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Death in Chains

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Hungry. So, so, so hungry. Winter has been long and hard, prey fleeing from the woods to seek out warmth and food for themselves. He doesn’t like these herds, his quarry gathering as if they can sense the predator waiting for them on the edge. He hasn’t left these forests since he arrived here. Lithuania is a harsh place but it suits him well, at least until now. Now he has not fed for days, weeks, he does not know. Time has begun to blur on the edges, his mind fraying as the beast he tries so desperately to chain claws at its bonds. He stopped moving some time ago, when though he doesn’t remember, but snow has begun to settle around him. He lays there still as white flakes dust over him, wondering faintly that if he doesn’t move long enough would they bury him?

He’s so hungry, so hungry it hurts, that when he smells the whiff of blood he almost thinks he’s dreaming. But the smell is REAL it’s there, warm and coppery and so so close. He doesn’t know how he stands up or when he starts to run, one minute still as a corpse, the next racing through the woods like the hunter he was born to be. When he bursts through the trees into the clearing, sees three men just standing there he doesn’t think. It’s all instinct, a blur of claws and teeth and red, red everywhere. They’re nothing but mulch before he realises they’ve stopped fighting and he drops to his knees, lapping blood off frozen snow, tearing into flesh with the ferocity of a wild animal. Hunger does crazy things to men, especially when they weren’t quite men in the first place. He eats until he can’t anymore, then finally sated curls up in the snow. He drifts and sleeps, a wolf sated, the beast beneath his skin calmed.

In the bloodshed, in his hunger, he misses the children. The blood that drew him here comes from a cut in the young girl's neck, where if he hadn’t interrupted would have separated her head from her frail body. The boy, who shields his sister from the sight of the corpses, watches coolly as the creature sleeps. The boy is no stranger to the harsh world he has found himself in, not after the last few weeks, and he knows that the winter is harsh and there are more things in the dark, hungry things. But Hannibal Lecter is smart and though not yet fully a predator, aware of what he needs to do for survival.

“Mischa. Get the chains from the cabin.”

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When he awakes everything hurts. He sits up, slowly, and barely manages to turn his head away from his lap before he’s heaving into the ground. He’s panting by the time he’s finished, the reaction more muscle memory than an actual need for oxygen, staring at the red-tinged viscous liquid that splatters the ground. He groans aloud as he sees a piece of bone floating among red slush, along with what looks suspiciously like a human finger, half-chewed but definitely a finger. It happened again. Will doesn’t remember exactly when he stops remembering things, when what he is takes over, but he knows that the last time he was himself he hadn’t resorted to eating fingers yet. The other him normally doesn’t either, preferring flesh and blood over bony appendages like fingers and the realisation that he must have been hungry to eat them too makes Will nervous. If base instinct Will Graham couldn’t find food then how will he?

He feels fine though. Maybe even a little full. But just because he’s no longer starving doesn’t mean he’s out of danger, because this is not his hut. He’s sitting on a dirt floor, surrounded by three dirt walls and a barred one. A staircase going up leads him to think this is a basement of some sort, a larder maybe. No longer fixated on the remains of his dinner, he realises there is also a collar of iron around his neck, the chain hammered deep into the wall. Blackouts really are the worst. But this, this is a whole new low. Last time, when he’d still been in Russia, he’d come aware surrounded by wolves completely naked except the freshly skinned fur of the alpha around his shoulders. He goes to test the bars of his newfound cage but finds the chain doesn’t reach that far.

“Huh. Whatever will I do?”

He yanks the chain straight out of the wall.

“Hannibal told me that you’d do that.”

Startled Will turns. A little girl, who looks like a 5-year-old but could be a pale and sickly 8-year-old, watches him from behind the bars. She watches him with sad brown eyes behind dirty blond hair. Will hasn’t heard another human voice for a long time, other than the screams and pleas that haunt his dreams. He tries for a smile, but even when he was human he doesn’t think that was something he was comfortable with, so the result is too many teeth and the overall effect of a grimace. He stops, opting for as neutral of a face as he can manage.

“Hey there, uh, little girl. Is your brother the person who locked me in this cage?”

She nods, a quick jerk of her head that Will almost misses.

“Could you fetch him? I’m terribly cold and I’d like to go outside. Is it night?”

She doesn’t answer, instead just watching him with those sad eyes. He thinks that in a way they look like his eyes, in the times he’s dared to look at his reflection, eyes that have seen and understand too much. He wants to crush her, the wave of anger so clear and strong he actually lunges at the bars, though a small part of him understands that he wants to destroy her because she is a reminder of his own weakness. He can’t get past the bars, he’ll give his captors this they’re quality, so he settles with snarling at her with his fangs extended.

“Step away from the bars Mischa.”

His head snaps up to see a boy standing at the top of the stairs. There is a cold authority in his voice, which is surprising because he can’t be more than twelve. The brother. Apparently an undetermined amount of time in his animal instincts has done nothing for fully aware Will Graham’s awareness of his surroundings because he thinks he’s been imprisoned by two children. The kid descends the stairs and comes to stand next to the little girl and Will feels like he’s being appraised, the worth of his life analyzed. He snaps his fangs at them both and while the little girl steps back the boy simply narrows his eyes.

“Do that again and I’ll cut your head off.”

The boy's heartbeat was completely even. It was Will’s turn to step back.

“I’m glad you’re awake Vampire. We have a proposition for you.”

Will really hated blackouts.

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When Hannibal had first seen the creature, he had been awestruck. They’d run out of food, so the men had taken Mischa and… Hannibal had thought they were going to kill her. He had felt a part of himself freeze over as he stood shivering in the snow, watching as they lifted the axe, bracing himself for a blow that never came. Because it had appeared, at first just a man watching them from the woods. But it had stumbled forward, and Hannibal had seen eyes eclipsed by pupils, had seen the black veins branching across his face and pulsing like a heartbeat. They had all stood there, the thing as still as death, nostrils flaring as if scenting the air. And then it had descended and it had been glorious. He had grabbed Mischa, pushing her behind him, but he hadn't looked away. A streak of blood had squirted onto Hannibal’s face and Hannibal felt his tongue flick out and lick it off, the warm coppery taste sating him in a way he hadn’t felt since his parent's death. As he watched it feast on their captor's entrails he remembered thinking that this was the apex predator, a beast among beasts.

The thing in front of Hannibal is remarkably more unimpressive. No longer a creature of the night, but a man, and a grumpy one at that. He is of average height and average build, brown hair that last night had looked wild but now just looked messy. The only thing that separates him from just a normal human is his teeth, the canines long and sharp, and maybe his eyes. They are a strangely bright blue and when he gets angry, sharp teeth snapping, they seem to glow slightly with some kind of inner light. When Hannibal threatens the thing, its eyes burn at him and a growl slips through his teeth, though it does step back. Hannibal wonders if the vampire can read his mind, watches his face as he thinks that he has no doubt the vampire could rip him apart before Hannibal could harm it. No reaction, just cautious eyes watching him.

“I’m glad you’re awake Vampire. We have a proposition for you.”

He takes a deep breath. He’s got to sell this, got to hope the vampire is as desperate as they are.

“It’s been a long winter. We’re starving. “

“And?”

The predator is gone. The vampire looks awkward, and his eyes dance around the room not settling on anything. Hannibal thinks that maybe he’s got him.

“You will hunt for us. And in return, we won’t kill you.”

If he was the vampire he’d laugh. Or he’d lie. He’d lie and then rip these tow children apart. But he is not the vampire and it looks like it is thinking about it.

“I give you the flesh and I keep the blood?”

“Yes. If you prefer.”

The thing nods and Hannibal hates that this is what he’s come to. He’s a lord and here he is trusting something that ripped apart two men with its bare hands. Hannibal envies it. Some small part of him hungers to be more than prey but, maybe, he might learn a thing or two from this arrangement. What better way to become a predator than by killing the ultimate killer. After winter though. Mischa would stay innocent and Hannibal would grow stronger.

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He can smell and hear her before he sees her. Heart thumping, the sound calls to him, and as he breathes in his nostrils fill with the reek of fear. He silently steps towards the door of his cell, pushes the door open slowly to not make a sound. He scents the air, eyes scanning the dark room, spotting her crouching at the top of the stairs. He moves with a sudden burst of speed, reaching out towards her and… He sweeps her into his arms. She sniffles into his chest.

“Hey, hey, hey. It’s ok. Shh. Is it the storm?”

As if on cue another rumble of thunder shakes the building. Mischa is trembling, looking up at him with a tearstained face, nodding frantically before letting out a sob.

“Hanni’s having another nightmare.”

Will sighs. Hannibal’s night terrors were not new, and as much as he hated to admit it, Will was part of the problem. It turns out that ripping two grown men apart in front of a young boy was not a recipe for a healthy mental state. Hannibal was cold, intense and calculating. Incredibly intelligent, the boy seemed permanently in a state of deep thought, though whether he was calculating how he could successfully murder Will or how much food they’d need to survive the winter was anyone’s guess. He shifts Mischa’s weight to his hip before heading up the stairs. He tucks Mischa into her pile of blankets in the corner of the kitchen space, warmer than the rest of the cabin as it contained a fire, before heading to Hannibal’s attic. A crawl space he had claimed as his own, Will had only been in it once when he was looking for a knife. Killing with his hands was very messy, and as expected Hannibal had a collection of knives under the old blankets he used as a bed. He awkwardly pulls himself into the room and is met by the stinking smell of sweat and panic. Hannibal writhes in his sleep, wrapped in blankets as he struggles against an invisible foe.

When Will touches him, the boy’s eyes fly open and a knife slams into his side. Damn. He knew he should have taken all the knives. He grunts and pushes Hannibal down, who struggles against him. Will tries to make what he hopes are vaguely reassuring sounds, and when the boy stops fighting him he allows a smile.

“It’s a dream Hannibal. You’re ok, Mischa’s ok. Deep breaths, that’s it.”

The boy watches Will silently as he calms his breathing, those strange red eyes fixed on his.

“I hurt you.”

Will looks down at the knife protruding from his side. Letting go of Hannibal, who sits up now focused on the wound, he pulls the knife slowly from his side. Black blood oozes out of the cut and Hannibal leans forward fascinated, hand reaching out to touch it. Will grabs it before he can make contact.

“Vampire blood is very powerful Hannibal. It’s not to be messed with.”

Hannibal nods solemnly, though it is clear to Will that he is filing this information away.

“Sleep. I’m going to hunt.”

The boy looks like he might protest but lays back down anyway. Will leaves the room, taking the knife with him. It’s still storming and as the rain hammers down he can’t think of anything he’d rather do than hunt, wind whipping at his face with the pounding of his prey’s heartbeat and the boom of thunder in his ears. He feels his fangs lengthen and he slips into his predator self, slipping out into the darkness of the night.

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When Hannibal awakes, it is late morning. He normally awakens early, giving him enough time to check their food stores, cook Mischa breakfast and think about the vampire. Will. Hannibal never asked for his name, but Mischa must of because she talks about him constantly. It’s bad that she is growing attached to a monster that Hannibal will one day put down, but he also can’t help but feel relieved that he is no longer the only one she relies on. He sits up, intent on checking on Mischa, but spots a black stain on one of his blankets. The memory of last night, Will’s glowing eyes looking at him as he pulled the knife from his side, the black blood thick and viscous dripping onto his bed. He rubs a finger of the spot and it comes away stained in black, and Will’s words echo in his mind. Powerful. He licks his finger and finds that it tastes like death, sweet and sickly.

He goes downstairs feeling like something ought to have happened. He doesn’t feel different he muses, maybe a little shaky but otherwise fine. It wasn’t a lot of blood though and he wonders if more would make a difference. As he steps into the kitchen he is startled to find a dead deer lying on the table, Will and Mischa standing beside it. He watches as Will gently takes her hand and lets her pet the animal’s fur, his sister giggling even as she touches a spot speckled with blood.

“It’s sticky!”

Will smiles and Hannibal can see the tips of his fangs. His eyes look up from Mischa and meet with Hannibal’s and the smile turns into a grin. He nudges Mischa who turns and beams at her brother.

“Will found a deer!!! He says he can make me a blanket from it!”

Will nods and beckons Hannibal to come closer. As he approaches he looks over the deer. Something is… wrong. Will’s prey normally looks like it’s been mauled by an animal and the deer is in perfect condition. He skims his hand along the creatures fur, pausing as he hits blood. A bullet wound. They don’t own a gun. He looks at Will questioningly and the vampire's eyes are calculating. There’s something different about the vampire, but he can’t place it, and he’s speaking before Hannibal can think about it more.

“Come with me, Hannibal. I’ll show you what else I found.”

He hopes Will doesn’t see the knife he slides into his sleeve. He follows him outside, to the woodshed at the edge of the clearing. Will steps aside and…

Hannibal gasps. A dead man hangs upside down. A bowl sits underneath him, collecting the blood dripping from his torn throat. When he looks at Will the vampire is watching him with his head cocked to the side, eyes hesitant. Hannibal feels like this is a test, a gift. Of course, a true predator like Will would sense the beast crawling beneath Hannibal’s skin, and this is him acknowledging it. He realises that Will is wearing the hunter’s clothes, that the deer is simply scavenged. Will is still looking at him as if waiting for his approval and he has to remember how to speak.

“It’s beautiful. I didn’t think you liked killing though. You told me you only killed those men because you were starving.”

Will’s face darkens and he whistles. A dog limps out from the corner, tail waggling as it drags a bloodied paw. The vampire bends down and ruffles his fur before looking up at Hannibal with a grave expression.

“He hurt the dog for whimpering when the gun fired. So I hurt him for whimpering when I lunged.”

Looking at Will, dressed in a plaid shirt nudging a china bowl into a better position to catch dripping blood, he feels hunger. He wants to be a killer among killers, wants to devour them. Good, bad, he wants them all to see what he is capable of. Will is a true predator but he is held back by his humanity. It is ironic, that the monster has embraced his human side while the human has embraced his monster side. He slides the knife out of his sleeve, smiles as Will’s eyes track the movement, and steps towards the hanging corpse.

“Which parts will cook the best?”

Will smiles and Hannibal can’t help but imagine how lonely he’s been. He didn’t think he’d care for the vampire, but there is a pang of pity at the hope in the creature's eyes when Hannibal doesn’t flinch away from Will’s bloodied hand pointing at the body.

“I’m always partial to the rump. You want me to do it?”

Hannibal looks at the knife in his hand. He tightens his grip.

“I’ve got it.”

As he carves into human flesh for the first time he decides that he won't kill WIll. Not when he can learn so much from him. Not before he learns the secret of his blood.