"Hi." Will gazes just over Dr. Lecter's shoulder and hefts the box of files in his arms higher. "Jack sent me with files."
"Well, he told me to go over them because maybe I might see something and offer my 'unique insight' and also he implied without shouting it that your view could also be helpful."
Dr. Lecter tilts his head slightly. "I think he is forgetting you at least require a crime scene for such things."
"Yeah, I think he's starting to wear his own officers thin. We're down to checking up on medical histories of the ripper victims." Will sighs. "Complete histories."
"I see." Dr. Lecter steps out of the doorway to allow Will into his spacious office.
Will walks straight to the desk and drops the box on top, knocking a few pencil's to the floor. He crouches to pick them up, muttering an apology which likely Dr. Lecter could not hear. When he stands up again, Dr. Lecter is beside him holding one of the files in his hand, slowly turning pages.
"Private medical records?" Dr. Lecter looks at Will and raises his eyebrows.
"Apparently Jack finally annoyed enough people to get some sort of warrant to release everything. I guess the amount of ripper victims from then and now finally reached a high enough number to tip the scale."
"So it would seem." Dr. Lecter closes the file and places it on the desk. "Shall we begin with the past or present?"
"They're dead. It's all past."
Dr. Lecter tilts his head again. "I believe you realized the intent of my question, Will."
Will laughs in a breathy way. "Yeah, I'm sorry, Dr. Lecter. I think so many crime scenes close together… it's all…" Will breathes in slowly. "They're starting to blur together in a way they shouldn't and…"
Will looks up again, focuses on Dr. Lecter's forehead. When Dr. Lecter does not speak, Will forces himself to look down and make eye contact.
Dr. Lecter smiles when he does. "I think we have reached the point in our discussions where perhaps my title is no longer necessary."
Will's half smiles, scrunches his forehead then shakes his head. "What?"
"Perhaps first names would help you relax and allow you to focus on the case itself and not the effect it has upon you."
Will narrows his eyes, a twist to his lips, then taps his fingers on the desk top. "You want me to call you Hannibal?"
"It happens to be my name."
Will huffs a laugh. "I'm not sure that would make me more comfortable."
"To see me as a friend and not your doctor?"
"You're not my doctor, not really."
Will nods, feels the edge of his lip quirk up. "Ah."
"It is up to you, Will, of course."
"All right." Will picks up the file from the top of the box. He swallows and looks at his fingers. "Hannibal."
Out of the corner of his eye, Will sees Hannibal smile. It makes Will smile too.
Two hours later the majority of the medical files and copies of case files on the victims make a circle around Will on the floor between Hannibal's desk and his patient chairs. Will stares at the files: a sprained ankle ten years ago, crime scene photos, doctor's notes about a clogged artery, though he doesn't see the pages any longer. He sees two years ago; he sees the last person who got close enough to die for it – her hands on these pages, her thought process, 'what hasn't been tried,' her fingers on one of these files that made her act.
"Why did he have her arm?"
Leather creaks quietly under Hannibal as he shifts in his chair behind Will. "Miriam Lass'?"
"Yes." Will jerks his head up and stares at the wood of Hannibal's desk. "Yes." He tilts his head – sees the plastic sheeting, the severed arm, the phone, Jack's face, the bruises, the coagulated blood. "He had it. He'd saved it. The arm wasn't cut off when she was alive. So he'd saved it. He didn't dig it up; There were no signs of decay. It had been on ice, preserved."
"No." Will turns where he sits to look back at Hannibal. "No. The ripper takes organs not limbs. A limb is nothing; it's just a tool. The organs are life; that is a prize, that is something the ripper would value, would prove what he had done." Will turns back to the pages and whispers. "How he'd become God."
"Perhaps it was because of who she was."
"FBI?" Will whispers still.
"One who got too close?"
"Unless it's not about the trophies."
Hannibal moves again, the leather creaking, and he feels closer. "What do you mean?"
Will shifts papers around, moves crime scene photos to the top. "They always called them trophies but that's not right. The ripper destroys his victims, tears them apart, the pride isn't just in the result it's in the action."
"You think he is not proud of his kills?"
"Oh no, he definitely is, but he's also smart enough not to keep trophies around." Will shakes his head and pushes a file away. "It never made sense. A killer this smart, this unusual taking pieces to keep? No, he would do something else, that's why he puts them on display because there is pride in the show, the presentation."
Hannibal stands up and Will feels his presence at the end of Will's paper circle. "The act of presentation is his goal?"
"Hmm, yes, perhaps." Will picks up a photo of the second victim and shakes his head. "They're all different, keep changing up the show, keep the audience entertained. So then why take the organs? That's a subtlety, something not seen by the viewer at first."
"Perhaps it is meant for the more scrutinizing viewer?"
Will tilts his head back toward Hannibal. "What, like motifs in high school English? No, I…" Will sighs and rubs a hand over his face. "There's something missing, something I am not seeing." Will stands up, steps out of the circle and walks over to the desk where a few old files remain. "There is a reason for these organs, these trophies, and it is not as a reminder of the glory of killing. It's different." Will shifts the files and notices one he hasn't looked through yet. "The organs are just for him but why take…"
Will opens the file, doctor report of an arrow wound to Jeremy Olmstead, and his eyes shift without conscious thought to the bottom of the page. Will sees a small note written in pencil unlike the rest of the report done in the black ballpoint pen, as if it were meant to be erased at some point. The handwriting is different, far more legible than the rest of the document and Will's finger rests right underneath the two pencil words, suddenly unable to move.
The note says, 'Dr. Lecter.'
Will sees it happen one second before it does – feels himself holding the knife with all the intent of a kill as clean as possible because Will is as close a connection to a person in life he has had in a while and torture is not necessary now – before Will turns around, locks eyes with Hannibal and the pain nearly blinds him spreading up from the sharp metal in his gut, noises like breaking glass bursting out of his throat.
"Shhh," Hannibal whispers, barely audible but as clear as though Will's own lips move around the constants, soothing and terrible.
Will's hands grab Hannibal's arms on reflex, hold on, hold on, don't die, but he cannot push away, cannot truly react. Hannibal holds Will close with his other arm around Will's back, keeps the knife deep within Will's flesh – Will sees himself in Hannibal's eyes, sees his skin grow paler and his breath quicker.
"No," Will gasps, "no," unwilling, not wanting to believe or see it is Hannibal – was Hannibal all along, it can't be – because Hannibal was his one paddle to make it upstream in a rushing river.
But now the river's blood flows from Hannibal, from his hands breaking the dam.
Will's eyes widen and –
– Mr. Olmstead with the arrow still lodged in one thigh, shouting at the nurse – "Fucking cunt, I said now!" – and wouldn't this hunter look pleasant on a slab much like the deer impaled with arrows? He'll start with the throat to keep such foul language at bay. Maybe he'll bring the man's tongue to nurse Ball in a casserole to ease her ears.
Throat then chest, which leg to cut first as Jeremy's mouth twists and turns, eye bulging out as if to pop, wrists straining so hard the blood drips down every finger. Perhaps he should paint his "Wounded Man" drawing with this authenticity?
And finally, no, not the tongue, liver is better with a red sauce; much smoother than calf and sweet with enough years of whiskey marinating.
Will Blinks ~
Evening performance, Verdi, and he'd been looking forward to this all week after so many dull sessions with mother stories and the same circular conversations. Yet the evening only makes him grimace. If one is a member of the Baltimore symphony, really they should have skills enough to avoid such blaring wrong notes. Must fix that.
Backstage, sheet of plastic and this one need not have a show.
"Begging is distasteful."
He cuts the throat nearly down to the bone and catches every spec of blood with the plastic, cutting thick slices from the back, each wrapped carefully and placed in his cooler.
Dinner party next week, six attendees, must have enough.
"Delightful, Hannibal, but what is it?"
"Mustn't spoil the surprise, keeps the palette free of bias."
Soon to be victim five on the 'official' count list. Not that he keeps any newspaper clippings, of course, he can remember perfectly.
Screaming, and screaming, and no one to hear this catty curator; he leans in close, a knife plunged in each hand pinning them to the wood wall. If any eyes remained the woman would see the scalpel making small circles in the air until it finally lowers down to slice into the soft, caramel stomach.
The screams are like sweet music, major scale, soprano aria, always in key.
Three times ~
"I don't… Dr. Lecter, I…"
"You were never one of my favorite patients, Benjamin."
Eyes wild, fingers twitching compulsively and both ankles twisting against the ropes, neck straining upward to see him standing at the top of the table.
"Please… I don't unders…"
"No, I would expect not." A flick of blood on his hand from the initial head wound and it tastes like copper. He walks around the right side of the table. "Quiet now, no more talking."
The first cut and first scream, like the first course of soup – hot and delicate and a perfectly wrapping up the senses.
"No! Please, stop!" A curved steel line down one arm – always that hand leaving smudges and mess in his pristine office, blubbering and hitting the same brick wall in therapy, useless. "Please, no, no, this can't –" He grabs a cleaver and slams it down, chopping Benjamin's hand off in one stroke igniting the most satisfying scream.
"Mr. Raspail, you never did listen, did you?"
Will shuts his eyes ~
The table falls over violently with the kick but he holds fast, Miriam gasping, grasping at his hand, until at last the body goes limp, slack and he eases back. It seems a pity because Miriam was very polite and obviously clever. Yet sometimes the clever ones taste better.
"Jack, Jack! Jack, its Miriam... I don't know where I am. I can't see anything."
He stands in the darkness and listens, hears each breath growing quicker, more urgent, hears the blood pounding in his ears because this one will be a pleasure, will be a fight. Why always go for the easy kill? Why just screams when he can have some conversation first?
"I was so wrong. I was so wrong!"
He walks across the room, silent, slow, smells the sweat as he gets closer; wants to use his hands with this one.
"Please, Jack… I don't want to die like this."
He clicks off the recorder, flicks on the light and snatches the phone all at once. A quick gasp and those eyes – fear but interest as well, a question of 'why?'
"No more calls, Miss Lass."
And he hears each heavy breath –
– heavy, loudly, breath roaring in Will's ears.
"No…" Will whispers again, pleads, begs not to see this, not to know, not to feel this.
"Shh," Hannibal says again and twists the knife so Will's eyes focus, sharpen the world and he groans loudly despite the noise Hannibal makes. "Relax, dear Will. Do not fight, it will be over soon."
Will gasps, tastes blood at the back of his throat and his legs buckle beneath him. Hannibal holds him up for a moment with his arms and his knife – strong arms to carry a body and hold tight around the neck of a thrashing person. The pain ignites again so Will whines, sounds like a cry, like a plea, and then Hannibal lowers him gently to the floor.
"There you are," Hannibal whispers and jerks the knife out like a gunshot so Will shouts for the bang!
Never a fan of guns when there are far more elegant means but they say hunting makes good sport and the woods in fall are so fine. The boy falls, leaves flying up into the air like a post card, splashes of red to complement their yellow and brown.
"Oh my god… oh, oh my g…" Heavy breaths, blue eyes gazing over one shoulder eclipsed by wholly attractive fear.
He plants his foot directly on the spine, just above the gunshot wound. "Stay still now, mustn't spoil you with bullet fragments." A whimper, a sob, and he leans over, pressure into his foot so the boy groans loudly and cries again. "Or perhaps I should avoid that all together?"
Such well-defined thighs on one so young; Jack Crawford is coming for dinner and he means to impress every time.
Will blinks slowly ~
So young and so vile, hair just like all the others, plain and brown and small; a mouth worse than someone yet to really understand what life and manners should be. A pig, definitely, a squealing little pig, clawing at his suit with long finger nails, his hips heavy enough to break some pelvic bones if he chose.
Screaming and squealing and screaming louder as he slams knife into the sternum so those distracting arms stop flailing about so much.
"Perhaps, you will learn how to hold your tongue now?"
The girl's eyes roll and blood spills from the corner of the mouth, coughing blood onto his shirt. He frowns and tilts his head. He pulls a scalpel from his case.
"Or perhaps if you have no air to blow we won't need to worry about your tongue?"
And won't this piglet on a rack make a beautiful scene for his new patient?
Hands around Marissa's neck, a mimic of Hobbs, to push this drama even further, teach Abigail a thing or two. So much potential in that scarred child, acting brave and in control. He wonders if he pushes will Abigail fold how he wants or will she crack?
Marissa gurgles, veins blooming brighter, and the head flops forward onto his knuckles.
"I do not believe Miss Hobbs needs companions of your type."
Perhaps the mounting is outlandish but he certainly understands the pleasure of seeing pierced flesh on display. Antlers never entered his work before now.
A shame not to take a piece home but this time he has a different purpose; Jack and Will have to follow down his mapped out hill.
Will shuts his eyes tighter ~
Rage. He'd almost forgotten what anger like this could feel like. The Thanksgiving murderer Dr. Abel Gideon as the Chesapeake Ripper? This shade of an artist?
Some things cannot be borne silently.
But sweet relief, well-orchestrated pleasure as he writes each word, 'what do you see?' Perhaps, Jack Crawford will keep the note in a file as a reminder of the failure, then and now.
He carefully places the arm, cellphone in hand, and no blood left to spill –
– spills out of Will, hot living blood, onto the floor, onto the perfect pale carpet.
Will thinks, how will Hannibal remove the blood? Scrub it for hours then bleach? How will he clean this carpet? Answer, he won't. He'll pull it all up and lay new carpet. Quick as he can, one day, two days? Cancel on clients, take no calls, the flu, renovations, any excuse and then the new carpet will appear exactly the same with the only blood hidden beneath as permanent stains in the wood – a precious memory, a pride every time he stands over it.
Will's hands clench, his eyes focus past the brown and scattered blond of Hannibal's hair. He has to do something, has to move. He reaches toward his hip, inches with ragged breaths because why did they give him a gun if not to save his own life? But Hannibal must move at double speed – doubled to Will's half time – and Hannibal takes Will's gun away first. He pulls out the clip the stands up, placing both on the desk.
"Now, Will –
– Will kneels beside the 'golden ticket' on the floor, her blood coming faster and faster from the partial neck slice. He tilts his head to the side, watches the life fade from Garrett Jacob Hobbs shot up like an enlarged pin cushion.
"See?" And he watches those last words hit Will between the eyes, his hands shaking harder, body shaking, voice unable to form complete words.
The break down plays as smoothly as Beethoven's 5th, as Mozart's Requiem. Blood peppers Will's face and his shirt, coats his hands like a brand new version of children's finger painting. He would stretch this moment into hours if the girl had that long, if he did not think Will might turn the gun on himself.
When he crouches down, takes Will's hands away from Abigail's neck and replaces them with his own, he does not miss the irony of the moment. This time when he looks at Will, Will stares right back into his eyes.
Oh, he will change this man.
Will blinks and gasps and blinks ~
" – the mirrors in your mind can reflect the best of you, not the worst of someone else."
Will's face appears unconvinced as Will looks down from the balcony but already he sees more eye contact than the first time they met. Perhaps not as much as when they killed together.
Blinks, blinks ~
"I liked killing him."
How far will he have to push Will – tense jaw, mused hair from disrupted sleep, tight muscles, leaning forward looking for that life line – how far will he have to push to change all that fear into want?
Will tries… he tries… ~
"Are you feeling paternal?"
Toward them both. Abigail and Will, two creatures ready to break and be reborn. Or maybe they will both end up under his knife.
It's a challenge and a chance to see where this path will lead. The opportunity to change such an interesting creature as Will never appeared before. It's a new level he had yet to consider but now he will be the composer not just the musician, develop the polyphony and hear the crescendo.
He wonders if Will tastes as delicious as he smells.
Will shuts his eyes so tightly ~
Will sits with his head in his hands – alienated from Jack? Not yet, not completely, so close with the stress of the ripper weighing on them both. A few strands he can tweak and pull and change to push Will further into the bubble with only him to rely on.
Will sighs and clenches fists into curls of hair. "How much longer can I look?" Will whispers. Fragile and thin and open as pages in a book flipped under his fingers and his words.
And then Will becomes –
– another victim on Hannibal's floor. Will opens his eyes.
"Though it was certain from a point that this would be the final outcome of our relationship, I cannot admit I imagined it in just this way." Hannibal tilts his head to the side slightly as he looks down at Will. "But all stories must have their end and don't you think this fitting?" Hannibal crouches down again over Will.
Paler skin, blood at the corner of the mouth, but those glasses still somewhat block the eyes, hide the expression he so wants to see. He reaches out –
– And Hannibal slides the glasses off of Will's face, folding them up in one hand.
"Do you not think it fitting?" Hannibal asks again.
Will shakes his head, rolls it side to side against the floor, "No…"
Will chokes on the blood in his throat; he watches the light fade into fog, the books retract into paint smudges like the room around him is being erased and all that will remain is him and blood and Hannibal crouched over him like a vulture, a shrike, like the ripper.
He pushes curls away from his Will's forehead, sees the impulse to shrink away but Will can't because the pain and the wound is reducing the nervous system into a state of shock and nothing will make Will's body respond. He smiles and nods, feels God in his fingertips.
Will widens his eyes, tries to feel himself – just Will Graham, just the man standing in the safety of a field far away, on a boat out at sea with the sun on his face – force himself to be here and make the pain sharp and real and alive but…
"It is fitting because you can see yourself in me," he says and twists his hands in Will's curls, keeps those eyes right where he wants then, focused only on him and this enfolding crime with the most perfect clarity only being a physical part of it can bring.
His last gift to Will.
"No…" Will fights, focuses, feels the wound in his stomach, feels Hannibal's hand in his hair, feels reality as it spills further away.
"You can see," Hannibal says…
"You can see," he says and smiles. He will eat Will's heart.
Then the world focuses around Will – sharp with vibrate reds in the walls, the sound of his own ragged breath, and the smell of blood – when his hand slips over the still warm metal of the very knife Hannibal used to stab him left carelessly on the floor. A mistake Hannibal Lector would never had made had the victim been anyone other than Will Graham.
Will stabs the knife up to the handle into Hannibal's side. Hit his kidney? His liver? Something, anything to give Will a chance. Hannibal makes a choked off noise in the back of his throat and his face changes to an expression of surprise Will knows he will never see again. Hannibal heaves up and back from Will. The knife yanks out of Hannibal's side as he moves then bounces away out of Will's hand to make it unreachable, as if Will had any strength left to pick it up again. Hannibal knocks back into his desk, hand held against his side. He pulls his hand away, now wet with his own blood to match Will's blood on his other hand. He stares at it as if this blood somehow defies everything he expected to see then looks past his fingers to Will on the floor.
Hannibal slides down the edge of the desk as the side door to his office flies open and five police officers charge in with guns drawn, Jack at the head.
"Don't move!" Jack shouts as he advances on Hannibal, two officers circling the desk around the other side.
Katz appears at Will's right, her lips move but Will cannot hear the words. The world blurs again, the books dripping into puddles of paint and the sounds mushing out into a dull buzz. Will stares into Hannibal's eyes as Hannibal stares back through the gap between police officer legs. Hannibal's lips stay pressed in a line, his eyes starting to become unfocused just as Will's are, following time together.
Then the corners of Hannibal's lips quirk up, a smile for only Will to see. The expression is the Chesapeake Ripper – Will's therapist, his confidant, his partner vanished forever. The loss Will feels now as his eyes close and he embraces the black is entirely his own.