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H. Lecter (7:34 am)
Good morning, Will. I trust that this message is finding you well?

Will read the text, quickly at first, slowing down on his second pass. It was very Hannibal, to be so formal over a fucking text message, and at this ungodly hour no less. Not that Will wasn’t already awake; he’d been knee deep in a crime scene for the last hour and a half, give or take.

Regardless. For all Hannibal knew, Will could have been sleeping, catching up on much-needed rest in the confines of his three star, FBI-funded hotel room in the middle of shit-creek nowhere, Iowa. How uncouth.

Will debated on teasing Hannibal, on asking if he had missed him so much due to their missed session the night before that he couldn’t bear one more moment without contact.

Ultimately, it only took a split second to decide that it would be absurd.

W. Graham (7:36 am)
Your message found me fine.

Will slipped the phone back into his pocket and shimmied his hands back into the pair of sticky, tacky-with-sweat latex gloves that he had been keeping safely in his back pocket. He did his best to push back a few stray ringlets from where they were sticking to his forehead and glasses using his forearm.

The timing of the gloves had been poor planning.

Will swore under his breath, cracked his neck, and dipped below the garish yellow crime scene tape, making his way back to the side of the tortured.

^^^

H. Lecter (7:41 am)
Fine is acceptable. I can think of worse alternatives.

H. Lecter (8:07 am)
I apologize for my incessant behavior. It is only to be expected that you’re busy. Be well.

Will snorted to himself at Hannibal’s messages. There were texts from others, of course. Alana, Jack, one from Abigail. Two mental health professionals, his supervisor, and his surrogate daughter. He briefly considered screenshotting the menu of his text screen with their names glaring up at him in an orderly fashion. He could print and frame it, hang it up in some gallery.

“A Day in the Life”
Artist: Will Graham and a Horde of Concerned Mother Hens
2016, Digital Print

Will wondered what the proper term was for a group of hens. A quick Google search informed him that rather than being referred to as a horde, such a group would be called a brood. The tone of the word and its implications seemed fitting and Will felt soothed, as he often did when he considered things to be in their orderly place.

Will pulled off his tie and launched it vaguely toward the hotel room desk. His shoes came next, followed by his belt and overcoat. His clothes were drenched with sweat and while the sensation wasn’t wholly bothersome when it occurred in the middle of the night (it often had a cooling effect, he had found), he felt weighed down and suffocated with the addition of the thick, soupy July heat. Pushing off responding to his Brood for a few moments more, Will stripped and opted instead for a cool shower.

The sun was setting, shadows casting strangely through the useless curtains hung over the window by the time Will stepped out of his claustrophobic hotel bathroom and back into the main space. He dried himself quickly but dressed slowly, finding solace in the stretch of time that it took him to pull on his boxers and a worn, threadbare t-shirt before picking up his phone, laptop and various chargers and settling onto his queen sized bed. He adjusted until he had a mini-office setup on his lap, back to the flimsy faux-wooden headboard, and then finally, dreadfully, started responding to his text messages that had accumulated throughout the day.

He assured Alana that he was fine. Stable, even. No hallucinations for him, no ma’am.

He gave Jack a quick update on the day in the field, ensuring to avoid any identifying information. Will grew bored and antsy halfway through the text and decided to tell Jack that he would e-mail him the rest of the information later. Or maybe even in the morning.

He was kinder to Abigail. She was adjusting as best as she could, a sister of her Mother’s having moved into the house with her for the time being. Will felt his soul alight with agony whenever he thought about her being in that house, where parts and pieces of her Father’s trophies littered the nooks, crannies, and pillow stuffings.

Perhaps he shouldn’t feel suffering for her, however. He knew that it may have been just as likely that Abigail had fought to stay in the family slaughterhouse so that she herself could find peace and calm surrounded by the bits of women that she had helped her Father lure to their ends.

In the end, Will found that his protectiveness of her would remain steadfast and unbudged even if that were true, and so he assured her that he had made it to Iowa safely, and asked her if she had given any more thought to registering for a class or two in the Fall. It seemed safe territory.

That left Hannibal.

Will chewed on the inside of his cheek as his eyes drifted over the three short, curt texts. Did he even need to respond? What would he possibly say at this point, 11 hours after the fact? Sorry, yes, I was knee deep in viscera, didn’t want to bloody my phone, you know how it goes. It wasn’t likely to go over well. Hannibal never missed a beat when Will decided to be a sassy, sarcastic challenge, but that was in person. Will wasn’t well versed enough in the art of texting to know how to come across as dry and witty.

W. Graham (7:48 pm)
I was busy. It doesn’t matter. I’ll respond when I can. No apologies necessary.

W. Graham (8:19 pm)
Can I ask you a question?

Will didn’t do much in the span of time between his texts to Hannibal other than close his eyes and try with all of his might to scrub away the imagery of the crime scene from earlier in the day. He could kill Jack in cold blood for agreeing to send him out to consult on this case.

He could, but he wouldn’t. Probably.

After waiting for a response to the second text message, Will heaved a sigh and opened his laptop in order to be a compliant FBI special agent, e-mailing Jack information he found to be pertinent regarding the case. It was a very short e-mail. Not because Will hadn’t been able to decipher the scene itself; rather, Will wasn’t ready to revisit the victim’s last moments just yet. It could wait until morning. Jack would have to be patient.

It was over an hour later when Will’s phone screen lit up, catching his attention from where it sat on his bedside table.

H. Lecter (9:36 pm)
You may.

“Pretentious,” Will whispered under his breath to the empty room.

W. Graham (9:37 pm)
What did you cook for dinner?

H. Lecter (9:40 pm)
Coq au vin with a wild greens salad and peach tarte tatin for dessert. Any particular reason for your curiosity? Are you not eating well?

W. Graham (9:42 pm)
No. And also no. You would shudder to know how I eat when you’re not the one feeding me, Hannibal.

H. Lecter (9:44 pm)
I will make it a point to feed you more frequently, then.

Will closed his eyes against the bubbling swell within his chest at the thought. It was a sensation that he recognized to a degree, one that he refused to acknowledge in any way that didn’t involve pure avoidance.

W. Graham (9:45 pm)
Unnecessary. Not that I would say no. I didn’t realize you had a dinner party planned for tonight.

H. Lecter (9:47 pm)
I didn’t entertain tonight. What gave you the impression? You’re always on the invite list, you would have been made aware. I’m pleased that you wouldn’t turn away a meal from me.

W. Graham (9:50 pm)
Oh. Just seemed like an awfully fancy spread for just yourself. I’m not used to interacting with people who treat themselves very well. I’m glad that you do. Well, I aim to please. It should be evident from my sunny disposition.

Will wondered then if Hannibal had cracked a smile, or even recognized the sentiment as humor. Hannibal had a smile like a shark; broad, thin-lipped, full of ice and yet.

And yet.

H. Lecter (9:52 pm)
My apologies. Too much time has passed. I seem to have forgotten that disposition you’ve mentioned.

Will laughed in spite of himself, surprised to have received banter back. The sound felt loud and raucous against the backdrop of silence and the humming ice machine from down the hall.

W. Graham (9:53 pm)
It’s been less than a week, Hannibal. I didn’t know you’d miss me so much. I suppose next time I’ll have to drag you around with me. Wouldn’t want you feeling lonely.

H. Lecter (9:55 pm)
Unnecessary. Not that I would say no.

Will’s cheeks heated. His pulse quickened. And so, like a jackrabbit, he sprinted away.

W. Graham (9:58 pm)
It’s getting late and I feel like I might be able to get some real, human sleep. I don’t mind you checking in, but I’m expecting to be run ragged during the day. Their team here is relentless. Rest well, Hannibal.

H. Lecter (9:59 pm)
Sleep, real human. Your mind and body are likely to crave it at this point. Until tomorrow.

Will nearly responded, finding himself torn between the pieces of himself that were buzzing with anxiety beneath his flesh, and the other pieces that were buzzing with something far more pleasurable at their conversation. He chose instead to set his phone aside, kill the lights, and close his eyes.

It was easy to slip into sleep, once he was able to ignore the looming presence of Garret Jacob Hobbs that stared at him from the darkest corner of the room.

Sometimes Will thought that being haunted was better than being alone.