Will's two weeks on medication before she starts to feel like herself again: no hallucinatory noises, no lapses of time. She uncaps a blood-red lipstick and stares at herself in the mirror, but her reflection still feels dreamlike and hyper-real, like she's looking up from Abigail Hobbs bleeding out on the floor and seeing the deliberation on Dr Lecter's face at Will's desperation, like the stranglehold that had taken hold of her when she walked into Dr Lecter's office, its order torn to pieces and Tobias Budge dead on the floor. Will thought then that Dr Lecter looked relieved, but she couldn't be sure if it were Lecter's emotion or her own.
Will's mouth is a slash of red against her skin, her hair neat for once after she's brushed it. She might dress like this on a date, if it wasn't with someone who knew better. Dr Lecter is meticulous and meticulously clean, with her sharply ironed suits and perfect hair, and Will knows exactly how to bait a hook.
She brings wine again, though this time there's no dinner party Dr Lecter is preparing for, no thanks or apology Will is trying to make. Will shuffles her feet and smiles crookedly when Dr Lecter opens the door, handing the bottle over; "Thank you," Lecter says, "this should go exceptionally well with the main course."
"I'm glad," Will says, "I just asked the guy at the store."
Lecter quirks an immaculate eyebrow, and Will lets her mouth tip into a smile. "Please, come in," Lecter says. "It's good to see you looking well."
"Yeah," Will says, mildly. "I'm feeling better. Encephalitis, who would've thought?"
"It's a rare condition. I haven't come across it myself. Until yourself, of course."
Lecter sets Will's bottle of wine on the kitchen counter as she checks on the food in the oven. Whatever she's making smells rich and meaty, like fresh-cut herbs and steak cooked over fire, dragging Will back to childhood stews and barbecues. Her mouth waters involuntarily, and she watches the muscles of Lecter's shoulders instead, the pull of them under her pale shirt as she uncorks the bottle and pours them each a glass.
Will breathes in the wine and sips at it delicately, letting the tannins linger on her tongue. Lecter is dressed down in shirtsleeves and neat trousers, two buttons undone at her collar; it's a change that deliberately draws Will's attention to the glimpse of her collarbone and the full, lush curve of her breasts. Will presses her tongue to her teeth and doesn't let her thoughts linger long. "I suppose I should be glad I'm not a post-mortem case study. 'The long-term psychological effects of encephalitis in the brain.'"
"It would be difficult to draw conclusions without a baseline," Dr Lecter says, "and I hope I do not cross my bounds by saying I would prefer to see you hale than dead."
"You invited me to dinner, Dr Lecter," Will says. "Isn't that crossing boundaries?"
"I am hardly your psychiatrist, Will," Lecter chides, gently. She pulls a pair of plates from a cupboard, and then a sleek set of oven mitts as she takes a dish out of the oven. "Do we not simply have conversations?"
"In your psychiatric office?"
"A hazard of the profession, I assure you." Lecter pauses, leaning against the counter, glass of wine in hand. Her blue-grey eyes are sharp. "Do you not consider us friendly, Will?"
Will lets her eyelids flutter closed, taking a sip from her glass. When she opens them she knows Lecter is watching her, and her spine prickles at the weight of it. "You said I'll find you interesting," she says, "but I think I need more convincing."
Lecter catches her tone and smiles, faintly. "Do you wish for a seduction, Will?"
"Lead me as you will, Dr Lecter," Will says, lifting her wine glass in a sardonic tilt. "Just keep in mind I've never been much of a follower."
"I'm well aware," Lecter says, her tone considering and her expression unreadable. She's set meat to be carved on one of the plates, as precise as any restaurant too expensive for Will's taste and budget, and balances another on her wrist as she gestures. "Then perhaps I shall follow you."
"Cute," Will mutters, but she leads the way to the dining room.
The table is large, but Lecter has set it up to be intimate. Their knees hardly brush under the table but Will is kept eminently conscious of just how close they are by the slight chill to the air, the brush of Lecter's sleeves against the tablecloth. "Braised heart," Lecter calls the dish, and Will watches her jagged knife sink neatly through the meat as she slices it clean through.
Will taps their glasses together. "To seduction," she says, to catch a glimpse of Lecter's smile.
"To friendship," Lecter replies, and Will drags her gaze away from her bared throat to swallow another mouthful of wine.
The heart melts on her tongue, the dry earthiness of the wine complimenting the rich, flavourful meat. Will asks, after a moment, about the cases she's missed, and then they're discussing murder at the dinner table, the treatment of gut in violin strings and the way death connects bodies long buried under soil. Will doesn't mean to watch Lecter's teeth, closing down on every forkful, or the bob of her throat when she swallows; her attention drifts but she keeps her gaze on Lecter's face, on the pull of her mouth and the shadows of her cheekbones, on the interest lurking in her eyes. Lecter brings up Abigail: "I'm afraid our dear Jack has been pursuing her guilt like a bloodhound," like Will might still believe her innocent given time and distance and a brain that isn't on fire, and Will does so hate to disappoint. She raises her eyebrows over her glass.
"And you've distracted him from the scent?"
"Temporarily," Lecter allows, "but my counsel only reaches so far."
With a little perspective Will can see how neatly Lecter manoeuvred her into caring; the problem is, she hasn't exactly stopped. She grimaces into her wine. Poor Abigail Hobbs, her father dead, the adults who care for her mentally unstable or worse. "I'd offer to step in, but considering what he thinks of me, that might make him worse."
"Surely he wouldn't hold your actions under the course of your illness against you," Lecter says, her voice expressing faint surprise.
"Sure," Will says, "but, what'd you call it? I'm his 'fragile little teacup'?"
"He thinks of you as too delicate for the work you've been conducting," Lecter says, "and yet he still requests your assistance while he doubts the provenance of your conclusions. Perhaps, Will..."
Will can hear the particular delicacy of her tone. "This work isn't for me?" She lets irritation seep into her voice, into the way she leans forward and sets down her glass. "And here, Dr Lecter, I had thought you were on my side."
"I am on the side of your mental wellbeing, Will," Lecter says smoothly. "Considering the strain of the work Agent Crawford places on you, any doubt he might express in the course of it seems... unprofessional at best and deleterious at worst."
"I'm hardly delicate," Will says, setting her cutlery messily on her plate. "As you well know."
Lecter smiles and rises to her feet to take Will's plate. Will watches her back as she retreats to the kitchen, still in view. "Of course, I remember. The mongoose."
"Waiting to kill any snakes in the grass." Will smiles to herself, eyelashes lowered, and runs a finger along the edge of her wineglass. "Leaving corpses at your doorstep, I suppose."
"Snakes can be vicious creatures," Lecter says, and Will huffs a laugh.
"Yeah," she says. "So can mongooses."
Lecter brings back two beautiful dessert plates, a panna cotta that melts into delicate flavour on Will's tongue. She isn't ignorant of how Lecter watches her mouth around her dessert spoon, but she only lets herself enjoy it as much as she usually would.
"I mean it as a compliment, of course," Lecter says.
"By calling me a vicious opportunistic predator?" Will asks wryly, and Lecter's mouth curves in a faint smile.
"Merely an unassuming creature which can be eminently dangerous when cornered," Lecter corrects. "If you will forgive the heavy-handedness of the metaphor."
Will's spoon scrapes the plate. She knows she shouldn't be rude. "And what would that make you, Dr Lecter?"
"Perhaps," Lecter says, "I'm merely the unfortunate person who lives in the house above."
Will smiles despite herself. "I thought you wanted me to find you interesting."
"Do you not, Will?"
Dr Lecter watches her with a languid predatory stillness, the loose-limbed ease of someone who's certain they're the strongest person in the room. Will feels pinned under her gaze, caught like a butterfly to a board. "Yes," Will says. "I do."
Later, Dr Lecter walks her to her door. "I very much enjoyed having you for dinner, dear Will," she says, eyes sharp under pale lashes. She takes Will's hand to brush a courtly kiss across her knuckles but it isn't that intimacy that makes Will's breath catch in her throat; it's Lecter, watching her as if she knows. Will isn't sure if it's her mind or her instincts that makes her pull Lecter forward, that makes her fist the thin fabric of her shirt and kiss her, but she does, bitingly hard.
Lecter allows her in, tasting of wine and rose. Will wants to crowd her against her door, to taste the skin of her neck and put her mouth to her lovely breasts, wants to open her up and eat her out until there's nothing left of her but what lies underneath her immaculate suit of humanity; instead, she masters herself and stops. Will's lipstick has smudged blood-red against Lecter's teeth and Will says, half-joking, "You looked like you want to eat me up."
Lecter's eyes gleam in the low light, as does the amusement in her smile. "Oh, Will," she says fondly, her thumb along the curve of Will's mouth, "I want to consume you."
There is something triumphant in her, as deep as Will's own satisfaction at baiting her, and for once Will doesn't know who's being caught.