This is a soul mate AU, but soul mates are not necessarily sexual or romantic in nature. In this story, the relationship between Will and Hannibal is platonic and codependent in nature, due to their unique identities. So, anyone who's squicked by slash, there will be none here.
The story flits back and forth between present and past, I hope it's clear enough. Mentions of thoughts of suicide and self harm, but none of it pans out. A couple of swears. No beta. Enjoy *smirks*
This work was inspired by this story on AO3: Mark by black_dranzer_1119
Will, like most other people, was born with a mark. Somewhere in the world, his soul mate waited with an identical mark in the same place. The person he was most compatible with, who would stay by his side despite his shortcomings and difficult nature. When he was little, around five years old, he already knew he was different than most people. He couldn't seem to say the right thing, act the right way to make friends. The words he wanted to say seemed to get caught in his throat, his eyes darted shiftily and his body curled in on itself. He grew up hungrily listening to stories of his soul mate, someone who would be his friend even when no one else would.
His mark was behind his left ear, or maybe it was his right. It could have actually been on his ankle. He doesn't remember anymore.
Jack drags him to another crime scene, even though Will's mind kicks and rebels and screams at him to go home and sleep, not torment himself anymore. Will feels hot and sticky beneath his collared shirt and jeans. It's at least eighty five degrees out, if he's being generous. Everyone else wears short sleeved shirts and looks at him with questioning eyes and tight lips. Most of them thinks he harms himself. He lets them. It's much more preferable than the truth.
"The victim's name is Angela Greene," Jack's authoritative voice cuts through the hustle of the crime scene. He has a scarf on, but unlike with Will, people know why. His mark on the back of his neck has been steadily fading for three months, ever since his soul mate was diagnosed with cancer. People tactfully avoid the topic; the stark black of the fabric speaks of mourning. It is a fairly common symbol in society, a telling sign of the deepest grief imaginable, the agony of what will soon come to pass.
"She was strangled," someone's unimportant voice leaks into Will's thoughts. "Her eyes were taken post mortem, scooped out with what looks to be a spoon of some sort."
Slowly, against his better judgement, Will surveys the mutilated corpse and closes his eyes, turning back the hands of time in order to see what the killer sees, feel what he feels.
A stab of pain on his face, next to his left eye.
Will begins to panic, desperate to shut down the process before it begins. The skin next to his eye itches, and he twitches before opening his eyes again, not wanting to let the vision unfold and let that happen. Not on his face. Not today.
"Will?" Jack speaks to him, shaking his shoulders. "What do you see?"
"Nothing." Will says shortly, already backing away. The forensic team around him gives him strange looks, but Will doesn't care. He's used to it.
"What do you mean nothing," Jack grits out, grabbing onto his wrist. His grip is bruising through Will's shirt.
"I- I don't feel well," Will says weakly, only half lying. He shakes off Jack's grip and stumbles away, choking on his hysteria. The itch on his face fades the more he distances himself from the scene. Jack makes no move to follow him, but his face speaks of murder. Will runs to his truck and floors it, making it home in under fifteen minutes when it would have normally taken thirty.
He has three messages on his cell phone. He deletes them all without listening to them.
The first time it happens, he's six. That's when his overactive imagination, constructed from years of neglect and loneliness, latches itself onto other person's thoughts, their lives. The girl sitting next to him in first grade is unsuspecting, unknowing that the shy boy next to her is currently in her shoes, seeing her life and thinking her thoughts. That is his design.
Will is so scared, so afraid. He doesn't understand what's happening, he doesn't know how to build forts to separate her consciousness from his, and their melding thoughts hurts him terribly. It takes a full ten minutes to separate himself from her, and when he does and he's back with himself, he notices he's shaking and sweating terribly. Her remnant thoughts still drift in his head, and he struggles to push them away, behind a locked door so he never has to see them again. There's a stab of pain in his ankle, and he cries out. In the middle of class. How embarrassing. All of the boys laugh at him, and call him a baby. The teacher asks him if he's alright. He lies and says he is.
That night, he notices a foreign mark, right on his ankle. It's not his. He's never seen it on him before in his life, and he feels sick with the realization that he stole this mark from the little girl next to him. It's not his, but he melded consciousnesses with that girl so seamlessly, that he tricked his body into thinking that it was.
After that day, Will stops making eye contact, so desperately afraid that if he does, he'll pick up the wrong soul mate.
Will sits in Jack Crawford's office, lost in his own thoughts... or rather, the mystery killer's thoughts. What would move a man to kidnap eight girls, treat them as though he loved them, honor them and then kill them? And what was so special about the eighth girl that he couldn't bring himself to hide her... he felt bad, that's for sure.
Will had picked up another mark from empathizing with the killer last night, this one on his abdomen. He feels violated bearing the mark of someone so twisted, but it wasn't the first killer's mark he had and it wouldn't be the last. It was just one more step to losing himself in the madness, forgetting who he really is. Drowning in a sea of other people's marks so that nothing of him remained.
A man, a doctor and psychiatrist, sits next to him. He has an aristocratic face, and a suit to match, making Will burn a little in embarrassment of his shabby appearance. Jack called him in to help add insight to the profile, not that Will needs it. He suspects it is because Jack thinks he is off his game. Whether he is or isn't, he doesn't need this Dr. Lecter poking and prodding his process. The man is stepping on his toes, studying him intently. It's unnerving, and it isn't easy ignoring the man, but Will manages. He always manages.
"Not fond of eye contact?" The man comments next to him, as if speculating about the weather and not probing into his privacy.
"No." Will says, pointedly looking at the space in between Dr. Lecter's eyes. It fools most people, but this man doesn't seem to be one of them.
"Why?" the man says, leaning forward a little in his chair. "Is it because you think a relationship is not conducive to your lifestyle? Or is it because you fear being spurned, rejected by a potential soul mate?" Will sees Jack grimacing out of the corner of his eye, but he is too angry, too livid at the man for assuming anything about him to care.
"Whose profile are you working on?" Will spits at the man, who only smirks in answer. Will turns to Jack, and back to the psychiatrist. "Don't psychoanalyze me. You won't like me when I'm psychoanalyzed." He shoves his seat back abruptly, and moves to stand up. Jack looks ready to bark at him to sit back down, but Dr. Lecter just shakes his head and lets Will leave.
As Will walks to his next class, he silently fumes and wishes he could make Dr. Lecter go away by just hoping hard enough. He knows, however, that he hasn't seen the last of the man who dared to psychoanalyze him.
By the time Will is twenty, he has withdrawn so far from society that he is no more than a shadow dancing at the edge of people's vision. He is a black hole, he sucks in and empathizes with anyone he interacts with, and comes out with another mark. One on his back, one on his leg, a large one that dances up his chest and skirts onto his collar bone, the list goes on and on. The marks overlap each other, swirling together in a cacophony of sorrow and misery. He is a drawing board of other people's souls, and it hurts him to be objectified in such a way, even unknowingly.
He has lost track of which mark is his.
Sometimes, he can feel the echo of someone's agony when their soul mate dies, and even though Will knows that it is not his, he still cannot help but cry as the mark fades away from the collage on his skin.
He's a freak.
From age twenty on, the only beings that see his bare skin are himself and the myriad of dogs he has taken to collecting. Dogs don't have soul mates. Dogs are safe.
Will had been very reluctant to have therapy sessions with Hannibal, but he needs to talk to someone sooner or later. He's only human.
For the first few sessions, they talk about serial killers and their effect on Will. How empathizing with them makes his sense of self hazy and unclear, like an object obscured by a morning fog. They work beautifully together; Will empathizing and doing his thing, and Hannibal as a calm rock for Will to hold on to. Will gets used to it. He likes the feeling of having some sort of relationship with someone other than Jack, who uses his abilities for his own purposes. Sure it's probably only a doctor patient relationship, but he likes to think it's something more.
Hannibal seems to enjoy their time together as much as Will does. He invites Will over outside of sessions, and though Will still can't convince himself to make eye contact, they enjoy Hannibal's fancy, exotic cooking and talk about current events, their pasts, Will's dogs, anything really.
But not soul mates. Never about them.
It's so perfect. Hannibal, Will thinks, has lacked a fulfilling relationship just like him. The man is so much like a predator, an intimidating figure, that he scares people away. Will does too, though not for the same reasons. It's like he has a rubber stamp on his forehead, one that says, 'FREAK'. So he can understand Hannibal's lack of true friendships. For some reason, instead of repelling each other, they feed off each other. Hannibal takes Will's endless trust and lack of fear, and Will takes Hannibal's understanding and patience. They're symbiotic, and Will loves the feeling of being liked and valuable to someone other than the FBI.
Of course, it doesn't take long for everything to go to shit.
Will eventually learns to control his emotions and empathy. He couldn't just stay in his house forever and let the world go by. He was starving, starving for human interaction and, well, food. He needed a job.
So Will tucked in his empathy under his belt, donned his long sleeve shirt and ventured out into the world. Ironically, and this was just his luck really, he was immediately scooped up by the police, because really, when could Will ever realistically keep himself out of trouble? He flew through academy, chewing through books at a breakneck pace and passing his gun training with flying colors. He had laser like focus, and he was out in the field in no time.
He loved it. He felt like he was floating, flying. He didn't need to get close with anyone on a social level. He had a team, and they had to place their trust in each other or else they would die. It was a relationship and dynamic that was built on stone, without the fuss and muss of conversations and getting to know one another.
Everything was perfect.
Eighteen months on the force, and he was jumped off duty by someone's nephew or something of the sort. He was shoved in a car trunk and taken to someone's basement. Stabbed in the shoulder (through the shirt, thank god), ripping through muscle and doing irreparable damage. Will had his first episode in over a year. He reached into the man's essence, stuck himself in his shoes, and screamed bloody murder. Long after the man left, Will was trying to figure out who he was, trying to disentangle himself from the thug's consciousness.
He got another twisting marking, like a brand, on the sole of his foot.
Will was rescued four hours later, and he quit the force as soon as he recovered. He had regressed so badly, so severely, that he considered just ending his life, because his very soul ached and there was no way things could get better.
He didn't kill himself.
His shoulder hurt.
After three months of living off of workers comp, he gets scooped up by a hard faced man with an even harder voice, who flashes his badge and calls himself Jack Crawford and can you please come with me Mr. Graham.
He's psychoanalyzed by the FBI. (Don't psychoanalyze me.)
Everything's a blur.
Too unstable for FBI work.
Jack Crawford sets his jaw and says, "We're not letting this one go. He's special." and it makes Will want to crawl out of his own skin.
They find out that he's bright, and he knows things, so they stick him in a teaching post. Will knows it's a leash, so that he's easily accessible, but he doesn't care because it's stability and steady income.
It's hard to make eye contact in a lecture hall.
It's during one of their sessions that Hannibal finally brings up a sore subject. Well, sorer than usual.
Shockingly, it isn't about soul mates, because it seems like Hannibal can sense that Will isn't ready to talk about it.
It's about his sleeves.
"Will, why do you always wear long sleeves? I can turn up the heat if the temperature is not amenable." Hannibal has an innocent look on his face, and it looks foreign.
"No!" Will says too quickly. He's already sweating, and any more heat would surely melt him into nothing but a puddle. "It's nothing. I'm- I just don't-" he trails off, because really? What is there to say? He's sitting across from his only friend and quite possibly the scariest man in the world, and he has absolutely no excuse.
Hannibal doesn't let up though, and moves into Will's personal space. The profiler's breath quickens in panic, and he has to control himself in order to stave off an anxiety attack. He hasn't willingly been this close to someone in years. Hannibal's hands move to his wrists and holds them there, not making a move but simply grasping the younger man's sleeves in an obvious breach of Will's comfort zone.
"Will," and Hannibal's voice is full of concern and sincerity, and Will almost cries. "There is nothing to be ashamed of." Will really does start crying then, because Hannibal thinks he harms himself and is trying to be supportive, but that's far from what the problem is. Will knows that if Hannibal knew the truth, he will leave him alone again, and Will could never abide by the loneliness, not after indulging in companionship.
"Will, look at me."
Will looks at Hannibal. He makes eye contact with something other than a corpse or a dog for the first time since he was six. And it's beautiful. He had forgotten how meaningful and endless a pair of eyes could be.
Something clicks in Will's mind and roars in his chest, and by the looks of it, the same happens to Hannibal. For a while, nothing is said. They just stare at eachother; Hannibal in astonishment and Will in overwhelming fear.
Finally, Hannibal breaks the tension and reaches forward to cup Will's jaw in his hand. The brunette is frozen, like a deer in headlights. A moment passes, and Will's mind finally catches up with itself. He jerks so violently that he nearly falls out of the chair, and Hannibal looks confused and a bit hurt. The look seems so wrong on the man's face that Will almost ignores his panic and gives his soul mate a hug, but instinct, pure and raw overpowers him. He scrabbles backwards, making his way for an exit.
"Will, what is the matter?" Hannibal's voice, calm as ever drifts through him and causes him to stop dead in his tracks. He turns towards his soul mate and stares balefully at him because now he truly has nothing left to lose.
"What if you're not mine?" Hannibal looks baffled, and a little worried, so Will rushes to elaborate. "I have so many marks, I don't know which is mine anymore. I don't know if you're mine."
Hannibal seems to consider this for a moment, before looking up at his friend.
And Will does. He unbuttons his shirt, slowly, fearfully, and pulls it off. His skin is marred with lines, circles, swirls, and scars from marks that faded away when someone died. Hannibal gapes at Will, and the younger man looks away from the intense gaze of his doctor.
"Will, look at me." Will follows the command again, and instead of seeing hatred or disgust, he only sees adoration. "You're beautiful." Will blushes at the praise and smiles slightly. Hannibal slowly gets up from his seat and touches one of the marks. Fragments of Hannibal's recent memories flit into Will's consciousness, as customary of new soul mates.
Hannibal strangles a man, pure disgust runs through his veins like vitriol...
Will gasps, and Hannibal shushes him.
"Who is this from?" He is touching a mark on his shoulder, and Will breathes deeply as he tries to remember.
"Store clerk. Shaws."
"And this?" Another touch to his hip.
...cutting up lungs, putting them into a pan and sauteing them...
Will shudders and absorbs the glimpse of his soul mate into his consciousness.
"Seventh grade teacher..." Will breathes out. Hannibal hums, pleased with Will's lack of rejection. They continue like this for an hour, Hannibal quizzing Will on his marks, and Will accepting who Hannibal is and what he does into himself. They're bonding, tying each other together. Finally, Hannibal grabs a mark in the crook of Will's elbow.
"That one's... mine!" He is smiling at Hannibal, because it's been a long time since he remembered who he was, which mark was his own. Hannibal smiles with him, and their emotions blend together seamlessly. Hannibal takes a step back from Will and rolls up his own sleeve, bearing his own mark on his elbow. It is the same as Will's, a small hoof print of a stag.
Will laughs then, because the irony is thick and raw. Hannibal smiles genuinely, and Will idly wonders why he isn't panicking about Hannibal being a serial killer. He decides it's because he doesn't give a flying fuck.
"Dinner?" Hannibal asks, neatly rolling his sleeve back down.
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