Warning for depictions of disordered eating and cannibalism.
Will jerks upright in bed. His hand seeks his shoulder, grasps at it intently, he blinks once, again, and the world starts to come into focus. There isn't a knife to pull out of his shoulder.
This time, the dream stopped. He made it stop. It didn't get to the fun part, where he rips it out of his shoulder and stabs the perp with it a few hundred times.
Monday, Wednesday, and tonight. "That makes three," he says out loud to his empty bedroom, with grim cheer.
Now that the basics of reality have been established, his brain forces him to deal with the physical ache. There's his shoulder, which should be fine after physical therapy, they've said, and he's going to follow doctor's orders there. There's a strain in his wrist from the way he fell that hasn't gone away and he's not sure it ever will, though that's an illogical thought and he's aware of it. Then there's his gut.
That... is fine. If he shifts over a little, hunches, it settles. His head decides to ache in sympathy. Great.
"Appetite" is one of those boxes you'd check if you went to a psychiatrist. Good thing Will's not going to a psychiatrist. Will hates psychiatrists.
Maybe tonight - he looks at the clock, apparently it's more accurately this morning - will be the time.
He goes to the fridge. He pauses before opening it, then twists his head slightly away and just pulls it open with a mild grimace. Then he looks inside.
It's so mundane. Just the little light on and maybe five days' worth of food left. It shouldn't feel like a threat. Such terrifying prospects like milk, eggs, ketchup, bologna, a block of cheese that could probably break glass without being thrown very hard. He found himself just holding the package of bologna yesterday, like he was weighing it for a use that was anything but eating. Then he put it back, like he'd seriously considered opening it to make a sandwich or something.
Now he looks at the eggs, but he doesn't take them. He's burning through electricity as he stands there with the door open and the light on, that's what's going through his mind, because otherwise his mind is blank. There's just the pain in his stomach and the headache pooling in his temples and the eggs in front of him.
"Too much work," he says to the fridge in general, and shuts it in an unassuming way, because this has not just been a problem. There's another solution in here somewhere.
There's two boxes of cereal, canned chili, some hominy, and beef hash. Somehow, it's looking at these that it starts to gnaw at him, like the hunger is needling and digging in on its way up from his abdomen. He grabs a box of cereal and all three cans and the milk from the fridge.
He doesn't remember how he did it all, or when he did it all, or how it happened, really. He's sitting at the table and he's eating, four bowls in front of him, and there's the familiar feeling of nausea and panic clawing its way up his insides now, but he doesn't think about it, he doesn't care.
He's not stupid. He's not blind to what goes on in his head. That's kind of always been a problem. He knows what this is. But it's not like this hasn't happened before, and he's always been fine.
There is a - dilemma in his first few days in the hospital.
Nothing about this is okay. Everything in his head is on fire for a whole different reason than it was before the doctors had figured out the correct diagnosis without anyone getting in the way. (I trusted him, yes, sadistic psychopaths, I couldn't have known but I should have known, he blinded me somehow, I chose to be blind? But this isn't helpful, this isn't what will solve the problem. He is the problem. Over and over again.) More than anything, he needs to think, he needs to be sharp, he wants to be all sharp edges and direction when there are visitors. When Jack comes.
This can't be happening. He needs to be sharp.
It's new, now. Something in him recoils from the meat in particular. But that line is in his head, that line that won't let him reach a hand out to take up the fork.
You could eat around the meat.
There's a small movement in the back of his throat, involuntary as any of this, and he remembers, shudderingly, awfully remembers, coughs gutturally to try to shake off the way his gag reflex is bringing just that memory back because it's obviously going to bring the rest of that darkness back if he can't bring it under control.
Still can't trust your body, can you?
He laughs, brief and dark.
All he can see is her.
He takes in a sharp breath at the same time that he reaches out to grab the fork from the tray like he's suddenly snatching it away from someone, but then he's stuck with a fork and the ostensible goal of eating the prison food.
He looks down at the fork, raises his eyebrows dryly, then stabs a green bean with some difficulty and takes a bite. The bite is too big. He feels disgust as he chews, now, it drowns out the rest, and that much is a relief in a very absurdly horrible way. Swallowing does him in, today more than yesterday, even though he tells himself not to think about her, it pricks at him almost physically, constantly, and he retches, bits of green scattered on the ground in front of him.
It's stupid. It's green beans. He decides he's not going to fucking eat.
They forcefeed him after three more days of the same.
"With what you've gone through physically in the last few months, Mr. Graham, it would be in your best interest not to risk the health you've regained and wind up feeling just as badly as you started," Chilton says to him, with that look on his face and that twist to his mouth like he's thinking something about the inevitable book he's going to write about Will, the suggestion that he won't eat because of a revulsion of anything without human meat involved, the assertion this has to do with Hobbs's psyche winning out, maybe something about Will's absent mother for some really cheap psychology.
"Dr. Chilton," he says, smiling broadly and unmistakably mocking, "I thought you all think my alleged appetite is what got me into this?"
Chilton tilts his head in that you condescending jackass gesture of his that Will has gotten to know quite well by being a condescending jackass right back at him.
You get your fun where you can in prison. But it's also a reminder. He picks at the meals and forces himself through. He can't be a mess when Jack comes.
If he fucks this up...
He can't fuck this up.
Hannibal sits across from him, examining, that polite almost-smile on his lips, expectant.
Will knows it's not Freddie on the plate. He knows that this is a ruse, that this is the bait on the hook. As he shifts to sit at the table, his lip moves, an infinitesimally small, barely noticeable thing, but it's doubt; Hannibal sees it and Will feels it.
Well. Hannibal probably was expecting some reticence. He makes himself smile, stilted and brief. Then he takes a bite.
He doesn't eat the next day. The darkness is chasing him and pulling at him and he doesn't know why he's not fighting back as hard as he could be, but he doesn't eat and in some way it feels like that gives him power. He doesn't eat the day after that. He hasn't seen Hannibal since Freddie. It's not that much time he's losing fishing for the Ripper, but he won't be able to excuse not eating to him, and he can't let Hannibal wriggle off of the hook.
He can't stop thinking that Hannibal has pieces of Abigail in his freezer. He doesn't think he can eat there again if he doesn't know. The next time he goes, he asks.
Hannibal's eyes go soft in that strange way that they do, opaquely wounded, and he sits back. "No," he says. There's more to it, Will knows instantly, but that can be gleaned later. When Hannibal is caught and questioned, when this is over. Hannibal tilts his head just barely to catch Will's eye, and pronounces firmly, "I would never do that to her."
Will immediately realizes there is something unnecessarily complex about the way Hannibal is approaching this, but Hannibal sits forward before anything registers. "Will," he goes on, and waits until he's sure he's getting Will's attention to speak. "I have no reason to lie to you. You know who I am, what I do, and what I have done. To you. To her. I will not lie to you."
Will's mouth quirks up before he can stop it, and Hannibal's mouth lifts, too, and Will realizes that this is not the hook, this is something else, but maybe his grip loosens, he indulges, he doesn't stay sharp, he takes up the wineglass.
"A toast?" he suggests. Hannibal nods slightly to concede to him. "To truth."
Hannibal smiles, then, and there are a dizzying number of ways this one could be interpreted (approving caught catching on prepared dangerous careful affectionate warm soft), so Will just raises his eyebrows and drinks.
Abigail is not in Hannibal's freezer. Will eats. He keeps eating. Is that his line?
It's been 49 days since Hannibal Lecter turned himself in, and it's Will's third date with Molly. Today, she takes the initiative to bluntly mentions an elephant that's been lurking in the room.
"So," she says, leaning over the diner table, "you always take most of your food home in a box."
Will raises his eyebrows at her. "It's our third date. You've only seen me do that twice."
"Twice is a pattern," Molly says, poking at him with her fork, but it's all still so playful. He can't begrudge her curiosity if she's going to be like this. "So what's the deal?"
"I don't eat," Will says, imitating her own flavor of bluntness. "It's a thing."
"Why?" she asks.
"You don't get paid enough to ask me questions like that," he says dryly.
She eyes him, then stares him down a bit. When he doesn't shrink or speak, she puts her hands up and goes to her BLT. "You're forever going to be a man of mystery, aren't you? A skinny man of mystery. Well, it could be worse. Skinny becomes you."
"Does it really," he says, amused.
"Oh, yeah," she says blithely. "It really does. What do I have to do to get an answer out of you?"
Will looks at her, and wonders why he's lying. He wonders why, now, he isn't eating, why the shortribs he's ordered are picked at and ignored right now. He looks down at them.
Hannibal Lecter is in prison. This isn't a person.
Why did you order ribs, you fucking idiot?
"I just don't like eating," he says to Molly, looking up at her. It's not untrue. Even before Hannibal there was a problem.
Molly smiles, then, and it's beautiful, like it always is. "We'll have to work on that. Next date, I'm cooking for you."
"'Next date'?" he quotes at her.
"Oh, yeah," she says again, and now she's smirking. "But you stay skinny. I like a bit of lean."
Bedelia wasn't a problem. Maybe it's because they let her live. Maybe it's because Will has never been overly fond of her. Whatever it is, it's this, now, that causes him a problem.
It's been a month since the Red Dragon fell, as did they. Bedelia lost her leg a week ago. Last night, Will surrendered to Hannibal's entreaties that they hunt for their food, with almost no resistance; this was possibly because Hannibal had suggested it while they lay in bed to ostensibly go to sleep, barely clothed, the wetness of Hannibal's mouth just barely and briefly grazing the bare skin of his shoulder, this much still enough to set his nerves off in wild desire he could barely comprehend and apparently not think all that well through for now.
Pure cannibalism. It's been a little different to face in the cold light of day without lust clouding things for him. Bedelia was the first human meat he'd eaten since his time with Hannibal as fisherman or friend had gone so very sour.
"The most dangerous game," Will says, mocking and weary, to the outside world lingering outside the cabin's porch. His head aches and he's ignoring a twist in his stomach, because he's going to figure this out.
"That they are," Hannibal says, from the door.
Will glances at him. There are ten different things telling him how happy Hannibal is right now, in this domestic life, this domestic moment, having Will, being who he is and free. What keeps getting him is exactly how happy Hannibal is, and how losing the pretense of being anything but exactly what he is has made him develop a remarkably glass face as well. He is, of course, still Hannibal Lecter; he is the Chesapeake Ripper. But the games being played between them are so much smaller, so much less grand, at least in that way. He would never go back to what they once were.
When Will doesn't speak, Hannibal raises his eyebrows. "Dinner is ready," he continues. "Are you going to join me, or should I offer your plate to the dog?"
Food. Of course. "I'm not hungry." He can't choke down another meal today. He knows Hannibal has noticed, and he doesn't want to discuss it. Hannibal has never been good at boundaries.
"Will," Hannibal says, with that infuriatingly pleasantly amused psychiatrist tone of his. "You haven't smelled it yet."
Will pushes himself up to stand. "I think I'm going to lie down, actually."
As Will attempts to move past Hannibal, his firm but gentle touch stops him. "You have had trouble with eating," Hannibal says mildly. "Maybe always, maybe since you were attacked when you were a police officer, often when under stress. I would attempt to coax this from you, but this is too immediately important. I need you healthy, Will. I need you with me on the hunt." He pauses. "I need you. Please. Eat."
A little blindsided, Will pauses to parse all of that, then twists his head away from Hannibal. "Because I don't want dinner, I have disordered eating?" he asks wryly.
"I've observed multiple periods of time where you had fasted for notable number of days, to what aim I can't imagine, unless it wasn't wholly voluntary. If it was - if you are struggling to eat my food because you dislike it now, please, let me know," Hannibal says easily. "I will... attempt to adjust to your palate again as best I can."
Will doesn't know what to say. He looks Hannibal in the face. He's not sure he needs to say anything, then; he can tell Hannibal just read quite a bit from his facial expression (probably other nonverbals as well). He speaks anyway. "Am I going to undergo treatment, Dr. Lecter?" he asks rhetorically.
"Just have a discussion," Hannibal says, and smiles again.
The first hunt leaves Will a wreck in the best way. He is subsumed. He is realized. He is incredibly turned on. There's blood on the knife. He's considering tasting it.
"Do it," Hannibal says, watching him.
The moon is bright above them. He licks the knife slowly, savoring, and a terrible, awesome hunger starts to dawn on him.
He looks up at Hannibal, who stands there, gloriously happy and wicked and flecked with bloodspray. He smiles.