Will’s link to his soulmate has been silent for years.
Whenever he walks down the street he sees people with all sorts of words and doodles over their skin. They have little messages and reminders covering their bodies. These marks are repeatedly showcased proudly by those wearing them.
Will always feels a strange twist in his gut when he looks down at his own arms; he is as bare as they day he was born. He knows his soulmate cut him off years ago, when he was still just a child even, but he doesn’t blame them. At least, not entirely. After all, who would ever want to be soul bonded with someone as broken as Will Graham?
Then he walks into Jack Crawford’s office and meets Hannibal Lecter.
It’s during one of their many sessions, after Will has finally started to feel comfortable around the other man, that the topic of soulmates comes up. If it had not been related to his current case, Will doubts the topic would have been brought up between them at all.
However, the case Will is working is directly related to the subject, and so they discuss it. The case in question, childishly dubbed the Soulmate Snatcher, is a strange case where the killer will write ‘soulmates are dead’ in the victim’s blood on the victim’s body before they are murdered. This causes the dramatic effect of those last words appearing on the victim’s soulmate’s skin before it fades with the death of their other half.
“Are you more invested in this case because you fear for your own soulmate?” Hannibal asks.
The question, although he knows it shouldn’t, surprises Will. It also manages to bother him a little bit. He thinks on his answer a moment then slowly says, “I don’t know.” Hannibal tuts at the answer, obviously disappointed. Before he can say anything, Will shakes his head and adds, “I don’t know because I don’t know my soulmate.”
“There are plenty of people who have yet to meet their soulmate, Will,” Hannibal reminds him patiently.
Will shakes his head again, frustrated. “No, I mean… I don’t know my soulmate because they cut me off,” Will explains. He looks down at his hands which are folded in his lap. His hands, as always, are blank so he tears his gaze from them again.
“What do you mean by ‘cut you off’?” Hannibal inquires with a frown, subtly leaning forward in his chair.
Will fidgets slightly. He’s never really discussed this before. Taking a deep breath, Will steels himself. “They haven’t spoken to me since I was eight years old,” Will says. He has to force the sadness bubbling within him back down. “I mean I barely remember the things they would write but it felt good being connected to someone, knowing that they were mine the same way I was theirs. Then one day they just… stopped.”
“And how does them cutting you off make you feel?” Hannibal questions.
The questions is clumsy. Another time, Will might have poked fun at the older man for such an obvious and awkward attempt. He simply decides to allow it this time.
“I was upset about it for the longest time but I’m okay with it now,” Will says. The lie doesn’t hurt as much as it used to. He may understand that his soulmate had reasons for cutting him off but it still hurts; he stills feels empty because of it.
His eyes meet Hannibal’s. The other man nods and looks as though he wants to say something. Whatever it is, he’s interrupted by Will getting a call from Jack. The session is cut short so Will can look at a crime scene.
At the scene, Will is thankful it does not belong to the Soulmate Snatcher, a name for too similar to a childhood fable, but then feels less relieved to find the Ripper’s work looming before him.
Although he shouldn’t, Will thinks it’s beautiful. The entire scene is laid meticulously. Every single detail has been thought of and incorporated for a reason. Will cannot help but appreciate the macabre beauty.
Looking at the scene, the beauty he can see, he feels weirdly compelled to talk to his soulmate. He doesn’t, obviously.
He had stopped trying to communicate with them when he was ten. His soulmate had cut him off when he was eight, that much was true, but Will had refused to give up on them until two years later. His last attempt, all those years ago, had been met with a single, cold and unfeeling order of “silence”. That day, staring at the word on his wrist, Will had decided it best to stop trying to talk with his soulmate altogether and simply allow them to cut him off.
Now, the scene calls to him and makes him want to try again. It’s a strange urge but a strong one. He pushes the thought from his head.
Knowing he is no longer needed at the scene, he stalks away to his car.
Later that day, he turns up to Hannibal’s house. The urge to talk to his soulmate has only gotten worse since leaving the crime scene. He feels the need to communicate with them – to connect – simmering beneath his skin in a way he hasn’t in a long time. So, he does the only thing he can think of when he has a problem.
He goes to Hannibal Lecter.
“Will, what a surprise,” Hannibal says when he sees who is stood on his doorstep.
Will glances up at him from where he had studiously been looking at his feet. He notices how unsurprised Hannibal looks and cannot stop a lopsided smile from forming on his face. With a small huff of laughter, Will says, “yeah, I was thinking on some stuff and thought I should talk to you about it.”
He doesn’t say what that stuff was. At the moment, Will is still unsure which ‘stuff’ it is he wants to discuss. There’s a lot they could go over; the way the Ripper’s scene had called to him; how it had made him want to reconnect with his soulmate; the strange situation of his soulmate in general. There is a lot Will feels like he should talk about. He’s just not entirely sure he wants to.
“Well, come on in,” Hannibal says as he opens the door wider and steps to the side. He makes a sweeping gesture with his arm as he does all this.
Will, with a grateful smile, steps inside and moves further into the house. He shrugs off his coat and throws it onto the coat stand. Will waits for Hannibal to lead him into the kitchen where he realises he has once again interrupted Hannibal cooking.
“I’m sorry for turning up unannounced,” Will apologises. He watches as Hannibal returns seamlessly to his counter to continue preparing food.
Hannibal waves the apology off easily. “Nonsense,” he says with a friendly smile. “My home is always open to friends.”
Will cannot help but return the smile with one of his own. He’s never been particularly good at making friends but to know Hannibal considers him as such is a good feeling. “I appreciate it,” Will tells the older man sincerely.
Hannibal nods, obviously pleased. He wordlessly offers Will wine and Will nods, already knowing he’ll need some. The two remain in companionable silence for a while longer until Will sighs.
“I had a Chesapeake Ripper scene earlier,” Will blurts, “it made me want to reach out to my soulmate again.”
Hannibal blinks. Then with a nod, he reasons, “that would make sense. A brutal scene would cause worry and a need to ensure one’s soulmate are indeed okay.”
Will shakes his head. “No, it wasn’t that,” Will tells him. “I mean, yeah, I guess a little bit of it was but not entirely.” He awkwardly wrings his hands together as he thinks over how best to explain. He appreciates how Hannibal remains patient as always while he thinks it over. “It called to me,” Will tries, “the scene drew me in and I couldn’t help but find it beautiful.” He notes the gleam of interest in Hannibal’s dark eyes and feels encouraged to continue. “The scene was art to me and it made me wonder… would they see what I see?” Will says thoughtfully. Then, barely above a whisper, he murmurs, “would they see the beauty?”
He raises his eyes to meet Hannibal’s’, uncertain of what he’s going to find there, and feels relieved to find no judgement.
“Why is it you don’t reach out to them?” Hannibal asks carefully. He’s obviously treading carefully because the subject is touchy which Will is thankful for.
Will sighs and he takes a long sip of wine. “I used to try,” he admits then shrugs. “They didn’t like it.”
“How long has it been since you last attempted to contact them?” Hannibal questions cautiously.
“I was ten,” Will answers with a wince. He can feel what Hannibal is going to suggest and really hopes he doesn’t.
“Well, Will, that was a very long time ago,” Hannibal says reasonably, “they may have changed their mind by now. I feel my best advice would be to reach out to them.” Seeing Will cringe, Hannibal huffs, “there is no way to know how they feel without at least trying.”
“I don’t know how I’ll take another rejection though,” Will confesses.
He thinks back to that first time. He was only eight the first time they stopped and still only ten when it became official to him they were cutting him off. He was just a child – an incredibly lonely child – when the one person in the world meant for him rejected. Without realising, Will curls in on himself at the thought of going through that pain once again.
Hannibal sees the distress in the other man’s body language and expression, and places his cooking utensils down to make his way over to Will. He places a comforting hand on his arm. Will startles at the contact but he doesn’t step away. Instead, he gives Hannibal a grateful smile.
“I understand the prospect of rejection is scary but is regret truly the better option?” Hannibal asks gently.
The two of them move on to other topics after that. While Will finishes his wine, mind whirring, they discuss much simpler things such as what Hannibal is cooking. Once he’s done, despite not having stayed long, Will bids goodbye.
His mind is too focused on that last question Hannibal asked.
Back home, his focus is on the dogs. The first thing he does is top up their bowls. He watches them as they eat their fill. Then he gives them all baths because they need it and it gives him something to do. He makes sure they’re completely clean and dry before letting them back into the house. He watches as they all file in and settle into their beds.
Will feels like he should also got to bed. He should put the day behind him. Instead he goes to the cabinet and grabs a bottle of whiskey.
The next morning, he wakes with a heavily pounding head. He sighs. He’s hungover again.
He feels Winston’s nose nudge his arm; the feeling slightly surprising because it’s cold and wet. It’s when he’s retracting his arm that he notices it. He freezes. There, on his arm, is pen. There is writing that obviously belongs to him but then there is also the writing of someone else. The writing of his soulmate.
Will’s stomach lurches.
After throwing up and then getting cleaned and dressed, Will decides he has to speak to Hannibal. He tends to his dogs before he goes. He doesn’t remember his conversation with his soulmate but he can clearly read what they spoke of. He can see exactly what the two of them were discussing.
The moment Hannibal opens the door, clad only in his blue dressing gown, Will walks straight inside, barging past the older man. He ignores the huff of amusement behind him and just heads straight for the kitchen.
It’s where, he feels, this discussion should take place. After all, most of their conversations as friends in this house have been here.
“Will, hello,” Hannibal greets. He does not look surprised to see him. His eyes gleam with something like curiosity – except, Will notes, it’s darker.
In reply, Will shoves the sleeves of his shirt up and thrusts his arm out. He waits without breathing while Hannibal takes his arm in a gentle grip and looks at the marks covering it. The other man looks mildly surprised but the dark gleam in his eyes is still there. Will ignores it for now.
“I did what you said,” he begins, trying not to sound hysterical. “I just don’t remember doing it because I was drunk.” He pulls his arm free and starts to pace. “I just woke up and noticed them.”
“You don’t remember telling your soulmate you admire the Chesapeake Ripper?” Hannibal asks with a raised brow. It is a decidedly scolding brow.
Will barks out a laugh. “That is the least of my worries,” he says with a pointed look at the rest of the conversation. There sits his soulmate’s response. “They basically said they themselves are the Ripper, Hannibal!” Will shouts.
“Will,” Hannibal says, intercepting his pacing. He takes hold of Will’s shoulders. “Calm yourself,” he instructs, “breathe.”
“How can I calm down when my soulmate is the Ripper?” Will hisses angrily, shrugging away Hannibal’s hands.
“They may have been lying,” Hannibal suggests. He appears unruffled by Will’s irritation, simply continuing to watch him calmly.
Will frowns. He shakes his head. “I don’t think they would have said ‘I appreciate the flattery’ without specifying they were kidding if they weren’t being serious,” Will says. He huffs at Hannibal’s unimpressed expression. “I just have a feeling they were telling the truth,” he shrugs.
“Then that would mean you had a pleasant conversation with your soulmate,” Hannibal says plainly, gesturing to the rest of the conversation that followed. There was a lot more said than just the confirmation that Will’s soulmate may be the Ripper. Hannibal moves away from Will to pour them both a glass of wine.
“While knowing they were a serial killer,” Will protests, running his hands aggressively through his hair. He sounds very much hysterical now.
“What will you do now then?” Hannibal asks Will. He holds out the glass of wine he just poured for Will.
With a frown, Will snatches the glass and proceeds to down the contents. He ignores the expression on Hannibal’s face – a mixture of surprise, amusement, irritation, and fondness – but he is gentle with the glass when he places it on the counter. Then, once again, Will is pacing through Hannibal’s kitchen. He keeps tugging at his curls in frustration as he thinks things over.
The entire time Hannibal merely watches patiently.
Suddenly, Will whirls to face Hannibal wearing a panicked expression. “I can’t tell anyone else about this and neither can you,” he says, tone pleading. He relaxes fractionally when Hannibal bows his head in agreement but he’s still obviously stressed. “There are so many options,” he mutters, tugging aggressively at his curls again.
Hannibal walks up to him and gently pulls his hands from his hair. He’s obviously done with watching Will freak out. Hannibal grips Will’s chin so he can tilt his head to properly face him. “Will, you will come to a conclusion much faster if you calm down and look at this logically,” Hannibal tells him softly, soothingly. He sounds as though he’s trying to coax a wild animal into feeling calm again. “We should move this to the den and you can talk to me properly about the options you have and which one you wish to pursue.”
Slowly calming down, Will nods.
“However, before our talk I feel I must change into something far more presentable,” Hannibal says, seeming to only just remember he’s still wearing his soft blue night gown. Unable to stop himself, Will chuckles and Hannibal smiles back. “I will be just a moment, Will,” Hannibal says in parting as he disappears to change clothes.
When Hannibal returns, now dressed in one of his usual obnoxious suits, he collects his still full wine glass and gestures for Will to follow him. Will trails after him like some sort of puppy as he marches to the den.
Both settle in their seats similar to a therapy session and Will feels monumentally calmer. It’s almost as though his melt down from a few moments ago didn’t happen. For a long moment, the two of them simply sit there and watch one another. During that time, Will tries to gather his thoughts together into something that makes reasonable sense.
“We can tell no one about this yet,” Will says first, tone firmer than before now that he feels calmer. He watches Hannibal nod in agreement and sighs in relief. “I can’t let anyone know until I’ve figured things out,” he mutters.
“The fact your soulmate is likely the Chesapeake Ripper will remain a secret with me,” Hannibal assures him. He lifts his glass of wine and takes a small sip, watching Will placidly, before placing it on a coaster on a table and leaning forward in his seat. “The secret, however, is yours to do with as you please,” Hannibal reminds him, “so it is a matter of what you will choose to do with it.”
Will frowns. “That doesn’t help,” he grumbles.
The corners of Hannibal’s mouth turn up. It isn’t quite a smile but it’s close. “I’m sorry, Will,” he says honestly, “I do truly want to help you.”
“And I appreciate it,” Will replies back just as honestly. He sighs, scrubbing a hand roughly over his face. “It’s just a little hard to deal with.”
Hannibal nods in understanding.
For a long while, the pair of them go back to saying nothing. Will’s mind is far too jumbled for the time being. He wants to figure out his thought process before he speaks. Patiently, Hannibal allows Will all the time he may need by simply watching him calmly.
“The moral thing is to turn them in,” Will says eventually, though he sounds as though it was a struggle to force the words out. He awkwardly clears his throat.
Hannibal inclines his head. “I suppose, from a law perspective,” he concedes, “but from a soulmate’s perspective, your perspective, it is debatably more moral to protect them.”
Grunting, Will scowls. “You really aren’t making this any easier,” Will grumbles. He huffs a slight laugh and says, “I guess. The whole of society is always preaching the importance of soulmates.”
He suddenly slouches back in his chair with a heavy sigh. Throwing his head back to stare up at the ceiling, Will groans. “I wonder what a world without soulmates is like,” he mutters thoughtfully.
“I suppose in some ways it is easier,” Hannibal answers.
Will barks out a laugh. The sound is sudden and surprises him a little in its loudness. “Yeah, don’t I know it,” Will responds as he raises his head to look back at Hannibal again. He cannot help laughing at the absurdity of the situation and seemingly Hannibal cannot resist a chuckle. “This is ridiculous,” Will mutters.
After a while, he sits up properly to talk through the various options he has before him.
Ready to leave, Will feels infinitely calmer than he did previously. He knows that the problem of who his soulmate likely is isn’t going to just go away but now he feels like he can actually breathe while he thinks over what he should do.
“Thank you, Hannibal,” he says, entirely sincere. He appreciates the older man’s ability to deal with him no matter the circumstances.
Hannibal nods. “Of course,” he simply says in reply.
There’s a part of Will, an admittedly small part of him, that wants revenge. He spent a long time getting over his soulmate – realising that he would be one of the under 5% of the population that never work out with their soulmate. The fact his soulmate is the Chesapeake Ripper would be the perfect reason for him to get that revenge that still wounded part of him craves. Another part of him, a larger part, believes he should want to hand his soulmate in because it is his job. As an officer of the law, Will should be willing to uphold that law and not bend it for anyone, even if that someone is his soulmate.
However, neither of these parts seem to outweigh the part of him that simply wants to forget how his soulmate has hurt him and just accept them into his life. The slightly darker part of him whispers of how long he’s admired the Ripper and how he’s finally within his grasp while the lighter part of him reminds him that this is his soulmate.
Laying in bed, staring at his ceiling, Will Graham has a choice.
That night Hannibal Lecter awakens to a strange tingling in his arm. The sensation is not a common feeling to him (at least, not yet) but it is a familiar one.