This happened to me today and I decided to Hannigramize it.
I’ll leave it up to your excellent judgement to decide what part of the story “this” is 😉
“It’s a nice night for a hike,” comments Will cheerfully.
Behind him, Hannibal grimaces so hard it’s almost audible. “I have no objection to taking the air. I just wish it had been practical to drive in to this particular destination. But I hold no grudges with God over the inevitabilities of circumstance, when He presents us with such an opportunity.”
Will glances behind him. Hannibal’s new kill suit, replacing the one that will presumably live forever in Jack’s Evil Minds Museum, is slightly matte plastic. It’s a practicality of design to avoid glare that he had been eager to make in the replacement version, along with some sort of weird lubricant coating that makes the plastic glide against itself and prevents squeaking. This had, apparently, been a major issue with the old design, which Hannibal had explained to him while placing his order with a specialty kink outfitter as if he wasn’t the single insanest person ever to walk the earth.
So at least he isn’t shining in the moonlight or squeaking with every step. He does looked damned uncomfortable, though, and they’re not even into the really athletic part of this hike. They’re still on the gravel road leading to the subject’s kill cabin, having left their car under cover of trees at the turnoff from the main road. This road is uphill, and keeps going uphill until they get to their destination; an advantage that their quarry, whose grisly and unimaginative crime scenes Will has been stalking for weeks, is clearly aware of. From his perch on the hill, he can surely see a car coming by its light from miles away. Thus they are walking, and will shortly veer off and take a route through the forest up the final scramble to the back of the house in lieu of coming up the long, visible driveway.
“You didn’t need to wear that, you know,” Will says, though he knows it’s useless.
“I have never left physical evidence at a scene before, and I don’t plan on starting now,” says Hannibal primly. He also has a hairnet stuffed in his pocket, because Will’s screaming laughter to the tune of you’re going to wear all that and you don’t even wear a hairnet, are you fucking kidding me, had had the opposite effect as intended and simply convinced Hannibal to adopt a hairnet, instead of abandoning the suit.
“Except the one,” Will teases.
“I think any expert examining the evidence would agree that there were extenuating circumstances involved in Francis’ death.”
“Sure were,” says Will. “Speaking of experts, my point being: I know how to arrange a crime scene to make it look exactly the way I want it to look. You don’t need the plastic suit when you have me. And yes, Schneier’s law, I know, but regardless, I’m still the best at what I do. Even if I’m doing it in reverse now.”
“Sorry. ‘Anyone, from the most clueless amateur to the best cryptographer, can create an algorithm that he himself can’t break.’ The things you assume everyone knows, from spending a career at the FBI academy.”
“Ah. The point being, if you create a crime scene that would mislead you, we ought to trust that it will also mislead anyone else.”
“As much as we can trust anything. Certainly more than you can trust your overpriced murder condom.”
Hannibal returns that with the only dignified response possible, silence, and Will doesn’t hold back the fond grin that is invisible in the darkness. He already knows what Hannibal won’t say out loud: it’s not prudence, it’s pattern. Despite everything that has changed, Hannibal is still attached to certain of his habits. Attached enough to want to share them: there is a second suit, in Will’s size, hanging in the closet should he ever want it. He doesn’t, but it’s touching to be included.
It is a nice night for a hike. Will has the sudden urge to touch Hannibal, to be close to him, and reaches over to grab at his hand. Hannibal switches the small cooler of ice he is carrying in one hand to the other, and grabs Will’s with his own sheathed palm. The warmth bleeds through.
As he turns his head back towards the road, he sees a flash of movement right where he is about to step. He quickly adjusts his gait, and looks down to see something wriggling on the gravel.
He stops and peers down. It’s a tiny mouse, no longer than the length of his thumb. Is it dead? No, of course not, his brain catches up— its movement had been what caught his eye.
He drops Hannibal’s hand, prompting the other man to turn back to look at him, and crouches down, fascinated despite himself. It’s nothing, a creature that no doubt exists in enormous number in the forest around them— but it’s tininess, its utter helplessness, draws the eye. Upon a closer look, Will sees that its eyes haven’t opened yet, although it is very slightly furred. It must be only a day or two old.
“What is it?” asks Hannibal.
“A mouse.” Despite his mind screaming germs! Hantavirus! Will reaches down for it. It is so minuscule, and wriggling so constantly, that the only option is to pick it up gingerly between thumb and forefinger to drop it into his other palm. Once it is there, though, it burrows its impossibly small nose into the crack between his ring and index finger. Its paws, which were scraping at its face, come to rest on Will’s skin, almost calmly.
It’s stupid. What can he do for it? Even if its maternal nest is somewhere close by, in the forest right to the side of the gravel road, it is entirely impossible that either Will or the sightless, senseless mouse is going to be able to find it. It’s no better off in the grass at the side of the road than it was on the gravel. And yet Will carries it to the side of the road and places it in the soft grass under a stand of trees anyway.
Well, he’ll just have to remember not to touch his face before washing his hands. They’ll be covered in blood soon anyway, so it’ll be hard to forget. He straightens up and rejoins Hannibal on the road.
They soon turn off the gravel road and start forging their way up through the trees on the back side of the cabin. As much as Hannibal had not been thrilled about the ascent to the cabin— it also limited the amount and kind of tools they could bring—he is laser-focused as the event draws near, a kind of taut anticipation drawing close around both of them. Killing together. Doing bad things to bad people feels good to Will, and doing bad things with Will feels good to Hannibal. It works. It is miraculously, Will might previously have said impossibly, a stable arrangement of their two elements.
The man in the cabin, who has a shotgun but goes for it too late, enjoys leaving his victims (pretty young boys and girls in equal measure, an uncommon enough expression of his particular pathology to be notable but not unusual enough to be interesting) tied up in bed for weeks, their starved bodies covered in bedsores by the time they’re found. A true contrapasso would be lengthy and impractical, but Will finds that a light coating of sulphuric acid over the man’s back, buttocks and thighs before securing him in position for Hannibal’s usual surgical care does quite nicely. He pulls up a chair, a little bruised from the struggle, to act as assistant for the removal of the liver and kidneys, which are the most delicate operations. They, after all, are the organs destined for the container that Hannibal had so painstakingly carried to the cabin, like a construction worker carrying lunch with his miniature cooler. He is, as he had predicted, entirely covered in blood by the time the man on the bed goes quiet and still.
There is no need for elaborate misdirection; there is a deep lake behind the cabin, and Will is nearly certain that no law enforcement even had this man on their radar, let alone knew about his cabin. They weight him well and let him sink. Will feels a twinge of guilt over polluting the lake, but it’s a necessary evil. The pollution of this man’s existence had already existed, after all; above the water or under it, it hardly makes a difference.
The corners of his mind dedicated to understanding him, to knowing him, catching him, fall silent. Snuffed out. They do that now. Hannibal takes off his gloves and strokes Will’s hair with greedy fingers as Will looks the place over, like he could feel the killer’s likeness exiting Will’s consciousness if only his skin were bare enough. He clearly wants to tear Will’s clothes off here and now, and Will wants to let him. He has before. But something nags at the back of his mind. Not now. Unfinished business. He frowns.
They make their way out of the cabin through the front door; nobody to see them walking down the wide gravel road. When they reach the point on the road that they’d gone into the forest, Will remembers.
Just a little ways down the hill, the tiny mouse is still struggling away. It hasn’t moved much from where Will put it, but it has managed to roll a few feet. If anything, its thrashing seems to have intensified. Will, crouched, wonders if this is what Hannibal sees when he sits up and quietly watches Will having a nightmare. He had asked once if Will would prefer to be woken up. But the thing is, Hannibal doesn’t want to wake him. Hannibal is cruel, and obsessive, and deeply in love, and he wants to watch. The nightmares are less frequent now and more meaningful, and it is something Will can give easily: the permission Hannibal wants, to watch and do nothing.
Will wonders if he has permission to watch this. If he needs permission. It’s the way of the world, after all. Animals die tiny and alone and in pain. So do people. He could easily have not seen the mouse. They could easily have not been here tonight.
Hannibal is, of course, watching him. Doubtless his mind is on the melting ice in the cooler, but he doesn’t mention it. “One of your strays?” he says instead.
For a moment, Will imagines it. Saving this tiny thing, watching its eyes open and its body grow stronger and eventually opening the door and letting it scamper away from him, whole. He is suddenly, blindingly, attached to the idea.
Then, as suddenly as the fantasy starts, it ends. He’s no vet, but he knows enough about animals to know it was never going to work out that way. The story of this creature’s life was written long before its path crossed with a pair of wandering serial killers. “It’s unlikely to survive without a foster mother,” he says. “Any wildlife rehabilitator would probably say the best use for it is to feed to an owl. If it even makes it home, it would need to be fed every two hours day and night from a syringe smaller than an eye dropper, and it will probably still die. It would be best to kill it quickly.”
“Because it’s suffering, Hannibal.”
“It’s a legitimate question. You are applying human standards of priorities to a creature that not only has nothing of human understanding, but is more a part of its environment than it is an entity unto itself. If you assume such a creature to have best interests, even if it is unaware of them, you imbue it with individualistic agency. Is it better for the indifferent forest that it die quickly? Better for the hawk, who may spot it only from the twitches of its death-throes?”
Will sighs. As always, he can’t exactly fault Hannibal for giving voice to precisely what Will was thinking. “We make murder, and we make mercy,” he says.
Then, Hannibal’s voice is gentle as he says, “Would you like me to do it?”
The tone makes Will bristle. “I’m perfectly capable of killing a damn mouse, Hannibal.”
“I know you are.”
Will picks it up again, and it comes willingly— as much will, he has to admit, as it can be said to have. His hand is the closest to a mother mouse it knows, or will ever know again. There are birch trees on the edge of the forest, their bark peeling off in little tufts and providing a fingerhold to pull off a stiffer piece. Will finds one that peels vertically and is mostly flat. He’d rather not scrape mouse gut-filled gravel off the road. The bark will do as a flat surface to snuff the creature’s life out against,
and he can scratch a hole in the dirt and bury the bark along with it if need be. He tries to put the thing down on the bark, but as soon as it feels the cold hard surface its paws wave in the air, grasping on to Will’s finger desperately. It’s surprisingly strong, in the same way that the fist of a human baby around one’s finger is strong. It clings to him, and Will crouches over the bark staring at it.
“This is what’s best for you,” he tells it, but of course Hannibal is right. Who is “you”?
Hannibal, he knows, doesn’t truly think him incapable of killing it. He doesn’t even think that Will would find it all that disturbing, and he’s right. Life has been full of too many unpleasantnesses both large and small for this one to take on any significance at all.
And yet. Hannibal, the architect of nearly all of the largest unpleasantnesses of Will’s life, wants to save him a small one. He will do it not because Will can’t but because he can. Hannibal will kill the thing and feel nothing.
Will stands, and extends the hand with the mouse clinging to his index finger towards Hannibal, who extends his own hand. It drops easily into Hannibal’s palm and immediately cozies its nose in between his fingers in the exact same way as it had done to Will. Instinct, comfort, warmth. Will had already known, on some level, that it wasn’t clinging to him because it knew that the moment it settled on the bark it was going to die. It doesn’t know anything but suffering.
Hannibal stoops down and shakes it off of his finger in a quick motion. Before it has time to wriggle off of the bark, he brings down the sole of his plastic-wrapped fine Italian leather shoe on it decisively.
Despite the little smear of blood coming from its head, it falls off the bark easily when Will leans down to shake it. He scrapes a handful of dirt out of the ground and pushes the body in with the bark. He should probably feel a little silly, but he decides that it’s useless to feel silly in front of a man who wears a condom over his entire body out of sheer sentimentality. In that sense, it came in useful after all. He pushes the dirt back on top of the body, and packs it down a little.
He stands, and had no idea how much he needed it until Hannibal pulls him into his arms.
Will presses his cheek against the plastic over Hannibal’s heart, and still feels the beat through it. He smells him, bloody and spiced. He feels Hannibal’s hands on his scalp, his lips on his forehead. He feels right. Right like the glow of killing a creature who deserved death as a punishment, not a creature who deserved death as a release.
“Meat’s getting warm,” Will says after a little while.
“My thoughts exactly.” Hannibal releases him with a final kiss brushed soft over his lips.
It’s all meat. Meat in the ground, meat in the cooler. Some meat will be eaten by many creatures slowly, some by only one or two, at dinnertime. They continue on their way.