- Dark Themes
- Discussion - Child Abuse
- Discussion - Murder
- Discussion - Torture
- Disturbing Imagery
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Violence - Graphic
- Challenge Response
- Fix It
Will shuffled in place, trying to get some warmth into his ice cold feet. He wasn’t dressed for standing in the snow. He had barely managed to grab a coat before he’d been dragged out the door and into the waiting car by Jack. Never mind brush his hair. Or teeth. Or finish his coffee, which was the real tragedy at o’dark hundred. It wasn’t like the corpse was going anywhere before Jack got back.
He ignored Jack and stared at the body before him. It wasn’t a Ripper display. That was an easy enough answer to provide Jack. But what it was… well, that wasn’t Jack’s business.
The body was dressed and situated with its head tipped back and mouth open. Its hands lay palm up and crossed at the wrist in its lap. The wallet lying across his hands identified him as Jason Colucci, a well-known manager of various local charities. Preliminary cause of death, a knife to the back of the skull.
Now, he was just a corpse missing its tongue and with its hands skinned and burned red. A bit cliche, but Will considered the contrast of the clean kill and the cliche amusing, not that anyone aside from Hannibal would be aware of that little fact.
Jack shuffled his feet, and Will held back a sigh at the underlying impatience. He’d been rousted from bed before sunrise on his day off. Viewing the scene fresh, especially this kind, made up for much, but Will was definitely owed breakfast for this. Hopefully not from Jack.
“Caught red-handed. I’m pretty sure once you get into his financials, Jack, you’ll find he’s defrauded, swindled or in some way harmed more than he claimed to have helped with his charities.”
“Not a Ripper murder then.”
Will sighed and raised his hand to rub at his temple. “No, Jack, this murder doesn’t fit the current sounding for the Ripper. Not extravagant enough, for one.”
“Huh. I figured, but I had to be sure. We’ve had a few of these one offs where the target had his own victims. Our vigilante killer?”
Will side-eyed Jack. “Or killers. You’ve dragged me to all of them, and besides being despicable pieces of humanity, nothing else has fit together. Might as well be Deadpool come to life for all we’ve got.” At least nothing discoverable by forensics. Will was fairly certain he knew who was behind it. And why.
Jack sighed. “Yeah. Any new insights on this one? Or are we on our own.”
“God, no, nothing new. Can I go? I have exams to grade and I’m freezing.”
“Yeah, yeah. Let me get you a ride to…?”
“Hannibal’s. You ruined my morning. Might as well impose on him and do the daily check-in.” Will took one last look at the display and turned around, heading to the car that had driven him there. “One bout with encephalitis and suddenly everyone treats you like cracked porcelain,” he muttered.
Jack tensed and then forcefully relaxed, before saying gruffly. “Better than us missing something again. You’d be dead if Hannibal hadn’t caught it. You’re a friend, Will. Shitty as I am about showing it.” He paused, and turned his head to follow Will as he walked away… waiting.
Will stopped and looked back at him without fully turning around, but said nothing. He deserved a better apology than that. Maybe one day Jack would get there.
Jack was the first to look away, turning back to the body. “Go on. Get out of here. Maybe take a break till after the holidays. I’ll try and only call if the real Deadpool shows up.”
“Pretty sure we’re outside Ryan Reynold’s social group, but I’ll see you at the office party either way.” Will raised his hand in a wave. He could give Jack that much.
Will let his head thump back against the headrest. His ride was ignoring him, something that had been common since he’d come back. Occasionally he found it irritating because of the cause. Guilt. Shame. They had missed that he was sick for a magic trick, and been called on it by an outsider.
More often he found it useful. Especially today after seeing this latest gift. Things were coming to a head, or at least he wanted them to move forward and at this point that equaled the same thing. He watched the blur of snow covered buildings and streets as the car wove through the city, stopping and starting as traffic demanded. Stupid mother hens and their driving restrictions. At least it’d be lifted come the new year if everything stayed stable.
Just two seasons and one conversation to change so much. The cat and mouse between he and Hannibal had reached a point at the beginning of summer where he was just… irritated. Or it could have been the heat in and out of his head. Either way, he’d had a theory and took a leap because ending up dead hadn’t seemed like the most horrible outcome.
The look on Hannibal’s face when he’d tossed himself onto the couch instead of his preferred chair had been worth it. His eyes gave it away. Indulgence. Tolerance. And so much exasperation held back behind that ever-polite smile. The conversation after even better.
He remembered that talk well. He’d been ranting about the latest murder Jack had dragged him too. One that wasn’t the Ripper’s or one of Hannibal’s off-personality side-jobs.
He had no proof for either, and he hadn’t decided whether he wanted any. But it felt like he had been added as a piece on the Ripper’s chess board and the hand playing him had yet to decide if he was pawn or queen. He knew Hannibal manipulated them all at will. At first he’d thought the Ripper and Hannibal different people with their own manipulations, but as time went by, the shadow of Hannibal’s manipulation took on the flavor of the Ripper. Or Will had gotten better at reading the game around him. Or the encephalitis had just taken him into some mad alternate reality.
But that day he’d had no fucks to give, and he was tired of being considered a pawn by Jack, Hannibal, and every other fucking person he’d met.
So he’d sat up, boots hitting the floor with a thump and stared straight at Hannibal. He had gone way off script and thrown it down like a challenge.
“She’s courting someone with these kills. Working up to impress someone. And you know what? If it was me, I’d be offended.”
“Because of the method of courtship?” Bland. There hadn’t been a hint of emphasis on any of it, but he swore he felt Hannibal closing himself off. So Will chose to keep falling off the cliff he’d jumped from.
“Because there’s no point to it. You’re either a lone wolf or part of the pack. And if you want someone to break off and join you in making a new pack, then why focus on killing innocents? There’s no challenge. No purpose. It proves nothing.”
He had paused, watching as Hannibal watched him. He had lost the stiffness that closed him off when Will condemned the newest killer. He’d decided fuck it and went for blunt. “Those who prey on the innocents? People who’ve committed no real wrong? Killers like this? They’re the height of rudeness, as you put it. The least they could do is target those already harming the pack and leave the pack better off than before. That’s what I would consider a proper courtship gift, if someone was giving me corpses.”
Hannibal hadn’t said much. Just a comment about how that was a unique view for someone in Will’s field to have. Will had shrugged it off and let the topic be changed. He hadn’t been suicidal enough to blatantly call Hannibal out as the Ripper.
And now, he didn’t think it’d be suicidal if he called Hannibal out. Occasional corpses had started showing up that didn’t tie into any current case. And each one had sparked off its own investigation into the victims of the corpse they’d been handed. He doubted the new one would break that trend.
Then Hannibal had changed the way he reacted to Will’s magic trick. Less intrigued and more almost-worried until after one session where Will had praised the exhibition piece of the head of an underground child pornography ring. The corpse had been a nobody till the rather pointed display of his death shone a spotlight on his every picadillo. By the end of that week, Hannibal had pulled strings and Will had a diagnosis for his encephalitis.
It had been a turning point, and Will had enjoyed their back and forth since as they circled each other. There was just one last thing he wanted to know before he agreed to be caught. Whether it was Will himself or the threat of discovery that had Hannibal so intrigued.
The car slid to a stop and Will blinked. Hannibal’s house. He waved off his driver, thanked him for the offer of help and stepped out of the car. He noted how his driver didn’t stick around once the door was shut and shrugged.
That suited Will fine. After all, this wasn’t a spectator sport, even if he did feel like he was waiting for the final score to come in.
Hannibal’s front door opened before Will could do more than raise his fist to knock. Huffing, he stared at Hannibal for a moment. “Jack?”
“Yes. The dear agent wanted to make sure I was ready to receive you.”
“Not a package,” he muttered. Will stepped forward, brushing against Hannibal as he slid past him into the house. Hannibal hadn’t stood back and Will had stepped a bit closer than necessary in order to ensure they touched this time. He might as well invite Hannibal to play and see if it got him a love bite or his throat torn out.
Hannibal shut the door and crowded close. Will felt the slight pressure as Hannibal placed his hand in the small of Will’s back and used it to direct him through the museum of a house.
They were headed toward the kitchen, probably for the hoped for breakfast. Will could have made his own way, but the pressure felt… nice. And he rather liked the slight smile it brought to Hannibal’s lips as he leaned into the touch. He felt his own smile broaden at the deepening contact and watched as Hannibal reacted, gaining crows feet in the corners of his eyes. An imperfection. But one he had caused without saying a single word.
Will leaned more heavily into the hand at his back before dropping into the seat Hannibal led him to. Hannibal laid his hand on Will’s shoulder and squeezed gently before letting go and heading to the stove and its load of ingredients. Onions. Peppers. Fresh meat. Eggs. Looked like omelets to Will. Knowing Hannibal though, it could be a simple omelet or it could be a weirdly proper dish that was more fussy than Will would ever bother with.
Hannibal didn’t break the silence between them as he picked up where he had left off with the food. Trousers and a buttoned up shirt. And here Will was in his grading clothes of a sweatshirt and jeans. Comfortable as they were, he doubted pushing up his sleeves would be as captivating as watching Hannibal unbutton each shirt sleeve and roll it slowly up his forearm.
“How are you feeling this morning, Will?”
Will jerked out of his daydream of a different kind of mess in the kitchen. He blinked, giving himself a shake before settling again. “I’m fine, Hannibal. No flare ups. Just hungry. Irritated, though that’s easing.”
“Is it now….”
“Hmm.” The fabric looked rather nice stretched across Hannibal’s shoulders as he chopped the last of the green pepper. “You’re distracting. In the best of ways.
Hannibal spoke without turning, almost preening at the stove. “Enjoying the distraction, I take it?”
“Oh yes. Preferred even.”
Hannibal looked back over his shoulder and their eyes met. “Perhaps desired?”
Will smiled, baring his teeth. “Perhaps. Wanted certainly. Definitely seen.”
Vegetables sizzled on the stove, the only sound between them as Hannibal busied himself with the stove until, “Oh? You have a unique perspective. Will you share it with me?”
“Depends.” Will waited. It didn’t take long.
Hannibal’s knuckles were white as he gripped the spatula he was using to stir in the meat. “Upon what, Will? A visit from Jack?
“I expect, no, I suspect this vision is not for Jack. Or the FBI.
So clever. It’s why as deadly as their game was, it was also fun. “Yes, there is a but. They might be my only option, but I’d prefer that they weren’t. I see the chase, a love of the chase. I just wonder if the chase is all there is. What comes after?” He bit his lip, his voice growing quieter. “I don’t intend on ending up someone’s lunch.”
“An interesting analogy.”
Hannibal sprinkled salt and some crushed herbs over the sautéing dish. “So what are you waiting for? To make your decision?”
“I enjoy courting, but there comes a time where questions need to be asked. A chance taken. A bet on the altar of embarrassment by risking all in a public declaration, if you will.”
Hannibal sat the spatula down with a click and turned away from the stove to face Will entirely. His shoulders were loose. Ready. “And what would such a public declaration win?”
“It might just win everything. The truth. Mutual confidence. Things I’ve told no one, not even you, exposed in return. A future, I hope.”
Will rested his elbow on the back of the chair and caught his chin in the cup of his hand as he held Hannibal’s gaze. Will loved his eyes and right now they were so… raw. Hannibal hadn’t expected to be called out. Will loved the thrill of surprising him. “Careful. You’ll burn the meat. Best not spoil it after such a successful hunt.”
Will watched his sometimes colleagues from the dark corner he had grabbed as soon as he arrived at the party. Ugly sweaters abounded with the rare costume in the mix. He’d come as a plaid elf because it was supposed to be a costume party and Jack had been badgering him about it for a week, despite his previous promises to attend. A bit of fur tacked to his shirtsleeves, some bells on his shoes, and cotton balls glued to his buttons did the trick well enough.
The wait was killing him. Two weeks. Just a daily check-in text. No phone calls. No random kidnappings for breakfast after the last one where Hannibal had barely managed to salvage the meat in time. No corpses. At least not the right kind. Just the normal depravity of the holidays. His exams had long since been graded. Hopefully correctly. He barely remembered doing them. He had spent most of his time wandering his property with the dogs and occasionally doing some fishing.
He might have skipped the party if Jack hadn’t made such a thing about him promising to come. He’d showed up with lunch and then stuck around and just hung out till it was time to leave. The company had been… nice.
Jack had wandered off, fuzzy antlers in place of an ugly sweater for a costume, once they had arrived at the party. Will had said a few hi and byes before settling in his corner.
A plate appeared in front of him. He stepped back, startled. A hand caught his upper arm as he windmilled backwards and pulled him forward, away from the shelves behind him.
“Careful, my dear. Your head has had enough troubles without adding a concussion to the mix.”
“Hannibal?” He’d meant to say more but, Hannibal’s outfit stopped him. He lifted his hand and brushed at the neatly edged white cuff of the perfectly tailored red tux. A fur cuff and he’d bet every bit of white trim was the same neatly shaved fur. The red fabric had a glow even in the dim light of their corner. And it was set off by the matte black cummerbund and gleaming black boots that showed under the tailored trousers. Head to toe, a deliciously tailored Santa suit. Only Hannibal.
Offering the plate again, Hannibal waited until Will took it and then led him forward, his black boots clicking against the floor.
“You could have called,” Will muttered as the chatter around them ceased.
“Possibly.” Hannibal stopped them under the cheap, plastic ball of mistletoe hanging in the center of the room.
Hannibal turned to face him, leaning in as he ran his hand up Will’s arm until he was cupping the back of his neck. Running his thumb back and forth over Will’s pulse, he whispered “But I didn’t want there to be any doubt about my declaration.” Will gripped the wrist of the arm clasping his neck.
His reply was interrupted as Hannibal closed the distance between them with a step as his hand tightened on Will’s neck and urged him forward into the kiss. Hannibal’s smooth lips caught on his chapped ones. He pressed into Hannibal, chasing lips and tongue with his own until he had to pull back just a bit to catch his breath and check on the room.
“They don’t seem surprised.”
“I made my intentions known prior to the event. Jack struck anyone rude enough to comment off the guest list as a… favor.”
He kissed the corner of Hannibal’s mouth squeezed the arms he had wrapped around his waist during everything. “I’ve lost my plate. I hope it wasn’t your cooking.”
Hannibal shook his head. “Just a prop from the buffet table. Your answer?”
“Caught is caught. And kissed.” Will grinned. “And fed if you’re up for it.”
Hannibal rubbed a thumb across Will’s lip and trailed his other hand from his neck to just above the waist and guided him through the crowd in the direction of the door. “Then we had best take our leave. I have more appropriate fare prepared at home.”
They left without issue and Hannibal steered him into the passenger seat of his car. Will pulled his seatbelt on. Side-eyeing Hannibal, he caressed the hand nearest him from fingertips to wrist before leaving it there. “Seriously though. You could have just called without all the drama.”
“You’re worth it though, and I believe that was rather the point.”
Profilers for Christmas is an anonymous crime drama Advent Calendar featuring both art and stories. Additional information about the challenge can be found here.