AUTHOR'S NOTES: So there's a chunk of the story in italics which is meant to be a flashback. Just wanted to point that out. Also, Alton Brown gets most of the credit for the coq au vin, chicken stock, roast duck, and pan fried potatoes. Though using boneless chicken thighs for the first is my own variation.
Now, I know Crowley may seem a bit OOC in this chapter but his marbles are kinda scrambled, so… Also, I know we all remember Sam having Lucifer in head for about half or more of season 7. Well, Crowley is going to have Meg in his head… and Bobby, too, later on.
And one more heads-up before I let y'all get to reading. This chapter contains spoilers for the most recent episode of 'Hannibal'-Buffet Froid. If you haven't seen it, I would watch before reading. Although it's not ENTIRELY necessary, it just makes things easier.
Although it was well after noon, Lecter still found himself wanting to know more about the Winchesters and the world of demons and monsters that they lived in. To that end, he invited Sam to join him at his favorite bistro about 10 minutes away. Sam, not wanting to appear rude, accepted.
The restaurant was quiet as the last of the lunch crowd trickled out and the two men took a seat at a table near the back next to the open kitchen. When Sam seemed interested at the location, Lecter replied, "Good food and theater go together. What can't they be the same thing?"
"I guess I'm just used to diners, fast food, and take-out," Sam said after a while. "Hunting doesn't exactly bring in the money. Besides, I don't know how long Dean would last if he had to live without bacon cheeseburgers," he added with a dry smile.
Lector smiled as well. He was beginning to like Sam Winchester. The young man was smart and very sharp. "And what about you, Sam?" he asked as the waitress brought menus and glasses of water. "What are your culinary tastes?"
Sam thought about that for a moment. He knew that Dean didn't really get the appeal of salads or healthy eating but Sam also knew that his brother was always curious why his younger brother stuck to rabbit food whenever possible. "I kinda try to lean more towards salads and the healthier stuff. A few weeks before I left for Stanford, I started having what seemed to be arthritis pain. Dad just thought it was growing pains, but it turned out to be—"
"Gout," Lecter finished, nodding knowingly. It was interesting for someone so active to have such an illness, but without a proper diet, gouts could happen to even the most fit of individuals.
"Dean doesn't know and I never figured out the best way to tell him," Sam concluded. "I haven't had an attack in years and I always try to stay as diligent as possible with my meds."
The doctor's expression turned sympathetic as he studied Sam. "It must be hard to keep something like that from your brother. I can't imagine a secret like that is easy to keep." The more he heard about Sam's life, the more Lecter wondered about the family dynamic between the brothers and how many secrets the two kept from one another. It would also be very interesting to see what would happen if those secrets were revealed.
In the kitchen of Bryce Turner, Crowley worked on dinner. Tonight, he was taking one of his favorite chicken recipes from Mr. Alton Brown—coq au vin—and tweaking it to make it a little speedier. The flavor was almost exactly the same, although he had to admit he enjoyed the light fruitier flavors of white wine as opposed to red wine.
"Well, look at you…" Meg said as she walked up to him, smiling smugly as she leaned against the counter. "It's the Queen of Hell. And look… you've even got a 'kiss the cook' apron. You're practically domesticated, aren't you?"
"You're dead," Crowley said, quickly as he turned to the young woman. "I remember that part quite vividly."
Meg straightened up as she walked around the sort-of-demon as she spoke. "Yes, you did. Or did you? Am I really back or am I just some part of your mind playing tricks on you?" Leaning in close, she spoke in Crowley's own voice as she said, "You can't keep me buried forever. How long do you think you can hold me back before you break?"
Never before had Crowley been more relieved to hear Dean Winchester shouting his name. He whirled around, unaware that he was still holding the chef's knife in his hand until the older Winchester said, "You're not going to use that, are you?"
"Use what?" Crowley asked, confused. When Dean pointed to the knife, Crowley quickly set it down before replying, "Only if you're a boneless chicken thigh." Watching as Dean headed for the fridge to grab a beer, he pushed the demon down as far as possible, feeling suddenly worried when again the demon showed no signs of resisting.
Dean just nodded as he sat at the table, eyeing Crowley shrewdly as he continued food prep for dinner. When Sam had insisted that the Winchesters 'adopt' the former King of Hell, Dean had thrown a fit, reciting the entire laundry list of everything 'the wretched son of Hellspawn' had done to them. Sam had countered with everything Crowley had done to 'help' them but that was an incredibly slim argument.
In the end, it had come down to Castiel and Jodie Mills who had finally convinced Dean to take Crowley in, even though it went against everything in Dean's nature. And yet there was one thing that Dean couldn't deny, and that was the fact that if it hadn't been for Crowley's consistently fabulous cooking, Sam probably wouldn't be in as good shape as he was.
In the hospital, Sam had all but stopped eating a day or two after waking up and finding out about his arm. He'd eaten just enough to keep the doctors from putting him on an IV, but never more than that. Dean had finally gotten his brother out after promising that he could get Sam fed if he was at home but the first week back at the bunker, he'd stopped eating all together and had even ripped out the IV Dean had put in stating that he should have finished the trials and died like he was supposed to.
That had nearly pushed Dean over the edge. He'd lost his parents, Ellen and Jo, Bobby… and the idea that his brother wanted to die was just too much.
It was then that Crowley had come in with a mug of homemade stock and handed it—somewhat roughly—to Sam with the order to drink it or wear it. Sam had been sure Crowley was bluffing but downed the stock anyway.
Stock had led to soup which had led to Sam getting back to regular meals, to Dean's incredible relief.
"In case you're wondering," Crowley said, suddenly, breaking Dean's revierie. "—I'm not planning on betraying you. Any of you."
Dean nodded once and then asked, "So uh… then what was that little zone-out you did?" Although, in all honesty, it wasn't too surprising. In fact, Dean had his suspicions that—like Sam almost two years ago—Crowley wasn't alone in his head. Catching the demon's look, he knew his suspicions were correct. With a nod, he asked another question, "We need to start worrying about you?"
'Yes. In fact, you should kill me right now,' Crowley thought but he shook his head. "I'm fine," he assured Dean.
"Uh-huh," Dean muttered, going back to his beer before pulling out his laptop and firing it up.
When Sam got back to the house around 3 in the afternoon, he found Dean in the dining room, working on his computer. "Hey," Sam said as he pulled out his own laptop and fired it up. "So it turns out we may have more than one monster around here."
Dean nodded as he sipped his beer before pushing the bottle towards his brother. "Yeah, I know. Latest fugly looks like a wraith but we've also got a werewolf and God only knows what else." When Sam downed the rest of the beer in one go, Dean studied Sam closely. "Dude… What, things go that bad talking to the shrink?"
Shaking his head, the younger Winchester tried to think of the best way to explain but finally, he said, "Actually… I kinda told him everything."
There was a moment or two when all Dean could do was stare incredulously at his brother. "Come again?" he said, not sure he'd heard right. The plan had just been to drop the bombshell that monsters were real, not spill their whole life's story! And besides, it was one of the big Winchester Rules—Don't tell strangers (particularly shrinks and cops) about everything, only the absolute essentials. "Sam, how could you just spill everything?"
"I-It wasn't like I really had a choice, Dean," Sam explained. When his brother looked skeptical at that, Sam shrugged. "It was like… he had this gaze and I just… started talking. And I couldn't stop. It was kinda weird, actually. I don't know if Dr. Lecter is like that with everyone, but with me… I'm sorry, Dean. I shouldn't have told him everything."
Dean shrugged it off, even though his gut was telling him this would come back to bite them in the ass later. Standing, he grabbed two more beers from the fridge and handed one to Sam who had ditched his jacket. "How's the arm?"
Sam rubbed the partial limb a bit self-consciously and shrugged in response.
"Have you thought about a prosthetic?" Lector asked during a magnificent lunch of beef tenderloin Carpaccio and frisee salad. "Surely that would make the work you and your brother do easier for you? There are some incredible advancements in technology."
Sam shifted uneasily in his chair as the waitress brought refills for his club soda and Lecter's wine. "Uh… that's really… not possible right now. I don't have the money for it, so…" He didn't say anything else, but he wished that he wasn't out in public. He hated feeling the stares from the other patrons and he could almost hear the whispered questions.
Lecter could tell that Sam didn't feel at ease being among people and asked, "Is this the first time you've been in public since losing your arm?"
Sam shook his head as he chewed a bite of his salad and after swallowing, he replied, "Not exactly. I've, uh… I've been seeing an occupational therapist but usually in the evening… when the office isn't really busy."
"You feel uncomfortable because of your disability," the doctor observed. When Sam nodded, he added, "I can't imagine how hard this must be for you. But you can't avoid the world, Sam. Sooner or later, you must rejoin it…whether you want to or not."
Watching as his little brother turned his attention to his computer, Dean found himself again worried. Sam was withdrawing even after a just a day out of the world he'd been in for the past two months and it wasn't a good thing. Maybe Sam did need to start seeing a shrink on a regular basis… someone who knew his history and what he was going through.
The kitchen of Dr. Hannibal Lecter was filled with the intoxicating aroma of roasting poultry—specifically, duck which he'd dry-aged himself before putting it in the oven to roast.
On the counter, vegetables were prepped and ready to be steamed until they were perfectly al dente and redskin potatoes were chopped and sitting in a container of water, waiting to be sautéed to a mouthwatering golden brown.
Hearing someone enter the room, Lecter looked up to see his friend and patient, Will Graham, come in carrying a bottle of wine. "Will. You're earlier than I'd expected," the psychiatrist said with a note of surprise. Considering his earlier conversations with Sam Winchester, Lector found himself wondering if the young man's brother had indeed spoken to Will.
Will nodded and sat down at the counter on one of the bar stools before setting down the wine bottle and after a moment, he asked, "Do you believe in monsters?"
Lecter smiled as he took the wine and placed it in the refrigerator. "You've been talking to Dean Winchester," he said, slightly amused. When Will seemed caught off guard by that, he added, "His brother came to see me. We talked and he told me about the world the two of them live in." Facing Will, he answered the question directly. "Yes. I believe there are monsters. I can't help but wonder if that may be why you and Jack Crawford are suddenly dealing with an abundance of gruesome murders."
"I hadn't thought of that," Will admitted, though now that the theory had been posed, it was entirely possible. Surely an ordinary human couldn't be responsible for all the death he'd seen lately….
Ever the astute observer, Lecter noticed that his friend seemed more relaxed and rational than he had been lately. "You seem better today, Will," the doctor commented. "Well-rested, calmer…"
"That's actually the, uh…the other reason I'm early," Will explained as he watched Lector sauté the potatoes in melted duck fat along with shallots and garlic. "You remember last week I had an MRI?"
Lector nodded, recalling when Will told him about the brain scan after getting worried about the latest bout of sleepwalking. "I remember," he said, reaching for his pepper mill and grinding the fragrant spice onto the potatoes. "What were the results?"
The answer made Lecter look up, sharply. He'd considered the possibility—there had been a fascinating scent coming from Will recently, a fevered sweetness. But the confirmation of the disease was also a bit alarming, especially considering the idea of how Will had been initially infected and more importantly who else might have been exposed.