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His Gaze

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Hannibal was an extremely meticulous and careful person. Will Graham had picked that up from the moment they had met and interacted with each other in Jack Crawford’s office. Jack Crawford was frustratingly explaining how all the Minnesota Shrike confessions coming in had too many details thanks to Tattle Crime journalist Freddy Lounds. Will was sitting down in front of Jack’s desk while Hannibal perused the map containing the pictures and the locations of the abducted girls.

Will made a comment about the tastelessness of Freddie’s actions, feeling empathetically ashamed at how nonchalant people like her could take and make a profit from the actions of this criminal. It was the utter indifference that was borderline disgusting to Will. This prompted a brief and precise question from Hannibal. Will couldn’t look at him, both because he had just met him and because he felt uncomfortable with eye contact in general. Will was sure if he searched his feelings deeper, he’d find some of the hesitation was due to Hannibal’s profession. He hadn’t had many good experiences with anyone from Hannibal’s line of work.

“Do you have trouble with taste?” Hannibal’s question was light and seemingly conversational, and his voice had a deep timbre to it, his European accent foreign but indistinguishable from where exactly. Will didn’t meet Hannibal’s gaze after the question was directed towards him, but felt it against the skin of his face until Hannibal turned his attentions back on the map. The electricity against his skin calmed.

“My thoughts are often not tasty.” Before he answered, Will took a big breath and practically sighed out his answer. He wasn’t against the psychiatrist making conversation with him, but the question felt odd, prying and unnecessary. Will’s arm reached out for the coffee mug in front of him as Hannibal answered too quickly back.

“Nor mine. No effective barriers.” Hannibal spoke toward the map, leaning in and peering at the white lines drawn between the cities and the corresponding victims. Hannibal also had an offhanded tone, reflecting the way Will answered.

Will personally found it difficult to look at the victims on the board for too long. The pictures of the girls, now eight in total, who all had the same maiden brown hair and bright blue eyes, were smiling back at whoever stared at them, unaware that their lives would be interrupted by a stranger with alternative plans for them. They couldn’t call these actions murders just yet, since they still haven’t found any of the girls’ bodies, but Will knew immediately what they were. Their unknowing happiness and too hopeful faces made Will uneasy and provoked unwanted thoughts into his mind. To distract himself, he lifted the coffee mug from the desk and brought it to his lips, answering swiftly before a big gulp of office coffee. Anything to excuse himself from more unnecessary interaction.

“I make forts.” The office coffee was less than satisfactory, but it didn’t need to taste good for him to make any kind of socially acceptable action to not continue talking. Will felt and heard Hannibal ignore his attempts, however, Hannibal taking strides over toward the other empty chair beside him while pursuing the conversation further.

“Associations come quickly.” Hannibal spoke from behind Will’s chair with Will still gulping at his unsatisfactory coffee. Will wasn’t used to such quick and precise conversation. Will thought that Hannibal’s profession came through slightly with his questions and responses, making Will slightly less cooperative. Before Hannibal had reached his chair, Will gulped down his coffee to respond.

“So do forts.” Will flashed Hannibal a glance as he was finding his seat, hoping that would be enough.

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“So do forts.” Will flashed Hannibal a glance as he was finding his seat, hoping that would be enough. As Hannibal sat down next to Will, noticing Will’s eye observing on everything else but the only other people in the room. Hannibal reached forward as he sat to grab his own coffee mug, the brown liquid swilling inside sending a burnt and bitter scent toward Hannibal’s delicate nose. Turning toward Will, Hannibal considered him for a swift moment, his coffee mug still in his hand. Will could feel Hannibal’s gaze on the skin of his face again, electricity sensually sparking across his cheeks and forehead. Will mentally prepared himself for another inevitable sharp response.

“Not fond of eye contact, are you?” Will didn’t think his tone was jabbing in anyway, but this question was so old and Will was tired of hearing it. Will couldn’t help his tone as he responded a little too quickly and harshly.

“Eyes are distracting. You see too much. You don’t see enough.” Will turned his body toward Hannibal now, his eyes still hesitant to look directly into Hannibal’s eyes. He summoned enough courage to look at Hannibal in the face, however, trying to make a point and attempting to explain himself.

“And it’s hard to focus when you’re thinking those whites are really white or they must have Hepatitis or is that a burst vein?” Will was hammily squinting and inspecting Hannibal’s face, turning his head this way and that way, making Hannibal smirk in a friendly manner and nod in the process. Although he was trying to pass off this slightly over emphasized behavior as trying to explain himself, Will was actually taking the time to really look at Hannibal.

Hannibal had deep and dark eyes that appeared maroon, the light of the room gleaming red on his irises. His gaze was electric, stoic, and piercing, and Will now more than ever could feel Hannibal’s eyes on him. Hannibal’s pale ashen hair was longer, his bangs touching the prominent ridge of his eyebrows and threatening to fall onto his eyelashes. Hannibal’s face was angular, his high cheek bones were highlighted with the office light and they casted soft shadows on his olive toned face. Hannibal’s lips were shaped in a soft and natural pout, which to Will gave him the appearance of always looking like he was in deep contemplation. This opinion was aided by a feeling that there is a dark intelligence behind Hannibal. Will observed him until Hannibal’s friendly smirk at Will’s behavior started to wilt slightly, Hannibal’s dark eyes sending more electric currents across Will’s face and neck.

“So, I try to avoid eyes whenever possible.” Will finished and gratefully turned himself away from Hannibal, mentally sighing out relief from the effort of keeping his eyes focused on Hannibal. Determined to move onto the actual reason why he was here, much to his chagrin, Will called for Jack. Unbelievably, Hannibal spoke to Will again before Jack could reach his chair. Begrudgingly, Will turned his attention back to Hannibal as he spoke, his eye brows furrowed with impatience, and his eyes flickering on and off Hannibal.

“I imagine what you see and learn touches everything else in your mind. Your values and decency are present yet shocked at your associations, appalled at your dreams. No forts in the bone arena of your skull for things you love.” Hannibal’s eyes had barely wavered away from Will’s face, his stare was intense and unsettling. Surprisingly, Will was staring attentively at Hannibal by the time he was finished addressing his mental state and capability. Hannibal was grossly correct. Hannibal’s assessment on Will was the most accurate valuation, and the most eloquent, he had ever heard, and he had heard all sorts of opinions about the way he was and how he thought. Will couldn’t escape the perturbed feeling that Hannibal wasn’t here for the girls. The feeling crept up and blossomed inside of his chest, his face furrowing deeper. Defensively, he pursued his feelings aloud.

“Whose profile are you working on?” Hannibal’s position in his chair changed at this question, leaning back and swinging his face and body away from Will slightly, and Will knew the answer. He turned sharply toward Jack, unable to keep anger out of his tone or face. “Whose profile is he working on?” Frustratingly to Will, Hannibal answered instead. Will didn’t turn to look at Hannibal as he spoke.

“I’m sorry, Will. Observing is what we do. I can’t shut mine off any more than you can shut yours off.” Hannibal’s tone wasn’t the least bit apologetic, and returning the favor, he also didn’t look at Will as he spoke. Instead, he reached out toward his coffee to socially sip at the burnt liquid, letting Will have his say. Will hadn’t turned to Hannibal, determined to speak to Jack.

“Please, don’t psychoanalyze me. You won’t like me when I’m psychoanalyzed.” Will’s tone was borderline threatening and definitely held his personal annoyance with the situation. Still not wanting to accept what was happening, Will rose out of his chair to leave.

“Will…” Jack intervened as Will got out of his chair. Will wouldn’t hear it and interrupted Jack before he could finish.

“Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go give a lecture on psychoanalyzing.” And with that, Will grabbed his things and walked swiftly and determinedly out the door, ignoring the deep resonating voice of Jack turning to talk to Hannibal. As he was leaving, Will could tell that Hannibal wasn’t looking directly at him. The current of Hannibal’s eyes wasn’t skating across his back like he expected them to be. Will couldn’t help but picture the shadowy hue of Hannibal’s eyes as he left. Knowing that he was out of Hannibal’s sight, he tried to shrug away the way the electricity had left his skin feeling, angry that Jack would do this and angry that he had to figure it out for himself.

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“Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go give a lecture on psychoanalyzing.” And with that, Will grabbed his things and walked swiftly and determinedly out the door. As he was leaving, Will could tell that Hannibal wasn’t looking directly at him. The current of Hannibal’s eyes wasn’t skating across his back like he expected it to be. Will couldn’t help but picture the shadowy hue of Hannibal’s eyes as he left. Knowing that he was out of that sharp and intense sight, he tried to shrug away the way the electricity left his skin feeling, angry that Jack would do this and angry that he had to figure it out for himself. He highly doubted anyone was going to tell him anything.

Rounding the first corner away from Jack’s office, Will paused to lean against the wall. He removed his glasses hastily, a calloused hand from too many boat motors rising to rub at his eyes and face before making his way up and through his dark brown curls. He took this moment to breathe, pressing his feelings down, scratching lightly at the back of his skull. While he stood there, he heard the deep resonating voice of Jack toward Hannibal and decided to listen to what he had to say.

“Maybe we shouldn’t poke him like that, Doctor. Perhaps a less, uh, direct approach. Keep poking him like that and those Get Smart doors are going to come down faster than you can say ‘Boo.’” Jack’s tone was almost lost to Will with the distance between him and the glass office, but he could hear him enough to tell that Jack was a little fed up. This must not have gone the way Jack expected, but Will couldn’t believe that Jack would have expected anything else. Hannibal spoke up and Will turned his head toward the office to listen.

“During intense conversations, does he adopt your cadence of speech?” At this comment, Will felt his face heat up immensely. He had kicked himself mentally when he found himself doing that before, but it wasn’t something he could necessarily help. There were a lot of aspects of Will’s personality that he couldn’t help. Will had hoped that it wasn’t something too obvious. Jack responded to confirm Hannibal’s inquiry.

“I thought it was a gimmick to get the back-and-forth going.” That comforted Will strangely. His behavior was eccentric enough that any normalized reason to excuse his behavior made it easier to move along. That comfort barely lasted however, knowing that Jack eventually figured it out too.

“It’s involuntary. He couldn’t stop himself if he tried.” Hannibal paused briefly before continuing. Will wasn’t sure he wanted to hear this, currently feeling embarrassed, ashamed, and a little insulted, but he couldn’t pull himself away either. Some morbid curiosity kept him there, wanting to know what else someone like Hannibal could have picked up about him. His assessment before made Will feel shocked, maybe professionally impressed even though he had some dormant dislike for people within Hannibal’s profession, followed by frustration and possibly betrayal with Jack, not that he had high expectations in the first place, especially more so after Jack had cornered him in the bathroom.

“What he has is pure empathy and projection. He can assume your point of view, or mine, and maybe some other points of view that scare him. It’s an uncomfortable gift, Jack. Perception’s a tool that’s pointed on both ends. This cannibal you have him getting to know… I think I can help good Will see his face.”

Will found his face still flushed with heat, some of the heat still from the embarrassment at how translucent his neuroses could be, and some from the sheer astonishment of Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s valuation. His sharp insight was amazing and impressive, and he had been the first person to ever call the way Will was a gift in any other fashion besides something associated with a negative connotation. Yes, it was an uncomfortable gift, and there were phases in his life that Will recognized it as more of a flaw that anything else. It had caused plenty of discord in his life, and it wasn’t something that made him feel special or superior to anyone. Will finally broke away from the wall and made his way out of the building, the words ‘uncomfortable gift’ resounding in his head, associating themselves with a pair of dark maroon eyes and a streak of ashen hair.

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Chapter Two – Hibbing, MN

Will had already been awake for a few hours before he got Jack’s call. Winston was not used to everyone’s schedule, and he was still being introduced to the kennel of dogs that Will had rescued over his time in Wolf Trap, VA. When Will answered the phone and listened to Jack explain what had been found, a low and deep humming seemed to fill his entire body, threatening to pulse out of his ears. Will took the phone away from his face minimally, thinking for a second that Jack might hear the ominous whirr. Confirming the location and Jack’s desire to have Will there, Will started to get ready to travel to Minnesota, though he had a feeling that nothing could really prepare him for what he was about to see.

Will had Jack’s brief description of the crime scene in his head, but nothing really could compare to the scene that was laid out in the dead golden colored field that he found himself in so early in the morning. The calls of the murder of crows seemed deafening, each caw resounding in his chest and vibrating through his body. The grass crunched underneath his old boots as he begrudgingly took step after step toward the presentation. Eventually Will slowed and then stopped all together, watching the murder peck the murdered until the science team cleared them off, sending them screaming sky high into the dawn.

Various FBI uniforms were hustling around the crime scene, and Will found he had a moment to himself before Jack inevitably found him to discuss this macabre exhibition. Internally gulping down disgust and what felt like fear, he took his time to take in the naked frame of the murdered woman.

Thin channels of blood had curved their way down her mounted body, dripping onto the creature that was propped underneath her. Her blood created a shocking contrast between the husky hue of dried blood and her insipid skin. A large stag’s head was what mounted her up like a table, large antler prongs raping through her chest, hips, and thighs to keep her level. The too familiar maiden brown hair pulled at Will’s chest. It was coiled untidily underneath her head and her arms were sprawled out on either side, resting down by the prongs of the beheaded stag, the dead weight of her pulling them down and stretching her small shoulders. Standing in front of her, Will felt like he was dreaming. This criminal had never left any part of any of his victims for the FBI to find before, aside from the mistaken kill left apologetically in her bed. Now, there was everything the FBI could want besides what Will guessed were missing organs.

“Stag head was reported stolen last night about a mile from here.” Jack’s voice boomed towards Will which caused him to blink out of his reverie. The field and all the uniformed bodies washed back into view, and the crunching of official feet in the field merged with the cawing of the remaining circling crows. Will gulped to collect his voice and he responded without moving his eyes away from the woman.

“Just the head?” His question seemed ignored by Jack who continued talking.

“Minneapolis homicide has already made a statement. They’re calling him the “Minnesota Shrike.”

“Like the bird?” The comparison was not lost to Will, him being fond of the outdoors. It was a gruesomely good name.

Jimmy Price was kneeling by the woman’s head, searching for physical evidence with the rest of his crew. At Jack’s words, he spoke in broken sentences and rose at the same time, enlightening everyone with what Will already knew.

“Shrike’s a perching bird. Impales mice and lizards on thorny branches and barbed wire. Rips their organs right out of their bodies. Puts them in a little birdie pantry and eats them later. At its leisure.”

Will didn’t really know how he felt toward Jimmy Price personally. Will had nothing to criticize concerning Jimmy’s lab work so far, but something about the way he spoke pecked at him slightly. Jimmy always seemed to have a curious but positive note in his voice as he spoke, like everything was an interesting tidbit of information, or that everything could be made into joke. As Jimmy spoke, Will timidly moved forward towards her.

“Sounds about right.” Beverly Katz muttered under her breath.

“Can’t tell if it’s sloppy or shrewd.” Jack added to the dialogue.

“He wanted her to be found this way. It’s the homicidal equivalent of fecal smearing. It’s petulant. I almost feel like he’s mocking her…” By the end of this, Will had walked completely up to the body now, his senses completely filled with the woman so disrespectfully displayed in front of them. Will bent his knees to get a closer look as he finished his thought “…or he’s mocking us.”

Jack’s eyebrows were furrowed. Although this was his job, Will commended Jack’s ability to never downplay the death he faced. Will watched Jack’s face fall as he looked at the victim.

“Where did all his love go?” Jack pointedly asked.

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“Where did all his love go?” Jack pointedly asked.

This astute observation shifted something inside of Will’s mind. He felt momentarily suspended upon hearing the phrase, the action around him seeming to cease, the sudden quiet allowing him to pursue this feeling further. Looking at the dead woman in the field, everything about this gruesome presentation felt wrong. The more Will looked at her, the more obvious this misrepresentation became.

“Whoever tucked Elise Nichols into bed didn’t paint this picture.” Will was still lowered down to the ground as he said this. There was a slightly hint of horror or dread to his voice that he couldn’t control.

Brian Zeller, another crucial member of the forensics team, popped up from the other side of the body. He had been down and around her, collecting different types of physical evidence since the murder of crows had been scattered. Standing above her, he hovered his finger around her chest, pointing out more horrific wounds. His voice was hesitant as he spoke toward the rest of the team.

“He took her lungs. I’m pretty sure she was still alive when he cut them out.” A fraction of sickness plagued his voice, not really wanting to believe it.

The night before, unknown to any of them, Dr. Hannibal Lecter stood in his great kitchen wrapped in an apron, his sleeves rolled up his arms. Raw looking and cleaned thoroughly, the poor woman’s lungs were displayed on a wooden cutting board on top of an all chrome island. To the bold composition of Strauss, he was using his full body weight and wiry strength to press the air out of the alveoli, the small rounded structures within the lungs. His back muscles flared against his shirt with the effort, unafraid of using bare hands. He was reminded of crushing grapes for wine as he did this, the rounded alveoli releasing her final breathes. After he was satisfied, he raised his hand and dipped his pinky finger into the sinewy tissue. He lifted it to his parted lips to taste, his tongue dancing around his finger.

“Pre-smoked.” Hannibal stated to himself out loud, flourishing the silver knife that laid next to the wooden cutting board into his hands, fileting the lungs to his taste.

“Our cannibal loves women.” Will spoke passionately, almost angrily, toward Jack Crawford and the rest of the team. This was all wrong, and it ebbed away at him. He had to try to make them understand the impossibility of it all.

“He doesn’t want to destroy them; he wants to consume them, to keep some part of them inside.” Will rose, his cheeks flushed with color and indignation. “This girl’s killer thought that she was a pig.” Will finished, waving his hand dismissively at the corpse. Knowing he wasn’t going to get anywhere with the Minnesota Shrike, he started to walk away.

“You think this was a copycat?” Jack stood up with Will, his eyes still raking all over the mounted body, uncertain, concerned, and confused. Jack turned his body toward the retreating Will, silent amazement at Will’s ability to put any of this together seemingly from nowhere.

“I don’t know. The cannibal who killed Elise Nichols had a place to do it and no interest in… in field Kabuki. So, he has a house, or two, maybe a-a cabin… something with an antler room.” Will was stuttering, frustrated and defensive. He rushed his sentences and his tone was rude as he spoke toward Jack and the rest of the team. Determined to drive his thoughts through, he stopped in his tracks to explain, noticing that the looks on multiple people’s faces reflected the disbelief and possible disgust that he felt toward the situation.

“We’re already looking at Minnesota steamfitters and plumbers and people with hunting licenses.” Jack was the only one who dared to interrupt. Will continued past Jack’s verbal quip, his eyes looking away from Jack and scanning the distance, seeing things the others couldn’t. Will was submerged within contemplation as he continued, his sentences chopped.

“He has a daughter. The same age as the other girls. Same-Same hair color, same eye color, same height, same weight.” His speech sped up with his realizations, growing confidence all the time, a part of him wondering why it wasn’t so obvious and clear before.

“She’s an only child… she’s leaving home. He can’t stand the thought of losing her.” Will’s tone as he spoke his realities changed with each offering of information, ranging from sad desperation, to assertive actuality. Shaking his head slightly, Will turned to walk away from the scene of the crime again, a strange sort of smile on his face, the truths sitting distastefully in his mind and feeling heavy in his mouth. “She’s his golden ticket.”

Jack allowed Will to walk away for a moment, feeling like Will’s evaluation of the crime scene and insight into the murderer became more crisp, concise, and non-personal the further Will walked away. Then, Jack spoke assertively to Will’s back. “What about the copycat?”

At this, Will whirled around impatiently, taking a few seconds before responding.

“You know… An intelligent psychopath, particularly a sadist, is very hard to catch. There is no traceable motive. There will be no patterns. He may never kill like this again.” Will started to turn away, knowing that he was listing things that Jack already knew. Before Will left the field, he stopped and turned around, intentionally digging at Jack. “Have Dr. Lecter draw up a psychological profile. You seemed very impressed with his opinion.”

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“You know… An intelligent psychopath, particularly a sadist, is very hard to catch. There is no traceable motive. There will be no patterns. He may never kill like this again.” Will started to turn away, knowing that he was listing things that Jack already knew. Before Will left the field, he stopped and turned around, intentionally digging at Jack. “Have Dr. Lecter draw up a psychological profile. You seemed very impressed with his opinion.”

Hannibal flambéed the meat in expensive cooking wine, an elegant bottle with a black and royal gold label wrapped around it’s center. After the flame had simmered and extinguished, Hannibal began to fry onions and tomatoes with the offal, the aroma enticing his pallet. He began to plate his meal on various white dishes and elegant white and gold bowls, the numerous colors of the food looking robust against the bareness of the plates.

Finally done cooking, Hannibal laid out the deep red wine and sat regally straight at one of the large sides of his dining room table, his feast laid out before him. Cutting into the meat with obvious satisfaction on his face, he lifted it to his lips, inhaling the smell into his mouth briefly before consuming. Hannibal chewed the meat completely, resting his hands holding the silverware onto the table, before continuing onto the rest of his meal. He picked up a cherry tomato and looked at it, reminded of the alveoli he just finished purging of air. Hannibal smiled to himself, his victory tasting exquisite.

Chapter 3 – Duluth, MN

Will stood in the small motel shower, content with the steaming hot water that was spraying all over his body. He was facing the shower head, letting the water douse his dark curls and run over his face and body. Will wished he wasn’t thinking about what he saw earlier in the field, but it was almost all he could think about, the irritation and personal vexation he felt was eating away at him. He could feel that his mind was trying to stretch over all the information they knew about the disappeared girls, Elise Nichols, the Minnesota Shrike himself, and the imitation killer that left behind such a magnificent but ghastly display. This feeling started to manifest in his mind, slowly taking form in the appearances of different things; dark antlers and raven feathers, maroon eyes and a bloody snout. Will tried to ignore the feeling of something hideous and terrifying standing just outside his shower curtain, breathing through his fear and paranoia.

Blood soaked deer hooves and wild screams plagued his dreams. Before Will knew it, he was being woken up by knocking at his motel door. Will, puzzled, dressed in a t-shirt and boxers and riddled with sleep he was just able to achieve, threw his warm and wet blankets off him to stumble toward the entry. He opened the door, preparing his eyes for the garish light of the mocking morning. Instinctively, Will’s eyes were cast out toward the horizon before taking in the tall figure that stood outside waiting.

Will wasn’t sure who he was expecting, be it Jack or the monster stag that was following him in his dreams, but the last person he expected was Dr. Hannibal Lecter. His figure was tall and dark, back lit with the now obvious late morning light, and it took a while for Will to realize who he was looking at. Shifting his sight around, feeling minimal embarrassment at his lack of dress in comparison to the easy elegance of Hannibal as well as looking for Jack, Will reluctantly settled for Hannibal’s chin.

“Good morning, Will. May I come in?”

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“Good morning, Will. May I come in?” Will could tell in his tone that manners were a well-practiced art form for Hannibal.

“Where’s Crawford?” Although Will and Jack didn’t always agree, Will definitely felt more comfortable with him around, especially now in the presence of someone secretly brought on to profile him. Even though Will knew that Jack wasn’t here, he continued to look out from the double doors of his motel room.

“Deposed in court. The adventure will be yours and mine today.” Hannibal’s voice was calm, even, and calculated. He smiled gently at Will, his eyes appearing friendly. Taking advantage of the beats between them, Hannibal peered into the darkness of the motel room.

Hannibal could smell the sweat on Will, so when he flashed his maroon eyes momentarily on the unkempt bed, he wasn’t surprised to see a drying stain. Hannibal could also smell the faintest hint of bad cheap whiskey off Will’s breathe as he spoke, and his eyes landed onto the empty glass next to the bed. Besides the exertion of sleep and the liquid courage, Hannibal could also feel the workings in the back of his mind that he was detecting traces of fear in Will’s smell. Most humans have a vomeronasal organ that is used to detect pheromones. Many animals have it, but it isn’t functional in the humans that do have one, the sensory neurons having no connection with the central nervous system. Hannibal, however, has found that his works just fine.

“May I come in?” Hannibal repeated himself, personally not surprised he was still inside the door, remembering that their first encounter didn’t end very well for Will.

Will clenched his teeth, his eyes shifting around Hannibal’s form to the bag he was carrying. Breathing in apprehensively, Will began to back away before turning his back to Hannibal, not saying anything but still allowing him to walk into the dim room. Will rationalized with himself, aware of his apprehension with Hannibal. He had a feeling that he was going to end up working with the Doctor anyways, regardless of his feelings. Jack brought him on for a reason, and he knew first hand that Jack had remarkable instincts. There was a reason why Jack was agent in charge of the Behavioral Science Unit.

Hannibal walked inside, the friendly smile still on his face, even when Will turned away. The screen door clunked closed followed by the wooden door with a golden 33 planted on it. Hannibal thought of many things all at once at the glance of the 33; 33 is the atomic number of arsenic, a normal human spine has 33 vertebrae, there are 33 deities in the Vedic religion, the divine name Elohim appears 33 times in the story of creation in the chapters of Genesis, Jesus was crucified at the age of 33 and finally that 33 is a numerical representation of ‘The Star of David’ as well as the phrase AMEN.

Hannibal walked then to the small table planted in front of the window next to the door of the motel, whipping open the curtains to illuminate the room and create small clouds of dust and lint in the meek sunlight. Placing his bag onto one of the chairs, he opened it, and began to speak to Will as he found the other chair at the table.

“I’m very careful about what I put into my body. Which means I end up preparing most meals myself.” Hannibal was working now, pulling out covered bowls, white serving plates, white cups, some silverware, and finally a green thermos, arranging them precisely on the table. Clearing the bag, Hannibal also took his seat, preparing to dish out the food.

Will grabbed one of the small white coffee cups, feeling a mixture of trepidation and gratitude. He held onto the coffee cup as Hannibal poured freshly prepared coffee into it, feeling the warmth spread under his hand. The smell of the coffee was amazing, but was nothing compared to the smell of the food gently wafting out from under the covered containers. He tried to keep his excitement out of his face, still hung up on the feeling of perplexment. Everything about this was different. No one had ever shown up unannounced to serve him handmade breakfast before.

“A little protein scramble to start the day. Some eggs, some sausage.” Hannibal uncovered the containers, releasing steam and scent into the stale rent-a-room air, improving the general chemical and bleach smell that clung to the fibers inside the room.

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“A little protein scramble to start the day. Some eggs, some sausage.” Hannibal uncovered the containers, releasing steam and scent into the stale rent-a-room air, improving the general chemical and bleach smell that clung to the fibers inside the room. Hannibal watched Will’s face flush with delight, causing an inward swelling within his chest. Pretending to deal with his own food, Hannibal watched Will as he was setting up his own meal, feeling a deep immense pleasure at Will’s first bite. He kept his face calm and nonchalant as he watched Will.

“Mm, it’s delicious. Thank you.” Will said with mouth full of sausage. Hannibal was personally pleased that Will sampled the meat first.

“My pleasure.” Hannibal said with a cool voice, now turning to his own meal. Before starting to eat, Hannibal paused, deciding to approach the subject of their last gathering. The paused wasn’t missed by Will, who was busying himself with tipping out the warm breakfast onto a plate, yellow eggs fluffy against pale tomatoes. Will began to prepare himself as Hannibal spoke.

 

“I would apologize for my analytical ambush, but I know I will soon be apologizing again and you’ll tire of that eventually, so I have to consider using apologies sparingly.” Hannibal had speared a large group of eggs onto his fork as he spoke. Now, he paused to watch Will eat again and to allow him to respond. Will rushed a group of eggs into his mouth, chewing as he replied, maybe to appear aloof or untouched

“Just keep it professional.” Even while chewing the food in his mouth, Will sounded stern and defensive, his distaste with this whole arrangement obvious. Will threw a pointed look at Hannibal before bringing his attention back to his food.

“Or, we could socialize like adults. God forbid we become friendly.” Hannibal casually ate, his calm voice gently skating over sarcasm.

Will had stopped eating and now was nursing the warm white cup of coffee from earlier, inwardly enjoying the billowing steam rising from the dark liquid. It smelled better than the office coffee both Will and Hannibal had in Jack Crawford’s office. He took a sip, contemplating Hannibal’s joke. It tasted significantly better than the office coffee.

“I don’t find you that interesting.” Will tried to ease the tight defensive tone from previously, failing slightly. Hannibal’s openness for inclusion in Will’s life was puzzling, adding yet another perplex element. Granted, Will didn’t really know Hannibal, and he wasn’t really sure he wanted to. His statement was true enough, even with his jaded feelings. Will didn’t find Hannibal interesting, but he did find him confusing. He acted in a way that no one really did; from his manners to his cool collectiveness, his conscious calm, his complete control. Hannibal was the most composed and careful person, and Will could almost physically feel his control when Hannibal stopped chewing to respond, his dark maroon stare intense and unblinking.

“You will.” Hannibal considered Will after he said this for a flitting second, watching endless emotion and reaction fluttering over his face and dance behind his eyes. Hannibal doesn’t have an empathy disorder like Will, but Will, with his overwhelming neuroses, was transparent to Hannibal. Hannibal could tell that his certainty was off putting to someone used to the chaos of humanity like Will was. Re-assuming nonchalance, Hannibal looked back to his food and ate another bite.

Will had forgotten the electrifying quality behind Hannibal’s stare, the shock of this morning dulling its effect. He recalled the moments in Jack’s office, newly introduced to Hannibal. This freshness between them seemed to intensify Hannibal’s attentions, Will automatically being on edge upon introduction to any new person. Will felt it now wholly, Jack not being any kind of stimuli buffer for the two of them. At least before, Will was able to turn his attention to Jack to break the ogling tension. Now, all Will had was Hannibal’s food and Hannibal’s coffee, set upon Hannibal’s plates and in Hannibal’s cup. Slowly, he began to eat again.

“Agent Crawford tells me you have a knack for the monsters.” Hannibal said in the silence between them, hoping to engage more conversation out of Will, and more so hoping to trigger some higher emotional response.

“That’s a superstition.” Will said tightly into his food, his eyes on everything but Hannibal. It was strange the way Will knew whenever Hannibal was looking at him, even if it was a passing second. Hannibal’s glances awakened a distinct feeling of scrutiny on an almost molecular level inside Will, like being pulled apart and methodically inspected, then devoured.

“I called your good friend Dr. Bloom about you. She wouldn’t gossip, not a word. She’s very protective of you. Smitten, I would say. She asked me to keep an eye on you.” Inwardly, Hannibal sipped at Will’s patience. These were innocent enough jabs, Hannibal feeling confident enough that Will’s exoskeleton was thick enough. To Hannibal’s mixed pleasure, however, this made Will lift his gaze, dark and accusing toward him. Will pushed his plate away from him, setting his utensil down into the bed of half-finished eggs.

“I don’t think the Shrike killed that girl in the field.” A personal half victory for Will, not rising to Hannibal’s seemingly innocent comment but unable to completely fight down the flush that found his cheeks. Will knew in his offhand kind of way that Dr. Bloom, like almost anyone in the psychiatric field, found him as some kind of curiosity. Dr. Alana Bloom was brilliant, and Will genuinely liked her, both personally and also for her professional refrain.

Chapter Text

“I don’t think the Shrike killed that girl in the field.” A personal half victory for Will, not rising to Hannibal’s seemingly innocent comment but unable to completely fight down the flush that found his cheeks. Will knew in his offhand kind of way that Dr. Bloom, like almost anyone in the psychiatric field, found him as some kind of curiosity. Dr. Alana Bloom was brilliant, and Will genuinely liked her, both personally and for her professional refrain. Will knew his empathy was curious to a lot of professionals, making him feel a little dirty and used.

Will’s comment filled Hannibal with happiness and worry, inwardly smirking and cursing at Will’s intuition and intelligence. Hannibal was an expert at keeping emotions out of his eyes and off his face, his mask smooth and impassive. Will Graham was completely fascinating, the power of his empathy disorder calling all sorts of thoughts and ideas into Hannibal’s head. He needed to know more, wanting to find out how Will knew that it wasn’t the Minnesota Shrike who killed that girl. After chewing and swallowing his food, Hannibal set his utensils down and leaned far forward toward, his attention even more heavy on will.

“The devil is in the details. What didn’t your Copy Cat do to the girl in the field? What gave it away?” Hannibal’s voice sounded like he was helping Will try and process the information he knew, letting Will ruminate on everything he had seen yesterday. Self-preservation was the most important thing to Hannibal, his freedom a top priority. Although it took someone like Will to see through the veil of his murder, he needed to know for next time.

“Everything.” Will didn’t reach for his food anymore, his hand anxiously finding his face. He rubbed at his mouth and chin quickly, his head slightly shaking against his hand in disbelief. Will’s eyes were cast down at the food as he explained to Hannibal the perplexity.

“It’s like he had to show me a negative so that I could see the positive. It…” Will’s speech increased in speed until he abruptly stopped, raising both of his hands to cover and rub at his face. He sighed harshly against his rough hands, his breath hot reflecting off his hands and back against his face. Will could feel his anxiety building inside his heart, making it difficult to speak. He felt exasperated, and the anger started to creep back up inside of him. Rubbing his tired eyes, he continued, his voice louder.

“That crime scene was practically gift-wrapped!” Will’s eyes were wide with indignation.

Hannibal devoured Will’s presence when Will’s hands were covering his face. As soon as Will ran his hand down his face to expose his bright blue eyes again, Hannibal slid his mask back on, appearing contemplative and passive.

“The mathematics of human behavior--all those ugly variables. Some bad math with this Shrike fellow, huh?” Hannibal was happy to see Will retake interest in his coffee, unscrewing the cap to pour himself another cup. Will’s face was tight, his mouth a soft frown, the flush from his indignation still mottling his cheeks. At Hannibal’s words, eyes shot a glance at Hannibal before looking down at the tipping thermos, saying nothing. Pursuing conversation further, Hannibal asked Will a pointed question, his curiosity evident.

“Are you reconstructing his fantasies?” Will let out a soft quick laugh as an answer at this question, more of a breath than a laugh, no smile on his face. Wanting a real answer, Hannibal continued.

“What kind of problems does he have?” Will raised his eyebrows and tipped his head as he listened, lifting the white cup off the table.

“Uh, he has a few.” Will said offhandedly, taking another sip after a tip of his head.

“You ever have any problems, Will?” Hannibal inwardly smirked, knowing full well that Will most likely thought he had a mountain of complications.

“No.” Will sarcastically answered with a dark smile, hamming up his motions, which made Hannibal smile.

“Of course, you don’t. You and I are just alike—problem free. Nothing about us to feel horrible about.”

Will didn’t respond, turning his attentions back to his food. He speared another piece of meat onto his fork and ate it, Hannibal watching him intensely. Will could feel his eyes all over his face again, trying hard to ignore the crawling sensations on his skin.

“You know, Will… I think Uncle Jack sees you as a fragile little teacup. The finest china, used for only special guests.” Will quickly put his fork down, unexpected laughter bubbling from him. The laughter sounded and felt twisted, Hannibal’s analogy was definitely the oddest he had ever heard about him, and he knew that there was a lot of crap speculation going around about him. Hannibal smiled wide, not really laughing back but finding Will’s humor in his parallel interesting. After the laughter died, Will looked sharply at Hannibal, a smile still lingering on his face.

“How do you see me?”

The way Hannibal was looking at Will caused his smile to falter a little. Will couldn’t think of a person he’s ever met with such a pointed and solid stare. Hannibal’s right side of his face was lit with the pale light coming through the window, a shocking contrast in comparison to the almost black shadow enveloping his left side. After a few beats of silence, Hannibal stated, the soft smile he wore wilting away to a serious expression, his eyes as electric as ever before, boring deep into Will.

“The mongoose I want under the house when the snakes slither by.” Hannibal said calmly, his face stony, dead serious.

This stopped Will, taking the laughter away, the answer completely unpredicted and unanticipated. Will had thought, and possibly hoped, in a strange inquisitive kind of way that Hannibal would open up more about his observations like he had in Jack’s office, considering his annotations before were spot on. He never expected anyone to view him like this, a dangerous guardian to keep around to fight off even more dangerous pests. Will leaned back in his chair, his eyebrows furrowed over blinking eyes, confused reverie written all over his face.

“Finish your breakfast.” Hannibal said, finally breaking silence and eye contact with Will. Will continued to lean back in his chair, finding it difficult to look away from Hannibal, even though Hannibal started to eat his breakfast again.