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The Champagne Minuet

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“The meat simply sings with the sauce, don’t you think?”, was like a slap upside Will’s head, upsetting all the fragile pieces within until they landed in place, completing themselves with seemingly little effort.

Nearly dropping his fork while doing mental back flips, Will had a moment of perfect clarity, an epiphany of murder tinged with various shades of insanity. It all made sense now, starting from Garrett Jacob Hobbs all the way to poor Miriam Lass, blatantly obvious really when it all came together.

Catching the implement in time, Will managed to set it down neatly against the edge of his plate as he considered his mouthful of food, chewing with intent and care. It was most definitely the former rising star of the Baltimore opera, Ms. Avery Brooks. Her final claim to fame was being the latest victim of the Chesapeake Ripper. “No, Hannibal’s latest victim.” Will mentally corrected himself, masticating thoroughly.

Ms. Brooks had been butchered, a clean cut line opening her up from crotch to lips, the resulting cavity stuffed with wilted red roses and cow manure. With that new nightmare fresh in mind, Will was unsure what the poor woman had done to incur Hannibal’s wrath to such a degree. Whatever the grievance was, it had most certainly pissed off the doctor to an extreme degree if his ‘statement’ was anything to go by. Will would have to find out eventually but until then, some important issues needed to be addressed.

“What is it, Will? Does the food not agree with you harmoniously?” Hannibal asked with a slight half smile, looking pleased with himself. Will’s shoulders slumped in answer as he leaned forward to intently regard the man sitting across from him. He took a moment to swallow, washing the taste of human served in a lovely buerre blanc sauce with a swig of pinot grigio.

“Do you really do that every time?” Will asked, giving his host a hard look.

“To what are you referring to?” Hannibal ventured. He frowned when Will gave him a pointed sour look in return.

“Oh for god’s sake, you might as well call this Soprano Soufflé for all the subtlety you’re using.” Will snapped, gesturing down to their plates.

“It is quiche, not a soufflé” Hannibal corrected, looking a touch put out about Will’s ignorance about the culinary arts. Will threw his hands up in the air in frustration, falling back into his seat as they both magnificently ignored the cannibalistic elephant in the room for a quiet moment.

“Your puns are horrible. Just…..stop. Please, for the love of good taste, stop.”, Will sighed in disgust, picking up his fork again. Amused, Hannibal watched as the empath seemed to enjoy his next bite of singer.

“It does not bother you……”, Hannibal trailed off, nodding toward Will’s rapidly diminishing portion.

“It’s a little late to ask me that now, don’t you think?”, Will grumbled around a mouthful of what was apparently quiche. He had thought it was a fancy ham and cheese pie drizzled with a sauce of some kind. “Anyway, it’s really good and I’ve already started eating it. Seems a shame not to finish.”.

“Not one for wasting food?”, Hannibal mused, finishing his own plate. Ms. Brooks had made a better quiche than soprano and he was quite pleased with the results. The crust had turned out perfectly as well. He would have to remember to put this recipe in rotation.

“Not when you grow up poor and hungry. No. No, you don’t.” Will shrugged, his childhood memories full of humid Louisiana nights when he would fall asleep listening to his stomach growl alongside the cicadas. “So why are we having Ms. Brooks for the main course? From the mess you left us, I have to assume it was grave offense.”

“She was sleeping with influential members of the art community and the conductor of the orchestra to obtain roles that were far beyond her reach and level of talent. Performances that should have gone to more deserving artists who would not have wasted my evenings out.” Hannibal explained, savoring his last bite. Vengeance had never tasted more savory or well paired with wine.

“Ah. The roses make sense now. Elegant touch.” Will nodded, lingering over a bit of buttery crust. “And the conductor? I assume we will be finding him sooner rather than later at some point?”.

“We already had him for the first course.” Hannibal said, rising to start clearing away the plates, waving off Will’s silent offer to help. The proposal was appreciated but the doctor preferred his fine porcelain intact.

“I thought that was beef.” Will mused. The little meatballs things with the funny name he couldn’t pronounce properly or remember had been quite tasty. “Those were really good.”

“Thank you. It was a new recipe.” Hannibal smiled, balancing all stacks of plates down his arms with ease. “I appreciate your adventurous palette.”.

“But seriously, you have got to stop with the puns.” Will groused, following Hannibal into the kitchen to start filling his duel stainless steel sinks with sudsy water and rinse. At the least, he could contribute his part to the feast by cleaning dishes and pots.

“An artist should be allowed his eccentric tendencies.” Hannibal sniffed, enjoying the mingled scents of Will, well prepared food, and open truth in his kitchen.

“You’re going to be so screwed if you ever have dinner with anyone with half a brain.” Will pointed out, letting the dishes soak for now and not wanting to take a break in their conversation just yet.

“That is the next course.” Hannibal said lightly.

Will rolled his eyes, “Oh, clever.”

“This is my design.”

“Haha. You’re such a witty bastard.”

“Please keep in mind, my dear Will, that I do eat the rude.”, Hannibal leisurely picking out a bottle of aged port and obtaining the proper glassware to serve it in. Dinner protocol was getting all jumbled up but since this was a casual affair with an unexpected momentous breakthrough, exceptions in etiquette could be allowed.

Hannibal was pleased to note that Will accepted his cut crystal snifter of port graciously, even pausing to smell it though the doctor knew he had no credible nose for such things. “I’m surprised there is anyone left then.” Will smirked into the heady rich alcohol.

“I am selective.” Hannibal clarified, enjoying the sight of Will leaning casually against his kitchen island.

“You mean you’re picky.” Will shot back, gesturing to the doctor with his snifter, the tawny port swirling around in it like liquid topaz.

“I am a gourmet with a refined palette.” Hannibal defended himself, enjoying every minute doing so. He savored his own sip, wincing slightly as Will gulped his own.

“You are a gourmand, and don’t look so damn wounded about it, it‘s true. I am merely calling a spade a spade, who probably spends all his free time thinking up theatrical jokes with the sole purpose of driving other people crazy.” Will huffed into his glass, shooting the last of it.

“I could still eat you.” Hannibal said flatly, unsure if he meant it or not now and wasn‘t that a strange feeling for him to experience.

Will surprised them both by laughing. “I’m stringy at best and will give you heartburn at worst.” he managed out, choking back his dark humor. He couldn’t keep visions of himself as a pie out of his head.

“I might be ‘willing’ to risk it.” Hannibal said who could never resist a pun, the worse the better.

“And deprive yourself of intelligent, sparkling dinner conversation? Where is the hedonist I’ve grown to know and love?” Will countered with a rueful grin while politely ignoring the play on his name. He was taking a risk, but out of all cliff jumps, this one was a hill in comparison really to the rest.

“I simply appreciate art.” Hannibal said slowly, carefully taking in all of the empath’s words. The night was turning out far more interesting than he could have ever imagined. “I am not a hedonist.”

“Your bathroom says otherwise.” Will countered in a sing song voice, referring to the marble tiled monstrosity of a room, filled from corner to corner with every luxury of personal grooming and convenience that the modern world could provide.

“Cleanliness is next to godliness.” Hannibal was not about to repent for his love of scented bath salts and water jets.

“Speaking of religion, do you eat Mormons?” Will asked. He couldn’t resist and he was honestly curious.

“Only if they are persistent.” Hannibal said lightly, his dark eyes alight with humor that grew serious again as he topped off their drinks. “Forgive the sudden change in topic, but are you going to tell Jack or anyone else for that matter?”

Will sighed, pursing his lips in thought, the empath going solemn as well. “Its depends.” he said finally, taking a thoughtful sip.

“On what?”, Hannibal asked, taking note of where all his knives were in the kitchen and Will’s proximity to them.

“If there is dessert or not.” Will arched a brow at him, letting him in on the joke.

“My dear William……” Hannibal paused dramatically, a wide grin starting to play out across his thin lips. “I am a cannibal and in your opinion, apparently a man of ill humor, but I have never been a poor host.”