Notes

A few days ago I got a phishing email– the text of which is reproduced faithfully in this story– that I found so hilarious and adorable that I sent to to everyone I know. Hope, of course, was the one to convince me to turn it into Hannigram fic.

Chapter 1

Hannibal sits down at his desk. It’s only just arrived, taken off the truck and carried into his gradually-emerging study by a pair of friendly furniture store employees, and it doesn’t quite feel like his yet. The kitchen already feels comfortable and familiar, as does the basement meat locker. But he hasn’t done anything at this desk yet, nothing to mark this little corner of his new American home as his.

He pulls out a wireless keyboard– also new, the American QWERTY layout instead of the AZERTY setup he’d first learned to operate a typewriter with in school in France. He scowls slightly, already anticipating his fingers skidding awkwardly over the unfamiliar keys, but it’s a necessary evil. Just like he needs to get his English strong enough to provide talk therapy privately once his residency is finished, he’ll need to use an American keyboard to deal with invoices and records.

He’d considered simply taking an English class. A fellow international student at Hopkins had even awkwardly invited him to join an ESL conversation circle for medical residents, and Hannibal had actually considered it. For about two days. Until the overly talkative, casually xenophobic businessman sitting next to him at the symphony had ended a long monologue about his own working life by slapping Hannibal in the shoulder and chortling, “I tell you, you’ll know you’ve really mastered the English language when you can convince people to give you money for nothing in it!”

Hannibal had been unsurprised to find that the talkative businessman’s liver was nearly fatty enough for foie gras.

However, he had to admit that the advice was probably sound. Convince people to give you money for nothing. It’s not up to Hannibal’s usual standards of criminal elegance, but as a way to practice his English– and determine whether he is ready to move on to more complex attempts at manipulation– it’s worth a try.

Hannibal squints at the small letters in the email program that had provided him with a free anonymous address. (Perhaps he should get reading glasses– no, surely not– he is not even going to think the phrase too old to be back in residency, even if perhaps his colleagues do.) He’s already entered an enormous list of addresses; it turns out it’s fairly easy to find illicit lists of email addresses on the internet. All he needs to do is compose the message.

He hasn’t written much, in English. He’s filled out forms and taken tests, but he hasn’t composed, as he loves to compose letters and drawings and music. Johns Hopkins, on the recommendation of an Italian colleague in the emergency room, had gladly accepted his anatomical drawings in lieu of writing samples with his application.

He tries to close his eyes and see the shape of the thing in his head, just as he would in French or Italian or Russian or even rusty Lithuanian, a strange otherworldly mother tongue half-buried by Soviet propaganda. It doesn’t come; it’s as if the entire language is covered by a sea of fog, and the only thoughts accessible to him through English are trite or unconvincing. He’s learned enough new languages to know that it won’t always be like this. Each language takes on its own character, almost a taste on his lips, both influencing and being influenced by his thoughts.

There’s a reason that English courtesans used to call French the language of love, and converse in it to speak of affairs of the heart. Different languages are good for different purposes. Well, if that’s the case, perhaps there’s nothing that slippery, brutal English is better suited to than deception. Hannibal puts his fingers to the keyboard.

He knows how to begin and end, at least. He’s received plenty of English emails, the normal correspondence of being a student and a low-ranking employee, so he knows which phrases are appropriate salutations for the standard American email. Americans, it seems, use a lot of exclamation marks.

Hello! he types at the top of the page, then taps the enter key a few times.

Best wishes! he puts at the bottom, just like the senior on-call psychiatrist always does.

Now he just needs to convince someone to give him money. Well, at least he knows what people are afraid of; psychiatry, it turns out, is almost nothing but an endless parade of sexual neuroses.

He’ll start there.

***

Will’s tires crunch on the gravel driveway leading up to the house, and he loves it.

He can still barely believe that this is where he lives– open space, at least a mile on every side of the ramshackle house. Wolf Trap, Virginia is really more of a trap for tourists than for wolves, but here on the outskirts there are still a few wolves to be found, or at least the imprint of them. Okay, there are dogs. Three of them, who greet Will at the door the moment he pushes it open.

“Hey guys,” he murmurs, dropping his bag heavily and immediately kneeling down to run his hands over their fur. He’d found the three of them in a pound outside of Quantico, his very first stop after his very first day of work in the lab. He can have dogs now, now that he’s not a beat cop crammed in a tiny sweaty apartment in the city.

The dogs nearly make up for the fact that the lab job isn’t as– well, relaxing, as Will had thought it would be. Or perhaps, as relaxing as other people had thought it would be. People who see a nervous, sweaty man who can’t pull the trigger on a gun and assume the place for him is in a basement lab, surrounded by nothing but–

–bodies, and blood, and smells, and Will doesn’t mind any of that but it’s the echoes, the imprints of all of the things that have happened to these bodies that batters at his skull like a hammer, it’s almost actually worse than being in the field. At least, as a cop, his colleagues could usually see and feel more or less what Will did. Nobody needs to have superpowered empathy to feel lousy talking statements on domestic violence. It the stuff that other people don’t see, don’t know, somehow can’t feel just by looking at wound patterns and blood spatters, that he can’t get out of his head.

It’s the fact that even being safely tucked away in a clean lab apparently isn’t enough to make Will okay with it, with any of it, and so maybe his dad was right. Maybe Will Graham Sr. was speaking nothing but the truth when he looked at his child with genuine confusion (that was the worst part, no malice at all, he was only trying to help in the only way he knew how) and said you, Willy, a cop? You’re too delicate for that, son.

Will throws himself down on the futon. He had been tucking it back to a couch position every morning, but today he hadn’t bothered and it’s still a bed, sheets rumpled and smelling of old sweat. Will needs to get a bedframe soon, set up a proper bedroom upstairs. But then, he’s only been in this house a few months, and that’s still within the acceptable window to be unpacking, isn’t it? Especially with a new job at the FBI. He’ll get to the bedroom eventually.

The laptop is half-hidden amongst the sheets, and maybe that’s why his dad’s voice seems to be ringing in his ears. He stares at it. He’s not really expecting him to write back– hoping he won’t, actually. He can’t imagine Will Sr. really has anything to say to him at this point, except I told you I wanted to die in my own goddamn house, Willy, how dare you check me into this place like I’m a goddamn invalid.

But fuck, the nurse had called, the nice one who’d patted Will on the shoulder like he imagines a mother might do, on the day he’d dropped his sweating shaking delirious (drunk, he’s just drunk, but then who would even be able to tell if the man was genuinely sick when they never saw him sober) father off. And she’d said on the phone he’s doing as well as can be expected but I think he’d like to hear from you, and I know you probably don’t want to talk to him on the phone, but perhaps an email? I set up an email account for him that he can check on his own in the rec room, maybe even just some photos?

So against his better judgment, Will had sent a picture of the house, and one of the view from the deck. Will Sr. would have liked the Wolf Trap house, once. He’s probably beyond liking anything, at this point, but that’s not Will’s problem any more.

And he definitely hasn’t written back. There is no universe in which Will can imagine his father sitting at the computer of a nursing home recreation room, placidly tapping away at an email to his son. There is absolutely no way that Will has a message from him in his inbox, and yet. And yet Will’s fingers itch to open the laptop and just check. He doesn’t even want a response, so maybe he just wants to reassure himself that there isn’t one, and maybe that’s okay. Besides, he’d paid for an internet connection for this house despite wondering if it was really necessary (what on earth was he going to do on the internet? Read that Tattlecrime rag that his new colleagues were always making fun of?) so maybe he should make use of it.

He pulls the laptop towards him and snaps it open. He doesn’t have an FBI email address– so far, anything someone wants him to look at simply shows up in the lab with a note on it, which Will is just fine with. So his email address is a generic [email protected], which he types into the login bar with fingers that really should not be shaking.

“This is ridiculous,” he mutters to himself, watching the bar at the top of the screen load. He feels like he might be sick. You’re too delicate, he hears again.

There’s a single email in his inbox. Will’s heart lurches, and he clicks on it so quickly the entire screen seems to blur with the force of his movement.

Hello! says the first line, and it’s only when his overheated brain takes in the cheery salutation does the adrenaline drop out of him as quickly as it had rushed in. He slumps back against the wall, letting out a long breath. This isn’t from his dad. The nurse had said his dad’s address is [email protected], and now that Will flicks his eyes to the top of the page, he sees the address [email protected]. He scrolls down.

Hello!

I am a hacker who has access to your operating system. I also have full access to your account. I’ve been watching you for a few months now. The fact is that you were infected with malware through an adult site that you visited.

If you are not familiar with this, I will explain. Trojan Virus gives me full access and control over a computer or other device. This means that I can see everything on your screen, turn on the camera and microphone, but you do not know about it. I also have access to all your contacts and all your correspondence.

Why your antivirus did not detect malware? Answer: My malware uses the driver, I update its signatures every 4 hours so that your antivirus is silent.

I made a video showing how you satisfy yourself in the left half of the screen, and in the right half you see the video that you watched. With one click of the mouse, I can send this video to all your emails and contacts on social networks. I can also post access to all your e-mail correspondence and messengers that you use.

If you want to prevent this, transfer the amount of $500 to my bitcoin address (if you do not know how to do this, write to Google: “Buy Bitcoin”). My bitcoin address (BTC Wallet) is: 1GSG78yy2dYDUc5tJqgBiphJoqzGKedkv8

After receiving the payment, I will delete the video and you will never hear me again. I give you 50 hours (more than 2 days) to pay. I have a notice reading this letter, and the timer will work when you see this letter. Filing a complaint somewhere does not make sense because this email cannot be tracked like my bitcoin address.

I do not make any mistakes.

If I find that you have shared this message with someone else, the video will be immediately distributed.

Best regards!

Will reads the whole thing through, then he reads it again. He presses a finger to his lips, trying to stifle his giggle.

Then he remembers he lives in the middle of nowhere now, and bursts into laughter.

There’s something so incredibly endearing about it. The cheery salutations, for one. The complete lack of guile, an almost self-conscious awareness of the ludicrousness of the enterprise. The phrase how you satisfy yourself, quaint and almost formal in the midst of a crass attempt at impersonal extortion. And then there’s I do not make any mistakes, which strikes Will, with that deep-down sense of surety that he can never explain to his colleagues, as probably the most sincere statement in the entire thing.

The fact that he’d checked his email to reassure himself that there was no email from his father seems like a faraway memory of stress, completely eclipsed by this very entertaining distraction. He settles back more fully on the mattress, fitting a pillow in between his back and the wall and stretching his legs out.

Someone had gone to all the trouble of sending this out, after all. And Will’s mood suddenly feels lighter than it had all day, so he must owe them something. After all, he’s an FBI agent– well, employee, anyway– now. The least he can do is provide some feedback.

Chapter 2

Hannibal has never pretended not to be vain. Not to himself, and only very rarely to anyone else.

He’d enjoyed the game of cat-and-mouse that he’d played with Pazzi. He enjoys his creations being on the news, cameras crowded around the displays. He likes lurid crime rags and gossip columns, though he wouldn’t leave them lying around the house for company to see.

So he really should have expected that waiting for email responses would be extremely absorbing. Possibly too absorbing, for someone who’s supposed to be focusing on a medical residency.

Hannibal is aware that the email he crafted is, well, amateur. He can recognize the lilt of non-native speech in it, even if he can’t figure out how to erase it. He’d done some research on common elements of computer hacks and thrown them in there haphazardly, stopping short of actually having to learn how to carry them out himself. After all, it’s not like he actually needs the money. He just wants to practice his English. And, admittedly, wants to see what happens.

What happens, first of all, is that a few people pay within the first few hours of sending the blast. Not very many– he calculates it at 0.14 per cent of emails sent– but since he’d been forced to actually set up a Bitcoin account to verify the results of the experiment, he finds himself with a bunch of cryptocurrency that he frankly has no idea what to do with, but that presumably would make someone else very happy.

0.14% is, of course, not a percentage that any fisherman would be particularly proud of, and Hannibal is more aware than most that there are simply some people who are very stupid. And when the payments drop off steeply after the first twelve hours, he stops checking the Bitcoin account and leaves the money in there to be forgotten.

He gets a few short responses, also in the early hours of the blast, that are not particularly interesting or illuminating. “I’m a WOMAN, I don’t JERK OFF, like hell you have a video of me,” reads one, and Hannibal only barely restrains himself from providing his correspondent with some up-to-date statistics on the matter. Most of them are one- or two- word answers, mostly expletives.

So he clicks on the response titled “Some Advice” feeling pre-emptive ennui for what is almost certainly going to be a boring, trivial response.

Instead, the email is several paragraphs. He scans his eyes over it slowly, his reading speed still not up to scratch in a new language:

Hello!

First of all, thanks. Your email really cheered me up. Which is maybe a measure of how truly shitty my life is, that an attempt at sextortion made me smile for the first time all day, but there it is. And somehow, I don’t think you’re in much of a position to be judging me.

It’s not bad. You’re probably going to get a few bites, likely already have. Don’t let it get to your head; some people will do anything you tell them. Maybe you already know that. Actually, I bet you do. I don’t get the sense that this is exactly your area of expertise, but it’s a confident attempt, and confidence will get you pretty much anywhere.

Anyway, if you want my feedback: you over-reached, and it ruined what could have been some effective manipulation. It wasn’t quite subtle enough. “I am a hacker who has access to your account,” sure, plenty of idiots would believe that. “I have been watching you for a few months now,” though– well, come on. You expect someone to believe that you’ve had them under surveillance them for months, for an eventual payout of only $500? You’d be working for less than minimum wage.

You could also do with some more insinuation, and less outright lies. I mean, if you really have a split-screen video with me jacking it on one side and kinky porn on the other, why not send it to me, as proof?

Look, I can tell you’re intelligent. Probably trying to translate thoughts that are clear in their nuances and subtleties in your head into English– not your first language, I’m getting? And hey, 80% of the US population is monolingual, so you’re already doing better than most of us. Congrats. Seriously, I respect that.

I think with a bit of practice, this could become a respectable sideline for you. Let your omissions do the talking for you, and you’ll be raking it in in no time.

And hey, if you really do have that video of me, send it along. I always wondered what my O-face looks like.

-W

Hannibal reads the email, then re-reads it. He clicks back to his own message, nodding along at the feedback. It is unsubtle, and Hannibal feels frustration growing inside of himself that he’d presented himself in that way, so unlike his true self, to this W, whoever they are. It’s sticky and unpleasant, to be misunderstood, and the misunderstanding was entirely his fault. Well, and the fault of the English language, so brutish and unsubtle to begin with.

But then, he hadn’t been misunderstood, not entirely. W had correctly guessed that he isn’t comfortable in English, that this is his first attempt at email scamming, and that he’s usually a confident personality. And W seems sincere, both in his thanks and in his projection that Hannibal would be able to learn how to do this well.

The fact that W has confidence in him really shouldn’t make Hannibal feel better about the fact that his idiotic American colleagues look at him like he’s stupid when he trips over his words. It shouldn’t ease the knot of rage and loneliness in his chest. It shouldn’t mean anything at all.

But it does, it does, and Hannibal is not in the business of denying his own emotions. In any case, he now has something that he values very highly indeed: a correspondent. He generally prefers to write letters longhand and send them by post, and he generally prefers his correspondent to be someone who has a healthier dose of fear for him than W does, but he won’t turn down a gift that has fallen in his lap.

He clicks the reply box, and stares at the screen. Perhaps he should start out sincerely, if that is the way he means to go on. Not “Hello!,” then.

Mon chèr(e) W,

I thank you very much for your kind email. I am not unhappy to be told why my attempt failed. Instead, I feel joy that you witness my effort, and that you provide feedback. To be seen and understood by others: this is the greatest desire of heart of the artist.

You are perceptive, and you see truly that this language is new to me. You are also true that, with time, I will understand it well enough to bring others to my point of view.

As you know, I do not really have a video of you. Please accept advice, as payment for advice given: I recommend that you make such a video, if you have wish to see your O-face. To see and understand the own self is important.

Je vous prie de bien vouloir recevoir, W, l’expression de mes sentiments les plus distingués,

-H

It takes nearly an hour to compose the short message; it’s exhausting compared to the extortion attempt, which had relied heavily on examples of email scams from the Internet. Hannibal isn’t quite happy with it; it probably contains grammar errors that he’s too tired to pick out, and he is worried, in a way he never is when writing letters, that he has not made himself understood well enough. It feels important that W understand him.

He doesn’t want to think too hard about why that is, so he simply hits send instead. The patients who irritate him the most, on the psychiatric ward, are the ones with no discernible problem but worry. Tying themselves up in knots over nothing, as if God is not poised to strike down every human on earth at any moment. And they have the audacity to worry, as if any of their puny actions could make any difference to the world.

Hannibal does not worry. It is a rule he cannot, and does not, make exceptions to. He sets aside the tablet, and goes to get started on dinner.

Chapter 3

Chapter Notes

I swear there’s actually only one more chapter, and it’s a teeny epilogue. It’s not just going to keep growing chapters forever 😛

Will probably shouldn’t have checked his email in the midst of the disappearance of half a bottle of cheap whisky.

There isn’t really anything else he trusts himself to do in this state, though, besides maybe open the door to let the dogs piss outside. Well, he could probably manage to piss outside with them. Not all that appealing an option, though.

Nothing actually is an appealing option when he’s drunk, which Will fucking knows. His dad had been a mean, bitter drunk, hating himself and everything around him more and more with each glass. Will had always wondered why he did it, then, if it made him so miserable.

He’s still not entirely sure, and here he is doing it himself. Well, he has some idea: he’d rather be his dad’s shadow than sit here sober and thing about the motivations of whoever had stolen the goddamn liver from the body he’d examined today. Mostly, he doesn’t want to think about how much he does want to think about it, his mind returning to the corpse like a lost dog finding its way home.

So, he pulls out his laptop. That’s what people do these days to numb the parts of them they don’t want to deal with, right? Stare at a screen. Will can do that. He logs into his email address, clicks on the first new message. The last of his current glass of whisky burns on its way down his throat.

By the time he has finished the email from the spammer– H, who had given him an initial just as Will had given them one– the burning is gone, replaced with a feeling of soft warmth. He’s not sure if the whisky did that. Can whisky do that?

And the warmth spreads downwards, as Will reads and re-reads the line: I recommend that you make such a video, if you have wish to see your O-face. To see and understand the own self is important. It’s an invasion of privacy so subtle it barely registers as an invasion. It seems charming, rather. But there’s no denying that the thought of it sticks to him, knowing that another human, somewhere, was thinking about him doing… that. Setting up a camera in front of his own spread legs, taking his cock in hand or lubing up his fingers and sticking them into his ass, and then writhing around in front of everyone and no-one until he captures a record of himself in ecstasy.

Will never would have actually considered it, before. Wanting to see a video of himself wanking would be narcissistic. Who gets off to themselves? But then, this H seems to think it’s perfectly reasonable. Even… advisable. He makes it sound like it would be some kind of self-actualization, which is the most ridiculous thought Will has entertained– but then, Will has to admit that he is not exactly an expert, when it comes to self-actualization. Sometimes be barely even feels like a person distinct from the people and emotions around him, let alone an actualized one, whatever that’s supposed to mean.

And even through the veil of his computer, even in H’s second (third? fourth? Will wouldn’t be surprised) language, he can feel the force of personality behind him. Will wants to follow his advice. So maybe it’s just more of the same– maybe it’s just because Will Graham sinks entirely too easily into other people, that he opens the image-capture program on his computer and slides the laptop all the way to the end of the bed, angling the screen, and thus the camera, down toward the mattress.

He clicks the button to start a video, and slides his hips backwards as he shucks his pants and underwear off. He can see his entire body in the frame, sitting up on the head end of the futon-bed staring into the frame. He looks awkward and gangling from this angle, but it hardly matters. Nobody is ever going to see this, after all. This is only for him. Well, and for– no, Will thrusts the thought away. He just told me to do it. That doesn’t mean…

There’s an old glass jar half-full of coconut oil somewhere under the bed, which he gropes around for. Will has always avoided buying actual personal lubricant (which he gets the feeling H would be horrified at, if he knew— no, stop thinking, Graham, you’re supposed to be jerking off not profiling an email spammer, except for some reason the idea of H the spammer telling Will in his stilted straightforward way to buy some proper lubricant is actually making his cock hard, which, God help him.) The prospect of standing in front of a cashier and handing them something he’s going to cover his dick with and thrust into, and trying not to know if the cashier is noting his choice or simply bored and waiting desperately for the end of their shift— well, he’d rather not, is all.

He spreads it thickly over both hands, because what the hell. Strangely, the camera doesn’t make him feel uncomfortably watched; it’s almost like it takes the responsibility of watching away from him, and Will can focus on the moment. The solid oil melts against the warmth of his skin and drips down his fingers and arms. It will probably stain the sheets a little, but the sheets are not expensive enough for him to care. And it’s not like anyone else is going to see them, probably. Nobody in their right mind would drive out to the middle of nowhere for a hookup with a twitchy, sweaty cop.

So it’s safe in the knowledge that he’s utterly alone, and always will be, that Will takes his cock in his right hand and starts to slide his slick palm over it. And safe in the knowledge that out here, nobody could hear his thoughts even if they were listening, that he imagines what H would think, if he knew what Will is doing. He rocks from side to side, settling himself on the mattress more fully, and can practically feel the shadowy presence in the corner of the room. Watching, maybe. Perhaps encouraging. To see and understand the own self… mon chèr, take the pleasure you seek… harder, now. It doesn’t matter that Will can’t quite picture him, realistically knows very little about him. That’s never stopped him before, after all.

He’s achingly hard now, his hand moving quickly and sloppily up and down his shaft. Will rolls over a tiny bit, not quite onto his side but enough to raise his tailbone off of the mattress, taking care to keep his face in the frame of the video. His other hand, already slicked with oil, drips down his flank as he trails it towards his ass. It’s awkward to coordinate, too distracted by the sensation of thrusting into his fist to move his non-dominant hand in a purposeful way, and he imagines H’s eyes crinkling with fond amusement at the sight of him struggling.

Once he rubs a finger over his hole, though, it’s easy; he pushes it in and moans into the pillow as he thrusts forward to get away from his own intrusion, then joins the finger with a second on the next thrust. It’s only a moment before he’s adjusted well enough to hook them upwards so that every movement of his hips nudges his fingers against his prostate.

“Fuck,” Will mutters, to the nobody around to hear him. It’s too easy to forget how good this feels, like it has to recede to the back of his mind just to allow him to get other things done. But he’s in the thick of it now, caught between his own two hands, and his body feels out of his conscious control. Odd, that doing something to himself should take him out of himself.

Although in this case… it wasn’t really his idea, was it.

H’s shadowy form is kneeling at the side of the bed, now. Listening to the sounds of Will’s pants and gasps echo in the empty room with each thrust. Maybe touching him. Will wonders if he would. That is something he cannot bring himself to tease of from the impressions behind his words: if he would reach out, run a hand through Will’s hair, encourage his hand on his cock. Replace Will’s fingers with his own, and fuck Will mercilessly with them.

He doesn’t notice that he’s coming until it happens, no time to preen for the camera or adjust his angle. No time even to smother the pained-sounding cry, an obscene uninhibited sound that only makes him come harder until he’s curling in on himself in relief and exhaustion.

H’s hand is stroking down his belly, through the sticky mess of semen. Maybe it’s not what he would really do, but Will no longer cares. And maybe that’s why Will does what he does next: he simply doesn’t care. Or maybe he cares too much.

Or maybe he’s actually insane in some way slightly to the left of how his colleagues seem to think he might be insane. Or maybe it’s the post-orgasmic hormones. Or maybe there’s no excuse, no reason, he just does it is all.

That’s the explanation that makes the most sense. There is, after all, no earthly reason why Will Graham should end the video on his laptop with sticky, oil-slick fingers, save it, and then upload it in an email to a mysterious email spammer and hit send.

No reason at all.

***

It is, of course, unspeakably rude to force the image of one’s self masturbating upon a party who has not consented to view such a thing.

But then, Hannibal is still a little fuzzy on American social norms. He had, after all, encouraged W to make the video. In a certain light, it’s logical to think that he might appreciate proof that his advice has been followed. And Hannibal enjoys the sight of a pretty thing with a hard cock as much as the next red-blooded European man.

And he has a correspondent now, so it’s all in the service of improving his English that he settles with his tablet on the bed, propping his head on a pillow and resting the device on his stomach. He replays the video, and watches W setting up. He has a head full of unwashed-looking curls and a sweet, eager face that is all the more enticing for the tiredness in his eyes. He yanks down his pants with no hesitation at all, and Hannibal suspects that he wasn’t planning on sending the video at the time he made it, which is somehow even better.

W uses some sort of solid oil in a glass jar as lube. Hannibal removes his own pants and underwear while watching W’s ass turn toward the camera as he fumbles under the bed for the jar, then slathers it all over hands with it, nearly down to the wrist like he’s washing up for surgery. Which is ridiculous, but the filthy abandon with which W prepares himself to masturbate is also endearing. Hannibal always did enjoy watching people discover their own fundamental natures, after all. And there is nothing more fundamental to a person than how they bring themselves pleasure.

Hannibal owns actual lubricant, obviously, and he palms his own cock with it at the same time that W, on the screen, rolls a little onto his side to shove a finger into his ass. Hannibal’s stomach lurches at how W’s eyes close in bliss, how he clearly loves being filled. Hannibal wants to see his face with something bigger in him; a dildo, or a cock. His own aches.

W jerks and twitches as the fucks himself from both ends on the screen, and Hannibal’s breath comes quicker. He wants to keep watching, but he’s never really been one to simply observe before. More than that, he wants to participate.

So he taps with an unsteady finger, on the hand not occupied by stroking his cock, over to the camera app on his tablet. He won’t show this W his face, no matter that W had revealed his (his angelic face, Hannibal’s brain supplies unbidden.) But the way the tablet is perched on his stomach is a perfect vantage point from which to observe his cock, and his powerful thighs spread out on the mattress below it. He deliberately slows his hand, letting the camera capture the full length of him, enjoying the view of himself and the opportunity to imagine it through someone else’s eyes. He can’t help the low moan that makes its way through him, and then decides not to. W will be allowed to hear him.

He can’t watch W’s video and make his own at the same time, so he contents himself with remembering it instead. The way the man’s sweaty curls swept over his face as he jerked back and forth, the way his fingers looked disappearing inside his greedy body, the sounds of his slick hand working his cock too hard and too fast for Hannibal’s taste. He imagines putting a hand over W’s, telling him not to rush. He imagines rolling him over and fucking him into the mattress, letting the slow slide of his cock against W’s prostate drive breathy cries from him.

The video ends unceremoniously. Hannibal’s stomach tightens convulsively as he spends, and the tablet slips out of his sweaty fingers and over onto the mattress. He lets it be for a moment, panting, then wipes his hands on a tisse and reaches over to end the video.

Hannibal doesn’t question his own decisions, so he doesn’t allow himself to question this one. W may not have made that video for him, but his video is for W. He edits out the last few seconds of the black screen after the tablet fell over, but leaves the bit where the video goes blurry and then black. The reason why is obvious, and he wants W to see his vulnerability, his humanity. (Or perhaps, he more specifically wants W to see his semen.)

He sends it, then realizes he is very nearly late for a shift at the hospital.

On the way, he wonders if W is making himself late for work thinking about him, too.

***

Public bathrooms are always weird, Will thinks. Infirmaries for public distress, he’d read somewhere once, one of the pile of half-finished and mostly abandoned novels on the dresser. He’s been in his fair share of public distress, and is therefore something of a connoisseur of the public bathrooms that he is invariably expected to retreat to to regain control of himself. The men’s washrooms at Quantico are positively opulent, trimmed in a dark red that makes the entire place seem somehow hushed and secretive.

Which it is, as a matter of fact. In the time after Will entered the stall and pulled his feet up onto the seat so as not to be seen as he got control of his emotions (another body with an organ removed, it feels like the other, elegant and beautiful in a way that gets under his skin and makes him feel slimy and magnetic and practically aroused, oh god, and they’re calling the culprit the Chesapeake Ripper which isn’t nearly a beautiful enough name for him but Will can’t think about that right now, he can’t) two fingerprint analysts have started holding court beside the urinals and are whispering urgently about some security breach on software that Will really couldn’t care less about. But it is too late, at this point, to reveal that he’s been listening all along, so Will hitches his feet up farther and quietly slips his phone out of his pocket.

He isn’t really thinking about it consciously, just clicks on the email app for something to do, something to stop him thinking about the Chesapeake Ripper— Will supposes he might as well get used to using the name, since he’s clearly going to be thinking about the man behind it a whole lot. His stomach jumps as he sees a reply from the scammer H, and Will remembers in a rush the contents of the last message he’d sent. Oh, god. Had he really done that? Had he been drunk? Only a little bit. It’s hardly an excuse. He waits for the message to load, and the second it takes feels like an eternity.

There’s nothing written, only a video attachment. And despite the fact that Will Graham is in the fucking FBI, and should really know better than to click on email attachments from known scammers, he presses the link without a second thought, then frantically clicks the down volume on the phone in the hopes that it won’t make any sound as it starts to play.

Which is a good thing, because the moment the video loads, the image of an erect penis fills his screen.

Will’s mouth opens, a tiny gasp, as H’s hand begins to stroke up and down his cock. Will is sure it’s H’s own cock, not a random piece of amateur pornography he’d pulled from the depths of the internet. He doesn’t know quite how he’s sure, and he could run a reverse image search on the thing once he gets home to make sure, but he probably won’t. Will’s emotions are in the business of interpreting evidence, and all the evidence points to this video being made as a direct response to Will’s.

Oh, god.

The cock filling most of the screen is uncut, hard, and somehow graceful in a way that Will has never associated with penises before. H’s legs are visibly muscular even in the blurry focus of the edge of the screen, and beyond them Will can see a dresser of expensive-looking wood on the other side of what must be a bedroom. H had taken Will’s video to his bedroom, and masturbated to it, and captured this as evidence.

Will had been hard before. He was half-hard when he got to the bathroom, from looking at a rotting dead body, and that was the problem he had come here to wait out, god fucking dammit. His plan had been to inhale the sterile scent of urinal cake until he could think about something other than the Chesapeake Ripper. But now, somehow, the thoughts and associations are getting mixed up in his mind (like they always do, fuck), and Will is aching in his pants. He hears a burst of laughter and a slap on the shoulder, then the closing door as the fingerprint analysts conclude their meeting and leave. Will just watches as H’s hand speeds up, and images of missing organs dance before Will’s eyes, and when H comes, he drops the device he was using to capture the video and the screen goes blank. Will opens his fly, then replays the video and shoves his hands down his pants.

This is fucked up, Will acknowledges vaguely as he bites nearly through his lips, pulling himself off hard and fast as he watches H do the same at a measured, luxurious speed. Not only is he hot for the Chesapeake Ripper, apparently, now he’s infatuated with yet another criminal, albeit a fairly inept one, and they’re sending videos of themselves masturbating back and forth. And somehow Will is getting the two mixed up in his mind, which is horrifying; he feels as if the cock on the screen belongs to the shadowy figure who removed the lungs from the body waiting in his lab. It’s too much. How can he write back to this man– or worse, send him yet another wanking video– while some part of his own brain is mixing up H with a serial killer?

He sobs as he catches his spunk in his hand, fumbling and nearly dropping his phone on the floor, just as H had clearly done.

He hears his pants reverberating in the empty bathroom. Then the door opens, and there are the sounds of someone pissing, and Will has the ludicrous urge to shout at them to use the ladies’ room. He just wants to be alone.

He waits for the pisser to wash his hands and leave. Then Will stands up unsteadily, wiping himself off with toilet paper and tucking his phone back into his pocket.

Then he takes it out again, his throat tightening. He navigates back to the email, and deletes the entire thread. He still remembers the address, of course, but deleting the thing is a commitment to himself that he won’t use it. H may have contacted him first, but keeping this going wouldn’t be fair on Will’s part. Apparently, he’s far too fucked-up to have a sexual penpal.

Will goes back to his lab, and tries his best to forget about the spammer.

Chapter 4

Hannibal checks his email.

At first he checks his email a lot, and when he comes away disappointed each time, he begins only checking it once a day. It’s what he would tell a patient to do– addiction to modern communications technology being a common comorbid condition he witnesses in psychiatric patients– so he follows his own advice.

He is certain that, whatever happened to cease the intriguing line of communication that had been opening between them, it had happened on W’s end. He is not so insecure, or so self-centred, to believe that he had done something wrong. W had sent a video of himself masturbating, and Hannibal had responded in kind. Hannibal is aware, and confirms via several tidy affairs with a fellow residents of a representative sampling of genders and ethnicities, that his body and genitals are generally considered pleasing to other people.

He discovers that affairs are, in fact, better English practice than email scams. He finishes his residency, goes into private practice, publishes papers and mentors students. He cooks and eats and entertains. He doesn’t delete the secret email address, but he only checks it every so often, as a novelty. Perhaps karmically, the inbox fills up with scams, so he moves the W thread to a folder labelled “Before” and lets them pile up.

He receives a phone call from Alana Bloom one Wednesday at 3:30 PM, just as he is steeling himself for the arrival of his least interesting patient. “I thought I should let you know that I recommended you to Jack Crawford at the FBI,” she says, “To work with one of his criminal profilers. Jack likes to have the advantage of people, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he dropped in on your before calling.”

Hannibal stands at the window and watches Franklyn take several attempts to parallel-park. “Thank you for the warning,” he says, injecting good humour into his voice, as if the prospect of being in with the FBI hasn’t just set off a Rube Goldberg machine of conjectures, possibilities and plans in his mind. “That sounds very interesting. I would be happy to work with Jack Crawford’s profiler.”

***

Somewhere in the south of France, present day

The house is slightly too chilly for comfort, but Hannibal is reluctant to turn up the thermostat. The cold keeps the fireplace feeling necessary, and has made Will draw close and stick his sock-covered toes under Hannibal’s thigh for warmth.

Hannibal allows it, spreading his legs a little and relaxing back against the back of the sofa while Will lies on the rest of it lengthwise, knees bent and eyes closed. He stares at Will’s face, the firelight flickering over the vivid red scar on his cheek and the pale white one on his forehead.

It is comfortable, in every possible way, and Hannibal loves it. He loves cooking for Will and sitting beside him as they read, loves how Will still inspects the mostly-healed bullet hole in his stomach every night for signs of infection, loves the feel of his tongue against Will’s tongue and Will’s cock pressing against his entrance and how Will whimpers every time Hannibal hurts him in some small way, bites and scrapes and pinches that feel just like kisses.

Everything is perfect, so of course Hannibal has to push. He’d smashed a teacup the previous evening, feeling silly yet somehow defiant when Will had just raised his eyebrows and then got him a broom. It had stayed smashed just like all the others, of course.

Tonight, he looks up from his book and says, “Will, do you remember receiving a scam email, about a decade before we met?”

Will doesn’t open his eyes. His toes wriggle a little but underneath the muscle of Hannibal’s thigh. “‘Course,” he says.

Hannibal frowns slightly. He hadn’t really planned this conversation. It’s not like he’d been intentionally keeping it a secret from Will. Just that other things had always taken precedence between them: hurts to inflict, barriers to knock down, secrets to uncover. Now all of the big secrets have been cleared away, and there’s nothing left between them but broken china and detritus. Bits and pieces, things that never came up before because they simply weren’t all that important.

Hannibal clears his throat. “To which you eventually replied with a video of yourself masturbating.”

“Yeah, of course,” repeats Will.

The inside of Hannibal’s head seems to be slightly fuzzy, like there’s a speaker reverberating white noise in the entranceway to the memory palace. Or like he’s standing in the doorway to the archives room, shivering with the slow realization that he’s going to have to do a lot of re-arranging of the files.

“That was… me,” he admits quietly. It sounds somewhat ridiculous, put out in the open that simply. He swallows, watching Will’s face.

“Hannibal.” Will rolls his head to the side a little, finally opening his eyes and staring into Hannibal’s face overtop of his knees. “I worked. For the fucking. FBI.

Hannibal purses his lips. He places a hand on Will’s lower belly, which Will is probably aware is a habit he indulges in when he feels off-balance and wants to make sure Will feels off-balance too. “You… already knew that,” he says.

Will refuses to even dignify that with an answer. Instead, he grunts a little as he pushes himself up, climbing to straddle Hannibal’s lap, putting his own palm overtop of where Hannibal is fondling his scar. “Did you keep the video?” Will breathes into his neck.

It takes Hannibal a few breaths to answer, but he finally manages to choke out, “Yes.”

“Hmm.” Will’s attempt at nonchalance is ruined by the tiny moans he makes as he starts grinding himself down against Hannibal’s thighs, but he’s still doing a damn sight better than Hannibal, who feels like he’s been drugged with something very potent and very sudden. “I was so young, then. Unmarked. Nothing of you on me.”

Hannibal leans forward and buries his face in Will’s shoulder, unsure of why his eyes are suddenly damp.

“What’s your advice, then?” Will whispers. “Should we make another one?”