"Doesn't the familiarity ruin the illusion, doctor?" the dark-haired man said with a hint of playful sarcasm. The corners of Hannibal Lecter's lips twitched into a smile. "It's more akin to meditation or reading a good book than anything else. No illusions or swinging pocket-watches here, Will. And the familiarity, yours and mine, should not affect the exercise at all. " he said in a low, comforting voice that always had an odd way of putting Will at ease. Will Graham took a deep breath, let it out, and then nodded to Hannibal. "Okay, I'm ready."

The two men sat in the office of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, the curtains drawn, the office darker than usual. Morning light filtered through the curtains, creating a soft, lazy atmosphere. This was intentional. The patient sat across from the doctor in a chair against the protests of Hannibal, who had ensured William that the couch would be easier-and safer- to use for this exercise, but Will wasn't interested. The chair was good enough.

"Of course you are," Hannibal said amusingly. His dark eyes found Will's, and he narrowed his gaze. "This will be quite simple. Just relax yourself. Every muscle in your body. Let them rest. I want you to take slow, deep breaths. Each breath brings you closer and closer to complete relaxation. Allow all the thoughts to dissolve, and leave your mind as quietly as possible." Will scoffed softly, and Hannibal smiled again. "It's only difficult if you imagine it to be. Even people with thoughts as dark and vivid as you and I can sometimes find peace in the emptiness of our minds."

Will's expression softened and became almost melancholy, but he nodded as if to say, 'I will try' and took another deep breath, closing his eyes for a moment to concentrate. He opened them again looking almost lost, and Hannibal knew he was almost there. "Now Will, I'm going to count backwards from ten. Every number I count, it will become harder and harder for you to keep your eyes open. You will find yourself slipping closer and closer to a restful, dreamless sleep. When I count to one, you will be asleep."

The profiler met Hannibal's eyes again, a flicker of uncertainty behind his bright blue irises, but he pressed his lips together in a nervous but obedient manner that caused Hannibal to inwardly shiver in anticipation for what was being given to him.

"Focus on the sound of my voice and nothing else. Ten. Nine. Your eyelids are heavy. It would be easier to close them."

William's eyelids fluttered, and the man's gaze fell to his lap, as if he was confused. Or scared. Those two emotions often went hand-in-hand.

"Eight. Seven. Six. Your mind is now teetering on the edge of a beautiful unconsciousness. Don't be afraid, let yourself fall in. I will be there to catch you."

Eyes closed, and his head drooped a bit. He caught himself, but just barely. His eyes were still open, but only by a sliver.

"Five. Four. Three. The empty space in your mind is being filled with the unconscious. You are so very close to sleep, and as soon as I count all the way down, William, you will be there."

Will didn't seem aware of anything anymore, and he seemed unable to focus his gaze.

"...Two. ...One." As if by an unseen force, Will's eyes closed and his head drooped slightly again, but this time he was asleep. Hannibal allowed himself a moment to gaze at Will's sleeping, defenseless form. His breathing was so calm, his expression so tranquil. Hannibal marveled at the sight for a moment, savoring it was if it was a bite of delectable food. The fact that Will trusted him so much, as to lower all of his defenses in his presence... It was delightful in a way previously unknown to Dr. Lecter.

"William." Hannibal cooed in a questing tone. There was a small pause before Will issued a 'Hm' sort of sound. "Can you hear me?" the doctor continued. "Yes," came Will's immediate reply. His voice was devoid of it's usual defenses and emotions. He had allowed Hannibal into the forts of his mind. The possibilities were tantalizing.

"I'm going to ask you some questions, Will. I would like you to answer me as honestly as you are able. Can you do that?"

"Yes."

"When was the last time you engaged in sexual intercourse?" came Hannibal's first question. Under normal circumstances, the bluntness of this incredibly personal question would have had Will putting up every defense and avoidance in the book, but today, William was the insect that had been put to rest by the venom of the spider, all wrapped up in webbing and waiting obediently to be devoured.

"Four years ago. July."

"Who was she?" Hannibal asked interestedly.

"My last girlfriend. We were together for six months before we couldn't anymore."

"Couldn't what?"

"Couldn't be together." Will said emotionlessly. Hannibal perked a brow.

"She didn't understand you," the doctor surmised out loud.

"Didn't like my line of work. Or me."

"Do you relieve your sexual tension in other ways?" Hannibal asked, criss-crossing his fingers and resting his hands in his lap.

Will was silent, as if he wasn't sure how to answer.

"Do you masturbate, Will." Hannibal re-phrased.

"I can't," the profiler responded.

Hannibal tilted his head slightly. "You can't bring yourself to, because of your imagination."

"Yes."

"Whenever you close your eyes, begin to focus, touch yourself... You see those images. You see the bodies and the murders and all of the death."

"Yes." Will's voice was lower now.

Hannibal's eyes moved to the ceiling. "Stress manifests itself in many different ways. But there are as many relievers as stressors, and the release that comes from carnal pleasures are among the most ancient and prescribed stress-relievers known to man. Your particular stressor happens to be the very thing preventing you from relieving it."

The doctor's gaze trailed back to Will's partially aware form. "I would like to help you relieve your stress. Would you like that, Will?"

"Yes," Will answered, sounding almost desperate. Another smile formed on Dr. Lecter's lips.