Special Agent Will Graham presented Jack Crawford with numerous unique virtues and concerns. Lest those concerns blossom to full-on worries, Jack was eager to compel his best agent to undergo a psychiatric examination, but Will was an escape artist, well-schooled at evading Jack’s polite requests and warning looks. If Jack was going to achieve the level of certainty he needed regarding Will’s mental stability, he would have to resort to his own form of trickery.
He just couldn’t reconcile for himself how anyone, even a man as brilliant, confident and capable as Will Graham, could accomplish quite so much on a daily basis, effortlessly (so it seemed, at least) balancing a teaching schedule with heavy, demanding profiling for the Behavioral Crimes division, always appearing so perfectly calm and friendly, unbothered by diving headfirst into the most horrible serial killers’ inner worlds, emerging with the answers gleaming like gold in his hands after little more than a few minutes spent closing his eyes while immersed in the crime scenes.
Certainly, there were a few outward symptoms of potential humanity, limitations to Will’s smooth veneer. For one thing, the man had the dress sense of a dog-eared LL Bean catalogue from the late 1990’s and the tendency to blab on about his hobbies, the seven dogs for God’s sake (when did he have time to take care of them?!), fishing, it was mildly infuriating. Even Will’s personal pastimes sounded like excellently healthy ways to cope with harsh and potentially deeply draining work, and no one could be that healthy -- not doing this work, not in the long-term.
Will did not possess the ability Jack saw in Katz, Zeller and Price, for example, the way the squints could just toss off the day’s work when needed and revert to casual small talk; the ghosts of the cases always lingered in Will’s eyes even when he spoke the lightest. It got to him, the killing they waded into, the gruesome gore and terrible loss of it all, it ran through Will’s bloodstream, but the agent seemed to metabolize it better than Jack.
Was that what this was really all about? Jack cringed to think this was about envy, but that piece of the puzzle was undeniable. How did Will manage to feel these crimes so deeply, solve them at a faster rate than any agent in the unit’s history, and seem to be thoroughly okay?
Jack brought the demons home with him every night, it affected his moods, put space sometimes between him and Bella that made him hate himself. Did he want to protect the world from the consequences if Will’s well-preserved sanity suddenly split open under the crushing blows of these awful murder cases? Did he want a better idea for himself, to know if Will was genuinely that cool and competent and unfazed, how this was achieved? Yes, he was looking for just as many answers to his own problems as to Will’s, and that annoyed him, but there it was.
Best to get this over with so he could rest at ease, knowing that his most talented agent was in a good headspace, could be trusted in the long term, and could provide him with insight about how to do this everyday without corrosive and irreversible damage to one’s inner peace and home life. Jack had never even suspected someone on the profiling end of things could personify this coolness; it made sense for the forensic experts to maintain better boundaries; they dealt with the physical external manifestations of the horror; inner monstrosity was far, far worse. The killers were so much harder to forget than the victims.
Alana Bloom wasn’t up to the task, that much was certain. There was some kind of strange energy between her and Will, not that they were secretly dating, surely, although he’d detected an almost compulsory, low-level flirtation at times. Two young and attractive people naturally had to notice it in each other, and their personalities would seem, objectively, well-suited. But Alana distrusted Will instinctively, was certain something wasn’t quite right there or couldn’t be. And Jack needed an impartial judge of Will’s character to do this right. Alana might be onto something; Will’s smile often seemed eerie, his dialogues which took on the voices of killers were chilling, he could be an unsettling man to share company with. But Jack wanted to hear from a brilliant analyst what they made of Will in the here and now without previously formed theories and suspicions.
He turned at last to Alana’s mentor from her Georgetown days, a Dr. Hannibal Lecter to whom Alana referred him with a sigh of relief that she wasn’t being asked to draw up a profile on Will.
Jack applied his expert skills to flatter and convince Lecter into coming to the FBI offices at Quantico to lend his assistance on the Minnesota Shrike Case -- ostensibly, at least. While it was always worthwhile to have another brilliant mind on such a complex and disturbing case, and Jack was burning with desperation to catch this son of a bitch before another innocent girl was killed, there could certainly be no harm in asking Lecter to profile Will Graham along the way.
Another day, another notch in the headboard of Will’s boring routine. He’d been restless for months, struggling against the too-neat confines of the life he had built for himself between Wolf Trap and Quantico.
For a while, the job had been a good fit for his skills and a welcome source of application for them; his mind seemed to be racing always, his intellect in constant need of fascination, his thirst for righteous justice too ravenous to be satiated only in the occasional act of grisly vigilantism in which he eagerly indulged by night.
Will wanted something that would light up his life with vivid meaning and excitement, but he could never seem to find it. He still loved his little rustic house with its beautiful yard so close to the woods, perfect for long, existentialist rambles, loved his darling pack of former strays, the quiet days fishing in the river or tinkering with old boat motors. There was a certain wry enjoyment he took from solving murders for the FBI while simultaneously committing his own at every opportunity, sure. But the killers he caught for Jack weren’t like him; they were sadists with selfish and destructive agendas. Will only killed despicable specimens barely worthy of the name ‘human,’ the vile abusers of the world who would otherwise escape condemnation, slipping through the cracks of an often impotent justice system.
The only other killer with whom Will could identify, or perhaps it was more an idolization, was the Chesapeake Ripper. The Ripper was obviously a sadist, but so many of his victims, when you looked closely enough, turned out to be just the same sort of repellent people whom Will often hunted. And the Ripper had a talent which often made Will’s jaw simply drop, blue eyes widening in awe at his gorgeously macabre tableaus. The power to turn such beastly, ugly people into beautiful art...it was breathtaking. In his own hunts, Will was so often overtaken by the profound, savage thrill of the physicality, the prowess he exacted, the catharsis of causing pain to end pain...he never stopped to memorialize his acts. Perhaps he was worried that he would not be as good at covering his tracks as the ever elusive Ripper. Perhaps he could not summon the gumption to imitate the master whose work had him so often transfixed.
Even this hero worship wasn’t enough to fulfill his craving for that special something that was missing from his life -- a life which on paper looked, if anything, overfull.
Maybe it was time to move on, but where was he going to build himself a better, sturdier, more advantageous situation? Why should he cave to his own irrational, even immature wanderlust?
Work was getting boring these days; he closed most cases so fast and then the next one got tossed in his lap. He loved getting evil killers off the streets, but hated the neverending, numbing repetition of it...they were all the same, just variations on a wicked theme. Except the Ripper. And except Will himself. He was far from immune to taking pride in what he did, but it never seemed to be enough to make him feel whole.
Recently it had occurred to him, he might simply be craving a mate. Shoving thoughts of the Ripper out of his mind under the reminder it was ridiculous to construct an imaginary romance with an unknowable mystery of a man, Will decided to try dating again for the first time in a few years. It was easy enough to find men and women who were interested in dating him, completely doable to charm them, seduce them, but then what? No one fascinated him, no one brought the intensity he sought, and then of course he had to hide his killer side, so that he felt like a strange sort of anesthetized clone of Will Graham, a little too nice and good, the real, darker version of himself screaming to be let loose.
He practically sleep-walked through the morning’s lecture, yet another chance to give his “What is Your Design?” speech to the latest gaggle of FBI recruits who had started to resemble doppelgangers of themselves, the same youthful blend of ambition and cynicism. After class, he yanked his tie off and loosened his collar, annoyed to find that the headache and elevated body heat with which he’d struggled for days now had gotten even worse today. He couldn’t pin it down to any one particular ailment, and over the counter cold medicine had done nothing to soothe the aching fever of his state.
He wasn’t going to be able to go on much longer like this without taking care of it, and even that necessity was tiresome, but he’d get around to it. The truth was, he’d vastly prefer to stay busy tracking the Shrike rather than making himself rest in bed for a few days watching reruns of daytime soaps and game shows.
Making his way to Jack’s office, he hoped this day had something better ahead for him than was readily apparent, only to have this brief unspoken wish fulfilled to a shocking extent the moment he opened the door.
Who the hell is that? Will wondered, amazed as he was introduced to the gorgeous, cultured older man with an exotic, luscious accent and an ass so round and pert, he had to force himself not to stare.
Jack introduced the man as a Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a psychiatrist who specialized in social exclusion and its role in forming criminal minds. Given that the Shrike was a cannibal, and it did not get any more “freakish” than that in the eyes of civilized, “normal” society, Will could understand why Dr. Lecter’s insights might come in handy, although he was surprised Jack thought he really needed another profiler when Will was already on this case making his usual brisk progress.
Hmm. Will sank into the chair in front of Jack’s desk and cupped his chin, looking with interest at the stranger’s very attractive back, his broad shoulders and pretty hair in shades of light brown, blonde and silver. Whose profile is he really working on? Jaaaacccckkkk....
Hannibal was immediately intrigued by the clever young profiler, taking in Will’s obviously attractive features and the strikingly sweet heat of his slight Southern accent, his quick observations and dry quips while they discussed the case. And he had absorbed all of these qualities in Will Graham’s presence like a fact collector because that was how his own mind worked, coldly clinical, used to being unimpressed, never expecting any more remarkable influences than he normally encountered.
“Do you have trouble with taste?” he asked after Will called Freddie Lounds’ despicable antics “tasteless.”
He felt a strange thrum of nervousness which he could not quite put his finger on; he remained in front of the murder board, looking at the photos and evidence compiled there as if it held his interest when really, he was drawn with increasing fascination to converse with Will Graham.
“My thoughts are often not tasty,” Will said with a wry smirk which caught Hannibal’s eye when he glanced back over his shoulder.
“Nor mine,” he replied huskily. “No effective barriers.”
“I build forts.” Will took a sip of coffee; Hannibal strode over and sat beside him, carefully pondering his next observation. Jack Crawford watched them intently, curious to know what conclusions Dr. Lecter could draw based on his impression of the profiler.
And Hannibal could envision an inner world like that, the insistence on categorization to enforce some form of control over an unruly, powerful mind where impressions were otherwise so overwhelming. It was beautiful, the strength of control there, the defiant chaos always threatening to break loose beneath all that orchestrated restraint. He could relate to such a world, he lived in just such a world himself.
“Associations come quickly,” Hannibal guessed, thinking of the way his own thoughts built off of one another with organic speed, like vines racing to cover the walls of his memory palace, then slip through the windows, crawl over the halls in his tightly guarded corridors of vulnerability.
Will shrugged, “So do forts.”
“Not fond of eye contact, are you?” Hannibal was slightly frustrated, although his tone remained light.
He was frustrated with Will for not meeting his searching gaze, frustrated with himself for wanting it so badly without understanding why.
Will went off on a disgruntled tangent about why eye contact was so annoying, and Hannibal found himself charmed by the boy’s rough-hewn but smart comments, his disdain for common irritations in social interactions with which he could certainly sympathize. This boy’s direct gaze was a gift; when it landed on him fleetingly in the midst of this grumpy speech, Hannibal’s heart soared unexpectedly.
Who in the world was this intellectual, captivating, beautiful young man? The blue-grey eyes swimming with inscrutable mystery and a confidence he found, to his astonishment, intimidating -- the perfect jawline covered in softly bristly beard, the plush lips simply begging to be kissed until they were redly swollen and releasing countless moans, those pretty ears, the long, distracting neck and the rest of his body, slim but well-muscled, how Hannibal wanted to tear his clothes off all of a sudden and lean him over Jack’s desk, consequences be damned. Yet how, in equal measure, he wanted to be the one slung over the desk and fucked hard by this gorgeous, quick-witted, strong-willed profiler, he wanted all of the intensity Will had to offer, wanted it focused on him and all for himself; he wanted to let go of his own restraint and ego and be positively wrecked by this man.
Hannibal stared at him and blushed, utterly out of his depths. What was this terrifying sensation making butterflies swarm in his stomach while his cheeks flamed, his eyes suddenly seeming oddly wet, desire spreading tendrils of warm arousal through his whole body? What was this feeling which he had never experienced before but which seemed to be redefining his entire outlook on reality, without a warning, without his permission or his control? His heart slammed his ribcage as he hung on every potential reply which Will might give his next statements.
After nearly choking on a sip of subpar office coffee, Hannibal went on, “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.”
Will glared at him suspiciously, yet like a fool drunk on the chance to share his insights, idiotically imagining he would end up impressing the man, Hannibal plunged on, “No forts in the bone arena of your skull for things you love.”
“Actually, I’m perfectly capable of protecting the things I love, no matter how unsavory my daily ordeals,” Will retorted boldly.
He pressed his perfect, lovely hands over his knees and leveled Hannibal like a demolished building, the wrecking ball of his swift judgement startling.
“And to be quite frank, being profiled without my permission is offensive. I suppose this was your idea, Jack, since I’ve been dodging your attempts to get me into therapy for being too damn good at the job you so desperately rely on me to do?”
Jack shrugged, looking exhausted. “What other option have you left me, Will? I can’t have you out there without occasionally verifying you’re of sound enough mind to be tackling these cases.”
“I’m sorry, Will,” Hannibal added, mortified at how bright and hot his face still felt, how much he wanted Will to forgive him and want to be friends, or more, much more…
“Observing is what we do,” he went on awkwardly, taking another sip of by now cold and disgusting coffee, smothering the desire to shudder at the flat taste. Still, he needed something to do with himself other than talk because he was that unthinkably nervous. “I can’t shut mine off any easier than you can shut yours off.”
“I think we should test that theory out,” Will said, his annoyed features shifting into a thoughtful smile, as if Jack suddenly wasn’t in the room and he was entirely focused, finally, on Hannibal, occasioning the doctor a quick rush of raptured victory that frightened him.
“I don’t blame you for this ridiculous situation, by the way,” Will went on, looking so unbelievably pretty in that cheap shirt, probably bought on clearance at some department store, it wasn’t even any recognizable color but an unfortunate blend of blue and green that could not satisfy on either count, and those wrinkled khaki trousers had seen better days, but he looked beautiful.
Hannibal swallowed air that seemed harder to come by with every moment he passed in Will’s captivating presence. He should not have had the coffee; now he was going to have coffee breath, but wait, so would Will, thank goodness...why was he panicking?
“I think it would be a conflict of interest for you to profile me, Dr. Lecter.” Will’s mood seemed to have brightened the more he lavished that devastatingly gorgeous blue gaze upon Hannibal; he smiled now, and the world immediately lit up as Hannibal’s heart filled like a balloon destined to fly up to the heavens.
That smile could end him, easily.
“And why is that?” Hannibal hastened to inquire, running a shaky hand over his flawless shirt front, accosting himself inwardly for not wearing one of his very best suits today instead of this plain tan one. The blue plaid three-piece would have been much more impressive!
“I’d rather ask for your phone number, doctor,” Will said slyly, eying him up by now.
“My…” Hannibal’s racing heart seemed to be smothering his brain’s attempts to process thought.
Will said his name in that subtle drawl of his, so sexily, Doctah Lectah, and Hannibal felt teased, in the best way. He felt flirted with but his usual confidence was floundering. He was still chasing an understanding of the panic, the high voltage emotion that had come from locking eyes with this boy, at least ten years his junior and wearing an atrociously rumpled outfit along with a pronounced social awkwardness on his sleeve. Will was confident and ingenious, but he had trouble relating to other people; however, he was choosing now of his own volition to single Hannibal out as worthy of his elusive attention, and Hannibal found himself consequently overwhelmed.
“Are you kidding me, Will? Come on, now.” Jack looked at the profiler sternly and drummed his fingers on his desk in disapproval. “I ask a highly reputable psychiatrist to work up a profile on you, and you’re trying to pick him up in my office?”
“You didn’t have to pick a highly reputable psychiatrist who looked like this,” Will smirked, nudging his chair a little closer to Hannibal’s and batting his long, beautiful dark lashes at the bewildered therapist. “So, what do you say, doctor? Would you like to get a drink sometime?”
This was too much; Hannibal couldn’t bear being the focus of the very same attention he desperately wanted; it was as if he had lived for almost fifty years in the dark and someone had just turned on all the lights; it was as though he had never really experienced a feeling before. How could he be certain Will wasn’t asking him out in jest? He worried, growing paranoid, after all, it had been a bit in poor taste to profile him without permission, to offer his intrusive observations out of the blue...was this proposition Will’s revenge for his own discourteousness, which he now deeply regretted?
Even if Will was seriously attracted to him, how could Hannibal let him get any closer? This potential obsession was dangerous to Hannibal’s carefully guarded autonomy and independence, and he did not know what indulging this powerfully distracting emotion would ultimately do to him; who could Will Graham make him become? What if he didn’t want to be that man, some softly doting lover, growing weak and capable of having his heart broken because he let someone else be in control of his happiness?
“I can’t, I really must be going, I think, I...I should be going,” Hannibal blathered, horrified at himself for wasting this chance to go out with Will, but too terrified at what he might feel if he did, too bent on self-preservation and the need to be alone with his thoughts again, sort them out until they made sense.
“Wait, where are you going?” Will asked, disappointed.
“That’s alright, Dr. Lecter, I understand you have a very full schedule of appointments today,” Jack put in, letting him off the hook. The man probably assumed Will’s advances had made him uncomfortable, when in fact, the reasons for it were far too complicated for such a simple conclusion. “Can I call you later and follow up on today’s findings on the Shrike?”
“Certainly, I’m happy to continue consulting,” Hannibal said absent-mindedly, hardly registering that he was committing to keep helping on a case where Will Graham was lead investigator and their paths were sure to cross again. He wanted it, like he wanted to keep breathing, but he felt some desperate urge to protect himself from these feelings at the same time.
Chaos had overtaken his outlook on life, glorious, tumultuous, irresistible chaos by the name of Will Graham.