She’s not stupid. It’s not like she was really planning on incapacitating the two most dangerous men in the world with an oyster fork.

As far as Bedelia was planning– after a certain morphine threshold, it becomes difficult to plan– she was planning on exactly what happens: Hannibal steps in behind her to serve her, smelling of soap and spices and aftershave, and she snarls and attacks. She can’t move much, and the tiny fork skitters across his chest and only barely brushes against his neck before he grabs her hand, but she doesn’t let that stop her: she practically hurls herself at him, tipping over her chair. Irritatingly, one of her breasts slips out of her dress, but it’s hardly important. It doesn’t stop her from clawing at him, trying to bite him, woozily attempting little punches even as he’s basically holding her up.

The effectiveness of the attack is not the point. The point is the expression on Hannibal’s face; irritated, as if he had just taken a sip of sour wine. Something about this dinner is not going according to plan; Hannibal is a good improviser, but he prefers that Will Graham be the only one allowed to force him to improvise.

Well, if he’d wanted Will Graham, he and Will should have stayed the fuck away from her. But they came to her, so they will get her. Present and accounted for, refusing to stick to the script even if she cannot refuse the meal.

Will is already sitting down; he is at the opposite side of the table from Bedelia, whereas Hannibal was apparently going to sit on her right. It’s a telling arrangement: this meal, though it has Hannibal written all over it, is primarily for Will’s pleasure.

And if the sudden outburst of ineffective violence is enough to irk Hannibal, she hopes that this will be enough to irk Will: Hannibal quelling her rage by holding her tightly, grabbing her wrists with one hand and around her shoulders with another and pressing her body against his. It effectively limits her range of motion, and eventually she tires too far to even continue struggling, and goes limp. Hannibal holds her a moment longer, his cheek pressed against the side of her face. Despite the fact that he is restraining her, despite who he is and what he’s done to her, despite everything, being held feels good.

She lets Will see that it feels good, and his fingers twitch towards the carving knife on the table before he forces them to still.

“There, murmurs Hannibal in her ear. “You must have worked up an appetite.” He eases her back down into the chair, prying the fork from her hand as he does so. She lets him have it.

She watches him serve her a piece of meat, and tries to keep in mind that it is her own body being given back to her. It’s oddly difficult; once it’s on the plate, and a tasteful dab of sauce poured over it, it just looks like meat. She is hungry. It’s not hard to eat at all.

After dinner, Hannibal helps her to the parlour: the room that, in better days, she used to use for their sessions.

Only apparently this is “better days,” or at least every day is an equally wonderful day for Hannibal Lecter, because he just fetches her a gin and tonic, leaves Will to clear the remnants of dinner, and returns to sit across from her.

“I’m not certain I should be drinking this,” she says, staring into the glass unsteadily. It’s not what she wants, anyway; her leg is starting to ache again, very slightly but in a way that she knows is going to pierce through the haze of her mind very shortly. She places the drink on a side table.

She shouldn’t say anything. Opening a conversation with Hannibal is never a good idea: if they are going to say anything, she should make him come to her. She doesn’t. “Well?” she asks, her voice brittle and somewhat drunken-sounding. “Was the meal everything you hoped?”

He is pleased that she spoke, and that irritates her. “My hopes were only of secondary importance, in this instance,” he says, confirming her suspicions that this hadn’t been his idea.

“It is a strange new sensation,” Hannibal continues, “To make choices based primarily on the pleasure and comfort of another. Not only that, but to desire the pleasure and comfort of another above one’s own. I am as surprised by it now as I was when I first alerted you to the development of a potential friendship in my life.”

Bedelia feels her head sag nearly without her consent, as if her forehead had suddenly gotten very heavy. She wishes she could pass out, but her body is not so obliging. Of course. Of course Will had suggested this because he wanted to see her defeated, and of course Hannibal had agreed because he wanted fucking therapy. The stump of her leg hurts more sharply than a moment before. She feels desperately sad and desperately lonely.

There isn’t much she can do about the sadness– never has been– but at least the pain and the loneliness have a solution, even if the solution is objectively a bad one.

“Get me more morphine first,” she orders, “and sit on the couch with me. If you do that, you can be my patient for one more night.”

Hannibal has always wanted to be her patient more than he has wanted to be anything else to her. It’s an odd feeling, having confidences and trust thrust upon you when you don’t want them. Hannibal is probably the only person in the world who could turn the act of handing over his personal agency into a power play, but somehow he’d managed it.

Now, he nods and leaves the room briefly. She hears him murmuring to Will in the kitchen, and gathers that this was the deal, all along. Will would have her leg, and Hannibal would have her mind one last time. Still, she can’t imagine Will is happy about this part. The thought nearly makes her smile. It’s not much of an opening, but it is an opening.

Hannibal comes back with a syringe, which she placidly allows him to inject her with. She feels the relief almost immediately; not just the pain of the amputation easing, but the entire world seeming softer and calmer, as if all of this were all okay if you just look at it in the right light.

Then he helps her to the couch, and sits down beside her, leaving enough space between their bodies to easily fit another person in between them.

Bedelia uses her arms to push herself along the cushions, until she is flush up against him. He is as solid and warm as she remembers, and for a moment (only because it would irritate Will Graham, of course) she allows herself to remember: his fingers in her hair in the bathtub, slick with suds. His warm familiar body pressing against her in the dark. They had never had sex; he had never inititated it, and she had been too curious about whether he would to do it herself. Now she wishes they had, just to have one more memory in her arsenal.

She leans her head against his shoulder, and Hannibal puts his arm around her. It feels safe. She floats on morphine. She is missing a leg. She is aware that she owes him something.

Ah yes. She manages to pull up the memory of the previous five minutes in her mind. I am as surprised by it now as I was when I first alerted you to the development of a potential friendship in my life.

“Have you ever been in a relationship before, Hannibal?” she asks. “A real one.”

He hesitates. “There are many types of relationships,” he hedges. “I have partaken in a wide variety of them. More than most, perhaps.”

“You’re evading,” she snaps, and somehow the admonishment manages to come out of her sternly even though she feels like she’s melting. There is, after all, a reason that he keeps coming to her. She is a very good therapist. Perhaps it is worth wondering why she has always been such a good therapist to Hannibal, in specific, and whether she was perhaps not a very good therapist to some of her other patients. At the moment, she doesn’t care. Helping Hannibal dig through the depths of his own mind is something she can do. It feels good to be of use.

“You already know,” Hannibal answers eventually, “that I have never been in a relationship remotely similar to my relationship with Will.”

The words sound prosaic coming from Hannibal’s mouth, which was the point. Relationship. As if he’s a teenager asking out a friend from math class for the first time. What makes it worse is, that is essentially the situation. Just forcing him to say it out loud clearly forces the issue in his mind, and it only takes a slight nudge from her: “Parsing emotions and translating them into action takes practice,” she says. “You have had many years of practice dealing with certain emotions. You have developed…. coping mechanisms, shall we say.” Her leg being one of his little coping mechanisms. “You have even developed ways of coping with feelings of love that you cannot express freely. Why it is that those instincts manifested into a situation where you are able to express them freely is beyond me, Hannibal, as most potential suitors don’t consider framing and attempted murder to be attractive qualities in a partner. But against all odds, you seem t have found a… match.”

Hannibal’s arm tightens around her shoulders. She can feel him trembling very slightly, so minute that he probably doesn’t even notice it. He thinks he is holding perfectly still.

“You already know that Will Graham will not leave you for putting him through pain,” Bedelia says. She wants to say it disdainfully, but it is somewhere between wistful and bemused when it hangs on the air. That is what Will Graham has that she does not: an infinite capacity for suffering. She’s not certain whether or not she’s envious of it. “But you are less sure that your relationship can survive your kindness.”

She knows that she’s hit the heart of the issue by the slight shift in the thickness of the air, the way their bodies fit together a tiny bit more closely, how the knot of problem-solving eases in her chest. “Give yourself the chance to find out, Hannibal,” she says, and swears that it is the last honest, helpful piece of advice she will ever give to Hannibal Lecter. She swears off truth-telling like it’s a drug.

Her eyelids are heavy, so she closes them. She turns her face towards his shoulder and rubs her eyelids into the expensive fabric, like a cat. She hopes that Will comes in in this moment, and sees her in his arms. It wouldn’t harm him as much as she would like; not after what she’s just told Hannibal. It would be a petty victory. But perhaps petty victories are all that are left to her.

No. There is, too, the sensation of Hannibal’s arms around her body, picking her up from the couch. She wonders how much lighter she is, down one leg. Perhaps twenty pounds.

‘Would you like me to tuck you into bed, Bedelia?” he whispers, and she shivers, terrified. She shakes her head, but she clings to his neck anyway, and tucks her ear against his heart to hear it beating slowly as he ascends the stairs.

He sets her down on the bed, and is disorientingly gone for a moment before he returns and places a bottle of pills on the bedside table along with a glass of water.

“More painkillers,” he says, “And the antibiotics are in the bathroom.” She feels him lifting the covers over her legs– no, over her leg– carefully, and forces her eyes open to get one last look.

She hears a rustling from the doorway and sees Will, leaning against the frame. He takes in the scene: his partner in this, an entirely normal, prosaic romantic relationship, tucking a drugged woman into bed.

Hannibal leans down and kisses her on the forehead lightly. “Goodbye, Bedelia,” he whispers, and the last image she takes in before she is dragged under the tide of sleep is Will’s face. She cannot tell whether the expression that lives there is jealousy or pity.