and pushed his sodden bangs away from his face. He worried that his shaking flanks made him look like a horse. Will pushed his face under the spray, the sound drumming over his skull nearly louder than the jumble of thoughts in his head.
The same sweet, plastic-y soap he'd smelled earlier greeted him when he pulled out of the water to breathe. Lecter had a washcloth in his hand and a bar of soap in the other, and Will made an animal noise in his throat when Lecter reached out to him, bodily shying away as far as the corner of the shower would allow.
"No, please," he said. He could handle the professional detachment of Lecter stripping him, getting him into the shower, but to be touched like that, he couldn't endure it. The one upside was that Will's penis was finally going completely limp, although it seemed to be doing its best to crawl inside of his body. "I can wash myself."
Vision obscured by hyperopia and droplets from his hair that rolled into his eyes, Will sensed as much as he saw Lecter weigh his options. For a long while, nothing happened. Lecter continued to stand right next to the shower, heedless of the overspray that misted his borrowed shirt. Despite the soft turn-down of his lips, the only part of Lecter Will could force himself to look at, and the concern implied there, he thought for a moment that Lecter wouldn't listen to him. Doctorly interest must have been warring with Will's almost irrational needs. He thought he might appreciate it later, Lecter's consideration, his regard for Will's well-being, but he couldn't yet.
"Fine," Lecter said on a murmur. "I'm going to change the bedding." Before he left Will alone to dry-heave in peace, he stopped and regarded him for a moment more. "Do not hesitate to ask if you need me."
He managed another nod and took in a long, relieved breath when Lecter stepped out into the main room, though he left the door open. Water teased along the edges of his open mouth, and Will closed the shower door to erect a frosted-glass shield between Lecter's well-intended babysitting and the sad state of him, face screwed up into a grimace as he tried not to shake apart.
It was some time before Dr. Lecter finally switched off the light, throwing them both into darkness not complete enough to let Will hide. His breathing had mostly calmed, but his shuddering hadn't; it actually made noise, a squeaky rustle against the fresh sheets Dr. Lecter had put on the bed.
From a lifetime of avoiding people's gazes, Will could sense when one was trained on him. He swallowed and tried to hold his body still. Turning his head on the pillow, he saw Lecter's eyes reflecting what little light there was in the room, shining like those of the advantageous raccoons who rummaged on Will's porch before he hauled his garbage to the dump. He got the feeling then that Lecter could see as well as any jungle predator, while Will's glasses-less vision was nearly crippled in the dark. "Do you hunt?" he asked, thinking it would be a good fit for someone like Dr. Lecter.
Apparently the question was so random that it went unanswered; Lecter likely deemed it a misfired neuron from the brain of an overstimulated, under-rested mess of a person, and he probably wasn't wrong. After his shower, Will barely had the coherence to argue that Lecter should keep wearing the spare shirt he loaned him.
"You—you need it more," he'd stammered, and Dr. Lecter cocked his head and said, dry as anything,
"Do I?" while wearing a lack of expression that had said more than a disapproving one would have.
Will did win that particular battle, and he managed to pull his discarded underwear on under his towel without embarrassing them both further. He even directed Lecter to put down spare towels on the bed in case the sweating thing happened again, but that was about all he was good for. He was barely capable of speech, although he felt somewhat better back in bed, since he didn't have to keep himself upright anymore.
If only he could stop trembling. He might have been able to sleep.
His mind was still occasionally piqued by grotesquely sexual thoughts, but his body didn't seem eager to react to them as they had in his sleep, at least not yet. Will guessed it was exacerbated by Lecter's companionship; none of the dreams of the killer had been as vivid when he was alone. Sexual, yes, but not as visceral. His body knew there was someone there with him, and he was instinctively excited by that. Part of him thought his reaction to the dream, should he fall back into it, might be worse the second time; his body was primed, unfulfilled, and he could feel his nipples peaking as the covers rubbed against his bare chest. He wondered if Lecter could see.
Will concentrated on his breathing.
After a few minutes of silence only broken by Will's involuntary rustling of the sheets, Lecter rolled onto his back, and Will closed his eyes with the relief of not feeling his unmitigated attention.
"This was not in your file."
Will's eyes popped open. He swallowed. "Yeah."
"You should have told me your sleeping troubles were so extensive."
Coming up with words was difficult. It felt like he was peeling them up from a sticky floor. "Everything else seemed … sufficient enough information." Will paused, rolling thoughts around in his head, keeping them away from dangerous places. "I've been on sleep aids before when I was a—a cop, doctor's orders. I was always in a stupor. I couldn't work. And one of them gave me night sweats." He croaked a laugh fairly convincingly. "Irony."
Lecter was silent for a moment more, and Will adjusted the sheet so it couldn't rub his nipples into tighter points. "You dreamed about the case."
"I always dream about the cases."
"Yes, but this incident—this dream—was particularly disturbing to you. You still haven't calmed down."
Will blew a long breath out to give himself time. The question hidden in Lecter's statement demanded an answer he didn't have the brain cells to give, and he didn't particularly want to grind the rest of his dignity into dust by giving it, either. Sleeping next to you increased my sexual arousal. Lecter would understand it, an innately insightful man even without Will's depth of empathy, but Will still balked. "I'm rarely calm after my dreams."
"Will you be able to sleep again tonight? Or will you be as weary at our crime scene as you are now?"
"If you're asking me if I can do my job, the answer is yes." Will curled his hands into fists and silently tried to wrestle his body into obedience; the conversation had increased his shaking until it was audible in his voice.
"Will." Lecter's tone was achingly kind. The bed dipped as he moved onto his side, and Will knew Lecter was staring at his profile again. "That is not what I'm asking. I am asking if you can sleep."
Will swallowed again, that time around a sudden lump in his throat. "No. Odds are … probably not."
"What if I'm able to help you sleep? I can't promise sweet dreams, but I'm reasonably sure you won't fall back into a crime scene."
Against his instinct, Will titled his head and studied Dr. Lecter's glinting raccoon-eyes in the dark again. "How? Did you smuggle a cocktail of medications in your bag?"
He thought Lecter was amused. His tone when he spoke again was nearly businesslike, though, but for the fact that it was quiet and low to account for the scant space between them. "Hardly. With your permission, I believe I can ground you in the present and calm you into rest."
"Meditation?" Will asked dubiously. It wasn't his first rodeo, and both of them knew it. He'd told Jack that the usual tricks didn't work on him, and that was because he'd tried virtually all of them himself out of desperation. Anything legal and that didn't sound completely ridiculous, anyway.
"Of a sort. It doesn't matter what it is, only that I think it will work."
Will licked his lips and smiled shakily. "Pretty cocky, Dr. Lecter. But fine. Do your worst."
Dr. Lecter moved around a little, settling in, and Will took it as tacit encouragement to get comfortable himself. He made a half-hearted attempt, rolling his ankles and stretching his toes, trying to dispel some of the tension still in his lower body.
"May I have your permission to touch you?" Lecter asked.
Will was speechless for a moment. It occurred to him that it was the first time anyone had asked, and also how strange it was that whatever Lecter planned to do to him—for him—required touch. Probably not meditation, then. "Yeah," he said cautiously.
The breath he drew in at Lecter's arm folding over him could uncharitably be called a gasp. He expected a hand on his arm, maybe to check his pulse, not—an embrace. For a moment, his body floundered, and he felt his pulse speed up until he could hear it in his ears.
"Shhh," Lecter said, adjusting his arm as it lay across Will's bare chest. His fingers skimmed over skin and fabric both as he smoothed the sheet, and Will remembered heat of Dr. Lecter's thumbs glancing his sides as he pulled off Will's last, flimsy layer before his shower. Will's trembling was not improving. "I need to be close. Can you feel my breathing?"
He wasn't trapped, Will told himself. Lecter was in shape, he knew that and could feel it against him then, but his hold had little strength behind it. He wasn't trying to keep Will in the bed so much as act like a human blanket. An anchor. Will wasn't trapped. Lecter knew what he was doing. Think of it like a hug, he told himself. He liked hugs, sometimes. If he knew they were coming.
"Y-yes," Will said finally. He could feel Lecter's chest slowly and steadily and gently expanding and contracting against his side. The contrast with Will's rabbit-quick breaths was almost funny.
"Focus on my breathing. Listen to it. If you can feel my pulse, focus on that." Lecter moved the smallest amount, his legs inching closer toward Will's body under the covers. "If I'm not neutral enough, focus on the cheap sheets against your body."
Will nodded and tried to match his breathing to Lecter's, the obvious goal, but froze all over again when Lecter moved his hand a slight amount, grazing Will's skin in a not unpleasant way. "Oh, God." Lecter's hand didn't move again, thankfully.
"The rasp of hair on your calves. The heater is too hot and drying out your sinuses." Dr Lecter spoke with a droning quality in his voice Will hadn't heard before, and he was pretty monotonous by nature.
Abandoning the attempt to control his breathing, Will did as Lecter said. The heater did make the room too dry. His skin felt parched. The sensation wasn't nice, but it wasn't bad; it was bearable. He took an inventory from his head to his feet, the backs of his knees free of sweat, the sensitive skin on the bottom of his feet dry like they'd be wrapped in cotton. It was as though his shower hadn't happened at all, though some dampness did remain in his hair, seeping into the pillow beneath him.
"Good," Lecter said. "It's warm in here though it's snowing outside. I'm very warm."
He was. Warm and solid and his calves were close to tangling with Will's. Bare. He saw Lecter's ankles earlier, surprisingly bony. Will made a noise, not wanting to think about limbs, especially not with the steady weight of someone right there, and Lecter went back to speaking, though Will's brain mostly filtered him out. The sounds were enough.
"This sort of thing doesn't work on me," he said, once Lecter stopped his soothing drone for a moment.
"No? Your heart rate was just over one hundred beats per minute when I first touched you, but it's now eighty-eight." He tightened his arm around Will very, very slightly. A conspiratorial squeeze. "Perhaps an old dog may finally learn tricks, hmm?"
Will had to laugh. And he had to admit that Lecter wasn't wrong; he still shook, but his breathing was nearly matched to Lecter's, and his pulse wasn't roaring in his ears. "Okay, fine, I bow to your, your superior knowledge and technique."
"As you should. Now, Will, I want you to describe the room we're in, starting with its dimensions."
"We're in the dark," Will pointed out.
"Your memory is impeccable." He tapped Will's side gently, and Will didn't feel much of an urge to recoil. "Talk."
He'd fallen asleep in Lecter's arms; it put the final touches on the parody of a wedding night they'd starred in. He had very little recollection of doing so, just a hazy and comfortable sense of being tucked against something, his throat sore, peace overcoming him when he was finally allowed to be silent.
It was only when Will woke that what happened hit him with stunning clarity. He would have assumed that Lecter let him drift off and let him go; that he got needed rest of his own on his side of the bed, but his arm was still draped over Will, cupped up against his side, just under his armpit. His breathing was deep in sleep, puffing exhales so close that they ruffled Will's hair.
He might have enjoyed it, reveled in the touch of another human, the unlikely normalcy he knew he was starved for, but his dreams—unremembered, Dr. Lecter was right, Will owed him a bottle of wine or the firstborn he'd likely never have—had given him another erection, aching and obvious.
Will sighed up at the ceiling, exhausted by himself.
"Good morning," Lecter said, no indication in his voice that he'd been asleep moments earlier. He pulled away, but not quickly, not self-conscious; a slow glide of his naked arm on Will's naked chest, one that had an unfortunate effect on the erection Will knew it was fruitless to try and conceal.
"Sorry," Will said, voice crackly in the early morning. He managed not to gesture at his penis.
"Nonsense," Dr. Lecter said, pulling off his half of the covers and swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. He glanced back over his shoulder at Will, who still lie prone. "I trust you slept well?"
"Yes. You should, uh, record books on tape. You'd make a killing."
Will was able to look at him, or at the parts of his face that weren't his eyes, and though there was something new between them, something uneasy, it wasn't bad. Lecter smiled a little, more of a purse than anything. "I already make a killing." He paused and reached down to straighten his half of the covers. "You clearly aren't the one paying my rates."
Will laughed, paused, and then laughed again. He felt nearly rested, which in his universe meant he felt nearly human. It had been a while.
It took several hours, but eventually the Carbon Country Sheriff's department managed to dig them out of their room and the few miles to the crime scene. They brought real food, probably Lecter's doing, if one considered two-day old deli fare food, and he and Lecter ate in silence on the slow drive over. It wasn't actively snowing, but the fresh fall on the ground was piled so high Will's eyes went wide. Most of the snow was pristine, refracting sunlight until everything felt bright and surreal even in the confines of the sheriff's SUV.
It was, Will recalled with a cynical twist of his lips, Christmas morning. At least they'd had a white Christmas.
The pseudo-camaraderie that he and Lecter had in the car, lingering from the morning, faded when they pulled up to the crime scene and walked to the front door. Will had a borrowed jacket zipped up to his chin to ward off the bitter cold, but Lecter didn't seem bothered. He wore the previous day's clothing with far more aplomb than Will could have managed in a tux; his sweater still had traces of tacky pastry, and his pants held a deep wrinkle.
"Could you … ?" he started, not sure how to ask; Lecter was rarely in his way, but their forced closeness might have tipped the scales off-balance, might have changed things in ways Will couldn't yet see. Will didn't know what might happen, but regardless, he didn't want Lecter seeing him around the murders up close if he could help it.
"Of course," Lecter said, like Will had asked a whole question, and stepped back to a trailing distance.
Will tried to steady himself before he walked into the living room, where the bodies were, but no preparation was ever enough to brace him for a crime scene. He hadn't seen any of this killer's victims in the flesh, in the killer's element; all of his knowledge was gleaned from crime scene photos and bad dreams.
The reality of them was far worse than any photo. The smell was … contained, in part by the cold, but unavoidable; in the deep Montana winter, he could have told himself he was in a meat packing plant. But more than that was the reality of their faces, families picked because they were already photogenic, all-American, slim, and then they were transformed into a caricature of something found in a shopping mall. He looked at them up close, looked at their faces made up with a thorough and enthusiastic if not expert hand, and felt deep, roiling horror over imagining them the night before.
He stood in the entrance of the living room for far too long, frozen, just as still as the bodies displayed in front of him, their fake limbs akimbo, until he heard noise behind him as though from a great distance.
Will turned his head to find the source, disoriented, until he recognized Dr. Lecter and felt the firm, warm grasp of his hand encircle his wrist. He allowed himself to be pulled into a corner, backed into it, and Lecter boxed him in with his body, taking up almost all of Will's field of vision.
Lecter kept his hand where it was, fingers tightly locked until Will thought the bones of his wrist might start grinding together. It helped. He could still see part of a body over Lecter's shoulder, and his attention was drawn there; moths were drawn to flames and deer ran straight at headlights and Will couldn't look away from the things that tormented him.
"Will," Lecter said again, and that time nudged Will's chin with his finger until Will was coaxed to look only straight ahead. The only thing straight ahead was Lecter himself; their gazes met, and Will nearly jolted in place. It wasn't the first time they'd made eye contact, but it was still a rarity, and after the strange night they'd had, it seemed significant. "Be here."
Will studied the crow's feet that spanned out from Lecter's tea-colored eyes. He made himself nod. Lecter's face was easy to catalog for its oddities; strong nose, nearly sunken eyes, full mouth. He found that their breathing was falling into sync. "I'm here," he said.
"Good." He watched Will's face, searching it for clues; Will had never watched himself shut down, but he imagined his face was blank, his eyes glazed. He could feel his cheeks were pink with the memory of his body's reaction to a murderer's version of wet dreams. He did his best to seem alert, and he manipulated the hand Lecter held to tug at the corner of Lecter's sleeve. Winston occasionally did the same when he wanted attention, but with his teeth.
"I'm here," he repeated.
Lecter must have been convinced, at least for the time being, because he dropped Will's hand. He didn't step back immediately; the front of him radiated heat that Will's cold, shocked body craved. "I am here for you, Will. Nothing about what you can do is shameful. Please remember that."
Will nodded; the words "thank you" were not easy or convincing things from him, so they were better left unsaid. When Lecter finally stepped away, the room seemed smaller, the victims not seeming to loom. Lecter did not resume his courteous distance; he stayed close to Will's heels, just in case he was needed.
Will took a breath and closed his eyes.
Chapter 2: Hannibal POV coda
I was prompted by queertitan to do a POV ficlet for one of my fics: POV — something that’s already happened, retold from another character’s perspective. I chose Strange Bedfellows. For context, this is the scene/right before the scene where Will wakes up aroused from his creepy serial killer dream.
I already posted this in what I thought was going to be a collection of random stuff from other verses, but I decided to go back and add it to this and streamline everything that way.
Hannibal dozed; he did not surpass the second stage of REM sleep. He rarely slept more than four or five hours per night to begin with, his body long since regulated to efficiency in most things, but the knowledge of sharing a bed with Graham kept him from sinking into the uncomfortable mattress, from fully succumbing. It was very easy to blink open his eyes when he felt the first few tremors of Graham's dreams; he was adrift in his own subconscious, a little ship on a churning ocean. Hannibal felt him begin to move with the swells.
First Graham's breathing changed; it went from deep, long puffs of exhalation to quick and nasally, an irregularity not quite indicative of the usual REM patterns. When he heard Graham mutter against his pillow, he knew for certain what he was witnessing. When perspiration prickled on the back of Graham's neck, releasing a note of arousal, Hannibal felt his own lungs pull with desire to increase the pace of his breathing, but he kept himself in check.
He couldn't see in the dark; he was not a cat, but hours in darkness allowed his eyes to pick out Graham amongst the covers, a gray shape, sheets nearly to his neck. He wanted to peel down the covers for a better view, but he had a feeling Graham was just warming up.
He was right. Graham spent a while smothering his pillow with damp whispers, and for all of his unrest, he was remarkably still. But then, after a few minutes, he moved with sudden purpose; he rolled over onto his stomach. What had been before a suggestion of scent became obvious, the sheets trapping the warm fever and sweat of him inside of their cocoon and sharing it with Hannibal. His nostrils flared. He still did not pull the covers away for a better view.
Graham became someone else in sleep, or at least he did that night. Hannibal knew exactly what he was up to inside of his dream, if not the particular crime scene he visited. He knew from Graham's level of exhaustion, almost too deep to muster up his usual snappishness unless under duress, that he was deeply enmeshed in their current case. The fact that pictures and crime scene reports alone had brought him to such sensitivity was remarkable. Watching his hips gyrate, displacing the covers with little jerks against Hannibal's skin and borrowed shirt, a sour combination of too much detergent and lingering sweat, he felt more clinician than voyeur. He enjoyed watching, but he wanted to see Graham's own humanity bared, not the echoes of their deficient killer.
It was still engaging. A few times he wanted to let his eyes slip closed and experience Graham's noises and rutting with his other senses at the forefront, but he was not likely to win repeat viewings of such a performance in the future. Eventually Graham's personal distress started to creep into the fantasy he'd appropriated, and his rubbing became much less deliberate, his movements lax and confused. He drifted up slowly, the dream loath to part with him, and continued his slow push and swivel of hips a few seconds after reaching wakefulness.
Graham's body halted, but it was primed with energy unexpended; he was still like an animal sensing danger, not like a puppet played by another's desires with its strings suddenly cut. Hannibal expected to feel a tremble in their mattress, but there was none.
With an exhale, Graham turned over, reeling from realization and struggling to tamp down on his body's reactions. With his movement brought more of his smell; arousal tainted the Encephalitis some, gave it a musky, dirty note that jarred with the fresh, sweet sweat he usually sported, but overall Hannibal found it appealing.
Graham forced a few labored exhales and finally swallowed enough of his shame to ask, "Why didn't you wake me?" in an unsteady voice.
Hannibal said nothing, because whatever reasoning he might have given was inferior to what Graham's guilty, embarrassed mind would fill in for him. He also doubted Graham would remember the night well; disoriented, fighting possession of his own mind, in the grips of fever – if Hannibal believed in luck, he would hope that this might end up being another segment of time Graham lost.
He did turn on the light, and Graham grimaced unattractively, his eyes narrowing to slits.
Hannibal observed him, his shuddering chest that he took great pains to keep steady, or steadier than it would have been otherwise; the outline of an erection through the sheets, though the covers were mussed enough to create suggestive dips and valleys of fabric, but Hannibal was fairly certain of what he saw; the panicked, haunted look in Graham's eyes; the sweat curling his hair around his face. He had several tactics available to him, but Hannibal found himself leaning heavily toward the one that would bring him the most immediate satisfaction.
He stood, noted Graham's flare of shame, and started stripping the bed. He allowed himself one peripheral glance at Graham unveiled. He had a pleasing enough form; Hannibal was right about his erection. His underwear was damp with sweat and a significant amount of Cowper's fluid; Hannibal was not surprised to find that Graham's messiness extended so far.
The smell of him out of the covers was ripe, and his anxiety was starting to mount, ruining the deliberate inhales Hannibal took to commit the whole picture of him to memory. When he touched Graham's arm, firming a hold around him, he was not surprised by the warmth he emitted. Graham broke into gooseflesh when Hannibal put his other hand on the bare flesh of his back.
"Up," he instructed, waiting with evident patience for a moment, but Graham just stared up at him dumbly. "It's all right," he said in an even gentler tone.
Graham stood, a slip of a man on unsteady feet, and Hannibal began to unveil the rest of him.