Warning: Some contents may be unsuitable, due to gore, violence, and non-con.

Boys of Responsibility

By Perryvic & Zaganthi

"Beyond their capabilities" was a phrase Greg didn't hear too often at Las Vegas CSI.

They were the second best lab in the nation, only behind the FBI, and given that third best was the NIT facility, that said a lot about the two labs ahead of NIT. And this was 'beyond their capabilities'? He was almost pissed, well, peeved, irked, that the whole team seemed to have just shrugged in fury and frustration because the answers were just out of their reach. It was Brass who'd caved, officially, who'd taken the fall and talked to the undersheriff and let him steamroller over them all. Now they were going to be 'supporting the supported effort', which Greg read as bullshit.

Okay, so he was a DNA lab tech, and still working through his Patronage, but that didn't mean he wasn’t good. They had to be -- the punishments were some of the highest in the business and people on their shift were not sloppy. People like Nick never seemed to have to attend any departmental disciplinary sessions that he was aware of, or Catherine. Warrick had a while back, because of the whole gambling thing but... on the whole, they were low quota and that meant they were good.

It wasn't like they hadn't dealt with serials before, but now a specialist was coming in from the Feds and lo and behold, everyone had their back up about it. Brass was one step off growling at everyone.

Greg didn't much like being growled at. Work was his refuge in a lot of ways, and the shift in mood with that knowledge incoming was palpable. Everyone was a little defensive, like the specialist team was going to come in and take their work away. They might identify a few flaws, mistakes, but Greg didn't think they'd made any. Not any that'd be justified with punishment.

"You look long in the face, Greggo."

"Hey Nick," he said recognizing that voice without having to look up. "Sucks to be us huh? Just doesn't seem right."

"Mm. I'm trying to be philosophical about it." He set a cup down, it sounded like, on the far counter, away from the machines. "And I stopped at the coffee shop. So, this is an opportunity to learn from the best."

"So who's the best we are learning from?" Greg asked. Sometimes if someone came in over them, they could order punishments on their own discretion and that was not good. Sometimes they'd do it just it establish authority. He really hope the FBI guy was not a complete prick.

"William Graham, FBI Special Investigator." Oh, that sounded ominous to Greg, and Nick looked a little grim. "He's brilliant, but I'm not sure how much of that is myth and reputation, you know?"

"You've heard of him?" Greg asked studying Nick. He was usually easy to read and he didn't want to screw up. "Anything I should know?"

“Mmhm. He put away the buffalo bill killer. And the tooth fairy. They bring him in for... the strange ones. Unconnected suicides with the same suicide letter? That's sure strange."

"Yeah but, we were doing okay." Greg was looking for a level of reassurance. "We could get there eventually right? You were following a lead."

"Not fast enough, according to the undersheriff. And, since WLVT picked it up as a story, he wants it closed yesterday." Nick pulled a stool out, and perched on it. "I'm waiting for Hodges to finish my trace on another case."

"Should have brought it over.” All his samples were mid process. "I could have run it for you. So, this guy here yet?"

He had to admit those cases had been big. Really big. Maybe he was that good. Greg could hope. If he really *was* that good, it was a little less humiliating that outside help was being brought in. Kind of. Nick snorted, though. "Not that I know. I'm waiting for trumpets and drum fanfare."

Greg grinned and drummed on his work top dramatically. "And the hero of the hour is...."

He noticed a shift in Nick's expression which probably meant the guy had walked in behind him or something. Shit. "I'm not sure." That was a quiet, thoughtful sounding voice, and Greg didn't want to turn around to look. "I was looking for CSI Stokes...?"

“That's me," Nick answered standing up. "You must be Special Investigator Graham. Good to meet you. This is Greg Sanders, best DNA tech we've got."

Greg turned smiling a little nervously. "Uh, hi."

He wasn't what Greg was expecting. Not that Greg knew what he was expecting, but FBI types usually looked buttoned up, overly tucked away, and Graham looked younger than most of them. Scruffy half-beard from not shaving, a few scars marring his face. His hair was starting to go grey, kind of. And his suit shirt was green and kind of an eyesore. "Mr. Sanders, Mr. Stokes. Brass said you two could get me up to speed on the case to date."

"He did?" Greg blurted out. Wow, Jim never said that sort of thing about him. "Uh, what do you want to know?"

"Everything." He seemed to say it seriously. "Brass'll -- ah, he's coming now. He was just working out a few things with my patron." Graham craned his head, looking behind him, and sure enough, there were footfalls coming down the hallway.

Patron? The guy was a little old to still be in Patronage like him. It did happen sometimes, a voluntary sort of arrangement once the normal pay-off had occurred.

"Well, that's pretty much the problem right there," Nick said. "The murderer leaves the crime scenes very clean of evidence."

"But he's been communicating with you. I find that interesting." He shifted, moved around Greg, grabbing himself a stool to sit on. Nick looked like he was halfway to standing up awkwardly for him, out of respect. As an FBI investigator, with a patron or not, he wielded tremendous authority in their community.

"I'm sorry, but I think you might mean another case, sir. He hasn't been communicating with us..."

"You mean by the staged suicides?" Greg asked, surprised into just speaking out. "Is that a sort of message?" It wasn't literal, he knew that. They'd been over those scenes with a fine toothed comb bringing back anything possible.

"Same stage every time," Will agreed, sitting down casually. "That's a message. It's his signature, and there's a lot to be learned in the signature."

"Well, right now we'll take any message you can find," Brass said from the doorway, where he was standing with another man. "Special Investigator Graham, Dr. Lecter has officially authorized you to work this case, so you are good to go."

"Mere formalities." Will was watching the other man while he spoke. He was an interesting figure, more the aura of an outstanding professional than Greg was getting out of Will. Polished was the word for it.

"Thank you, Hannibal." Will shifted, sat up a little straighter. "Dr. Lecter has aided me in creating psychiatric profiles of the targets in the past, though I don't think his services are warranted this time. Yet."

"Should it be necessary, I am sure I can oblige," the Patron said with bright sharp smile. Greg resisted the urge to shiver as his eyes ran over him. There was a Patron who didn't miss a thing. “In the meantime, I have some acquaintances to look up. Try not to lose focus, Will."

"Of course not." He flashed a smile at his Patron, and leaned an arm against the table. It was an odd moment, and Greg wasn't sure why it felt odd.

"All right. If that's it, I'll leave you two to support Agent Graham here for the duration of his stay..."

"Uh, sure." Greg agreed because no one ever really entrusted him with anything like that. He might actually get to see a bit of the whole investigation and he perked up at the thought of that. He loved the puzzles, the piecing things together even if it wasn't strictly his role. The CSIs generally seemed to sense and encourage it, and that... that was just a highlight in his day. Now to be *tasked* with it? When there was quite so much riding on it...

"This is your priority until it's solved," Brass reiterated, pointing at Nick and then Greg. "Agent Graham, is there anything else I could do for you?"

Graham looked between Nick and Greg and shook his head. "No, I've got a field agent and a lab tech to support me. That's pretty generous of you, and I appreciate it."

"I shall expect you for dinner Will," Hannibal said as he turned to leave. "He has a tendency not to look after himself during a case. That will be your responsibility, too. Don't forget it." The tone promised consequences and Greg wondered if that was why Will Graham still had a Patron when he no doubt could have cleared his debts. Perhaps he needed a keeper after all.

Either way, it would be interesting to work with someone who was a legend and also who had the same sort of background he did. He didn’t get to compare notes that often. "Of course." The edge of Will's mouth twitched as Hannibal walked away, and Brass looked at them for a moment before he turned to no doubt escort Graham's patron out.

Greg had no doubt if he screwed this one up he would be in the punishment square until he was fifty. He had no intention of that happening.

New city, new case, new time and space. Nightshift wasn't a big stretch for Will, though he did crave a little more coffee than he usually drank at night. Stokes and Sanders were nervous, and Hannibal had sort of heralded that with his natural demeanor. Now it was Will's side task to put the locals at ease so he could actually *work* with them to solve the case.

They both seemed smart enough in different ways. Sanders was young to be in a lab at DNA tech level. Will reasoned he must have been through university early. He also had a level of awareness about him that Will associated with having a Patron, or being a Whipping Boy for a particularly slack target. Stokes was relaxed in comparison.

Very laid back -- curious, but laid back, and it made Will wonder if Greg was Stokes’ whipping boy, or someone else's entirely. Sanders had a liking to Stokes, that much was obvious. "I've read the case file summaries, but we both know there are things that don't make it into those higher level documents."

"The case file summaries have very little in them because there was very little to put in them," Nick answered him. He pulled out the first file. "This was the first we picked up as a murder - we're not sure if there were more that happened that were ruled suicide. They were convincing. It was a classic presentment of suicide aside from the fact we picked up anomalies."

"Describe the anomalies, please." He wanted to know what they'd caught, while he started to look over the pictures. He pulled those out of the file first, and started to spread them carefully on the table top.

"Well, there was a recorded suicide note, apologizing to his mother," Nick said. "Only when we took it to her she insisted it wasn't her son’s voice."

"Yeah, she was adamant," Greg said. "So we covered things more thoroughly you know?"

"Despite that denial in the face of an unexpected suicide is a standard reaction." That was admirable of them, to look into it further when the family was concerned. Will shifted the pictures, arranging them into a timeline that felt right to him. Roughly. "Who worked the scene?"

"That would be me," Nick answered. "And CSI Willows... Catherine. We went back over that place with a fine tooth comb and our suspicions were confirmed by the lack of evidence. Things were wiped clean. But we found one smudged partial on the tape recorder. Too distorted for AFIS but, no points of reference at all with the vic."

"The weird thing was, it turned out to be the guy’s voice after all, just... tight and tense pushing it up," Greg added.

"Huh. Well, it's just as well that you did it." Will let his fingers linger over the picture. "Where was the sleeping bag purchased?"

"It's a generic brand that most major department stores carry. Nothing on it to tie it to one in particular," Stokes answered him almost apologetically.

"Tape recorder the same, I assume," and Will watched him nod his head up and down. "And the cases that followed were the same story? Were there any deviations?"

"We've got a couple of quirks," Greg said and Will noted he almost glowed with satisfaction saying "we". "There was more evidence at the other two scenes."

"The second man was checked into a hotel room -- it was the same situation in the bathroom, but he had a stack of bills paid. One of the stamps were upside down. At the third scene, a lot of details changed. The victim was laid in a tub again, in the middle of an abandoned barn. It was raining, so the recording was vastly different. It was recorded in the victim's car, which was jacked by the killer..." Ah, now this was interesting. "And there was a bullet fired out the window, point blank. I think it was to scare the victim into compliance. He was unconscious when he was carried into the building."

"Catherine said that pretty much made it positive that they were targeted somehow, not just victims of opportunity," Greg added. "Which makes sense. I mean the killer could have taken someone easier."

"We need to find the selection method, and... Why. What he means by it. You don't keep reenacting the same scene over and over for the hell of it." Will opened the second and third files, taking the pictures of the body out and centering it on the tabletop. "This means something to him."

"You said something about messages or communicating," Greg asked. "You think the murders are not just a fantasy brought to life, but more meaningful?"

"This doesn't have the taste of a fetish," Will murmured, letting his fingers linger over the pictures. "These staged murders are a message."

"Let’s lay out the pictures and you can see how well they match or if there are differences," Nick suggested. "We've looked at this over and over. It needs fresh eyes."

It needed different eyes. Will closed his for a moment, and then started to arrange the pictures with Nick helping, matching scene to scene to scene, step to step through their process of detailing his process. "So, tell me about the results, Greg."

"Well, we tested pretty much everything," Greg said. "We pick up the GSR in the third victims car and some on the victims clothes that indicated it had been very close to them. We've got a boot print but again it's got no distinguishing features. We've got a cast though here somewhere. " Greg looked at him with a mildly anxious expression. "It's like he knew exactly what we would look for."

"Then your picture is in the voids," Will murmured. "And the void says... he's an aware man. Police? Lawyer. Somewhere in your department. Or the sheriff's office, or a nearby department. But that immediately narrowed it from millions of people to thousands.”

"So, what do you want us to look at first?" Stokes was obviously more interested in getting answers than any implied criticism that Vegas might not have done a good job. That was a good attitude, he could work with that.

"I can run anything you like again if you want?" Greg said hopefully.

That was good. They were both eager, and Will just needed a moment, staring at the pictures. "What was collected at the most recent scene?"

"I'll get the evidence bags," Nick said. "You can take a look. We can take a trip out to the site if that helps as well."

"That would help me a great deal. Do you still have the victim's car...?" Will wanted the evidence, wanted to see the car, wanted to see the scene -- all of it. "He's killed at least three times now. He's going to get sloppy."

"We've still got the car, and we're pretty sure the killer got in it for a least a portion of the time. Greg, you could take Special Investigator Graham to the garage while I get everything up together from evidence."

"I could? Wow, yeah sure, if you want?" Greg said sounding excited at the possibility.

Will started to stand up, stretching a little groggily. Another night, and he'd adjust to nightshift hours. "Thanks. Please, lead the way."

Greg bounced up. "Hey, you need a refill of coffee on the way? I remember when I started – took me a while to get used to the change in time." He lead the way out of the door. "I'm saving up my allowance for some more Blue Hawaiian – now that's the good stuff. Cost a fortune though and the last lot I had I was given."

"So, do you have a patron, or are you a whipping boy?" It was a niggling curiosity for Will, but he liked to get his curiosities satisfied.

"Me? Patron," Greg offered. "Judge Douglas Mason. I was a whipping boy for a while back in New York and.. well, he dropped out and I needed a replacement fast and ended up moving out here and with Judge Mason taking me on," Greg said with a pretty bright smile.

"When do you finish out your term?" It was almost casual conversation between their types, while Will followed Greg on a casual walk that he assumed would take them to the garage.

"Got a few years yet," Greg said. "Even though my pay is pretty good, I'm young and that means bottom of the ladder." He shrugged. "Masters cost, and then the DNA training on top..I know how to pick them. On the other hand, some of my buddies from Uni are going to paying their loans off well into the next decade. How about you?"

It was a polite way of asking why he was so old to still need a Patron.

Unfortunately, there was no really polite answer. "I'm coming to the end of my last six year sign on. Hannibal's been a... patron and a mentor to me. I have a doctorate in forensic investigation, there was FLETC, and the Bureau generally requires a patronage or similar status to enter."

"Yeah but, you're a legend," Greg said. "Surely you'd get some sort of bonuses for that? Considering you do what others can't."

"Money isn't a problem. I've paid out." Explaining his relationship with Hannibal was harder, and now that the last six was coming towards an end... It hadn't changed things at all. Things had changed him. "Doing this isn't easy, and I'm probably just... not a resilient person."

"Hey, I bet you are plenty resilient but the job hits a punch you can't just bounce back from right?" Greg countered. "Happens here all the time. Everyone's got trigger cases. Stuff with kids get most people - never get on the wrong side of Catherine when one of those is blowing up."

They were in the elevator now and Greg had a certain bounce to his step that was amusing.

"I work with the... the exceedingly depraved cases," Will said after a moment. "The ones that make the local beat cops throw up. After a while, one starts to wonder if one's moral compass was ever aligned right in the first place."

"Hey, you're not the one going out there being depraved, so that pretty much means it was right?" Greg said making it sound so simple and easy. In one way he was right but it wasn't that straightforward.

Nothing was that straightforward. "Mostly. Yes, mostly. I..." Will shrugged his shoulders, under the pretense of stretching. "I suppose you'll understand better once the case starts to get underway."

"Okay," Greg said glancing at him. "If there's anything I can do to help you out, just shout."

The elevator door dinged and opened into the evidence garage where the car had been stored.

"Work with me while this unfolds." He almost wanted to say it would be a learning experience, but that was arrogant, and Will tried to not say things like that. He just thought them. "And don't ever think you can't tell me something. I'm not omniscient, and I do miss things."

"Sure. This is the car here," Greg said gesturing at it. "Nick and Catherine went over it. Found the GSR."

"Okay." Okay. There was nothing drawing at all about the car itself. To carjack a person, someone was either following their vic, or knew their car and laid in wait along a familiar strip of land that he'd pass. Which still required knowing the person's habits, and well enough to recognize the vehicle. But this was a start, it detailed the level of familiarity their man had with the victims. "Can you read me the victim's profile?" He needed to get gloves on.

"Uh, hold on," Greg answered fumbling for pieces of paper. "Peter Walker, California, Date of Birth August 17 1957.”

"August 17th," Will repeated, pulling gloves on from the communal box off to one side. "Stuart Rampler, August 17th, 1958. Royce Harmon, August 17th, 1959. You just got interesting, my man. That's very careful selection."

"Birthdays? They were selected for descending birthdays?" Greg asked. "But how...how would he even get that information?"

"And then carefully *carefully* repeat the same crime scene over and over. August 17th is important, and when Nick comes down I'll set him on pulling microfiche on August 17th for, say, the 50s."

Greg nodded. "So something happened to him then? or he was involved in something then? "

It was strangely easy to do this with Greg. He asked the right questions, ones that followed his thinking not disrupted it.

He made a good standing sounding board, and that was a rare thing. "Yes. One of the two. Or something happened even unconnected to him, but it's a significant date in his head. I'd put money on something personal, though. 59, 58, 57, and if he stays to the pattern, 56 is next. That's interesting as well."

"So maybe he's looking for victim like that, but why?" Greg asked. "I could be wrong but these are all guys with families. Is that a pattern?"

"It's possible, but it doesn't feel right for this one. The family isn't the focus." Will eased the driver side door open, and started to carefully look at the interior. First with a wide gaze, and then he'd start a more systematic and narrow approach.

"Hey, how are you doing?" Nick said from the door way. "Found anything?"

"August 17th," Will said as he leaned into the car, carefully checking the sides of the seats, though he was sure it was already done. "I need you to go through microfiche for the Las Vegas area for August 17th, from, let's do 1950 to 1960."

"What sort of thing?" Nick asked with a faint frown. "What's the significance of August 17th?"

"Anything. Anything that *looks* like the scene he's been laying out for us," Will said over his shoulder. "It's the victim's birthdays. Shared. He's been working backwards in time."

To his credit, Nick just nodded. "Got it. We'll start working on that."

"Uh, do you want me here or with Nick?" Greg asked.

"Here. I prefer to have someone here. It helps me not look crazy when I talk it out." Will went to brace his hand, and then stopped. "Huh. Did you print the outside of the doors already?"

"Cath printed them yes," Nick said. "We didn't get anything viable except Mr. Walkers’."

"He wears gloves," he murmured, staring at the wheel for a moment and then the stippling where the shot had gone through the passenger side window. It was little wonder they were getting nowhere.

"Gloves and nothing that leaves fibers," Greg said. "No had a single clothing fiber aside from the vic’s to trace in the whole case."

"You could do that with a good rainslicker. Ballistic nylon tends to not shed." Will shrugged, easing his way carefully out of the car. "Staged suicides committed on men born on the same day. He plots and plans. Good leather gloves, some sort of all weather gear..."

"That sort of thing takes time doesn't it? Tracking a victim, setting it up," Greg observed. "That's a big gap in someone's schedule."

"I think when we find our guy, we'll probably not get to the point of verifying his shitty alibi. But that'll be a hint to get there." Will stretched, circling back to the trunk on a whim.

"Yeah, but, that's not the sort of thing you can break into a normal job if you have a family," Greg said. "Unless the family are otherwise occupied. Maybe that means they are a loner."

"Could have a hobby that masks it. Or a busy working life. It's the same way someone carries on an affair." Only this time, the affair was with killing. It was still the same sort of thing, emotionally exciting, rewarding in ways the home life couldn't be.

Greg nodded and was quiet for a bit as he stood there watching. "You said it doesn't seem like one of those things where the killer gets off on it. But why else would someone do this?"

"Because it matters." The edge of Will's mouth pulled up a little as he watched Greg. "Because he's making a statement, and it matters, and we're *not* listening. Can you imagine if you were *shouting* something to the world, and no one knew?"

"Yeah, but what sort of message makes someone want to shout this loudly?" Greg asked obviously thinking hard. "I mean, this sort of attention to detail takes serious effort. It's not something you feel just a little strongly about."

"No. So, what're we looking at in each scene? It boils down to a suicide that isn't a suicide." Nothing of use in the trunk, and Will shut it carefully. They'd printed there, as well, just in case, left powder remnants. Good team.

"So, that's the message?" Greg asked a little hesitantly. "I mean, you say it's a message so is this person saying there was a suicide that wasn't a suicide?"

"It seems simple, doesn't it?" It did, it seemed simple, clear cut. "Except we can't go back and fix whatever happened to set this off, and that's what he wants at the root of it. He wants more than acknowledgement, and there's no way for that to ever happen."

"So he's just going to keep on killing?" Greg queried.

"Until he's stopped. Until someone stops him." Will looked at the car one more time. "Come on, let's see what Nick's looking at. I think we're on to something good tonight."

It had been a long shift but Greg had a buzz that had nothing to do with the copious amounts of coffee that they had drunk. Somehow they had gone from nothing to at least having a direction, a focus and more to the point, he was a part of it somehow.

That was more a revelation than anything else. Running DNA seemed a bit trivial compared to this and despite the hard shift Greg practically bounced as he walked.

It felt fast, like they'd close in on the case immediately, soon. Like he'd see it done and finished in a day or two even if he wanted it to last forever, and Graham seemed like the kind of guy who’d be able to pull it off, all just by talking out loud.

Douglas waved at him from where he was waiting in the parking lot to pick him up. "I have court in an hour -- let's get you home."

"I could have got back without bothering you," he said unable to keep the smile from his face.

It was hard to read his patron's face most days, but he shrugged, and there was a quirk to his mouth that was mostly positive. He was already dressed for court, and if his tie got any more knotted Greg figured his face would turn blue. "Get in. Brass left a message on the answering machine last night and I wanted to make sure you were all right."

"He did?" Greg blinked at that. "Really? What did he say?" Douglas didn't mind a certain level of informality until they really got into it.

"He said he'd assigned you and Stokes to assist a visiting member of the Bureau, and he wasn't sure how it was going to go. From the look on your face, I'm going to assume it went well....?"

"Oh man, it went really well," he said as his enthusiasm bounced up. "Special Investigator Graham is really that good. He just took our dead end on the suicide murder thing and all of a sudden we've got new leads all over the place. And he wanted me involved!" Greg was pretty hyped and his arms waved . "I don't know why Jim was worried."

"Because the Bureau has a reputation of having local police beaten for incompetence," Douglas said grimly. "And it's not usually *entirely* unwarranted."

"Hey, you know Nick and Catherine have worked some of these. They're not incompetent, but the murderer is clever," Greg answered feeling he had to defend the lab. "They don't miss the obvious... Even Will had to admit they had been really thorough." He stopped then, aware he might have just pushed things a little further than he should have done with his Patron. He just couldn't seem to keep his mouth shut sometimes.

It caused him a lot of stress when he wasn't at work. "Mmm. Tell me more about this mythical agent who's willing to compliment the locals."

"He's... well, he's apparently a big name in the FBI," Greg said. "He specializes in catching serials, you know, the one's that hit the nationals. Special Investigator William Graham. He got uh.. .the Tooth Fairy killer?"

"Oh, yes, I think I've heard of him." Douglas was quiet as he drove, coasting towards a stop light. It wasn't too far to get back home, and he'd make court in good time. "So, how much further has the case come?"

"Well, no conclusions but, a lot more avenue's of exploration," Greg said. "Everyone s researching at the moment as we've not got any trace to analyze."

"That's a little more... hunch based than your usual work," Douglas noted. "Anything interesting so far?"

Greg hesitated. "I guess I'm not meant to discuss stuff?" he said. "I mean, that's the protocol right? I mean, Will spotted a similarity in the victims that made sense but uh, I guess I'm not meant to say anything about it."

He might have said too much already.

"Of course. I'm glad you're engaged in it. I'm sure they'll pull you back to DNA as soon as the next day's backup begins, but..." But, yeah, and that was a little bit of a suck fest there. So was that he was going to get home, clean up, put dinner in the slow cooker, and nap before the kid got home.

"Yeah, but it's been really interesting," he said glancing at his Patron. "How has your day been?" It was a little belated but he got there eventually. Douglas seemed tense, which might mean something on one of his off days.

"My night? Not bad at all. No, I'll see you when I get home. We may be going out for dinner. I'll call." He'd still make something, just in case. Worst case, it'd be leftovers for the next day.

"Okay," he said nodding. He'd managed to get used to multi tasking and it was like going from work to...well, work again.

Work to work to work, but that was how things were for Greg. It was okay, he was used to it. It'd be over sometime, another couple of years, and then he wouldn't owe anyone anything at all. And that was a good feeling.

He was used to Douglas' silences as well, and the way he lapsed into them. At first it had driven him crazy wondering what he had done wrong, but then he'd learned his patron’s quirks. It wasn't worth mentioning to anyone really, not to the associations because Douglas looked after him well. Okay there were a few things that maybe were a little out of the norm but really didn't that happen in a lot of Patron relationships? No, he had it good really.

No one beat the shit out of him senselessly, he wasn't emotionally abused. It was just a little like being a live-in maid sometimes, but the Masons were pretty clean and tidy people which meant even that was low-effort work if time consuming. Run the vacuum, tidy a little extra, do the meals, look after Craig. "Yes, I think I will take him up on that dinner offer after-all. We'll be going out -- dress well, be ready by 6."

"Just me or should I get Craig ready as well?" Greg asked. Isabelle would obviously not need help, but 6 o'clock was early enough that the son might be included.

"No, I think it's best if we leave Craig at home." Adults, then, which meant Greg was usually the one left home to babysit.

Did that mean Isabelle was staying? "Uh, do I need to arrange a babysitter?" he asked trying to fathom it out in a roundabout way.

"No. No, this invitation was from Dr. Lecter to you and myself." Oh, oh, that was interesting and scary, and Will was interesting, but his Patron...

"Right, right okay, I'll be ready," Greg agreed readily. "He contacted you? Wow, I saw him for all of a minute before he let this morning. Will is still under his Patronage."

"Well, I know him vaguely from a correspondence from years ago. It was on a court matter." Oh, that made it a little less scary as far as Greg was concerned. Just a little.

"Right, right okay. I'll make sure I'm looking respectable then. He smiled again and glanced at Douglas. "You look a little tense - anything I can do?"

Douglas laughed. "Until you have an evening off, no. Not when I have to be to work soon." They were turning down the streets to get home, not more than a few seconds away now.

"Shame," Greg said with a smile. It was best to offer because things could get a little intense sometimes if Douglas got stressed and well, it was part of the arrangement. Isabelle knew and pretty much had said "thank god" when it had first come up. It just wasn't his thing, to start with at least.

It wasn't her thing, either, which had apparently brought the overwhelmingly positive reaction out. "That is indeed." When they coasted to a stop in front of the house, Douglas stopped the car, at least. "Six pm, your good clothes. Bring a change for work afterwards."

"I'll be ready," Greg promised and he would make an effort. Will was going to be there and... well, it was stupid really but he had those blue eyes and the slight rough stubble and that was more his taste right there. Not that he'd get anywhere but he could dream.

A guy was allowed to daydream. Douglas nodded at him, as if it was accepted, and Greg popped the door open to get out and into the house. He'd have time to see Craig off, and then make dinner for Craig and Isabella to have that evening. Chicken and squash risotto, maybe.

There were things he needed to do, needed to focus on, when he was working a case. It was funny that the casework itself was the easy part. It was the supporting structure that held him together to work the case that was hard, that took work. Going through the moves of being a normal social person was exhausting, travelling was exhausting, and he was... tired.

Hannibal seemed to understand that was the most challenging thing of all to him and often took steps. He was a bit dismayed then to hear that they had a dinner date to go to.

It was funny, childish of him, but he didn't like the fancy dinners and he didn't like having to put on that extra layer of persona to impress. Most days, he felt like he'd been raised by wolves, because the manners and mannerisms weren't first nature to him on any level, or second nature. He was getting dressed, watching Hannibal behind him in the mirror more than he was watching himself. Every scar on his own body felt like a roadmap to survival, but it wasn't a map he spent a lot of time staring at.

"You should dress up more," Hannibal murmured. "It does look good on you Will."

"I make a sad showpiece." He'd shaven, carefully, though he was sure the stubble would be back very soon, and that no amount of excess sleep would ever been *enough*. Why not throw nightshift hours on top of that? "You'd mentioned you had plans for after this case..."

"Oh yes," Hannibal smiled a little. "You have been working very hard. Perhaps you should have some sort of reward don't you think? You're... stretched Will. Taut and nervy. Perhaps we need some relaxation. Florence perhaps. Venice."

Get out of the country, which took a little of the weight off of Will's shoulders. He'd still worry that something would happen while he was incommunicado. "Whichever you prefer." There was good food and sights to see in either, and Hannibal had a way of finding the most interesting, fanciful things to see where-ever they were. Will was half sure he'd already found some high class show in Vegas, of all places. Art, at least.

"Call it an incentive for a speedy conclusion," Lecter said with a smile. "As if you needed another."

"I think this will be a quick case," Will murmured, watching himself in the mirror just long enough to make sure his tie was tied straight, the knot squared off. "He really wants to be caught. I just hope we get him before he kills again."

"Well I'm sure you can do better than the locals," Hannibal suggested. "Speaking of which, I thought you might enjoy meeting one of them in a social situation."

"That hinges on which local and which social setting." Will rubbed at his face, and turned to grab his suit jacket.

"A small intimate dinner with a fellow Patron and a new colleague of yours," Hannibal said.

"Sanders." Will shrugged into his coat, closing his eyes for a moment. He could do that, he could manage Sanders. "He's very curious."

"Indeed. I do like a curious mind," Hannibal drawled. "It will be good for you, Will. They will be waiting. Let us go."

He wasn't ready, but he didn't think he'd ever be ready. He exhaled, shrugged his shoulders and pocketed his wallet. "Lead on."

It wasn't far to the restaurant and of course it was something upmarket and discrete. Hannibal would not tolerate substandard food whereas he was aware that Will would be happy with burgers and fries.

Greg was there with his patron, looking as different as he felt in his suit and his patron looked a little dour.

His patron looked *very* dour. He was smiling, but it didn't touch his eyes. There was the faint wrinkling of crows feet, yes, but it really wasn't there in the back of his eyes, reflected in his brain, and the pull of his mouth was too careful, too symmetrical. Will had wanted dinner out if he had to be there at all, not a chess game.

Greg on the other hand caught sight of him and his face lit up. It was strange to see that in reaction to someone seeing him. People generally weren't that pleased to see him. "Will!" he called out grinning at him seemingly surprised and happy and then reined back in by his Patron's glance.

That was interesting, and grim. Will stepped forward, though not much ahead of Hannibal, and reached to shake Greg's hand. "Greg! Good to see you."

Greg shook his hand back and patted his arm companionably. "Yeah, good to see you too. A pleasure to meet you too sir," he said politely to Hannibal.

Hannibal's eyes were light with mirth, and Will offered his hand to Greg's Patron after a moment. "I'm William Graham, sir, it's good to meet you."

"It was a pleasure to receive an invitation from someone as distinguished as your Patron. " Mason said shaking his hand. "I must compliment you on your choice of venue Dr. Lecter. They do a truly special range of fish here. A marinated sea bass to be remembered."

"I make an effort to spend my time at the better venues in any city. Please, please, sit down." The hostess was hanging back from them, because sometimes there was nothing more volatile than a gathering of Patrons.

"Thank you," Mason answered even as he turned to look at the table and Greg fell into step next to Will with a half quirk of a smile.

"I have to say, I first thought we were meeting one of the local Patrons…" Greg half whispered. "They're pretty boring."

"I can guarantee you we are not boring," Hannibal said as they stepped to their table and he gestured for them to be seated.

"What's that Jack says? 'If your heart rate is just below 190, it's still a good day'?" Will waited for the other two to sit down first, and Judge Mason sat down with Greg beside him before Will took the interior seat, and Hannibal beside him.

"Jack Crawford occasionally has something to recommend him," Hannibal said. "Even if he insists on encouraging your smoking habit."

"I didn't see you smoke today," Greg said. "Not even once when we were looking over evidence."

"Smoke lingers. When there's a chance that the clue's in the scent..." Will shrugged, sitting up ever so slightly straighter in his chair. "I only smoke when I'm stressed. Usually I've got a bead on who it is by then."

"Will has a very high attention to detail," Lecter said. "Allow me to get the wine -- there is a very respectable sauvignon here."

"Oh, I like fish," Greg said glancing at the menu. "Mind you I could pass on the oysters. You ever have those Will?"

He seemed to be purposefully avoiding mention of work. Perhaps that was an instruction from his Patron. How odd, as far as Will was concerned.

"Hannibal's spent excessive amounts of time trying to expand my naturally plebian palate," Will drawled, "So yes, I've had quite a few. The Tilapia is probably very nice." And safe. Will glanced to Judge Mason, and then his own menu to glance over it.

"Greg's a little timid with food."

"Well, Norwegian food leans heavily towards things like fermented fish," Greg said. "After that everything else seems a little anticlimactic."

"There is nothing worse than an unstimulating meal," Hannibal put in with an amused smile.

"I agree. I will have the yellow fin steaks I believe," Mason said decisively. "They do an interesting marinade - I can recommend it."

"I think I'll try the 'Paella'. Though, there are quote marks around it. That's interesting of them." He passed the menu back to Hannibal.

"Paella, that looks interesting," Greg said glancing at him. "I'm going to be unadventurous and follow your lead."

"I believe I will take your recommendation," Hannibal said. "It is interesting to find out other peoples taste."

It was all very pleasant and cordial and Mason and Hannibal were watching each other rather than them for some reason. Will could guess the reason. Hannibal was sizing him up, which never ended well, and it made Will want to size him up, too. "Paella is pretty safe and tasty. Rice, seafood, quail in this case..." He let his eyes drift over to Mason, studying him.

There was something just a little off there. It pinged at him subtly and he wasn't even sure what it was pinging. But Mason was no oil painting - his face was pitted somehow and there was a strangeness to his movements he could not pin down. Greg in contrast was loose limbed and relaxed.

"Quail huh? Well, paella rice is good stuff. I like the herbs and spices in it," Greg said.

"I think this will be good." Will reached to take a sip of his water. "And, we'll get in at least one good meal before we get into the heat of the case."

"I guess I'm in charge of making sure you eat huh?" Greg teased slightly. "If you get that focused."

"Well, you might get swept up in it, too." He tilted his glass at Greg in half a cheers gesture. "I've got a feeling about this one. If we can just work out how he selects his pool, we can find our August 17th, 1956 before it happens."

He noticed Greg looked a little surprised at his saying that detail and Judge Mason tilted his head a little. "Oh this case has someone doing something with dates?" he asked.

Now that. That was interesting. "Our guy's been walking back in time through his victim's birthdays. When we get back in, we'll finish scouring the newspapers to see just what it is that he's trying to show us. I suspect we'll have the man pinned down in the next day or two, at least in terms of identity."

"Well that is good news," the judge replied and Hannibal smiled as the wine was poured.

"Oh yes... Will does believe in getting the job done," he said smoothly sampling the wine and nodding that it was acceptable. Lucky for the waiter.

"Staged suicides are... not particularly what I'm accustomed to working. There is no becoming. Our guy is not in the process of transforming himself or his life through this process. If it's based on a past trauma, I can't imagine it's personally satisfying. Grimly satisfying, perhaps." He could tell Greg was uncomfortable, but he was watching Mason.

"Well of course if it was something obvious then I'm sure you would not have been called in Will," Hannibal said. "Human motives are a complex thing. Not every action is driven by satisfaction - emotions and compulsions come in many shades. The pursuit of ambition, vengeance, power, greed as well as desire... these are motivators."

"So, not a personal fetish or kink then?" Greg asked.

"No. Most of life can't be summed up reductively like that. Even fetishes and kinks have a source. Our man isn't getting any visceral satisfaction from his killings, he's..." He was something else, and Will was reaching for it as he reached for his wine glass. "It..." Damn, damn, and Mason was looking at him, hard, before he went on. "This is something that needs to be done. He's found a flaw in the system and he wants to point it out -- not with glee, but because someone other than himself *must* know. He's screaming it."

Hannibal made a contemplative noise. "Mmm, 'The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men..'"

Greg frowned. "Wasn't that in Pulp Fiction?" he asked

"Perhaps," Hannibal answered. "But the source is Ezekiel."

"Quentin Tarantino is a great rip-off artist," Will offered, taking another sip. Mason's face was hard to read, but his eyes were almost anger-hot.

Huh. "You seem distracted, Judge."

"I am sorry. It concerns me that Greg might be so involved in a case with someone who has this level of motivation," he said as they were brought complementary breads and bruschetta. "Usually he is in the lab and secure."

"We haven't gone beyond the lab yet," Will shrugged, "And I generally put the safety of the people with me ahead of my own, so Greg will be all right."

"See?" Greg said looking at Douglas with wide eyes. "I'll be okay, really. I'm not doing that much out in the field. I'm not sure if this qualifies.”

Will reached to take a piece of the bruschetta, having watched Hannibal deem it good, or at least decent. "It's only natural to be concerned," Judge Mason murmured, taking a sip of his own wine. He was watching Hannibal again.

"Well of course. That is part of our role as Patrons," Hannibal said. "I am sure Will is responsible for most of my grey hairs."

"Who do I get to blame for my *own* grey hair?" Will deadpanned, sitting back a little. Good food was one of the few respites in day to day life, and if he wasn't having to act particularly polite then he could at least savor the food.

The conversation drifted a little away from work as they ordered and were served with commendable swiftness. Hannibal tended to get irritated if service was poor or tardy. But in all, the food was good and the conversation pleasant. Greg, when he wasn't being held in check talked with animation about whatever topic came to mind. Right now he was talking about his Patron's artistic endeavors with an obviously practiced ability to make small talk.

"...sculpting and modeling. They are really good. And the paintings which have a surrealist element in them though the style is hyper realistic," he said as he ate some of his paella. "And photography as well."

There was a slightest hint of a flush to Greg's cheeks when he said that that passed rapidly.

Will noted it and threw it into the back of his mind. Photography could mean quite a few things. "It's a hobby. I unfortunately don't have time to work the local gallery circuit as much as I'd like."

"He could do though," Greg said. "He's really good, though it's difficult to get the time to work on the projects."

"How remarkable," Hannibal said leaning back in his chair. "What sort of subject matter to you encompass?"

"Human nature." Will twitched an eyebrow at he started to carefully taste his way through his meal. "Art is about challenging assumptions. I'd have to show a few pieces to explain what I mean."

"Florence is a city of art - music painting, sculpture…" Hannibal commented. "I am considering taking Will there for a well earned vacation when this case is finished. "

And it would be a vacation from... something. Reality, maybe. "I'll have nothing to do but soak in the sights, which should do wonders to clear my head."

"I on the other hand will be reveling in the culture," Hannibal said. "Will accuses me of having overly refined tastes. I cannot abide second rate musicians in a professional orchestra for example."

"Hannibal is a great supporter of the local philharmonic. This has occasionally included getting musicians fired for off notes." And one missing man, which Will was somewhat glad hadn't been his case, though he suspected the Ripper had done it. Raspail had never been a good flautist.

Judge Mason smiled. "Being professional should at least mean being in tune," he said. "Just as being an artist should mean a basic ability to actually draw or sculpt."

Greg grinned at that. "Douglas thinks bad artists should be sentenced to jail time... So they have opportunity to get better without distractions."

Will snorted. "That just means more bad tattoos in the world." He notice Greg stifle a laugh at that, but his eyes were bright as they were regarded tolerantly by their patrons.

"Tell me Dr. Lecter, is Will your first protégé?"

"Yes. I was providing psychological consulting to the FBI when I was approached by a member of behavioral science to provide mentorship to a then young potential agent. Will has been a delightful protégé, and it's been an honor to watch him grow, personally and professionally."

"Greg is my second," Mason answered glancing at him. "He has been a model protégé in many ways - even with his deplorable musical taste and experimental hair." He smiled a little at Greg who looked a little embarrassed.

"So you had a whipping boy in your youth, then." Hannibal wasn't guessing, but he was probing, and that was interesting to Will. Hannibal *needled* at dinner guests, he pried at them with annoying, uncomfortable truths.

"I did. Paul was the reason that I got into art," he said. "That was his passion. I am sure he would have liked to try acting but he had a terrible stutter. Instead he focused on sculpture and I believe he mainly makes props now for the entertainment industry."

"He left a present of what appeared to be a severed arm on the doorstep last Halloween - we were out," Greg said. "Turned out to be an incredibly realistic latex moulding. Man, I had some fun with that at work."

"Huh. That's a hell of a career to be into," Will laughed, "Though I'd always wondered -- what is it, Halloween props?"

"Yeah I think so. Well, I think his own company is called Halloweird or something, but he earns his money doing prop work or masks for movies," Greg said. "I've never met him...I guess it would be a bit weird to see someone else in his place but I've seen his work. Douglas meets up with him when he's in town."

"It's sporadic," Mason said. "Sometimes we go out looking for yard sales at the weekend if he is in town. It was something we always did. Occasionally we would get a good bargain."

That sounded as amusing to Will as flossing his teeth, but he made a polite interested noise, and enjoyed the rabbit in the paella, contrasting with the taste of the quail. "That's a good sign, that you've maintained your friendship," Hannibal said casually.

"I admit our association has become... different. Paul and I were very close for a long time, " Mason said. "But now we make up for it in making the most of the time we spend together." There was something oddly knowing in Mason's eyes as he fixated on Hannibal. From the way Greg was glancing at him, he had spotted it too.

It made Will want to ask 'Are you a member of the sleeps with your protégé club?', but he bit his tongue, chewing slowly through his rice. "I'm coming to the end of my last six year term. I suspect Hannibal is looking forward to not having to baby sit me any longer."

"I don't think I can imagine not having you around Will," Hannibal said and there was something in his eyes when he looked over at him."Where would I find someone with your skills?"

Will took a sip of his wine. "Hard to say, isn't it? But change... change is good, over all."

"Very healthy," Mason commented. He glanced at Greg a moment. "I confess I do not know what I would do without Greg."

Hannibal's mouth curved into a slow smile. "To protégés, I think."

Mason raised his glass to accept the toast and Greg looked a little surprised.

"I didn't know my services were so valuable, " he said.

"There is much to be said for a protégé who looks after his patron's best interests." Hannibal smiled, while Will tried to not look uncomfortable, because best interests was a hell of a word for it.

There was something in Greg's expression as well that was a little disturbed. "Uh, excuse me, I just need to go... to the bathroom a moment," he said hurriedly getting up and heading away. Hannibal gave him a little glance that seemed tantamount to an order to follow.

Not that he needed the look, though getting up from the inside seat meant slipping past Hannibal, which was a tight shift that Hannibal probably didn't mind. "I'll be right back." As if it needed to be said, but while Greg had hurried, Will followed leisurely.

When he got in the rest room, Greg was rather morosely and repetitively washing his hands, and splashing his face with water. He looked a little spooked.

"You looked bothered. Hi." He closed the door quietly behind himself, watching Greg.

He nearly jumped a mile. "Shit! Will, don't do that," he said. "I'm jumpy enough as it is. Something’s not right and I don't know what it is."

Greg could've been him. Greg could've been him or he could've been Greg, and that was almost hard to watch for a moment, before Will crossed the space between them. "Yeah. I have the same feeling. Hard to place, but surely there. Your patron..."

"I've not seen him develop this sort of rapport with someone before. It's almost like he wants..." Greg stopped a moment."You don't understand, he's doesn't get on with people like this and..."

"It's almost like he wants... what? Say it, not saying it won't make it any less real." He stood there, waiting, watching Greg's signals, not interfering.

Greg looked embarrassed. "Okay look, I know it's not meant to happen, but it does. I mean, it's not like that case over at NIT with the Russian who pretty much kept his protégé as a pet, but he has a few quirks and it just seemed like he was wanting to discuss that with your patron okay?"

"Yes, he probably would." Will shifted, leaned a hip on the countertop. "Hannibal and I have an interesting relationship."

"Oh god..." Greg looked mortified. "They're probably discussing that right now. When you say interesting do you mean *interesting*?"

"It's somewhat deviant in nature. I think it's a side effect of our work." Or at least, that was what he decided was the better answer for Greg. "So, shall we hide out here for a while?"

"Could do," Greg answered turning and leaning against the top. "Uh, don't mention anything to the others at the lab? I don't think they'd understand."

"I don't really think it's appropriate to discuss private matters in public. Wouldn't cross my mind." Will rubbed at the side of his head. "After all, my own personal life is messy enough."

"They get weirded out by the concept of patronage without knowing the full story," he said with a shrug. "Half of them think it's a free ride, the others react like it is slavery."

"It's hard to live practically on top of someone for so many years without... something developing." Friendship at best, more at worst, Will supposed. He was accustomed to his situation, to Hannibal, though, and it fed and reacted to his own personality.

"Yeah and you know, considering it's not that big a thing compared to a future is it?" Greg said. He sounded like he was convincing himself.

"I think that depends on your case," Will murmured. "I... My circumstances are different, and I don't think my life will change much when my time ends. I'm already well established, and my relationship with Hannibal is... interesting."

"So you'll stay?" Greg sounded surprised like he wouldn't have considered that as a possibility. "You're not interested in doing your own thing?"

"My own thing isn't so different than what I do now. I... It isn't as if I come home and have chores, any more than I would if I lived on my own. And when things go badly on a case, which. They have, often enough. I don't have to cope by myself." And Greg wasn't considering it at all, which was telling. Good for Greg.

"No chores huh? Well that's not so bad," Greg smiled a little. "I pretty much have no time for anything by the time I get in, see to everything, look after Craig, clear everything. It's a bit wearing sometimes."

"Two jobs," Will noted sympathetically, setting his hand down on the countertop. "Hannibal doesn't have a family life to be managed at the end of the day. He takes the patients that are convenient for him."

"But don't you ever want to... you know, be with people you want to be with?" And Greg was looking at him with a certain hopeful expression.

"Yes. Yes, I would, but... I don't know. It's been a long time." Will wasn't even sure what to do with that hopeful expression. He knew, but he didn't... there was no basis to act on it. No way he could.

"Yeah." Greg exhaled and then smiled. "Like if I had a choice I would have totally asked you out for coffee after shift."

"It's a shame you don't have more leeway with your time. I would've said yes." And been allowed to, because Hannibal didn't keep him on a leash of any sort at all. There was no point.

"It would have been a good coffee. I would have made amusing conversation and very few inappropriate comments," Greg said. "And you would have been impressed by my charm."

"Well, I'm already impressed by your candor." Will leaned a little, looking towards the door. "I wonder what they're discussing, and at what point someone will come looking for us."

"I'm not sure but Douglas doesn't like to be out of control of things," Greg said a little awkwardly. "I think maybe, we should go back."

"All right. Hannibal is very formidable. He may take it to mind to drive Judge Mason up a wall simply because he can." Will patted Greg's shoulder gently, and stepped back to pull the door open.

"I really hope they weren't comparing notes," Greg muttered as he followed him back into the restaurant. "Time to put the game face on again."

"That's just what I was thinking." Will stood a little straighter, and pulled the door open, holding it for Greg. "After you."

Greg led the way back to the table and there was Mason and Lecter with bright eyes leaning close and that was interesting in itself. Hannibal was rarely that interested in people. That was never a good sign, particularly not for Greg, because Hannibal was mostly drawn to deviant minds. It was the best way to learn more about them, and there was clearly something amiss with Mason. Will smiled tightly as he slipped past to get into his seat. "Sorry about that.”

"I hope the paella did not disagree with you Greg," Judge Mason said.

"Oh, no, no it is fine." Greg answered hastily. "I was just feeling a little hot, that's all."

"The bathroom is quite cool." Will sat down, reaching for his fork right off, because he was going to at least need his food. If they were lucky, they could report for work right away after dinner, no delay.

No side stops to a hotel room for two hours of anything.

"We have taken the liberty of ordering desserts for you both," Douglas said.

"Oh? Thank you." It wasn't as if anything strange was going to arrive, because Hannibal's taste in food was impeccable. He sat back, and wondered what the two of them had come up with in their absence. That was the worrying part.

"We've had a fascinating discussion. It would appear our tastes as similar," Hannibal said. "So we ordered the same thing."

"Should I be afraid to ask what it is?" Will half-laughed, taking a sip of his wine. Dinner was almost to an end, which was good. Still a high likelihood that they'd be going in to work.

"An amaretto and chocolate parfait with a hot frothing white chocolate and almond sauce," Mason said with a smile. "Decadent."

"Wow, that is...wow," Greg said appreciatively and Will had to marvel at his ability to stabilize himself.

"Staying awake tonight shouldn't be a problem." He looked over at Hannibal, trying to gauge what else they might've agreed on while they were away, other than manners for buggering their protégés. Hopefully there were no post-shift agreements pending, and if there were, Will could only hope that he managed to turn the case into a double.

"Not with that amount of sugar," Greg agreed even as his finished main course was whisked away seamlessly. "I can hardly wait."

"You should have time to eat before you have to go into work," Mason said. "Hannibal and I might linger a while if you do not mind taking Greg with you to the lab, Will?"

"Not at all. We can get a head start on finishing the line of thought we were after last night." And he and Hannibal lingering over dinner, well. That was disturbing, but Will let it go for the moment, discarded it because there was nothing else he could do just then. They could eat dessert and start the case again and there was really no preparing for whatever was being decided.

It had been both weird and freaky to have dinner with Will and his patron. He couldn't help but think Douglas and Hannibal were having disturbing conversations about himself and Will and that creeped him out. What he and Douglas did was kinda private and he was okay with it even if some of the kinks weren't his kinks -- he played along with that. But some of it was fun and as he didn't have too much other interaction (none in other words) he had to say he'd had some spectacular orgasms in his time because of Douglas and his kinks. But he didn't necessarily want Will to know all of that even if from what he said he wasn't a vanilla guy.

Will was in work mode now and the sugar from the rich dessert seemed to have his mind on overdrive.

They'd torn through the microfiche fast, and Greg was running trace on chemicals lifted from their fingerprint lifts even *before* Nick got in to work, which felt very accomplished and awesome as far as Greg was concerned. Linseed oil was interesting to find, because Greg knew it was used on wooden gunstocks. If their guy had it on his fingerprints, it could have contributed to the smearing on the partials they'd gotten.

"Progress?" Jim came in behind them as he was processing fast. "How are we doing in here? Got anything before Ecklie and the Under Sheriff crawls up my ass again?"

"Yes, yes we have," Will said, looking up from the microfiche he was abusing with a slide viewer. "August 17th, 1965, a Paul Millander was found dead of suicide, by his daughter."

"Right. And that is relevant how? " Jim asked.

"Well, apparently the articles say she claimed it wasn't suicide but her evidence was discounted," Greg said. "Uh, she said it was murder but I guess wasn't believed."

"Wait, we're looking for a woman?" Jim said. "That's a turn up."

"We're not looking for a woman." Will tilted his head a little, still looking at Jim, "It doesn't feel right to me. And the girl was 9. Step back nine years, 1956. August 17th, 1965. I've got Nick hunting down public records on the family. Maybe there's a brother. I don't know what we'll find, but we have *something*."

"More than before," Jim agreed looking pleased. "Good work. What's Nick working on?"

"Uh, I think he's chasing up on the Millander history," Greg answered.

"I figured if they're still in the area, go by, ask them a few questions if they feel cooperative." Will hated and enjoyed that part. "Before it gets too late at night. Otherwise, we'll have to try in the morning."

"You think they might be?" Jim said raising his eyebrows. "Mind you if they are connected to these murders..." The they would be around. Greg knew that was obvious.

"Got a hit," Nick called from the doorway. "The mother still has an address in Vegas. Anyone for a roadtrip?"

"Yes. You driving?" Will stood up, pulling his suit jacket off the back of the chair. "Greg, coming with?"

"Sure!" Like he would turn that down. Going out in the field? Fantastic. This was turning into a great night after all.

Nick was only a little chatty in the car, more curious about where they thought it was going and what angles to take with any relatives who were also their first suspects just then. It didn't surprise Greg when Will pressed that he was going to take the lead on it -- it did surprise him that Will was quiet so gentle about getting his way, when as a bureau agent he could've put the hammer down at any time.

And he didn't. He just said that he wanted first shot at the family, and that they were to provide backup and a keen eye if the opportunity provided to snoop.

Greg was more than happy with that and why not? He was out in the field and that was a novelty in itself.

He had to stop himself from twitching a little as they waited for Mrs. Millander to answer the door. Nick thought it was the mother, so, the widower. Right there, not moving on? Was never a good sign as far as Greg was concerned, as far as Nick was willing to admit aloud. Will took the lead, though, and she opened the door just a crack.

"Hello?" She was peering through the crack, her door chained for safety.

"Mrs. Millander? I'm William Graham with the FBI. I wanted to speak to you about your husband's murder."

"My husband’s murder?" she seemed suspicious. "You mean the murder ruled as a suicide? You better come in."

"Thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to talk with us. CSI Stokes and Sanders are with the Las Vegas PD while I investigate this." It wasn't about that at all, but Greg could see it as a way to get her talking, and it at least had gotten them in the door, no warrant needed yet.

As they entered he could see a dinner table laid for two, though a plate only at one place. "What can I help you with?"

"I'd like to know more than what was put in the police report at the time. And about your son."

"I see." She looked away. "It was said Paul committed suicide in a hotel room. That was all it said. He would not have done that, he was happy, he had a family... he would never have done that in front of our daughter."

"How is your daughter today?" She'd dodged the son question, and Will had moved with it, shifted targets while he stood there casually.

"My daughter died," she said shortly. "She was so brave testifying, but they didn't believe her. Only ten and it broke her heart. Knowing the truth, and not being believed. She just... died."

"I'm sorry." It sounded heartfelt, and Will looked away for a moment. "Does your son ever visit you?"

There was an immediate stiffening. "I don't want to talk about him," she said sounding visibly upset.

Greg frowned a little. What did that mean? The son of Millander was estranged from his mother? But why if the daughter was dead? Did that mean he was responsible?

"That's understandable, given what happened. I... we're here today because someone is killing men the same way your husband was murdered. If we can catch the person responsible, we can make steps towards justice for your husband." Will reached out, touched her upper arm lightly as if to steady her.

"You mean his murderers are doing it again?" she said sounding on the verge of tears. "Oh god, what do you want to know?"

"I want you to tell me what your daughter testified. Or wanted to testify. I know court testimony is dry, quick, yes or no, and so many details get missed. Important details." Will was steering her, ever so slightly, away from the dining room with the two place settings.

"She was adamant," she replied. "Two men came to talk to my husband when they were on a trip together. She sometimes went with him because they would go and see the shows he was involved in. He told her to hide before he opened the door. She said...she said there was an argument but she couldn't hear all the details from where she was hiding but they took him and dragged him to the bathroom, and made him write a note and then she had to watch as one of them held him down and the other put the gun in his hand, put it to his head and pulled the trigger."

"It's not a note this time -- it's a tape recording. But they've all been identical." Will guided her to sit down. "The rest of the style is identical."

Greg considered that a tape recorder back in... whenever it was would not have been as portable or accessible. How many people would have had them? Perhaps Paul Millander did not and it would have been obvious. "Then it is them? Because the note was in his hand writing, and because there was...what do you call it residue on his own hand from the gun, and it was there in his hand, they discounted my daughters evidence. She was ten, and traumatized they said. She was making things up to explain what she had witnessed."

"I don't think she was making it up. I think it was very real, what she said happened that day." Will was scanning the room, and gestured vaguely towards a picture. "Is that her?"

"Yes," Mrs. Millander said. "My baby girl."

"She's beautiful," Nick said in his soothing Texan drawl.

"She was. We were so happy together as a family," she answered looking on the verge of tears.

No mention of the brother though. Unless the second place setting was for him. But surely Will had picked up on that. "When did she die?" Will asked, still looking at the picture.

Mrs. Millander looked visibly upset. "Not long after... I... really don't want to talk about that."

"I'm sorry. Do you have anything that your husband might've left fingerprints on?" That, that was left field, right there, and Greg was trying hard to not squint.

"I'm... I'm not sure," she said looking as derailed as he felt. "He made a few things. There was something in my daughters room..." She headed up the stairs and they followed until they entered a proper little girls room, complete with pink frilly this and that. There were pictures there of a man and a little girl smiling looking happy and there was something a little familiar about the way he looked. Perhaps it was all the studying of articles they had done. Nothing overt just something about the eyes that made him a little uncomfortable as if he had seen that expression somewhere, some when.

Will was studying the pictures, too. "Thank you. I know it's late, and I appreciate you taking the time to talk with us."

She pulled out an old ashtray obviously made by childish hands. "He helped my daughter make this, made the imprint in the middle. I don't know if that would help."

Greg could see some green discoloration in the indentations. "What's the green in there?" he asked and she shook her head.

"I don't know, I've always wondered."

"It's an old school molding material," Will murmured. "Your husband made props, didn't he?"

"Partly." She agreed and Greg felt an icy sense of disbelief as if someone had dumped ice-cubes down his back hit him point blank. Wait, wait... that had to be a coincidence. A real coincidence and it was just him freaking out about it.

"Partly?" Will asked, almost carefully admiring the pictures of the daughter.

"He was a sales rep as well," she said. "It was a family company. Making selling, custom work. "

"What happened to the company?" It was gentle, prying, and Will seemed to be after something.

"It went to his son. " She said that and turned away. "I think you should go now, I really do. I don't want you here anymore."

"I understand. Can I take this? I promise to return it quickly." Will gestured gently with the ashtray he was holding gingerly, at the edges. "And I'll leave you a card. I want you to call if your son tries to contact you."

"Okay," She accepted that. "Just... please go now. Please."

Greg knew to step back head toward the door. Will had surprised him with how gentle he had been when questioning Mrs. Millander..

"Thank you again, Mrs. Millander." And Nick had remained mostly quiet, watching now, fishing into his jacket's pocket for a bag for the ash tray, which he presented once they were on the front step. Will carefully placed the ashtray in. It didn't surprise Greg that the woman closed the door without a second word to them, once she had Will's card in hand, but that was... all right. They hadn't had to get a warrant.

"What the heck was that?" Nick half-whispered as they started to walk down the walk towards Nick's SUV.

"She's living in a world of carefully balanced constructs, and we were disturbing them." Will murmured it, holding onto the plastic evidence bag. "Her son's our man."

He hadn't said anything about the similarities between Paul Millander and...the Paul he had heard described as Douglas's whipping boy. It was... maybe it was just him. Maybe he needed to just check things out a little before he brought that up. Douglas would never forgive him and he was literally under his thumb.

"Are you sure?" Greg asked a little nervously.

"I'm sure. We're looking for a Paul Millander."

It almost startled him when Nick said, "There *isn't* a Paul. There was a Paula..."

"Trans-gendered," Will shrugged, like it was nothing at all. "There might be a record of an official name change, or there might not be. We'll have to start looking. But the Paul Millander persona, whatever Paulina's known as now, is the murderer."

Greg was looking wild around the eyes. "But, we have no actual evidence at the moment do we?" he said. "I mean, what would link them to the actual crime?"

"Greg, we're going to case this hand mold with latex, and see what kind of marks it leaves when you cover it in linseed oil." He lifted his eyebrows at Greg. "That's about as concrete as I've ever gotten. I've traced men down from a metal shaving."

"Okay." It wasn't really okay but if they got a print, he could find that fake arm and then he'd be sure. Then he could go to Will and see if he was being stupid or something.

Or he could ask Will right off, except he was afraid to. He was afraid that Will would tell him that he was thinking exactly what Greg was thinking, and that would be almost too damning for Greg.

He did not want to be right and he didn't want to be wrong. Either way he was completely screwed.

He was half aware of what was waiting for him when he got back to the hotel. Hannibal, possibly having stayed up all night, possibly well rested, possibly, well, there were too many possibilities and Will was tired, drained and feeling the teeth's edge of a thought nipping at his brain, a half-articulation because he knew, he *knew*, he knew and he couldn't say, couldn't share it except screaming in his own head that it was Judge Mason and he was missing all the links that would make anyone believe him.

"A satisfactory shift Will?" Hannibal asked him as he approached him.

Will started to shrug out of his suit jacket. "Yes. I know who it is, but I don't have any evidence."

Hannibal smiled as if that was what he expected. "A small detail surely," he said with a bright look in his eyes.

"A large detail for the courts," Will shrugged, throwing his jacket at a chair. "How was your evening?"

"Most pleasant and interesting. My fellow Patron was very...intriguing," Hannibal said still smiling.

Will tilted his head a little, meeting dark red eyes straight on. Hannibal was toying with him, and it felt for a moment like being a hamster facing off against a very large cat. "He's my number one suspect."

"Oh really? How interesting." Hannibal drawled. "Why would you say that?" He was almost literally prowling closer and had that dangerous edge to him.

"I'm going to try to get more information on him next shift, but *Paul* Millander was trying to leave his father's fingerprints on the crime scenes, and isn't that funny that Greg mentioned Paul, Paul who makes fake hands. Paul that he's never met. Mason's birthdate is August 17th, 1956. I don't think his whipping boy existed, anymore than I believe Mrs. Millander when she says her daughter is dead but talks about the son that was never... born." He could see what he saw, sitting at dinner, watching Greg, watching Mason, and what was odd there? Face pockmarked, jaw a little too soft, no adam's apple. "His DNA would come back XX."

"It is possible there is another transgender killer there," Hannibal said but it was almost a light teasing tone. "And if you are right, what will this mean hmm?"

"It means we can go home." It meant Judge Mason would get a long sentence in Jail at the best -- death sentence at worst. Once Will could prove it. It would mean that Greg would have to find another patron.

"So tired of Vegas already Will? I was thinking you found it interesting.," Hannibal caressed down the back of his neck. "Or at least one of the people here."

"And they were secure. I mean, they were under pressure and they were under attack, but they were secure. I think there was one other Ranger that died while they hunkered down, and the doctors had indicated that he probably would not have survived, even if they had been able to get him out. I mean there was not a big controversy about that.


The hand at the back of his neck stilled Will, made him exhale softly. "Greg is full of potential and he likes to ask questions. It's hard not to like him."

"Oh I would agree. Particularly from what Judge Mason has told me tonight. Of his willingness," Hannibal murmured, stroked with the hard point of his fingernail.

Will's eyes half-closed, almost involuntarily. "His willingness?"

"Mmm, yes. That it was easy to coax him. You know he sounds a great deal like you in some ways," There were lips on the back of his neck then, soft and soothing. "Our dear Judge Mason has control issues. He was quite the aficionado of playing that out with your fellow protégé. Mmm you like the thought of that, don't you? You can see it in your mind."

That depended on whose mind it was just then. Will started to relax a little, and considered taking his shirt off. If he wasn't going to be allowed to collapse unmolested into bed, he might as well enjoy it. "He's very smart. But there's willingness, and then there's... I don't know." Didn't know how Greg would react, didn't know how *he* reacted to it, if he was honest.

"Oh I believe he enjoys...most of it," Hannibal said. "Imagine it Will, your new friend, with the slip of silken rope around him, every muscle standing out, every limb held just where you want it, unable to do anything but feel. A delicious picture to conjure with."

More touches and Hannibal communicating with subtle pressure his expectation.

Will started to unbutton his shirt, half-imagining what Hannibal was saying. "This doesn't sound altruistic of you, Hannibal," Will murmured.

"I enjoy the thought of a young impressionable man being molded," he said. "Starting with... posing perhaps for his art, then posing nude for his art...nothing wrong with that. Then...maybe a series on the inner struggle of man symbolized by a little light bondage and so easy to slip your hand here...and here..." Light brushes over his ass and groin. "Titillating don't you think?"

"Leading." Things had been so much more straight forward with he and Hannibal, and so much more muddled, if Will thought about it. He dropped his shirt to the floor. "I don't know what I think anymore."

"You would enjoy seeing that," Hannibal pitched his voice to a persuasive timbre. "I know you. You enjoy that feeling of power when it itches and grows in you. It's a safe way to allow it to breathe."

Some small part of Will couldn't believe they were having that conversation. And the other part of him needed the evidence, and another part jsut accepted it for the idle fantasy talk it was. Perhaps Hannibal was shopping, early, for a replacement protégé. Greg had qualities, glimmers of an extremely bright future if he was nurtured. "Maybe."

"Do I detect a hint of jealousy Will?" Hannibal sounded amused as he touched him with a surety born of familiarity.

"I'm considering his patron as a suspect. It feels improper to wonder what he'd be like in bed right now." And improper to be discussing it while Hannibal started to unbuckle his belt.

"And there I was thinking propriety had long since been eradicated," Hannibal said, sliding deft hands down his pants. "At least I do hope so."

"Oh fuck." Will arched back, rocking up against Hannibal's fingers. It was either going to be heaven or hell, and either way a good part of him wanted to stay there and find out.

"Do you deserve a reward Will, hmm?" Hannibal practically hummed in his ear.

"If I'm right, you're going to turn this to your advantage. I think I do." Will reached down, reaching to push the waistband of his pants down.

"Then I'll let you choose tonight as I am feeling magnanimous. Do you want to be fucked hard or slow." Typical Hannibal offer. Not being fucked at all was not an option.

"Slow." That was its own problem, because slow could sometimes be hours, but they were usually luxurious hours that left him boneless and exhausted. There was a great deal to be said for that kind of fucked senseless.

"Slow I can manage," and there was a glint in his eye as he said so. "It's whether you can stand it."

"I think I can." He pulled away a little, toe-ing off his shoes. "As long as I can function tonight for the shift."

"A fine balance," Hannibal answered. "Well, we'll see if we can break you down and keep you intact at the same time. An interesting challenge. To the bed Will."

He felt oddly tamped down, restrained and disconnected as he walked towards the bed, stepping out of his pants as he went. That was never particularly a good sign, not that Will was the best at watching his mental status. But it was a strange sensation to have while he sat on the bed.

"Lie back," Hannibal said and his smile was predatory. "Let me take care of everything." In someone else that might have been romantic or comforting. Not with Hannibal. When he said everything, he meant *everything*.

Will just closed his eyes, obeying, and hoping he'd still be functional that night.

Greg was pretty sure that Douglas and Hannibal had had a long discussion because the moment he got home and found that Isabelle and Craig were out visiting someone or the other, he knew Douglas had something planned.

And despite what some might say he wasn't often wrong.

Needless to say though he did often ask himself how exactly he had gotten into these positions.

He didn't mind the bondage, or the slow touching. He liked that part, the touching in particular. He liked contact, and he liked it even when things got a little wild. He was pretty flexible, open to experience in general. Open to *more*, but there was open to *more* and then there was Douglas watching him with hard eyes and a knife in his hand, while a dildo buzzed away in Greg's ass.

That frankly freaked the hell out of him. Bondage, restraint a little bit of rough and tumble, that was all to the good but he'd never really been into real pain, humiliation and fear. Douglas was usually about the securing, the control of orgasm, and a lot of rope... he liked rope and that was pretty fun but a knife? Fear made his eyes widen even as the buzz made his cock stay at attention.

"I wanted to try something new with you. I've never gotten it into mind to really... test how far you'll go." Greg had never wanted it tested before, either, but Douglas was sitting beside him. "And your FBI friend is so adventuresome."

"Uh... Douglas?" Greg felt his mouth go dry. "What do you mean? You know I don't mind the bondage part..."

Could he say otherwise considering?

"I want to see what you can stand. Stretch your limits. I want to make this... a night to remember." He tipped the knife point down, gesturing towards Greg's crotch. "I'm curious how you are with pain."

"No, no, no, pain's not my thing," Greg protested panic striking now. "No Douglas, please... please not this." He attempted to struggle but the tight bondage that his Patron favored meant moving a muscle was not happening.

Douglas laid the knife tip on his stomach, very gently. "It's interesting. Hannibal says he sees a little of Graham in you. The first time they had sex, he had a knife in his hand. I find that fascinating."

"They did?" It came out as a squeak but all he was conscious of was the cold metal on his stomach. And fuck, he was rock hard. What the hell was that about?

"Yes. I was wondering just where the line of familiarity ended." The knife pressed, nicked, almost, more of a papercut, though if Greg sneezed or breathed wrong he'd have more than a nick.

He found himself holding his breath instinctively, trying not to move even a slight bit. "...please..."

It was more of a gasp than a word.

"Please more? Please don't? I think Hannibal is interested in holding a meeting of the four of us..." Oh, fuck, and Douglas wanted to stretch his style before that happened? Greg barely held still, while the knife tipped and played and dug, and Douglas reached down to stroke his dick.

"I don't want to be cut," he said breathlessly, but the stroking and the vibrator in his ass started to drown out his fear and supplant it with need.

It almost startled him when the knife did cut, skipping along for a moment before Douglas seemed to catch himself and lift the blade. "Ah, ah, that's tempting."

It hurt, it burned with hurt and Greg felt himself almost whimper in a disbelieving shock. He'd actually *cut* him. "Please Douglas, please don't, don't I.." He could feel blood and that was somehow tempting?

It *hurt*, and Douglas had a wild look in his eye as he smeared it across Greg's stomach with his thumb. Fuck fuck, bloodplay had never crossed Greg's mind in his life, he'd never, he wasn't that kind of interested in kink. Not that much.

Okay he had to stop freaking out because that seemed to be making Douglas worse. He took some deep breaths now the knife was away from the skin and tried to reason with him calmly. "Okay, you've experimented a little, that's cool, how about we go back to the old way, Douglas? We both enjoy that right?"

It would have sounded better if his voice wasn't shaky.

"Who are *you* to tell me that?" He was holding the knife aloft, and Greg was trying hard to not consider that he was talking to his crazy patron while the man held a knife.

"I'm... I'm your protégé, you know you’re meant to protect me and look after me?" he practically pleaded with him.

He hesitated, and Greg saw that, saw Douglas falter with the knife. "I should whore you out for that. I should, I..." He clenched his teeth, but set the knife down, taking a step back from Greg as if that might help him clear his head.

He hoped it did. He'd never been so scared, his heart was thumping and his mouth was dry and his muscles wanted to shake just from the stress of it. Whore him out? They didn't go in for humiliation, not before. It had been about control. He didn't like this turn of events and it made him all the more sure that something wasn't right.

"Will you let me go?" he asked after a pause. "Please Douglas, this isn't you."

It wasn't anything Greg was used to, and there was still a wild look in his eye. But he picked the knife up again, and slid it between Greg's wrists. For a moment, Greg didn't dare breathe, because there was too much chance Douglas might stab him. He cut the rope smoothly, and stepped away again. "I, take care of yourself."

It seemed a little weirdly like a goodbye rather than a simple order to sort himself out. The cut had managed to bleed profusely and Douglas had smeared it deliberately so he looked more like someone had tried to gut him. Oddly he felt guilty about not being able to deal with what his Patron had requested from him but things were getting a bit weird.

"I'm sorry Douglas," he said, finding his legs would barely hold him as he tried rapidly to unwrap himself from the ties.

He wanted to get standing just in case something went weird, weirder, even though Douglas had set the knife down. "No, I'll -- get yourself cleaned up before anyone gets home."

He just nodded mutely and tried to not drip blood as he staggered a little into the bathroom and the shower. There his legs wouldn't hold him. This was bad, this was really bad. This might mean thinking about leaving, but what would happen then? He'd be without a Patron, he had no money to go solo, he'd have to find another Patron because there was no money in his family. He'd end up on the streets or something because his education still needed to be paid.

To be paid *off*, and, shit, he knew enough cops and stuff now, he could ask, he could get Brass or even Ecklie, maybe. He just needed coverage, someone willing to help until his time finished off. Greg was almost afraid to leave the bathroom, until he heard doors closing. Sounded like Douglas was going to go for a drive. Leave for a while.

Shit, he was shaking. It was one thing to experiment with consent but to have someone pull a knife on you unexpectedly and then not stop when you begged them, pleaded with them. He'd have a case with the Patronage Abuse Society but then he'd have to explain the consensual side and ...no, this was not really an option.

The blood washed off and the cut looked a bit pathetic for the pain it caused and for the mess. It was a livid red line across his abdomen but it wasn't that which had freaked him out. It had been the look in his eyes when he lost it. It hadn't been Douglas, it was like someone different had surfaced, someone colder and an implacable.

It wasn't Douglas, so he stayed in the bathroom, sat down on the toilet seat lid, until he was sure that Douglas was gone. He'd just... go in to work, see what he could do. He needed to, needed to find a new patron was what he needed to do.

He put a couple of butterfly stitches from their medicine cabinet over the wound and grimaced as he realized he was going to have to get someone to take a picture of the injury if he was really going to go through with it. But he put a loose dressing on it and...

Shit, he needed to find that fake arm. That would give him an excuse to go it early. He could print it before anyone else was there and if anyone wondered why he was there then he could use it as an excuse.

He was doing extra work. He was doing extra work, and... And he had no damn way to get there. Shit.

He could call Nick. Or, call Graham.

Graham might understand about the Patron thing. Nick was going to ask questions because Nick would look at him and know something was wrong. He had Will's number somewhere, he'd get dressed and call.

With a decision made he started moving, getting some loose clothing because the damn cut hurt, completely out of proportion to its appearance. The arm was most likely in Craig's room. He enjoyed messing around with it so... yeah. Where the hell was his phone anyway?

The world seemed molasses thick while Greg tried to find his composure again. His phone was on the downstairs countertop where he'd left it, and he retrieved that and a trash bag to put the arm in before he headed for Craig's room.

He was okay. He was okay, he just had a pretty minor cut, didn't need a doctor or anything, so everything was fine. He thumbed through the contacts on the phone and selected Will, clearing his throat several times while it was ringing.

"Graham speaking." He sounded groggy, half-asleep, but not angry, which was as good a start as any.

"Uh, hey, Will. It's Greg Sanders from the lab." Greg started. "I didn't wake you up, did I?"

"A little. What's wrong?" There was a shifting noise, so maybe Will was sitting up. Okay, he'd already done the damage *by* waking Graham up, so...

"Uh, I was wondering if you were intending to go into the lab early?" he asked a little hopefully. "Only, there's this thing I'd thought I just run, and it might be a complete long shot and I don't want to embarrass myself but Douglas has gone off in the car and I'm... well, I was just wondering if you were able to give me a lift if you were."

There was quiet on the other end of the line for a moment. "Okay. We're getting coffee on the way in. Have you slept at all?"

"Uh, not much no," Greg said. "You?" Now he felt really embarrassed, just asking this. He was a grown man but he was still dependant. At least Will had a car.

Even if it was just a rental car. "Not so you'd notice. What's the address?"

"23 Mulberry Road," Greg said. "Hope that's okay Will. Sorry I got you up."

"No problem. I'll be there as soon as I can." And he hung up, leaving Greg to contemplate just sitting on the sofa and waiting. Waiting for the FBI guy who, by all rights, could have his ass beaten for waking up him, to come pick him up.

His life had seemed so simple, so straight forward until he apparently started to get what he wanted. Only, it had completely backfired one way or another.

23 Mulberry was an unassuming place, though Will supposed that he'd never actually come across a building -- except one -- that had screamed 'serial killer lives here'. The pit in the floor at Buffalo Bill's place had been the tipoff there. He even rang the doorbell, suspecting Greg had nodded off at the table.

It took a moment and Greg opened the door looking a little pale and jittery. "Oh hi, I'm just...coming a second. Thanks for the lift."

"No problem." Will muffled a yawn. "I actually left Hannibal sleeping. How're you doing?:

"Oh, you know, okay," Greg replied heading out of the door. He could tell it was a lie. "Sorry about this, I just thought..."

"It's not a problem at all. You still look rough." Will jingled his keys in one hand a little. "Where's your patron?"

"He... went out," and it was obvious to see a slightly shifty uncertain look about Greg then. "I, we had uh... well I suppose you could call it a disagreement."

"What was it over?" Will was pitching his voice quietly, waiting while Greg got a bag, and hopefully he'd lock the front door.

Greg didn't answer for a bit and instead came out and locked the door. "You ever had a time where your patron crossed a line?" he asked.

"I don't know. I suppose not." But Douglas had, clearly. "What did he do?"

Greg was looking very uncomfortable. "Without going into too much detail, I think, I think your Patron might have egged him on and... he kinda lost it."

"Hannibal takes people apart socially, the way some might drink." Will started towards the car. "It's for the best you don't stay here right now."

"I haven't got any money to go anywhere else," Greg answered. "Even if I file a complaint, I'll still need a Patron. He did seem upset at the end."

"If I told you that I think he's our suspect, Greg..." Will was watching Greg, guessing that his reaction might be... well, accepting, in light of whatever had just befallen him.

Greg almost visibly winced. "I thought it might be Paul, his previous protégé. But then tonight it was like he was a different person. He wasn't Douglas."

"Mmm. C'mon, get in the car with me. We'll get you something to eat, and then head in to the lab." It sounded strange, but a little coffee, a little breathing space could do wonders.

Greg nodded getting in as indicated, a lot of his bounce from the previous shift completely gone. He waited until Will was in as well and said. "I have the fake arm with me. I thought if I tested it and it matched the ashtray then I would know there was the link I suspect."

"Thanks. I'll make sure that you have something. We'll get you taken care of." He wasn't sure what favors he'd have to call in, but it would've been odd to not feel a little responsible.

"This feels really weird," Greg admitted. "The whole thing. Just everything has gone very wrong."

"I can't imagine how you feel right now." Will started the car, watching the road. "It's... I'm sorry. Hopefully we can wrap this up peacefully and soon."

"If it is him.." Greg paused. "How can I have *lived* with a murderer for years and not have known? I look at evidence for a living, how could I miss that?"

"You weren't looking. This is your home -- why would you look in your *home*?" Will turned, slowly weaving the car out of the neighborhood. "Where would you want to go for coffee?"

"I don't know. There's a place not far from the department. They survive off of cops," Greg said. "It's called Angelo's"

"All right. We'll go there. Just tell me where to turn." Will glanced in his mirrors, made sure no one was following them. It was an old, strange habit, but it was.

He wasn't sure how it felt to have boundaries crossed because he wasn't exactly sure he had them. There was a part of him that was aware that maybe Hannibal had dismantled the boundaries carefully and quietly before he pushed anything. He did have a way of mixing pleasure up with other emotions so it was all muddled together.

And then there was what Will did in his day to day work, muddying the waters even more so. "How badly did he cut you?"

Greg practically did a double take. "How the hell did you know he cut me?" he demanded looking a bit spooked.

"I'm guessing bloodplay isn't your forte and might be your deciding line," Will shrugged. "And there are no strangulation marks on your neck."

"Jesus, Will," Greg said looking faintly horrified. "Okay, he cut me. I mean, maybe if we talked about it before hand and you know, discussed things but he sprung it on me and... he wasn't in control. He really wasn't. And it fucking hurt and his reaction to the blood..."

"Wasn't controlled," Will murmured. "There's killing, and then there's killing someone you love, and that's different. It might've been heady for him, and scared him that he hurt you."

"I'm just his protégé," Greg said. "I'm not his wife." He exhaled. "And, Douglas has had some sort of gender surgery in the past. I'm not sure what exactly but..." Greg actually flushed. "I don't know anyone who could keep it up as long as he has sometimes."

"He doesn't have an Adams apple. I'm fairly sure he was born female." Will just put that out there, waiting to see what Greg offered in return.

"Yeah, I have to pick up prescriptions sometimes for him, but he's never come out and said anything about it. It's all deduction," Greg said.

"You say that as if deduction is something to be ashamed about," Will drawled. "What're the prescriptions for?"

"Hormones pills of different types," Greg answered, shifting uncomfortably in his seat. "Uh, when we get to the lab, would you mind documenting the cut as I'll need it for any complaint."

"Not a problem." Will made another turn, checking his speed limit against the sign on the road. "It's going to work out."

How it was going to work out was another matter. Presumably, if this didn't all go to shit, Greg would file a complaint with the Patronage Abuse Society and his name would go on the list for reassignment under the' no fault of his own' clause. He might get a temporary Patron to tide him over until reassignment was complete, that sometimes happened especially if the split had to occur suddenly.

On the other hand if this played out badly, it might be better if Douglas was the killer for Greg to keep quiet because a reassignment due to Patron's criminal activity held no stigma for the protégé.

Greg signaled the turn to the coffee shop and diner and it literally was just around the corner from the lab.

"As this plays out, I want you to remember that you're faultless." Will eased into a parking space, and turned the car off. "Let's get drinks, get something to eat, and get started. It's going to be a long night."

"I don't have much money on me," Greg replied still looking embarrassed. No doubt he had a standard allowance that wasn't that much and the rest of his salary was allocated to savings. Patrons often did that.

"That's okay -- I do. Hannibal is..." Will dug for a word for a moment. "Permissive. I have a great deal of latitude." It was hardly patronage at all, except in mentorship, Will thought sometimes.

Certainly not patronage in the semi-relationship side of things. "You're lucky he's like that," Greg said. "Though I've gotta say, he freaked me out a bit."

"Mmm? I'm always interested in what other people think. Sometimes I lose perspective." Will waited until Greg got out the cat, locked the car with a button press.

"Well, it was like he was a cat watching an amusing mouse," Greg said . "And then talking to my Patron as if reminding him he was a cat as well sort of thing. It was... weird."

"Mmm. Hannibal and I work with the minds of serial killers. Sometimes I wonder if it's infectious – other times, I wonder if it was there before, if we would've been like that regardless. I'm accustomed to it." But it was worrisome, and Hannibal had given that look before under other circumstances.

"Well I'm pretty sure you don't have the mind of a serial killer," Greg said as they walked into the shop. "I know it's not obvious but if tonight was anything to go by I would recognize that look again. If it was him. Maybe."

Will fished into his wallet, pulling out his debit card. "Order what you want, and get some food to settle it."

"Not sure my stomachs up for much," Greg said but nonetheless he ordered a latte and a sandwich. It would keep him going no doubt and they had been out for a meal before.

"I eat when I remember to, so. I remember now." Will smiled at the woman behind the counter, got a croissant sandwich and an espresso.

"Hey, we reminded you yesterday," Greg pointed out as they went to sit down. He looked like he was trying to forget what had just happened to him and his life being in the middle of being turned upside down.

"I still appreciate that." Will nudged Greg over to a side table, two seater, by the window. "So."

"So, if you're right, and I get the impression you are not often wrong..." Greg said as he sat. "You won't be hanging around Vegas long will you?”

"Likely not, no. We live outside of DC. Hannibal has a small practice in the area, and I teach at Quantico, occasionally. Cases have been in the way a great deal recently. I'm being threatened with forced vacation by Hannibal." Will took a sip of his coffee, watching Greg.

"He said something about that at dinner," Greg answered pulling off normal admirably. Most people would think there was nothing wrong at all. "Sounds like you could use it."

"Do you want to come?" It possibly sounded strange, but Will worked like that, moved fast on whims and half-thoughts where other people would linger for years.

Greg laughed. "But you've only known me like... a couple of days Will. You're inviting me on vacation?"

He took a slow sip of his coffee, wondering at what point in his life following through with Hannibal's choices had seemed like the best thing to do. "Hannibal would take you on for patronage."

"Hannibal? But you would be moving away from Vegas. This is where I work." Greg said.

It was a good point. Maybe Hannibal could provide the temporary Patronage as a transition. He didn't want Greg to be alone.

Instead, he said, "You'd be surprised the changes Hannibal would make to make something work, if he wants it. It's just something to consider. There's a safety net."

Greg nodded. "I really appreciate it. It's good to have the offer at least, it makes things a little less scary. I'm going to have to look up what I should do. Maybe, maybe Nick might let me sleep at his later."

"Yeah, you're not going home again." He took a bite, alternating it with the coffee. "I'd suggest we retrieve your things from the house, but right now, the way the case is... It might not matter."

"You think things will happen tonight?"Greg asked looking startled as he picked at his food.

"There was a stray hair at the last scene. It didn't have a skin tag to test DNA, though you ran trace on it and tested for chemicals," Will reminded. "Now we have a suspect..."

"The hormones," Greg realized. "Oh god, if the profile comes back with endogenous hormones..."

That was the answer right there. Greg was quick at least. At least he didn't feel like he was about ten steps ahead of him.

He was just a step, two ahead of him, and that was experience. He could compress experience, share with Greg, bring him up along the learning curve. He *had* the potential, and that a Judge had been patron for Greg and not teaching him the law, not teaching and imparting knowledge on him was a disgrace. "Yes."

"Shit, this really is going to go bad isn't it?" Greg answered. "How am I going to face them in the lab. You don't think me analyzing will be a conflict of interest?"

"I'll ask you to recuse yourself once we're in the lab. That will cover you." *He* had to ask Greg, though, if Greg volunteered... No.

Greg looked uncertain. "What do you think? Should I just go to Jim and tell him everything? I've not got proof or anything."

"I'll go with you," Will volunteered. "You trust Brass?"

"Everyone trusts him," Greg answered. "We know he got put in CSI because he cleaned out his department in New Jersey and it nearly killed him. We're all he’s got."

"We'll talk to him," Will confirmed. Maybe he could by a Patron for Greg. He could see Greg was nervous, though. Once sandwiches were done, they'd go, finish the coffee there, find Brass, or wait for him.

Everything was going to slot into place

Greg was nervous as all hell. While they had been waiting for Brass, the reality of what he was proposing started to hit him. Once he spoke to his boss, there wasn't really any going back. He would be admitting he thought Douglas was a killer and that just seemed crazy. Douglas, the man who liked painting, stuff with his family, doing things with his protégés....

Cutting Greg with a knife.

Will offered to open it for him, and they were both waiting outside of Brass's door when the other man came up. "Sir? Sanders and I would like a word with you."

Jim looked at them both and Greg was pretty sure he was thinking 'Oh god what *now*?’ "A welcoming committee huh? Well you better come in," he said gruffly. Maybe they should have brought him a donut.

Maybe *Greg* shouldn't brought him a donut. Maybe he'd leave him one later in the shift, sneak in if he could. That was a stern look, but Will took the lead, didn't seem to remark on it at all. They followed Brass in, and were quiet until the door closed. "I have a suspect."

"A suspect? On the suicide murder case?" Brass replied sounding a bit skeptical and Greg could understand why. "Where did they come from? thin air?"

"A chance meeting, and our visit to Mrs. Millander's last night. I'm going to need DNA ran, and I'm going to need you to get someone to bring him in. But Greg has to recuse himself from the case."

"He has to do what?" Jim looked at Greg who felt very uncomfortable.

"It might be something to do with my Patron," he said shifting slightly. "I don't want to screw up the case by being involved in processing evidence."

"Jesus..." Jim rubbed his forehead. "Okay, someone tell me this with a few more gaps filled in."

"The Millanders, that's our 1964 August 17th suicide with the one child witness, only ever had a daughter. But Mrs. Millander says their daughter is dead, and that their son inherited his father's propmaking business. Their son Paul. Douglas Mason mentioned having a whipping boy, Paul, who made props. Only Douglas Mason had a sex change operation."

Jim was looking at them both. "This is a bit thin," he said. "You think Paul Millander was Pauline Millander and is now Douglas Mason?"

It did sound a little out there put like that. "That's about the size of it," Greg admitted.

"Has there been anything else to indicate that he might be a serial killer Greg?" Jim asked focused on him.

Will looked at Greg, and then across at Jim. "My patron suspects him, and goaded him into... an act that few patrons would actually try. He cut Greg this morning, but caught himself and left."

"He *cut* you?" Jim sounded incredulous and Greg felt a rush of shame.

"Yeah, uh, it was like someone else was there Jim. It was weird. I mean, like a different person had turned up."

"The FBI keeps Dr. Lecter on retainer precisely because he can coax a weak or dangerous personality into revealing itself." Which was the very professional reason, but it had still looked like two cats making plans about a mouse. He might not be the most perceptive member of the CSI lab but he knew a hungry speculative look when he saw one.

"Look, I know it is not what Patrons are meant to do but Douglas did occasionally want a more intimate service," Greg explained looking down."It was, it was okay. A bit non-vanilla, but okay but last night... tonight, he lost it. Completely."

Jim was staring at him. "You're telling me not only did he assault you tonight but that he has been doing it regularly?"

"No, no, well..." Greg tried to think how to explain. "I mean, I agreed before, he was pretty persuasive, but tonight I really didn't when he got the knife out."

"I need someone to pull him in so I can get a DNA test," Will murmured, watching Brass, and just. Like it was normal when it wasn't, it really really wasn't. "We've already documented Greg's injury."

"Okay." Jim seemed to refocus. "What have we got grounds to do? I'm getting your explanation, but I'm not seeing a whole lot of evidence to get warrants."

"We'll bring him in to process Greg's cut. I have the trace sample, I have the prints from the ashtray and the prints from the fake hand, and the prints I *lifted* from the ash tray," Will offered. "We'll get his DNA, take his prints, run him down tonight. Then we'll have enough to hold him while we get charges together, maybe talk it out of him."

"To do that, Greg is going to have to file a complaint," Jim said. "You want to do that Greg?"

Because it meant saying goodbye to a home he had had for over six years. Effectively betraying a man who had paid his way, looked after him for that time. Over one cut and a load of suspicion.

Greg nodded slowly. "Yeah. Yeah I guess I have to."

"Thank you." Will sat back in the chair he was perched on.

Greg just looked at Brass, who nodded. "Okay. Stay there, and I'll get the paperwork you'll need." Over a cut, over a cut, which felt stupid, but it could've been more if he hadn't begged Douglas off. Maybe he'd be dead if he hadn't gotten through to him.

His mind was just trying to rewrite things so they weren't as bad as he first thought.

"What do you want me to do Jim?" Greg asked.

"Just... write the truth." Brass tapped his desk once, and then he was gone out into the hallway, leaving him with Will.

"Don't discount yourself."

"I'm not discounting myself," Greg said although he wasn't actually sure if he was convincing himself let alone anyone else. "You think I'll have to do a verbal interview as well?"

"That depends." Will half-way started to rifle his pockets, and seemed to stop himself. "Just be honest."

"I'm going to be," Greg said wincing a little. "I, damn it, this is sore."

The cut had looked red, swollen and puffy when they had photographed it.

"The antiseptic still is kicking in." Will knew his way around a first aid kit, which was at least handy.

"I'm worried about Douglas," Greg said. "It's not like him to just take off."

"I suspect he did it to clear his head. So he either headed home and proceeded with things as usual, or..." Will shrugged his shoulder. "Or he's on the run."

"But you said the killer wanted to get caught," he said. "So he wouldn't be running away would he?"

"No. I suspect if he's pre-selected another victim, he'll move on them now -- there's no reason to carefully wait to strike when he's being hotly pursued, nothing to be won by laying low."

"But who might have been selected?" he asked. "He plans, he would have plans but I don't know what they are."

There was something odd about Will's expression. Not cat or mouse, just. Sad, drawn. "August 17th, 1956, Greg."

"That's.... well his birthday is on August 17th," Greg said. "You don't think he'd… he wouldn't would he?"

Would he kill himself? If he was Millander, if he thought his purpose was revealed and the puzzle cracked he might.

"He might. If this was his goal, if he wanted it to be known..." Will tilted his head. "Huh. Shit, stay here, I'll be right back. Going to get a copy of the note and read it again."

Greg just sat , stunned again. He couldn't just sit by if Douglas were trying to kill himself. Justice was one thing but death wasn't the same as justice. What would he do? No, no what would Millander do? It should be obvious, the whole thing should be obvious if they knew his identity. That was the point.

What would Millander do if he were caught? he wasn't Will, but he had brains of his own and where-ever Will was going, Greg sort of knew Paul, from stories. That had to help somehow.

Douglas had always portrayed Paul as a brilliant, underrated artist who had great resentment against his family which was why he needed patronage. He remembered him saying there was no love lost and that oh god, that his mother wanted him to be something he wasn't.

His mother. He started to stand up to leave, when Will came charging back, and Brass rounded the corner. "It's his mother, he's going to go after his mother," Will was saying, carrying the transcript for the suicide tapes.

It matched his own thoughts so clearly he was up and to the corridor. "We've got to stop him. You're right."

"Wait wait, where are you guys going?" Brass whirled to follow.

"Isabelle Millander’s house -- there's no time. Send a squad car, I'm going in!"

And Will was moving and Greg found himself running after him, because damn he could move fast when he moved. He probably popped the stitches but he didn't care. They had get there in time.

Driving in the wake of the patrol car, foot to the floorboard, Will could only wonder why in god's green earth he'd brought Greg. Or let him come, because he was going to have to stay back and he was only in danger, except... on the third hand, Will understood why he was there.

In theory if there was a chance someone could talk Douglas down, it might be Greg. Will was pretty sure Greg hadn't quite figured how close he had come to being killed that night, but he'd talked his way out of it before and if nothing else that was useful if they were heading to a place with a potential hostage.

On a personal level, he knew that he'd want to be there if their positions were reversed.

He would, he'd want to see it through to the end, and he couldn't begrudge Greg that. No sane man could, patronized or not. So he drove fast behind the patrol car, and they peeled into the street in front of the Millander residence. Will barely turned the car off and threw the parking brake on when he got out, pulling his pistol.

Greg was scrambling to keep up but he had the scent, he was in the zone and he wasn't going to stop. He'd apologize if he was wrong but he was pretty much kicking his way into the house before the uniforms were out of the car.

And the metallic blood scent in the air told him he was right and late at the same time.

IT was the worst feeling, sinking in his stomach while he breathed in the blood, slowing now, listening for noise, anything that could tell him there was life in there yet. "Mrs. Millander? Paul? Paul, are you in here?" He slowed, less frantic, using his flashlight over his gun as a pair, scanning the house from a new point of view.

"Oh shit.." Greg whispered behind him and he needed to stay the hell out of there.

He wouldn't be here would he? Maybe in the bathroom

"Greg, wait in the car. Just... go wait in the car." He didn't look over his shoulder to check, walking steadily through the front room, dining room. Ah, there was Isabella Millander. Dead at her table for two.

"You need back up," he said and he didn't have time for this. Greg halted by the table locked in place by the sight of the corpse, still warm.

Time to head upstairs. He would be there somewhere. Maybe the bathroom or his old room.

Given the location of the previous bodies, Will was willing to bet the bathroom. He'd have himself laid out as a tidy suicide, or Will would buy a hat to go eat. Jaw set, he started to carefully go up the stairs, not touching the handrail.

He heard a click of trigger as he nudged the door.

"Agent Graham, you are too late," came the soft voice he recognized.

"Don't do it. You don't have to do it." He had the gun in hand, though, up to his temple, and that made Will tense, because it could just as easily point at him.

"I do. I have to. He's too strong now," he smiled a little sadly. "You caught Paul and that's the cue to bow out before Paul becomes all that I am. Tell Greg...tell Greg I'm sorry? "

Will stepped forward, carefully, reaching a hand out. "No, we can get you help. There are people who could help you, if you just... give me the gun, Douglas. Think about your wife, about Craig."

"I love them all which is why I have to do this," Douglas said not moving anything but his eyes. Tears were wet on his cheeks but his dark gaze didn't waver. "You should understand what it is to live with something uncontrollable every goddamn day. When you try and understand how it could be missed by a trained observer, you look at your own life. "

He could hear someone running up the stairs and Greg's frantic call of "Douglas!"

"Okay, I'll do that, but I need you to, to, please, just give me the gun..." It was awkward, gun and flashlight in one hand, and he knew that if he needed to pull the trigger with his hand like that he was going to fuck it up, but his free hand he reached to try to grab Millander's wrist.

If it weren't for Greg practically skidding in the door and Mason's instinctive flicker of attention to the door he would never have made the lunge that pushed the gun clear.

A shot rang out, mercifully not thudding into brain matter but then Douglas was fighting him like a demon to try and finish the job.

Will threw the gun across the room, and dropped his because that was what Millander wanted, but in a hand to hand fight Will fought harder, getting Douglas's wrists, trying to twist them behind him in the small space of the old clawfoot style bathtub. "Get my cuffs, Greg, grab my cuffs from my belt!"

He could feel him fumbling with them, and it all got a bit confusing because the uniforms were in yelling at him to stand down but Paul would want suicide by cop just as much if he could and it was down to them and the punching, and Greg practically falling in on top of him trying to get the cuffs there.

"He wants you to shoot, he wants to die -- I outrank you all, don't make me have your asses publically beaten," Will yelled, sharply, feeling and hearing the cuffs click into place. Finally, and he started to haul Douglas -- Paul? No, Douglas was the one who wanted to die so badly -- up out of the tub.

"Stop fighting Doug, please," Greg was pleading with him. "Please, just stop."

Mason was refusing to look at his protégé and thank god the officers backed down. It made it easier to get him secure and into custody.

Will had him by the cuffs, and gestured to Greg. "Hand me my gun, please. Flashlight's beside it." Then he could more securely frog-march him down the stairs, with the police flanking.

Greg did so without hesitation and a glance saw that he was pale with shock himself. Douglas Mason was barely responsive now and it was like he had overloaded, not having been able to release the pressure by killing himself.

"Maximum security sir?" the officer asked as if it weren't obvious.

"Suicide watch. Understand? No clothing he can hang himself with, no bed linens he can hang himself with, I want this done right." They struggled down the stairs, slowly, but without Douglas fighting it was... it was anticlimactic, almost, except CSI was going to be coming in, and Greg couldn't process any of it. Maybe he couldn't process what had just happened.

"Shit. " Greg said in a shaking voice. "...Shit, I didn't really think..."

But he must have done at least in part.

Somewhere, in the back of his head, he'd thought it. Will only reluctantly passed Douglas over to the police, and then stood there in the doorway, feeling restless and vacant, because this was where he usually wiped his hands of it, filed a few reports and tried to cut it away and stop. "He'll be okay. You did good, Greg."

"It was all just speculation and now I've lost him and Isabelle and Craig and I'm gonna have to file for a temporary Patron," Greg muttered. "And that's selfish because there's a victim downstairs."

"We can't do anything for her, except process the scene and bring charges against him appropriately. You need to focus on you." Will put a hand on his shoulder. "We'll wait for CSI, and then I'll take you back to the lab."

"Are you staying to process or heading back?" Greg asked steadying a little at the touch.

"I'll take you back and then come back to process," Will murmured. "It's a quick drive, and I left my kit in the lab."

"Are you sure?" Greg asked but he looked hopeful. "I don't want to screw this up."

"Nothing to screw up," Will assured, because he really *wasn't* going outside of any boundaries with driving Greg back. "I promise."

Greg nodded and waited as the place was secured and Will was ready. He was not meeting anyone's eye, and Will suspected he would have a tough time of it back at the lab. People would want to know exactly what he had said. How could he not have known?

'You should understand what it is to live with something uncontrollable every goddamn day. When you try and understand how it could be missed by a trained observer, you look at your own life.'

It left Will wondering, a thought that he wasn't going to be able to shake.

People kept telling him to just take it easy, they were dealing with it, but he'd worked through the other cases that had come in, had no backlog that didn't involve this case and had been effectively stuffed in the corner and given coffee and told to stay out of the way. Nicely.

Problem was if he wasn't busy, he started thinking. He started thinking and he started to see the glint of knife, the cold dark eyes like a shark. He started thinking about Paula and how the hell he had missed it, about Craig and Isabelle how they were going to cope without him there. What would they say when they knew it was him who had helped? Why had he done all of this, why had Douglas done this and…

He had no clue. Will had said he'd take care of it, but that meant, Will didn't *know* Greg, there was no reason for Will to not just jet off now that the bad guy had been apprehended, and go on vacation in Vienna.

"Hey." Nick's voice almost startled him.

He nearly jumped - at the least it was a twitch. "Oh, hey Nick," he said trying to sound normal. It sounded weird and strained even to him.

"Hey. We finished up at the scene. Brass is getting the paperwork on what happened tied to a request for temporary patronage for you. You'll just need to sign it when he's done." Nick sat down beside him in the corner, which made it a very small corner.

The thought of the paperwork made him freak quietly. "Oh yeah, that's great," he said trying to sound grateful. He was, he really was but he signed that and...well it was like a divorce paper. His Patronage contract had been more successful than most of the marriages he knew.

And then it was going to be over, except Douglas had tried to *kill* himself, he'd had a gun to his own head, and Greg had seen that. There was no other way to interpret that, not even hopefully. "No, it sucks. But." Nick hunched his shoulders in a rough approximation of a shrug.

"But I've got to suck it up and be a man about it is what everyone's thinking isn't it?" Greg blurted out. "Because I should have noticed something, I should have been stopping things. Ecklie will probably suggest that I was maybe his accomplice and then I'm completely screwed because I'll lose the job, lose patronage, be landed with no home, no nothing!"

"... Actually, I was just going to ask if you wanted to come home with me until shit get straightened out." Nick's mouth was a wry quirk. "You know, how *would* you notice it?"

Greg could feel himself flush. "F...shit. " The relief that he wasn't going to be trying to sleep under the lab table was immense and his hands started to shake. "Thanks. Seriously, I'm sorry I'm just not sure what to think at the moment." He had to blink a lot because his eyes were stinging a little.

"Someone in the department will take you on." Nick patted his shoulder, still watching him. "Just... don't think. Vartaan'll be in tomorrow to get a long statement and that'll be enough thinking."

"They were my family, you know?" Greg said aloud almost to himself. "I mean, there's Craig and Isabelle as well, I've been doing everything for them for years. What are they going to think?"

"That daddy's crazy?" Nick was reaching for humor but not quite getting it. "It's not your fault, but I know you feel responsible for it. It's still not your fault."

"I should have noticed," he answered. "I really should have known. I mean, how could I have not noticed he was killing people in his spare time. I was most of the spare time."

"And what did he say when he wasn't with you?" Nick just took that and rolled with it and oh, god, he was going to have to explain himself with that, wasn't he?

"Well he liked to go around sales, or go get some inspiration for his art," he said unsteadily. "And stuff."

"Then he had an alibi. And he came back with art stuff, and ideas, right? You don't generally assume that comes from murder sprees." No, not usually, not even unusually.

"Yeah, but I look for this sort of thing for a living," Greg said. "I was too involved." He winced not wanting to explain that. Not to vanilla Nick, or even Catherine who might understand. Shit, it was going to be in the statement, he couldn't avoid that.

There was no way to avoid that. "You were his protégé." Nick was willing to wave off anything, and Greg wasn't sure why he was fighting it. "Seriously, if you look for it at home..."

"I just know people are thinking it," he said morosely. "I mean Will picked it up almost immediately. I know I should be grateful but I pretty much feel like I want to puke my guts up."

"Will picked it up immediately because that's what we bring him in for. Brass said he just started babbling and then you two ran off for the scene..." Nick shifted, stood up smoothly. "Okay, I'm going to grab Brass for that paperwork."

"Okay," Greg agreed because what else could he do? He was pretty much in shock and suspected that he was going to go through rage, desperation and all the stages of grieving because in a way that's what he was doing. "Sorry, Nick."

"No apologies. I'll grab you a soda." He stepped back, stepped out into the hallway, and Greg was alone with his bizarrely restless feeling. He needed to at least *see* the family. Even in passing.

They might even be here somewhere, being questioned. Isabelle might be shocked but she knew some of her husbands tastes and presumably more of his issues than he did. Craig, shit, Craig wouldn't have a clue. He would just wonder why the person who got him from school, made his dinners, helped with his homework, took him to everything he did, played ball with him suddenly wasn't there.

He decided to head briefly to the bathroom. The coffee in his stomach had turned a bit acid on him. Nick'd figure out where to look for him, and he needed a few minutes, a few hours, maybe, to just... work through it. Because it was over, and the Mason family as it had been was dust, and it wasn't his fault, except it kinda was.

He slipped out of the room, trying hard to avoid anyone and everyone, but trying to preserve his dignity enough that he didn't fling himself out of the way when someone headed up the corridor. No, head down and he reached the bathroom like it was some sort of safe haven.

Then he went into a cubicle, put the lid down and locked the door before sitting there trying to fight the shakes, the nausea and the stinging in his eyes that welled up the moment he wasn't in view.

Just a little space, a little quiet to get his shit together. That was all he needed, just... breathing room. It took a few breaths, felt his chest hitch and clenched his jaw. It was stupid, and he'd never cried at work before.

Just when he thought he was going to lose it, he heard the door open and the thought of someone out there made him freeze. He didn't want to sink his reputation completely, it wasn't that high at the best of times.

He heard the bathroom door swing shut, and thought, briefly, about pulling his legs up into the stall. He didn't, though, because it was a little late. Leaning to peer through the space in the door, he saw Will's funny bow-legged stance while he ran water at the sink tap, splashing his face with it.

Safe then. He decided to emerge because Will was someone who was that strange combination of trusted and yet enough of a stranger he didn't feel embarrassed behaving differently in front of him.

He opened the door and stepped out. "Hey."

There was one sharp moment where Will jerked, half-spun on him like he was going to attack, and then relaxed, and it was gone into nothing. His eyes were oddly red. "Shit. Hi. I'm sorry."

“You okay?" he asked, concern blocking out some of his fears. "You look like I feel."

"I went down to the station to interview Douglas. He's in the ER right now." There were steps missing in the middle, and Will's mouth was pulled down miserable and tight while he looked at Greg. "I'm sorry. I'm, fuck. Do you want a ride over?"

"What?" Greg blinked not quite getting why Douglas would be in the ER. "Wait, wha- how? He was fine, he was fine, we stopped him and he was okay -why is he in the ER?"

"He stabbed himself in the throat with a pen he grabbed off a table. I didn't move fast enough. It was, he did a thorough job on himself." Will was rubbing at the side of his jaw, absently, and there was still blood in the edges of his nails that Greg could see. Shit.

"Oh God, oh my god..." He could see it all to vividly in his mind. Blood spurting everywhere. He should have known from the amount of people who managed to accidentally kill themselves with completely innocuous items that if Douglas was really determined he'd find a way.

There was no such thing as an effective suicide watch when a man was as cunning as Douglas was. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." Will was half-hugging him, and he wasn't sure when he'd gotten that close, but all Greg could smell was the antiseptic Will had probably used to wash Douglas's blood off of his hands.

And now strangely he was too stunned to cry. "Is he still alive? You said he was in the ER?" They should go. They should go and maybe if they got there in time he could say something. Anything.

He didn't know what he'd say, but he needed to know, needed to say... something. Will moved, pulled away, wiping damp hands on a quick towel and starting for the door. "He's in the ER. I'll drive. He's, it's bad."

Greg nodded and for the second time that night he was rushing off somewhere with Will. Brass might just decide to kill him himself.

The hotel room was empty when Will arrived at the hotel, finally, at about 4pm, his eyes heavy-lidded, and just a little strung out feeling about the whole thing.

At least he'd gotten Greg there before Millander had died.

He wasn't a sentimental man in many ways -- his king cobra nickname was a testament to his supposed cold bloodedness -- but he couldn't help be affected by Greg’s very evident upset. He'd watched him hold onto the man’s hand as his Patron looked at him silently and eventually closed his eyes with an expression somewhat akin to peace and then just... died.

The fact that there hadn't been a dramatic reaction from Greg had somehow spoken louder than hysterical grief. He'd stood there holding his hand, not moving, and Will could see him swallow and turn towards him and just say, "Thanks," very quietly.

He didn't know what to do with that. He just... didn't, so he'd nodded slightly and stayed with Greg and when he'd wanted to leave, he'd called Nick and gotten directions to Nick's house to drop Greg there. He arranged on his own to get Greg's things out of the Mason house, and he needed to deliver those the next day at work. He was just.... tired. Tired and worn thin. The FBI, locally, wanted him to stay, just to put their solve rate up. He figured they were going to get it done by dragging ass on paperwork.

If they stayed a bit, they could act as interim Patron for Greg and there was something that pulled at him to do that. To protect him. There was something about Greg that made him feel again. Feel what he wasn't sure, because they felt unusual emotions to him now but he didn't want to lose that. And that meant convincing Hannibal.

That meant waiting for Hannibal to come back from where ever he was, and fighting sleep to stay conscious long enough to talk to him. He started to toe off his shoes, contemplating a shower to stall and keep himself awake a little longer.

This had been relatively run of the mill for him. He hadn't had long enough to get too deep into the mindset so he shouldn't feel shaken but Douglas... Millander had been a clever if desperate man. He'd wanted to be caught, he had believed in justice and wanted it to exist. To the right mind, the way to him was signposted.

"A successful conclusion I hear," Hannibal said as he came in. He could move with surprising stealth sometimes.

"Mason killed himself after he was in custody." Will continued on towards the bathroom, leaving the door open as he shrugged out of his suit coat, and ran hands back through his hair. "Sanders needs a patron."

Hannibal smiled. "Subtlety still evades you," he said as he went to pour himself a glass of wine. "And your point is?"

"Subtlety was never on my to-do list. I want you to apply for temporary patronage." He might as well be blunt about it, because there was no sense and never had been any in trying to play Hannibal.

"Which would mean staying in Vegas a while." It was interesting that was what Hannibal picked up as the obstacle. "What will Jack Crawford do without you?"

"Jack can go fuck himself." He started to pull his shirt off, hands shaking a little. "The Vegas FBI would get orders done for a brief sabbatical out here. They offered twice just today. There's a pile of cold cases someone needs to plow though, even if it's just to write them up and file them away again. Behavioral sci's been blowing them off for years."

"Mmm, an interesting thought," Hannibal said entering and put a glass of wine in his hand. "Well, tell me why I should want another protégé when I have one of my own already."

Will took the wineglass, and wondered for a moment when he became the sort of man who drank wine in a hotel bathroom. "You liked the look of Greg."

"Yes, but I like the look of many things," Hannibal said. "I do not bring them all home."

"You want to bring Greg home. I'm almost done, after all. How much longer is it...?" Hannibal kept track, where Will mostly concentrated on remembering what month it was.

"Officially? 47 days," Hannibal answered sipping his wine. "But I believe you were considering staying?"

"No contract, though." Will sometimes thought that was part of the appeal for Hannibal, the contract. Then again, would things change without it?

"Well then," Hannibal was looking at him shrewdly. "I have never heard you ask on behalf of someone before."

Will took a sip of wine. "He interests me. He... I can't explain it. I respond to him."

"Yes, I noticed. And does he respond to you?" Hannibal queried raising his eyebrows.

"Yes." He took another sip, and started to unbuckle his pants.

"Then there appears to be no particular reason why I could not accommodate your desire," he replied and that was an easy capitulation for Hannibal. He usually bargained.

"That's oddly easy," Will murmured, watching Hannibal for a moment, just appraising his face. "Why?"

"Because I believe it will be an interesting experience," Hannibal said. "You itch to teach him don't you?"

"It would be interesting. It..." He had so much potential, and his previous patron hadn't been *teaching*, and that was wrong.

"Well, you do deserve a reward," Hannibal said. "Once again you have shown yourself worthy. But they do say if you would truly learn then you should teach so perhaps this can be the last step in your development."

"I'd like to teach," Will confirmed, "and Greg's bright. He has it, he has that intangible quality, and it doesn't make sense to let it waste."

"It is a rare thing," Hannibal agreed sipping his wine. "A very rare thing. Many are bright but lack it. Jack has intelligence but he lacks the essential mystery ingredient. You do not."

Will took another, deeper sip of his wine. "For all the good it does. I didn't get this one in time, and I feel... adrift." He was disassociating, which was worse in a lot of ways than feeling too much.

"Tsk, we can't have that can we? No, a project like the young bright and so eager to please Greg will be beneficial," Hannibal said decisively. "Do you need another shower? If so I will register my intention to support Greg in the interim."

"Yes. There's still blood on my hands." Literally and metaphorically, and he just wanted to soak in soap for a few minutes, sink into a bath and drink a little and maybe he'd start feeling again. And not thinking about watching Millander grab for the pen and stab himself so hard in the throat that Will had expected it to come out the other side.

"Then go. Relax, and we will stay for a while and teach Vegas a little about culture," Hannibal murmured touching him gently on the back of the neck again as he often did. "And you will have a young friend to deal with."

"I want to see how you try to teach Vegas about culture." Will nodded, though, stepped out of his pants and set his wineglass down on the counter. He'd shut the bathroom door, but only to keep the heat in.

"Ah well, a few pointed remarks in the right ear," Hannibal commented. "I'll go and call now. Strike while the iron is hot, so to speak."

"Thank you." He watched Hannibal turn smoothly, starting to hum a little to himself. It left Will feeling at ends, but he could soak himself in soap and hot water for a while and maybe that would make it all better.

It would wash away the physical remains of death even if it couldn't scrub out the memories. But he hadn't been able to do that in his entire career, so he wasn't going to expect it to start now.

He'd heard of people being stunned by shock and grief and he hadn't really appreciated what it meant. Now he did; everything felt like that moment after you get a severe blow to the head, all surreal and distant and nauseatingly wrong.

Food was just not something he could deal with at the moment and he wasn't sure if he was giving the lab his money's worth tonight, but he was here because he had to be. Protégés did not miss work -- they couldn't afford it or the punishment that might come with it if it was deemed unnecessary absence. He was completely adrift and all he could see and remember was Douglas' eyes looking at his just before they closed as simply as if he had been going to sleep.

And then that had been it. That had been the strange end to a life that had seemed a lot more... vibrant than that. Greg wasn't sure what he wanted to call it, how he'd missed it, *that* he'd missed it. Will had caught on almost right away about Greg's patron.

There was guilt and pain and was it right to feel grief for a murderer? Even that felt tainted somehow. Not only that be he felt like he had been cast out of the family had had known for so long. They had taken him on and he had been a part of their lives and there he was sleeping on a friends couch, stumbling his way through work feeling insecure. He half wondered about what Will had said about his Patron but that had been before Douglas had died.

That had been when Douglas was still a suspect, when he'd been trying to talk Greg into cooperating, and he'd heard a couple of rumors about Graham that he hadn't listened to -- that he was cold, that he'd do anything to solve a case, that most of his suspects ended up dead. It made Greg wonder.

It didn't quite match with the impression he had of the man, but then he might be considered naive and a little too trusting.

His machinery beeped, spitting out a print out that he glanced over. Ordinarily he would have been bouncing off the wall to get the result as it cracked the case but right now it filled him with dread because it meant paging someone and having to talk to them

He didn't *want* to have to interact with anyone. Nick was being almost too nice, and Brass kept *looking* at him and he never knew what to say to Catherine... But he still had to page the case leader, and that was Catherine.

It was a sign that they must be worried because no one was standing over his shoulder poking at him for results. Still, he didn't want a caning on top of his problems so he paged her and just went through the motions of setting up the next example. It just proved he could do this job on autopilot.

He was good enough at it that he didn't need to worry. Greg fidgeted, glanced up a little when he heard Catherine's heels coming down the hall.

"You have the results already?"

Already? It was probably slow for him. "Yeah." No witty repartee, no fanfare, just a pass over of the sheet. "Congratulations, you have a murderer."

"Woo?" Catherine lifted her eye brows at him, and reached for the results sheet. "How're you?"

"Fine." Short abrupt and implicit with go away and leave me alone. "I'm fine."

"Greg, if you need anything..." Yeah, right. Just, yeah, right. They'd all made their way whoever they did it and they were all done and no one honestly meant that.

"Got a new life in your pocket?" he asked and that really wasn't fair of him, he knew it. "Chances are Catherine I won't be able to stay here much longer. I ended up moved here when I lost my last Patron. And now having lost 2, who's going to take me on?"

"Someone will cut you a break, Greg. You're a fantastic worker, and once you've paid out..." He'd be a *really* fantastic worker and he'd probably be able to rake in the big bucks, which, yeah, had made it easy to cope with the ups and downs of day to day life. "Someone will cut you a break."

"Sure." That's the way it would work if life was fair, but so far he had a lot of evidence to the contrary. "Sure they will." He looked away, because Catherine was too perceptive and knowing.

"We'll take you out to breakfast after shift." So he'd get at least one good meal that didn't involve trying to surreptitiously scrounging through Nick's fridge because he didn't want to *ask*.

It was faintly ridiculous. He was in a specialized job earning money but he had to fulfill the patronage contracts otherwise he had nothing. There was no getting out of it.

"Thanks," he said meaning it. "Uh, how's the case going?"

His case, his own case.

"Graham is winding it up tight, and we're still running the evidence on days and swing, so, could be finished in the next day or two. I'm sorry it happened that way, Greg. I know, we all knew Judge Mason. No one thought for a second..."

"Will did," Greg said, looking at her. "He saw something right away. I don't know how. I wish I knew how because..."

He could have stopped him.

And maybe Douglas would've been alive, still. Instead of him panicking when Douglas had cut him, and calling Will. "Yeah, I don't know how that guy thinks. It's something else. I don't think anyone else would've ever figured it out."

Greg shrugged. "Nothing I could do about it now," he said. His mood was all over the place. All he had left of Douglas was memories and a scar from the sore cut over the width of his stomach.

"I'm sure someone will take you on as a temporary, if not to finish out your contract." Catherine had the paper in hand, and Greg could read the body signals, though -- she wanted to leave, wanted to go work and in her mind she was halfway out the door.

He nodded and said, "See you later," because he hadn't wanted the conversation in the first place. They had more important things to do with their time.

There was work, and work, and work. And there was more work. And wondering what the hell he was going to do. Move, maybe, which was almost okay because then no one would know what happened in the first place. Unless someone told them.

He wasn't sure for quite how long he worked after that, before he heard Brass's voice.

For a moment he thought he was just talking as he went past the lab but then he looked up. Shit he was heading in to see him with some people he didn't recognize.

"Mr. Sanders is in here," he was saying as they came in.

The Patronage Society, and Greg didn't recognize either of them, but he knew right away what they were. The stiff posture was the first hint, and it made him sit up straighter in his chair for a moment before he remembered to stand up. "Mr. Sanders. Are you still able and willing to fulfill the remainder of your contract?"

"Uh, yes?" If he said no he would be without a home, and any money would be confiscated to pay off any outstanding training. He would be homeless and completely without resources.

"You will come with us to the society house for the signature of your paperwork. Your temporary patronage has been petitioned for." That was an interesting bit of phrasing there, and he wanted to look to Brass to see what he thought of the mess.

"You got permission to go," Jim said looking at him. "Looks like you made an impression Greg."

"Am I allowed to know who has petitioned?" he asked wondering if Jim's words meant what he thought.

"Doctor Hannibal Lecter." The Patron society representative inclined his head fractionally. "Please come with us."

Lecter? Will had done as he had promised then. He felt a small burst of warmth in his chest at that. "Uh, sure, hold on.." Will didn't count as a stranger; Lecter freaked him out a little but Will he trusted.

He'd manage, and it *would* only be temporary, he was sure, but at least that was breathing room for him. It was *time*, and he needed that to find someone who was going to stay in Vegas who wanted him. He started to pack up for the day, close up what he was doing.

It didn't take long. He hadn't been leaving anything lying around just working and working and working.

"Okay, ready. Assuming I sign when do I start?" he asked even as they all headed out the door.

"Today," the man said. "We'll have your belongings transferred, and I believe Mr. Lecter is renting a house which we will deliver them to."

As soon as that? "I... thanks, that's really quick," he acknowledged. Maybe they had room already there.

"Some people move without hesitance." He shadowed the two out the door, started to walk with them towards the bland society-owned suv. All he had to do was keep from crossing any lines, and he'd get transferred over smoothly.

It was, it seemed, really as simple as going along, signing a form and just like that he had a new place to stay and a new temporary Patron. It was likened to being in temporary foster care, while they sorted out something more suitable. Once it was all stamped and recorded the Patronage Society officials even went as far as to take him to his 'new' home and deliver him to his new Patron.

Greg was still uncertain as to what to do as his personal effects - what few of them existed were in the process of being picked up so he stood there as the officials exchanged pleasantries and felt a little like an abandoned puppy being rehomed.

All he needed was a forever home, except.... maybe just a forever until the end of his contract home. It was weird, weirder than when he was transferred to the Masons, but Greg watched Hannibal, watched the officials. The doorway they were standing in led into a beautiful house -- a little barren, some sort of pre-furnished vacation house, Greg guessed, clean and pretty inside. Wooden floors and walls that were probably temperature smart or something. It seemed that kind of place.

"Thank you. As I already assured you, my protégé is more than comfortable with this arrangement, as he was the catalyst for my applying. There won't be any problems."

"Understood Dr. Lecter. It can be difficult in some cases if an original protégé feels they are being replaced," the brusque woman official said. "We appreciate your time and your effort and will endeavor to find him a permanent placement shortly."

"By all means, please consider me for the permanent placement. My protégé is coming to the end of his tenure, and while I expect he will take some time to transition, again, I don't foresee any problems." Hannibal was all courteous smiles, and Greg was trying to not feel ratcheted up and tense, after what had just happened with Douglas.

That hadn't been anticipated and he didn't want to move from Vegas unless he had to. That was the crux of the matter. But then maybe it would be best.

"I will make that note Dr. Lecter, thank you. Have a pleasant day."

The officials left and he was there standing like an idiot. He needed to get himself together.

"Thank you Dr. Lecter, I appreciate you taking me on," he said as politely as he could. "Would you like to tell me what you expectations and duties will be?"

"Why don't you come in and sit down, first." He gestured Greg into the living room. "Would you like a cup of coffee?"

"Sure. I can make that for you if you show me where everything is?" he suggested because he had done all of that at the Mason's - got drinks, made the food, cleaned up, done the shopping, looked after Craig.

"Ah? Well, I'll show you how to use an espresso machine, then. William makes dreadful coffee. It can be, politely, described as a close cousin of the Turkish variety." Hannibal gestured again that Greg go before him -- down a short hall towards a brightly lit kitchen. For all that the place seemed bare, he could smell food already cooking, and the kitchen was extraordinary -- copper kettles and pans, more equipment than he'd ever seen. "I prefer to do my own cooking, though I'm happy to teach you."

"I did all of the family cooking for Douglas so I'm okay," Greg said going for modesty because after 6 years and punishment if he screwed up he was more than just okay, but this was the sort of equipment used by experts. "But this looks like the real deal here... you must be on a par with a trained chef Dr Lecter. I would be happy to take instruction from you."

That was what Patronage was about after all.

"Ah, we may be starting from a higher baseline than I did with Will, then. William needed to learn that 'poptarts' wasn't a foodgroup similar to fruits and vegetables." Whatever was slowly simmering on the stove, covered with a lid, did smell good. It was heavy with rosemary, and... tarragon, maybe? Greg almost startled when Hannibal handed him a small coffee carafe. "Here, fill this with water from the filter."

That was easy enough to do and to remember so he did so, still feeling nervous. "How do you like your coffee?"

"Ah, this isn't coffee -- this is espresso. I take mine Cortado, which is one to one espresso with a good crema and steamed milk. William takes his cubano, or con leche." There was almost a wicked twinkle in Hannibal's eyes when he added, "When we're done with you, if nothing else, you'll be able to run your own coffee shop."

"Probably make more than as a DNA technician," he answered with a brief smile. There was something almost magnetic about Hannibal. "If you could show me, I'll be able to do it in future."

"That's the attitude I like." He gestured Greg over to a small espresso machine. Small but impressive, and started first with showing Greg where the water went in and where the coffee went in, and how to tamp the coffee just right, the full line, and all of the functionalities. He moved smoothly, and slid two small cups under the drips, not turning anything on yet. "You only use metal to steam the milk in. If you could open the fridge and get the milk out..."

Greg moved to the fridge and had the odd sensation that Hannibal was watching his ass. Will had implied... well pretty much said that he and Hannibal were together and that had been the source of the unease but he covered it as he brought it back. "There's obviously an art to this."

"And a science. Knowing the measurements to balance off other ingredients, knowing your chemicals -- the beans, the amount of creme in the milk, the dissolve rate of the sugar. It can be very scientific." And yet he poured the milk, measuring by eye it seemed, into the metal container. "There we are."

He had a good memory and tried to store it. "I admit I like good coffee. I had as a gift some Blue Hawaiian - that was wonderful," he admitted as he watched closely. The ability to make a good coffee or espresso was something very useful.

"I source mine from Brazil. It's quite good, though I do try different locations and blends regularly." He inclined his head slightly, turning the machine on. "I know you're worried about your duties. I honestly ask very little. Tidiness, mindfulness when I have a patient in my study, though I won't be taking many consultations on here, and an open mind."

Greg frowned. "So you don't want me to do the chores? " He wouldn't know what to do with himself. "I did pretty much all of it before?"

"And what did that do for your personal growth?" Hannibal asked. "We take turns with boring necessities like laundry and such, and it's usually a quick affair. It should not be a focus in your life."

Greg looked down. "I guess it made me responsible and taught me organizational skills." And how to get by on exhaustion. He smiled a little because not being solely responsible for everything was quite a relief, especially now when he was sure he would screw up in his distraction.

"That is a positive spin to things. No, we spend our days, or nights, or whatever free time there is, relaxing, discussing, learning. William was a brilliant, but unfocused mind when he came to me. He's an editecker -- a true snapshot memory. It can't be taught, but there are methods and techniques to expand and organize your memories, if you are interested." He was working the espresso machine again, and Greg just watched as he moved the levers.

"Well, yeah," he said immediately. "I mean, I've got a good memory but it's not the same as a photographic memory. Wow, no wonder he's so good at things. He must remember every detail."

"Every detail. He can revisit a memory years later, and notice new details, as if browsing a photograph. He can mimic the emotions of a moment, of a killer. He feels very deeply, because he can't forget how very human even murders are." Hannibal tapped the side of the coffee cup gently, and checked the milk as it steamed.

Greg blinked. Okay that had to be really tough. "But isn't that dangerous to him?" he asked before realizing that might be seen as a criticism.

"Yes. It's part of why he's fit in so well as my protégé. I enjoy the finer things in life, the creature comforts that so many people dismiss. It does alleviate the stress from William, and when that has not been enough, there have been brief hospital internments. Earlier in his career. William did not... need to sign up for this third term of patronage under me. He had certainly worked himself free during his second set. But I worry how he will fare without someone looking out for his best interests."

Not taken as criticism, and Hannibal handed Greg a small cup of coffee. "Now, hold this, and I'll add the milk."

He did so. "So you really look after Will as opposed to utilize his services?" That seemed like the ideal relationship.

"Yes. I enjoy having someone to teach, and share the creature comforts with. Now, taste that. If you need sugar, don't be ashamed. It's in the covered ceramic bowl beside refrigerator. I'll meet you in the living room. I would like to learn more about *you*." And yet Greg knew nothing about *him*.

He sipped it. It was strong but good. "Mmm." How was he going to get to know him without talking too much about himself. He wasn't that interesting.

He stepped into the living room.

He didn't know what Hannibal was doing in the kitchen -- tidying, likely, because he seemed to be a tidy, self-contained kind of person. He had a little bit of an accent, and Hannibal wasn't really a standard American name like Greg or Jim or Will or Nick was.

He couldn't even really get clues about him or Will from this place as it was temporary and not their home. He looked around to see what they had brought with them and it seemed to be not a lot. Some books, some music - one or other of them favored the classical and he suspected it was Hannibal.

Will, and he was guessing it was Will, seemed to prefer bad power rock, which made Greg smile a little as he looked over it. So, Will was allowed to have his tastes in music. That was good. The meatloaf CD, not so much, but it still made Greg want to laugh. "Ah, yes. Music. We have a very good sound system at home." The sudden sound of his voice almost startled Greg, because he hadn't heard him coming in.

"I take it you enjoy music?" he asked trying to remain polite and alert. "I think your tastes are more refined than mine and Will's."

"I'm older than you both." He seemed to reflect on it for a moment, and added, "Possibly older than the two of you combined. When I grew up, my parents had a phonograph, and it was a symbol of their status in society to even have one. We had a wireless, of course, as well, but the phonograph..." He gestured with one of the CDs. "Something is missing in the sound of these things."

"I haven't experienced it," Greg admitted. "But Poppa Olaf said that about vinyl. You like classical?"

"It felt a little less... historical back then," Hannibal said, a faint smile at the edge of his mouth. "But yes. My favorite is Bach's Goldberg Variations. I play myself, but there are some strange fingerings to deal with." He held his left hand up, and Greg noticed it for the first time -- six fingers. Two of them were middle, and they looked perfectly normal.

He wanted to say wow, but thought that might be impolitic. "That would require some adjustment. I'm afraid I can't play a musical instrument."

"I promise to not hold it against you. Will only dabbles when it amuses him." Hannibal set the CD down, and seemed to be inspecting the place for himself, as well. "So, Gregor. Tell me about yourself. Your hopes and dreams."

"Uh, well my family came over from Norway and had nothing pretty much. I was the only son but we had no money to put me through education so I went into Patronage. Douglas was my second Patron and I got through University with my Masters early and I wanted to get into forensics and solving crime. So I did."

"Why?" It wasn't really a simple question, and Greg knew it. "And what do you want to do when you're done?"

"Not sure why," Greg answered. "I liked science, I was good at science and studying it was cool because things made, but at the end of it pure science was dry. I like the puzzles, the putting things together and making a difference for people. I've seen enough in the lab to know it does make a difference."

"Yes, that was why Will entered forensics. He wanted to help, and not just in an esoteric, three steps removed way." Hannibal leaned against the edge of the desk, surveying Greg. "He tells me that you have a naturally quick learning to you. I think he sees himself in you."

"Really?" Greg was surprised at that. "But Will is a legend, a real legend in the field. He catches the uncatchable. I don't think I could do what he does."

"I think you could, functionally, become rather close. Will could compress the experiential learning for you, as he has the makings of an excellent teacher. You'll never exactly do what he does, but doing it his way has handicaps." Hannibal took another sip of coffee. "Imagine that sort of quick weaving together of the puzzle pieces, without the commiserate nervous breakdowns."

"There must be some way to help him," he answered and considered. "What causes the breakdowns?"

"Psychologically, Will is an interesting profile. I'm sure you've heard it described that, say on a political spectrum, at some point the very far left and the very far right shake hands and agree on everything but their labels. Will is the other side of the coin from a serial killer. And that knowledge disturbs him a great deal." And Hannibal seemed so very calm about it.

"So you're saying Will is on the same behavioral spectrum as a serial killer?" Greg said a little alarmed. "Really? How... where did that come from?"

"Is it nature or is it nurture?" Hannibal rolled his shoulders. "Where a budding serial killer kills small animals, Will is an amateur veterinarian. When we're in residence back home, he brings home stray animals that by all rights he should've called animal control for."

"That's not the same as being a serial killer though," Greg answered. "Will wouldn't do that." He was sure of that; kill in defense, well a lot of people he knew and cared for had done that but not is part of a compulsive serial killer obsession.

"No, it's not. But I wonder what impulses he feels and doesn't talk about that compels him to be quite so frightened of that outcome. Perhaps he has urges to that end regularly, and exhibits magnificent restraint. I've seen it, that hesitance. He always wants to pull the trigger before he needs to, before it can be justified." Hannibal set his coffee cup down, folding his hands. "He'll never hurt you. Or me. I'm sure of that. But I imagine he could become the police version of a an angel of mercy."

"And how much of that is because they don't give him chance to stop?" he replied a little more forcefully than he intended. He didn't want to argue with his generous Patron and he looked down trying not to get to angry on Will's behalf.

"I've never been able to get him away from work long enough to really test it." Hannibal moved around him, still inspecting the room around them. "He feels personally responsible, and Crawford knows it. I could put my foot down, but I think it might destroy something inside of Will."

"To not work?" That seemed a dangerous thing, even he knew that. Maybe he could distract Will, get him to have some other priorities. "Maybe he just needs different options."

"He might. The Las Vegas FBI office has requested his presence, so this will be something of a respite for him. Now." Hannibal cleared his throat. "What are *your* expectations?"

Greg blinked again. He wasn't used to being asked about his expectations because he had settled into a routine with the Masons and expectations didn't come into it. "Um, I don't really have any?" he said a little sheepishly. "I'm just grateful you've taken me on. I was kinda falling to pieces Dr Lecter." He still was but having a base helped.

The world had still changed, and everything was still sideways, but at least he wasn't nearly homeless and beyond hope of ever having a patron to finish out his term. "I imagined you would be. I'm sorry about Judge Mason."

And there it was like a knife through numb flesh. He'd managed to just step away from the immediacy of the loss and it hit him with those words of sympathy. "Thanks," he said swallowing with difficulty. "I admit I don't know what to think or feel about it."

"There is no appropriate 'what'. You were in a relationship with someone who had a mentoring position in your life. Perhaps it was your first, I don't know. You looked to his wife and adopted son as extended family. And now all of that is gone, and you've been rehomed like a stray cat." Yes, yes to all of that, and Hannibal was saying it calmly, like it was neat and tidy.

"With a man who turned out to be a serial killer," Greg felt he had to clarify just in case the fact were not obvious. "I feel so guilty about that as if I am responsible."

"I've always considered the wives, lovers and children of people like that to be the collateral damage few people consider. If you did not help him acquire targets, I don't think you have anything to feel guilty about."

It just seemed a little too trite. "Unfortunately, I have over active guilt," Greg said more than a little serious. "It's not enough to just not do something."

"I know. You wanted to see the monster inside the man and stop it, didn't you?" Hannibal inclined his head. "We can discuss this at some length over the next few weeks, but the only reason Will and I picked up on your patron's leanings, so to speak, was years of experience."

"Years of experience?" What did that mean? Will's experience of tracking down killers, it had to be. Just for a moment Greg had the feeling Hannibal meant that in a different way. "I guess, but I was close to him. But it's all pointless now anyway."

"Grief can manifest in strange ways." Hannibal was saying that from behind him, though it sounded like he was looking at the bookshelves. "I think the owners of this house went out and bought anything with a leather binding on it."

Greg had to agree, and as he sat and sipped his espresso and made conversation, he began to think his initial instinctive uneasiness about Dr Lecter had been a mistake. Most likely it was his subconscious manifestation of his issues with Douglas- at least it made a lot of sense when Hannibal suggested it.

He lost an hour before he went into Jim Brass's office to talk to him, to assure him about Greg and to talk about the case. He wasn't sure, really, what he was thinking, only that he'd climbed up onto the roof through a maintenance shaft and sat up there, smoking and considering how lax their security was that someone could sit on their roof and smoke like it was fine. Or maybe they were used to the people in the building doing things like that. It helped him get himself together -- the cold, the air, the vacuum of sensation and noise of cars whipping by, sporadically. The best ones were the ones who realized they were speeding past a police location, and braked hard when they figured it out.

Brass looked like he was tired and haggard even finishing up the case. But then there had been a lot of media pressure, and a long investigation and then a messy ending which just seemed to happen when he was around. Jim looked up noticing him and raised his eyebrows. "Special Agent Graham...finished setting fire to the roof?"

"There are no cigarette butts in your HVAC, but that's about all I can promise." Will pulled the chair out across from Brass's desk.

"Thought you might need the space," Brass said putting down his pen a moment. "It's down to paperwork now. You missed Sanders being picked up by the Patronage society."

"Yeah, I was back finishing up collection at the Millander residence. Hannibal left a message on my cell phone." He sat down, leaned back a little. Greg was going to be okay. "We'll be staying in the area for a while."

"Good. I don't want to lose him," Brass seemed serious about that. "He's the best DNA tech we have and he is young as well. This will have been a helluva shock to him and I don't think taking away everything that is familiar would help. He's lost enough."

"He has. I asked Hannibal to take Greg on, and he'll be well taken care of while he's with us. At least until he can get a local placement, or..." Will shrugged his shoulders. "That's up to him."

"Gotta say that was good of you. You two get on well," Jim answered looking like he was speculating about how close they were. "We've got the case pretty much nailed down. The press are going to be all over you after the Sheriff makes the announcement."

"I'm used to those assholes. Your team was integral to the case being solved." It wasn't hollow, because the processes were there, they would've knitted together a beautiful tight case against Douglas if he hadn't stuck himself in the throat.

"Yeah, well the press won't see that, but I'm hoping the fact that one of our own was his Protégé will slide past the main media frenzy," Brass said leaning back in his chair. "What are the odds on that huh?"

"I'd say slim to nil. Hopefully they won't find where we're renting." The people who knocked on doors and *honestly* expected an interview were the worst.

"They won't find out from us. Make sure you don't get tailed." The CSI supervisor was watching him with sharp eyes. "You doing okay? You looked pretty out of it earlier after Mason tried to kill himself...did kill himself."

"Yeah. I wrestled with him to get the pen out of his throat. I could've..." Will flexed his fingers. "I should've moved faster."

"You know as well as I do, if someone really wants to do it, they'll find a way." That was true enough and showed surprising pragmatism on the part of Brass. "Mason had to finish it. You stopped him at the house, and he would have found some way to kill himself if he had the chance. Sharpened toothbrush handle, suicide by other prisoner, you name it. "

"I was hoping distance and time would help." He shifted, sat up straighter. "I didn't get time to test that hypothesis."

"Yeah well, believe me, someone that twisted up doesn't untwist with distance. Don't beat yourself up about it. No one is surprised and no one blames you. In fact it's a damn miracle he even made it to the ER," Brass commented. "You want a drink? I've got a touch of the hard stuff here."

What else did a guy expect when he'd been up on the roof, smoking. "Please, thanks. I'm sure the FBI will arrange a press conference for about two PM, if you need to be present. Consider this forewarning."

"Oh, I expect that's covered. I'm not exactly the public face of CSI Vegas," Jim said as he poured a generous shot from the bottle in his drawer. Interestingly he didn't have any himself which made Will wonder if he was testing himself with it somehow. "So, we can't tempt you to hang out here instead of the FBI?"

Will just held on to the glass for a moment. "You could, but I don't think you're actually interested in that. Though, I have to credit you -- most departments are glad to see the back of me when the case is over."

"Actually you did us a lot of good when you looked over the evidence on cold cases and your insight on forensics," he said. "thought you might like a change of pace, but I guess the FBI gets you first huh?"

"I owe them my duty for another 46 days." Funny that he could remember that now. "And I'll be working through the local FBI cold cases as well, so I suspect I'll still be kicking around that long. Hannibal wants to stay just long enough to bludgeon your local symphony into shape, I suspect. That should take a few months." Time Greg was going to need.

"Well, my team have a pretty good impression of you Will so you change your mind in 46 days, you let me know," Brass said casually shrugging. "You can't keep doing what you are doing forever. I can recognize the signs of burnout."

He exhaled a little, and took a sip of the whiskey. "Yeah. But I can do it for another 46 days, and then re-evaluate what I'm going. I'm going to mentor Greg a little. If he comes up with any weird tricks, don't worry -- they've been field tested previously."

"But he's a lab tech. He is not likely to be out in the field, even if I did let him go with you and Nick," Jim said. "Gotta say, I wouldn't be surprised if he retreated back there. He was very quiet last couple of shifts. "

"His patron cut him, acting out something that was implausible. It's been a hard few days for him. And a better understanding of scenes can only enhance a lab tech's capabilities." And Hannibal had goaded Douglas into doing it. Because he could, because he knew Douglas *would*.

He exhaled a little, and took a sip of the whiskey. "Yeah. But I can do it for another 46 days, and then re-evaluate what I'm going. I'm going to mentor Greg a little. If he comes up with any weird tricks, don't worry -- they've been field tested previously."

"But he's a lab tech. He is not likely to be out in the field, even if I did let him go with you and Nick," Jim said. "Gotta say, I wouldn't be surprised if he retreated back there. He was very quiet last couple of shifts. "

"His patron cut him, acting out something that was implausible. It's been a hard few days for him. And a better understanding of scenes can only enhance a lab tech's capabilities." And Hannibal had goaded Douglas into doing it. Because he could, because he knew Douglas *would*.

"I'll tell you the truth Will as you said you want to mentor him," Jim looked at him. "Sanders has got the CSI bug, I can tell but he's lab tech because it pays better. Sooner or later he's going to want to jump tracks."

"Sooner is probably better than later." Will could at least give him a running start at the jump if he wanted to do it. "He's bright, and he's sharp, and those are two things that don't always necessarily coincide."

"I've got a team of them," Brass smirked. "But I know what you mean. They've all got a different angle and Sanders could be something else if he comes in. Me, I've got the eye of cynicism, Nick's got a victim slant..."

"I think Greg could bring the scientific focus to a whole new level. He still has a heart." Will took another sip of the whiskey, set the glass down half finished. "Thanks. I should get back, get some rest before the press conference. I'll try to not cause your team any trouble while I'm in town."

"I might keep you to that," he replied and then added. "If Greg needs time off he's entitled. I can sign off the paid leave."

"I'll mention it to him tonight." Will stood up, making it clear he was going to leave Brass his breathing room and take off. "He might take it."

Brass nodded as he left the room and Will had to admit that he was looking forward to going back to see Greg. It was strange but there was a spark of anticipation there. He was a little worried though. Hannibal had a hunger about him. He might behave for a temporary placement but then again.

There wasn't any way of being sure.

He headed for the front door, digging his keys out of his pocket. It was all going through the motions. Driving to the new rental Hannibal had picked out would be the same, just part of going through the motions.

It was a little strange to get home and find Hannibal in 'easy' conversation. Hannibal by definition seemed to relish a challenge on the conversational front, but as Will entered he could hear the light amused lilt in his voice, contrasting with Greg’s more rapid fire delivery.

He made Greg nervous by his very nature -- it wouldn't take much to make it hard for Greg and very light for Hannibal. He closed the door, set his kit down beside the sofa, and started to head towards the sound of voices. Whatever dinner was smelled good.

"Ah, the prodigal agent returns," Hannibal drawled from his armchair where he was sipping wine. "In time for food no less. Your usual impeccable timing Will."

"The prodigal agent has a press conference to be at in six hours." There was no way he could sleep in that time, with driving in Vegas the way it was. It was a miracle he wasn't turning to meth to stay awake, because there was damn well enough dealers that he'd driven past.

"Then I forsee food, a shower and a couple hours of sleep if you can manage it. We don't dare let Will go out there without eating Greg. He might gnaw someone's arm off."

Greg smiled at him. "You look wiped Will, and hey, I've moved in. You might have to put up with me for a bit."

It left him feeling oddly a little softer. "Yeah? That sounds pretty good. I'm glad you're here. And comfortable?"

"I have been trained in the use of the espresso machine," Greg replied with a faint smile. "I can even make your favorite apparently. You want one?"

"Coffee? Uhm, maybe later. I think I've had too much." He glanced over at Hannibal, caught the odd glint in his eyes. "Here, let's finish dinner together. Dining room, or here?" They were casual, sometimes, because immaculate food didn't mean immaculate table settings. That was just for company.

"Oh we are an informal unit," Hannibal declared a little too obviously. "We'll eat here tonight. It is more conducive to talk. It's just about ready anyway."

"Greg can help me find plates. I think it might be an adventure for both of us." Hannibal would've already laid the kitchen out to his liking, and was breaking the place in.

"Then you do that while I ensure the ribs and vegetables are ready," Hannibal replied getting up. "It should be very satisfying."

Greg got up as well and walked over towards him. "I am at your disposal especially as you got me here."

He probably, probably, startled Greg when he hugged him, but he was tired and stretched thin and still worried for him. "I'm just glad you're okay. Hey, Brass said you have time off if you need it."

"Wow..really? We never have time off," Greg answered not pulling away in the slightest. In fact he seemed to be clinging back. "I don't know. It was distracting."

It was good to feel that simple warmth and weight against him and not feel there might be an agenda. "'It'?" He stood there for a moment more, luxuriating in it, just feeling. He was tired and high strung and hungry and shaky and it was good to just stop for a moment. Greg smelled like unfamiliar shampoo and warmth.

"Going to work - having things to work through," Greg answered, leaning back a little but smoothing his hand down his back in a natural uncalculated gesture.

"Okay. But you have it as a safety net if it stops helping." Will could understand that, and pulled away a little, to head towards the kitchen. "Hold on, I need to de-gun myself."

Greg was following him and it was just nice to feel someone wanted to be that close to him. He was used to the avoidance. "Go ahead, I'll look for plates."

He started, shucking his coat off to get his holster off. "Did Hannibal show you a room?"

"Yeah, he said they were all pretty much the same, so I took the first empty one I came to up the stairs," Greg called out as he opened cupboards.

Will unhooked his extra clip, and checked the safety. "Good. I want you to be comfortable."

"Well I've already had more free time than I've had in the last year," he answered with a hint of forced cheerfulness. There was the clatter of plates as he found some.

"We don't really... do a lot." He still had the gun at his ankle, but it could stay there, while he started to look for silverware. "Did you have hobbies?"

"Uh," Greg was uncertain. "Not really had time? I'm interested in a lot of things but never had time really. You?"

"Boat repair." He offered it out there, watching Greg's face. "Car repair. Tinkering with things. It gives me something to focus on. Also, if you take it apart for a crime scene, it helps to know how to put it back together."

"Cool," Greg said as he looked at him. "Maybe I could see what it's like some time. I'll try anything once. I've got the plates."

"Mmm. Hannibal likes to make the final touches on dinner, usually, but he's also conspicuously absent." Will leaned a little, lifting the pot lid carefully. "Smells good."

"So we just serve it up right?" Greg asked. "Or should we wait?"

"By all means serve it," Hannibal said appearing behind them. "My conspicuous absence was not deliberate."

"Ribs, you said?" Will went looking for tongs to pull them out, and a ladle for the broth.

"Not too strongly spiced. I know your stomach will be temperamental after all that coffee," Hannibal replied. "The rest is here. I have attempted a level of simplicity."

"It doesn't look that simple," Greg pointed out as Hannibal started serving up golden roasted potatoes with a crust of light mustard, greens flavored with just a hint of this and that, and stirred in some cream to make the broth more like a sauce.

"What's the joke? If I can identify what we’re eating, it counts as simple." Will gathered up forks and knives, watching Greg hand Hannibal plates.

"Will eats at squalid diners given half a chance," Hannibal said in tones of almost comical disgust and Greg smiled.

"Sometimes you just crave those fats and sugars," he commented as they served up the food.

"Sometimes, you just crave good fried food." Will moved around them, reaching to take a plate once Hannibal held it out.

"There could be anything in one of those burgers," Hannibal said. "But probably very little in the way of cow. Don't let it get cold."

Greg followed Hannibal into the front room . "This is very relaxed. We had to sit at table at ho-...the Mason's."

"Oh, you say that now, but it's high manners when he has guests over. Five forks, three glasses, apertifs..." Will was grinning a little as he said it, because Greg seemed so amused by it.

"Do you do that often?" Greg asked.

"If I meet someone I find interesting or amusing," Hannibal answered as they settled down to start eating.

"Soirees for the local opera, the theatre officials, the symphony..." Will crossed his legs, ankle on his knee, balancing his plate.

"Do you both go?" Greg asked as he then took a mouthful with evident satisfaction.

"Sometimes I persuade Will to attend," Hannibal replied watching them both. "It is often worth it."

"I feel like I lower the ambience, but I can pull myself up long enough when I need to." God knew what Hannibal was thinking, and there was no way to ask Hannibal to ease back, give Greg his space, he wasn't *quite* like that.

His patron had that tell-tale slight curve to the lips that meant he had something in mind. It was disconcerting and he was too tired to even attempt to match minds with his mentor. Greg of course was oblivious to all of that.

"I would be the same," Greg put in. "Really. But I didn't go out that much."

The more Will heard, the more it sounded like Greg's patronage had been a study in exploitation. At least he went out. A great deal, and Jack came over, for all the good it did him, because it usually ended with them drunk on the back porch.

"That's a shame." They'd have to take Greg out, get him back to exploring his city.

"Well, I'd like to see a few places you know?" Greg said. "It's not like we don't go anywhere. Douglas takes me..." He stopped midway through the sentence and fiddled with his food. "...took me out sometimes."

Will carefully chewed a bite of food. "You'll see places. Believe me."

"I believe you need your horizons expanded," their patron said magnanimously. "That is part of the duty of a Patron. It is meant to be a mutually beneficial arrangement."

"It's about growth for everyone involved." Will took another bite of the rib meat, slowly working his way through. The taste was pretty nice.

Hannibal really was a good cook. He knew how to get the best out of his meats and was a wonder with marinades.

"Well, once you have rested, and yes that means you as well Will, I am declaring there should be at least one day not working," Hannibal said. "Now, I have some appointments, so I am leaving Greg in your capable hands Will."

There was that knowing smirk again.

"Press conference," Will reminded. Worst case, he'd leave Greg sleeping and come back to him. But Hannibal had his own schedule, and that was for the best.

"After the Press conference," Hannibal was insistent. “You will rest and then when you are ready, you will spend time together."

Just a hint there, an emphasis. Hannibal did want them to spend time together. Will inclined his head slightly, looking over at Greg. "So, day off. Which I think you need. Just one, your choice of what you want to do."

He could see Greg hesitating and Hannibal said in between mouthfuls. "I give you a gift of $500 Greg , do spend as frivolously as you like if that is concerning you. It's not out of your wages, it's just a gift."

"But that's way too much, I mean.." Greg was practically spluttering.

"I carry that as loose change," Hannibal mused. "A couple of hours consulting for the FBI. Finances are not a concern and Will has his own money, which he never gets to spend."

"Too busy," Will agreed, picking through a little more meat, finishing up the potatoes. He felt better for the clean, solid meal. "You've lived in Las Vegas for a while. You know the town. Let's take a night for you without crime scene DNA."

"Well, okay, we'll just see where it goes," Greg answered slowly and there was a glimmer of anticipation there that pushed the vulnerability back from his expression.

"I don't even want to know where you end up eating," Hannibal commented after finishing a mouthful. "No tattoos either."

"No piercings," Will agreed, waving a fork a little as he looked over at Greg. A night off could be... very good. Really good.

Greg was giving him a look back that was open and there was nothing tainted or strange about it. Nothing complex, just a frank desire to be around him which was a novelty. "I think we can manage that," Greg said. "Though we might have to check out the Strip."

"That sounds fun." Will never really had fun when he was outside of the DC area. He was usually too tired, too burnt out, too on the cusp of something strange, and the idea that he was burnt out felt more real than it ever had. "Does anyone want something to drink?"

"Please," Hannibal gestured. "There is wine to be drunk breathing on the side. A good red, very understated. Perfect for this sort of informal setting."

"Do you drink, Greg?" There was social drinking, and then there was wine with dinner, and Will considered them two separate things. He got up, though, to get the wine and find glasses somewhere in the rental.

"I'll try some if that's okay," Greg said. "I usually only drank with meals."

"Then your tolerance will be low," Lecter warned him.

Will took his time, pouring three good glasses of the wine Hannibal had allowed to breathe and handing them to his Patron and fellow protégé.

"Now," Hannibal said. "Why don't we all get to know each other a little better?"

Will had to admit that he appreciated the level of effort that Hannibal was putting in to making Greg feel welcome and no one could get to the bottom of things like he could. He had all the confidence in the world that if anyone could help Greg move on and feel more comfortable in the quickest possible time it would be Hannibal.

He'd stayed away from work and slept through - much to his surprise - Will coming home and crashing out. It was habit more than anything that had him up, cleaning the house for a while before Will emerged. He'd avoided seeing the press conference but the thought that it was out there made him nervy about the proposed trip out into Vegas.

Hannibal gave him instructions on the sort of things that Will might like when he woke up and when he heard Will start to move around he got the coffee ready.

It was strange, being up in time to go to work, but... not going in to work. It was twilight out, which meant the neon would just be starting to get tacky, and there was every chance Hannibal would be back from his *day* out on the town, but if he could keep to nightshift hours, Greg was going to. Will seemed so inclined, at least for the moment, though... that could change, he guessed.

"Mmmph. Afternoon."

"You look like you need a coffee," Greg said. "And more sleep."

Will was looking like he had dragged himself out of a ditch somewhere. He ran a hand back through his hair, eyes squinting a little. "Mmm. I feel better. Press conference was kind of hellish."

He had to know a bit. "What happened? I couldn't... I've kinda avoided the news," Greg confessed. "Should I be keeping my head down?"

"No. No, it was just." Will waved a hand. "I suck at this shit, and they still drag me out to make a statement, and expect something politically carved and tactful." Will was heading straight for the little cup of coffee, like it was a beacon.

"I'm sure you did well. Brass usually puts Catherine up there for some of the sensitive stuff," Greg reassured him. He was twitchy now because there were no chores left, no laundry, nothing. He didn't know what to do in a situation where there was time.

"You had a cup yet? Hey, we should go out, grab breakfast, and hit the town." With Will looking like he still had one eye half-closed, sure. Maybe a shower would be a better prelude to that.

"You sure you don't need more sleep?" Greg answered. "I'm cool. Breakfast sounds cool. I know the cop places. They know a lot of good spots."

Even if he didn't get to eat there himself he listened. He knew a lot about Vegas vicariously.

It was time to go experience it. Will stretched, hands interlocked and held above his head for a moment. Greg heard his shoulders pop. "Umph, yeah. Local places sound good. Whatever you want to do."

"Well, food sounds good. I've...cleared up here. I'm not sure what else to do," he said. "So, you know, if you need me to do something before we go in search of some of that high fat and sugar junk food, now's your chance."

Will inhaled, holding tightly to his coffee cup before he took a sip. "You dressed? I'll go put pants on."

"And there I was thinking pants were optional." Greg suddenly realized that might just be a little too flirty. It was unintentional and a reflex, and maybe it wouldn't register.

Will tilted his head a little. "Well. I think you could carry off a bright green thong or something, but I'm a little bowlegged to make that attractive."

Greg grinned a little embarrassed. "I don't know, it might be interesting," he said. "Pants it is then."

He watched Will stretch again, rubbing at his side through the fabric of his t-shirt. "Yes. Yes. Right. I'll be back in a minute. Good coffee."

He smiled at that as Will disappeared again and then had a brief moment of wondering what the hell he was doing. Douglas had committed suicide and murder and here he was looking forward to going out with another man. He'd cared, and when his thoughts turned to those moments when Douglas had died, it felt like a physical punch.

But he still wanted to go out with Will. And now he felt guilty about wanting that. Truth was, he had been treated well, he had more freedom, more interaction and the cessation of constant work was a dizzying relief.

He wasn't sure what he was going to do when he wasn't working two jobs with a little sleep as a buffer, but it felt like something he could adjust to. It felt like it could be good.

Will didn't take the whole five minutes, wandering back into the kitchen with sneakers half on, pulling on a button down shirt with keys in one hand. "So, do you drive, usually?"

"Uh, yeah. I drive the car to get the groceries and take Craig to school." Shit, there it was again, the present tense. He knew that was it, he didn't get to do that anymore. "I used to anyway."

"Okay. I'll drive you around for a while until we can find you a car or something." Will popped open the dishwasher to put his now empty cup in, and finished his shirt buttons. "All ready?"

"Sure." Maybe there should be some shopping for clothes at some point. All his clothing had fitted pretty neatly into one case. It wasn't much. Still, jeans, a shirt and he was pretty set.

"Let's go."

"Once we've had some crap for breakfast, I'm game for anything." Will tossed and caught his keys, grinning a little. "After you. I'll lock up."

Greg headed out and even from here he could see the lights of Vegas glittering as the evening drew in. It was a beautiful place and he was lucky to still be here and he did want to stay here. He waited for Will and then followed him to the car. "What are you in the mood for?"

He watched Will's face look a little thoughtful before he declared, "Something quick. I feel like the only thing we've done is eat and sleep."

Greg snorted. "A pretty fair assessment aside from the case in between time. So if we go get something from Brass' favorite place what are we going to do then? I'm not sure where you start."

"Well, you need clothes. And things. And we can just wander. I'm..." Will rolled his shoulders. "At a loss what to do without guidance, and Hannibal knows it."

Greg was surprised at that. "Seriously? Okay. Uh, okay I can try and do some guiding. How about we go take a look for clothes and stuff and then... you like boats? There's the lake. Lots of stuff up there. "

"The lake at night, though..." Will shrugged a little. But something would be open. It was Vegas. There was always *something* to do, even if it was just find a nightclub and a corner to sit in and talk. He started the car up, and pulled onto the street. "I think Vegas is a fascinating city."

"It is. There's so much weirdness here I don't think anyone could get bored," Greg said. "Warrick used to hit the casino's after work. Catherine knows pretty much everything there is to know about the place. She used to be a dancer."

Moved like one too but had a sharp mind. "Head towards the lab, there's a place on the way."

"Sure. So, what would Catherine tell you if you called her and asked for good places to go?"

"She's mentioned a few clubs," he answered. "Might be fun to just take a look. Ever go to them?"

"Only for cases. Could be fun, yeah. Let's get you clothes first, though." Particularly if either of them were going to drink, yeah. Greg was pretty sure he didn't want to drunk-shop. The lab might never forgive them if they did.

It wasn't far to the diner that Jim claimed did the best burgers with everything in Vegas. It was certainly pretty busy but Greg took that as a good thing.

"Jim says they do a cheeseburger to die for. He used to be a cop so I think he knows his way around a burger," Greg said as they reached the place and parked up.

"Vice squad, I'd guess," Will offered, turning the engine off. "I may just order dessert. That's the benefit of being adults. Onion rings and cake."

"I'm gonna try one," Greg replied as he got out. He felt a strange buzz of anticipation at being out with Will and instinctively moved so he was close to him as they entered. He just wanted to let himself have fun but his emotions were twisting around again. "Although cake sounds good."

"There are impulses that, when I have them, I completely believe I should give in to," Will said as they headed for the door. He help it for Greg, smirking a little. "So, is this a seat yourself place?"

"Yeah, I think so. I've never been," Greg replied. God, he liked Will's smirk. It made his eyes appear really blue and gave him a quirky attractive appeal that kept him sneaking glances at him. "I know they are pretty quick at serving, or maybe they just start cooking for Jim when he sets foot in the door."

"He's sort of a force of nature," Will joked, sliding his hands into his pockets for a moment. "Okay, booth in the corner?"

"You ought to see him when he gets angry," Greg said heading that way and sitting. It was pretty small but he didn't mind that.

Will seemed more comfortable that way, back against the wall, looking out. There were menus already on the table, four of them laid out while he slid into the seat across from Will.

Greg glanced over it even though he knew what he wanted. This was just cool. Kinda exciting in a weird way doing something because he wanted to do it not because he had to do it. "Still going with the cheesburger special," he said eventually. "You?"

"Onion rings and cake," Will said, still looking down at the menu. "So, clothes. Where's the shopping area in relation to where we are now?"

"We could probably walk if we wanted," he answered even as they were approached for their order.

The waitress was nice, smiling enough, and she laughed at Will's order. It changed to biscuits at the last minute, and not onion rings. "I was raised in Louisiana," Will offered. "So, I developed a taste for good biscuits. And Biscuits in *Nevada*. I don't know what they'll taste like..."

"Don't look at me," Greg smiled. "When I was growing up, biscuits were cookies. Mind you, Poppa Olaf would declare the strangest things delicacies."

"Where did you grow up?" A really nice place, a real home, except he felt thousands of miles away, rather than hundreds.

"California. Really nice place. I miss the sea sometimes," Greg admitted. You couldn't get much more landlocked than Vegas.

"Yeah. I enjoy the ocean back in Maryland. I get to go out on it every few weeks or so and it's... revitalizing. There's lake mead here, though, right?"

"Yeah, it's a great place but no surf. I liked the surf," Greg said. "You ever surf Will?." He was trying to visualize Will wearing anything beach related and failing.

"No. I'd like to try, but, despite that there *is* an east coast surfing championship, it's held in hurricane season for a reason. The waves are very low."

"Maybe you should persuade Hannibal to go to Hawaii for vacations rather than... where was it? Florence?" Greg suggested. He'd pay money to see Will surf.

"He prefers Florence. Vienna. He..." Will shifted. "His family was nobility, before the last war."

"No Hawaii then," Greg smiled again. "Nobility huh? Well that explains the refined tastes I guess. I admit, I find it an effort to be that refined all the time."

He'd done his best but knew he was lacking.

"It's the way he was raised. For a short while. And he went to medical school in Paris, so." Will shrugged. "And then DC. Being refined is his first nature." It made Greg wonder what his second nature was.

"Wow, I'm like.. .the complete opposite of what he wants in a protégé then." It was true enough, he wasn't refined or trained to deal with society at a higher level like a lot of the publicity for patronage said.

"No, he fines false fronts offensive. He prefers honestly, openness. The rest can be faked long enough to manage when we're in public." Will was fidgeting with his fork.

"Okay, I'll bear that in mind." They food arrived at that point and Greg had to admit that it was the biggest bit of cake he had seen in his life. "That's a meal in itself!" he said as he set about biting into his cheeseburger.

And then there was a little plate with two small biscuits stacked on top of each other. "Ah, perfect. Thanks, ma'am." He reached for one of the biscuits first. "So, is there anything else bothering you?"

"Bothering me?" Greg grimaced a little. "My head’s a bit freaked out right now. Even as I've been sitting here I'm swinging between having a really great time and then bam! it hits me about Douglas and everything, and then I start enjoying myself again… and so on and so on."

"Because you miss him. And he was your patron. And you were in a relationship with him." Will broke another part of biscuit off. "And he was home. No matter how strange it all seems, he was still home to you."

Greg poked around one of the fries. "But then I enjoy myself and feel guilty. If he was all those things, then I should not be enjoying myself. It was only yesterday he died."

"Well, a little more than yesterday, but." But nightshift time was screwy, and Greg understood that. "No one grieves the same, Greg. I don't particularly expect you to wrap yourself in black sackcloth. It was complicated."

Yeah it was complicated. It had all followed on too rapidly from the betrayal, and Greg didn't know whether to hate or to grieve. "Half the time I don't want to. I mean, I'm here with you and that's pretty cool."

"Hannibal comes with his own complications," Will offered in a warning tone. "But... I have a pretty relaxed life. And I hope I'll get the chance to show you some field tricks."

Greg nodded. "I'd really like to learn from you. Personal involvement aside, how you put the pieces together was something else. I thought Nick was good at that but you just came in and just like that things were moving." It was an honest admiration. He was proud of the CSI team. They were all quirky but he had that confidence that they were pretty much the best you could get.

And then someone came in and showed them all up without really rubbing it in anyone's face. And Will could've, they'd all expected him to. "I think you'd be the perfect person to try to *teach*," Will agreed. "You have a natural..."

Greg grinned. "Natural irrepressible hair?" he said. "I've got a natural something alright.”

"No, you really do have an instinctual ability to see the links," Will ensured. "And Brass sees it, too."

Now that surprised him. Brass usually growled at him one way or another. "He does? I usually get the 'Where's my results Sanders?' treatment."

"He think you could be an investigator some day, but you're in DNA because the money's better. And it is. Field work is... more jack of all trades, master of none, and you're being compensated to be a master."

Investigator? That was...that was a thought. "I hadn't really thought... no, that's a lie, I do think about it but I can't go back into the training. It's taking me time to get through my Patronage," Greg said. "I didn't want to add more on now. I thought I could work some and maybe retrain on the job when I had enough to be settled."

"Or I could offer to be your patron when I finish my tenure with Hannibal. 45 days." Will was licking biscuit butter off of his fingers when he said it, casually.

Greg knew his mouth had dropped open. "What, seriously? I mean, but you've only known me for a few days. And uh, I don't really want to leave Vegas."

For Will though he was beginning to think he might just give the idea consideration.

"Yeah, and I'm burning out and maybe I need to get away from the FBI's Behavioral Sciences lab. Any place would give an arm and a leg to have me." It wasn't arrogant, just true. Will tidied up the last of his biscuits, and then started to eye the cake. "Frosting, or cake?"

"Wow." Greg didn't know what to say. "er, frosting?" he said a bit weakly. "But weren't you thinking of staying with Hannibal?"

Will ate a little bit of cake, half-watching Greg. "I, uh. Sometimes I think Hannibal is prying at my head the way he did at Douglas's."

"Now suddenly I'm pretty alarmed." Greg had to admit that if Hannibal could turn Douglas to quickly it worried him. "But he was so pleasant to me."

It was strange to watch Will shift in his half of the booth, like he was warring with himself. "He *is* pleasant. It's just something I can't quite put a finger on. We've worked for the FBI for too long, I think."

"You think you are jumping at shadows?" Greg asked eating his fries. "I was freaked out to start with but yesterday he was really nice and just talked when I was going off the rails."

"I could be jumping at shadows," Will agreed, taking another bite of cake. "And he knows when to push and when not to."

"Huh." He nodded a little. It was tempting because there was a tug towards Will he wanted to explore. "Maybe you need to get to know me a little better and then you might change your mind."

"I'm usually right about people at first impression. But I wouldn't be adverse to getting to know you." He held out a forkful of cake, more frosting than content.

"Good." Greg couldn't help but watch the way that Will was eating which was probably really inappropriate but he liked the way his lips moved and he nearly blushed when he realized he had been staring and belatedly took the offering. "Wow...wow, that's a really rich cake."

"I think it's been soaked in caramel. It's very good. Probably made with twelve sticks of butter." Will laughed, watching him, smiling.

"Careful, we could end up on a sugar high and Vegas might not be safe," Greg teased with a grin as he ate the piece down. "Me on sugar, not a good combination."

"Are you better on sugar or caffeine?" Will asked, taking his fork back after Greg had finished the piece.

"Depends what you mean by better," Greg replied and smiled again. "Caffeine makes me rock my way through the shift, sugar makes me fly."

"So, then I should or I shouldn't give you more cake? Because there's no way I can finish this by myself." Not when it was that rich and that big a piece.

"Well, maybe I could help you out just a little," Greg agreed. "On your head be it."

Douglas said that he was like someone on the happy drugs if he was allowed sugar. Which was probably why he didn't get it that often.

It was a shame, because Greg generally assumed that happy drugs were kind of a good idea. Will pushed the cake plate towards Greg. "We'll share."

"You might regret it," he warned but did help himself, relishing the food. "Didn't have much cake. Mind you at least I wasn't one of those cases where the Patron literally controlled everything. Food, clothes, everything. The did that in Russia I think, and there have been cases here as well."

"Yeah. No, this just sounds like standard smothering parent sort of control," Will offered, not quite coming down on Douglas, but close. "He was concerned about you and expressed it through control."

"He worries..worried a lot," Greg said correcting himself. He had to face up to the fact but every time he thought he had it, it slipped away from his conscious mind.

And then it came up again. "I understand that. Hannibal honestly thinks I'd live off of snack machines, cigarettes and bud light if he left me to my own devices."

"You know he could be right," Greg answered taking another forkful of the cake. "Mmm. I saw you at the lab. I wonder how they are getting on."

"Fine for the next twenty four hours," Will promised, taking a bite from near where Greg grabbed his. "I could, maybe, live out of snack machines."

"I'm sure it would be bad and wrong," he commented. "But very convenient."

He could feel the cake doing its work and found himself looking at Will just a little too long. Sugar made his thoughts flit around and currently they were exploring ideas for Will, little daydreams and one second fantasies.

He wouldn't mind seeing how Will was in bed. Just to expand his sexual horizons, if nothing else. Just to see what *else* it could feel like, to have sex with a guy who was born a guy, for a start. "This is nicer."

He had to agree with that even as he imagined Will without the shirt on. "Definitely. So, you need to get clothes too or is it just for my benefit?"

"No, I could use clothes. I've been wearing the same three non-work shirts for the last year, I think." He waved his fork a little.

"That makes me feel better," Greg said as he sneakily stole a bit of cake right off of Will's fork just to try and make him smile.

It was pretty easy. Will seemed to give quick reflexive smiles left and right at Greg, and it was comfortable, because they definitely hit Will's eyes. "Mmmhm, we can suffer together. I hate clothes shopping."

"Hey, we're men, we can go in, grab a few things and if they fit we buy them. How hard can it be?"

"Painful," Will smirked, eating another bite of cake. "Very painful. But we'll see. Maybe it won't be."

Greg found himself smiling again, his thoughts of Douglas and all the upheaval temporarily pushed to one side as he enjoyed just hanging out with Will. It really couldn't be that bad.

Hannibal's absence had moved from interesting to suspicious, but Will was all right with that. Greg was wired and tired and gorgeous to spend an evening with, and Will couldn't remember the last time he'd had so much fun doing a lot of nothing. And rollercoaster’s, and stupid things that he usually had dismissed.

He was pretty sure that Greg had been deliberately encouraging him to try on clothes a few sizes too small just so he could look at his ass. He hadn't even been that subtle about it or repentant, just grinned at him and made it obvious that he found him attractive. That was a novelty in itself.

But they were home again, and while it was still dark out, in a couple of hours the sun would be coming up, which meant it was time to think about things like bed. And, bed.

"We'll sort and unpack that tomorrow," Will said while setting bags down on the floor of Greg's bedroom.

"Yeah, now I've actually got stuff," Greg replied putting down his stuff. "Thanks, I've had a great time, really."

He was also somehow standing really close to him.

There was nothing quite like being the rebound, was there? Will shifted, rocking onto the balls of his feet. "I'm glad. You deserve to have a good time. A lot of good times."

"Yeah, I think that's up there with my ambitions," he murmured. "Speaking of which. You know. Uh."

Greg's confident start dried up mid way through whatever he was trying to say.

"Speaking of which, you've been making eyes at me all night," Will murmured, "And you're at least curious."

"I'm a very curious guy," Greg answered shifting closer. "You definitely make me want to investigate more. How about you?"

"Oh, I'm very interested in you. But I don't want to try anything that you're not..." So close, close enough that he could reach out and grab him, or slide a hand against Greg's back, so Will did.

"You know, I think I'm okay to try whatever you want," Greg answered and there was no flinching or anything but his attention. "I was watching you from the moment you set foot in CSI."

"I wish things could've gone differently. Better for you." He still felt guilty of that, like he hadn't gotten to Greg, to any of it, soon enough, even though he knew in his gut that he'd done what he could've done. He leaned into Greg, lips close enough that if Greg leaned back, they'd kiss. He just wanted to give Greg that exit.

Instead it was Greg who leaned forward to make the connection. He didn't have to say any words because all his want and desire was there in his lips, somehow fragile and sweet with his vulnerability. It made him ache in a deep good way as Greg pursued the kiss instead of answering verbally.

He exhaled through his nose, and sighed when Greg did finally pull away, the warmth and moisture of his lips still lingering. "Oh. Yes."

"That convince you?" Greg murmured staying close. It was an unfamiliar bright and clear desire that was running through him; he didn't remember feeling like this with Hannibal even when he broke him into pieces with his own desire and need. "You know I can say no if I really want to."

"Do you want to do this?" He wanted more of Greg, more contact, more nearness. He wanted to feel Greg, more than just his mouth, and he wanted to take his time. Their time.

"Yeah," Greg murmured. "Yeah, I really do. If you're up for it." There was an implicit plea of' oh god please be up for it' in his tone and he didn't think that Greg didn't know what he was doing.

"I'm up for it." He leaned in to take another kiss, pulling Greg closer, to show him just how up to it Will was.

That it seemed was enough to get Greg wrapping himself around him and diving into the experience, all sugar and cotton candy on his lips as his kissed him with something pure and uncomplicated. There was just Greg wanting him, no games, to tricks, just lips and tongues and hands hovering over clothes and seeking skin.

It was easy, hurried, to undress, because they both wanted skin and skin and Will wanted to feel alive, to feel Greg. He'd felt alive all night, and Greg was good for that, connected him in ways that felt dead too often. "Tell me what you want, I don't want to, I want you to enjoy this."

Greg laughed against his skin, warm huffs of humor and arousal. "Right now I'm so goddamn hard Will, I'd enjoy anything. Just do what you want. I trust you. Want you to have fun because I know I will be having the time of my life."

Will slid his hands against Greg's sides, just feeling the muscles beneath his skin. "Let's get undressed and move to bed."

Greg didn't hesitate and his clothes were off in moment. He hadn't been kidding, he really was rock hard and slightly self-conscious as they stood there. "This bed right?"

"Sure. If Hannibal comes home, there's no particular reason to give him an eyeful." Not when Will thought he wouldn't want it, but there were lines of politeness. Fucking in someone's bed without inviting them was probably one of those lines. Will got his shoes off, toed out of them, and slid his jeans down.

Greg seemed to want to help a little, as he was reaching to move his hands down skin and then looking at him with bright almost excited eyes. He wanted him, Will could tell that but it looked different to what Hannibal wanted from him.

Hannibal wanted to strip him down, have him subordinate in every sense of the word, and this was just sheer interest. Nothing odd, and Will wasn't sure if he knew how to *do* what Greg wanted. It was easy to move into him, though, kiss him standing up and naked, both of them hard and rubbing against each other for a moment.

It was Greg who surprisingly made a move to kiss his skin, and explore over his chest, unable to wait. He made soft little noises as he did so as if he couldn't quite remain silent all the time. He sucked on his skin, on his nipples and was moving inexorably downwards.

Sliding past scars without really noting them, just moving on, and Will groaned, hands drifting from Greg's sides to his shoulders as he knelt down with one target in mind. "Greg, yes. Yes, please..." No teeth, just once without teeth would be a blessing.

Greg grinned up at him, his hair wild and messy already. "I'm gonna want you to use what I make down here," he said even as he started nuzzling up the hard muscles in his thigh towards his cock. It seemed Greg was practiced at this, or knew what to do because he was confident and sure in where the reaction would be strongest.

Will felt his leg twitch, and while he was usually quiet in sex, let it slip a little, breathed had and moaned a little when Greg slid a hand between his legs to stroke his balls. "I don't think that was threatening to go anywhere..."

Greg's only reply was to start licking and slipping his mouth over his erection while his fingers fondle his balls with care. The contrasts of heat and wet warmth to the coolness of air when Greg drew back a little was very stimulating, even as he dived back in to suck hard again.

It was glorious to just stand there, his hands loosely petting through Greg's hair while Greg sucked him, slow and smoothly, gentle sensations that made his balls start to ache and the muscles in his stomach twitch. "Oh yes. Yes, that feels good, Greg..."

Greg made a 'hmm-ing' sound of agreement that buzzed right through him. No teeth scraping, no tight unexpected squeezes. Oh god, yeah, that was more than good. It was a mellow high building up as his need increased and Greg alternated his sucking hard with licks and swirls.

He rocked his hips a little, clenching his muscles to keep control over himself. "I think that's... Very good, Greg, I think that's enough..."

Greg drew back slowly and smiled up at him. "Where do you want me?" he asked sitting back on his heels a little. "Because I know where I want you, right inside my ass."

"On the bed. Let me.. I'll be right back. Lube." There was no magical fishing it out of a drawer, though maybe Hannibal had placed some in a drawer in the rental. There was no telling, but Will did know where some was.

It was easiest to go get it and return. When he did Greg was sprawled on the bed waiting for him, idly stroking himself as he did so. It was going to be weird topping someone. Hannibal, well he just didn't do that with him and other relationships were very few and far between.

But Greg knew what he wanted, explicitly, and Will was going to try to give it to him. At least a little bit. "Is it warm enough in here?"

"Will be when you are on top of me," Greg answered. "Tell me you found some."

"It wasn't a hard thing to find." Will knelt on the bed, a hand idling down Greg's side again. "You're gorgeous. Do you prefer it this way, or?"

"Prefer it what way?" Greg asked in response stretched out under that hand. It was all just natural reaction and it was just...something else.

Attractive, alluring in a way Will wasn't used to, because he *could* touch and Greg stretched out for *him*, for his visual and tactile pleasure. "Laying down on your back."

"Got a feeling pretty much anyway with you is gonna be a favorite," Greg replied. "But this is good. I'm limber."

"This is very tempting," Will murmured, running a hand down the length of Greg's leg, shifting to kneel between them. The lube was close by, but he wanted to stroke Greg's dick, just for a moment, feel the heat in his hand.

"Tempting is good." Greg quivered a little at the stroking. "Oh fuck, that's good." He closed his eyes for a moment as Will touched him.

"Closer is better," Will murmured, leaning down to kiss Greg's stomach, to just linger there beneath the bandaged over cut, but not close enough to make it ache.

It was obviously sensitive because Greg gave a body shudder and then tried instinctively to press against him. It was an intoxicating feeling.

"The point of what Hannibal was goading him into was that a little pain can make everything feel so very good. A *little*," Will emphasized, pressing a kiss to Greg's hip. "Tiny. Nipple clamps are nice for that."

"Mm, I'd like to try that sometime," Greg murmured and the way he looked at him was completely open. "Not the knife, just you and your knowledge."

"Just me and my knowledge, huh? I bet there's a lot you could show me, too." Just in wanting and caring. He brushed a kiss to the other point of Greg's hip, and gave his dick a slow stroke.

"Only if it's how I like being tied up," Greg said with a hint of amusement that because a groan. "Please Will..."

"Let me appreciate you," Will half-asked, leaning up again to kiss Greg's chest, still toying slowly with his dick.

"I'll try not to interrupt," Greg managed through a little cracking in his voice and fingers were stroking down his back then.

"Mm, I'd like to try that sometime," Greg murmured and the way he looked at him was completely open. "Not the knife, just you and your knowledge."

"Just me and my knowledge, huh? I bet there's a lot you could show me, too." Just in wanting and caring. He brushed a kiss to the other point of Greg's hip, and gave his dick a slow stroke.

"Only if it's how I like being tied up," Greg said with a hint of amusement that because a groan. "Please Will..."

"Let me appreciate you," Will half-asked, leaning up again to kiss Greg's chest, still toying slowly with his dick.

"I'll try not to interrupt," Greg managed through a little cracking in his voice and fingers were stroking down his back then.

He laughed, and licked a line between Greg's pecs. He wasn't highly muscled, but he was lean, and his skin was so soft. Greg was pushing against his hands as he did so, fingers finding their way to stroke through his hair. He was trying very hard to get Will into position.

Will had to give him credit, but he wanted to taste and relax, and settle into it, easing down a little, slowly, but mostly just enjoying how Greg felt beneath him, *wanting* him.

It was strange. Hannibal wanted him but in a more hungry way. There was an edge of danger there, a predator gleam that had seemed normal up until now, but now looking at Greg as he made soft happy noises while he explored his skin and body there was no sharp tang of fear to any action or a twist of anxious anticipation. It was somehow liberating and relaxing in a way he had never considered. This being in control was nothing like what Hannibal had taught him; it was free, easy and fun with no strings attached but mutual pleasure. He never wanted it to end.

"Next time... next time I want to do nothing more than explore you." This time, he could feel the cusp of need there, Greg's urgency, even while he stretched and moaned. "God you feel good."

"Mmm," Greg managed. "You can do that, man, you can definitely do that..." He groaned as well. "Mmm.. I really want you to do that but right now I've been hard all night. I'd never make it without help."

"I think this can still be good." He kissed Greg's hip again, having worked his way back, hands sliding to Greg's upper thighs, then behind to his ass. He sat up, tipping Greg's hips a little.

"I think it's going to be fantastic," Greg murmured arching a little to help him. His skin was smooth and warm and Greg was flexible to his touch.

Will reached for the lube, squeezing a little out onto his fingertips and rubbing it with his thumb to warm it. He used his other hand to stroke at Greg's leg, just enjoying the view while he got the lube warm enough to not shock when he pressed two fingertips against Greg's asshole.

From the feel of it, Douglas Mason might have done a lot but not necessarily there. Greg was still pretty tight but was relaxed about him pressing in. Even eager in the way he pushed against him. "Yeah, that's more like it."

"You don't mind slow, do you?" He eased his fingers in to the second knuckle, and started to slowly pull them back, working them into Greg.

"It'll drive me crazy in a good way," he replied and wriggling a little. "Mmm. Yeah that's awesome."

He wasn’t going to ask what they'd done, because it wasn't the right moment and whether it satisfied Will's curiosity or not didn't matter. He pulled his fingers back, added a little more lube, and then slid them back into Greg. Just a little extra never hurt, not when he was taking his time. "Good. Tell me if it moves off of awesome."

He was clenching on his fingers, and seemed to loosen up enough that he could push in if he wanted, but he wanted to finger fuck him a little longer until he started to squirm, yeah, like that. He was moving and twisting a little, trying to stifle little moans.

"Seriously... you need to fuck me...Will, please."

"I could probably make you come just from this." But he pulled his fingers out, watching Greg's asshole clench reactively once they were gone. That was novel and struck Will as vulnerable. He wanted to protect that vulnerability.

"You could," Greg agreed flexing his muscles reflexively. "I think you could make me come from talking, but right now I really want you."

His hand was almost shaking while he slicked his dick quickly, shifting on his knees to press into Greg slowly. He wanted to *see*, and he wasn't quite sure why, but he wanted to see Greg's body opening up to him, and then see his face.

The expression his face moved from strain to an almost stunned look of pleasure that made his entire body relax somehow. He looked so young then, younger than he sounded and oddly with a sense of innocence to him even as he pushed into his ass. His legs were trying to grip around him somehow, to hold for him but he was hindered by the blissed out reaction to Will.

Will moved his hands, cupping at Greg's ass to try to support his back while he sank in deep. That was a lovely feeling, tight heat on his dick, the clenching of Greg's ass around him, the look on his face when Will shifted, pulled back just an inch or so.

"Oh my god..." Greg shifted and moaned but he wasn’t really pushing for him to cut to the chase, not yet anyway.

"Mmhmn, god you feel good. Just... like this." He only moved a fraction again, but it made his balls ache just to watch Greg's mouth tighten and then relax, moaning through it.

"Jesus, you weren't kidding about the long and slow..." Greg managed as he settled in for the duration. It was amazing, every time he moved, Greg moved with him, got that incredible look on his face. His pupils were blown with arousal and the darkness reflected light so it was beautiful to see.

"I want to savor how you feel." He sighed it more than he said it, hitching Greg's hips just a little closer.

"Mmm..." Greg shifted comfortably, squeezing around him. He seemed content to lie there moving just a little with him making small contented sounds of approval.

He took his time, waiting until Greg seemed just on the edge of begging for more before he started to thrust harder, taking control of the motion.

Greg was clutching at him desperately then, wanting him, urging him to move faster and deeper. "Fuck, fuck..yeah."

"Mmph. God..." God Greg felt good, god he wished he knew how to make noise the way Greg did, god he never wanted to stop moving.

"Will, please..." It was breathy and rasping which hit him straight to the pit of his stomach. "Harder. Yeah, please...that's it..."

He flexed his fingers, clutching at Greg's hips, fucking him faster, trying to not bend him in half because Greg was flexible but there was no reason to push it.

Dimly he could remember there was a still healing cut on his stomach and that could be painful. It was an amazing experience, entirely satisfying, to be in someone willing, hot and tight who wanted him, clung to him and looked like he wanted to be close to him. No wariness, not pulling back.

Just closeness while he thrust, starting to build towards the edge. He didn't want to, but he wrapped a hand around Greg's dick instead of holding onto his hips, to stroke him off.

He was so damn hard, the heat in his cock almost shocking and he was making almost gasping noises as he rode up to climax. Greg threw back his head and his expression was one of near ecstasy as he came hard.

Ropey blobs of pale white semen spilled over Will's fist, onto Greg's stomach, and Will kept his eyes locked on watching Greg's face while he thrust towards his own climax.

His eyes opened and he smiled blissed out, his ass clenching providing resistance that tipped him over the edge. It felt like there should have been music or something rather than silence and quiet.

He leaned over him, riding it out, breathing hard and relaxing, half-bent over Greg just for the closeness. "That was amazing."

"Understatement..." Greg managed. "Wow. I mean... wow...usually my imagination is way ahead of the real thing but this time...holy crap."

Will ran a hand slowly over Greg's stomach, exhaling. "Yeah. Yeah, that was better than anything."

"I know my experience is limited but..." Greg made sure his hands slipped around him, showing no signs of wanting him to leave after getting what he said he wanted.

It was strange in a way, and Will shifted, pulling out only slowly. "My experience is probably a little wider, but... We should do that again." No 'I think', no caveats, because Will wanted to just lay down with Greg and enjoy the feeling of hands with no threat behind them.

"I really really hope so," Greg said leaning to kiss him. "Fuck. Can you stay with me or...will Hannibal want you there?"

It was almost a little plaintive and hopeful, though it was obvious Greg was trying to be cool about the whole thing.

"I'll stay." Hannibal would or he wouldn't mind and there was no way to know until he tried. "Do you want me to grab a hand towel?"

"Yeah, it gets a bit itchy if it dries on," Greg answered.

Will liked the idea of sleeping with someone in general. It was comfortable, grounding. Heat and warmth and another human breathing beside him, so much the opposite of what his working day felt like, what his nightmares felt like. He leaned up and kissed Greg before he slipped off the bed in search of a warm wet towel to clean up with.

Greg looked drowsy and sated as he lay where he left him. He'd managed to pull the covers open so they could get in together and he was smiling.

"This should help," Will offered, kneeling on the bed to join him. It had been a great night, and he wanted more nights like that.

They'd had fun and that was a novel experience. It occurred to Will as he cleaned Greg and himself off that he'd felt a lot of things having sex with Hannibal; stunned, overwhelmed, out of control but he never remembered having fun.

"Much better. You going to come here and help keep me warm?" Greg asked.

"I'd be crazy to say no." Settling into Greg, and sliding an arm around him felt almost unique to Will. The smell of his hair, borrowed shampoo and borrowed soap, but neither of them were bloody and it wasn't contact that had an excuse associated with it. It just was.

It was a taste of something and he wanted more. He had a hunger of his own now and his resolve of his random idea to take Greg on his own protégé. There was a little chink in his ideas of the future. They had all seemed to lead somewhere dark and hidden before. Monsters lurking in shadow waiting for him to join them, and now he had another option just suddenly there.

Considering how emotionally fragile the pair of them were meant to be Greg felt he and Will were doing really well at re-affirming life. It was different enough with Will that it didn't feel like a betrayal, not when he fucked him, when they drowsily had morning blow jobs, then again when they went in the shower together - then again in the kitchen where a coffee kiss went a little further than Greg had intended.

It had been good, and it hadn't fallen apart when Hannibal had come in with an armful of groceries, all smiles and chattering on about museums he took him and what he'd been up to while they'd been out on the town and sleeping. And fucking.

Greg had to admit he was nervous about Hannibal's reaction, but the older man was very amiable about the whole thing and slipping Will in particular knowing and almost proud looks.

Greg wan't sure how that worked but hey if Hannibal was happy about it, he wasn't going to argue. It had been a revelation, just a completely different feeling and he would quite happily stay in bed forever with Will.

Unfortunately, he needed to go to work, and so did Will. Will was at least willing and comfortable dropping him off at the lab, and they talked on the drive on about getting Greg a beater to drive.

That would be incredibly cool, being able to have a little bit of independence. He managed to keep on top of his feelings about Douglas as well. Something about the connection with Will helped distance him from the belief that he was as much a wife in some ways to Douglas as Isabelle was and he felt a degree of perspective as he re-entered the lab.

Maybe he had been, and it still hurt like hell, but there was... there was a little hope, Greg figured. A little hope went a damn long way. Maybe Will could be a patron. Maybe patrons weren't supposed to sleep with the people they were mentoring, but hell.

"Greggo!" Nick was all wild grins as he walked into the locker room, tying off his shoelaces when Greg slung his bag off his shoulder.

"Hey Nick," Greg said as he made it in. "How's it going? Did I miss much?"

"Just a night. There might be some backlog for you to catch. Brass already said we've got a scene to roll out to. How was your day off? New place okay?" It wasn't just chitchat -- Nick had that tone to his voice that told Greg he meant it.

"Yeah, it's great. I have spare time," he said with a real smile. "Will and I went out around Vegas to take my mind off of things."

"You never did that before? What places did you guys hit?" Nick tipped his head a little as he swapped feet and started to tie the other shoelaces.

"Got some food, went and bought some clothes as I have a bag to my name and then went to a few clubs, down the Strip and went to the amusement park," Greg said with a smile. "I think Will had fun. I know I did."

Particularly after they got back.

It felt... refreshing, and maybe why people were usually so happy about weekends and days off. "Good. Good. Graham's okay at home? New Patron's all right?"

"Seems to be. I mean, Hannibal is a bit intimidating, but he cooked us dinner." He knew he sounded faintly amazed, but in a lot of ways that was a tangible difference to him. " Will's great, really."

"Mmhm." Nick lifted eyebrows at him. Yeah, god knew what Nick was thinking or what Nick thought of Will."You ready for a full day of work?"

"I think so. I mean, I have moments but I think working will take my mind off of things," He shrugged a little. "You got something good."

"The body dump I'm headed out on." Nick picked up his kit. Yeah, body dumps were great because they sampled what seemed like everything, and usually the person was unidentified, so there was a lot of work about ot come Greg's way. "Let me know if you need anything, all right?"

"Sure, I'll clear the decks for when you come back in," Greg said. He would as well. "Thanks for letting me sleep at your place."

"No problem. And if you need a place to crash again..." Like if his current place turned ot hell, yeah, Nick couldn't get any less transparent than that.

"Appreciate it man," Greg nodded. "I'll see you later Nick. I better show my face to Jim."

Check in, make sure everything was okay with the boss types. Nick gave him a wave, and took off with his kit in hand, leaving Greg to wonder... just what he was going to say to Jim. Thanks for the day off, how can I lighten the workload...?

Just as long as he didn't have to go into too much detail. He headed off into the lab and towards Jim's office, feeling some pangs of memories of being here and hearing the news.

Little snapshots of memory, chunks of feeling, Will offering to take him back to the hospital to see, blood still on his hands. The people from the society coming for him, ominously.

He knocked on Jim's door, waiting. "Come in."

He went in, managing to muster a good smile that was pretty convincing. "Hey Jim, just letting you know I'm back in the game."

"Sanders, hey -- glad you came back, we missed you in DNA. Our processing speed missed you." Jim stood up from behind his desk. "How's the new temporary place?"

"Pretty good. Will's cool. Not spending all my time doing chores," he said with a faint smile. "I'll get the backlog down. I'd still like to...you know be involved in things some more though."

"Yeah, Graham mentioned something about that to me." Jim was looking thoughtful. "So. I'll see what I can do to get you some official on the job training. Get you out in the field collecting a little."

"Uh, I'm not sure I can afford more training yet until I have a permanent patron, " Greg felt he had to point out. "I'd love to but the situation is pretty shaky."

"On the job," Jim repeated, "Billable hours, not the other way around."

Greg's eyes widened. Very rarely did training take place without it being charged back. "In that case, sure! I'd love to!"

"Good. I'm gunna make you work for it," Jim caveated, "And I expect you to study at home. Graham'll help. Come by after your shift and pick up a book list, and start on that asap."

The smile now was genuine. "Thanks, I uh...wasn't expecting so much help. It's pretty amazing. I'll definitely work for it."

"Good. You're a good asset. You..." Jim waved a hand a little. "You're the Message to Garcia guy, okay? And so's Nick, and so's Catherine, but that's damn hard to find in people and I don't want to lose someone who takes initiative. Now get your coffee and get processing."

Greg nodded and beat it back to the lab, fired up to keep rocking and rolling his way through backlog. He began to worry that dayshift hadn't touched anything for the time he'd been out. Then he rationalized that it could have been a busy night. The pile of work did help some, because without the distraction of Will, thoughts of Douglas hovered.

He was trying to focus on work, and keep himself extra busy, because the longer he sort of blanked and lingered, the more he remembered his life of before, and it wasn't long distant.

He was trying to get his head around the changes. He hadn't even heard from Isabelle and Craig since everything had happened, but then it as possible his complaint might have her as complicit somehow. Even so, it made it awkward. The thought of seeing them at the funeral whenever Douglas' body was release seemed oddly painful.

He still wanted to go to the funeral, though, and he didn't doubt that if he asked, Will would take him. He wouldn't even have to explain himself. But, funerals. He'd never really liked funerals, and the thought off having to see Craig and Isabelle again was like lime on a wound.

It wouldn't be long before they released the body. The case was closed, it was done, no more mystery there. So, the funeral would be in maybe a few days at the most.

Mostly he didn't have many drop in as they seemed to be flat out. If Nick was out on a body dump on his own then they had to be busy.

Nick wasn't usually their work a body dump on his own guy, after all. Only Catherine ever did that, and usually they all got backup once it was possible. That meant that soon, he hoped, he'd have a *lot* of work coming his way.

It started kicking into high gear when Sara and Warrick came into the lab still talking.

"Greg my man, good to have you back!" Warrick said. "We've got some rush stuff here just for you."

"It's all rush stuff," Greg replied.

"Yeah, well." Warrick tipped his head a little. "Man, we've got some wild cases tonight. Does Graham generate an aura of whackjob attraction?"

"Possibly," Greg smiled a little. "What's the weird on this one huh?"

"That's what we want you to tell us," Sara said.

That was a cryptic answer, and Greg cocked an eyebrow for a second. "Uh..."

"Semen pool found at the scene. Multiple directionality. So either one guy, or..." Warrick shrugged his shoulders. "Or multiple. There was a dead cat, and a dead dude."

Greg boggled at that one. "Mm, could be anything from a ritualistic gang bang to a really weird porn accident." He quirked a bit of a smile. "I'll get it running. What's Cath, Jim and Nick out on?"

"Jim had a robbery, but he's at Nick's scene. Someone butchered a body. Field dressed a human being, Nick said. Al should be bringing the body back soon." Sara grimaced when she said it, and she'd only heard the phone call, not the seen the scene. Wow, field dressed human?

"Tastes like chicken," Warrick smirked. "So, get this one going before the big stuff rolls on? Cath pulled a hooker roll gone bad."

"She'll probably be in next. Well, I caught up the other stuff, so I'm good to go," he promised. "Priority as always, guys."

"I don't know how everything can be a priority..." Sara was leaving, though, and Warrick waved and went with her. Yeah, business as usual, with little hints of cases to tantalize him.

He wondered immediately as he set up the samples to run, what Will would make of all these things. He'd probably glance at them, give that quirk of a smile and it would be solved.

He clicked on the music streaming through his PC, getting into the work and rocking along as he did so. He was good, he knew that, good enough that even the complex work was not enough occupy his mind.

He needed to start writing his workday down as a novel or something to really keep busy, and maybe that was why Brass wanted him to roll over and do field work too. They'd get more done out of him that way, engage his brain more.

Next in was Catherine, looking as elegant as ever, smiling to see him back and busy at work.

"Hey Cath," he said. "Hear you've got a hooker roll for me?"

"Yeah, Al's already getting stacked up tonight. Last night was quiet by comparison," she sighed, handing over a pile of swabs. Crap, yeah, that was going to take a while to run.

"Hear there's another strange one coming in," Greg answered even as he took them. Warrick and Sara's were processing so he could prep these.

There was a lot to prep. "Yeah. Partially skinned, and filleted." Catherine shivered her shoulders. "We'll see if it was a one off, or if it gets elevated."

"Okay, that's not a normal homicide," Greg admitted. "Sounds like a serial to me. I mean...that takes a lot of thought and preparation."

"Or it's a first time serial. I mean, we don't usually hand those out of our jurisdiction unless we have to." Yeah, they were still smarting a little over Will, over Douglas, but Greg felt it more than any of them.

Greg shrugged a little. "I'll run this for you. Began to think the lab didn't process anything when I was out."

"We just left last night's for day to clean up," Catherine smiled. "Are you doing all right?"

He shrugged a little. "Doing okay I guess. I'm not sure it's all sunk in yet. Not looking forward to the funeral though."

"Yeah. When Eddie died..." Catherine rolled her shoulders. "It's hard to know what to feel."

"Will's been great and then I start feeling freaked out that I'm having a good time," Greg confessed. "Then when I'm depressed, I feel I should be grateful for having a new Patron who is treating me well and...stuff."

"Will's not your patron, though." Which Greg really didn't need pointed out, because he'd spent more time with Will than Hannibal, and if Greg was honest, he liked things that way. Will was easy, low stress, no fear or reprisal. Greg had been on eggshells around Douglas that it was hard to *not* be on eggshells around Hannibal

"Yeah, I know but..." But there was a possibility he might be and Greg would be more than happy with that relationship. "So far I've had my first free time since I've been a protégé you know? Apparently that's how it's meant to be."

"Yeah." Catherine gave him a dubious look. "I always had free time. Not a lot of it, but enough."

Greg shrugged again. "I never did. If it wasn't cleaning the house, decorating, making meals, helping Craig with his homework or taking him places I was required to uh… do something for Douglas. Or go out with him."

"Life shouldn't be like that." It almost startled him when she touched his shoulder. "So, you should've let us know about Douglas. But if anything goes weird this time, please tell us."

He almost laughed. "Should've told you? I didn't think there was anything wrong Cath, seriously. I just thought this was what happened. I mean, they were good to me in their own way, not like that case with the ex-pat russian guy over at NIT."

"But it's a sliding scale, Greg. It isn't as if that happening makes what happened to you *not* bad. Assault is assault, whether someone's been beaten half to death or has two black eyes. That some people get beaten half to death doesn't mean black eyes are nothing to scoff about." Which, okay, he followed it, but.

"Well, if I spot something weird, I'll let you know." It was just knowing what was weird that was the problem. "Although, we are talking Will here."

"Well, weird in a different way than his chain smoking on the roof. How about that?" Her beeper went off. "And, my body's up. Have a good night, Greg."

"Yeah, see you later when this is run," Greg nodded and set to work even as Catherine headed off to see Al.

He worked his way through the samples, and Warrick and Sara got their results back which seemed to indicate multiple males at the scene and that the cat hadn't been involved in that at least.

It was the small things that kept his day from being *really* weird, because if he'd gotten cat semen, well. It would've at least ranked in the top ten weirdest cases. Nick came back with his samples nearer to the end of the shift, looking grim. "Hey, Greggo."

"Hey Nick. Lab's been buzzing about the case you've got. Bad one huh?" Sliced and filleted, Jesus.

"Yeah. Yeah, it's..." Nick held swabs out to Greg. "Unknown Victim, body dump. There's every indication he was kept frozen, possibly in a freezer, maybe in a meat van, like those women that were being dumped along the highway...?"

"Oh yeah I remember that," Greg nodded. He frowned a little. "But why would someone do all that and then just do a body dump somewhere obvious?"

"Why does anyone do a body dump somewhere obvious? They think they won't get caught." And if it was just a skinned body they were going to trace it back to... what? A friend once they ID'd the guy?

Greg took the evidence and there was a hell of a lot of it. "Damn, there's a lot here. You okay?"

Nick look grim and was most likely tying himself in knots. He knew Nick, knew how Nick was about cases, for good or for bad. This was tweaking something in his head, and he looked grim. It was the worst kind of case, really. No leads, no way of knowing who was doing the shit they were seeing.

"It's a bad one," Nick said exhaling heavily.

"I could ask Will if he wouldn't mind casting his eyes over the evidence if you feel it would help? Off the record," Greg offered.

"Yeah, having a guy like Will is good, but... I mean, he shouldn't be a crutch." Never mind that if he'd been on the *team*, they would've been all over him for his help. Hell, they all consulted with each other all the time,

"The offers out there. Who knows, one of these samples could nail the guy straight off. I like that about DNA," Greg said trying to sound upbeat to boost Nick's mood.

From the way Nick's head shook, tiny motion, it probably wasn't working. "Maybe. That'd be good. Al said he said it was like looking at a butchered cow. The guy knows what he's doing. Whatever the hell it is that he's doing."

"You'll figure it out Nick," Greg replied. "You're good at this."

The last thing they wanted was a second back to back calling in of the Feds, he could tell that for a fact.

"Thanks. Let me know as soon as you've got results, all right?" Nick tapped the table gently. "I’m going to go run down Trace."

"You got it." It was going to take the rest of the shift to get through this lot flat out but it was important. He'd get it finished before Will dropped around and picked him up.

There wasn't anything else for him to do, because he couldn't get his hands on the evidence and help any other way.

Maybe they would crack the case without Will, and maybe he was just pushing Will as an option because he wanted his only friends to like him, but it could wait for now. It was only the start of the case.

Will had never worked anywhere that wasn't the DC area. He'd travelled, parachuted in, parachuted out. He'd been to every home and field office in the country, he thought, sometimes, but he'd never been to Las Vegas before. The sign in system to get in the front door was baffling all by itself, at 8pm when he was still feeling the time shift.

Vegas was unusual in having a nightshift staff at all and it looked like it was staffed by fresh out of the academy agents and more senior agents who were either on their way out or were sidelined for some reason. Certainly the place seemed to be a stark contrast in that respect.

DC, well, there was no point in running a nightshift. Unless there was a hot case, which Will considered a once a month event, the place shut down by 4pm, 5pm at the latest. He'd never really been a natural early bird, but he'd been trainable to enjoy being at work by 7am. Sort of. Exercising beforehand helped, and he was going to need a new set of routines to support this place, those hours.

In a city where the punishment system ran in high gear for both adjudication and pleasure, Will supposed there was a lot of crime to be handled. He got his badge checked through, and then was let to wander as if he knew where he was going.

He'd managed to get most of the way down a long corridor before he was intercepted by a young fresh faced looking Agent. He probably wasn't that much older than he was, but Will was aware he looked older than his age.

"Hi, Agent Burke, Peter Burke. Sorry, I was sent down to get you a little late," he said.

The graying hair didn't help in that regard, but it had also made his inroads at the agency *easier*. "Not a problem, I was held up at the front desk. Good to meet you." Agent Burke had bright eyes, and maybe a strong interest in his work.

He found himself assessing him automatically.

"Special Agent Fornell is upstairs in the briefing room. He heads up the shift. "

"Great. How long have you been with the bureau?" He chewed his nails, which Will filed away, but his suit shirt was impeccably pressed.

"Couple of years," he replied. "I came to Vegas about 6 months ago. It's one of the best places to fast track experience."

"You're in white collar crime, aren't you? I'd imagine so, with all of the businesses and casinos here." And for murders as well, Will supposed, though the lab in Vegas seemed to have a handle on it.

"Yeah, you got it," Agent Burke said with a slight curl of a smile. "Vegas attracts it."

"So nightshift is busy then?" Probably a great time to drop in on a business and demand to inspect their books, because the owner wasn't around or if he was, he was in flagrante delicto. Will fell into step with Burke, stretching out the last of his read. No wedding ring, no girlfriend. Burke was going to be a career man until some woman threw herself in front of him like a speedbump.

"White collar is busy day and night," Peter said. "Place doesn't sleep, so we don't either. You know, we get lectures on you at the Academy. It's a real honor to have you on board."

He wondered if those lectures mentioned how old he wasn't.

"It's an honor to be on board. I'm hoping to learn a lot with a change of scenery out here. Working with Vegas PD was shockingly not painful."

"Yeah, they pretty much hate our guts," Peter answered. "On principle, but they are damn good."

"I liked working with them. Have you had run-ins?" It was always good to know the lay of the land from the *local* office perspective.

"Not that many personally," Peter said as they walked up the stairs. "So, you covered any of our sort of crime before?"

"No, I've worked strictly on the homicide aspects, profiling in support of," Will said, tucking his hands into his pockets.

"Well, we could use some profiles on some living criminals. We've got a few out there who are very elusive. Like ghosts," Peter said. "We're just up here, I usually take the stairs."

"Is there an obstacle course on grounds?" He hadn't looked around when he'd filed paperwork the last time, and now he was thinking about routines, about staying there. It was that or turn the rental house into an obstacle course, something he didn't think Hannibal was going to welcome. Not if it ended up with him on the roof.

"Not on the grounds but we've got one set up pretty local and the highest tech gym I've ever seen," Peter replied loping up the stairs ahead of him. "We'll get you a pass. You staying long?"

"Probably a month at the least. I finish up my Patronage in 40 something days, which means I have a little latitude on where I'm going." He might go back to DC, but if he *could* take on Greg's patronage to finish him out, then he'd stay in Vegas. It really was as simple as that, because so many of his choices weren't choices.

"Well, heard you solved the LVPD's serial in a couple of days so I can't wait to see what you can do for us," Peter enthused and as they stepped into the offices gestures. "That's Special Agent Fornell over there."

"Sir." Will inclined his head a little as they got closer to Fornell. He outranked Will on seniority alone, but Will was in an odd positional limbo with the Bureau -- not in the agent ranks, not really a teacher, not really anything. Good pay, at least. Special agent, Special investigator, and he *knew* why, but they all thought he didn't. He didn't pass the psych tests the way they wanted him to.

"Special Investigator Graham," Fornell stepped closer. "Good to have you on board with my motley crew here. Agent Burke you've met, Agent Hendrickson is somewhere getting coffee and we've got our admin over here, Sophie. This is what White Collar gets at night. Quality rather than quantity."

White Collar. Will inclined his head a little, because he had a feeling it wasn't going to be enough variety to keep him engaged. Not really, and maybe that made him an asshole. "Good to be on board. I'm interested in getting started on that case pile I was promised, as soon as possible."

Fornell nodded. "Peter, take Special Investigator Graham with you up to the meeting room where you have the cold case piles. Stay with him and try and learn from his expertise. "

"Yes sir," Agent Burke agreed. "It's up here. I've been sifting through a few things."

"What sort of sifting?" After all, the way people organized things said a great deal about the way they thought, processed and viewed the world.

"Well, the people doing White collar crime tend to be above average in the intelligence stakes - I'm not talking the run of the mill embezzlers, I'm talking the industrial conmen, the high class art thieves, people who pick up millions in the same way other thieves might pick a pocket," Agent Burke explained. "They're *good* and they often are smart enough to cover their tracks and identity. Linking cases to a known criminal can help profile, or discovering their signature...that can crack things wide open."

It wasn't quite the same as murder, though Will supposed there were motives beyond greed. But mostly greed. "All right. And what categories are you breaking them down into?"

Agent Burke gestured to the piles on the table. "Got to admit, we're grouping by crime type then trying to see commonalities in MO, like location hits or anything really."

"All right. Do you mind if I un-sort it and start from scratch? I tend to come at things a little... differently." After all, they were all cold cases. That meant there could be the path of someone who they had for something now, progressed, or the entire career chain of a long time criminal, crossing through and experimenting with MO.

"Sure, if you can tell me how you are doing it."

A reasonable enough request considering.

Will closed his eyes and sort of unshuffled the piles a little, careful to not intermingle files. "It's going to take a while to go through all the cases, but since these are cold cases, they're not adhering to your usual way of tackling a case. It didn't work at the time, did it?"

"I guess not," Peter was watching him closely. "So you going to go at it from a tangent yes?"

"That depends on how you define a tangent." Will picked up the first folder, mouth pulled into a thoughtful angle while he started to read. Stolen art didn't quite speak to him the same way humans did, but the technique was the same -- read the reports, review the pictures, take in the scene, see what there was to see.

"Quirky," Peter said with a grin. "Tell you what, I'll get you a coffee or something while you acclimatize yourself then I'll come back and catch up."

"Sure." He wanted to scan and get a feel for the cold cases. The ones that had ties would pull themselves together quickly, and they were the ones he might be able to solve more quickly. More evidence meant more of a pattern to see, to draw from. It was a damn shame he wasn't accustomed with the white collar body of literature.

"How do you take the coffee? You want anything else?" Peter asked moving towards the door.

"Black, sweet. I don't need anything else. Thanks." Will glanced over to Peter, picking up the next file. A first scan, then, so he could explain what he was thinking to Peter to help. If he could teach and convey, then he'd reached a better stage of understanding himself.

Peter left him to his own devices and as he read through files he could feel personalities of the crimes shining through. Lighter less disturbed personalities, but not that dissimilar in a way. Similar flavors and combination just not twisted into darkness. It was interesting and like the equivalent of a light workout, just to get the brain cells ticking. Easy though some were more challenging. How was he going to explain certain cases had the same "flavor'?

There was definitely at least one clear repeat offender, possibly two woven through the pile, though he'd need more time to work out that in finer detail. He needed a notebook, and to start writing it down, but that could wait until Peter came back with the coffee.

The difference was this felt more cerebral rather than visceral. These were people trying to be clever either to prove something or hide from something.

"Coffee, black sugar," Agent Burke said as he came back in. "What did I miss?"

These weren't really people being clever to enhance their own pleasure. "Thanks. You've got at least one repeat offender in the cold cases, so after I go through them, take notes, take my time, I'd like to tackle that one first." He took a sip of the coffee. The bright fluorescent lights in there was disorienting, like being in a meeting at the home office late at night always was.

"That's... that's amazing," Agent Burke looked stunned. "I was only out for 15 minutes or so and you've identified repeats?"

"It's someone who's really been growing their style over the years. It's spread out enough that I wonder if there are crimes that've gone unreported, tied to him. That would take a lot more time, of course..." Will gathered together the rough set. "The forgeries."

"Forgeries? They can take time," Burke agreed. "A good one can but not many who do, do the physical stealing."

"But the stealing is similar even before he started to put forgeries into place," Will said, passing over the stack he'd set aside as that one case. "Forging is what makes it interesting to him."

"So is it the art that is the passion rather than the money?" Peter asked as he looked at the cases. "Dammit we were looking at the selling and the money. "

"Some of the others may be selling and money. This guy..." Will gestured to the stack he'd handed Peter. "Has impeccable tastes. I'm sure he and my patron could have an art discussion far over my head."

"Okay, okay, there's this thing great forgers do. There's a signature, always a hidden signature," Peter sounded excited.

"That sounds like a gloating trademark," Will suggested. "None of the pictures are detailed enough. We're going to need to haul them out of evidence."

"We can do that. If we can do that and profile this guy, chasing him down will be no problem," Peter said brimming with confidence suddenly.

And it wasn't that easy, not by a longshot, but they could at least get a start. Will lifted his cup of coffee in a toast to Agent Burke, and decided he could enjoy this vacation.

The funeral was worse in some ways than he’d had been anticipating. After the public reveal, a lot of Douglas Mason's close friends and colleagues suddenly weren't so close anymore. There were very few people there, just family and his own support group consisting of Hannibal, Will and Nick who he had been grateful to have there,

Will's support sort of stopped at the door. He didn't want to see Mason's wife and son, just. Couldn't. Could not, so he'd posted himself outside where he was probably chainsmoking like hell. It was an odd thing for Will to dig his heels in about, but Greg wasn't really going to poke because he wanted to not have to see them just as much.

He was here to try and get closure on the man he knew as Douglas, not the Paul Millander persona. Douglas, for all the fact that he had worked harder maybe than most others, had supported him, cared for him in his own way. You didn't do the things he had agreed to with him without there being a high level of trust which was why it was so bitter now.

He could see Isabelle, dry eyed and staring ahead, stock still as if one of Douglas' sculptures and wondered what she felt like.

Horrible. Stupid, probably, stupid to have trusted, stupid to have loved him, yeah, to have *married* him, long before Greg had come onto the scene, and she was probably mourning and kicking herself at the same time. And Craig, fuck. That just hurt, because he was damp eyed and confused and *angry* looking.

Craig was at that age where he probably assumed it was his fault somehow and was looking for someone to blame. He tried to pay attention to the eulogy, but found it hard. He'd never much liked Professor Langston, but he and Douglas had been good friends, meeting often in court when the professor was called as an expert witness. He'd been a frequent visitor and yet he too hadn't known him, or not well enough.

He usually just found something else to do when the guy was around, and he'd never been really invited to talk to him, so... so it didn't surprise him that the eulogy was boring, and he was mentally glossing through it, because yeah, good friends or not, it was awkward to talk around what had happened. Particularly on a podium.

He could feel Langston looking at him though and he wasn't sure why. Lots of people were looking at them and maybe it was guilt but he felt they were somehow accusing him of something. Especially when Langston started on about how much of a surprise it must have been to discover another tortured soul lashing out when even those with expert training had been unaware.

Like it was his fault Douglas had 'gone postal' in the first place. Nick didn't accuse, and Will and Hannibal didn't accuse, but the whole rest of the world probably suspected that Greg was an accomplice somehow. Never mind that he'd been cleared, it was just a look in their eyes.

Hannibal had said that he felt that way because guilt was a means of the mind to try and express a level of control over the uncontrollable. He wasn't entirely sure what that meant, but he had to work hard to keep his breathing even and steady. His chest and throat felt tight and sore and his eyes felt like they were stinging. That was Douglas there in the coffin. It was surreal, a body who had been his mentor, his Patron for six years. Six years he had been the axis of his universe and now he was handed over like a pet.

It was a good handoff, but it still hurt, made his chest ache because everyone expected him to roll with it without hitches. And there were hitches, and Greg didn't quite know how to explain it because Douglas had been the person he was closest to for *six years*, and now that was gone.

He somehow made it through the last hymn and then they were standing at the graveside as the coffin was lowered in. He didn't even remember walking there, or what Nicky was murmuring to him quietly half steadying him with one hand. It did feel like a dream somehow and his vision was blurred as well as Douglas' coffin was lowered into the earth.

He closed his eyes, ran the back of his hand over his eyes. Douglas in the ground was supposed to be closure, except he'd killed himself. After murdering people. And it just. It just Greg. He still didn't know what Douglas had been getting out of it, why he was willing to throw his family away. Throw Greg away. Throw his life away.

Except that Will had said he was sick.

If he could just hold onto that then maybe he could forgive him somehow. When Douglas had been dying what he'd done had faded away for those last moments and he was glad for his own sake Douglas hadn't been alone when he died but right now, that forgiveness was difficult to hold on to, especially now it was officially done and people were moving around and starting to express condolences.

No one was really offering them to him, but hey. He needed to get up there, say something to Isabelle and Craig while he still could. Needed to just... say something. Even if it was trite.

He started moving that way, waiting like he shouldn't have to have waited for others to move out of the way. His mind was telling him he should be standing with them, not trying to get to them. Finally there was a gap, even as Langston was standing next to them both in the gap that he thought was his place in the family.

"Uh, I wanted to say...give my condolences," Greg said to Isabelle. "I know there's nothing I can say that will make things hurt any less Isabelle."

"No. I, I'm sorry." Her mouth was flat, tight, and maybe she was trying to keep from crying. "I, we all turned a blind eye to a lot of things. You weren't the only one. It might've changed something."

"Douglas was on a self-destructive course, Isabelle, which started a long time before you met him," Professor Langston said. "I'm afraid there was no saving him."

Greg winced at that, seeing the expression on Craig's face. No kid should ever have to hear that their father couldn't be saved even if it was from themselves.

"I'd like to think we would have tried," Greg answered.

"You could have tried, but it wouldn't have worked." That made Greg grimace, and want to go, want to take *Craig* away, because Langston was looking so firm about what he thought, and it made him an asshole. Sure, maybe he was right, but Douglas was dead and that wasn't quite what anyone needed, wanted to hear.

"I think there's a great deal to be said for rehabilitation," Hannibal murmured from behind him. "Mrs. Mason, my regrets for your husband's untimely demise. He died a good man, and in full command of his senses."

Greg blinked looking at Hannibal with an expression of surprise as Isabelle looked at him. "How do you know?"

"From Greg's description of events. It is very clear that he was fighting to do the right thing."

Isabelle's mouth pulled down, and she opened it to say something, and stopped herself, fingers covering her lips. "I'm sure that with therapy and medication, your husband would have recovered. But from his point of view, he only saw one way out to stop himself from causing further harm to his loved ones."

Greg felt the ached hit him hard. It was true, he knew it, Douglas had killed himself to save them. To save him. It had been the incident with him that had sent him running into self destruction.

"I.. I.. Thank you," she said in a shaken way. "I am sorry we cannot afford your Patronage now Greg."

"Ah, we'll make sure he's taken well care of." Hannibal seemed to recede back a little, giving Greg his space again.

She nodded at him and Greg just didn't know what to say. Craig was still looking at him with dark upset eyes and he couldn't solve this one.

"I'm sorry," he said a little helplessly.

"It's not unusual for a subordinate protégé to feel guilt for their Patrons actions," the Professor opined.

And really, he mostly wanted to punch the professor in the nuts, but he was too busy focusing on Isabella. "We'll, we'll keep in touch, Greg. I hope you do well. I know Craig will want to keep in touch."

"I'll try," he said and meant it. There were people waiting to talk to her . "I better allow you to uh... both... speak to others."

And he moved on. He really was going to try, and walking past them left him for one last wander past the open grave. Douglas's open grave. It really made it final, closed things off in a way he'd never expected.

He didn't have anything sentimental to throw in and it was strange how in his head, Paul Millander the killer had become someone separate to Douglas Mason. Douglas was the one who was now dead and buried in front of him as much a victim of Paul Millander as any of the murder suicides.

"Is Will okay?" he asked staring at the hole, unable to look away,

"Will feels guilt for Douglas's death, and doesn't want to see Isabella or Craig. He thinks of them as victims of *him*, in a way. No doubt he's chain-smoking on the hood of the car." Hannibal was somewhere to his left, maybe watching Greg, maybe looking into the hole. "Are *you* okay?"

"As much as I'll ever be I guess." Nick had stayed to say some soothing words to Isabelle and it was just the two of them. "You were right. He did kill himself to try and save us. And himself I guess."

"I don't think he was very much concerned about himself. After all, if he'd been primary in his own mind, he would have gambled with your safety, with Isabella and Craig's safety, and carried on for some time longer."

"Yeah, well Craig didn't need to know from the Professor his father was doomed," Greg pointed out. Even if to a certain extent it was true.

"He wasn't doomed," Hannibal murmured. "A timely intervention by, say, a very knowledgeable member of the medical community could have stopped it."

"Oh the Professor is very knowledgeable after the fact." Greg was surprised at the bitterness in his tone.

"Yes, well. Some people insist on being insufferable," Hannibal said almost lightly. "I've heard it's a disease of sorts. I'd wager as well that he could tell us all what it is."

Greg found a flicker of a smile even ask Nick came back.

"Hey Greggo, I'm gonna have to head out," he said in his soft drawl. "Is that okay? I'll stay if you need me."

"No it's okay Nick, we'll probably be going soon as well," Greg answered. "Thank you -meant a lot to have you here."

"Anything. If you need anything..." Nick leaned in and hugged him, patted his back. "I'm here for you, okay, Greggo?"

The gesture of support and sympathy made his eyes sting and throat tighten even as he returned the hug. "'ppreciate it Nicky," he replied and then drew back. "I guess we better track down Will."

"Oh, he won't be hard to find." Hannibal's hands were folded precisely behind his back, waiting for Greg to start walking before he started. "I've made dinner. I should be ready by now. And then I think you should try and relax."

He nodded. "Thank you Hannibal. I appreciate you coming with me. You didn't have to."

Greg felt bad about doubting the man, or taking against him. Hannibal had done nothing but help him.

"You remind me very much of Will, before the stresses of the job reformed him, Greg. It was one of my failings that I did not do enough to try to shield him from undue strain. I would not make the same mistakes twice."

"Speaking of Will, I don't want him blaming himself," Greg replied. "Can we go find out where he is chainsmoking?"

It wasn't Will's fault. He had accelerated the downward spiral but he had tried to save Douglas.

He'd *wanted* to save Douglas. Greg had heard him pleading with Douglas before Greg had even gotten to the top of the stairs, and to have him try to kill himself like that, with a pen, after he'd already stopped it once...

"Yes, I expect he's moved now that other people are making their way back towards the cars. He won't have gone far."

"Follow the smell of cigarette smoke.." Greg murmured and from smell of it he’d taken off around the corner of the building.

"It's a nasty habit Jack gave him," Hannibal murmured, "But I don't have the heart to enforce nicotine patches on him to try to get him to quit. Will? We're heading home now."

No answer, not right off, but another turn behind the small caretaker's building, and Greg saw him. Leaning there like he was very busy holding the building up.

"Hey Will," he said sounding forced even to himself. "You okay back here?"

He looked far from okay, and for the first time Greg saw how really close to the edge Will ran all the time. And there just wasn't any reason for it. He wasn't even on a case, but his eyes looked hollowed out, and one hand was shaking while he dropped his cigarette and put it out. "Yeah. Yeah. The funeral's over?"

"Yeah. We can go home now." Greg reached for his hand. "It's okay Will. " He needed him to know it wasn't his fault.

He just wasn't sure how to get that across. Will's mouth twitched into an odd smile, and he inclined his head a little. "Okay. Let's go. I, uh... I'm sorry I wasn't there."

"You were here," Greg assured him. "I knew that. You didn't have to come at all but you did."

"Perhaps I should drive," Hannibal said. "We'll eat and then you can just relax."

Will fished the car keys out of his pocket, and handed them over to Hannibal without a protest. "Okay. Was it a nice service?"

“As good as one of these things could be," Greg answered. "Professor Langston from the University did the eulogy. It was...fine."

A little holier-than-thou in tone but that was the Professor all over.

Will put his hands in his pockets, walking over a little closer to Greg was they moved back toward the car. "He's not suffering anymore."

"I wish I'd known before. Maybe I could have helped somehow," Greg answered feeling a spark of anger. Wasn't he good enough to share with? To trust? He could have helped somehow."

He wanted to have helped. "I wish you hadn't’ve known, too. Things would be..." Will shrugged his shoulders. "Well, different, but I know you wanted to save him."

"Obviously I can't fix everything and probably shouldn't even try," Greg answered almost to himself. "Come on, let’s go home."

He wanted to hold on to Will. To help him and be comforted all at the same time. He knew Will wasn't touched enough and he responded somehow to touch. He fell into it, almost, and just putting a hand out to his arm seemed to draw Will in like a magnet. "Well, there's no harm in trying."

He could feel Will relax just from his touch. He smiled just a little, amazed at that and gently steer him to sit in the car, deliberately sitting with him. Then he could put his hand on skin, could take his hand. Get him to ease, and Hannibal didn't seem to have a problem driving the two of them. "So."

"It's over." It really was. That part of his life was over, and it was dead and buried in the most literal way. "And you're all shook up."

"It's not about me." He shifted, and there was an odd motion to his posture before he slid an arm behind Greg's back.

"This part is about you," Greg replied. "You blame yourself? For what?"

"I should've moved faster. I knew what he was going to do as soon as I realized he had something up his sleeve, I just didn't move *fast* enough." Greg could feel the arm behind his shoulders tensing minutely.

"Look, Will, you and I know that Douglas was going to use anything he could have found to commit suicide," Greg replied. "Speed is nothing against perseverance."

“I know, but they were going to transfer him to a mental health ward after I interviewed him. They would’ve been better equipped, would have put him on starter medication…” And Will sounded like he saw it as a missed opportunity because he hadn’t been able to keep Douglas from killing himself in that short time he had him to interview. Never mind all of the other times Douglas would’ve tried to kill himself between point a, Will’s interrogation room, and point b, a hospital.

“Yes, what’s that trick, Will? The one where Crawford shows you family photographs of the victims because he knows you’ll envision all the next families?” Hannibal sounded almost light as he said that, like they were re-treading old ground. “You can’t save everyone.”

Greg squeezed his hand. "But I'm glad you tried," he said softly. He had tried harder than most would have done. "That's as much as anyone could ask for."

"Try harder, fail harder." Will still looked a little distant, but he squeezed Greg's hand in return. "What do you want to do when we get home?"

"I think we should just chill I guess," Greg said. "Maybe watch a movie or something."

"Then I will most certainly find other ways to entertain myself," Hannibal said.

Will canted his eyes up, looking at Hannibal in the rearview mirror. "Are you sure?"

"I am finding Vegas more diverting than I imagined," he replied.

Greg was relieved. That meant they could just curl up together if they wanted to. Hannibal had been leaving them pretty much alone. Which. Greg almost felt guilty about, except he liked his time with Will. He liked it a *lot*, and Will was easy to spend time with. He'd start to unwind and they might make coffee and just.... lounge.

Will certainly looked like he needed it and he hadn't missed the tensing up when Hannibal had spoken. He threaded his fingers through Will's feeling the trembling steady out.

It was strange but he had never seen Hannibal do casual affection.

He was very compartmentalized seeming, even if he was thoughtful and gentle in word. Will shifted, exhaled a little. "Movie sounds great."

Greg relaxed. Just a little time to unwind, just with Will and things would be okay.

It was almost a shame that he had a night off that Greg didn't. It was strange to miss the give and take of working with Agent Burke, and the rest of the team, because white collar crimes still wasn't a very hot interest for him. But it was relaxing, and almost like playing with worry beads.

Little intriguing patterns a little like the warm satisfaction of solving puzzles rather than the white hot adrenalin intensity of the chase.

It was also, he realized with a shock, the first time he and Hannibal had been alone since they had taken Greg on as a protégé.

And that had been a while. He'd driven Greg to work, and then turned around, a little curious of what might be waiting for him. He'd been somewhat derelict in his duties to Hannibal, Will supposed. What was strange was the fact Hannibal hadn't pushed him on it. In fact as he came in Hannibal was sitting reading listing to some classical music. He barely interrupted what he was doing to acknowledge him.

Will wasn't quite sure what to do, so he sat down with the book he'd planned on reading, stretched out on the sofa with a notepad balanced on one knee to write while he chewed through the text.

It was a little while before he felt Hannibal’s attention on him. "I was not sure if you would be coming straight back Will," he said. "you and Greg have been out a great deal."

"Greg's on shift tonight. It's been... nice. I haven't really explored a city in a while." He shifted, leaning back to look at Hannibal.

"Even so, you might have wanted to go alone," he replied and then smiled. "But I am glad you have come back. I have not seen you alone for some time."

It was a subtle dig at the fact that he had not really been with Hannibal since the first few nights Greg had been there. He leaned his head back on the arm of the sofa, still looking at Hannibal. "It has been a while. I'm sorry about that. Greg's just..." Drawing, enveloping, a point of obsession.

"He has been very vulnerable hasn't he?" And there was a very knowing smile at that. "All that life bound up with so much hurt. No wonder your instincts are attracted."

"He's brilliant, and bright," Will murmured, watching Hannibal's keen expression. "And I just want to... nurture him and help."

"And you seem to be compatible sexually too," Hannibal commented blandly. "That's always an added bonus in a potential Patronage arrangement. That is your plan isn't it?"

"I'd like to, yes. I think... I need a break from DC. From the bureau." He wasn't usually so keenly aware that he was falling apart, except he *was* aware of it now. And he needed to try to do something about it.

"From me?" Hannibal half asked in a light seemingly calm tone. Will knew that Hannibal was more complex than that. Calm on the surface could conceal darker thoughts and emotions.

"No, Hannibal. Not from you. From Jack, from... murder, from serial killers, from living on the edge. I'm cracking up." And Hannibal knew it.

"I would not have allowed this develop like this if I did not think that being with Greg would help you some way." He put down his papers and sipped his wine. "In some ways he has been more beneficial than my original suggestion of a vacation. You do need to step back a little. Practice a little restraint."

"Restraint?" He sat up a little, turning around to look curiously at Hannibal.

Hannibal chuckled. "Oh I'm sure you can practice it literally with your protégé to be Will, but in this instance I was talking figuratively. You have the scent, the ability but you need to conserve energy, focus it tightly and economically so you act precisely."

"I can't..." Will dug for the words. "I can't separate myself from the victims."

"You mean you find it difficult to shut down the thoughts inside of you when you hunt. I have told you before, you should let them flow. Resistance gives it power."

That seemed strange advice really. It made a form of sense, but surely he should resist the urge to murder.

"I'm afraid I'll kill someone. That I'll slip, that I'll... That I won't try to pull the pen out of Judge Mason's hands." He didn't want to become that person, and sometimes the impulses were so hard to fight.

"You won't kill someone who does not deserve it," Hannibal encouraged him. "It is hard to rein in the instinct once the scent is there. You need to be used to stopping, to indulge yourself and remain in control."

"I don't..." Will closed his eyes for a moment. "I don't enjoy doing that. I don't want to do that. I, you remember the Hobbs case." He'd killed him, and he hadn't been able to let go of the scent even after his death.

"You resisted and in doing so, fed it power," Lecter said. "I had to break you to bring you back, do you remember?"

Will kept his eyes close. "I remember. I'm fine now. I'm fine now. I just... I can't let go of that."

Hannibal was watching him, he could feel it. "Will come here."

He shifted off of the sofa slowly, opening his eyes only reluctantly. "Work's been fine."

Hannibal gestured. "Sit here, on the floor where I can reach you." He turned around and put his back to Hannibal. It was an oddly vulnerable position to be in, and he felt the hands settle around his neck.

"You do need to relax," Hannibal murmured as his hands kneaded the knots in his flesh with an amazing subtlety. "And find the point of control within the flow."

"Smoking helps," he laughed, letting his head drop a little. There was a lot of control to let go of, a lot of unwinding to do.

"But right now you are with me, you can relax and let go," he said softly as his warm hands worked his neck and shoulders. He could feel the popping of lactic acid crystals in his muscles.

It was almost a maddening relief. Will started to ease up, started to just sink into the sensation. And oddly, all he could think of it was doing that to Greg, slowly, taking him apart muscle by muscle. "Thanks."

"You are a hedonist Will," Hannibal nearly chuckle in a low tone. "Are you having interesting thoughts? I can feel the heat rushing to the surface of your skin."

"It feels good," Will drawled, exhaling. "It feels good to feel pleasure."

"And to give it." Hannibal’s voice was like honey in his ear. "You think about giving this to your protégé don't you?"

"Yes." He wasn't going to lie to Hannibal -- there wasn't any point. It never held up under scrutiny. "I appreciate everything you've taught me."

"Mm, I would very much like to see that knowledge passed on." He was smiling again, Will could tell from the tone of his voice as his fingers worked his muscles, pressing on the sore points and letting them release in a deeply satisfying way. "*All* my knowledge."

"I don't think I have all your knowledge," Will half-murmured, half sighed, letting his head loll down.

"I teach you in every moment," Hannibal promised him. "With every word and every touch. That was what you asked for."

"I appreciate it." He did. Hannibal had taught him so much, good and bad, but it was lessons Will had mostly learned well.

"You're good at a rare skill Will," Hannibal mentioned. "You find their minds and then become the greater predator to stop them. That is a skill not everyone can do."

"I wish it didn't always end in blood." How many had he actually out away in prison? One out of every four, if he was lucky? His numbers were shit.

"Murders begin in blood and ending in them is a fate that is inevitable," he answered. "Sometimes it just finds a way."

"I suppose." The massaging of his neck left him loose, pliable. Willing, Will supposed, not that he was ever really un-willing.

Hannibal usually just knew. "You feel good don't you Will? Entertain me, tell me what you imagine for your new protégé the next time you are together." It was his voice pitched in that strange way that made him want to respond and answer.

Next time. Next time he and Greg were together, he really did want to lick Greg all over, taste him, make him cry out and squirm and beg. "I want to keep him on edge for so long that he begs me for release."

The touching had taken on a different tone. "You will describe what you want and how you will do that."

Will considered it for a moment, still feeling the fingertips linger. It felt oddly invasive. "I'll tie him down a little. I think he likes bondage, done right. I want to kiss him all over, draw it out."

"You enjoy being in control of how he feels..." Hannibal murmured. "Just think, all that feeling and sensation, all those wonderful noises he makes due to you."

"I wonder where I got a taste for that?" It was half rhetorical, the edges of his mouth twitching. "He loves it."

"I would very much like to see that," Hannibal almost purred in his ear. "You remember what it can be like and you have tasted only the smallest bit of the delight it can be."

"Mmm. When we have some time. Intersecting days off." That was another weekend away, because Greg was off shift the next day and Will was on-shift, and night-time hours with unpredictable weekends were oddly more predictable than his previous work arrangements had been.

"I feel you should mark this occasion and choose and buy your own equipment." There was a soft kiss to the back of his neck.

Maybe he should. Hannibal's was well worn from *him*, and Hannibal was going to keep it, Will was sure. They could stop and find a place on the way back from work sometime. "That's a good idea."

"There is something special in choosing for someone, imagining how it will look against a particular persons skin, how they will look straining and helpless within it, pulling it through your hands to feel what it will be like tight on skin." Hannibal painted evocative pictures with his words. "Imagine it Will, all that life wrapped up as a present to yourself, his body to play with like a symphony conducted by a virtuoso.... you want to have every part of him. You need every part of him."

He painted evocative pictures with his hands, fingers starting to pull, goadingly, at Will's shirt. "I do want to have every part of him. He's gorgeous. I want to take him apart and put him back together."

"Beautiful." Hannibal whispered with genuine pleasure. "In that broken moment is a pleasure that cannot be described. The purity of trust and faith that a god would envy."

"I don't think a god would know what to do with it." Ignore it, possibly, or.... or Will wasn't sure. He shifted at Hannibal's urging, pulled away a little and pulled his t-shirt up over his head.

Hannibal chuckled. "They would eat it of course," he said as his teeth lightly pressed against Will's shoulder. "This has been mine, all this..."

It felt a little like a slow motion breakup, Will supposed. Talking through, reminiscing, and both of them *knew* Will was leaving, but it was hard to deny Hannibal the things he wanted. "I don't have to pick Greg up until the morning."

"Time enough to enjoy you Will. Remind you of skills to be passed on." Fingers were over his chest, flicking with a sharp sting at his nipples.

Maybe the way Hannibal went at things wasn't quite right, but then again -- Will wasn't sure he knew any better.

When Will had suggested they go shopping, Greg had imagined groceries or clothes again. This on the other hand was a whole different kettle of rather kinky fish.

"I was thinking... that you'd mentioned you'd enjoyed bondage." Will offered it out there, like Greg could ease back at any time. "And those things are usually better if it's entirely your choice."

Greg looked at him and smirked. Things had been great with Will, so much so it had been a revelation. And of all the things he had done with Douglas he had enjoyed the bondage and pleasure most of all. "Well yeah. So we're out shopping for our own personal gear huh?"

Wow, that was cool. He'd never had that before.

"Yeah. I want it to be yours. So, we're going to get gear that you like, and use that. Instead of any other arrangement." Will pocketed his car keys, and the two of them were still standing outside the doors of the sex shop.

"Cool." He was already feeling a little turned on just at the thought. He entered the shop and immediately didn't know where to start, There was all sorts of gear that drew the eye. Leather, latex, silk rope, rubber, metal everywhere.

Lots and lots of chains, though, and for a moment, Will just fell into step with him, smiling as he looked. "It's funny that we run into this enough at scenes that I sometimes forget the good sides."

He had to admit he wondered what it might be like with Will. Would it be different to Douglas? Most likely it would be. "I don't know where to start. I mean Douglas, he liked to experiment with restraints." Douglas was.. .had been all about restraint, control, containment.

"But which ones did you like best? I... sort of like handcuffs. Arm restraints. It's just a matter of taste." There was no right or wrong answer, yeah. Greg's mouth twitched a little because he could almost hear that.

"But it's partly about the look as well right?" Greg answered. Smooth rope. Douglas had used a lot of that. Oh, the nice leather cuffs with the rings and padded insides. "Metal was for the really...intense times."

Greg tried not to remember some of those times. "I like the leather restraints and rope. Rope was very versatile... Douglas liked to play with shibari."

"Did you like it?" Will didn't grill him on what Douglas did, so much as he grilled him on what he liked, which Greg was getting used to. The rope was... fun, in a lot of ways, smooth silk against his skin.

"Yeah, yeah, it was fun." He grinned and threaded fingers through one. "It's where I developed flexibility. Sometimes he would put me in a tie and put something in me and then just start drawing me."

The smile at the edge of Will's mouth quirked a little more brightly. "And you liked that attention. Hmn." They were in different colors, and Will started to look at the ropes, and then back to Greg.

"Hey, I like attention, who doesn't? The leather is fun too. I like the creaky sound when you strain against it," he commented.

Will leaned over, and kissed Greg's temple. "I'm trying to work out what color would look best against your skin."

"I hope we're going to try it out soon," Greg asked hopefully as he poked around "Have you ever used it on someone?"

"No. I, uh..." Will picked up a dark blue and a rose red, and held the bundles out for Greg to see. "I'm usually on the receiving end."

"Well at least you'll know what it feels like. I'm pretty sure you can figure it out," Greg said hopefully. "Both nice. You could do good patterns with that. What were the things you mentioned the first time we were together?"

"Nipple clamps," Will murmured, leaning up to look over to another aisle. "I should've grabbed a shopping basket."

"And are they painful?" Greg asked a little nervously. The cut was healing but twinged enough that he remembered. "I'm a bit of a wuss about pain. I mean, I guess if we'd talked about it I would be willing to try it."

"No, those are alligator clamps. These are, they're shaped like a clover-leaf. It's just gentle, persistent pleasure. It's very nice." And Will was speaking from the voice of experience.

"I'm willing to try them," Greg said. "If you want to use them. I mean if you like them I'll know that they have a chance of being my thing." And he didn't want to deprive Will of his favorites."

"I don't want you to hurt or feel pain," Will murmured. "There's a lot you can do with sensation and pressure without actually hurting. I promise. I'm against hurting, personally."

Greg believed him. "You know, I didn't mind the whole controlling orgasm thing," he said in a low voice. "That was pretty fun."

"Good." Will's mouth twitched a little. "So, leather cuffs, and then the clamps. Start small."

"Yeah. I mean if you haven't done it before you might not know what sort of thing really turns you on," Greg said with a nod.

"You said you liked toys?" Will seemed to be contemplating the rings that went with the rope, and reached out to grab two of them.

"Well yeah, who doesn't?" Greg answered. What was not to like about them? they were fun and gave really good orgasms.

"We'll get you a couple," Will offered, pulling at Greg. "Do you have a favorite?"

"I'm going to let you surprise me on that one," Greg said. "The element of surprise can be fun too."

"The fine line between comfort and excitement." Will rocked back onto his heels, pivoting slightly towards the rows and rows of sex toys. "Vibrating, yes or no?"

"Yeah, those are very nice sometimes." Not so much the last time he had experienced it with the cutting and Douglas losing control but up to that point vibrating was up there in the favorite things.

He liked the feeling of not having control, of wanting more or less and not being able to control it. Will was smirking a little, picking up a gaudy bright blue thing that looked like it was filled with ball bearings.

"Okay that’s a new one," Greg said raising his eyebrows. What the hell did that do?

"They spin in counterpoint. It's very nice, and very interesting." And he was putting it in the basket, lifting his eyebrows at Greg a little comically.

Greg tried to imagine the sensation and he knew his expression must be a picture. "Okay, I'm officially intrigued by that."

"It's a very nice feeling," Will murmured, eyeing the others on the racks and shelves. "Pick one."

Greg glanced them over and decided there should be a normal fairly standard one in their arsenal, and picked out a vibrator, large enough to stretch him, but that would be comfortable and with convenient loops in the handle so it could be secured if necessary. "There we go."

"Cuffs, and more lube, then?" Will asked, looking down at the basket and then back to Greg.

"Can never have enough of that," Greg agreed picking a brand he was used to. He grinned as he did so, his mind taken off of other concerns.

It was easy to just look at things, to laugh when Will held up one that was pink and seemed to have tentacles on the end.

"What is that?" Greg nearly had the giggles. "Man, it reminds me of the time Douglas had me posing for a photo. There were tentacles.."

"Where did the tentacles *come* from?" Will asked, throwing that one into the basket probably just for the hell of it.

Greg hesitated. "At the time I thought it was from Paul." Some weird thing Douglas had wanted for a friend, an art picture.

"He made them?" And Will sounded half-interested. "Huh. Well. You inspired him."

"He made sculptures too. Sometimes. He often did it and often there was a sexual element in there somewhere," he said.

And why he was telling Will when they were standing in a sexshop of all things. Well. Greg guessed he was comfortable with Will. "I wonder what happened to the sculptures."

"I don't know," Greg shrugged a little. "We went to a workshop warehouse sometimes. They were too big for the house."

"Hmn. I'll see if I can find out anything about it at work. Maybe the proceeds of selling anything could go to his family." Or the state for restitution, which was much more likely and Greg knew it.

"Yeah, they probably wouldn't know," Greg acknowledged. "I thought it was Millanders place."

"No reason to not think that." Except that they were one in the same and that was still a little maddening. Will didn't pull at him, just seemed content to talk.

"So, uh, we got everything we need?" Greg asked trying to pull away from thoughts of those 'artistic' sessions. Things had gotten a bit weird during some of them.

He didn't really want to think about them. Sure, he'd have to some day? But it wasn't some day yet. "Leather cuffs. Nice ones, with big D rings."

"Oh, those look pretty cool. And they have a lining too. That's more comfortable." Greg pointed out a set.

"Black, or brown?" Will was looking at him again, like he was sizing Greg up for a fantasy with those objects in it.

That was enough to make him feel heat rising in his skin. "Brown might go with my eyes," he joked.

Will held the brown up beside Greg's head. "Well, it's a near match. Not a complete match, but you're going to look amazing."

"So do we get to go back and try it out?" Greg asked hopefully. Just thinking about it was enough to have him mentally ready for anything.

And he liked to be alone with Will, liked the feeling of his mouth, liked the suggestion in his eyes that he was going to use it all on Greg and hopefully not all at once. "I think so. I don't know what Hannibal is doing tonight, but... I'm off, you're off."

He grinned. "We've got all night," he said raising his eyebrows as suggestively as he could.

"We can..." Will leaned in, kissed him softly, briefly. A buss of lips, but Will didn't do much in public.

"Then lets pay and go," he murmured. "I want to see what you've been imagining while you've been standing there."

"A wide world of ideas." Will put the leather cuffs into the basket. "I... I sometimes think too much, too hard. But you make things easy."

"Easy is good. I like what we've been doing, making it fun," Greg admitted as they walked to the counter. "It's a contrast."

"That's almost unnerving to know." Will smiled at the cashier, setting the basket down on top of the counter.

"Nothing but the truth," Greg replied as the cashier rang up their items with a faint smile on her lips. She looked too young to work in the place but Greg realized after a bit of thought she was probably his age. He just felt older.

He felt worn thin and impossibly old, and not tired anymore because life was better, something stable, something familiar. Will reached into his wallet, fishing for his credit card.

It was strange, because there had been times when he'd through he'd loved Douglas, but here and now looking at Will's quirky smile, the one he felt was his somehow, he realized what a pale imitation that had been of the real thing.

And there it was. A revelation. He was actually in love with Will and he managed to realize that in a sex shop of all places.

Will signed his receipt, still smiling as he reached to take the garishly decorated plastic bags. "Thanks. Greg, shall we go?"

Greg was still partially stunned by the thought and nodded mutely for a moment before saying, "yeah, sure, let’s get home huh?"

He didn't care who was there, Will was his now and protégé or not he was going to try and find a way to be with him.

"I think it's going to be a good night in." He waited, fell in step with Greg, pulling the car keys out of his pocket. Greg had heard Will mention before how many days he had left, and maybe that was as much for Will's benefit as Greg's.

Greg carefully slipped an arm around his waist, just light and comfortable rather than grabby. "I'm really looking forward to it," he replied and he was practically jittering with excitement already. There was no way Will was going to use them *all* at once, but then again, he might try. He might just try it, and that was a funny thought. He wasn't even sure Will knew what to do with the rope, which could be fun in a whole different way.

He smiled as he tried to imagine giving pointers while being tied up. He remembered some of his favorite ties. Douglas had loved that part, lingering over the process.

They made it to the car and Greg nearly walked into it daydreaming.

He didn't really focus through the trip home, didn't really pay attention when they got back into the house and Will locked the door behind him, smirking. "Anything you need to do before we start?"

"I'll just have a glass or water and go to the bathroom," he said eagerly. "Where shall we go? My room?"

"I'll meet you there." And probably be halfway set up when Greg got there, but a little time to get himself together was necessary, and he wanted to just shake out the excitement before anticipation alone made him keel over.

Okay, a drink of water was quickly found and then downed and he went to the bathroom and just used a couple of minutes to prepare himself. It helped get himself together. He'd only done this with Douglas and now he was discovering more with Will. He made it back to the room a little less overtly jittery.

Will had his shirt off, and he'd toed his sneakers off. It didn't surprise Greg to see Will playing with and setting aside lengths of rope, and the two metal rings out.

"Okay, I'm here and uh, I can get naked if you want," he suggested grinning. "Unless you want to try it with clothes."

"I want to undress you myself," Will murmured. He abandoned the rope, and turned towards Greg. "Unless you'd rather strip."

"No, no, I think you stripping me would be a turn on," he answered toeing off his shoes as his only concession to helping out.

It was easier, though Will kneeling in front of him was kind of a hot idea. Will leaned in, bussed a kiss against his mouth first, hands lingering at Greg's sides.

He wasn't sure if he was meant to but the movement to touch Will back and kiss back was instinctive. His fingers sought skin, and he lingered in his caress.

Will's skin was warm, his muscles only a little of that too-tense under Greg's fingers. "Yeah. You feel good."

"Thanks. My body is all my own work," Greg said lightly content to let Will relax just by touching him.

"Mmm, I like it. It feels natural." Will kissed at his neck, only pulling away long enough to peel Greg's t-shirt off.

Yeah, it felt good to have someone do that too him, rather than doing it himself. He was conscious he wasn't buffed up like Nick and Warrick were with their buddy trips to the gym. He was more wiry, with the constant chores to do burning off fat. Lean, Douglas called him.

Will stroked hands over his sides, feathering touches while he started to kiss at Greg's neck and shoulders. Slow and lingering seemed the order of the day.

He was fine with that, more than fine because it gave him a chance to respond with his own exploration. He never tired of it because he seemed to be rediscovering something new and exciting every time he tried to map Will's skin. He was willing to go where he was lead in this instance.

To just enjoy intimacy for the sake of it. It still surprised him when Will started to kneel, unbuckling Greg's belt and kissing a line down his stomach. "I like the detail work you did on yourself."

"Well, I am glad my efforts are appreciated," he said resisting the urge to groan just yet. That would be way ahead of schedule. He smiled and grinned and found himself blurting out. "I love your eyes."

Will laughed against his skin, and half-closed his eyes. "Yeah, they're great when they're not looking strange from sleep deprivation." The laughing felt good, felt right to Greg. He wanted more laughing mixed in with the intensity of good sex.

There was something light and satisfying about it. "More sky blue than red," he agreed. "Your hair is cool too. You could put colors in it to freak out the Feds."

"I thought I did that by showing up to work must days. You ever wanted to dye your hair?" Yeah, a lot, except he didn't really have the time or the energy, or. Well, maybe he did, now. And, he was a chemist in his own right.

And Will was unbuttoning his pants.

It was pretty cool feeling someone strip him. "Yeah, I've always wanted to experiment a bit." It was nice, comfortably arousing rather than something pushy and harsh.

"I'll help you raid the grocery store, or wherever you get that stuff." Will sounded almost decisive, and he leaned in, pressing his mouth against the outline of Greg's cock through his underwear.

"Mmm, yeah that'll be... wow, that's good Will, you trying to make me hard before I even get naked?" he asked.

"We're almost to naked. And I think we have the time to bring you back around if..." If Will licked him off, it seemed.

"You know, I'll do pretty much anything you want because, you are hot when you are like this," Greg said. There was a hint of mischief in Wills eyes and a little quirk to his lips.

"You're gorgeous any time." He shimmied Greg's pants down to his ankles, but left his underwear on like one last teasing layer.

"Aww," Greg knew he was pouting and he did it deliberately in an exaggerated bit of fun. "And there I was thinking it was all going to happen."

Will slid his hands up to squeeze Greg's ass over the fabric. "I'm getting there."

"With your slow and steady attention to detail," Greg replied. "You like that huh? doing things in detail."

"Yes. There are... ways to take someone apart without pain. Sensually." He edged up a little, pulling at the edge of Greg's underwear with his teeth.

"Oh I see that's what you want to do huh?" Greg glanced down and tried not to twitch too noticeably. "Well you know, you seem to do that to me at the best of times."

"I'm fond of it," he murmured, pulling back and it caught on his dick a little but Will got his underwear down to his thighs, grinning.

Greg had to agree Will did it with style. He felt he trusted Will more that way than he had Douglas. But then up until Douglas had gone too far, he had trusted him too. Maybe he was going to get him off quickly then spend a lot of time on him. He liked that thought and so did his cock from the feel of it.

He liked the feel of fingers stealing up to stroke his balls, turning hard to harder, except maybe he'd keep Greg on edge instead. "Let's move to the bed."

"Oh yeah, good plan. My knees will give out if we're not careful." He wanted to do something for Will. He wanted to suck him or something but this was what Will wanted and that made a heat build inside him in anticipation.

"Mattresses are good for that. Do you want to play with the ropes tonight?" And he still asked Greg what he wanted to do, often enough that if Greg wanted to change his mind at any point, he could've.

"Like we haven't been thinking about that since we went to the shop," Greg replied. "Doesn’t have to be complex stuff, I just want you to..." He was going to say experiment but that sounded too clinical. "...play."

"I can play. I think I'll need a book to do anything but your knees and wrists." Oh, that sounded promising just by itself, so Greg was all for it.

"Well, hey, I'm up for being a party to any research," Greg replied and smiled as he sat then lay on the bed. "Let's give things a try."

"I know why the rope is so appealing. More reason to touch you," Will murmured, leaning back to grab the rose-colored ropes he'd set aside. "Give me your wrists."

Greg sat up a little and put his wrists forward feeling a surge of anticipation. "I like it, as long as it isn't cutting in. I mean tight is good, all secure but there was a point where it cut in."

"You can double layer rope and it's all the security with none of the tightness. I'll show you. It's. Maybe not traditional, but I do know this one." And the intimacy needed, Will kneeling close to Greg, one knee behind Greg as he sat up, and one knee pressed against his thigh. He watched Will firmly, but not tightly, wrap the rope around his wrist once, and then again, and then a third time, coiling it along the length of his arm before tucking an end through to pull it out.

There was something fascinating about watching Will do it and feel the surprising soft rope on his skin. He found himself leaning into Will wherever he could, and eventually commented. "That's neat work. Feels nice."

"Rope shackles. Jack had to figure them out because I could blow out handcuffs too easy in training. You know, the old, what do you do if someone uses your cuffs against you?" Will leaned in, and connected them over carefully to the other side, to mimic the motion.

"So you can break out of cuffs?" Greg was impressed. "Can you teach me how to do that?" He sat placidly, just savoring the way Will's fingers touched him as he tied the rope.

"I can teach you to pick them," Will offered, still winding rope carefully. The pulled through knot looked quite decorative. "I'm not sure I can teach you how to have crappy ligaments that let you bend your thumb out of shape."

"Maybe not." Greg flexed his hands a little to see how tight the ropes were. Snug was a good description. Not much give in them but not cutting off blood supply or anything. "You had to use it a few times?"

"Twice in the line of duty, actually. I've never had to pick a cuff on the fly. It's easier to slip them, and. I was able to." And there was a story to that, a story Greg wanted to hear. He could learn a lot from Will, and oh, oh, shit, now that his wrists were bound tight together Will slid a hand down between his legs to stroke him.

He twitched a little, the restriction immediately firing off little sparks to his groin. "Mmm, you know that's pretty nice just like that."

"Then I think that's plenty." They had a lot of time and leeway, and Will shifted, moved to sit behind Greg in the bed. That was interesting, comfortable, and Greg couldn't quite turn around to look at him.

"You know, this is pretty cool," Greg commented, acutely aware of his proximity. "What do you want me to do? Douglas didn't like me to say anything."

"I like your voice." Will kissed at the side of his neck, hands stroking the insides of Greg's thighs.

"Just as well because I babble sometimes," he confessed. "Well a lot of the time. I tend to get told off for it sometimes."

"I like it. It's reassuring." He halfway wanted to know why Will needed reassurance when he was the one in control. "This way I know what you're feeling."

"Like the panting and squirming doesn't give it away?" Greg replied smiling. Will was not as confident as he seem. Sometimes Greg felt this weird protective feeling towards him and he'd never had that with Douglas. Why he should have it with Will was a mystery when he was considered dangerous and capable.

Then again, he was nibbling slowly at the side of Greg's neck, and then he pulled Greg in close, his erection wedged up between Greg's asscheeks. It was surprisingly hot and he rubbed against him. "Mmm. I like that. You know I can take you in me. It's not like we didn't prove that several time in the last few days."

Will exhaled a little shakily, and kissed Greg's shoulder. "Yeah, this is... Let me get the lube." By leaning sideways and holding onto Greg's shoulder.

It was strange how this mild bit of tying could be more exciting and pleasurable to the him than any of Douglas's effort. "Oh yeah, yeah, lube is always good."

"I'm very in favor of it." Will leaned back in, and pulled Greg a little closer. The intimacy, the heat of Will's chest pressed against his back was comforting.

There was a difference in the feeling that it was about pleasure not the weird vibe of him being made safe that he used to get somehow before. "I've decided I could get used to this sort of style of things," he announced while he waited for that first touch of slick coolness.

It still startled him, because Will's hand was warm when it slid between their bodies, but the lube was still cold when he slowly pushed a finger into Greg.

"Tease," Greg said trying to flex his hips a little to get more movement. "does it feel different to you doing it like this?" He wanted to be sure Will wasn't just humoring him.

Will pressed his lips against Greg's other shoulders. "If I knew we had the whole house to ourselves, I'd have you spread-eagled on the bed, and there might be ice cubes involved. But this is nice and intimate."

Greg shivered a little at the thought. "Wow, that's a thought to conjure with," he admitted. "I like the idea of this being alone."

"I don't share." He slid his other hand up, pressed against Greg's pecs before he tweaked one nipple hard.

"I can deal with it," Greg gasped and went hard almost immediately. A little pain and sensation and restraint and he was hard as nails.

Just a little pain, gentle pain almost, the bare application of a nail against his nipple. "I promise to not neglect you. Sex is very relaxing."

"Do I get to not neglect you too?" he said wriggling a little against him.

He felt Will shiver, and the finger in his ass pulled back to be joined by a second one. "God. Yes."

"I'd like to just...make you happy sometimes," he said. "Like we've done a few times up until now. I mean...shit, that's a good spot." He had to close his eyes a moment.

And just ride through the sensation, and enjoy it. "Feel ready?" Will pulled his fingers out, hand on Greg's chest bracing him against Will.

"I was ready back in the shop," he groaned. "You could have taken me there on the counter. Several times."

Not a word of a lie. Where Will was concerned he had a pretty rapid response from normal, to fuck me now.

Will groaned, and the hand on his chest splayed, holding him still while Will positioned himself. It might've *been* awkward, but Greg still felt Will's dick press against his hole, carefully positioned, and slowly start to push in.

"That's, that's it just..." Greg exhaled in a rush, feeling the urge to push back. "Wow. Seriously, Will, push harder." Not being able to use his hands made him dependent on Will for balance and that was fun too.

He liked the feeling of Will laughing against him, shifting his arm and then Will was rising up on his knees to push into Greg all the way. "Oh, I like this. I can tease you mad this way."

Greg nearly laughed. "In which case I'm doomed. Or on the other hand.." He concentrated and squeezed his muscles deliberately.

Will groaned, both hands roaming Greg's chest now, half using him to steady himself. And Greg's wrists were rope shackled tightly together, and it was crazy. Greg never really thought about how much he used his hands until he couldn't. "That's not fair."

"Hey, you got me tied up, at your mercy, cock in my ass and you say it's not fair?" Greg tried to move a little in Will's grip.

"Mmhmm. You're at my mercy, I can declare it not fair." Will shifted his hips back, and pushed them forward in a slow motion, shallow, not quite enough for Greg.

Then the door opened.

Greg almost didn't hear it because he was engaged in tried to push that cock deeper into him. Will had him balanced finally at itching for more. But he looked up, and there was Hannibal, looking a little startled. "Oh, I wasn't -- I didn't think you were occupied."

Greg could feel himself flush with embarrassment, unable to move even if he wanted to. He tried looking away but that just seemed ridiculous so he just looked up. "Uh, Will is just starting to fuck me senseless sir," he said as politely as he could manage.

"Ah, lovely rope-work," he murmured. "When you're done, I've got a stew on." And then he shut the door and Will finally started to move again, groaning against his shoulder.

Greg couldn't help himself, he had a strange fit of near giggles as the movement started. Hannibal commenting on the rope work was nearly too much. "Shit." Will laughed, hugging Greg tightly. "Shit, shit. I needed to lock that."

"Will I don't think you're taking my bondage seriously," Greg replied and snorted in laughter. It was great though, laughing while he was being fucked. "Hey Will... lovely rope-work."

He started laughing again. It was infectious, and Will nuzzled at the side of his neck, chuckling. "Shit. Well, it looks good on you," Will offered, still snickering. "Damn, damn, that was wrong."

"Mmm. You know you can keep fucking me now," he said in between chuckles. He loved it.

"Can I?" He thrust again, hips moving harder, just a little faster.

"Oh god yeah," Greg relaxed into it, letting emotion and sensation let him swing him away. It was easy to fall into it then, Will rising up on his knees and thrusting harder, and Greg just barely able to finally get his knees under him to push back, but his arms were still useless to him.

He just had to trust that Will would support him as he leaned trying to get a good position and it was surprisingly easy to trust that Will would do that. None of that slight clenching fear and sour doubt, just a sweet easy trust that Will wouldn't let him fall. Will wasn't going to let him fall, unless they both somehow tumbled off of the bed.

"Umh." He was half startled that Will slid one hand down to wrap around Greg's dick. "You're still hard as a rock. God."

"Oh my god Will," Greg closed his eyes in bless, "Please, more...please." He was getting desperate to come now.

Faster seemed easy for Will, hard thrusts that jarred Greg and he couldn't steady himself.

He just let himself go and that was fantastic, and wallowed in the feeling of hard thrusts, firm strokes and burst of pleasure that shook his bones. "Gonna come!" he blurted out in among panting gasps.

And it didn't matter, because Will was going to thrust how he wanted to thrust and no other way. Will was going to fuck a new hole into him, he was moving so hard, and Greg lost track, lost concentration because he was coming, spilling out over Will's stroking fist.

It felt good and fun, exciting in its own way and immensely satisfying and he just hung limply as Will finished himself off in his own time. He felt boneless and happy and all thoughts of his problems were out of his head.

It was good, comforting, and Will slowed, just holding him and stroking a hand over his stomach. "Mmm."

"That was fun," Greg managed after getting his breath back. The touch felt comforting and gentle.

"Mmmhmn. If it was just us, I'd make you keep that on. I like how it looks." From the view behind, over his shoulder.

That was a pretty hot thought right there. "You think we embarrassed Hannibal?"

"Pretty much the opposite." Will shifted, pulled his hips back, pulled out of him. "Uhm, I could've stayed like that all day."

"Maybe we'll try that," he said, feeling the loss of it. He turned over and smiled. "We can celebrate when we have our first night together."

"Book a day off." Will kissed the side of his chin, the edge of his mouth. "Here, let me get a wash cloth and then untie you."

"Okay," Greg said shifting. "Mm." He tried to kiss him back but it was difficult to reach him. Will obliged, though, shifting with him, laying him out on the bed and pressing a firm kiss to his mouth, sucking on his bottom lip for a moment.

He lay there thinking, unable to avoid the comparisons in his head. That had been fun, satisfying and exciting. He loved it, loved Will and didn't want to let him go.

Didn't have to.

Didn't have to let him go, and that was the comforting part, because maybe it was stupid to want someone so badly after everything that had happened, but he did. And Greg wasn't going to let go.

"Hey, Burke -- You've lived here longer than I have. If I was looking to buy a house..." Hypothetically, and he had been in to talk with Brass about the seriousness of the job offer. And Brass had started to draw up the paperwork that proved the seriousness of the job offer. And he'd filed for Greg's Patronage ending with the termination date of his own, in five days.

"You looking to stay in Vegas?" Peter looked almost thrilled. "Don't tell me we've lured you into White Collar after all?"

"I've been lured by the thought of not spending my every waking night living in hotel rooms and chasing crazies on foot," Will admitted, which really admitted nothing at all. "And, I need to move out here to pick up a protege."

"The Sanders kid?" Burke nodded as if he weren't just a few years older than Greg himself. "I'm not exactly on the high end of the scale myself but I can give you a few good neighborhoods to look at."

"Thanks. I don't really know the area that well, and I haven't gone out and explored much." He'd been keeping Greg company, and the few times they had gone out, it had been to the strip to people watch, which was entertaining all in its own right. He'd even seen Greg go to his first club and even though the music wasn't exactly his thing, seeing Greg get that hazy dreamy look and watch him move in tight pants was worth it.

"Got a feeling that someone here has a realtor sister. I'll try and get their details but you'll have to have an idea of a neighborhood," Burke said . "So, not White Collar at all."

"You’re perceptive. Local PD needs an investigator. We're in the courting phase of discussions. They showed me theirs, I've signed the forms to let them see mine." And if they were still interested after that, well. Then he'd move.

"Well, that's a change of pace at least," Agent Burke said. "I get the impression our work has been relaxing rather than stimulating for you. You won't get bored at the LVPD?"

"I might. That's the risk I run. Working normal crimes," Will shrugged. "Except, I haven't had a balance between relaxing and stimulating. I've either been on a case, or... or not, and not is like waiting for the other shoe to drop."

"Constantly waiting for something to hit you, I get it," Burke said as their administrator came up to their room.

"Sorry to interrupt sir, but I have a request from the LVPD Crime Lab for Special Investigator Graham to give them a call as soon as possible."

His first thought was that he hoped it was a case and not anything to do with Greg. "Thanks Agent Burke." Will stood up, nodding to Burke as he followed her out. He didn't have an office so much as a space he could use, and he could call from there.

He wondered if it was Jim Brass calling about the job or something else. He had to admit he was starting to unwind a little - Greg had been instrumental in that. Something about him was fun and relaxing, even sex. Especially sex. He was enthusiastic, appreciative and seemed to desperately want to be with him. How could that be a bad thing? Especially for him who was usually touch deprived except for what Hannibal parceled out to him.

It felt good just to feel, just to *wallow* in sensation with no judgment or assumptions tied into the act. To just enjoy and be enjoyed, and maybe trust a little.

Though god knew, he owed Greg a little more training and a little less of the enjoyable hands on aspect.

It was a quick phone call through to Las Vegas CSI.

"CSI Brass," Jim answered the phone in his now familiar tones. Jim was someone he liked as well. He had a dry wit and a surprisingly canny mind behind the cop persona he still wielded like a shield.

It was a front, and it was sometimes too, gruesomely obvious that it was a front, because Jim was ten, fifty times smarter than he pretended to be. "Jim, it's Graham. What can I do for you?"

"Well, there's good news and bad news," Jim said conversationally. "The good news is we had approved funding to take you on, though Ecklie is plotting my slow and painful death for getting you. The bad news is we could use a consult."

"Murder is always bad news." He wondered who Ecklie was, and if trying to meet him beforehand would make things better or worse. "I'll call behavioral science and let them know. What's the case?"

"We've got what looks like a another serial. Bodies butchered and left seemingly carelessly around," Jim said. "Only, we've got another smart ass who seems to know forensics. Nick and Catherine have been processing and they don't miss anything. So there's nothing obvious to miss."

"Okay. I'll call it in, and I'll be there within the hour." He'd work it through behavioral science, make sure they supported, which they would, and he'd move on, move in. Call Hannibal. Shit, that extra step.

Couldn't forget that.

"Great. You're lucky the guys now see you as one of us rather than one of them," Jim said. "I'll see you when you get in. We'll run through the evidence."

"Will do. Thanks." He hung up, waited half a beat, and then dialed the house, hoping to get Hannibal.

It rang all of three times before Hannibal answered with his drawling. "Hello Will." Somewhere along the line he had become used to Hannibal seeing ever detail like his numbers here at work.

And it being okay, normal.

"Hello. Vegas CSI needs me to consult on somebody dumps they've had," he offered, knowing that Hannibal would know the question to accompany it.

"A suspected interesting serial killer I presume?" Hannibal asked . "I assume you will not be back home here until you have cracked the case open?"

"It's a possibility. The last case was easier to wrap up," Will pointed out. He'd been home quite a bit with the last one, even if he'd never really gotten Millander's tempo entirely.

"Greg will be disappointed," Hannibal answered. "To miss a day off with you." There was an amused sound to his voice as if he was teasing him somehow.

"He will, but. A case is a case." And Greg would have to get used to that happening, and he'd have to get used to Greg having overtime of his own. "So, no problems?"

"Not from me. You have had enough vacations at White Collar as it is," his patron replied. "Feel free to call if there is something interesting, though I might persuade Greg to go somewhere with me to stop him moping. Perhaps he would like to go to a concert."

"I'm sure you'll think of something. We'll see you after shift in the morning." He'd at least stop long enough to drop Greg off back at the house.

"I shall see you for breakfast," Hannibal replied and then hung up. He had to admit, he did feel anticipation at investigating a murder.

He arrived at Vegas CSI quick enough, getting it officiated and signed over that he could consult with little effort. The drive over took longer than the paperwork, and there was still plenty of time at nightshift while he stopped at the front to get his visitor’s badge.

It was a bit strange to think in a short period of time he would be working here permanently. He liked the atmosphere. It was quirky and vibrant, kinda like Greg. Greg was working through the reaction to the death of Douglas and some nights he was good, and others unnaturally quiet. Tonight, from the sounds coming up the corridor from his lab, it was a good day.

Good days, Will considered, were *good*, and that was kind of stupid but he wasn't going to rain on Greg's parade. He was just going to stick his head in, wave, and then go get the case from Brass.

He noticed that Greg's hair was looking a little more 'individual' today though he hadn't tried to color it as he had threatened. Instead it deliberately looked a little like someone had been running their fingers through it and it called up a sense memory of doing just that.

Greg glanced around and grinned. "Hey Will, little early to be here to pick up."

"I'm here on the mangled bodies case," Will offered, leaning into Greg's workspace a little. "Thought I'd say hi before I get caught up in it."

"Oh hey, Catherine's case? It's a creepy one. Nick was talking about it," Greg said leaning close and obviously itching to do more than just be close. "Officially a serial though.”

"So maybe I can point some threads out and Catherine can tie it together." Will leaned in, kissed Greg's cheek, and then leaned back. "I'll see you at the end of shift."

Greg grinned happily. "I could get used to that. Shout if you need me - though I expect Cath and Nick have it covered."

"Thanks." It would at least pass Greg in trace and DNA, if nothing else. Will pulled away reluctantly, and pivoted to head to Brass's office. The door wasn't closed, but he still knocked.

"Special Agent..no, Investigator Graham. Hell, I might just start calling you CSI Graham," Jim said looking up. "You made good time."

"White Collar is dead quiet," Will offered. "It was easy to push this through the channels. I think Behavioral Science thinks it might make me miss them. So, Catherine's case."

"Whoever the killer is, they appear to be escalating dramatically," Jim replied. "We are unable to find a connection between the victims that are dumped but there have been four so far and two in the last 8 days. They seems careless dumped, but in reality, they are clean of forensic evidence which is astonishing considering."

"Four, and two in the last eight days." Will repeated that, pulling a chair out to sit down for a moment. "What's he doing to them?"

"Very precise excisions of a variety of body parts, which are not found at the scene," Jim said seriously. "Catherine and Nick are thinking trophy or some sort of ritual. If the killer is taking a part, he is doing something with it. Keeping it maybe."

Will caught himself sliding his tongue along the outside of his teeth, half-thoughtfully. "Mmhm. That feels almost familiar. Are the victims John Does, or have they been identified? All male?"

"So far. No particular commonality we can work out. Different looks, different backgrounds," Jim shrugged. "You need to look over the files. Nick is down the corridor kicking himself that he can't get it."

It felt itchingly like having something stuck in his teeth. Will stood up, nodding. "All male is an important clue, and a start for motives."

"If you manage to break it like last time we'll have it wrapped up by tomorrow," Jim dead-panned. "Then we can all take the afternoon off."

"I'd make a 'but we're nightshift anyway' quip, but..." Will canted his head sideways. "I'll grab Nick and Catherine and start on it. We'll keep you up to date." We, because it was the team, because he knew them better now.

"You do that." Jim nodded and set back to his paperwork even as he headed off down the hall.

From the way Nick was frowning, he was reaching the stage of banging his head against a brick wall.

No sign of Catherine, but it was likely that she'd gone down to see Al, and be present for the autopsy. If it was already ongoing, walking in wouldn't go Will any good. "Evening, Stokes. What can I do to help?"

"Hey," Nick exhaled. "See Brass finally called you in. Hope you can use your magic touch on this."

"I'm not sure how much help I'll be. It's twigging something, though. Completely forensically clean?" That was damning. But he'd done a lot with very little before, a shaving of metal, a hair.

"So far." Nick replied. "We're going through millimeter by millimeter now. Considering they were in dumpster environment that's pretty amazing."

"Names? Occupations?" Will moved towards the table, looking at Nick before he reached for the nearest pictures. "Brass said he's stepped up his kill rate. What's the decomposition look like?"

"They have been reasonably fresh kills, within twenty four hours usually. There is some evidence of freezing on one of them, the first," Nick answered sliding across a file. "Here, this was the first body dump before we realized it was a serial."

"Are you sure they were kills within 24 hours?" Will started on that file, pictures first as always. "Huh. He looks like he's been butchered."

"We're not sure of one of them," Jim answered. "But we time of death put that as the case for the others. Butchered eh? It looked to be done with a scalpel."

"I meant it literally, not..." Will gestured at the picture. "The bruising and tissue damage looks pre-death."

"Oh, I get it. You think the guy might have had them before hand. Yeah, we don't have complete time lines on all of them," Nick shuffled paperwork. "Although this guy we had established had been playing in a performance the night before he was found."

"Performance where?" He'd read the stories later, the full files, but the bits and pieces that stuck out to Nick were a good start.

"Uh, a concert - professional violinist I believe. I think it was a concert in the Bellagio with the Vegas Philharmonic."

"Huh. Huh. Now I'm concerned," Will murmured, staring down at the photos. He'd been strangled, possibly garroted from the depth and the line of the incision. "Was the body released?"

"Yeah. It's been a long time," Nick answered. "He was one of the first."

He ran a hand over the line of the man's neck. "I had a case, back home. The Chesapeake Ripper. I've never been able to solve it. I couldn't quite. The things he takes for trophies don't click for me, I'm missing it. There was a flutist from the Baltimore Philharmonic who was one of the victims. It's... It's been college professors, flutists, child molesters, there's no clear tie except that whoever he is knows this people, they all have dirty histories to a man, and..." And it was right there.

"Chesapeake is stretching the guys territory some," Nick said a bit doubtfully. "And we'd need a bit more than they have similar ways of not connecting to make a connection."

"No, no, it looks like the same pattern." And if it was the pattern, what did that mean? He reached for the next folder. "Who was this one?"

"This one was a salesman." Nick looked at him. "But there was an investigation on him to do with the death of his daughter, that was eventually ruled accidental about three years ago."

"Right." And the body was gruesome, the murder immediately looking not at all standard. Not easy and simple at all, no clean kill there. "Right. I'd like to see the body, then, the one that just came in, and work backwards to the photos."

"Sure. Catherine's down in autopsy with Al," Nick agreed. "You can see what we've got."

"Thanks. This... this one really feels like the same case." He picked the folders up to take with him, to rifle through as they walked. It was a horrifying feeling.

"Could be a copy cat," Nick pointed out. "You're a high profile guy Will. You've just been all over the news."

"I never caught the *first* one," Will pointed out. "And being all over the news could draw either out. But it feels... familiar."

"Where can we get the files on that other case? Will the Feds release it to us or want to come in again?" Nick asked.

"The Feds are in," Will pointed out, gesturing to his chest. "I'll call while we walk and get them released."

"Great," Nick said. "Let’s see if Catherine has anything. I can't believe we have another serial. Man, the press will eat us alive."

"Like it's your fault," Will shrugged, moving out into the hallway. "It happens. Copycats happen. People get stirred up watching other crimes."

"Still means we're going to have to face the press with something. This is lurid stuff. The headlines are bad already." Nick grimaced. "I'm surprised we don’t have a nickname for him yet."

"I dislike nicknames for them." Will held the folders tight as they walked the circuitous route to the corner's lab.

"Chesapeake Ripper... can't avoid them," he said as they neared their target.

"Tooth fairy, buffalo bill, a lot of the big drug kingpins." Will grimaced as he stopped outside and moved to pull gear on.

Nick was doing the same and smiled a little. "Man, they suck at it sometimes. Remind me to tell you about the Strip Strangler sometime."

"Strip strangler?" He pulled the shoe covers on, balancing awkwardly first on one foot, then the other. "Do I want to know?"

"That was a Fed spawned name," Nick said. "Jim was not impressed with it. It was one of the cases that put us against the FBI. They were a bunch of assholes to all of us."

"I've met a few of them who weren't white collar. I'm sure they were." Will picked the folders up again, just to keep his hands on them.

"They pushed us out, called meetings and didn't invite us, used Sara as bait, took Jim off duty and then Catherine ended up having to shoot the guy," Nick said as they entered autopsy.

"Catherine. Catherine shot the guy," Will repeated, half holding the door for a moment. "Hello, Catherine."

"Will, I see we got the Feds to loosen their grip on you," she said as she glanced over at him.

"I should start charging ticket price," Al said.

"Five bucks a pop for the body dumps?" Will stepped towards the table. And he wished he hadn't, because he knew that, he *knew* that. He looked like he'd been beaten to a pulp, stabbed, sliced, cut, incised.

"It's pretty bad as murders go. Most of the evidence indicates that it was done while the victim was alive," Al said and Nick gave a low whistle.

"He managed to keep him alive through all of that? That's gotta be skill."

"Wound man," Will murmured, staring, wanting to touch, wanting to see the dead body that was a handwork in its own right.

"Wound man?" Catherine asked looking at him. "You okay there Will?"

"Wound man. Early medical illustration on injuries often gained in battle. Johannes de Ketham was one of the first, maybe the first. Al, can I use your computer for a second?"

"Sure," Al nodded. "I believe I know the reference. Of course, I can't believe I missed it."

"I can't believe you can recognize it," Catherine commented staring at it.

"I had one back home come up like that. It helps that Hannibal has every obscure text known to man." Will moved to Al's computer, pulling up the internet and doing a quick search for the picture. It was easy to find, and there were a lot of similar versions.

Nick and Catherine were peering over his shoulder. "How the hell did he manage to do the one in the head and the one in the heart and keep him alive?"

"Could've been the last inflicted. Work your way up in seriousness. The one we had, the heart wound was clearly one where he died when the blade was *removed*," Will said, gesturing to the picture. "This is skill. What was the trophy?"

"On this one? We have missing liver," Al said gesturing. "That's all that we can tell."

Missing liver. Livers had been the center of the human body then, the focus, clean liver, clean blood, bleeding, no, no, damn. Will exhaled. "The FBI are going to fax the old files over. I'll need a room to hole up in."

"We can do that," Nick said. "You seriously think this might be the Chesapeake Ripper?"

"Or a close-study copycat. The Chesapeake ripper left bodies... in a variety of places, not always a crime scene. He had a flare for putting them out there decoratively." Will turned to look at the body one last time, trying to see hard if anything jumped out at him.

It was going to take a little while to get his head back into the space that he needed to be to understand the murderers language.

"There can't be that many that would know the details of the murders would there?"

"No. We kept a lot of these cases close to the hilt, but there were nine deaths in total. And more that maybe we never connected. It's like the Colonial Parkway killer back east -- it still haunts the community. And it's filtered into the news as the case grew cold."

"So are there details in the files?" Catherine asked. "That didn't make it public?"

Nick groaned. "Yeah, I can see where my shift is going - working out public domain information."

"There are, but we're going to have to very clearly delineate that." He lifted his eyebrows at Nick. "So, if you're volunteering..."

"Makes sense for fresh eyes to do that perspective," Nick said. "Cath would only delegate it."

"You got it Nicky," she answered.

"Good." Will nodded at Al. "Thanks, and hopefully this is the last one. Catherine, you know where to find us." Hunched over a computer, slowly going through murder files and murder news.

"Right and you'll see me putting on a performance for the Under-Sheriff," Catherine said drily. "I'll join you for the science when I get done with that."

Well, if they ever wanted the Under-sheriff to not talk to them, Will supposed he could do the song and dance, but better for it to be someone with an actual acumen for the act. After all, even without that complication, it was going to be a long night.

Greg got up to find Will had already gone into work which was a bit disappointing though not surprising. He had seen that look in Will's eye again and Hannibal had been intrigued at the possibility that a killer known to them had apparently followed them to Vegas. Will had practically been whipped into a frenzy at the thought of it, so much so he had forgotten to do his count down until he officially graduated from protégé to Patron.

He was just *gone*, swallowed whole, and okay, four days. Greg could do the countdown for him, because four days. And that way about Will was part of it, just something he was going to have to be okay with. Will got a hot case, Will was gone like greased lightning.

Still. He'd missed breakfast. Dinner. Whatever it was.

So he showered and messed with his hair, which was fun and dressed in his new clothes liking the look of himself for a change and headed to get something to drink and contemplate what to do with his free time. He had hoped to do something with Will, but he knew if there was a case like this you ran with what you could find.

And Will was off. Off and running.

"Quiet night tonight, isn't it?" He almost startled when he heard Hannibal, because Hannibal was always quiet.

"Oh, hi," Greg smiled. He'd become more comfortable with Hannibal recently and kinda thought that maybe his feeling weird that first time had more to do with what had happened with Douglas."Yeah, I was just thinking about what to do. Will and I were going to go out."

"What do the two of you do when you're out, out of curiosity? Will's always been something of a homebody." He folded his hands behind his back, looking like he was contemplating what to make for breakfast.

"Well, we've been kinda discovering what we both like?" he said. "Will likes roller-coasters a lot actually. I quite like the clubs but Will tends to watch more than dance."

"He'll dance if he wants to. It's a bit exhibitionist for him." Hannibal pulled a frying pan down. "Have you eaten yet?"

"Not dinner, no," he replied. "Were you planning to eat now?" He was a bit hungry but he could wait.

"Yes. Just something quick." Hannibal turned towards the fridge, expression mild. "Do you have any plans for today?"

"Not at the moment. You?" he asked politely. Hannibal was his patron after all. "And something quick would be good."

"Quiet day in. It's funny when one's greatest accomplishment for the day is dropping a package off. I regret that when I return home, I'll have to resume a heavy patient caseload again." Greg watched him reach into the fridge, and wondered if he could help at all.

"I guess it's been a bit of a vacation for you," he replied. "Although maybe a bit weird without Will around?" He was a little bit guilty about that; he got Will and Hannibal got to go home with no one.

"No, I think it's made it easier on us both. Will has a different path than I do, and he always had. He's diverted me for quite some time." Hannibal came back with salami, eggs, milk and started to root through the spice rack. "Omelet?"

"That sounds great," Greg agreed. Hannibal made fantastic omelets, all light and fluffy. "Do you want me to do anything to help?"

"No, no, just sit there and enjoy a meal prepared with care. It helps me ignore the fact that you both eat horribly when left to your own devices." Yeah, Will kind of did. Will liked steak and fried food and biscuits, and just. Crap that made Greg laugh. Cake and onion rings, like Hannibal kept him on a healthy diet when it was still pretty decadent.

"I promise we won't eat crap all the time," Greg replied. "I can cook even if not up to your standards."

"I'll leave the two of you cookbooks. Have you found a place yet?" He started to crack the eggs, moving fast, precise in a way Greg knew he never would.

"Uh, Will says he's been asking around. Worse comes to worse we can rent here," he replied. "Just to keep things going until there's a place."

"It's probably for the best if you seize the opportunity and help him look," Hannibal offered, adding a little milk to the bowl.

"Well, I didn't think it would be my place y'know?" Greg was surprised at that. He was a protégé not a partner. "It's going to be his place.”

"Then guide him," Hannibal suggested. "Take part in it. Draw his tastes out."

"Okay, that's a good idea." He could do that, he could help there. It would be fun probably. "Thanks Hannibal. I feel, kinda guilty that I'm going off with him after all the support you've given to us both."

"Well, William has been..." He poured the omelet mix into the pan, and started to add the salami, a few more spices. "Amazing. But he needs to stretch his wings. I'm pleased to hand him off to someone who might be able to keep up with him."

"I'm not sure I can," he said, watching it sizzle. "Smells good. So do you have plans?"

"Europe, I think. I've stayed in America far too long. I blame William. I've always been something of a roamer, and Will's patronage forced me to remain settled." He was careful, but fast.

"Oh, so you may go to Florence after all?" Greg reached to get plates out assuming Hannibal was going to have some too in a moment, even though it was a one person omelet.

He'd seen him make them before, one full omelet after another, perfect single servings. "Yes. It's a shame to do it alone, but..."

"I'm sure Will won't let the contact drop," he said holding his plate out as it looked like he had finished.

Hannibal smiled, and slid it onto Greg's plate with perfect timing. "Well, I certainly do wish the two of you a happy life going forward."

Greg knew Hannibal hated them to wait and ruin the food by letting it get cold so he sat down and started to eat the omelet while talking. "Yeah, me too. I mean, I admit I don't just want to be his protégé."

It tasted spectacular as always.

"No, that's fairly obvious. Clearly patron status is something of a stopgap for you both, and it should be treated as such." Hannibal started to make his own, just as Greg had thought he could. It tasted delicious.

"But I don't know if Will thinks of me like that," It was easy to savor the food as it went down easily. He was hungrier than he thought.

"Oh, believe me. He thinks of you like that." Hannibal seemed deeply amused, making his own omelet and sneaking a sideways glance at Greg. "I've never seen him fall so far, so fast, for anyone. I've ruined him for other people, of course, but I've been his first and only. That sort of... skews the perspective."

"Well yeah, he might... find that he wants to play the field a little," Greg said swallowing a mouthful. The thought caused him pain in a strange way. He didn't want him to and it made him flush uncomfortably.

"I don't believe he will. I know William. You have no idea how much of a breakthrough *you've* been. He's always been so afraid to follow his sexual impulses."

"Really?" Greg had pretty much finished the omelet. "He seems pretty happy with it. Really happy." Just like he was feeling at the moment. Greg found himself smiling inanely for no reason at all. "Wow, that was really good Hannibal."

"I know. It's a special omelet for a special boy. Would you like a glass of wine? As it's a day off." He waited for Greg to nod a little, and took his own omelet off the burner to fetch glasses. "William has been living in the mind of serial killers since he was just a little past puberty. Those first sweaty sexual fumblings in a back seat didn't occur, but those first sweaty palmed readings of a serial rapist did. Of spree and serial killers, of all sorts of strange and deviant behaviors. He's a quick study." There was a drawl to Hannibal's voice while he handed Greg the wine glass. "I'm sure in a week he'll put the great rope-tying masters to shame."

There was possibly something slightly alarming about what Hannibal had just said but Greg found the thoughts just slipping away from him. "Cool. I mean ropes are fun. " He took the wine glass and found it fascinating the way the color seemed to be glowing.

Red and purple, or purple and red? Or both, it was sort of both, blending together like jewels. "All Will knows of touch and sex is violence. I've seen how he yearns for your comfort, but it's against his natural inclinations. If think if left to his own devices, Will would putter around the house, watch TV, play board games, and grow old and comfortable with you."

"That's not a bad thing is it?" Greg asked though the words felt strange in his mouth. Was he meant to drink this? "I thought that was his natural inclination."

"He has so much more potential than that." Hannibal seemed intent on finishing his omelet, and then slid it onto a plate for himself.

"Yeah?" Wow, things felt all warm and he tried to loosen his top a little. "Mmm. It's hot in here."

"Is it? Well, if it's hot, please, make yourself comfortable." Hannibal took a bite of his omelet, smiling a little.

His skin felt hot and tight and he felt a little out of it. It didn't seem strange to pull open his shirt, unbutton it. Hannibal wouldn't mind. Hannibal liked to watch, Will said so. He was thirsty and he gulped the drink without thinking about it.

"You're very attractive, Greg. But you're aware of that, aren't you? Not conventionally so, but there’s a lot to be left wanting in conventional beauties."

That was a nice thing for Hannibal to say. Greg found himself smiling happily. "Thanks. That's a...nice thing to say. Will says that."

"You're welcome. William is certainly no fashion plate. But I find his face classical, and his eyes haunting in depth." Hannibal sipped a little wine for himself. "Have you ever wondered what William and I do together?"

"He doesn't really say in detail," Greg answered finding himself speculating in daydream Technicolor.

He just couldn't help but be curious. Couldn't help, because he did wonder what else Will might be looking for.

"Would you be interested in finding out?"

Maybe Hannibal would tell him about it. That would be good. "Yeah, sure," he agreed happily.

"I could show you...?" He offered that slowly, moving to refill Greg's wineglass.

Show him? Well what would be the harm? Everything seemed like a fantastic idea right now. "Sure. You think it will make Will happy?"

"I think William would be delighted for you to experience a little of what he has." Hannibal picked up Greg's empty plate, and tidied it off with his own into the sink.

Will would be delighted? That made it a *great* idea then. Greg tried to stand up, finding his limbs a little uncooperative. "Wow, thanks, Hannibal."

"Ah, ah, careful." Hannibal swooped in, smiling as he looped an arm around Greg's waist. "Let's get you to the bedroom, mnn? You'll be a little more stable off your feet."

Greg giggled a little to himself as he weaved unsteadily towards Hannibal's room. Everything looked a bit hazy but it was okay, Hannibal was fine. Will would think it was a good idea and he would know what Will liked.

Just inside the door, Hannibal kissed the side of his neck, warm and slightly damp, keeping him close. "Atta boy. Why don't you finish stripping for me?"

It felt fine. It felt good to get the clothes off of feverish skin even if he was unsteady as he did so. Hannibal was stronger than he looked. A lot stronger.

Greg tipped a little again, and that arm around his waist held him crushingly steady while he guided him over towards the bed. "Lovely. William said you enjoyed ropes. Shall I tie you up to start?"

He hesitated a little but then shrugged unable to hold onto the reasons. "Okay, ropes are fun." With Will they were always fun.

He liked the blue and the deep rose, liked the way Will stroked at his skin, massaged at the muscles to coax them into relaxing before carefully wrapping knots overtop. Nothing too tight, sharp, just constriction and care.

And he drifted on that thought, until he realized that his arms were strung up over his head, wrists together, up through the bars of the bedpost, and Hannibal was working careful single strands over his body and around his dick.

That was interesting. It felt interesting. He could imagine it was Will doing that, touching carefully, tying even to the tiniest detail. He would do that, he knew it and his cock responded as he drifted in that half fantasy.

He liked the idea of Will there, leaning over him, oh god, sucking Greg's cock into his hot mouth, shoving two fingers hard up his ass.

Huh, but that wasn't happening, which was slightly disappointing. He squirmed a little and opened his eyes again He didn't really expect to see Hannibal standing over him, staring at him with an odd glint in his eyes. "Are you comfortable?"

"Uh-huh," Greg replied, feeling his mouth go dry for some reason. Even through the haze he was feeling a prickle of something strange. Will would've been all over him by then, holding and touching and hardly able to control himself. And Hannibal was just standing there.

And then, Greg saw the knife.

"We've got another body, " Catherine said barging in on his research. "Jim’s saying it has matched the profile."

It came as a shock after burying himself in files and images of evidence past and present.

"Old, new? Crime scene still fresh?" That was what he wanted to see, the scene, even if it was a dump site there was a lot to learn from a dumpsite.

"A fresh as we've had," she said. "Come on, Nicky, you too. Let's get there so we're ready to go the moment David does his thing."

Will stopped long enough to get his kit, but he almost beat Catherine through the door of their working space and she'd only just stepped through it to give them the news.

He had to see it fresh, see it with the killers presence still lurking in the scene and he would get it, he knew that. Even so, the trip to the crime scene seemed unbearably slow.

Getting into an SUV, whose SUV? Will didn't care, but Catherine preferred driving and Nick preferred driving, and Will just got in with Catherine so they *moved*, because every second the feeling of the place was dissipating. And he had to see it.

Catherine was driving pretty fast, but she nearly paused when she heard the address. "That's familiar," she said. "Not sure why but, I recognize that address."

"Prior crime scene?" Will tilted his head a little watching her steer, watching the way her face shifted. Definitely a prior crime scene.

"Yeah. Yeah, I think it's a famous one, but I can't put my finger on it. Could be a coincidence," Catherine replied. "I should know that."

"I don't know Vegas as well as I should." Hadn't learned all the old histories, hadn't done due diligence on the city he was inheriting because it still felt temporary and it hadn't set in yet that Vegas was his new home, not DC.

"Yeah, well you can live here all your life and still find something new every day," she said. "Even someone like Warrick."

"I know the capitol area like breathing. Quantico." Home. Home, and that was the problem, there was a mental shift there because something from home had followed him out. Something from home, someone from home. Chesapeake Ripper, didn't get any homier than that.

He pulled his cell out of his pocket, and called Jack.

"Special Agent Crawford," Jack answered and then seemed to realize who had called. "Shit Will, thought you'd lost my number or something."

"I maybe tried. I don't know. What was that gut feeling you always had about the Chesapeake ripper?"

"I thought you were the gut feeling guy," Jack said. "My gut feeling? He was still out there and damn intelligent with more than a passing familiarity with law enforcement."

"That," Will murmured, swapping the ear he was holding the phone against. "Ripper's followed me out here, Jack. Three bodies, we think we've got a fourth. I, it's right on the tip of my tongue."

"Jesus fuck," Jack swore and he could imagine him pacing around. "Okay, you sure? We'll be on the next plane to Vegas. How do you know it's him?"

"It has the same scent. It's..." Will leaned against the door, and closed his eyes. "He's doing it because he can."

"Will, you don't go running into anything, you got it? I know you. Just hold on, we're getting flight in...shit, as soon as we get to the airport, so don't go off half-cocked."

"We're just going to a crime scene. I'm not going anywhere." Will halfway opened his eyes, looking sideways at Catherine.

"Yeah, well I know you even if your new Vegas buddies don't. I heard about the transfer," Jack said. "You've got half the departments in the FBI weeping into their beers that they lost you."

It wasn't really the place to have the talk, not with witnesses. "Yeah, well. I need my own life. Start over, start fresh."

"About time you bought out of Patronage anyway," Jack said. "Okay, sounds like Marie has booked me some plane tickets. I'll be in Vegas in a few hours,"

"Thanks. See you then." He hung up, just thumbed the phone off, and rested his head against the headrest. The street lights were gone -- they were heading off into nowhere land.

Heading out of Vegas always made the contrast of lights and darkness more profound and it was a little like plunging into the abyss. Catherine increased their speed and seemed to know where she was going. "We'll be there in a couple of minutes. The Feds are on their way?"

"Jack doesn't want me confronting the Ripper. He's coming out personally." Jack was high in Behavioral Sciences, just one step below the Director. And he was an asshole. "Jack knows me a little too well."

"You really think it's the actual Ripper not a copy cat?" Catherine didn't even mention the other implication.

"Nick and I spent yesterday pouring over the files. The media got... a little sensational with the cases, they emphasized all the wrong things. This is the same pattern, not the bits that were overblown in the media. This... is subtle, it's mocking. He's intelligent and he's playing with us, he's always been playing with us, and he enjoys watching us squirm. We're all fish on the line as far as he's concerned. And the musician, the victim? You pull a couple of his fellow players aside, and he wasn't that good, he was an asshole, he had an attitude, and his girlfriend is a three year pending Missing person."

"So what, the Chesapeake Ripper is some sort of sociopathic vigilante?" Catherine asked.

"No. No, but he has a sort of framing for his crimes in his head. It's not the criminal aspect that bothers him. It's that the fellow was a poor musician, and he was polluting the symphony with his presence. It's that the child molester was a rude prick and obnoxious. It's that, that..." Will inhaled. "God damn. It's right on the tip of my tongue. The confounding part was always the trophies. It's chunks of human, but what's he doing with them?"

"Pickling them somewhere?" Catherine suggested. "Or freezing them. Could be a deep freeze somewhere.” There were lights up ahead, flashing. "Looks like we're here."

"No, the why. The what doesn't matter in a case like this, it's the why." He waited for her to park, and then popped the door open, dragging his kit out with him. He wanted to see their man's handiwork, up close and fresh.

"You sound like Nicky," she said with a smile as they got out and were joined by Nick.

"Body's in the culvert," Nick said. "Super Dave is already here doing his time of death thing."

"Thanks," Will said, walking past Nick, intent on the culvert. "Did he have to roll him to do it?"

"No. Body is looking pretty posed. Like it is mimicking something," Nick said.

"Damnit, I knew I was forgetting something. The Dick and Jane Killer..." Catherine said. "This was the site. Literally right here."

"Tell me about the Dick and Jane killer?" Will shifted his hand on the handle of his case, an odd sense of tension building as they curved around the side of the culvert and into the dip.

"Nate Haskell. He was called the Dick and Jane Killer because he went after couples," Catherine explained. "His kill count is officially 16 people and got picked up by sheer luck. They only ever found the bodies of the guys, not the women and the first one was found here."

"Huh. I wonder what he did with the women? You know, if we ever get a quiet moment I could start to work through the cold cases bin..." Find those 8 missing women. Things like that bothered Will, knowing that there were families with holes in their hearts because they didn't know what had happened to their loved ones or where their body was.

"Oh, fuck."

"What?" Catherine looked at Will. "You recognize the guy? Someone you know?"

"Might support the Chesapeake Ripper thing."

Usually there was no running commentary going on behind him, but he walked closer, circling around their coroner-in-training, and it felt as if someone had opened a freezer door.

"Professor Langston. I didn't see him at the funeral, but Greg told me about him, and I looked him up because he teaches at WLVU and I'm still learning the good contacts around here, and he's known for..." Lording it over people, he was lording it over people at a funeral, oh shit. Ice cold shock hit him in the pit of his stomach. "Nicky, I need your car keys."

"Why? What's going on?" Nick asked looking alarmed. Langston, specialized in Nate Haskell in his criminology. Wrote goddamn books about it.

"Nate Haskell was Professor Langston's specialty. Raymond Langston, Nick, the pathologist who missed an angel of mercy in his hospital and then fell into the mind of a killer and made money off of it. This is irony, *this* is mockery. Give me your keys." Or he'd have to take them. He was less willing to take Catherine's, less willing to rip them out of her hands. "I need to check something."

"Check what?" Catherine said even as Nick was getting out his keys. "Hold on, tell me what the hell is going on here, before you go running off somewhere."

"It's a hunch. I have a hunch and I can't say it because it won't make sense and god help me if I'm wrong because I'm going to need to be committed again if I'm right." He reached out, snagged them from Nick's hand, and turned, walking fast towards where he'd seen Nick go. The startled 'hey' from Nick and the 'wait' from Catherine was like a chorus.

He was probably going to be fired before he even started work but in a way he hoped like hell that he was wrong. He had to be wrong. But then why did that voice in his head give him that gut wrenching ice cold sharp hot shocking feeling in his stomach.

It was like a red flag being waved in front of him, the you missed it you missed it you missed it. He'd missed it. He'd missed the damn Chesapeake Ripper, he'd missed, what else had he missed? He didn't want to quite reach for it, but it was there, not thought but felt, welling up in his chest with horror.

Langston had missed it. Langston was dead in goddamn ditch because he caught the eye of the wrong killer.

"Will, man, come on, seriously you're zoning out here," Nick said grabbing hold of his arm. "We can help."

He jerked his arm free, focusing. "I have to do this by myself, or it could go very badly."

"Come on, Will everyone needs back up," Nick said trying to block him from opening the door. "What's the hunch? We can get the LVPD called in."

"Langston missed it. Greg missed it. I think I missed it." He shifted, carefully unbalancing Nick because he knew how to kill him, could've pinned him down in the dirt and snapped his neck like it was nothing and that wasn't nothing. "I need to go. I'll be back in a couple of hours if everything's all right."

Nick went over on his ass, and his shout of "Missed WHAT?" could only just be heard as he turn on the engine and floored it out of there.

He just drove. Peeled away and sped off and focused only on the fast-passing street signs as he drove, arrowing towards home, towards their rented haven, towards where Greg had the day off and Hannibal had nothing to do but what he pleased, and there was an edge of thought that he knew where the trophies had gone.

That he'd maybe known all along, before the bright days of Greg, before he'd seen a light at the end of the tunnel and stopped considering things like killing himself or just going with it all, where days of being fucked senseless was normal and okay and it was a strange sick relief to just be left alone.

William Graham was nothing if not a hell of a compartmentalizer.

He could hear the echoes of Greg's shame and embarrassment that he hadn't *known* about Douglas' alter ego as Paul Millander, hadn't guessed and remembered his own assurances that had probably sounded patronizing about love blinding people, or being too close to it.

What is he was right? Did Hannibal know? What was he going to do??

Nothing except what he had to do.

He was turning into the road home when he called Nick's phone, hoping to get kicked to answering.

No such luck. "Will, what the hell man?!" Nick sounded riled. "Catherine wants to put an APB out on you."

"I'm about a block from the house. The problem is, I know him. And it's not all sunshine and roses at home, but I focus on the present too much. And it's just a hunch, but I think it's Hannibal. The profile he helped me build on the guy, it never felt right."

"...You think it's *Hannibal?* Your Patron Hannibal?" Nick sounded incredulous. "Jesus..." There was a pause. "Where's Greg? Tell me Greg was going out today.."

"Greg stayed home." He pulled into the driveway, turning the engine off. "I've got to let you go. I could be wrong."

"Yeah well, Jim is calling in back up as we speak. Call in with five minutes or they will be there. Hell, they'll be there anyway."

For good or for bad. Five minutes was a lot of time. "Sure." Sure, and he hung up, pocketing the phone and opening the car door. He moved fast, unlocking the front door like everything was normal.

He could try and play it normal, as if he had just come back because they hit a stop in the case. But if Hannibal was the killer he'd know it was a lie, so would it be best to say he hadn't been on the call. Shit, he'd know that was wrong too.

He closed the door behind him, and started into the front hallway. Kitchen was empty, but the study light was on. "Hannibal?"

"Yes?" The tone sounded light and completely normal and there was that little curl of doubt right there.

That huge curl of doubt while he walked into the study to find just Hannibal, reading a book. There was music turned on low, comfortable background noise. "I just left a crime scene."

"Oh yes? Obviously not that interesting if you have come home," Hannibal said looking up at him. He looked... something. Satiated perhaps, and the prickle of alarm returned. Where was Greg? Greg always made noise wherever he was but there was silence.

"Greg's quiet." He tilted his head a little, didn't make it quite a question.

"Yes he is." Hannibal replied and smirked a predator smile. "Now at least."

He exhaled, quietly, moving a little further into the room. "What did you do with the trophies, Hannibal?"

He laughed slightly his white teeth gleaming. "Trophies? How terribly gauche Will. I don't know what you are talking about, I don't need trophies. Groceries on the other hand..."

He'd handle that later. It wasn't something he could deal with, while he reached behind with both hands, pulling the handcuffs from his belt, going for his gun. The gun was an easy draw, but he didn't bring it up. A raised gun was a gun that wasn't going down until it fired. "I'm going to ask you to surrender, Hannibal."

"And why would I want to do that Will?" Hannibal stood fluidly and there was something of a terrifying aura of something visceral about him, as if he had been hiding that all along. "That's not the way of our kind. Kronos ate his children the gods. I have been your Patron Will. I have coaxed the dark longings from your flesh, from your thoughts. I have nurtured a seed in you that will blossom with a willing canvas. This is the most pure form of Patronage. You have been my protégé into the Becoming, and the first glimmers are there."

Will brought the sight up, and it was too late, because Hannibal was on him, slamming him back against the wall, pushing his right hand up and out of the way. "You don't, this is not how it has to go, just--" He felt the bones of his wrist crunch, fingers spasming. Fuck fuck fuck. "You have to pay for what you've done!"

"You don't even know what I have done," Hannibal hissed. "Open your eyes and see who you will Become!" The gun was skittering over the floor away from them both.

Shit. Will flexed, back still against the wall, and drew a leg up hard to kick at Hannibal, pulling his other arm back to get it around his neck.

The sudden shot of pain deep in his gut was stunning. He should've kept a better eye on Hannibal's right hand. "I'm not... becoming anything."

"You will," he growled and then the kick unbalanced him backwards with a crash. A lucky hit.

No gun, bleeding, flat on his back, a numb sort of organ-wound pain, and how crazy was it that he knew that, that he knew that level of damage personally, that the most frightening part of it was Hannibal coming over him with a blade in his hand. "No, no..." No, and the words were slipping away.

"You think I would let you go without marking you?" Hannibal practically snarled the words. "Letting the world know who made you? Scars have to be beautiful to you or you might have to be rid of your protégé sooner than I thought." He raised the knife again

And Will took the pause for the chance it was, snagged a wooden decorative blade and smashed it into Hannibal's gut. It was satisfying to watch him stagger back, away, falling over the arm o the sofa while Will reached with his left hand to grab his spare gun from his ankle.

Three shots in Hannibal's chest was all he could manage before the numb pain turned worse.

It was with the memory of those gunshots fading with his consciousness that he heard the thump of the door being kicked down and the voices of others shouting in the other room. Nick's rescue right on time, but maybe too late after all.

"I always thought the rumors that he was insane were overblown," Catherine groused. Her lights weren't on, but they might as well have been, and Nick just stared at the phone after Will had hung up.

"If he's right, Greg has..." he hesitated to even say the words. "How far out are we?" Leaping in Catherine’s car to follow had been a decision between the two of them, but Will must have driven like a bat out of hell.

"Far enough that I'm concerned. We should be there soon. I only tangentially know the neighborhood." It was a little upscale for them, yeah. It was the sort of place they only saw when crimes were happening. "Now tell me what you think is going on."

"Will has a hunch the Chesapeake Ripper is Hannibal, his Patron," Nick replied. "I think he recognized our latest vic and then maybe connected the other vics with people he knew Lecter had met."

"Jesus. How do you even have a hunch like that?" Catherine sounded incredulous, but she was also driving just that little bit faster now.

"I sure as hell don't know," Nick said checking for his gun. "But he said something about the profile Lecter helped him draw up never felt right. It makes sense why this activity started pretty much after they arrived.”

"But the Chesapeake Ripper's been inactive for at least three years," Catherine pointed out. "Why now?"

"Will's leaving, he's going to be Patron to Greg. His screwed up toy is leaving," Nick answered. "Jesus, if Hannibal is the Chesapeake Ripper, this is big."

"I'm concerned that his screwed up toy is going to be Greg's patron. If Dr. Lecter is a serial killer, he's been living in the Bureau's back pocket for over a decade." Catherine turned down a street that was half familiar to Nick.

"That's it," he gestured to where he could see his SUV. "I thought the PD would be here by now. " They couldn't not go in - even if they weren't meant to.

"I can't believe he didn't take backup. Is Greg in there?" That could be bad, and Nick was thinking about that then they coasted to a stop. He opened his door, and slid out carefully. There were lights on in the house, along the side, but there were curtains in the way so he wasn't sure what he was seeing, not entirely.

The house-muffled noise of gunfire, though, was pretty unmistakable.

He just started running towards the front door, aware that Catherine was hissing a warning at him, but still following him in. The door was partially ajar and that made it easier to cautiously push it open.

Nothing, no sound, no reaction and Nick figured they could go in.

"Dr. Lecter? Agent Graham? Sanders?" Nothing in response to Catherine, nothing except silence. "*Sanders*?"

He moved in then, gun at the ready and twitchy as hell, heading towards the rooms where the lights were on. He could smell blood before they even reached the room and he peered in. Lecter flat on his back, chest covered in blood, Will flat on his, his abdomen saturated with a knife hilt sticking out of his right side. "Shit.."

He wasn't even sure either of them were alive. Nick heard Catherine inhale. "Nicky, go look for Greg. I..." She was already dialing her phone. "Control, I have two down, one officer with life threatening injuries, one suspect." Even while she was calling Will in as alive, she was kneeling down to check his pulse.

"Right." He dreaded it, dreaded finding him. It was looking like Greg had been left alone with Hannibal. "Greg? Greg, can you hear me? " He pushed open a door to the bathroom - nothing, then to an empty bedroom and then to another bedroom and...


Greg's hands were tied up over his head, and the ropes were criss-crossed over his body. The blood was horrifying, criss-crosses that tracked the lines of the ropes on his body, thin straight lines and patches missing.

But he was breathing.

"Greg?" Greg can you hear me?" he said leaning close. There was a digital camera on the bed close next to him which might have used but he'd look at that later. "C'mon Greggo, wake up."

"Mmph," Greg mumbled and an eye cracked open and his pupils were blown.

"Okay, hey, you're going to be okay. We'll just uh..." He reached into his pocket, and reached up to cut the rope. It wasn't like they were looking for an unknown suspect, so there was no need to preserve ropes.

Greg flopped when the ropes were cut and groaned. "Hurts." He sounded weak and slurring with either blood loss or drugs. "Will?"

"Will's gunna be okay. You're going to be okay, too, Greggo. You think you might be able to move?" He didn't think he was going to move Greg, but if he could move that was one more piece of information he could pass on to paramedics

"Rooms moving," Greg said thickly. "Will's okay?”

There had to be some drugs around here that Lecter had used. They'd need to know otherwise they wouldn't give him anything. Greg managed to move his hand a little but the effort seemed like a lot. "Will's okay. Hey, and I think we just solved the case." No moving him, but Nick could move back a little, look for anything on counters, any surfaces.

There was a shaky "Great.." from Greg. "I feel numb. Cold."

"Okay. Can you move your fingers?" He moved back to him, and then shouted down the hall, "Cath? Greg's alive in here!"

The sudden sound of sirens descending in around them was a relief.

"Thank God, Graham's semi conscious here, and Lecter has a pulse," Catherine called back. "Paramedics on their way."

If Lecter managed to die right there on the table, Nick would've been okay with that. Sirens meant they'd be there soon to help, to get Greg to a hospital, to get Graham and Lecter to a hospital.

Maybe they could deliver Lecter to a ditch. "So, Greggo. You want to stay with me?"

Greg's eyes were closed again and he kept trying to open them. "Where am I?" he asked in a slurred voice.

"In the rental home you've been staying in with Graham and Lecter." And he wasn't going to tell Greg what'd happened, that was better left to just sort of roll out on its own.

He could hear paramedics coming into the house, Catherine's voice in the background telling them where to go.

Then there was someone at the door, coming in all efficiency and familiar controlled urgency. "CSI Stokes your colleague tells me you know enough to give me a basic run down?"

"Yes sir. He's been drugged, pupils are blown, but he's reactive and communicative. No obvious signs of spinal damage, no large wounds." Just handfuls and handfuls of smaller wounds, slices. "Greggo, these paramedics are going to make sure you're all right, okay?"

"'k, Nicky.." Greg mumbled but he was still trying to hold onto his hand. Greg didn't deserve this, he'd done nothing wrong and ended up a victim to two serial killers..

In almost no time at all. One, and then the other, so Nick went with them, half-holding Greg's hand while they finally loaded him onto a stretcher. He tried to not look when they passed the study on the way out the door -- Lecter was being loaded up, and another paramedic was doing chest compressions on Graham.

He couldn't tell Greg Will was dead. He couldn't take it. He tried to block the view but he heard a faint panicky "Will?" from the stretcher. "Will!"

"It's okay." He was going to lie through his fucking teeth if he had to, and he had to. He moved with them. "They're just helping him breathe." There was no way that Greg was clear enough through the drugs to notice the difference.

"Wanna know he's okay..." he said but he couldn't move to do anything about it.

"Okay, lets get him in the ambulance," the paramedic said as they whisked him away.

"Right. We'll see you in the hospital, Greg." He pulled back, waving at Greg, and turned to head back into the house. It was a shitty day to be a CSI.

Waking up in crisp white sheets was at once alarming and comforting. Comforting in that it was recognizably a hospital from the sounds and smells of the place and that was better than waking up in the desert, and bad on the ‘oh my god why am I here?; stakes.

Greg got an inkling of why he was there when he tried to move and it was like a bizarre rippling fire of pain spreading up his arm to his torso and all over. "..Nngh gah.." he choked out and that was hard too.

He was pretty sure he could talk, usually, except his throat was dry and everything hurt like his skin was on fire or peeling off. It was insane, too sharp, too much, and he wished he hadn't woken up in crisp sheets at all. That he wasn't awake.

"Hey, kid."

Brass? Why was Jim sitting there? He was squinting and he felt bruised there too. He didn't remember how he got like this, or didn't want to probe at that space just yet. "Jim?"

"I think we get to check off a box on the coherency scale. You want some water?" It didn't matter that he’d just asked, because Jim was leaning forward anyway.

"Mmm." He felt dry and raw in his throat as if he had strained it somehow, shouting too loudly or something. "Where am I?"

"Desert Palms. I wouldn't move too much. You have... a lot of stitches." He offered Greg a glass that had a little water and a lot of ice-chips in it, which felt like it was saying 'don't chug me' to Greg.

Moving his arm brought a fresh wave of the pain as he instinctively tried to take the glass and found that was impossible. Still, sipping as it was held there felt fantastic and he blinked a little more. "What...what happened? I can't remember much." There were images and fragments that couldn't be real.

"Lecter was a psychopath. We're still working out the why. Will and him haven't woken up yet." Will and him. Will, Will was alive.

A sudden image of seeing Will lying with someone trying to beat life into his chest assaulted him out of now where as vivid as a flashback. "Is he okay? Will? Is he okay, I remember something - I remember CPR, is he okay?"

"Yeah. The loss of blood kind of put his heart at a parade rest for a couple of minutes there. He hasn't woken up, but he's alive. His next in line with medical information will be here in an hour or so, so we'll know more then. How're *you* feeling?"

He wasn't sure. He really wasn't sure and what the fuck was that all about. "It hurts to move a lot. I don't remember yet what happened."

Just dark hazy feelings penetrated by dark vivid spikes of total terror and fear but he could remember *why*.

"You were under some pretty heavy drugs," Jim remarked, sitting back with the glass. "It's okay. Lecter's under police guard, and as soon as he's good enough, he's off to maximum security."

"Hannibal?" Greg sounded incredulous even to himself. "I remember getting up and going into the kitchen. Hannibal made me an omelet and I ate it. He makes the best and..." He frowned, not able to recall what happened next distinctly.

"He killed professor Langston. Will came back from the crime scene to confront him. You were tied up on the bed." Jim's eyes were a little soft, and they ice in the cup rattled faintly.

"Professor Langston? Douglas's friend?" Greg couldn't comprehend it. He had vague memories of rope and even giggling a little as it was going on. "But... I don't understand."

"I'm still sort of in shock myself. Guy walked our halls, and he seemed normal enough. But, Will figured he was the Chesapeake Ripper. There's a team back in Virginia going over their town house with a fine toothed comb as we speak. Cath and Warrick are out at the rental here."

Greg felt like he was just blinking stupidly at this revelation. "You're telling me Hannibal was the guy Will has been tracking? Hannibal his Patron?"

"Yeah. Dr. Lecter, Psychiatrist, trained physician, man about town, long time confidant of the FBI. Hannibal." Jim's mouth was set grimly.

Greg couldn't even think of a swear word to encompassed how fucked up that was. For the first time he glanced at himself. "I look like a goddamn mummy. What's happened to me?"

The bright flash of metal in his mind and he was blinking as his heart started racing, the monitors picking it up immediately.

Jim's eyes darted over to the monitor, and then back to Greg. "He cut you up. Not sure with what."

He remembered a knife, maybe more than one, he remembered some of it, Screaming and laughing. Had he been laughing or was it Hannibal?

The sound of the monitor made him drift back. "I still have everything right?"

"Were you circumcised before?" Yeah, yeah, he had been, and he could only tell it was a joke because he had been, and the edge of Jim's mouth was curling up. "Yeah. You're still all together."

"Okay.." It was a relief because some part of him felt numb and others were on fire. With every moment it was getting worse. He could feel the perspiration starting on his forehead.

"Just lay still," Jim murmured, setting his cup down. "What can we get you? Drugs? Something to read?" A way to make sense of the world? That was what he really needed.

"I think I could use some painkillers," Greg said conscious it was weakly. "That's probably not a tough guy thing is it?"

"See this pump here?" Jim reached, and pulled it down off of the table to set the button near Greg's right hand. "Press that button, and ride the morphine train."

"Wow, " he reached to press it and then hesitated. "Isn't it a bad thing?" Bad thing or not he needed it. Really needed it.

"No." Jim's mouth twisted a little. "I'm pretty sure you're not going to become an addict from hospital usage, Greg."

In that case he pressed the button. "Not really been in before," he said and yawned. "When will I be able to go see Will?"

"When you're up and mobile for more than a couple of hours. You were in and out there for a while, which you probably don't remember. It's been a couple of days." Holy shit. Couple of *days*?

"But you said I was just cut up a bit?" Greg half asked half stated. Now the morphine was working he didn't feel that bad.

"Well, there were the drugs," he suggested, with a wave of one hand. "And, you're kind of cut up a *lot*."

"Oh." He couldn't get his head around it. He'd probably have to see it to believe it. "This is all a bit surreal. Really surreal. Will is going to be okay?"

"Not sure. We'll find out when he wakes up. His, uh. His guts are kind of a wreck." He closed his eyes, because he had no idea how that was going to go. "He shot Lecter three times, stabbed him, and the fucker still isn't dead."

He didn't know why but that thought filled him with a sharp overwhelming fear."Is he in the hospital? I mean, is he *here*?"

"Under armed guard. Still hasn't woken up." Yeah, but it was the same building, and that made his pulse go up, up ,up.

He couldn't seem to stop breathing rapidly and the urge to run was nearly irresistible. Not that he could but he really wanted to. "Armed guard won't be enough. "

"Cuffed and restrained," Jim added, as if that was really helpful. Greg wasn't sure why it wouldn't be, but it just might *not* be enough.

There was just this looming fear," Fuck. Shit...sorry, I didn't mean to swear." Even with the morphine he was on the verge of panic. "Won't be enough. He knows too much about it."

"Yeah, it's a little concerning. Trust me, Sanders. We've got this one pinned down. He's got a kill count of at least 13, and maybe more."

"More," he knew that instinctively."More." The morphine was good now, took some of the edge off of the anxiety. Nevertheless the thought kept drifting around his mind about his Patrons. "I've had two serial killers as Patrons." He started laughing breathlessly and almost hysterically.

"Yeah. Shitty track record, huh? And the paperwork's still in place for Will." And that was a note of doubt in his voice, a note of doubt that Will didn't deserve. He hadn't done anything.

"I'll have to take care of him," Greg said trying not to giggle. Oh god, it was like he was unraveling or on a bad trip or something.

"Yeah. You're gunna have to. I'm thinking that he's been living with a serial killer since he was sixteen. That's kind of a novel spin to it, and we all knew Graham was out there, but..." But, and Jim shrugged a little. "I don't know."

"So was I," Greg tried to get himself under control but couldn't help shaking. "He's okay, Will is okay."

"Yeah. Yeah, he will be. And you will be, too." Jim leaned forward, put his hand on top of Greg's hand. "This isn't something you're going to do alone."

It was very reassuring. "If Will doesn't recover.." He was on his own, reassuring words or not.

"Nick or Cath or myself will step up. We'll figure something out." Step up, take the burden of patronage, okay. That was a weird thing to worry about but it was a lot like a job unto itself and one he had to have to have the job in the first place.

They didn't have the money for that but that wasn't the point. If Will didn't recover he didn't know what he was going to do. It was more than being a protégé to him and security, it was about the fact he was... okay, he was in love.

"Just. Get a little rest, Greg, and we'll worry later."

Waking up to pain wasn't actually a surprise. It was the waking and falling out under the surface, and waking again because he wasn't tracking time. It happened a few times, and each time he fought harder to surface, and then... Then why.

His second thoughts didn't manifest until he was already through, catching shutter-snap shots of light against the back of his retina until he had to keep them open.

"Hey, sleeping beauty, you gonna wake up this time? I've been waiting to rip you a new one for going in without waiting for my plane to get in," came an unfamiliar drawl on his right.

Well, it was familiar, but it was distant. He hadn't heard it in a while, and he cracked his eyes, looking sideways at him. Jack. Will opened his mouth, choking, coughing for a moment while he tried to move to sit up. Jack forced him to interact in a way, and he didn't, he…

Lecter. Lecter had been trying to make him into something, and how did he knew he hadn't done it? It was all there, crowding in the back of his head that he could taste it. Taste the rib meat, taste the smell of blood in the air while he stretched his fingers through skin and no no no.

"Easy...Easy Will," Jack patted at him. "You're looking a bit wild around the eyes there. "You know where you are?"

Yes in the abstract sense. Hospitals were hospitals were hospitals, and he nodded at Jack, lifting a hand shakily to his mouth. Fuck, fuck. Fuck. He crushed his eyes closed, trying to not think at all. "You gave me to him."

It wasn't working.

"Okay, not sure what you're talking about there," Jack said slowly. "You need something to drink?"

He nodded to Jack, and waved a hand at him. "You, Hannibal, you could've just left me at the academy, you could've..." Left him alone, let him get through it on merit and fight and he would've, he didn't need to be in a place where he couldn't tell up from down where he was so fucked up but aware of it, but unaware of where to start where to fix what was wrong because there was a lot wrong. There were control issues and oh god, they'd been eating human meat. "They were groceries."

"What?" Jack leaned forward. "Groceries? What about groceries?" He heard a buzz and it sounded like he was calling for reinforcements.

"They weren't trophies, they were groceries. He cooked them. He ate them. *We* ate them. Every dinner party, Jack, every... Every..." He was shaking and why shouldn't he be shaking?

"Fucking hell Will," Jack was nothing else if not graphic. "You mean he was eating them? Making you eat them?"

"They were, were..." Will gestured, trying to not shake any harder than he already was. "He made ribs, Greg's first night with us. The one victim, body dump, no ribs. They'd just been hacked off."

"Jesus," Jack shook his head. "Okay, we'll concentrate on the freezers.”

Will inhaled, shaky slow, teeth clenching. Yeah, concentrate on the freezers. And the injured and the maimed, and the people he'd come into contact to and done god knew what to while he was there.

"You're okay Will, you're safe now. Lecter did a job on you alright," Jack said obviously trying to calm him.

Jack didn't know what he was calming Will for. "I left Greg with him. I *left* him with him."

"Not your fault. The kid’s alive at least, that's something right?" Jack said

"He is?" That was a relief, and his heart rate fell a little. One less life on his hands, though god knew what condition he was in, what Hannibal had done. Will knew what he was capable of, knew first hand, very intimately.

"Yeah, a bit worse for wear, but he woke up before you did," Jack answered. "Physically, nothing that won't heal up. He's a bit confused. Hannibal used a cocktail of drugs on him."

"He does that." Will's mouth compressed tightly, and he was trying to not think, not remember, because it was a *really* good cocktail of drugs. He would've loved to have had it just then.

"He did it to you?" Jack asked.

"Regularly. It..." It was hard to explain, and only when he held it up against other experiences did it sour. "Was just how things were."

Jack sounded like he was spluttering a little. "Why... why didn't you say?" he asked. "Hell, we could have got you out Will."

"I don't know." It was stupid, but Jack didn't *know* Hannibal. He was divorced from it, separate, used to the facade. "I'm half-crazy most of the time. My word against his?"

"We would've helped," Jack insisted. "Look, Hannibal is under maximum maxim security guard, you're safe here, Sanders is recovering, you're recovering, we'll get you the help you need too."

"He thinks I'm going to carry on his mantle." And maybe he was, maybe he could, because he was cold and falling apart and he was a serial killer of serial killers in a way, wasn't he? And the urges were there, so close to the surface, other thoughts and other ways and things that he knew in his mind were wrong.

"Well you're not." If only saying it made it the case. "You maybe ditching the Feds but we're not ditching you. The Vegas guys keep trying to get in to see you. I figured you needed someone familiar."

"You're familiar. I end up gutted, you're there." Or sliced across the face, or, or just in the crazy bin. He wasn't sure how angry and guilty he was about being pissed off for Jack for always being associated with all of Will's own fuckups.

"I'm getting Alan up here," Jack said unexpectedly. "Figured if there is someone who can help, it's him."

He'd lived with a damn psychiatrist for years, and Alan... Alan was just another of them. "Alan wants to see how my mind works."

"Alan cares about you," Jack replied firmly. "He does what is best for you."

"I don't know what's up and what's down anymore." Will rubbed the palm of one hand against his eyes, because they were hurting. His arms were probably the only part of him that didn't hurt to move. "Hannibal said the same thing."

"Who do you trust then?" Jack asked and yeah, that was the millions dollar question. Who did he trust?

"You. Greg. Don't really have to wonder at either of your motives." Greg wanted companionship, maybe someone to love, maybe someone to rebound. Didn't matter, because it felt good, it felt grounding. It was a sense of purpose. Jack wanted someone who could do the job, any job, without questions, without saying no.

Will always said yes.

Jack looked thoughtful a moment. "Huh. You may not think it but I don't want you burned out on me Will. Even if the Feds don't get to keep you. What do you say if I use my clout to get you and Greg in the same room huh? You think that will help?”

"Might. If he even wants to see me." Will closed his eyes a little, but he was still watching Jack. "Shit. My whole life is a crime scene."

"Pretty much. Just as well you were working on getting your own place with your new protégé as well," Jack said. "Well, I'll see if he wants to join up now you are both conscious and making marginal sense. If he is I'll get him in with you. Private room."

Private room. Not much else was going to be private. Everything he had, everything *they* had was a crime scene. Laptops, clothing, the refrigerators, books, notebooks, it was all game in the investigation. They had to figure out how Hannibal worked, and why and where and when and who and Will realized that now that it had fitted into place he could put a finger on answers to most all of it. "Sure."

"Well, jurisdictions come back to us on this one. Would have been you working the case if you weren't part of it," Jack said. "We'll have do a statement with you when things are more settled.

"Sure. Not going anywhere." He didn't really want to know how bad his injuries were, because he'd felt it. He was lucid, he could move a little, it was okay for the moment. "It's all clicked."

"You've put it together?" Crawford nodded as if that didn't surprise him. "That'll help. Anywhere else we should be looking for evidence you can think of?"

"More of it's going to be back home," Will said, shifting to test some of the bandages. Yep, hurt like hell, and had him going quiet and tight for a moment. "Still need to figure out where he was doing them here. It's possible it was at the rental when we were at work."

"You think he did it there or somewhere else completely? Taking a risk doing it at home?" Jack commented.

"He doesn't care about the risk. When have you ever seen Hannibal worried about what someone thinks?" And maybe if he could jar Jack's memory to some of Dr. Lecter's stranger moments, Jack would start to put the pieces together, too.

"True enough." Jack rubbed at his temple a moment as if he was getting a headache. " We'll do a statement when we're ready to ask the questions. If you want to give u some notes, I'll leave a dictaphone here for you."

"Sure. I can get to that." For at least the last scene, bits and thoughts and it was going to be a horrible jumble if Will just let it flow. He wasn't even sure he could.

"Okay, I'll do that. Now you want me to allow these other CSI's that keep clamoring to see you come in? I can put them on the list now." Jack queried.

"Sure." They probably had questions, concerns of their own, wondering what else might've happened to Greg and that was his fault. It was his fault and he needed to answer for it, needed to answer them.

"I'll put them on the list then. Might do you good not to look at my ugly mug all the time," Jack said even as some nurses came in the room. "Looks like it's medical time.”

"Mm." Will closed his eyes for a moment, before looking hard at the nurses. Just two of them, but they seemed oddly tense to him.

Maybe they thought he was going to be another serial killer after all. There was no way Greg would want to be trapped in with another serial killer.

"Let them do the medical stuff Will, no fighting it," Jack cautioned as he got up to leave the room. "I'll be back."

Third time, after all, was the charm. "Sure." He tried to smile at the nurses, a tight compressed gesture. They were just there to help him, and he wasn’t going to act strange at them.

After he had been poked and prodded and had his blood pressure taken, his dressings changed and rather embarrassingly wiped down, it wasn't Jack who came in the room, it was Jim Brass.

"Hey Will, you up to visitors? "

"Can I lie?" He felt shaky, stretched thin, and he was trying to not think. He smelled like baby wipes, which was going to be an odd sense memory to add to the collection of memories that he would never be able to get rid of, like Hannibal's cheek close against his while he twisted the knife harder into Will's stomach. And the smell, faintly, of shit in the air.

It was a miracle he was alive..

"Sure, lie all you want," Jim said coming over. "Don't worry, I'm not here to give you interrogation or anything. You know you didn't have to nearly get killed if you don't want the job in Vegas. " Jim was somehow more mellow than Jack, less demanding in his presence which was just weird.

He snorted. "How's Greg?" Focusing on Jim was important, going moment to moment.

"Yeah, he's doing okay. Surprisingly okay if you know what I mean. He's easy to underestimate," Jim said. "Pretty much the first thing he asked when he woke up was if you were alive before he asked what had happened to him. His memories a bit all over but he is remembering bits every now and then. In fact he sent me up here to see how you were doing."

"I'm going to be here for a while, but I'm okay." He was going to pretend to be okay, he was going to hold it together. He wasn't going to fall apart or fall catatonic or shatter like he had every other fucking time.

"Uh-huh." Jim raised his eyebrows. "Well, I'm convinced. Apparently Greg is plotting how to take care of you. He wanted you to know that. You probably haven't had time to get a full guilt feeling on have you? In case you are thinking it, Greg doesn't blame you at all. I have to say I don’t think the thought has occurred to him.

"I was aware everything wasn't entirely kosher with Lecter when I brought Greg into this arrangement. I missed the cues. My job is putting together those cues. He was my case, has been *my* case for years, and since I couldn't solve it, it stayed unsolved and I was *living* with him." And there was more, pressing at the back of his throat, threatening to make its escape any way it could.

"Yeah, exactly what Greg said about Douglas Mason," Jim said. "Will, you've got to bear in mind, you were too damn close. This sort of thing happens every day, not with serial killers but..." He shrugged a little. "I blinded myself to the fact my wife was having affairs, that my daughter isn't my daughter. It was all there to see, but the thing with seeing is you've got to be looking in the first place. When it came out, it got bloody."

"Jesus." Will closed his eyes for a moment, tight, pulling at the sheets with one hand. "That's a special hell in itself. But this is different. I remember everything, I remember things that I didn't actively process the first time I saw them. I've tracked men down from a curled metal shaving left at a scene. I didn't realize he was storing human body parts and serving them. I..."

Was very close to throwing up, because his body was reacting where his mind wasn't. Couldn't.

"Easy, easy..."Jim patted him on the arm. "You do not want to be vomiting with a big damn hole in your gut. Trust me, been there and done that. Look, that's the point, it's like one of those puzzles where you can see the picture clear as day when the last piece was put in. You weren't the only one working on this Will and Lecter, though a sick bastard is a brilliant sick bastard."

Is. "He needs better restraints. He's not going to take capture lying down." Jack should've known that, but he wanted to make it clear, clearer, and Jim was there to listen.

"Yeah, funny that, Greg said the same, not even remembering all of what happened," Jim said. "Hit three times in the chest and he still woke up before you guys. He's being drugged at the moment."

"Stabbed him, too." He never wanted to see Hannibal again. "We were going to go to Venice."

"I'd skip that if I were you," Jim said dryly. "Passed Crawford in the corridor. He said something about getting Greg up here. You okay with that? Greg might talk your ear off, you might not be up to it."

"Jim, I like Greg. A great deal." He might take Greg to Venice. Or, he could take Greg home to California, or wherever he wanted, because he'd gotten Greg in over his head. "Company would be good."

"Okay then. He's remembering bits and pieces." Jim looked at him. "You scared the shit out of Nick and Catherine."

"I probably did." And he needed to apologize. "I essentially carjacked Nick. I just... couldn't say it and explain myself to them."

"Uh huh, well we'll work on that," Jim said. "Because, I take things like back up seriously. It's a cop thing even if I'm not a detective anymore. You're too used to doing this all on your own Will."

"Jack says that too." The edge of Will's mouth twisted up a little. "But I'll work on it." As long as he looked at it as just another case, and not *Hannibal*.

"Well I'm gonna work on it too," he said. "You seen the docs yet?"

"No. Nurses came in. I'm kind of messed up." His right wrist was killing him, and the cast was a good tell tale that it was broken.

"I guess they'll come and talk to you shortly," Jim commented and shrugged. "Messed up is a good word for it."

He gave a quiet laugh that hurt, arrowing pain through his torso. "Thanks."

"You're gonna be laid up a while Will, even I can tell that," Jim looked like he was considering something. "And you're going to need somewhere to live when you come out. Did you get anywhere with that before this happened?"

It was talk to distract him, he could recognize that. He could appreciate it, too.

"Going back and forth with a real estate agent. It felt a little like a Laurel and Hardy skit." What kind of place did he want? No idea, what kind of places are there? Well, what kind of place did he want? And on and on.

"You tell us your budget and I'll get Warrick and Catherine to hunt you up some options," Jim said. "You want us to bring in something to read or something as well?"

"Sure. Whatever comes to hand. My laptop's probably being investigated, isn't it?" It was a rhetorical question.

"Feds have it, sorry. Hope the porn isn't too embarrassing. We can get you something to use if you want?" Jim offered and he was being bizarrely considerate.

"Strangely the last thing I was looking at on it was when Greg wanted to try making cupcakes." Cupcake porn. That was funny, and Jim's considerateness was funny. "It's okay. Newspaper or something to read is fine."

"Cupcakes huh? He's been holding out on us," Jim grinned glancing up as a doctor entered the room. "Looks like that's my cue to get out of here."

"Thanks, Jim." He appreciated the distraction, the temporary re-tacking of the track his mind was worrying through.

"Catherine and Nick will drop in I expect. Next one in brings newspapers and magazines," Jim said as he got up. "He's all yours doc."

"Agent Graham, I'm Dr Stephen Haskins. Good to see you awake," he said as he picked up the chart at the end of the bed. "How are you feeling?"

"Coherent. In pain." Simple, quick, and he liked that he wasn't entirely losing the thread of his situation. When he started to lose the threads, then that was the problem.

"Okay, you're on a morphine on demand. Don't stint on it to start with. I need to go over your physical condition," he said looking at Will appraisingly. "You were stabbed in your lower right stomach, causing damage to your intestines and colon. We initially did you a colostomy, but then reversed it while you were still out. You nearly died due to a bleed from your kidney - the hepatic artery was nicked, but that was fixed and is holding. "

"So, anything going to collapse?" He waved his casted arm a little, and the motion made his torso ache all over again. "Anything I need to do or not do?" Ignore that his lover, his mentor, had done it to him. Since he was moving, he took a press at the morphine pump.

"It will recover, but needless to say, it is a serious injury. Any stomach surgery or damage can have effects that will mean you will have to be careful about what you can eat. In fact eating is not so much of an option right now," Dr Haskins said.

"Just as well I'm off food right now." Will managed a grimace that was probably something like a smile.

"We'll be starting you on some intravenous nutrients as your intestines haven't yet started working properly yet. When they do, we try you on some liquids and semi solids to start with which will be painful," the doctor explained. "It's the inflammation, and unfortunately we can't use anti-inflammatories on stomach injuries."

He just nodded at the doctor. "That's fine. My medical history is pretty deep with inflicted injuries. This isn't going to be a walk in the park. I understand that."

"No trying to push yourself. If you had an appendix before you don't any more," Dr Haskins said with a jovial smile. "Don't let yourself get into too much pain out of stubborness."

"Right. I'll try that." He wasn't sure how it would work, but he'd try it. Try it and not think.

"Special Agent Crawford has requested you have a room-mate in Greg Sanders. Now I have spoken to you, I am minded to approve it if you are comfortable with it?"

"Yes. Greg is... was, huh. I suppose I need to get the paperwork somehow. I'm going to be his patron." And dependent on how long he'd been unconscious, they were past the assumed start date.

"Then prepare yourself to share the room," Dr Haskin said. "I should get some rest if I were you." He smiled and left the room and Will half hoped it wouldn't be too long before someone else came. He seemed to do better when distracted.

His thoughts still returned to his own Patron. That he'd been willing to nearly kill Will, would've killed Will if Will hadn't shot him. And Will wasn't sure what he was supposed to Become out of that.

Hearing that Will was okay wasn't the same as seeing it and Greg was practically ecstatic when they said he was being moved to Will's room. It was the cautious way they said it that was weird, as if he might say no or run screaming to the hills rather than go see him. Still, though he could walk, slowly and painfully, they wheel him up there and got him installed while Will was being seen to by some nurses with a curtain around his bed.

It was a little weird, and he wanted to just bust through the curtains and say hi. Not that there was anything stopping him from saying hi through the curtains, but he wanted to make sure he was all right first.

He sat on the bed waiting for them to finish and go, and smiled as the curtain opened. He felt his smile falter a little looking at Will. He looked pale and in pain. "Hey Will," he said wanting to move closer. "I've invaded."

"Hey." Will's eyebrows went up a little, and he looked like he was moving a little to sit up. "Jim told me they were going to move you in here..."

"Yeah, I've moved in. You look tired." Greg was confronted with the fact that Will was badly hurt, had been badly hurt and felt a rush of guilt. "I wanted to come and see you sooner."

"I'm glad you're here." He was pulling up a smile, maybe trying to shake off some of the pain. "How're you doing?"

"Fine," Greg replied automatically and then corrected himself. "Well, um.. well, as much as can be expected I guess. You look... you getting enough pain meds?"

"I guess. It's hard to tell." Will shifted, and Greg could see his right arm was broken somewhere. "What did he do to you?"

"I haven't really seen it, but apparently , I'm a bit patchwork." Greg said. It all seemed really surreal actually and he didn't want to face it.

He supposed he could've pulled at the hospital gown and looked. But he could already see the lines at the edges of his upper arms, his shoulders. It was easier to not really, really inspect what'd happened. "Nothing's missing?"

"Apparently I'm intact though there are sections of skin missing," Greg answered as truthfully as he could. "I remember seeing someone doing CPR on you?"

"Yeah. Doctor said I went into shock from the loss of blood. Lecter gutted me." Will shifted, head lolling against the pillows to look at Greg. "I still shot him three times."

"Jim said he's still alive though," he added and started to contemplate how to get from his bed over to Will. "Kinda freaks me out. I don't remember things properly at the moment, it's all images and haze."

"That's okay. It's probably better that you don't remember. I wish I didn't remember." Will kept looking at him, and he looked oddly a little more relaxed. "So. Warrick and Catherine have offered to look for a house for us."

"You still want me? I mean as a protégé?" he asked. He pushed himself up heading slowly to Will's bed. If he touched him he might believe that this was real.

"Of course. I should've, I knew everything wasn't all right with Hannibal, and I didn't protect you enough, but... But if you still want me to be your Patron." He would, wanted to, and that was a relief, an answer Greg hadn't known he was waiting to hear.

"Will, I don't want anything else except you," he said making it to the bedside to get hold of Will's hand. "Would I get in trouble if I kissed you?”

Will flexed the fingers of his left hand. "Given that we're both grown adults, I'm going to say no trouble at all."

"Well okay then." He leaned over and kissed Will a little awkwardly as he couldn't hold himself balanced as well as he usually did, but none the less it was as much a promise as it was a kiss.

Will pulled at him with his good hand, lifting up his casted arm to touch Greg's shoulder carefully. "I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault," he said simply. It really wasn't. "You told me that, it's more likely me for being a trouble magnet."

He didn't really mean that, but there was a feeling underlying it.

"I wouldn't say magnet so much as you have really shitty luck," Will drawled, still looking at him keenly. It was funny, maybe a bit too intense, but the look of relief on Will's face was strong. "First your first Patron. Then Judge Mason. Then you fell in with me, and I didn't even know Lecter was a serial killer."

"That wouldn't have stopped me liking you," Greg said. "In fact, Lecter kinda freaked me to start with and you never have."

"I'm glad. I wish... I could have spared you this." This, this being whatever had happened to him, and Will probably knew more than Greg did with his spotty memory about it.

That was cool, he wasn't going to push to get it back. He wasn't stupid though, he was pretty sure it involved what they termed as rape considering the medical stuff the doctors did as well as the cutting. "Hey, I wish you and I could have met up right at the start and you were my only Patron but that's not going to do any of us any good. Right now, I come out of this with you and that's a pretty damn big prize."

And maybe Will didn't believe that, from the crooked cast of his mouth, but he nodded. "What can I do to make this easier?"

"Get better so we can go live in the house that apparently Catherine and Warrick are picking out for us," Greg smiled back at him. It was easier not to freak out when there was a reason to keep it together.

He was sure he was *going* to freak out at some point, but. The further it was in the distance, the more okay it seemed. He had a lot of backlogged freaking out to do. "I hope we get to see pictures before they try to get it signed while I'm on morphine," Will half-joked.

"We could end up with anything. " He smiled a little at that and had to give in and sit down. "What type of place would you like?”

"Open. House back in Maryland was... closed in. Rooms tied to rooms, but." Will gave a quiet laugh. "Tactically shit."

"Tactically huh?" He smiled a little t that. "Open plan is nice. Bright and airy is good as well. You need a good place for your books and..uh, you could tinker with mechanics in the garage or something. "

"And what kind of spaces do you want?" Bright and airy, and he was pretty sure that he'd never really given it much thought. He liked big bathrooms, he liked...

"Uh, well, I don't know. Bright and airy is good, room to cook, and a good living room area. Nice big bedroom and uh, maybe another guest bedroom or something?"

"That sounds good." Will closed his eyes, still half holding onto Greg. He pulled a hand back, smacked at the morphine pump button.

"I'm pretty easy to please," Greg said softly. "I think you need to sleep a little huh?"

"Feels like someone's running claws around my insides. Yeah. You should rest, too." But Will was still smiling, half a smirk and a little crooked.

"Okay I will, I could use some more sleep. We can talk more later and fight over the remote for a TV," Greg said getting up slowly.

He was pretty sure Will wouldn't fight him. Will struck him as oddly passive just then, subdued. "Yeah."

Greg didn't know how to handle him completely yet as shaky as he was in himself. "I'm not going anywhere Will," he said as he made it to his own bed.

The edge of Will's mouth curled up, and he cracked his eyes open. "I know. It's good to have you here."

"Yeah, you say that now but you wait until I keep you awake talking," Greg replied and smiled back. "Speaking of which.." He mimed zipping his lips and throwing a key away.

Will's laugh was a quiet, startled thing, but good to hear.

If he could still make Will laugh then he figured there was hope for the both of them no matter what it turned out that had happened to him in those dim hidden patches of memory he couldn't get to grips with. It meant there was nothing that they couldn't deal with one way or another.

It was a good start to the day, or at least, a good portent for the rest of his day, Will decided. His stomach had settled a little, and he was tired of feeling oddly hungry all the time.

Apparently he was able to try food now, and it seemed a long time since he had had something solid in his intestine. There had been a comfort to knowing the IV nutrients were packed and seal right up to the point where they were clipped onto his IV stand.

He knew where they came from -- artificial, certainly non human in nature. It was a strange thing to fear, but the last almost 12 years of food was all suspect now.

"Today's the day for solids huh?" Greg said altogether too happily. He had begun to move around a lot more and was sounding a lot more like himself. "That'll help you.”

"It might," Will agreed grudgingly. "I'm sort of off the idea of eating. Hell of a way to lose weight."

Greg nodded. "I get that. Must be really painful. I wouldn't want to eat like that. What have you ordered?"

"Toast, and apple juice." Will lifted his eyebrows at Greg. "Daring, huh? No meat."

"Well I guess meat might be a bit much," Greg agreed. "It's not easy to digest."

Oh god. No one had told him. "So, uh. What've you heard on the news?" Just the thought of meat made his stomach flip-flop, and Will had slept a lot, missed most of Greg's meals.

"I haven't really seen a lot," he said shrugging. "Jim has been keeping me up to date.

"Yeah, I've kept away from the news." Didn't need to see that shit, didn't need to hear or know. "We both have. Do you know what Hannibal did...?"

"Well, I know he killed a lot of people. I have to admit I don't know much else, aside from the fact that body parts were missing in the Chesapeake Ripper cases," Greg answered looking at him. "And I guess did things like he did to me."

"Of those, I don't think there were any other survivors," Will murmured, looking over at him. "The body parts... The body that was dumped, and the ribs were missing, Greg."

"Okay," Greg replied still not making the connection. "So what was he doing with the trophies? Pickling them?"

"I'm trying to not really think about it," Will murmured, "But that's a distinct possibility. The ribs, he slow cooked on the stove over a number of hours."

He could see the moment when Greg got it. "...Ribs? We had, we had ribs the first night I was there?"

"Yeah. We did." Will kept watching him, arms loose at his sides. Just. If he had to move he could. He guessed.

"We ate someone? We ate human ribs?" Greg looked pale. "I think I’m gonna be sick."

"Bedpan," Will suggested, biting the edge of his own tongue to quell the mouth-watering feeling that proceeded throwing up. "Apparently every victim ended up as part of one of his grand meals, dinner parties..."

That was it. Greg was fumbling for the nearest receptacle and heaving as if that would somehow help. "Oh my god," he said in between retching. "I've *eaten* someone. Human flesh. Maybe more than one... fuck."

"Yeah. Yeah, I... I can't even think. I can't think about it." It had tasted good, gourmet no less. And that made it worse, a mockery of the only time cannibalism was even a little acceptable, times of starvation. "Oh god. Oh god, I should've seen that."

Greg just retched again. "I'm not sure I'll be able to eat again," he groaned. "Oh my god, why would anyone expect that, you couldn't have thought that."

"No, no, I still can't, couldn't figure out why. Something drives a person to want to eat other people, there has to be a *why*, there's always a why. When is it all right to eat other people? When you're starving to death and there's nothing else. I know he was a child in the war in the old country. Has to be a remnant, a memory, a concept, a holdover from then." The careful cooking, the spices, the care taken, it was for a reason. "It's making something barbaric... acceptable to him. Maybe. I'm not sure."

"Oh god." Greg was shaking . "Okay, okay... something in his past, a reason. There are always reasons." He recognized the way he latched onto a thread of reason.

The troubling part was wondering what Hannibal thought he'd crafted Will into. Maybe had already crafted him into, because Will still didn't know whether he was coming or going. "Right."

"Aside from being completely screwed up and a sociopath," Greg said looking vaguely green. "Hey, Sara will give us vegetarian recipes."

"Yeah, I think I'm up for that for a while." Will rubbed at his right hand fingers, just above the edge of the cast. "I'm still trying to process that he was the ripper. Some of the things that were done to those bodies..."

"People keep avoiding telling me some of that," Greg looked at him. "I think, I think he did stuff to me and they don't want me to remember the details. Jim keeps saying he has enough physical evidence."

"I remember a lot of what he did to me. I'm kind of fucked up from it. And that was just the consensual things." Will went a little tight-mouthed when the door opened, a nurse coming in with their breakfasts.

Greg's cereal and orange looked like a good choice after all.

"Sorry, I've been a bit sick," Greg apologized as she delivered the food. "Thanks.."

She seemed a little concerned but accepted he assurances he was okay now.

"He'll be fine, thank you," Will murmured as he eyed his meager fare that looked like a feast after the last few days of nothing and a little water now and then.

She nodded and smiled as she left and Greg poked at his cereal. "Okay, I can at least try and eat now." he said. "If you do too."

"Toast," Will shrugged, eyeing it as he broke a piece off. It felt almost foreign, and that was strange for him. "I didn't want to keep it from you."

"Well now I know part of the reason people seemed to have been obsessed with my eating habits," Greg answered trying a small spoonful of cereal as if he was eating bugs or something.

"Whole grains haven't lived," Will offered, chewing his toast slowly. "And cows are pretty happy about getting milked."

"You better have fluid with that," Greg warned. "You'll need it. Hey, uh, did you see the details Catherine brought around?" It was desperate change in subject but he could understand that.

"Apple juice," Will said, raising it in a toast. "No, I think I was out again."

"There's some really nice ones," Greg pointed out and picked up a folder. "Mm. Here have a look."

Will leaned over, reaching with his left hand for the folder Greg was holding out. "Buy or rent? I'm leaning towards buy. Rent seems strange to me."

"Buying is cool." Greg glanced up. "Your Fed friends are here. You expected them?"

"No. I didn't know that I had more than one Fed friend in town." Jack was going to be laughing at being called a fed friend. He waved with the folder a little, before setting it on his lap, below the breakfast tray he still needed to work through.

"They're arguing at outside I think. Jack I think and a dark haired young woman. You know her?" Greg peered distracted.

"No, but I've been on the road a lot before we came to Vegas. It's been... a long half a year or so," Will murmured. He took another sip of juice, unable to see through the window in the door.

"I'll just be sitting here unobtrusively," Greg said as the door opened and sure enough Jack entered with a young looking female agent who had keen and sharp written all over her.

"Morning Will," Jack said. "Thought as you're up to eating you might be able to give me some statements. This is Agent Starling."

"Actual agent this time? Good to meet you, Agent Starling." Will waved his right hand in lieu of trying any professional handshakes.

"Good to meet you Special Agent Graham," she replied. "Agent Crawford has suggested that I interview you and take some statements under his supervision." She had a soft almost lilting accent that was pleasant enough. He could tell Greg was listening in.

Southern, deep southern. Will had lost his accent a while ago, in the mess of assumed personalities and years of travel, but Hannibal sometimes mocked soft southern drawls. "That's fine. I'm ready." He took another bite of toast.

"Do you want to do this with your protégé listening in?" Jack asked nodding at Greg who looked mildly offended.

"Yeah. After all, I want him to learn from my mistakes," Will said, taking another sip of apple juice.

Agent Starling put a miniature recorder in front of him and clicked it on. "Interview with Special Agent William Graham regarding Dr Hannibal Lecter, Agent Crawford supervising. Special Agent Graham, this interview is mainly to supplement existing statements. You have stated that you have put things together in retrospect. Can you give us an overview of what you mean?"

"It's one of those unfortunate situations where hindsight is twenty twenty," Will murmured. "When I saw the body of Professor Langston, it all clicked. And part of my subconscious grasped at the nature of the trophies, though I didn't understand until Hannibal told me directly. But I knew it was his work."

"What was it about Langston that clicked?" Agent Starling asked.

"We collectively knew the victim. Greg knew the victim from his association with Judge Mason. He was at the funeral. I wasn't present for the conversation, but afterwards as Hannibal and Greg discussed it, Lecter called him 'boorish', and there was something about the inflection of his voice when he said it."

"Do you recall him making inflections about other victims?" It was an obvious question and some of them were in retrospect very obvious and Ha- Lecter must have been amusing himself in some grotesque way to wave it under his nose all the time.

Will took a sip of his apple juice. "Retrospectively, yes. The flutist, Benjamin Raspail. There was a lot of talk about it being good that he was gone, better for the symphony, at a dinner party he threw for the symphony board of directors. Some of the meat at that meal probably came from him."

He could see Jack wincing at that. He suspected that there was going to be an outbreak of vegetarianism in Vegas and Baltimore.

"Were you aware of any other psychopathologies that Dr Lecter had - that you considered to not be normal at the time but now have a more sinister aspect?" Clarice asked again, studying him as intently as he studied serial killers.

It was strange to be on the other side of the fence, and it always was -- wasn't the first time, wasn't the last. "I wouldn't use the term psychopathology. There's four Ds for abnormality, right?" Right. He knew this, because Lecter was a god damned psychiatrist. "Deviance, distress, dysfunction, and danger. Lecter's missing those middle two. He was seeing and 'treating' patients to some effect until he came out to Vegas with me."

"But evidently he has been doing this before, possibly before he had you as a legal protégé?" Agent Starling pressed.

"Yes. And he enjoys forcing people to have sex with him. But he's functioned in society with extreme success. He's been a consultant for the bureau for at least five years before Jack suggested he take me on as a protégé. I think the only reason we know is because he believes that he was transforming me into something patterned... in his mold."

He could see the interest in her eyes as clearly as if a neon sign had flashed on.

"You believe he has been transforming you?" she asked. "In what ways?"

"I don't think he has. I think he *thinks* he has. There's a difference." Will finished off his toast. "Jack can attest that I'm fucked up, and that 'fucked up' is probably a clinical definition at this point. But after everything Lecter's done, I'm still here. I managed to decide to leave his patronage, I'm finding my own way."

"Could that perhaps have been a catalyst to this final confrontation?" she queried and he could sense Greg's interest as well.

"Yes." His moral compass was a little cracked, and he could see that Lecter had worn him down, introduced him to things that seemed bizarre only in reflection. "He was waiting for me to put it together and confront him."

"Then why did he try to kill you?" Jack put in. “I get this theory of yours Will but why then try and kill you?"

"He knew I'd fight back. He said he wanted to give me scars so I'd appreciate them more in Greg. That implies that I was expected to live. And that if I didn't, I was unworthy of whatever mantle he was passing on ."

"So the fight was an initiation of sorts..." Agent Starling mused looking like she was itching to write things down not just record them. "Do you think he expected you to kill him?”

"No. Lecter has no love of ending his life. He has a long list of things he wants to do with his life. I think he would've fled to Italy. He's been talking about it for some time, and he would've gone a few places first, but..." But. It was there, it was in his mind, and Will knew why.

"And what would he do there?" Agent Starling asked. "I thought that was intended as a vacation for you both."

"If I wanted to go with him, yes. That might've the original plan, before Greg. Afterwards... Italy, home of art, music, literature, steeped in history..."

"Until this, he left Greg alone. I believe this was... more like taking a car out for a test drive," Will offered after a careful, thoughtful pause.

"Huh," Crawford said even as he heard Greg shift in his bed.

"Appreciating the new model a friend is taking on or seeing what it can do?" Agent Starling queried.

"Maybe both. It's not really my story to tell." Will shifted his plate away a little, finished off the apple juice.

"So, tell me about the alterations in routine over the last month or so.”

"I haven't been at Lecter's beck and call. Greg and I have been exploring Vegas, working nights. We've been together." Intensely, constantly, and Will was glad to have not been at his beck and call.

"What did Lecter do while you were occupied with Greg?" she asked even as Jack gave him a knowing look.

"I don't know. He's always amused himself," Will shrugged. "What did he do while I was busy at the academy?"

"Did he give indications of what he was attending?" Agent Starling asked. "We need to try and track down places of interest."

"The local museum, the local symphony. We weren't really talking in any terms other than small talk." Will rubbed at the edge of his jaw. "I'd grown. Distant. Intolerant and too aware of the drugged cocktails I was drinking."

"So how would you describe your relationship with Dr. Lecter?" she asked.

"Rough?" Will laughed quietly. "At times it was very mentor, mentee. I learned a great deal from him. A times, he was very romantic. He was very compelling as a person, and brilliant, and it's hard to not get caught up in that. But he was fickle and no one should have ever let him be my psychiatrist after the Hobbs case, Jack."

Jack looked at him. "He was the only one who seemed to comprehend what the hell was going on with you. In retrospect, we should have looked at that more closely but he got you out of a catatonic state."

"You ever think that I *wanted* to clock out, at the time?" He was trying to keep from sounding as angry as he felt. "Half the time you acted like I was a car that needed to just be kept up on maintenance. My personal life at the time was confusing and hellish and fed back into what I had going on in my head."

"Hey I get that you're pissed at me Will," Jack said "But at the time it was like the work was the only thing that got you together."

Because he went home and Lecter had demands, and... Will closed his eyes for a moment, because he hurt, because he was tired and because if he thought about it there was a hell of a lot of hindsight being twenty twenty and why the fuck hadn't he said anything, anything at all. He could've asked for help and he hadn't because he thought he was on the other side of the coin as those killers, had always felt it, worried it, felt their thoughts and he could think what Hannibal was thinking, if he was conscious, if they let him shake off any sedative drip. If they hadn't listened to Will, because Lecter played with drugs for fun, self prescribing, master of control and controlling.

"Hey, hey.." Greg was sitting up properly then. "I think you need to give Will a break."

"He's okay, " Jack said and that had Greg shifting to stand up.

"No he's not. If this is what he means by keeping him going Agent Crawford I see why he's angry."

"It's all right, Greg." Will opened his eyes, watching Clarice for a moment. She looked rapt, studying him, not quite looking at the distraction that Greg was causing. He felt strangely calm. "It's all right. Do you have any more questions that you think would help the case, or are you fishing for salacious details?"

"I am looking for pertinent details sir," Agent Starling supplied. "I apologize. If we have further questions perhaps you would consent to replying in a written form."

"Or you can pick up a phone." His jaw was tense, but he wasn't going to let much of it out in his voice. There wasn't any point in explaining himself to Jack, now when Jack went 'Yeah, but I'm still right.'

"It's probably enough for today though," Greg said with surprising firmness in his voice.

"Got yourself a watchdog Will?" Jack said amused.

"First for everything." And with breakfast, everything had been off to a... a decent start, Will supposed. Maybe it could still be an all right day.

Greg looked a lot less than amused as he glared at the Feds. "I think it's time for you to leave."

Jack raised his eyebrows. "I should remind you kid, I'm the one as his medical contact. Nothing with you is official."

"Hey!" Will smacked his hand down on the arm that held the breakfast tray, and both Jack and Starling snapped to, attention shifting to him again. "Don't pull this shit on me, Jack."

"Fine. I'll be back though," Jack replied with a look that implied he was humoring him. "Clarice, time to get out of here. Hope you got what you came for."

"Thank you for your time, Agent Graham."

The niceties, of course. "Good luck, Starling." And then maybe he could go back to blissful, blissful not thinking.

Greg glared at them as they left the room. "Are all Feds like him?" he muttered as the door closed.

"No. I've known Jack for a long time. He kind of grinds on you, and he uses people, but he means well. Which is a contradictory sentence, I know." Will rubbed at the muscle between his eyes.

"Yeah, well from where I was standing they are using you," Greg said with an edge in his voice. "People keep doing that."

"Yeah. It's a pattern I'm used to." He managed a smile as he looked over at Greg, starting to open the folder. "So. Houses."

"Houses, yeah," Greg was looking like he was having to pull himself back from rage and that was incredibly hard for him to imagine. "So I like number 2 , 5 and number 7."

"Why?" Will didn't even look at the pictures yet, just. Sitting up a little, trying to get his head on straight. He asked it softly, just wanting to know. "I'm about five steps from asking if you just want to sit and color for the rest of the day. I'm all shaken."

"And I want to beat the crap out of them. That's not like me. Maybe coloring is the way to go," Greg said with a heavy sigh. "I'm not as in control as I usually am.”

"I'm trying very hard to not think right now." He admitted it slowly, but. There was a need to be honest with Greg, to not keep secrets. He didn't want to get off on the wrong footing, at all. Things were hard enough without that. "So. What can I do to keep your mind off of it?"

"I like thinking about us living together," Greg confessed. "I like lying here thinking that we'll lie in after a long shift and maybe make waffles, get distracted and end up in the shower together. And that we'll get a nice big couch and sprawl on it watching TV while eating junk food."

"Huge couch," Will murmured, gesturing wide with his arms. "And then when we're rested, we can go people watching and try. Well. Restaurants are out. Pastry places, though. Vegas is supposed to be great for it."

"Yeah. Although Sara will know vegetarian restaurants. And there's places where you can take your own steak. And we can go look at that bug place you wanted to go and see, and maybe go up to lake Mead. You like boats don't you?" Greg looked at him. "You could get one of the boats up there. Tinker with it."

"Lake Mead. Yeah. You surfed, didn't you? We could jet ski." And just lay out on the beach, as strange and lake-y as it would be.

It was all flights of fancy. They wouldn't be getting there for a while.

"Yeah, jet ski is cool. I used to love to surf, then I ended up as a protégé and time for any of that went out the window," Greg said. "On the other hand, I have lots of domestic skills. You need any homework help, I'm your man."

Will snorted, finally opening the folder to look at the pictures and write ups. "Surfing sounds better than homework. Laying on a sofa sounds much better now."

"We could just go and sleep on the beach there," Greg said. "Eat ice creams and pretend to fish.”

"Pretending to fish is about as effective for me as actual fishing," Will drawled. He flipped to number two first, then five and then seven, and pulled them out, ignoring the rest.

"You know you could look at the others," Greg pointed out. "You might like them."

It was amazing how a little conversation with Greg had brought him back down. Never worked with Jack.

Jack just wound him up and up and up, and it was no wonder that shutting down entirely seemed viable. "These ones are just getting extra consideration, first."

Greg smiled a little. "You realize this is your house. I know I'll be living there but I can't pay for it. Well, I suppose there are my wages. I don't actually know exactly what I get."

"You should be getting an account summary from your patron." Will exhaled a little harder than he needed to, but. "At least Lecter was diligent in that."

"Yeah. It'll be weird knowing there's money out there," Greg replied. "I liked the pools on those two. That one has a good view but that's all concealed which might come in useful for any skinny dipping we might do."

"It also has more space, not that I'm sure what we'll do with it..." From the pictures the one that was more concealed had a more open floorplan. The front doors would have to be replaced, just for the sake of his paranoia. The carpet was various shades of pink, which would need to go, but the pool. "This is how you know you're not in the beltway anymore. What a pool."

"Wait until you see the bar in the house," Greg pointed out smiling. "Oh, and it would need re decorating . That bathroom is pretty bad but that's part of the fun. Quite a roomy kitchen. That one looks nice from the outside but I think the rooms might not be as open. I could be wrong."

"I'm kind of suspicious of the tight shots. I bet the guy was standing in the doorway each time." They sort of looked like crime scene photos, which made Will suspicious of what they *weren't* focusing on.

"I think we'll have to go see any place before we think about buying," Greg said thoughtfully. "Mmm... is it possible to profile a house?"

"Yes." Will shuffled those photos to the top. "I could at least arrange a floor plan from this. But I would say that the owners of the house were looking for a warm feel. The pink carpet, the orange, tan walls. They wanted home to feel *really* homey. I'm not sure about the green bathroom."

"Yeah, bad mistake. I think light colors would make it feel more spacious. Maybe with a hint of the warm colors. I mean, a light terracotta would be better there," Greg gestured. "And the bedroom is a bit dark.

"We can fix that. Handyman is my hobby," Will half-reminded as he sorted through them. "Tile floor?"

"Take them or leave them," Greg replied. "Depends what effect you want to go for. I did think you could knock through a couple of the rooms and make bigger ones if you want fully open plan."

Greg had been busy it seemed.

He smirked a little. "You've given this a lot of thought." He liked that.

"Yeah, well, there's only so many crosswords I can do before my head wants to explode," Greg admitted. "I used to think how great it would be to have my own place."

"I've fantasized about it in spates. I investigated a murder in a condo that was. High ceilings, exposed pipes. It was just something else, and I caught myself paying more attention to the look of the place than the crime." He'd realized that the killer had done the same thing he had, looking up at cool copper pipes and steel and nearly clipped the counter that the murderer had walked into and put a hand on to steady himself.

"Well hey, we can work over a place right? But if you want to be in the heart of Vegas, then the other one might be better. It's not far from the strip." Greg said.

"We'll have to see what it looks like and decide then. That pool, though..." That pool was tempting. If it looked half of what it looked in pictures, there'd be hope.

"How long do you think we'll be in here for?" Greg asked. "Maybe we can we wheeled around it if we can't walk." He grinned a little at that.

"Not sure. I think they're going to wait until I'm functional before rolling me out." He'd have to shit at some point, as proof of stomach life.

"Well there's functional and there able to do things like drive. I will probably be able to drive," Greg promised. "I mean, it's mainly stitches and things now.

"Jack wants to bring Alan in. Alan's.... a pretty good psychiatrist." Even if Will didn't believe in what they did in his gut, he knew there was a use, a point, and that it wasn't all Hannibal fucking with him. "He's the on staff guy."

"Oh man, seriously? We have to see a therapist?" Greg looked a little uncomfortable. "I can't really talk about it when I can't remember it.”

"Alan's a good guy. I always think he's staring at me like a science project, but maybe by this point I am," Will shrugged. "It's not just this, it's Judge Mason, it's that you lost your first patron, too."

"Yeah but," Greg shrugged a little stiffly. "What are they going to say, hey you got an attraction to serial killers or something?"

"No, not Alan. More... are you blaming yourself?" Will halfway wanted to know.

"For what? Douglas? For what he did, no.. I don't think I am." there was a lengthy pause. "Can't shake the feeling I should have noticed though."

"That sounds like responsibility that isn't yours to carry." Will shifted, closing the folder and tucking away the papers.

Greg shrugged. "Tell me you don't feel the same?" he asked. "Anyway, I guess we don't get a choice about it."

"No, probably not." Will rubbed at the side of his face. The discomfort was starting to kick in hard, but he really liked being lucid. "The problem is that I've killed. More than once."

"You've said that before," Greg said looking at him. "You do what you have to do."

"No, Greg, it's really not the lines of I have to do what I have to do. Psychiatrically, I profile out as a serial waiting to happen. That was why when the FBI sent my file over to Jim, I sort of. Wondered if Vegas was still going to be interested in taking me on. If Lecter hadn't disabled me, after I shot him I wouldn't have been able to *stop* making sure he was dead. There's no, I can't just cuff someone and let it go."

"You're not a serial," Greg said with absolute certainty. "You're not. I know that. I trust you in a way I never trusted Douglas even though we had been together for 6 years."

"It goes two ways. And I'm not a serial. But I'm also not. Wired normally, I guess. Maybe none of us are." What was that saying? Normal was overrated.

"Yeah, well I've seen how they've been treating you, so no wonder you're adrift of normal. I like not normal," Greg said.

"That's good." He closed his eyes, feeling a little drowsy when he reached for the morphine button again.

"You have another dose and you'll be asleep," Greg pointed out. "Guess I'll see you later Will."

"Yeah, sorry about that. I'm kind of shit entertainment." But his stomach was knotting up, and toast sucked. Toast wasn't supposed to suck.

"No, that's okay. You need to take it easy," he said and smiled. "I'll leave the difficult clues in this crossword for you."

Greg disagreed with Will coming out early, but Will was stubborn as hell and surprisingly sincere when he swore upon his life he would just lie in a heap. He was still stiff and sore himself but he had been more mobile that Will, but once Will had been able to eat and keep it down, they were thinking it was just resting.

The drainage tubes had come out, and Will was all sutures and miserable about anything touching his stomach, including possibly air. Not that he whined, but the pain was visible on his face now and again.

And he sprawled over most of the sofa.

Greg was unpacking things under supervision, not that they had much and was grateful that Nick had decided to stay over until they were functional.

"Yeah, you both just need to sack out and call it a day. Checking out of the hospital is exciting stuff," Nick pointed out. He was grinning, happy that they were okay and not put out, which was good. They were still in the rental, which was, okay. Quietly horrifying.

"Yeah because we've walked to the car, then from the car to the house," Greg said. "We're meant to be looking at getting our own place soon."

"Now that you're out of the hospital, we can at least get a real estate agent to come up here to see you guys," Nick suggested. "We'll get that friend of Catherine's mom to come by tomorrow to help you guys out. I..." Nick looked up at the ceiling. "I'm not sure I could stay here if I were you."

Greg had to admit he had a point. He was deliberately avoiding going anywhere near what he thought of as Hannibal’s bedroom. "Well, we need a bit more than a hotel and I guess it will get us buying a place quickly.

The door was closed, and it was going to stay that way. He wasn't too keen on the study, either, but the living room and the kitchen were across from each other and then it was just down the hallway to his bedroom and suck.

Kitchen. The kitchen was a *real* crime scene. There was probably fingerprint powder still on the surfaces. "Yeah. Well, I'll be staying with you guys if that helps."

"How did you get that job?" Greg asked and smiled a little. "I'm pretty okay, it's Will who might need help. "

And okay, if Will fell he couldn't get him up, and he might flake out himself.

"We did rock paper scissors, and I apparently threw a hamburger." Nick winked at him. "I volunteered because I've got three days off. Will's doing a pretty good impression of unconscious in the living room."

"He gets more exhausted than he lets on." He was stating the obvious and he knew it. "Me too I guess. I really appreciate it though and so does he. He's kinda used to people kicking him when he is down."

"Yeah, we don't kick our own, Greg." Nick reached out, touched his shoulder lightly, like he wasn't sure it was all right. Nick probably knew more about what had happened to Greg than Greg knew. "Why don't you go crash with him and I'll finish up in here and line your meds out?"

"Sure. I'll just take him a drink. He has to have lots of fluids." He remembered that bit, definitely and intended to look after Will the best he could.

"Hey, Greg? Get yourself a drink, too," Nick half-suggested. "You need lots of fluids and rest, too."

"Oh, yeah, right," Greg nearly forgot about that. He made a point of getting another mug out, wondering why he was feeling so rattled. "Sorry man, not thinking straight."

"It's okay. Go flop out with Will, and I'll finish unpacking for you guys." Yeah, he had about five crossword puzzle and Sudoku books that they could probably try finishing if he wanted to do something.

He got the coffee which he had to make weak, because he remembered that particular spectacular argument Will had with the doctors that yes caffeine would stimulate the peristalsis in his recovering gut, but the industrial strength version Will usually drank was liable to make it explode.

So weak coffee or no coffee for the time being. Greg took it carefully in the other room

Will was sleeping.

It wasn't really unexpected, and he dozed lightly a lot. It wasn't heavy sleep, or particularly good sleep, so he was pretty sure he could nudge Will awake if he wanted to.

He settled for wafting the coffee under his nose and then sitting on the couch next to where he was sprawl considering how to position Will so he was comfortable. It didn't look comfortable. Will's chin was on his chest, and his one arm was crooked. But he started to sit up a little as he breathed in the coffee. "Mrph?"

"Ah once again, the elixir of life does its work," he said with a smile. "You awake there Will or flailing in your sleep?"

He liked the sleepy noises he made sometimes.

"'s time is it?" That sounded awake, and Will's eyes cracked open, fluttered, and then opened wider.

"About 5 I think. You need to drink something. How are you feeling?" He'd mentally set himself the task of looking after Will and as long as he did that he was okay.

Will shifted, put his foot down on the floor like it was going to help. "Oh, 'm okay? Tired. How're you?"

"Well, Nicky wouldn't allow me to really do a lot so...uh, I've been just doing stuff." Greg said. "Surfing the internet stuff. And trying to tidy the place. Here have your coffee. "

"I'd say burn it down 'f we didn't have to turn it back over to the owner," Will murmured, sitting up slowly. It looked painful, and oral painkillers weren't as awesome as IV. Greg knew that first hand from trying to move and lift and stretching his bizarre cross-hatching injuries.

He'd specifically not spent time looking at himself. In fact he hadn't looked in the mirror at all. Most of the stitches were out leaving scabby marks everywhere. Which he didn't look at and ignored.

"Yeah. Still, Catherine has set up a view for us at the place we liked in a few days. You think you'll be up to a brief walk around?"

"Yep. We need to get our own place. Sooner, rather than later. Moving just got easier," Will pointed out. "It'll be buying furniture straight up. I could sell the stuff back on the east coast as serial killer memorabilia."

Will had a dark quirk to his humor sometimes and if he wasn't feeling so out of it Greg would have bantered along with him. "Maybe we should. Help set us up."

"It's in litigation." Will waved a hand vaguely, and sipped at his coffee. "Mmm, this is good."

"My private stash," Greg agreed. He couldn't help flicking glances towards the bedrooms nervously and he wasn't sure why. They were like dark gaping holes on the edges of his perception. Waiting to suck him in, with teeth and all.

Maybe that was why Will was in the living room. "Thanks. Nick going to hang around?"

"Yeah," Greg exhaled. "Uh, I'm not sure I want to stay on my own in any room at the moment. Not here at least."

"I don't blame you," Will murmured, lifting a hand up to run fingers over Greg's cheek. "Sooner we move out, the better for both of us."

"Mmm..." That touch was pleasant, even as it ran over one of the cuts. "If it gets really bad I guess we could go to a hotel."

"Yeah." No 'no, it should be okay', no reassurances that it wouldn't get *really* bad. Will closed his eyes for a moment, then leaned forward, brushing a kiss against Greg's mouth. "Tell me if it does get bad."

He kissed him back - he was okay with kissing, that was not a trigger as far as he could tell so far. "You too. You are doing okay?"

"Still not processing it all." Oh. That sounded not good, but all right at the same time. It sounded like something Greg could get behind.

"Is there some rule on how we should be processing things? I think any day we don't turn out batshit crazy counts as a win," he said getting in close to Will.

Will shifted, made room for him on the sofa and slid an arm over his shoulder. "No, not really."

"Hey, I'm trying to look on the bright side," Greg said aware that his hands weren't that steady as he gripped his coffee cup. "We're alive. That's a win right there."

"It is." Will exhaled. "I just need to get a hold of myself and it'll be better than just win."

Greg found himself drawn to rest his hand gently over Will's stomach, feeling the bulky shape of dressings there. " Mmm. Want to watch some TV or something?"

"Yeah." Will absently fished for the remote, where they'd been left before everything went to hell. He shifted again, laid his temple against Greg's shoulder while he passed the remote to him. "I'm sorry."

"For what?" Greg didn't get why Will seemed to want to apologize to him. He hadn't done anything wrong. "There's nothing to apologize for."

"For being selfish. For not realizing you were in danger." For not realizing that he was in danger, too, but Will wasn't apologizing for that.

"What, being selfish like helping give a future to someone you've only known a few days?" Greg asked rhetorically. "And by that reasoning I should have recognized danger too."

"Hannibal had injured me before." He took a sip of coffee, barely any pressure against his shoulder at all. He was probably just there for the warmth of leaning into Greg.

"How?" Greg looked at him. "Badly?" If it was why hadn't Will left then?

"Bad enough. Knifeplay gone wrong a few times." Will took another sip of coffee, close enough that Greg could smell the warmth. "First time we ever had sex, he stuck me in the thigh with a paring knife."

Greg gaped a little at that. "He did ..what?" he said barely getting it out. "He stabbed you?"

Like he did to him as well, but Greg wasn't thinking about the nature of his injuries or what they looked like. Couldn't do that. "Mmm. I fought like hell and he choked me out." Will stretched his leg out, resting his heel on the edge of the coffee table. "Which is a fair summary of our relationship as a whole."

"God, Will." All of a sudden his own experiences paled into comparison. "He's been doing this all this time? This is what he did to you when you were alone with him?”

"Less and less as the years went, but yeah." No wonder Will seemed like he was always on edge. Greg was on edge just hovering at the cusp of thinking about what had happened to him.

"Fuck, Will." What could he say? "He won't do that again. Not ever again."

"Not now, no. Which, you need to remember, too." Will patted Greg's leg gently. "So. What's the channel least likely to bother either of us?"

"You like watching bugs and stuff," Greg considered. "We can put on the nature channel or something."

Will took a moment, sat up a little more and fussed with the remote. Greg recognized the expose show on weird rare fish, and figured that was safe. Safest thing possible. "I bet I can get up and make toast."

"You know, you can try more than toast now," Greg felt he ought to point out. "Do you actually want to get up or shall I get it for you?"

"I can at least lurch against the counter helpfully." And then probably pass out from the effort, but he wasn't trying hard, so.... so Greg supposed he could let him.

"Okay, let’s go bug Nick for toast huh?" It would be an expedition of sorts. Will didn't like taking the oral morphine too much - he could move when he had taken it but when he hadn't a trip to the kitchen was like climbing the Himalayas.

Sans the oxygen.

"Place is as quiet as a cave," Nick offered from the hallway, heading towards them. "Toast? Why don't you two stay there and I'll do toast up good."

"I think Will wanted to lurch independently," Greg called back. "I think the toast might be a spurious excuse."

"Completely an excuse." Will sat up a little better, and seemed like he was thinking hard about standing up. At least his socks were clean.

He wondered how much of their stuff had become evidence. "Nick, we got any clothes in the closet or did they all get bagged and tagged?"

"Bagged and tagged to the last. I went out and got you guys some pajamas. We should have it all sorted out in another couple of weeks." And all of his stuff would smell freshly dry cleaned. That was a plus.

"Man, we're going to need some clothes then," Greg said as Will started his marathon trip from the couch to the kitchen.

It was kind of funny to watch, Will's oddly stiff bowlegged walk as he stretched his arms out. "We can keep throwing this stuff in the laundry. No one says we have to be presentable for the house purchase."

"Yeah, but you can't wear jeans or anything you need something soft and loose," Greg pointed out. He probably did too.

"Showing up in sweatpants is what I would profile as suspicious," Will drawled, looking over his shoulder.

"Well we'll have to be suspicious. Anything tight on there would be bad right Nick?" he said as he hunted for the bread.

"Same for you. I'll go hit a store and get you guys some stuff that shouldn't look too skanky." Nick seemed amused, shadowing them. "This is kind of like being at a bar, and watching your buddies insist they can drive."

"You're a laugh riot," Greg said hovering close to Will. "If he would take the morphine he could stroll over here, no problem."

"I hate the morphine." Will got a hand on the countertop, and seemed to stare at it for a moment. "There is not enough bleach in the world..."

"Yeah, Catherine got these uh, little plastic cutting boards? And plastic silverware, because all that stuff's gone, too. Toaster over's still here."

Every now and then it would hit Greg that he had probably eaten someone. And complimented and thanked Lecter for the privilege without knowing it. "Toast it is."

He nearly knocked the spice rack and blinked, stopping mid movement. The spices, Hannibal had drugged him with the spices, right here.

"Greg?" Will's voice was soft, and Nick's was echoing it. "Hey. What is it?"

"Huh?" Greg blinked a little looking at the others. Had he lost time? Looked like it. "What? it's nothing. Just a bit of memory."

"What was the memory?" Will pressed that. Nick had bread out, and he was buttering it .

"Just, you know. I got up and wanted breakfast and Hannibal offered to make me an omelet. I just realized it was the spices, the drugs were probably in the spices he seasoned it with."

Both Will and Nick stared for a moment at the spice rack. "Yeah. Uh. I'm going to get my kit after I put the toast in. Don't touch the rack."

Greg blinked a little. No doubt they had the sniffer dogs find drugs elsewhere but the scent of the spices would have concealed them and he didn’t remember if he had even said he'd had an omelet made by Lecter before. It was oddly vivid and persistent in his mind. "Sorry, I should have said something before maybe."

"No, no, man. We're just lucky this place is standing, or else the people renting out this place would've been really screwed." Nick patted the back of his shoulder gently, and pulled around to put the toast in the toaster oven. "It's okay."

"Clearing out the medicine cabinet should've been enough," Will shrugged.

Should have been enough but hadn't been. Even he figured Lecter didn't do simple. He hurt people with a level of complexity that was an instinctive artistry.

"There might be more, I don't know."

Will stepped back, and looked around the place. "So, takeout toast?" Nick offered.

"Take out back to the couch at least," Greg said trying to get himself back off of the memory track.

"I'm calling, uh. Chicken place, something. Just go back to the kitchen and I'll call," Nick said, while Will stared at the kitchen, as already clean as it was.

"I'm glad you brought your own coffee," Will declared a little suddenly.

"Yeah, me too," Greg answered. "You okay there. You need a hand?"

A hand making toast. Came to something when it took two of them.

Nick gestured sideways at Will. "Go on. Shoo, go sit back down on the sofa. I'm gunna call delivery and we'll pretend the kitchen doesn't exist."

Suddenly that seemed like a fantastic plan. "Come on Will, I think we're being a liability here," Greg encouraged and grimaced to himself. He'd been merrily thinking he was recovering okay and it wouldn't be long before everything was back to normal and..

He was talking and making no sense, losing time and that was just on something as non stressful as making toast.

"Yeah. Me, too." Will slipped an arm behind Greg's back, and seemed to steel himself for the trek back to the sofa. "We probably should've just stayed to a hotel."

"Yeah but, people might have found us there," Greg said. "I'm assuming we're still all over the news.”

"Probably." And Greg halfway wanted to know what was being said? And halfway never wanted to hear it at all.

"All the more reason to get our own place and get off the map," Greg answered and helped to support Will back as they shuffled. Nick must find this unbearable. "If Nick gets take-out you can try some. The doctors said you can expand your culinary experience beyond toast.”

"I'm still thinking I don't want to go much beyond toast," Will shrugged, sitting down with Greg.

"Yeah but if it is vegetarian..." Will needed some decent nutrition in him, Greg knew that much. If he'd been given a lecture on food, then Will needed it even more.

"I'll try." Will shifted, butted his shoulder up against Greg's gently. "So, what news channel do you already hate?"

"Uh, CNN probably," he replied and smiled a little. One thing he was looking forward to was hopefully sleeping in the same bed as Will

Will slid through the channels, and then ceded the remote to Greg once they were on CNN. "Let's see if we come up after a while."

"Cool." Greg sat down with him, getting comfortable leaning in to Will. Hey, he was doing okay. He was dealing, or at least not-dealing in a healthy way. He had to desensitize himself to any fall out, he knew that.

And, there wasn't anything about them. It was bitching about Washington, about spending, about the war. It was so far removed from their reality that it made decent background noise.

Maybe it had all blown over already. They had been out of the limelight for two weeks and more. That was a long time in the news. Will was comfortable to lean on and Greg was amusing himself counting grey hairs at his temple and resting his hand protectively on Will's stomach.

It wasn't going to help, but. Will turned his head, kissed Greg's temple. "If either of us start to feel better, we can lay on the sofa and make out when Nick's not looking."

"Or even when he is looking," Greg murmured with a growing smile. "I bet he's not as vanilla as he makes out."

"I am Ben and Jerry's vanilla ice-cream vanilla, Greggo," Nick declared, leaning over the back of the sofa to put a plate of toast in Will's hands. “It’s quality vanilla, but it’s still vanilla.”

"Thanks." Will tilted his head, looked up at Nick, who just nodded.

"Takeout's coming, too."

"Nick, you ruin a lot of people's fantasies telling me that," Greg replied stealing a slice off the plate. "What take out did you go for?"

"Salad city." He deadpanned it, and that was bullshit, because Greg *knew* there wasn't a salad city. "Pizza Hut. Salad and cheese breadsticks. Cool?"

"Cool. Vegetarian all the way," Greg answered and grinned. "I'm still waiting for Sara's favorite recipes."

"I'm still waiting for a kitchen that isn't laced with drugs," Will said, looking over his shoulder back towards the kitchen like it was going to *see* that.

"Yeah. I guess we should be lucky that that was the only nasty surprise lurking," Nick declared, sitting down in the lazy boy.

Greg shrugged. "I'm trying to sort of avoid but half find out what happened. It's gonna hit me in the face at some point I guess."

"I think that maybe both of you need to think about therapy," Nick offered, peering at them. "Just... so maybe it won't hit as hard when it does and knock you down."

"I'm almost willing to agree with you." Of course Will was, and he said he had a friend who could help, Alan. Alan something or other.

"Oh god, therapy," Greg grimaced. "That's going to be painful. I mean, it's not like I don't talk about stuff is it? I talk a lot."

"Not about what happened," Nick suggested. He took a sip of his coffee, and Will broke toast in half to share with Greg. Like he needed feeding as much as Will did.

"Well that's because I don't know," he protested and it was nearly the truth. He wasn't *exactly* sure.

Not exactly, and Greg needed evidence, needed irrefutable proof. He was used to working with facts, with reality. Not half-whispered thoughts in the back of his mind when he looked at objects. "He knew what he was doing with the drugs," Will said agreeably, chewing on toast.

"Swiss cheese memory," Greg agreed. "I mean, I've got some bits in there, but not much." He knew he sounded way to happy about that but he figured what was the harm? Ignorance was bliss.

Ignorance was bliss, and he didn't need, didn't want to remember Hannibal Lecter having sex with him and using a knife. Will patted at his knee gently. "It's okay if you don't remember."

Greg smiled. "Sorry Nick, my statements are still going to be sparse on detail."

"Yeah, well. There's stuff on dealing with flashbacks..." Will nodded when Nick said that, but then again, he still startled when the doorbell rang.

"Pizza.." Greg said instinctively moving to try and get up and making heavy weather of it.

"Pfffft." Nick eased himself off of the lazy boy, waving at them to stay still. "The last thing I want is one of you injuring yourselves. Dinner, and then bed."

"Thanks Nick," Greg said sinking back against Will. "Wow, and there you were saying you'd be back at work in a week - I can't even get to the door."

"Yeah, my enthusiasm gets the best of me sometimes. I'll *want* to be back to work in a week." Which was true. Greg wanted to be back to work, to be distracted, to have an outlet. He wanted to go back to his lab and learning a few forensics things and Will was going to teach him.

Maybe they could start at the book level.

"You know, you could teach me CSI things even if we don't go back this week," he suggested. "I do want to know."

Will peered over towards the door, and then back to Greg, a surprisingly bright glint in his eyes. "We'll start tomorrow, then. Baseline what you know and build from there."

Greg had a brief feeling that perhaps he might have just let himself in for the most intensive CSI training ever existed. But Will would still fall asleep, no doubt. "I guess I have a lot to learn."

"I'm willing to bet that you're in for a shock. You're going to be a mile deep on some topics, I bet, and an inch deep on others. It's working out what is what that'll be the interesting part."

"Greg knows all about swabs," Nick offered, setting food on the coffee table. "And we've even got plastic silverware, how great is that?"

"Pretty damn good." The pizza smelled fantastic and Greg reached for a clearly vegetable slice and took a bit. "Oh man, better than toast, definitely."

Will half-leaned, half twisted, and snagged a piece by the edge, even as Nick handed them paper plates. "Man, what is this, the raised by wolves club?"


Greg was privately pleased that Will was trying something other than toast. It was like he had decided that was safe and therefore the only thing he could eat. "Hey, I'm hungry, can't wait," he said around a mouthful."Is good."

It was only Pizza Hut pizza but it tasted like manna from heaven.

So much better than hospital food, and it had spinach which was halfway healthy. Sort of. Will sighed quietly, taking his time in chewing. "God. I missed food."

"I promise you I will cook something in front of your very eyes," Greg promised. "If we have some groceries and an non-crime kitchen. But that's half down to Nick."

"Well, groceries I can do, but non-crime kitchen..." Nick looked over to the kitchen. "Maybe not here."

"I used to make a good vegetable chilli at the Mason's," he declared through a mouthful. He blinked as he could the name Lecter on the TV.

Will sat up like a terrier, lowering the piece of pizza.

"... being transferred to a maximum security facility tomorrow. What kind of precautions are they taking, Wolf?"

"They are not taking any chances whatsoever. From the information we have been given, Dr Hannibal Lecter will not be trusted enough to even walk to his new permanent home. As I understand it, he will be restrained to a gurney and then once in the facility will start in solitary confinement."

"Until he eats someone and they have to create something deeper than solitary," Will murmured, staring hard at the TV. "Shit. I can't believe I didn't kill him."

Greg grimaced a little at that.

"I understand Wolf, that the FBI has categorized Dr. Hannibal Lecter as 'the most dangerous man alive'," the other reporter asked. "What do you think it is about this particular killer that has inspired such horror from even the most hardened of government agents?"

"Hey, I'll turn the channel if you guys want?" Nick offered.

And Will didn't answer.

"I'm not the experts to ask, and the Bureau is at a loss as Dr. Lecter and Special Investigator William Graham *were* their experts on the topic of serial killers. We have prior footage of Investigator William Graham coming on our channel after the Gumb and Dolarhyde cases."

"It comes to something when our experts turn out to be the murderers in disguise and the victims," came the comment and Greg was not happy about the wording. It almost implied that Will might be a murderer. "Those serial cases were shocking, but it is widely agreed even the evidence so far shows that Dr. Lecter, nicknamed "Hannibal the Cannibal" eclipses them.

"They're still investigating the full extent of his crimes, but details from leaked police documents are extremely shocking, from feeding one of his surviving victims pieces of himself, to gutting his protégé on the livingroom floor."

"Study! The living room is still safe," Will muttered.

Greg frowned. "Wait...what?" he said with a horrible crawling sensation in the pit of his stomach where he had eaten the pizza. "What was that about surviving victims and pieces of himself?"

There were only two surviving victims - himself and Will. And they had made a clear distinction about Will as a protégé.

Will picked up the remote, and flipped up a channel, landing on espn instead. "It means I need to find who leaked it and knock their teeth in."

"No. No, don't evade the question," Greg said hearing his own voice get tight and higher with a sort of worrying disassociation that he knew was not healthy. "Was that what he did? to me? Did I..eat some of myself? Is that what happened?"

He sounded strung out suddenly. Fuck, was that it? Was that the metallic taste he woke up with in his mouth? The gristly slick slide down his throat of something unidentifiable.

"I don't know." Will was looking at Greg, and wondering what the evidence was, and then at Nick.

Because Nick, Nick would know.

"Uh... We suspect. He had a hot plate by the bed..."

The mere thought of it had Greg's stomach giving an automatic clench and he was up and running for the nearest sink barely making it before the pizza returned. And he retched again, and again vomiting painful. He just couldn't seem to stop.


The feel of a hand on his back startled him, though, and the murmur of, "Hey. It's okay. You're okay."

"Oh god," it was more a groan than anything else. Intellectually he knew he'd been screwed over but suddenly it seemed real. There were sense memories there and he couldn't seem to get the taste of blood out of his mouth. It made him shaky as he heaved again. "...can't stop."

Like the gastric flu he'd caught once at the Mason's. He felt like he threw up his lungs and this was going that way.

"Shhh." He stroked at Greg's back, and just steadied him, standing there. "Don't think about it."

Of course that was like pink fucking elephants. All he could do then was think about it and it was so vivid he could feel it etching itself over his vision. He just couldn't stop and he felt out of control and shaky, even as he felt himself get wobbly and unsteady .

And Will shifted in behind him, wrapping arms around him. "Hey. Here, think about going to sleep, think about resting."

He was grateful for that, before a part of his mind was distracted by thinking that Will could barely stand up and he was holding him up. "S-sorry," he mumbled trying to swallow down and stop his mouth filling with saliva as a precursor to throwing up again.

"Nothing to apologize for," Will murmured, sliding a hand up over his chest and just holding him. One around his waist, one hand on his chest, and that was steady. "Deep breath."

He tried and it took a few goes but he managed to get the nausea down. "Shit. Shit, I've freaked out. I'm not meant to freak out. I don't remember what I'm freaking out about."

"You're allowed to freak out," Will offered, resting his chin on Greg's shoulder, slouching a little. "Feel better?"

"Yeah, yeah getting my shit back together." He was never going to eat again at this rate, but the uncontrollable retching had stopped for now.

"Okay. You sure?" Will didn't move yet, and Greg could just relax a little. He could hear Nick moving around in the kitchen, the crack of a soda can opening.

"Ginger ale and water."

He drank it, barely able to grip with shaking hands. "Food.. .is bad and evil," he groaned.

"Breadsticks, man. I'll scrape the parmesan off and it's better than saltines," Nick offered, walking back towards the livingroom.

"He's right. Pizza was probably a little too much anyway. Food is okay. As long as we know it's not meat."

Greg wasn't sure, because right now all sounded bad. "No man, I don't think I can take anything, my stomach hurts."

"Stomach acid." Will wasn't moving yet. "Ready to move back to the sofa?"

He nodded, thinking he was just ready to just flake, "This is ridiculous," he said groaning.

"You'll know ridiculous when you see it," Will advised, stepping backwards, pulling Greg with him. "Maybe we should just call it a night and try to sleep."

"Yeah. I thought I could take the news but apparently not." Greg just didn't know where to go to sleep. His room? Had to be his room. Or the sofa.

And Will was going with him. "You guys going to be okay?" Nick asked, hovering.

"Yeah, I'm sure this is just a freak out," Greg tried to say calmly. "Thanks for getting in the pizza Nick."

"I'll fridge it," Nick offered, and that'd probably help. Not that Greg wanted to think about food just then. Will was loosening his hold on Greg, letting him move, but still close enough Just In Case, and Greg could hear the capital letters in his head.

"Okay, I guess it's my room," he said because that was the place with good memories. Will and himself rolling around having way too much fun together. "Don't wait up."

"Believe me, I'm not. I'll be passed out here in the livingroom if ya'll need me." And he'd probably check up on them, like they were baby chicks to be tended to.

"Thanks." Will went with Greg into the hallway, and they had to pass the study and the master bedroom to get there.

Maybe it was his shaken state but Greg flinched at the darkness inside the open door. A flicker of the gleam of white teeth in his peripheral vision.

It was insane, because he knew, knew solidly, that Lecter was in custody, that there was no way he was lurking in the dark. He wasn't a bogeyman.

He was just a human.

"I'm half tempted to pull the sheets up over my head," Will murmured as they passed the bedroom, just a few steps from Greg's room.

"If I thought that would work, I'd do it," he said and exhaled a little. He wasn't going to look at himself yet, so he avoided any mirrors as he slipped off his clothing. "I'm just hoping not to have nightmares."

Will moved stiffly, pulling his t-shirt off with a little bit of a struggle. "Fingers crossed is the best we can do. And sedatives."

"Hell yeah." Their sleep pattern was going to get screwed completely, he knew it but Greg was sure if they could get out of this place soon, he'd be okay. It had to be as simple as that.

"I'll get the pills, then."

Will hated having to deal with people.

Other people, people that weren't in his self-described circle, people he didn't trust. People like real-estate agents, people like bankers, brokers, all the normal pleasantries that made his head hurt when his body was already in agony.

True, if he took the morphine as he was meant to he would be able to move without so much pain, but he tried to avoid it. It would have been too easy to disappear into the land of fluffy cotton wool brain. Still, he could walk, he could eat, he could function even if it was with discomfort and that was good enough to get things going.

They needed to get away from that house. Greg had started on nightmares and he was sure he was as well, and he needed him out of that environment,

So he gritted through it and didn't snap and threaten the life of the girl who'd told him that the closing was, oh, getting pushed back another day, and was that all right? Except no, it really *really* wasn't.

Greg looked a little like someone was suggesting slaughtering a puppy in front of him at the prospect of waiting.

"We would really prefer it wasn't," he said in a soft voice. "We have arranged things based on it going through today. We're meant to be picking up keys."

"Oh, uh..." And the Seller was there, so.... so why wait?

"I'm paying cash. I don't see why this has to be harder than it already is."

"Give me a moment and I will see what I can do," she said as she got out her phone and stepped away from them.

"It shouldn't be this hard to buy a house. It's not like there's anyone in it at the moment," Greg said. "And we've got stuff due to arrive, and the guys are going to help get it in. I don't think I can do it on my own and you're not allowed to lift more than a kettle."

"Depending on whether there's water in it or not," Will murmured, leaning into him. "There isn't even a bank loan involved. It's a movement of one obscene amount of money into someone's pocket and I think everyone should be happy with that."

The sellers were on the other side of the room, and Will smiled at them from his position next to Greg.

"I still can't believe you're doing this in cash," Greg replied, and it really was impressive that he had all of Lecter’s assets transferred to him. Hannib- Lecter had more finances than he had ever believed.

"No interest to worry about, and as good a place to store it as any," Will shrugged, sliding his hands into his pockets. He wasn't really a dockers guy, but he was for the moment, while he healed. Jack would've been proud of him for looking upstanding. "It'll inspire me to keep the place up and improve it when we get a little better."

"Yeah I guess. And with a permanent address I finally get to officially call myself your protégé," Greg said with a genuine smile. He still looked tired though. Will recognized that haunted look he had sometimes.

"And you should expect a horribly hard lot in life now. Watching crime dramas with me pointing out what's wrong with them." And it put a lot of expectation on Will, because he needed to be as together as possible for Greg. Greg deserved peace and quiet.

He had to admit, the speculation on his nascence as Hannibal's Heir on the news was starting to get him doubting even himself. What if he did have that in him? Just because Greg said it wasn't going to happen in a confident voice did not mean it would not.

"Oh, the prospect is gonna be a tough thing to face," Greg answered. "I really want out of the old place."

"The guy who was renting it to us wants us out, too. I suspect he's going to strip the place down and wash it in bleach a few times." Will reached out, settled a hand loosely on Greg's back. "Everything's in the back of the rental. Next week, we go used car shopping."

"Cool!" He did sound genuinely excited about that. "Then I can drive us wherever. Do you think they are going to put us off?"

"No." Will looked over to the sellers, and raised his eyebrows. "It's cash. If the real estate agent wants to delay, I'll walk, find another agent."

He was pretty sure that he'd said that loud enough to be heard.

"Good, because I want to be able to come in and make another spirited attempt to get something to stay in my stomach for more than five minutes."

Greg was still having food issues, unpredictable food issues at that. Sometimes he could eat something fine, and then the next day he would be heaving his guts up. It was down to the two of them having to play with a lot of drugs, and they were both going to be going back to work in a couple of days. Well, Will would be starting. "Yeah. Worse case we go stay in a hotel for a couple of days while I find someplace else to buy." That caught the agent's attention, and she turned into her phone a little harder as if that would make her private conversation any less public.

Anyone could see she was basically saying 'shit, he's going to walk you dumbass." They'd get it now, he knew that. It made him wonder what they thought it was going to help delaying or if they were just being lazy.

The phone clicked down and she turned to them. "Good news Mr. Graham, it would appear that they have literally just finished processing the paper work."

"Fantastic. So, I can sign, these wonderful people here can get their money, and Greg and I can get keys?" It would take another twenty minutes, but. New home, place to stay.

"Of course Mr. Graham," she replied as if it were never in doubt. There was a tedious interval while she got the papers up together, spoke on the phone a couple more times before she finally presented him with a pen and pointed to the proverbial dotted line. "If you could just sign here.."

It wasn't as if they'd never had cash deals in Vegas before. That was what gambling and drug dealing was *for* after all. Will signed, and then turned the papers back over to her.

"Congratulations, you now own this fine property. It's all yours," she said handing over the keys to him.

"Thank god for that," Greg said next to him.

"New place," Will laughed, holding the keys up. "Us in first, and then the carpet comes up." It felt good. A place that was his, nothing of Hannibal's. His *stuff* back home was still tied up in evidence, but he'd get a new computer, he'd start on his old files again. Start over entirely.

Greg slipped his arm around him and under the guise of helping him was trying to usher him into their house. It was such a weird thought; with Hannibal it was like he didn’t have that responsibility, or that the responsibility would be too much for him. He'd believed that but now it was happening it was almost exhilarating.

"Come on I want to look at it all now it is ours for real."

"Lots of fixing," Will warned as they stepped inside. The carpet had been cleaned again, and the house was barren, but it was theirs. And soon it was going to have their suitcases from the car, and furniture brought in. They needed to get groceries for CSIs for helping with the setting up of stuff, soda, junkfood bribes. It was still early.

"Mmm, but we've got a pool!" Greg was very excited about that. "And no one can see in it. We're going to need some things for the guys. Nick and Warrick will be over soon."

"Do you want me to leave you here, and I'll go to the store?" It wasn't far to a seven eleven, and it was only a little further to an actual grocery store. "Or vice versa?" That was a bit of a pot luck.

"And how are you going to carry groceries?" Greg said rhetorically. "I'll go, just don't start moving furniture around. But I want to be inside with you now, just us, you know?"

"Yeah. Our house." Will grinned a little, even if it was empty and the walls echoed at them. There was a safety in that, nothing hiding.

It was a clean slate and he could see Greg looking around them and then turning back to him, carefully reaching in to kiss him. "You know, I'm going to make having me around totally worth it," he murmured.

The kiss was slow, lazy, a little hesitant. They hadn't done anything more than hold and kiss and sleep, and Will didn't mind that at all. "You already do."

"Oh, it gets better from here on in," Greg promised, kissing him lightly and repeatedly. "You are the best thing that's ever happened to me."

"I think that goes the other way." He'd done nothing but put Greg at risk, half-knowingly, because he should’ve known that Lecter wouldn't be able to resist Greg forever.

He hadn't been able to resist Greg for much more than a couple of days. "Well hey, that's a plus for both of us. You know, when we have our new bed in, I wanna...you know... try and see if I can do stuff again. Think we can figure out something that does strain your muscles?"

"Oh yeah. We're two creative men, we'll come up with something." But it felt good to just hold Greg, touch him, and he was glad Greg hadn't felt it necessary to shy away from him because of the scars. Partially because Greg never looked at his own scars.

He was hoping the issue was just going to slide past, but in reality it probably wouldn't. At some point he would freak out about it, just as Will knew he was getting disturbed by the thoughts of what he knew Hannibal had done to Greg. His imagination provided him with far too many details.

"Great," Greg murmured. "Come on, lets look at our pool."

"I've never had a pool before. This is pretty decadent." And there was cleaning and stuff to go with it, but Will kind of reveled in it. The plebian things, Lecter had said, workman's work. Will loved it.

There was something satisfying about building and mending things - it counteracted some of the feelings of destruction his work life stirred up.

"We didn't either," Greg replied.

"Good. So, you foreseeing a lot of time laying out here enjoying the backyard?" Will started towards the back door, still flipping through the keys to work out what was what.

Other than all theirs.

"Well, it sounds like a plan to me," Greg answered following closely. "I guess you get to teach me about maintenance. The good news is, I'm right up there on yard work."

"I'm going to need to buy 'pool care for idiots'." He crouched down carefully, slowly, so he could unlock the extra latch at the bottom of the back door.

"Hey, you shouldn't strain yourself," Greg warned as the door opened. It was a glorious looking morning out there, light and airy and not yet too hot.

It *would* be hot, but that was the whole point of the pool. "Oof. It feels good to move a little. Normal movement."

"Yeah, but you're not meant to strain your stomach muscles. You might bust a stitch," Greg warned even as he stepped outside. "Wow, will you look at this place?"

Will steadied himself on the door frame, smiling. "Gorgeous, still. We can plant a few more low water plants out here, and..." It already looked good, and it'd look better for a little personal time investment.

"Oh yeah, I know some good ones. Maybe I can do that before I go back to work," Greg replied. "We could have cook-outs here. Was there a built in barbeque?"

"No, but I can get one from the home improvement store." Oh god, barbeque. Will grimaced. "I do a mean grilled seafood."

"Fish is good," Greg agreed. "And roasted peppers and egg plant. Talking of which, I guess I ought to go get some groceries in. the others will be in after their shift so, won't be long."

"Corn," Will said after a moment, eyeing the shed. There might actually be a grill there. "Get corn, and butter. I think there might be a lingering old grill."

"Cool, I'll do that," he said. "Okay, what else do we need? coffee? milk?"

"Coffee, milk, yes. Whatever comes to your mind," Will said, reaching into his back pocket for his wallet.

"Okay, I'll go now." Greg agreed and smiled. "I won't be long. Catherine and Sara will probably organize them."

"And I'll just stand here and smile and nod," Will agreed, moving to shadow Greg, to at least see him off.

"Don't lift anything. You have to save your strength for our first night in our new house," Greg grinned and headed back to get the car keys.

Given how busy their day looked like it was going to be, that was very, very hopeful of Greg.

Being back at work was weird. Really weird. The first day back people had treated him with kid gloves. And the second and the third. By the fourth they were slipping back into the old habits and it was like it was pushed away under the rug somewhere.

The lab was pretty busy and that was good. It kept him occupied, as did his thoughts of the painting he and Will were going to try and do when he got home.

It was going okay, though. Will was starting in on work, and they were still car-pooling, but they were going to go out Friday and get a couple of used cars so if one or the other of them had a weird shift they'd still have a ride home.

It made sense, because sometimes CSI's went out all over the whole state it seemed, and they weren't letting him go anywhere yet.

He was doing okay. He kept telling himself that. They were keeping busy and Will was funny, and quirky and okay, they'd really just slept together with a bit of fondling so far, nothing much else but it was good. He kept telling himself that was out of deference to Wills condition.

And Will, Will was no pressure at all. Will seemed pretty pleased with the laying and sleeping and fondling, and Greg knew the sex they had was *good*, had been, so there wasn't a lot of pressure. Or any pressure, except from himself.

He could see Will, on the other side of the glass, tucked away in a lab with a pile of papers spread out on a table in front of him, photographs. He looked happy, content.

This was good and a million miles removed from where he was only a few months before. With Douglas, and being the household servant. Slave if he thought about it too bitterly.

And, he tended to. Will stuck to the rather egalitarian system that Hannibal had described -- split chores, what Greg remembered of a normal household when he was a kid, before his protégé days. Doing stuff to get it done and not for any keeping up appearances reason. There was a lot of laying on the cement around the pool, and lazing and reading and talking.

And fixing things, and painting and yeah. It was good.

"Sanders, what've we got today?" Jim, just checking on the caseload.

"Uh, I've got Codis running on Catherine's 4-19 and I've been working up extracting some from the bone fragment Nick brought in. There might be viable cells despite the condition," he said. "Caught up on the others. Got something for me?"

"Will fished it out of mulch that Brown and I brought in. Thought you might be able to get something out of it." Will was going to love getting out to scenes when he could, and maybe Greg could sometime. Next year or so, because Jim had said he was willing to let Greg learn on the job to swap over.

And then Jim handed him a sample bag with a tooth in it.

At first it was just recognition that it was a tooth as he automatically took the bag and then there was a peculiar feeling in his head. Peculiar and strange as if something was pushing at him as he look at the gleaming whiteness of it, the hardness.

Teeth, like a vivid snapshop overlaying his vision for a moment, disappearing then there again. He tried blinking it away but the feeling of panic was growing and he tried to push it down.

What the fuck. What the fucking fucking fuck, there was no reason to panic over teeth, except there it was right in his head. "So, I'll leave you to that and come back later."

"Yeah, okay," he managed after a long moment, still unable to take his eyes off of the tooth. It was just a flash back, he had those, he had snippets appear with images and that was it.

So why did he feel a growing pressure inside? as if his mind was pushing at something with too much force?

And he didn't want to push, so he set the evidence bag down and turned away for a moment, looking to see how the rest of his processing was doing first. He'd need to grind and scrape and pulverize to get DNA from the tooth anyway, if there was root involved.

Godammit, his hands were shaking. Just a flashback. A moment, that was it. He picked up the tooth and took it out of the bag, holding it close to examine it by eye.

The light caught it in a gleam and..

His teeth were close to his eye and he couldn't do much more than whimper.

"I could just bite in, like a grape. Feel it pop juicy and salty in my mouth," Hannibal murmured. "Did you know a human eye is salty? I could just lift it from the socket and if I'm careful, you would be able to see me swallowing you down."~

And Greg knew how much leeway there was with the optical nerve, enough to bring the horror up up up but he couldn't move, couldn't do more than simmer in his own fear, and the touch of fingertips to his orbital bone.

He was bound too tightly and he wanted to scream as Hannibal pried open his eyelid and all that would come out was a rasp as the mouth descended and the serial killer licked his eyeball.

"Not salty enough Greg. A shame. I guess I'll have to make you cry more won't I for the proper seasoning."

He wasn’t sure if he'd cried or not, but the smile, those tight straight teeth still hovered too close, and Jim had a hand on his shoulder. "Sanders? Graham!"

No, he could hear that but he could still feel the slide of metal over his skin, the tip of a knife teasing at his nipple and then the pain as Lecter drew things out slowly and deliberately, as he whispered about Will wanting to rape him like this, to make him bleed and suffer, to feed from his terror.

Will didn't want that, Will liked to laze in bed until the sheets were too hot and Greg had no muscles to move with, not, not anything like that, not Will.

"Greg?" Hand on the side of his face, cupping, holding, not hurting.

He couldn't stop it. Whatever had been holding back the memories had burst, and they were all there. All those hours of terror, the slow build and then escalation until he was out of his mind with fear and then the way Hannibal let his desires loose on him. He'd known it would be bad but this was a realm beyond bad.

"I… I remember, I can't stop remembering..." he blurted out.

"Okay..." Okay, and Will knelt there for a moment but the memories were there, the smell of his own skin cooking, his own meat, and he hadn't even really looked at his scars, how was that adjusting at all? "C'mon. Let's ease you back from the desk and go find someplace for you to lay down. Brass, can we use--"

"Sofa in my office," Jim volunteered.

"I'm going to call Dr. Bloom," Will was saying, over the sense memory of Hannibal chuckling to himself and the weird pulling sensation of his ass being stretched too far.

He had no idea why he couldn't scream. He wanted to, he really wanted to but it was like he was paralyzed. He could feel them moving his body and it was like he was some sort of articulated action figure. Cataleptic, he was cataleptic. Conscious, but paralyzed. There were too many streams of information in his head and it had shut his body down.

"You think he'd be able to do anything? Is he even in Vegas?" Jim was saying.

"He's in LA, and he's been badgering me to get help. This is time to get help," Will said, a hand lingering on his cheek. "Yeah, I'll be back. I've done this. It's, he'll be all right."

"It's like he's in rigor," Jim said over him and Greg just couldn't stop the replay. There was fist in his ass, holy fuck, it was right in him, Hannibal was doing this, and laughing. Laughing all the time as this was the funniest practical joke in the world. "Hurry it up, we need to know if we need to get an ambulance."

"Alan? It's Graham. Yeah." There was a pause, and whether it was long or short, Greg wasn't sure. "Greg's gone catatonic."

It wasn't catatonic, Greg wanted to say that. He was aware and conscious, he just couldn't close his eyes move his limbs. That wasn't usual, he knew that, he just didn't know more.

"Ask him why he's all stiff and if I put his hand up it just stays there," Jim was saying and he sounded freaked.

"Sorry, Cataleptic. One of those. Jim, please don't do that. Yes. Yes. All right. Yeah, I'll drive him. Protein kinase A. I'm giving them your cell number to call about that. Yeah, just lie and say you're already treating him."

"So we calling the paramedics or what?" Jim was asking and Greg was trying to fight now to moving. It was terrifying. Complete paralysis, he was unable even to look a different direction even when his attention returned to the present for brief moment.

"Yeah. Call 911. His usual psychiatrist is on the way, and says to dose him with protein kinase A." Will came over, and it startled him when he gently closed Greg's eyes for him. "They'll dry out otherwise. It's going to be okay, Greg. If you can hear me."

He could hear him, he could but now it was dark and he was back with memories. He was being hit now, in the flash backs. He hadn't remembered that at all. He didn't remember Hannibal actually hitting him until now.

"Got it. " He could hear the dialing the talking in the background. Oh Jesus, the humiliation of being carted out on a stretcher. He cringed mentally as the flashback ran on a loop that dragged him in and spat him out like the ebb and flow of the tide.

It just repeated and repeated and repeated, in a loop, sucking him in, pummeling him with it, and it got harder to surface, harder to separate from the unreality to reality, to even know something was wrong.

Somewhere in among all of that he was moved, he was taken out, taken by ambulance back to hospital. Given a shot as recommended and all the time Hannibal was torturing him in vivid technicolor in his brain. He hadn't wanted to remember but now he had no choice.

Greg was still breathing all right, and his heartbeat was steady, and picking up a little, which the doctors said was a good sign. They'd sedated him, because he was still awake in there and that was unnecessary. Sometimes sedation could snap the loop, and Will just. Hoped.

Hoped, and waited for Alan. He was flying in, and Alan could pull some strings it seemed because he was due any time now.

He'd never really thought what it might be like to be the person on the other side of a mental episode. Jack had had to do this sort of thing for him a lot of times.

And it had sucked. Having everything fall apart was hell, and Will was, was feeling kind of tenuous on his best days just then, except he'd had, needed to focus on a lot of things, and it wasn't just the usual put a case to bed and move forward. It was, had been. Hannibal. And he could feel it at the edge of his mind, except *Greg*.

Willpower hadn't gotten him anywhere with his mental health, but fear and concern apparently worked great just then. He hadn't broken this time because Greg needed him. He hadn't fallen apart when he should have done not just because Greg was helping him but because he needed to help Greg, and to keep it together for him. He was going to be a Patron and more, and it was a responsibility people kept telling him he shouldn't do but it really was helping him. For the first time he had to plan, to focus his mind on more than death.

He had a way ahead, a *life* he wanted to live, and Greg was a huge part of that. Even if he just got Greg on his feet again and Greg left it was. It was all right and good. It was helping someone.

The door opened and he almost sagged in relief. Alan must have commandeered a jet or something, because he was already here. "Will, I got here as quick as I could."

"I appreciate that." He stood up from the chair at the side of Greg's bed, and extended his hand to Alan. "He's... breathing."

Alan shook it and then looked at Greg's unnaturally still body. "Cataleptic states have been known to suppress even that. Okay, let’s look at his chart. They gave him the shot?"

He was looking at the records of Greg's vitals and the doctors observations.

"Yeah. After they looked for your history as a medical doctor," Will murmured, looking at Greg as well. "I appreciate this."

"Catalepsy is pretty a-typical. I'm 99% sure that Greg is emotional trauma induced, and mental crisis triggered," Alan said skimming over the details. "Okay, the good news is either the shot has had an effect or he is coming up out of it on his own, but his blood pressure and vital signs are gradually climbing towards normal."

"So what do we do to make this... to make this stop, so it doesn't happen to him again?" And it was happening, it was not like it was something Greg could stop. It wasn't something a person chose to have happen to them.

"He goes to therapy," Alan said glancing at him. "You know, there was a reason why I kept on at you to talk. You suppress something, repress something it gains in the ability to snap back on you with greater force. So. He goes to therapy and you do too. It doesn't have to be me, but that’s fine. He goes, and he may get shaken up but it lets the pressure come out more controlled and steady."

"So, since I know you have a life and a family. Skype, maybe?" Will suggested, looking sideways at Alan. "After Hannibal, I just. I know you. You have a good reputation, and you've wanted to get inside my head for years, but. You haven't, and you've had a couple of opportunities. I respect that."

"I don't go where I'm not invited," Alan replied. "There are some people who have likened me to a vampire like that." He was still checking over Greg, testing the muscle resistance. "Do we know what triggered the episode?"

"Jim handed him a tooth for DNA processing. He said he talked for a little while and then realized Greg wasn't talking back. Greg... always talks, so he yelled for me, and I recognized it pretty quick." From personal experience, which Alan knew.

He wished he'd had Alan and not Hannibal as a psychiatrist, because god knew what was lurking that Hannibal had left.

"It's good that you did," Alan agreed. "There are various variants of catalepsy, and most of them have a pathological basis, but there are those triggered by trauma and emotional shock. As I said, I think that is the case here. Generally the victim is unconscious, but there have been incidences where they are completely aware but completely paralyzed so I tend to work on that basis. So if Greg is listening I have just explained what has happened to him which might help. Also, generally in an emotional trauma, the episodes are usually shorter."

"So he's just going to come out of this naturally?" Will had lost a couple of *days* and that hadn't seemed really short.

Of course, he'd been completely off of his nut.

"Yes, although the shot will help. There are things we can do to force it, but it is better to let it happen naturally," Alan replied. "You didn't go cataleptic, you went catatonic Will. That was a slightly different but crucial manifestation."

"Mmm." Will folded his arms over his chest, looking at Greg. "So. What do we do when he wakes up?"

"Well, there is a possibility he will have repressed the memories again, in which case he will be confused. Or he will remember it, and will distressed and upset. Physically he will feel exhausted and in pain - it is like a full body prolonged muscle cramp." Alan looked at him. "We need to encourage him to talk.

Will wasn't good at that, but for Greg... "All right. Well, there's no reason he can't rest and... can we get him discharged when he wakes up?"

"After I've assessed his state, yes. And under my supervision, " Alan answered. He was studying the monitors. "Will, come over here and hold Greg's hand, talk to him. I think he's not too far under at the moment."

"You can stay in the guest room. The carpet's still hot pink, but..." But there was a futon and big windows and Greg liked to nap there. The place was going to get really broken in nicely soon. If Greg was all right.

Sitting down with him was easy, and Greg's fingers were oddly waxy, stiff in his. "So, Alan's here. He's a pretty good doctor, and he's going to help you get better. What happened was... I knew what Hannibal did would come back to you eventually."

It generally did, but he had been so warped that he half thought it was normal. Maybe that was why he hadn't noticed when he should have done all those clues.

Alan gestured for him to keep going, and it did seem the heart monitor was beeping a little more regularly. He pressed down the urge to give Alan a dirty look, because it wasn't like he hadn't been talking to Greg before. "The lab's worried, but they understand. We did go back to work early, so if you want to take a little more time, I'll be there with you."

There, the tiniest of twitches against his hand from Greg's fingers and Alan was smiling and nodding. "Okay, I think you're getting through to him. That's it Greg, Will is here."

"And whatever you've been experiencing, it's not going to happen again. He's locked away, and he's never going to see daylight." There'd be testimony and court and trials, but Will wasn't thinking about that.

He didn't want to testify, but the physical evidence was pretty overwhelming from all accounts. The tension in Greg's hand seemed to melt away suddenly going floppy and relaxed as suddenly as the episode had begun.

Will rubbed at Greg's hand, easing his thumb over the tight tendons. "Hey. That has to feel better."

There was a deep shuddering breath from Greg and swallowing convulsively as he obviously tried to force his eyes open.

"I'll get some ice chips," Alan said nodding.

"Yeah." Will leaned in a little, one hand moving up to linger at Greg's upper arm. "You're going to be okay. And, I'm not going to leave you alone in here."

There was a crack of an eyelid that wavered but Greg was turning to try and see him better and there was a weak clutch at him as if he was reaching for the proverbial last straw.

"Here, give him some of these," Alan said with a cup of ice in his hand.

Will shifted, took the ice cup, and kept a hold of Greg's hand. "Do you think you can handle an ice chip?"

The nod was faint but noticeable and Greg seemed to appreciate it as he swallowed it down.

"Will..." it was a rasping sound but heartening. He could recognize him.

"It's me," Will agreed. "You've been out for a while. I bet you're feeling pretty sore."

The expression on Greg's face when he tried to move showed he was right.

"Greg, I'm Alan, Will call me for help," he said. "Do you remember anything?"

Immediately there were tears in Greg's eyes and he nodded again.

It was good, on the one hand, and horrible on the other hand, and Will couldn't even. Couldn't quite connect because he'd spent so long pushing it back and sitting on it that it didn't seem. Quite, quite so horrible.

"I'm sorry."

Greg shook his head. "I remember what he did," he said in a bare whisper. "I remember it all." There was a slightly hysterical tinge to the quiet words, and his clutching at him grew stronger.

There was nothing to do but move in and let Greg clutch, offer more of himself if Greg wanted it. "Yeah. I'm sorry. I, I don't know, I wasn't there, but I can guess, and it's... Horrible."

"I wanna go home," Greg pleaded quietly. "I want to go home Will."

"Well let’s take a look at you Greg, see if that's possible."

"Okay." Will'd get Greg released against advice, he'd do whatever he had to, to give Greg what he *needed*, and that was out of the hospital and to a safe place as soon as possible. An actual safe place. "Do you need me to move, Alan?"

"Let me check pupil response." A penlight was out of Alan's pocket, and seeing Greg grimace a little as it flashed in his eyes. "Greg, can you move your toes? Good, and squeeze Will's a hand voluntarily."

It was weak, but present, and Will nodded. "Can you talk to the staff about getting him released?" There was no way they were going in to work that night, and Will would just eat it. When they had time to cover for other people later on, they would.

"Well, if I am staying with you guys, they might be persuaded," Alan said. "I'll go talk to them. Don't leave Greg alone."

"Wasn't anything I was planning on," Will drawled, leaning back in the chair a little before he offered Greg another ice chip.

Alan was out of the room and Greg relaxed even more. "How... how did you cope Will?" Greg asked desperately.

"With a lot of routine and compartmentalizing." Will stretched his fingers over top of Greg's. "I fell apart occasionally at work. It was usually the cases, but... Lecter wasn't helping."

"It's still there. I keep seeing it, feeling it," he said. "I couldn't before, and now I can't stop."

"Can't stop," Will murmured, nodding his head slightly, because he'd been there and lived that and only made it out the other end because he wasn't really all together in the first place. "I'm... sorry isn't enough. I'll help you focus on other things and Alan's going to help."

"I can't seem to think of anything else. I don't want to think of this," Greg answered half to himself. "I just want it to stop."

"Okay. Just... Think about home. Think about the future." Will leaned in, brushed a kiss against Greg's lips. "He's gone and he can't get us."

He could feel the shaky inhalation Greg made and was surprised when he reached up and literally clung to him, his body shaking with sobs no matter how silent.

It didn't matter. It was still Greg letting go of a little of the fear and pain, and Will leaned in, sliding an arm behind his back. "We're going to have a good future. I'll get you out in the field and we can stop people like Lecter."

He became aware that Alan had entered the room behind him but was remaining silent as Greg cried into his shoulder, in a strangely silent outpouring of emotion. From how vocal he knew the younger man could be he'd expected more noise. Alan obviously thought it was good for him so they waited it out until Greg subsided.

And Will just held him, petted at his shoulder, fingering lingering at the back of his neck, leaned in as much as he could because it hurt that Greg was hurting, and Will was shit at emotions.

Having a temporary live in psychiatrist was a pretty big deal and in the past he assumed he'd had his own and look how that had worked out. But Alan had proved he could respect boundaries so he was willing to give it a try.

"If you let the doctors just give him a once over," Alan said eventually, "I have persuaded them I can give medical supervision at home."

"Good. Thank you." He was going to owe Alan for that, but... but that was okay, and Greg needed help. Will needed help. He started to carefully lean back.

Greg didn't want to let go but the lure of going home was enough to break through his fear and nudge him to compliance. Going home, to their home not the rented accommodation would be healing in itself. They had started putting their own mark on it together and he thought that maybe with a solid base at that, Greg would have a chance and maybe he would as well.

A place that was completely untouched by shit circumstances and bad luck. Will shifted back, got out of the chair because the doctor on the floor wanted to look at the monitors.

He wanted Greg to be well, and most strangely he found that he wanted to be well for Greg as well. He'd never really cared before, gently and subtly nudged away from a move towards sanity by a sociopathic mentor.

He would be different. For the both of them.

Alan was finding this rather unprecedented move of effectively live-in psychiatry somewhat interesting. As he thought the physical effects of the cataleptic episode had dominated Greg's thoughts and feelings for a couple of days but now those symptoms were wearing off this was the time where things became sensitive. Greg needed to not repress but to acknowledge and process the experience.

And watching Will make french toast and cut strawberries while Greg sat on a bar stool was... not quite his usual two hour or hour long office session. When Graham decided he trusted a person, it was full and open, and when he didn't he shut the door hard and that was the end.

That was okay, he got more of a feel for how it was working anyway. They had a co-dependent but comparatively solid relationship, which considering their background was frankly astonishing. Will had been the pet project of Hannibal for however many years and Greg's background was a classic set up for a high level of neuroses. Still, emotionally they had a high degree of trust in each other but not in themselves, which was the opposite to most relationships.

Will trusted himself about as far as he could throw himself, which would've been a great comedy routine, but not very likely to work, from what Alan could tell. And Greg was shaky, not half as self-assured about himself as he was about *Will*.

Which brought Alan to trying to make a plan to stitch them both up.

He bided his time and tried to slip things in as normal conversation. "So, you guys got any plans today?" Alan asked casually.

"Forensics collection tips." Greg was scheduled to go back to work in another three days, and Will was heading back in the same day. It was Will who suggested it, half a question while he flipped a piece of toast with a fork.

"Sounds interesting. Greg is considering being a CSI as well then?" Alan queried wondering how he could ease the conversation in the way he wanted it to go. If not he would have to speak to them more formally but he was sure it would be better informal.

"Mmhm." Will turned away from the cooking plate for a minute, and opened the fridge. "You want some?"

"If there's some going," Alan agreed wondering why Greg hadn't answered. "Does it interest you then Greg?"

"Oh yeah, I like the DNA stuff, it's great to be a part of it all, but that's been the problem, it's a part you know, not the whole," Greg explained swallowing a mouthful. "Though DNA pays well, and sometimes it’s like having a crucial jigsaw piece and having to hand it over and never actually see it slot into place."

Good, he was more verbal. That was a sign of improvement right there.

"Must be frustrating," he said leaving it open.

"Yeah, pretty much. I got a taste for the bigger picture with Will."

"And done correctly, it's not half as dangerous as the crap I got into," Will offered, pouring milk into glasses.

"I would have thought that the element of danger might put you off," Alan cast out the conversational lure carefully.

Greg shifted uncomfortably. "Well...uh..."

Will handed Greg a glass of milk, and started to cook another piece of french toast. "CSI’s are only supposed to go into cleared scenes."

"Yeah," Greg agreed. "Look, I know what you're getting at Dr Bloom, but the stuff that happened to me happened both times at home and the only other accident I've been involved in has been in the lab."

"So you find home more dangerous than work?" Alan asked mildly.

"Yes!... No, no I didn't mean with Will," he said correcting his instinctive response. "It's just that it's natural to feel that way right? I mean, trauma and everything."

"And so far, it has been," Will shrugged, sliding the piece that had just finished onto a plate to offer to Alan. "Mason, and then Lecter." As if taking their first names away was anything other than an attempt by Will to 'other' them.

"So what's different with Will?" Alan said snagging the toast. He had to get their thoughts running that way.

"Everything." Greg shrugged. He glanced at the older man and Alan smiled as Greg noticeably beamed. "I mean, it's really different. A bit like the books and TV about Patrons and protégés. Sometimes I think I've wandered into a romance novel."

It was strange to see a hot burn start to spread over Will's cheekbones. "Well, I have ideas about how I wish things had been. When you've been on the other side of the equation, it changes your expectations."

"Mm." Alan savored his breakfast. Time to probe a little. "Interesting though that you should liken it to a work of fiction Greg."

"Hey, what are you trying to say?" Greg bristled a little. "Are you implying I think that Will's not for real because I know he is. Will is the only thing I do believe in!"

And there it was.

"The only thing Greg?" he asked. "What about yourself?"

Greg looked like he was trying to find words, looking mutely at Will for some way to be bailed out, but this was important.

"I believe in you, Greg." Last two pieces of toast went down, and Will shifted, leaning a little against the countertop. "And... you should believe in yourself."

"I think we have touched on some of the issues underlying all this," Alan said. It was like find a loose thread in a tangled knot and if he pulled it carefully the knot might unravel. "Greg, I believe you have significant self esteem issues."

"Hey, come on," Greg protested weakly. "I'm not bothered by my body. Will thinks I'm gorgeous."

Again, he was defining himself by other people’s views. A difficult combination and guaranteed to make him vulnerable to someone like Lecter.

"Will does I am sure, but what about you Greg?"

Not so much, Alan was willing to guess. "We only have one mirror in the house," Will said, apropos of nothing.

"And I avoid that," Greg said. "Look what do you want me to say? Even logic is starting to bend under the weight of me being some sort of bad luck magnet. My first patron was killed, my second a serial killer, my third, a serial killer... hey, come on there has to be something about me."

"Why don't you tell me what you think that is?" Alan prompted.

"I don't know. I just figured I wasn't good enough to stop it from happening okay? nothing special." Greg shrugged stiffly.

"It's not your fault, or anything to do with you. Your third patron could've been *Brass*, Greg. You only ended up with Lecter because I *asked* him to, because I wanted to."

"It's not about that, it's been the whole thing. I try to do things the best I can," Greg replied. "I try really hard, and it's not enough. Poppa Olaf told me Patronage was my only chance to get away from the menial class system they were trapped in. Someone in the family needed to be able to break out and I was the only one who stood a chance. If I make it then ...then my family makes it. I couldn't go back not after the first, so I just did everything I could to stay in the system."

"Hey, you'll make it. You're smart, you have a knack, it's..." Will turned the stovetop off, and waved the spatula vaguely before sliding the last two pieces of toast onto a plate for himself. "It *is* enough."

"But it never seemed like enough did it Greg?" Alan commented. Greg needed to stop giving control of things in his life away and take it back. He also needed to realize that the lack of satisfaction in him was not to do with him, but to do with the others.

"No. Douglas cared, I know he did but I wasn't really what he wanted. I tried, but I didn't enjoy everything he wanted."

"That rests on him, Greg, not you. Stuff should be give and take, not... one sided." And that was rich coming from Will, but Will could always give others decent advice even if he couldn't follow it.

Alan was willing to let him chip in because a lot of Greg's issues were Will's own and he ended up working through it by proxy.

"Yeah, and I've got that now. With you. I mean, I guess that's why I don't believe it," he said. "Uh, not that it's you, but because it seems too good to be true."

"Yeah, well. I'm trying hard to not fail your expectations. *My* expectations. I've been a wreck the last... few years, Alan can attest to that." He moved away from the stove top, sitting down at Greg's other side at the kitchen bar. It *was* a nice cozily set up house, comfortable, even if the carpet was eye-bleeding. "I think you deserve some calm in your life."

Alan chuckled a little. "Only you would describe CSI work as a bit of calm," he said smiling.

"I don't want you to be something you're not Will."

"Good advice for the both of you." Alan commented.

"Easy advice for you to give," Will said, picking up a fork. "I'm... me. I own that I am a little not quite right, smoke too much, take normal things too hard and bizarre things too easily. That's not going to change, but I'm allowed to try to be happy, right?"

Alan was about to reply when Greg said vehemently. "It's not a case of allow Will, it's your right to be happy. And I want to be part of that."

Thank god Greg's default was talking. It made his job a lot easier. "I think you can manage that. Greg needs to acknowledge that he has been badly treated," Alan said. "Rather than deserving it too."

Greg shrugged. "I guess things didn't seem too bad until that last bit with Douglas," he said. "It was just normal for me."

"That's what I mean. The both of you have a different conception of normal," Alan said.

"I know my conception of normal is wrong," Will offered, eating a little more French toast. Which was a start, yes, but Will also had no real drive to find an actual normal.

"Which is the first place to start. It is hard to process something wrong if you do not know it is wrong."

Greg snorted. "I think I figured out Lecter was wrong."

That was good. He had said his name without flinching. "I am sure Will can back up that viewpoint can't you Will?"

"Yes." Will leaned back a little, looking at Alan with an oddly sharp look. "He... He, I'm not even sure where I'd start. What he did to you, Greg, was..."

"It was really bad. But, see I know you must have toughed out worse maybe," Greg answered. "And there's me having some sort of mental disintegration of one episode when you've had years and years of his individual attention. It seems... weak of me, to fall to pieces. That's logic."

"But you don't know the details," Alan said. "This is no pissing match Greg."

"I hope it's not a pissing match," Will murmured, his eyes sliding over to look at Greg, focusing on his face instead of boring holes in Alan. "Different circumstances. I've been pretty stable lately, but I've fallen apart a lot. It's not a weakness."

"Look, the stuff with Douglas was...okay. I mean, I liked a lot of it. I liked it a whole lot more when we played around Will, but I mean he just cut me a little. Lost control. I've hurt myself worse doing the laundry," Greg said depreciatingly. "But I admit Lecter...hit every weak spot I have and some I didn't know about. What can I say about that?"

"Whatever you want to say."

Will pulled a wry expression, setting his plate down. "Could you have imagined what happened, Alan? You worked with him."

"I know he was very adept at manipulating emotion, thoughts and direction," he said. "I know he has a taste for power and control. That he regards you as an avatar for his conception of becoming more."

"I'm still not sure how that was supposed to work. But what else? Not with hindsight, but when you worked a case with him, when you knew him professionally." Trust Will to turn things on Alan, but he'd go with it, play along because Will was at least thinking and responding and looking at Greg.

"His skills at understanding personality constructs and the way damaged emotional connection could essentially wire abnormal concepts together was..." Alan searched for the words, "...breathtaking in his ability. I admit it, I was dazzled by his virtuosity in that field. In retrospect I can tell it was due to close experience."

"But the self destructive impulse wasn't there. He didn't... fall into a pattern we could catch until it showed up just now, and he had us all fooled. Not just... you and me, Greg, but the whole FBI." And Will hadn't taken Hannibal's sexual deviancy as a flag of possibility that he could be a serial killer. The truth was it wasn't a definite indicator. Plenty of people tiptoed along that line consensually without coming near being a killer.

"Feeling responsible is a defense mechanism of the mind. Imposing a level of responsibility and guilt gives the illusion that you might have been in control and thereby able to effect some change."

There was a soft 'huh' from Greg. "So, I feel guilty not because I should have noticed and could have done something, but because I wanted to?"

"that's about the size of it. The human mind does this so it can then prepare the mind with strategies in case something similar happens in the future." Alan looked at the pair of them then.

"I wouldn't call it an unfounded fear," Will pointed out quietly. "We have a basis for being concerned."

"Fears usually have a source," Alan agreed. "But the awareness that the mind will resist absolution as a means to cling to control can help untangle things."

"So, we're aware," Will shrugged. "Now what?" Now... Now it was getting Greg to talk it through a little more, a lot more, and getting Will to do more than just agree with him.

"At some point today, I'm going to want to speak to you both separately," he said. "We've touched on things a little, but we need to go deeper ."

He could see Greg's body posture close up when he said that, almost comically. "Well. We should maybe get that over with, then. Greg, do you want a cup of coffee?"

"Yeah, yeah I think so," Greg answered looking wary.

"I'll let you pick who goes first," Alan suggested.

"Short straws?" Will suggested, half a laugh as he moved towards the coffee machine. "Whatever Greg's preference is."

"I guess I should get it over with," Greg said with a resigned shrug. Alan was sure he'd hoped that was as deep as it all went. "I'll go first if you want to go do groceries or something."

"We probably do need milk." And everything else. Alan had watched them scrape breakfast together from scraps of food pre Greg's breakdown, and neither of them were really too healthy yet. "I'm not leaving until you've got coffee in hand, though."

"Okay, we'll get the coffee, then we'll start," Alan said agreeing. "Probably best to use one of the other rooms."

The kitchen seemed to be a reclaimed sort of loitering spot, that and the living-room it opened into. No need to make either of those spaces uncomfortable. "Right. You pick the room."

"We'll take your study room," Alan said. "I'll meet you in there when you're ready Greg."

He got up claiming his own glass of milk. He'd need to get his notebook but he'd broach the first barriers of therapy - getting an agreement to participate and building a rapport. With any luck things would improve and they could make real progress before he had to leave.

Grocery shopping hadn't been too bad, even with all the restrictions on what he could lift, and Will managed to get enough food, albeit slowly, into the house that they were set for at least another week, maybe two. If no one minded mushy bananas.

Greg hadn't been in the best of spirits when he'd come out of the room, and Will wasn't going to pry. He'd comfort later, once Greg had a little time to process.

Therapy was exhausting in its own way, he knew that much from experience but perhaps Hannibal hadn't been doing things normally, he didn't know.

Alan had grabbed himself another coffee and more water and settle back in again. He'd dragged some of the comfortable soft chairs in there and it was a pretty unthreatening atmosphere when he finally went in.

"Hey Will," Alan said smiling. "Got all the groceries?"

"And then some. I stopped at a bakery on the way back, and picked up a couple of treats." Chocolate things with rich flavors and French names that he hoped would be interesting to Greg. He was still too skinny, and Will's new halfway hobby was to get them both back on food in a regular, reliable way.

"Treats are good. Especially for people with a sweet tooth," Alan replied gesturing to a chair. "So, I guess the first thing I need to ask is what do you expect from a therapy session because I have a feeling it was different with Dr. Lecter."

"With Lecter, it generally involved being talked to and through things while he sat behind me." Will had sometimes felt like he'd been about to snap his neck, and now he wondered how right that warning feeling had been a time or two.

"That must have been disconcerting," Alan said raising his eyebrows a little. "Did he encourage you to talk things out?"

"Yes, to describe how I felt about whatever was bothering me. Usually about the scene or what I'd done at the scene."

Alan nodded. "Well at least you are used to that point. I won't be wandering around behind you Will. That would most certainly set you on edge. So, just as a matter of interest what do you expect from the sessions?"

"I don't know. I've been pretty..." Will exhaled a little, taking a sip of his coffee. "Together. I don't know what to do about what happened with Lecter. I worry about what he thinks he might've accomplished on me."

"And I'm not going to come out with trite comments that are empty reassurances," Alan said. "Will, the fact of the matter is that is a concern shared by a fair group of people. Some out of concern for you like Jack, and some for more clinical reasons. So let’s start there. What do you fear he might have accomplished?"

"Clearly he thinks he's laid the groundwork for me to become some sort of serial killer in his footsteps," Will shrugged. "I'm just... not seeing how he thinks he did that."

"Could speculate on why he might believe it?" Alan asked leaning back in his chair.

Will rolled his shoulders lightly. "I could? But I don't know where that would get me. Apparently he thought enough years of grooming me would get him the result he was looking for." And it nearly had. He'd been about to just... go off with him, go travelling. Take some time off, and if he had, if he hadn't found Greg, then what?

"Mm." Alan was looking at him. "If this discovery had taken place before you had met Greg, would you still be speculating on what he was thinking?"

"No." The edges of Will's mouth pulled a little, halfway to a smile. "I... I wasn't functioning, haven't been for a while. I wanted to make everything stop."

"But now, strangely you appear much more grounded and functional than I have seen you in many years," Alan said. "Do you have any ideas why?"

"I'm not being plied with drugs in all of my drinks? I have more choice about what to do with my free time than rough sex or slow rough sex?" Will took a casual sip of his coffee. "I have a sense of being able to follow through a thought for the first time in longer than I can remember."

It was obvious that Alan was throwing him the soft balls right then. Something easy to get into the swing of things.

"Not being drugged up would definitely help," he contributed. "You mention the sex. We've alluded to some of the things in the past that he did to you. Would you elaborate? This isn't for sensationalism Will, it's to try and work out his goals in what he was doing."

"Knife-play, bondage, fisting, mixed up with threats and it's, it's all things people do for a choice, I know. I don't like to think about it. It was good and bad, and I always thought I could've died at any moment."

"So it was sexual act predicated on fear and sadism," Alan summarized. "And your consent was dubious at the best of times, yes?"

"Yes." Will rubbed at the bridge of his nose. "It didn't start that way, and Hannibal acted like I was expected to not have a choice. It wasn't a big deal."

"Mmm. Did it feel like it wasn't a big deal?" Alan asked fiddling with his pencil.

"Sometimes, yeah." Will shifted, stretching his legs out, resting his coffee cup between his hands and against his knees. "Sometimes it was, well, maybe I'll have some energy left to read when he's done."

"Did you feel you were getting anything out of it yourself?" Alan queried.

"No." Will lifted his eyebrows at Alan. "Greg... Greg has been a change of pace in that."

"Tell me how it is different with him." It was so different he wasn't sure how to describe it. It was possibly because, there was such a difference he knew something was wrong with Lecter.

"I want to be near him. It's a very comfortable feeling, and I'm actually interested in sex. Not that either of us have been up to snuff, but it's. It's comfortable. I want him to be safe and well."

He nodded. "Interested in sex in what way? I know it is a personal question but I believe it is relevant."

"Interested. Actually wanting it," Will said, taking another sip of his coffee. "Excited."

"Were you starting to get creative?" Alan asked looking at him.

"A little." Just some loose, easy bondage, but he liked it and Greg liked it and the longer he could keep Greg *wanting* it the better.

"Right, now step back objectively and look from the perspective of a psychopath who sees someone who has been indoctrinated into your mindsets, introduced to what you consider is your pleasure, finding a tasty young fresh intelligent person and starting to awaken what they perceive as hunger for their body... Would that explain Hannibal’s erroneous conclusions that you might carry on his legacy?"

"... Yes, yes it would. But he never quite got things *wrong* before." But he had in that, because he had no urge to take Greg apart the way Lecter had taken him apart. He wanted to protect him. He wanted to heal the wounds Lecter had inflicted, not mark over top of them.

"Could he even recognize what you two have?" Alan played devil’s advocate and it was a good question. Did Hannibal recognize love? Did he believe it was possible even?

Love at first awkward working together? "I don't know. He recognized it as an intellectual concept, at least."

"An intellectual concept is different from tracking reactions," Alan said. "Dr. Lecter was not infallible. If he was, he would not be in a high security prison right now. You need to establish that concept in your own mind."

"He was crazy. And I fought back." Will always fought back, Will went down like a crazed terrier, biting and kicking to the last. "It's going to take some time."

"But it is something to think on,. Right, let us continue Will. What do you fear the most at the moment?"

"Falling apart." It seemed obvious, simple, and Alan knew he'd done it more than once. "Because Greg needs me."

"And what signs have you had in past that you are falling apart?" Alan didn't patronize him by assuming he wouldn't know like some shrinks would.

"Disassociation. I've had a little of that. I don't have a running monologue in my head, though. It's been very quiet." Just him and his own thoughts.

"What disassociation have you experienced?" he asked.

"Just, not quite feeling grounded sometimes. Had a couple of moments when I was at work going over the evidence they'd brought me to process. I just..." Hadn't caught at reality quite right. "Snapped back together when Greg went."

"And in the past?"

In the past he had become powerless in his own body, a prisoner. It was impossible to describe how that felt. "It was more like steering a car than being in my body, going through the motions until the wheel stopped responding."

"So we have basically established that considering the trauma of the circumstances you are not in a dissociative state to the extent of being non-functional," Alan summarized. "Which is a very good thing, obviously. You also have a motivating force in Greg for change. So, the first step is to establish your goals, your capacity to reach them at the moment, and what if any changes you need to make to get there. So first off, what are your goals Will?"

"I want to have a semi normal life and actually enjoy it." He'd had a lot with Hannibal, and he *still* had a lot, in terms of money. Things. It didn't matter quite as much as a job to go to every day, something to do that mattered, and *Greg*.

"Define semi-normal and enjoyment," Alan said with a smile.

"Semi-normal is objective. But, day job, well, night job, a routine of sorts. And enjoy, I mean. Spending my free time doing what I want. Teaching Greg the CSI ropes, watching TV, drinking coffee, the little things. Without being on tenterhooks."

"And relationship-wise what are your ambitions there?" It was a soft enquiry but he could tell it was important.

"Enjoy Greg's company until he changes his mind. I'd like for this to be long-term, but... If all I can do is stand him up on his feet again and let him go, that's okay."

Alan raised his eyebrows a little at him. "You don't believe that Greg will want to stay with you?"

"I think he's had a rough run of it, a *very* rough run, and I'm a safe shelter. Relatively. I'm selfish enough to be okay with it." As long as he got... at least a little time, a couple of years, maybe. That would be good.

"Can you conceive of the possibility he might want to stay with you for more than convenience and novelty of a safe shelter as you put it?" Alan asked.

"A little, but I'd rather just wait and see if that happens. Given what Lecter just did to the both of us, it's not the best timing for devotions of undying love," Will pointed out.

Alan seemed somehow pleased at that comment. "Okay then, I've done a lot of preliminaries on you here and I'm going to propose a course of action. A key concern is your ability to trust in your mental stability, and the dissociation. Now from your description, Dr. Lecter would essentially knock you down and deliberately shape how you have back together. We will try a different tactic. We will go back to your childhood – yes, I know it is a cliché -- and build from the bottom up replacing as we go. This should in theory be a more solid foundation for you, and as a result ground you when you are doing your particular form of work." Alan looked up at him. "It is my belief that those foundations have been deliberate sabotaged, allowing your personality core to be vulnerable. But your association with Greg has given that part of you new vigor."

It was something Will had picked, liked, chosen, all on his own, and maybe that was the important part. "It can be cliché. I don't care, as long as it works."

"Okay, I'm going to let you off the hook right now, but before we have our next go at things, I want you to take some time to try and recall as many memories of your childhood as possible. Good and bad. We want to get you rooted well and truly in that time. In the next session I'm going to go over some of them in detail, question them, poke at them get them well and truly solid in your head. Then, when we have grounded you, we'll work on some therapeutic techniques to deconstruct things."

"Do I even want to know what those are?" Probably not. Probably not, and after that he was going to go see what he could do to help Greg.

"Let me keep some secrets," Alan replied. "I'm trying to keep this pretty informal right now so we'll come at it a bit free and easy."

"All right." Will shifted, started to stand up slowly. "So, are you done for the day?"

"Pretty much," Alan smiled at him. "Not as bad as you thought huh?"

"Not yet, no. I'm going to go see if Greg needs help blowing off some steam." However Greg wanted to do it was fine with Will. It was early in the day, yet.

"Sounds like a good plan," Alan agreed. "I'm just going to be writing some notes up so, don't worry about me."

"Right." Alan has his own rental car and could generally amuse himself. Will took his coffee cup with him, and pushed the door open, looking for signs of Greg when he stepped into the hallway.

It hadn't been as bad as he had thought. A light touch so as not to startle him he guessed, either that or Alan was better at reading people than he let on.

He had to admit that he'd expected to feel like he had after Lecter's sessions. Like he'd been on the rack, or broken apart...

Ah, there was Greg, rattling around in the kitchen.

"How're you feeling?" He stepped in closer, setting his coffee cup down on the counter. If he drank much more, he was going to turn *into* a coffee cup.

It was a ritual thing to do to cover up feeling disturbed and they were disturbed a lot at the moment.

Greg looked up. "I was going to say 'fine' stoically, but that's a crock of shit. How can talking be so hard?"

"Because it's talking about things you don't want to, but you know you maybe need to," Will offered. "Bad?"

"Yeah. It's kinda surreal, then I say it and then it is *real*. It makes me want to just stop saying anything." Greg did look very shaken by the fact.

"Yeah, you had it worse than me. We were establishing that I'm not a serial killer," Will said, reaching for upbeat while he leaned his elbows on the counter. "I'm sorry it's real."

"Yeah, I'm pretty sorry too but it's not like it's something you need to apologize for," Greg replied. "Some of it seemed so bizarrely horror movie you know? And for I while I guess I was pretending it was a horror movie, something I watched but didn't experience. Hannibal wanted me to learn how to be your perfect victim I think. How to feed that hunger that apparently they all have. "

"Yeah. Except mostly, I want to wrap you in cotton wool and try to fix you," Will shrugged, looking sideways. Greg's eyes and nostrils were red-rimmed, and his posture was broken, bent in. Will slid a hand gently against his back. "So, Hannibal was wrong, and you're not the perfect victim."

"Oh, I think I'm doing a fucking fantastic job at it. I gave him exactly what he wanted," he said a little bitterly. "I was a gourmet meal to him in a literal and figurative sense. What makes me angry...what makes me angry now is not knowing whether I'm so screwed up that doing the sort of fun things we were doing before might be out of the question."

"We can figure it out ourselves, I think," Will murmured, still rubbing at his back gently. "Slowly. At your leisure. It's okay if it's not fun, because there's always some *other* kind of fun. I have a lot of fun just driving in to work with you."

"But I want to have fun with you," Greg sounded frustrated. "And Alan says I need to state the obvious. I've been assuming you know, but I've never once confused you with him, or thought you could do the sorts of things Hannibal said you wanted. I just kept thinking, no, that's not Will, that's not something he could do, how can you not know that?"

"Because I wonder what made Hannibal so sure that if he did that, he'd get the result he wanted. He always *knew*, he was always one step ahead of me. How did he fuck *that* up?" Will shrugged, leaning in a little closer to Greg. It felt good to be that close. "So, I wonder."

"Probably because you weren't meant to want to wrap me in cotton wool instead of control me." Great gave a faint smile. "I reckon he couldn't quite get the difference in tying someone up and teasing them mercilessly with pleasure, and teasing them mercilessly with fear. Maybe he thought obviously you'd do that because...that's what he did to you wasn't it?"

"Yeah." And that, that there with Greg was so different. "I, I haven't, I... What I want to do with you is nothing like that. But when he came into the room that one time, he was probably sure of it."

"He's not a god. He doesn't possess you the way he thinks he does. You are different -my Will is different to his," Greg said looking at him. "You've got a quirky sense of humor, you are fascinated by everything. You're so open minded and ...open to the wonder of everything. You appreciate everything and I hate the thought of people using you Will. I'm probably not meant to be the protective one am I?"

"No, probably not, but I'm not going to rebuff you for it," Will drawled. "So. Therapy is going to be grueling. What can I do to make it less-so?"

Greg shrugged. "Wave a magic wand and make the whole thing go away?" he said rhetorically. "I don't know, I really don't. I mean having you here is a big help because, I mean you're supportive and great. Apparently I've got to stop trying to repress it and actually bring it out. It was bottling it up that caused the catalepsy."

"Probably." He closed his eyes for a moment, standing up a little straighter. "Do you want to talk about it more, or...?"

"Right now, I just want to get outside, see something different so I don't have to repress anything at all connected with it because it's new," Greg said. "Let's go take a trip to the Lake or something."

"Okay." And Will was easy like that, leaning in to kiss Greg. "I'll throw a back pack together. We might have to get swimtrunks on the way." But that sounded just fine for Will. Heat and sand and water.

There wasn't anything particularly demanding about that and from Greg's smile, the relaxation would be worth it. Alan had been right about that at least, Greg had been hiding behind his apparent amnesia and the memories had acquired a force they should not have had. Hopefully now, the genie was out of the bottle even if it was unpleasant for them both, they wouldn't be back in hospital any time soon,

Greg decided he missed having Alan staying at the house for his sessions but after he had signed them off as stable enough to go back to work after the first crisis or two or three, there was little point in him being there. He knew now it was have Alan there or have them committed and he suspected Alan might have just saved their careers one way or another.

Anyway, sessions with Alan now meant a trip across town to the Feds building which was okay now he had a car and this time he had got to the session early, because he actually had something he needed to discuss. He seriously needed to get himself together with regards to Will.

Not, not that there was a problem, because there wasn't in the strictest sense, except there *was*, Greg was willing to call it a problem. He just... wasn't sure what to do to fix it. And that was why there was Alan to talk him through his weird shit.

They had gone through the pleasantries and he had confirmed that yeah he was doing okay at work, yeah he was still having nightmares, but had stopped throwing up when he woke up. That they were still nearly vegetarian but had managed to eat some fish the other day.

And now he was fidgeting because he knew the next questions were going to be about Will and their relationship and he was just screwing the whole thing up.

"So, how are you and Will doing?" Alan was smiling, looking at him friendly enough. Alan was an easy going guy.

"Uh, well, most of the time pretty good. We do the whole arguing over leaving hair bleach where he thought the conditioner was sort of thing, but that's more funny than anything." Greg fidgeted. "We did...have a bit of a problem yesterday."

"What was it?" Just drawing it out of him, getting him to the point where there was enough of a story going on to actually give advice to.

"Sex. I mean, we've been physically close, and I don't seem to mind being touched but last night I just...well we were going to do stuff and I just freaked out." He sighed a little. "I just can't seem to get over it. Through it, whatever. And I really really want to."

It wasn't really standard, but he was used to that, Greg guessed. Alan inclined his head a little. "What were the circumstances? When you 'freaked out'?"

"Er well." Greg cleared his throat. "Before all this, there was one thing I guess I learned from Douglas was that I like bondage. And Will likes it too, though I think he was enjoying it more not being on the receiving end of it. And we were just starting out and having truly fantastic sex, experimenting, that sort of thing then everything happened, and yesterday we thought we'd try something again and we got so far and I somehow went into a panic attack."

"Okay. How far did you get, and what did Will do?" He probably thought they'd exacerbate each other, and that was possible, but not quite what'd happened.

Greg thought back. He'd been nervous at the start but not unduly do. He'd been okay through the getting tied thing...

"Well he tied my arms...that was okay, and my legs, and so was that. It was actually pretty comfortable. Actually thinking about it I was okay for a while." He frowned a little. "It was when he pushed me on my side face away and ..." Something cold and mettalic had touched his back and ass. "There was metal and I think I had a flash back."

"Can you remember the flash back?" Which was also like asking him 'did he want to share about the flash back?'

"Uh. Yeah, I think it was when Hannibal was doing stuff on my back with the knife and then..." His throat was closing up. "Then slipped it in my ass."

How he hadn't cut it more Greg didn't know. He had a feeling Lecter has something he substituted at the last moment but it had felt like that was what he was doing.

"All right. And what was Will doing behind you?" He cocked an eyebrow at him, leaning forward a little.

"Uh, I'm not sure. I think it was the cold metal of one of the d-rings. I think he was planning to put something in me." Greg confessed. He was aware his cheeks were flaming with embarrassment.

"I know the element of surprise is half the fun," Alan murmured, "But possibly you need to talk things through first."

"But how can I know when I'm going to really freak out?" Greg said. "I scared him, and I don't think he wants to try it again."

"If you walk through it verbally first, it... you might be a little less likely to flash back," Alan suggested. "There isn't any fool proof cure for it, though."

"What if...what if I can't do it?" Greg asked. He might lose Will, after all he wouldn't be giving him what he wanted or needed.

"Then you can't do it," Alan shrugged. "I think you should work back up to it. Just try your wrists and you and Will. And nothing too complicated. And work your way up to it.

"Okay." It seemed too simple an answer. "So how do I convince Will that it's okay to try again. I mean he already wants to wrap me in cotton wool."

"Well, before we get to that, are you doing it for yourself, Greg, or for Will?" There went the simple answer feeling.

"I...don't know." Greg shifted uneasily. "I think both. I mean, I want to do it, and I really enjoyed it before so I guess I want it, but I'm scared of losing him if it's something I can't do and he wants."

"You're not going to lose Will. Will honestly is content with whatever he gets. His own sexual history is..." Alan leaned back in his chair. "Mottled and somewhat uncomfortable to talk about. Having a loving partner is almost a forbidden kink by itself. So, do it for yourself, if that's why you do it."

"I'm not used to that," he confessed. Sex had all been about Douglas' needs after all and he had pretty much been the only partner he'd had up to Will, then..Hannibal.

"Doesn't matter. Now is the time to get used to it, Greg. This is a time and a space for you to start to recover." Because Alan said so, because Will believed it, too.

Didn't make it happen that easily. "everyone keeps saying that, but no one can tell me how to do it. They all watch me all the time at work, to see if I'm going to drop into a coma or something again."

"They're concerned." Greg was concerned, too. "Unfortunately, there isn't a guidebook. You need to focus on you, though. How you're feeling, how you're handling your own needs and requirements, and that needs to be a constant thought at the front of your brain."

"I try, but it is difficult," Greg admitted. "Being a protégé hasn't really taught me that part of things."

"And it should have. It's about developing *you* into the best you can be." Alan paused, and then added, "Not that you've experienced that."

"I thought I was. I mean, I cook, clean and can be domestic at the drop of a hat, but..." Greg shrugged. "You know, virtues of obedience and all that."

"Hannibal got very little right, but he did spend a lot of time focusing on making Will a better profiler. Judge Mason should've... taught you law, taught you what you need professionally. That you've gotten this far without actual mentorship..."

He guessed it was a miracle but it made him uncomfortable. "I was just so bad at balancing doing my stuff and their stuff."

"It should've been all of your stuff. Not their stuff and your stuff. And remember that with Will, Greg."

"I can't just magically change my mind," Greg said in frustration. "I wish I could but I don't know when I'm doing these things."

"And part of knowing is thinking about it and making a conscious effort to look out for yourself."

"I'll try." That was all he could say. "I guess Will and I are the same in that respect."

"Except he's not having flashbacks." Not so you'd notice. He still drifted off a little, sometimes, but Greg wasn't sure if that was a flashback or just deep in thought.

"He could do though. I think he's constantly worried that Lecter planted some sort of serial killer seed in his head which might suddenly blossom," Greg admitted. "I don't think it ever would. I don't think he could do that."

"It won't happen. So, after your flashback, were the two of you able to unwind things calmly?" Checking that they weren't making each other worse, right. No, Will had already had him untied and was half-holding him by the time everything had really cleared up.

"Well, yeah we just sorta stayed close and eventually went to sleep," Greg answered. "I couldn't really talk much about it. It upsets him I think because he somehow feels he should have stopped him."

"He does that, takes responsibility for things no one could possibly try to stop. Try talking about it with him. It's important that he understand what happened, so he can help you. Just... tell him what you told me." Alan made a note, and Greg wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing

"If you think it will help, I'll try," Greg answered shifting nervously. He really worked at trying to recover, because he didn't want to let people down.

"I think it'll help both of you, Greg, but you... in particular. It doesn't have to just be you against the world, and explicitly enlisting Will's help is a way to double your odds." Alan set his notebook down. "Has anything else happened?"

"No, just everyone treating me with kid gloves. We don't need to attend the trial save in statements so.." Greg shrugged. It was a relief.

"Well, you don't. I think it came down yesterday that they want Will to testify," Alan admitted. And did Will not know yet, or had he just not told Greg?

"He didn't tell me that. Are you sure?" he said leaning forward. "He shouldn't have to. The physical evidence is the case."

"Well, the defense is going to try for insanity, and the prosecution wants Will to testify on their behalf. He could say no, but..." But, Alan didn't think he would.

"But… he'll screw with his head, Will is not ready to face him!" Greg said, anxious suddenly. "They don't need to do that."

"Who better to testify on someone's sanity than the person who lived with them for twelve years?" Alan tilted his head a little. "I think Will could surprise you."

Maybe he was thinking about what he could cope with. "It's not that I don't think he is strong, I know he is."

"Then why do you think he's not ready?"

"It's more why pile pain and stress on top of everything else? I need to be ready to steady him." And that was the crux.

Alan nodded at that, as if he'd been expecting just those words to come out of Greg's mouth. "So, you're not ready for Will to testify at the trial."

"Okay, okay, I'm not ready. I don't know why but I'm not," he confessed.

"Let's try to work out the why." Alan checked his watch, and apparently they still had time. "And what you can do to *be* ready. You won't be there, and I don't recommend for you to sit in the audience. It's daytime, so you'll be at home resting or sleeping."

"Yeah, but I don't want Will hurt. I mean, he's gone through so much." He chewed on his lip a minute and said. "I'd rather testify myself if it would me he didn’t have to.”

"Okay. Why do you think testifying would hurt Will?" Because he'd lived with Hannibal, maybe loved him at some point. Because he'd been through what Greg had been through god knew how many times, and he didn't talk about it except around it.

"Because.. because Hannibal has been screwing with him longer than anyone. One night with him and I'm practically ready for a strait jacket. Lecter had years to fuck with him in all ways. He thought he loved him I think, and Hannibal tried to gut him."

"He did. So, if you were Will, how do you think you'd feel about being asked to testify?"

Greg gave it some thought. "Man, I don't know. I wouldn't want to face him, because he has a power, you know? One that is best avoided. He doesn't care about the winning or losing because I know...Will knows that he is not looking to win a trial but to escape. and he'll do it. He'll do it and anyone near him will be in danger. He was *playing* with me Alan, playing. You know some of what he did. Now imagine what he could do if he were serious about getting out of somewhere."

"They're going to take every precaution with him," Alan shrugged. "And I mean every precaution. Full body restraints. He's already tried a few things."

Greg couldn't explain it. He just knew it was never going to be over until Hannibal was dead and buried. "Look, you guys may have been studying him, but you don't know what he is like. I've seen a glimpse and I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt he will escape one day because he has no inhibitions. He can... literally think the unthinkable and that's where our blind spot is. Even Will, with all his experience can't go all the way with that."

"Will's problem is that he *can* think it -- he's just afraid to say it." It was a little grim, harsh a statement from Alan, but maybe it was true.

Maybe he was the one who resisting the possibility that Will could. He shrugged a little and muttered. "Still. It freaks me the hell out Alan, like you wouldn't believe."

"No, I... I knew Lecter. I tend to believe that one day, if he can escape? He will. He was... passionate about the finer things in life. It doesn't get much more un-fine than prison."

Greg agreed with that. "I just want Will to not have to face him. He'll screw with him, I know it."

"There isn't much we can do. The law doesn't have much concern for what's best for the people who can help them."

"The law may not, but I do. Too many people have used Will. I know what's that like." Greg grimaced a little. "But I guess I'm not going to get a choice in this am I?"

Alan sat back. "No, probably not." And that sucked, but Greg could be there for Will. That was what he was going to be restricted to, so that was what he could do.

They were going to go back to work, they were not going to have strange seizures. He was probably going to have to sit through some god-awful mental health assessment to get back in his lab but he'd get there.

He just hated being this weak. This in pieces when he had thought he had been resilient and flexible. Yeah. Fat chance.

He wasn't really feeling resilient and flexible just then, not at all. But Alan was smiling at him. "Look, you're doing very good."

"Doesn't feel like it," he muttered under his breath. There was that nagging fear he could just freak out again.

"Why?" Why, like it was some wide open question for Alan to answer.

"Because of all this.. shit. My life," Greg said and was abruptly angry. "I didn't ask for any of this, I just tried to be the best protégé I could be and all of them have died or turned out to be crazed nutjobs except for Will and I just don't know if I'm going to screw him up too as well as I have the other times. I know you'll say it's not my fault. Bullshit, if I had don't things differently - maybe not freaked out or given Douglas more of what he needed he wouldn't have gone off the deep end, or...noticed about Hannibal, Will would not have been gutted.."

"And why do you think is all you? Why do you think that this is your fault and that you'll make things bad for Will?"

"Because the evidence tells me I will. I'm a shitty protégé," he said just feeling tired now.

"You ever consider, sometimes, that this structure..." Alan closed his notebook. "This artificial structure we function in and call society is broken?"

"Well, no," he said looking at Alan. "Why would I? How else could it work if you had no money? How could you expect to get above your origins without patronage?"

"Merit?" Alan shrugged his shoulders. "In England they have these things called student loans... Look, what I'm saying is that you're not a shitty protégé. And while Will wants to mentor you, he wants to mentor and teach in a general sense, and mostly he wants you as... you. For you. Not as a protégé, that's just to cover your time out."

"I guess I'm holding on to the protégé status as a...well, security blanket," Greg admitted. "It's like...a legal thing that he has to keep me."

"Because you don't believe he'd keep you to keep you?"

"I dunno," Greg replied shrugging a little. "I guess it not for my appearance. I'm not a catch… even less so now."

"So, self esteem is still next on the list of things to work through," Alan mused. "You're gorgeous, Greg. You could be a male super model if you were a couple of inches taller. The scars would probably net you *more* money. And, we're out of time for today, but."

He nodded. "Okay, thanks Alan," he managed getting up. "I appreciate it."

"Talk to Will, Greg," Alan said as he stood up. "Share your concerns with him."

"I will," he said asking making a decision to do so. If Will didn't want him, he needed to know that rather than live in anxiety. He thought Will loved him, but then he'd thought Douglas had as well and that hadn't helped. Sometimes he was completely certain of things, and sometimes everything seemed thin and fragile.

One thing he was sure of though was he wasn't going to give up. It wouldn't be him leaving Will voluntarily, no matter what happened.

They were good people.

The team, the group. They were good people and he was happy to be out there printing scenes and running down little bits of metal and insect life. That last bit was possibly far too exciting, but everyone was starting to associate bugs with cases for Will, so it didn't surprise him much when the sudden maggot flush on the WLVU lawn ended up being his.

The discovery of the woodchipper meant it was murder, but not a serial right up to the discovery of the blue paint, and the second body.

Jim had called a meeting in one of the lab rooms, like the one that had led them to the van and they were trying to figure things through and it was...familiar territory.

It was extremely familiar territory, because he was getting a feel for the guy, a good feel for him. He liked women, and he liked women in pain, and his partner had been the one to get the death penalty and he'd laid low through it all.

"Okay," Jim said. "I'm open to ideas, seriously. If this is the Blue Paint killer, then it means John Mathers was executed as an innocent man."

Catherine looked uncharacteristically grim. "And he's escalating. He installed this particular trap."

"I'm not sure that's escalation," Will offered. "He's probably always done it that way, as they all had blue paint on their hands. The escalation is that getting it wrong the first time didn't deter him."

"You don't think Jonathan Haywood was intended then," Nick half stated half asked. "Or a victim of opportunity?"

"He's blond. Skinny. In the dark, he could be mistaken for a girl. I think our perp has an eye sight issue. He could have limited night vision, which is why his hunting ground is so precisely staged."

"That's a thought." Jim leafed through some of the files. "Wasn't there something about glasses in here?"

"There were broken prescription glasses at the site from the Debbie Reston abduction," Sara put in.

"But he skipped a year," Nick pointed out." That's not a profile. Maybe we've got a copycat."

"Skipped a year? Skipped *how many* years while his partner was in prison," Will pointed out. "Never run into a serial who goes 'Ah, it's 365 days -- better get cracking'."

"So what? He was killing all that time and we didn't know or..he was choosing the time?" Catherine said.

Greg entered the room a little warily. "I've got some of the trace back. We've got a stand out in photocopy toner. Not sure what that means."

"From the bag?" Will leaned back in the chair, peering at Greg. "Huh. That's weird. That's not something Cody Lewis would use."

"Nope." Greg looked a bit like he was going to leave but Jim beckoned him to sit down.

"So, Greg's telling us what? This is a guy that does photocopying? Or repairs photocopiers?" he asked rhetorically.

"And knows Campus like the back of his hand. So he's either on contract with them, or he's one of the, uh..." Will gestured a little vaguely with his coffee cup. "Campus copy shop?"

"Okay, Will. Let's have a profile of this guy. Is he working on another possible murder?" Jim queried as Greg sat next to him.

"After Kaitlin? No. He doesn't move that fast. Three in the late 80s, then nothing until 02? And then two years later." No, their man was going to take his time. "He's planning for next year's."

"Wonder how he decides?" Catherine asked.

"Lots of students pass through a campus copy shop. From all different courses," Greg put in unexpectedly. "Even if he doesn't work there, he's got to do those comics of his somewhere. Not the sort of thing you can take to a public copier."

"Back room, late at night? Comes to work early to do it, stays late? You're right, Greg." He was still getting used to working with people, but oh, that felt good. Having coworkers who thought and shared and were right.

Greg smiled at the praise and hesitantly said. "Uh, I might be using too much of my own experience but what if Mathers wasn't a copy cat, or the murderer but.. a whipping boy. A protégé?"

"Yes, or some kind of partnership. For all the others to have been object rapes, and then the one he was convicted on -- maybe he branched out and his... whatever wasn't there for that one."

"Would it be worth checking to see if Mathers had ever been a part of the system?" Catherine said. "I don't remember it going that way in his file but he might have put himself out there informally."

"It's worth a look. Let's start with his associates, back in the day. Late 80s, *anyone*. Who wants to go with me to the copy shop?"

Nick got up for that one. "I'll take that."

"Not without back up," Jim said. "I want some detectives there too."

"If we can get them to hang back and be a little less obtrusive," Will half-requested, looking over at Jim. "Just in case our guy is there and tries out a back door."

"They can exercise some discretion," Jim agreed as they got up to leave. "Cath, you have a look at the background. See if you and Sara can piece together any possible patron, official or otherwise or anything that supports the team theory."

They'd need it whether Will walked in and knew it was the guy or not. This was about building solid cases and that was oddly satisfying most every day for Will. He stood up, carrying his coffee cup with him.

Greg hovered a little uncertain next to him. "You be careful," he murmured as he prepared to return to his lab. "Just… be cautious."

"I promise." He picked up his folder. "We'll either get the guy with forensics and a hunch, or we'll keep looking."

"Just don't let him get to you," Greg said and it came as a bit of a surprise to realize that they mind set of the murderer really hadn't been getting to him.

He didn't really. Really feel like he was having a problem. He could think like the guy, but he could discard it, too, pull it up, use it, drop it back down. It didn't feel as pressing or insanely insistent, and maybe that came down to Alan's work with him. It wasn't... there, screaming at him, throbbing in his head.

"I won't."

Greg was looking at him carefully, and it seemed inappropriate to smile, but he actually felt like things were more under control.

"Good." Greg stepped back and allowed him past to catch up with Nick and by the looks of it, Jim as well as they headed out towards the University.

He caught up with them in short order, carrying his notepad and having snagged his kit on his way out. "What're you thinking, Nick?"

"Me? I'm not the guy with the experience here," Nick replied. "He's a sadistic killer who gets off on fear and pain. That much you don't need a skill to see."

"You're smart, Nick, and you didn't stop working through a case on your own just because I'm here," Will pointed out. "So, past that. What're you thinking?"

"About the case? If we don't get him now, he's going to ground and he might even bug out if we've got close enough now," Nick said. "He seems to want the sexual sadism side of things, but he can't ...consummate the act. That I don't get."

"He's consummating the act. He could have a physical problem -- he could be using condoms. He could prefer to not touch human skin with his sex organs. I doubt he'd do it over and over again if he weren't getting satisfaction from it."

Nick obviously had difficulty in getting to grips with something outside of the vanilla. "I get it intellectually but I don't get how the attraction works. I'm better at empathizing with the victims I guess rather than the killers."

"Better place to be in," Will shrugged, looking over at Jim. "It's like golf."

"Golf?" Nick looked a bit confused by that.

Jim shrugged. "Strangest people get fanatical about golf. It's not like you've got the big adrenalin rush and testosterone of football, or hockey. It's a more mind thing."

"There's no way that it can be half as satisfying to putt a ball into a hole as it can be to jump over or *through* the arms of a linebacker, getting a faceful of dirt, clutching desperately at the football into the goal zone. Except, people still do it." Will shrugged his shoulders a little. "So, I think of it like Golf. I'd rather not, but some people do."

Nick shook his head. "People are weird sometimes," he declared. "Just when I think I've seen it all, something comes up that throws me. This guy is one of them."

"I'd take that as a good thing," Will shrugged. "You want to drive?"

"Sure. No running off this time," Nick said with a faint smile as they headed towards the garage.

Going to the University campus was a little strange for Will. He should by rights be over focused, dissociative, driven and overwhelmed by the beat of a killer's instinct in his mind. He wasn't and that was slightly unsettling. He kept waiting for it to happen, and then worrying if it didn't he wouldn't catch the killer.

They'd have to see.

It wasn't... it wasn't crushing him. He could still breath, and he wasn't shaking with anticipation. "Don't worry, I won't run off. Or carjack you. I'm not sure I ever properly apologized for that."

"I'll let you buy me a beer sometime,” Nick said and Jim snorted a little.

"It'll only be one, Nicky's a lightweight."

"Hey!" Nick protested. It seemed very laid back, but he noted Nick checked his piece.

Will didn't have to.

"My tolerance had probably gone down in the last few months," Will mused. "So we'd both be cheap drunks."

"So you really think we're on to this guy?" Nick asked as they entered the garage. "It feels like it could be the right direction."

"We're on it. I... should be all wound up and pulling at my leash, but... Yeah, this is the guy." And he was calm. He got in the passenger side of the SUV, and waved to Jim as he broke away to his undercover patrol car.

"Man, we've been waiting to pin this one for a while," Nick said glancing at him as he started it up. "So, no urges to run this one down. I'm not going to have to tackle you down."

"No. I, uh... it was good to have some time off." They didn't need to know there'd been extensive therapy, physical and otherwise.

"Yeah. Greg's still a bit nervy. We were really worried about him," Nick commented

"I'm sure he'll appreciate you guys' support." Will buckled up, and let his eyes drift out the window a little while Nick backed out of the parking spot. Jim was waiting for them, to lead the way in. There wasn't an undercover car yet that Will couldn't pick out, just from the tint of the windows and the body types they gravitated to. And the odd dark spots that later flashed red and blue.

Nick didn't say anything for a while as they drove out towards the university. He was obviously thinking about Greg, he could recognize that. "Is he doing okay at home?"

"Yeah. Mostly. It's..." Nick didn't need to know about their sex life, and issues therein. "We're comfortable, and that helps."

"That's great," Nick replied. "We've been worried. I mean, all the stuff that came out of his Patrons case was bad enough."

"And then Hannibal happened," Will agreed. "I still wish things hadn't gone that way."

"Yeah, well in an ideal world, you wouldn't have had to deal with it either. It's pretty amazing you're at work so soon." Nick glanced at him. "And you seem to like it here. I was half wondering if it might be a bit tame for you."

"Not-tame was killing me." He shrugged when he said it. "I was falling apart, and I didn't feel anything anymore. That's... not a really good sign."

"You know, we have a lot of people burn out here from stress, and it's like a restful break for you," Nick pointed out with a smile. "Man, your life before must have been completely wired."

"It was. I was always on the go, and when I wasn't, home was... Hannibal." Up and down and brutal in ways that Will was just now working out how to describe as such.

"Wouldn't blame you if you and Greg slobbed out completely in your new place," Nick replied as he took a turning towards the campus.

"No, it's a nice place. We're... comfortable there, too. And at some point I'm getting the carpet ripped up and a new floor put in. It's *pink*." It was hard to not laugh, but it was a good subject change to focus on before they embarked on what he hoped would be the catch.

"Hell, pink?" Nick half laughed and Will could tell he seemed to be a bit tight with anxiety maybe.

"Hard magenta type of pink. It's worse in daylight than it was when you guys brought the stuff over." He waited until Nick parked, and popped the door open.

"Yeah, that needs taking out and shooting," Nick said as they got out of the car. Jim was already out and waiting for him and he was moving like a cop not a CSI even as the cops got together.

"We go in, we question and we leave a couple of guys out here if he is there and makes a run for it," Jim said.

"Back door?" Will asked, making it a question rather than a suggestion that they'd probably already taken. "Sounds good to me."

"Yeah. Okay, lets head in there, see if all our speculation pays off huh?"

He knew it would. He'd never been able to explain the certainty. Hannibal had called it gnosis which was a pretentious way of putting it. He knew the trail led here. The only thing throwing him was how clear headed he was about the whole thing.

"And that's a huge help. But if we do that, then all the measurement and assessment is on you. And if something happens and you leave..."

It was strange to be clearheaded and he wasn't sure to trust himself or not. He had the room in his head to wonder and consider and that was novel. "Let's see." He let Brass lead the way, as that was protocol.

It was a bit anticlimactic going in there and finding campus security had been looking as well. They had a name too - an ordinary sounding name. Kevin Greer - ordinary, and non-descript. The copy workers there were looking bemused.

"Can you... describe him to me?" Will pressed, looking around the place because it fit. It still all fit. They had a name, but it was going to take time for the police to pull an address up from the DMV system.

"Well he's just an ordinary guy you know? Forty-ish I reckon. Pretty...average looking," his co-worker said. "He only works until eight."

"When the evening classes let out," Jim said. "We just missed him."

"Figures." Will rocked back on his heels, and grimaced. "You have an address on him?"

"We can get it soon enough," Jim said and turned to query the other copy worker. They had to hurry. This was usually a dangerous time, where the killer suspected someone was on their trail. It often prompted them to rash action.

Unplanned killings, out of pattern sprees. Irrational hostage takings, and those were the ones that bothered Will, made him tense with worry. The ones where they broke their own patterns and fell into uncomfortable positions. Will looked sideways at Nick for a moment, and went back to scanning the room.

There was a bin right there with black garbage sack in it. they reminded him of taunting message this man had sent with the sex doll, and the photocopy toner. He needed the evidence to back up the hunch.

Best to collect for comparison, deferring to Brass first. "Brass, trash can with a familiar look to it. I'd like to collect it..."

"Go for it, we're clear legally. University has granted us full access," Jim said. "You think it'll link?

If we're showing he's printed it here at work." Will started to pull out an evidence bag. "Actually, copiers have hard drives, even networked ones. Those might take a warrant, but I think we have time once we get our hands on him..."

"I'll get them to shut the place until we get a team here," Brass agreed Nick agreed and asked the copier guy. "Hey, did Greer do any of his own projects on here?"

The guy shrugged and said. "Just his comics sometimes."

"What did you think of his comics?" Not court admissible, no, because it was opinion, but opinion was as important as fact.

"Didn't really see them," the guy replied."I start when he goes off shift. All done by then."

"But you know they're comics how...?" Will took just one step towards him.

"Because he pays for the supplies and leaves messages to order it," he said with a shrug,

"Conscientious." Will shrugged a little as he said it, turning back to Brass. "Who do you want to go to his house, and...?"

"Nick you and Will go to the house with Detective Vartaan," Jim said "I'll get a warrant and catch you up. I'm going to have to call it in now."

"Will do," Will half promised, still taking one last look around the place. The hard drives would do that, would take care of that. The trash can contents would be better.

"Go. Go on, I'll get Sara and Warrick down here to work through this," Jim said even as the campus security came back and gave Nick a copy of the address.

"Okay, we're good to go."Nick said "C'mon Will. "

He didn't, not particularly, want the man to be there in his house, at that place written on the piece of paper Nick was carrying. Will turned, carrying his evidence bag with him, and his kit, and tried to work out why the missing reaction felt so strange.

It bugged him through the journey to the house, enough so they didn't really talk. It was like a part of him was missing somehow, and maybe he could decide whether that meant he wasn't going to catch killers any more. He had a feeling his brain was trying to convince him of that otherwise it would have to accept he had basically been in mental torture for no reason all those times before.

Failure made more sense than potential senselessness, apparently. "All right. Let's hope if he's in, Vartaan gets him."

They were outside the house and Nick frowned. "You hear that noise?" he asked. "Something kinda...mechanical. Like a high spin."

"Barely." It sounded a little less than high, and maybe... Huh. Will tilted his head, and drew his gun just in case.

They moved forward, carefully, Vartaan taking the lead. No sign of life but the noise was loud enough to drown out their approach. It was almost anticlimactic getting into the house. No dramatic kicking in of doors, or bellowing shouts. It had been an open door, and they were faced with the sight of a paint mixer in front of them.

Because his paint was a custom blend. Will pulled a glove on quickly, and moved toward to flip off the paint mixer.

"Damn, he knew we were coming.

"Figures," Nick said holstering his gun too. "Where the hell has he taken off to huh? He can't have gone more than ten minutes or so."

Close enough to chase. Close enough to run down, but it didn't feel like that, and Will knew he wasn't going to kill again. Not the way he had, not at the college. "Let's see if he left that here."

They were just starting a preliminary look around the kitchen while Vartaan and some uniforms cleared the rest of the house when the phone rang and then clicked into the answering machine.

"Las Vegas finest - good job. Impressive turnout, especially to have the King Cobra on my trail. Have a look around. I'll be at the station waiting for you."

Turning himself in. Will inhaled, staring at the answering machine. "Did I just hallucinate that, Nick?"

"No. Bastards taunting us. Sounds like he's turned himself in," Nick commented. "On his terms."

Either that or he was stalking through the department and Greg was there.

Will pulled his cell phone out, and started to call, while he pulled out his radio to call in to dispatch. He rattled off their number, and passed over the threat. After all, any suspect *headed towards* the department was a threat.

He didn't want to get back there and find anyone - particularly not Greg - in the clutches of another serial killer.

Nick was on the phone and saying 'uh-huh, and 'sure' a lot until he hung up. "Jim says we follow back to the station. He wants you in on interrogation at least. Warrick's got the copy shop covered, Sara's splitting off to head here, and depending, I might end up heading back here after."

"Right. I'm trying to call Greg." And Greg wasn't picking up just yet. Hopefully it was because his phone wasn't near him.

He might have his music on. Sometimes he did that. now and...

"Hey Will!" Greg sounded normal and happy enough. "How's it going out there?"

"If you're in the lab, keep a close eye on the windows. Our killer just left a message saying that he's turning himself in at the lab." He gave Nick a thumbs up, and they started back out of the house.

"You're kidding me? Another serial killer heading my way?" Greg answered. "Should I just stand in a central spot in Vegas and then you guys can come and catch them when they try and pick me off?"

"We could put you up at the top of the stratosphere. That'll give us a head start," Will offered, leaning into the phone a little as Nick unlocked the suv. "It's coincidence, but I just want you to be alert. You're not his type."

"Yeah? He did accidentally take that guy," Greg replied and it sounded like he was walking. "Shit, that must be him...they're taking someone into the interrogation room.

"We'll be there soon. Don't worry, I just..." Had a knee jerk over reaction, but at least he hadn't carjacked Nick a second time. The first time was forgiven because it had been very dire.

"I'll make sure I'm not near him until you're here to protect me. I'm going to get a coffee right now,” Greg told him which was at least sensible.

"Coffee sounds good. I'll see you soon." It was the best Will could do, really -- promise to protect Greg the way he hadn't with Hannibal, the way he was *supposed* to. Patrons were supposed to protect.

It was an assumption really. There was no reason that Greer would go after Greg aside from the fact that Greg had managed to attract attention from two serial killers in the last couple of months. Superstition maybe.

Nick was pushing it to get back to the lab understanding their urgency just to get a view on things.

Greg would be okay, he had to be,

Everything. Really, really would be okay, and Will kept his head screwed on straight. "I'm curious why he'd turn himself in."

Nick shrugged. "He's got a plan to bargain himself out?" he commented. "Makes you wonder if he's taken another victim?"

"Timing's wrong." Will didn't feel outrageously strongly about that, but it felt it, firm and mellow in his chest.

"Maybe he's..." Nick seemed hesitant. "He's all about control right? So maybe this about controlling the inevitable?"

It felt right. Will inclined his head slightly. "This is his control, his choice. I think when he's done talking with us, he'll... He'll chose that, too."

"Suicide? But he'll be in custody," Nick said frowning. "How will he have the chance?"

"If you're determined, you'll find a way. I would. I bet you could, too. We'll have him put in suicide watch wear." It wasn't Kosher or normal, but Will'd do it.

"Good idea." Nick pulled into the department garage and they wasted not time getting inside.

It turned out that actually it wasn't as bad as all that. No rampaging serial killer or anything like that, though he still had a pen and paper, which after Douglas Mason, was a little unwise.

As far as Will was concerned. He moved in, though, pulled up a chair across from their man, and just watched him. Calm, comfortable, sketching away.

"Good idea." Nick pulled into the department garage and they wasted no time getting inside.

It turned out that actually it wasn't as bad as all that. No rampaging serial killer or anything like that, though he still had a pen and paper, which after Douglas Mason, was a little unwise.

He wanted something, recognition maybe, he could see that. Otherwise he would have ended this in a motel room somewhere. But no, he had to come to the department, hand himself in because something in his mind was incomplete.

"Will, Jim. Glad you could make it. I had a rule. You find my house should at least get to meet me.”

"Glad you followed the rule." He wasn't particularly glad about meeting the guy. "I assume you want to talk about it. I'd like to listen, if you do."

Kevin Greer looked at him and carried on sketching. "I thought it was only fair. You guys must have spent a lot of times imagining everything about me. Particularly you Will. I've heard about you. Picturing the size of my hands." He spread them. "Not that big really are they. But they don't have to be."

"No, they don't have to be." He didn't want to ask Kevin why, but he did, at the same time. Why wasn't a question that really solved anything. "What got you started?"

"And I thought you understood us," Kevin replied. "Does there need to be any other reason than because I can? Or is it going to disappoint you that I don't have a violent childhood hmm?"

"No. I didn't ask why." Will stretched his own hands out, posture relaxing. "I wanted to know what got you started. Your first kill. Did you start small, or did you dive right in?"

"Dive right in? Now you are being insulting," Greer said peering at him. "I am not ruled by impetuosity. I didn't torture animals like you want me to say I did. No. JM and I...I created him. Crafted him to do what needed to be done. There was intimacy there. When we killed, we planned."

"How did you feel when the police caught him, but not you?" The assumptions the man was making spoke to what offended him -- the idea that he was run of the mill in any way.

"JM had something to prove. I tried to stop him but..." Kevin shrugged. "We were better together, he should have known that."

"And you carried on without him. It had to be missing something." But he'd kept on, because he didn't know what else to do and he still had that urge.

"I spent fifteen years looking for a replacement, but you only get that lucky once in a life time," Kevin replied conversationally. "I'm sorry, am I disappointing you guys? Did you want me to appear more scary?"

"No. I think you're trying to impress me with your normalcy," Will shrugged. "But I've killed all the time, and I never turned into a raving lunatic. I'm just a guy, and the lady at the coffee shop still can't get my order right. You're just a guy with an urge. Life goes on despite it, and you never became anything. You felt a little sated, for a while, but your partner's dead. Did you even enjoy it without him as your proxy? Wasn't it just going through the motions? There's that thrill at first, sure. And then the disappointment when it wears off. But by the time you're mixing a new batch of oil into the paint, you've convinced yourself that this time, without him, it's going to be better than the last. This time. Or the next time."

But, it hadn't been. He could see it in Kevin's eyes.

Greer didn't like that. He had touched a nerve. "I made him. I created him. JM was nothing without me. He made mistakes without me and deserved to die."

"He was yours, and we took him away from you. Mistakes or not, the Las Vegas Police Department took him away from you and you made him. If you killed him yourself, it would've been different, but you didn't."

"You would know about that wouldn't you Will," Kevin leaned forward. "What are you without *him*?"

"I took him out," Will countered, flashing his teeth for a moment. "I'm still in law enforcement. I'm still me. What're you?"

"In control," Kevin said still sketching. "That is what makes us different. Being in control."

"You're still in control." Will sat back in the chair. "You turned yourself in, rather than risking us catching you. It makes me wonder what else you want to control."

"I am controlling you all right now," the killer replied and he was sliding past the thrust of the question.

"Not really. I know you think you are, and if that makes you more comfortable, that's fine. Unless you're interested in putting that pen through your eye and into your skull, you're not going to get to kill yourself."

He glanced up and there was a subtle flicker of something in his expression as he did so. "How would I draw with a pen through my eye?"

"Awkwardly, I imagine." Will smiled. "And I know you don't have any other victims to taunt us with."

"Oh really?" Kevin Greer looked at him. "You know everything don't you? Or think you do."

"Kevin, because you're very predictable. You follow a pattern. You think you're outsmarting us by sitting here, though what does it gain you?" Jim was just quietly watching, taking it all in, and Will guessed from the lack of interference, it was okay.

"Gain me? It gains me everything," he said with surprising vehemence. "My own terms, no one elses. No one has made a decision for me in my LIFE, Will. I despise what you let them do to you as a Protégé. A whipping boy. No better than JM, waiting for instructions. Can you say your control has never been broken? No. No you can't, but I can. Every moment, I control everything."

"When you're turned over to county lockup, the guards will wake you at 6 every morning. At 7, you'll join the line for meals, if you're deemed worthy of integration into the general population. Otherwise, you'll have your meals passed to you through a slot in the door. You'll have an hour of scheduled time in the exercise yard with other prisoners of your status. Murderers."

He narrowed his eyes at him then even as Jim's phone rang and he stepped outside to take the call. He didn't speak just carried on drawing, sketching until Jim re-entered the room.

"Mr. Greer, tell me about Brit Mosscoe," Jim said as he sat down.

There was a delighted flash in the man's eyes, and Will shook his head.

"There's a lot of fight in her."

"I don't think there is," Will countered.

"Oh she was sweet, her fear sharp and bright," he reminisced. "I kept her a while of course but in the end, there's only so much storage room I have."

"Where is she?" Jim demanded and there was something off about this.

"You never stored bodies," Will countered, gesturing a hand out and down at Jim. "I saw the death timelines on all of them. You weren't a store-r."

"I have a large freezer for that reason then I disposed of her. I'll take you to her," he said with a smile.

"Why?" It didn't fit, didn't match what Will knew, and he was struggling -- was that because he wasn't in tune correctly, or were they being played?

"If you don't want to know, that is fine with me. She can stay buried, a lost relic of my first steps," Greer answered and Jim nearly growled.

"We'll have to take him."

"This is bullshit, Jim. We're being played. He wants to keep this in his control, because the thought of prison terrifies him," Will snapped.

"Then why turn himself in?" Jim replied in a heated tone. "Kinda stupid thing to do if prison terrifies him."

He caught the faint flicker of Kevin's smile and knew he was right. Knew it. Had anyone even searched the guy for more than a gun when he came in? Will stood up from behind the table, and crossed behind Kevin. "I want a deputy in here now."

Jim looked like he was going to hesitate but he paused and looked at him.

"You sure about this?" he said even as he was stepping to get someone else in.

"Yes." He was going to have Greer stripped and processed correctly and he wasn't going to let the shit control them.

"Right." Jim nodded and it was then that Greer realized whatever he had planned wasn't going to work and he launched himself at Will incoherent with rage and all hell broke loose.

Will rolled with it as they hit the ground, punched out hard and connected with Greer's jaw in the hopes that he was a man with a glass one and would fall from the pain.

For a weak looking man Greer had that manic energy that Will associated with some killers. The irony was he was incoherent with rage and desperation in his attempts to retain control of the situation. He was hitting out wildly and he could feel Jim trying to tug the man off of him, some deputy charging up the ticking noise of a Taser somewhere. It was all action, action, limbs flailing and incoherent noise.

He was pretty sure Greer hit him a few times, but he hoped he hit Greer as many times, and when he finally got his fingers around the man's throat, he had the better hand at least.

"Okay, woah, break it up, we've got him, shit..." Jim was wrestling Greer away the best he could. "Jesus... Vartaan? Lou, get your ass in here now!"

Will dropped back to the floor, went limp and scooted backwards to make it easier for Jim to get Greer away from him.

It took three to get him pinned down but eventually Jim stepped back from the melee where Greer was screaming incoherently in rage at them as they frisked his clothes and unearthed a plastic bag stuffed down his pants and duct tape.

"Get him the hell out of here," Jim said. "Will, you okay?"

He took a deep breath, still laying on the floor. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm okay." It just took a minute to sit up, trying to shake off the adrenaline-rush.

"Will! Are you okay?" Greg was pushing into the interrogation room now Greer had been hauled off down the corridor. "Shit, look at you, bruising up already."

"Didn't think he really hit me." It might've been shock, stunned, maybe. Will wasn't sure. He reached out, looping an arm around Greg while he sort of got the wind back into his lungs and okay. Maybe the guy had hit him really hard at least once.

"Come over here, sit down," Greg said poking carefully at his cheek. "Looks like it's bruises nothing else. Your throat okay?"

"Fine," Will assured, standing up so Greg could walk him over to a chair. "He was playing us."

"Obviously you won," Greg replied. "As he was hauled off in handcuffs. What was he trying to do?"

"Get us to do what he wanted. Take him out of the station. Kill himself." Will rubbed at the side of his face, and that bruise there hurt. "Shame he didn't have a glass jaw."

"So, he came here to kill himself?" Greg asked surprised. "Well he's screwed that one up. Uh, we'll get you some pills."

Will exhaled, and started to stand up. "It's okay. I'll come with. I'd rather not hang out in the interrogation room."

"You get yourself checked out," Jim said. "And go home. I think you've earned your wage today."

Will snorted, and waved vaguely in Jim's direction. "Thanks." It was the best he could really manage, because what did he say to that? No thanks, I'd rather follow the case through and get coffee with Greg when his shift ended?

"Hey, just be grateful I won't be throwing you to the media feeding frenzy," Jim said as Greg still stayed next to him.

"That's for your own sake, more than mine," Will pointed out as they turned down the hallway.

He still has the notch on his nose from the time he ran into the drafting table when he was a kitten.

"Let's get you a coffee, and I'll get the first aid kit," Greg said. "Maybe we can ice the bruises..."

"If a killer suddenly changes his pattern, Greg, always ask why," Will murmured. "And possibly, make sure he's better restrained."

"I'll make a note. And you were calling worrying that I was going to get in his way," Greg said leading him to the break room. "Sit down a moment. Do you think this means my sucky run of serial killers is at an end?"

"I think so. It jumped to me," Will offered, wandering slowly over to the breakroom table. He could feel the comedown, just a little shaky.

"You're okay though?" Greg asked concerned as he gestures for him to sit as he rifled in the fridge for ice and put them in a plastic lunch bag, wrapping that in a clean dishcloth

"Yeah. I'm okay. Really. He just roughed me up a little. I used to call that a relaxing evening." He leaned an elbow on the table, cheating out to look at Greg. "He wanted to kill himself, and it wasn't going to be on my watch."

Greg raised his eyebrows at him. "You know...that's pretty different from what you told me you used to do on the hunt," he said bringing the makeshift icepack over. "Here, use that."

"Not sure where to start." With his cheek, he supposed, pressing the ice to it gingerly. "You saw how I was when we were chasing Millander, and then Lecter. That was how it's always been. I'm not... wound up this time.

"That's good news right?" Greg said getting out the antiseptic wipes. "I mean, you've been in control the whole time?"

"It is. Maybe I didn't work it long enough. Maybe..." Will shrugged, watching Greg move around the break-room. They kept antiseptic wipes in the same cupboard as a bag of pretzels that had probably been there since y2k.

"Hey, don't explain it away, it just shows it can be done," Greg pointed out. "You did it. You caught the guy, alive without getting screwed up in the process. That deserves celebration."

"And if I can't do it again? If this was just a fluke..." And Will didn't want to lose that feeling, that feeling of physical pain as compared to mental agony.

"Of course you can do it again," Greg said with immediate confident reassurance. "If you can do it once, you can do it again."

And Greg believed it. It was written on Greg's face that he believed it, leaving nothing for Will to do but believe it as well. Or try to. "I'll try. No extra blood spilled this time." It felt like being in control, and if he could do it again and again... Then he might really be all right.

Greg knew he was acting a bit flighty but he couldn't help himself. Things had been going well enough with Will that he wanted to see if he could crack that last barrier to his confidence in their relationship which was his ability to enjoy and relax in sex. Specifically the types of sex that he knew Will really enjoyed and had fun with, and he had too. Not that Will had ever hinted he was dissatisfied with what they did do and he had taken Alan's advice and they had done some pretty interesting things, and talked through what they might like so Greg wanted tonight to be the crucial moment.

It was as much for him as it was for Will, and okay, he didn't want to mess this up but he had very carefully put a few of the things that they had bought together on their bed waiting for them when they were headed to bed.

It felt a little do or die, even though Greg knew that if he fell apart, Will would undo all of it and lay with him until he stopped shaking. But he didn't want to fall apart. he wanted to let go, put himself in Will's hands, and not snap back into himself in fear and horror.

It was crazy, but he just didn't like the thought that Lecter had robbed the implicit trust he had in Will through his actions. He didn't want to fear Will, and he hadn't before all this. He'd just..enjoyed it. Trusted him and he had an inkling the trust he'd given was really important to Will.

That maybe it helped prove to Will that he wasn't a monster after all. There was knowing, as Will had said, and then there was *knowing*, that gut feeling Will still relied on so much.

Greg wanted Will to *know* he trusted him.

"Are you sure?" Will kissed at his collarbone, slow and lazy while they backed into the bedroom.

"Yeah. I really want to try it," Greg said moving back. "I want that back."

It wasn't a dealbreaker if they couldn't just something he wanted badly.

It was a luxury that he wanted back. "Okay." Okay, because Will liked to give Greg what he wanted, and because Greg knew Will wanted it, too. "Let me undress you."

Greg grinned. "As if I'm going to say no to that. I know how you like to enjoy it all. " It was a sensuous arousing process being gradually revealed for Will. Feeling his fingers lingering on his skin here and there.

Under Will's control, lazily stripped off. Will started with his shirt, doing away with the last buttons before pushing it back off of his shoulders.

He was still all over with fresh scars, but Will had made it clear that it didn't bother him at all. He wasn't bothered about impressing anyone else either. He tried to steal a kiss from Will in between shedding clothes.

Will pulled his own shirt off, fighting the cuffs for a moment. He was crap at ironing, and all of his shirt collars looked worn and faintly like he'd melted them with the iron. It was enough to make Greg volunteer to do all the ironing, but, but. It was hard to focus on the mundane when Will was pushing him onto the bed, his pants still on.

Will's scar was impressive as well, if healing nicely. It was new enough to be dark against his skin. "Mmm..." Greg let himself fall back feeling the old stirring of excitement.

The crooked grin, and the easy look in Will's eyes went a long way to helping, as he scooted down, pressing a kiss against Greg's stomach. "Gorgeous, and mine."

"Funny, I was going to say the same thing," Greg answered stretching in a deliberately provocative way. He enjoyed the thrill of knowing that Will was having a great time. Maybe it was a weird protégé thing but he didn't care.

And he liked the feel of Will's lips against his skin, particularly since he was shaving better, more frequently, now. Baby-faced and soft-mouthed, kissing a path down to his belly button, and then past it.

It was interesting but nothing different from what they had done on previous nights. But he'd let Will know that he was putting himself in his hands so he shouldn't question it even if Alan had suggested they do more talking in their first attempts. "That feels good..." he murmured, trying to follow the advice.

And if he talked, Will talked. Will went through spurts of talking, not talking, talking. "I'm going to take your pants off, now." Greg could feel the fingers of one hand against the top button of his jeans.

"Generally that's a good idea when it comes to sex," Greg replied having to convince himself not to help out. It was a good feeling though.

Just letting Will do it, even when he had to lift his ass a little so Will could pull them down. He was staying close to Greg, but not looming, not hovering. "Well, it doesn't have to be. I like these jeans, though. They make your ass look fantastic."

"Hmm, maybe I should wear them at the lab," he murmured. "And you can wear the Pink Shorts of Wonder."

Will laughed, and pulled the fabric past his knees. "Of *wonder*? My half color blind shorts are of wonder?"

"I wonder why you still wear them?" Greg replied lifting his legs a little to allow his pants to be slipped off.

"Comfort," Will shrugged. "And laziness. I hate shopping." And he liked kisses, and kissing the side of Greg's hip, close enough that he could feel air on his dick. "Don't move your hands."

"Okay," Greg agreed grinning to himself. "Mmm, that feels good." His dick was twitching into life.

And then when Will leaned in and actually kissed the side of his dick, it sprang to life. "Hah, that's speed."

"I'm keyed up," Greg replied still smiling. He wanted to reach and touch something but Will had said not to so he flexed his hands.

"Tell me what you want." And then, Will would do it and if Greg changed his mind it wouldn't really be in his hands anymore. "I want to hear it."

"I..I want you to do the stuff we've tried before," Greg said. "Where you get to do what I know you love doing, which is enjoy my body, and I get to float around helpless to the sensation. I want you to...uh, tease me and me not be able to stop you."

Will slid his thumb over Greg's hipbone, looking up at him along the line of his body. No 'are you sure', just a slow nod. "All right. Hands up over your head."

That would be better than behind him. He liked that position. "Consider me assuming the position," he replied half lidding his eyes with arousal.

It felt good when Will crawled up over him, naked now and close, a comfortable presence while he reached for the leather cuffs for Greg's wrists. No metal, but maybe again someday.

Leather was nice against his skin and he had fond memories of these particular cuffs. They had bought them together. "That feels good," he said. Alan had counseled that they remain verbal with each other through any experiments so the other could judge how it was going.

Maybe sometime later they could be quiet and not have to be quiet so in the moment, but. Will rubbed his hand over the leather, pressing against Greg's wrists firmly. "Secure? Pull at them, I want to make sure you're not going anywhere."

He pulled a little. "All secure...I'm staying right here." He liked that feel of a hand and the pressure and he was looking right up at Will and liking the more playful expression he could see there. He was right, this was good for him too.

Will liked to give, liked when sex was a two way street, when he could just enjoy Greg, and it wasn't like it was altruistic of Greg because wow, sex was great. Kissing, the slow lingering of Will's hands down his arm, felt good.

"It's a good thing I'm not really ticklish," Greg murmured. He really wanted to kiss Will right about now, to taste him. It was languorous and his reactions were smooth and slow.

And if he wanted to move, he really couldn't. He could just pull and squirm and dig his heels in and lift his hips when Will leaned in to kiss him, slow and lazy.

"mm, you are enjoying this right?" he felt he had to ask even as he squirmed a little. "'cos this is great. I missed this."

"Oh, I'm enjoying this. You're all mine. Just mine, safe here, and I can do anything I want and I know you'll ask for more." That was the danger and delight of it, and Will took his time tweaking a nipple in demonstration.

"Oh god.." Tingles and a slight sharpness as the tissue contracted in response trying to go bullet hard. He hadn't thought of that...this was a way of keeping him safe. With Will it did all feel protective. "I'll beg if it helps. I like feeling safe here...I know if you've got me no one else can."

"Yes." Yes, and Will liked that, loved that, needed that. Leaned into Greg and repeated the gesture before reaching up for some of the other things Greg had brought out. A mini vibe, not for really inserting anywhere, just. For feeling. "All mine."

He pushed up against Will slowly, feeling him skin to skin. This was great, all warmth and fun and comfort. A little of his tension seeped away as he did so. "I like being all yours.." he said as seductively as he could manage.

"What will make you believe that you're mine only?" Will leaned on an elbow, tracing the vibe around Greg's left nipple -- still turned off.

"What you are doing now," Greg replied. Will was a tease especially now he was sensitive there. Before he might have encouraged him to do something more intense and challenging but not right yet. "All of this and then you inside me at the end of it."

He really wanted that, a great deal.

"I plan to drive you crazy with wanting, first." A flick, and the vibe turned on to a low, dull buzz.

Even expecting it he jumped as it touched his sensitive skin. "I'm already crazy," he replied, his mouth going dry as he watched Will's peculiarly intense expression as he concentrated on him.

Staring at his chest, watching and then pulling the vibe away to lick a line around his nipple before blowing on it. "The good kind of crazy."

It prickled cool and his eyes were an amazing blue when he did that. Greg found himself just grinning. He had missed this, Will being like this, more himself than ever and all his natural intensity focused on him. "Well that's okay then."

He slide a hand down Greg's stomach, deliberately tickling. "Oh, I think so. See, and you have no recourse. I can just do this all day, if I want to. I really like your nipples."

He pulled a little at the restraints wanting to laugh a little at the feeling. "I don't know if I could stand it all day. I'd need to practice."

"Tantric sex is probably a lot more effort than its worth," Will mused, leaning down to kiss between his pectorals again. He didn't even remark on the scars, though he kissed along them.

"Spoilsport. Mind you I don't think you get to tie me up in tantric sex do you?" Greg asked. Oh, that was an interesting sensation.

"Tantric bondage? No, doesn't sound appealing. Too much twisting around." This was lazier, and Will scooted down, dragging the vibrator down Greg's body, too

"Hey, where are you going with that?" Greg asked, smiling a little. As if he didn't know, although he could only anticipate the details.

"Mmm, feeling my way along." He dipped his tongue into the well of Greg's belly button, lingering for a moment.

It made him want to wriggle for some reason. "Argh, Will!" Lower down would be a better spot, definitely.

Just a little lower. His dick was already pressed up against Will's chest, and Will was just ignoring it. Just pretending it wasn't there, kissing off to the side of Greg's belly button, taking his time sliding fingers over Greg's hip.

Maybe he really was planning to take all day. Greg wasn't sure he could do that so he had to try and get Will to up the pace a little. "Ooh that makes me twitch inside. Like you do when I do that thing with my tongue on the end of your cock that makes your eyes roll back in your head," he said hoping to get him more aroused and eager.

The more Will wanted, the faster he'd move, though it was hard to guess how fast fast was going to be. "My eyes really roll back in my head?" He shifted down a little and finally wrapped a hand around Greg's dick.

"Ye...yeah," he gasped and that was better, that warm solid grip. "Completely. You go fluttery as well when I suck that one vein hard."

Will exhaled in a huff. "You're trying to make me hurry up. And you're the one in the cuffs." He leaned in, licked the tip of Greg's cockhead with slow deliberation.

"Am I so obvious?" Greg said grinning and then strained to push himself up into Will's mouth.

It'd teach Will to cuff his legs down next time, too. Will exhaled, blowing over the line he'd just licked. "Yes."

"Well in that case, please, please can I have more?" he asked hopefully even as he shivered.

"How much more? Tell me how badly you want this." He licked again, slow, but Greg couldn't help the groan he gave when he felt the tip of Will's tongue squirm against the hole.

"More than I thought was possible," Greg replied truthfully as he drew in breath. "Oh god, I love watching you do this, the look on your face and the feelings...I'd missed those. This feels...more like fun."

"Sex should be fun. It is fun, with you." He teased at the underside of Greg's dick with his tongue, smirking and watching Greg's face. "So, if I took you in to the base, right now..."

"I'd never believe it possible," Greg clenched his muscles trying not to thrust up.

Will tsk'd, and shifted a little, positioning himself and finally, finally, he closed his lips over Greg's dick, and started to work his way down with intent.

It felt fantastic, completely fantastic. Greg made an incoherent noise and wallowed in the heat and warmth of it all. "Oh god, Will..oh..." He was doing it, completely all the way down.

Hadn't really expected it, but Will wasn't one for exaggerating and he was swallowing around Greg, closing his eyes and *swallowing* before he pulled back, pressing his tongue against the underside.

"Holy..." Greg nearly swallowed his tongue. "Fuck..." The rippling sensation was almost too much. "That's incredible!"

Will gave a humming noise of consent, and that made it better and worse. Greg just let his head fall back, breathing through the urge to thrust up hard.

He was instinctively trying to wrap his legs around Will and he could so easily just let go and come especially at that humming sensation. He had to make it last.

He wanted to do better than one and done, but there was a chance it wasn't going to happen that way. Will pulled back entirely, and breathed against spit slick skin. "Mmm. You still taste great."

"I'm not going to last with you doing that," he announced breathlessly. "That was nearly too much."

"Maybe I should make you come before you're ready," Will half-threatened. "If you're already that close."

"No, no..." Greg shook his head. "I'll try and hold it, promise." He really wanted to have Will in him before he came. It felt so damn good.

Orgasming was good -- orgasming with Will in him was better, and Will gave the head of his cock one last lick before he leaned back, sitting up and reaching for the lube. "If you come before I want you to, you might regret it."

"I bet I will," Greg said taking the moment to calm his heart and have a word with his over eager cock. "I'll hold on for you." It pleased him to try and do that for him. It wasn't always successful but it was like a gift he could give Will when he managed it.

An unexpected gift, a lot of the times. Will opened the lube, and squeezed out a dollop onto his fingers, rubbing it with his thumb to warm it. "How ready are you?"

"On a scale of one to ten? about...7." He gave an honest appraisal. He could take more stimulation but if he didn't try to hold back he could come any time.

Will laughed, and moved Greg's legs, splaying them wide for himself. "Gorgeous view. I think you need stretching."

"You're probably right." This was okay, this he could see what was happening and who was doing it. That was fine and Will was right he did need preparation.

It had been a while. A while and a lot of frottage. Will nudging in close, sliding a hand between his legs, behind his balls and then back further, a teasing press against his asshole, felt good.

It was almost like it was a first time again. "You think you can regrow your ass cherry?" Greg asked wanting him to be in that position where he was fucking him, but he could kiss him while he was doing it.

He liked it, even if it did feel a little like being cracked in half. "Maybe. I'm pretty sure it doesn't exist, so that makes it more likely to regrow, right?" Just one finger, sliding in nice and slow.

"Oh yeah..." He felt like he should be purring at the warm flush he could feel spreading over his body. "You can take it all over again."

"Mine," Will agreed, sliding that finger back and forth, curling it a little and working him slowly. Then he'd do another finger, and then maybe Greg could talk him into going for it.

"You know, I have done this before," he felt he had to mention as Will was taking it very slowly.

"Mmm, but I like the feel of you. Soft and tight and hot around my finger..." He pulled back, though, and that seemed to be enough to get Will to slick himself up.

"I can tell I'm going to have to work on my endurance," Greg commented watching every motion. It was going to be okay, he could do this. It didn't feel out of control.

It felt lazy, calm, and Greg could close his eyes, giving in to it. Well, maybe not close his eyes for long, because it was better to watch Will positioning himself.

He was torn between doing both, because there was something amazing about concentrating on the feel, but something even more enticing about watching Will's face as he started to push into him.

Watching and feeling, and being sure it was Will, knowing it was Will while he started to lean in, pressing the head of his dick slowly into Greg's asshole.

He pulled at his restraints and tugged almost absently as he pushed back against him. "Fuck...that's good."

"You're so tight, Greg. So tight, and hot, and look at you. Stretched out for me and waiting for it..." He gave a little thrust, jarring Greg gently.

"Oh..shit, yeah, " he was definitely wanting it. Just the impression of a little force was enough to make his mouth dry. He tried to shift his legs so Will could push in deeper. "The look on your face.."

Will laughed, leaning into him a little harder, leaving him folded up a little. "Oh, god. So good, yes..." He pulled back, thrust forward a little deeper.

Oh that was good. It hit all the right spots inside of him and he tried to lean up to kiss him at the same time when Will hit the deep end of his thrust.

Will leaned down, closed the space for Greg, and kissed him hard. He rocked his hips a little, still kissing Greg, taking his time.

It was bliss for him, something just right in it, enough to make him moan into the kisses and just feel. It felt safe and rather than claustrophobic, it felt protective to have Will covering him like that, skin to skin.

Will pulled back a little, and thrust harder, grinning at Greg. "You feel amazing."

"You have no idea how good you feel either," he said in between getting his breath back. "I wanted this so much."

Will kept rocking steadily into him, leaning forward and sliding his hands up along the length of Greg's body.

That was feeling fantastic; Will having full access to him, buried deep inside him, stretching him out, hitting the good spots with deliberate care. This was what he wanted back, he needed to have back from him. Just the two of them enjoying each other.

Will smiling at him with a warm glint in his eyes while he found Greg's prostate and started to pound it. "How's that feel?"

"Fucking fantastic," Greg managed. "Just keep going..."

"I'm going to fuck you until you come, just from that." Just from the pounding of dick against his prostate.

"Hell, yeah." Greg was down with that for a plan. He sometimes found it hard to come without direct contact to his cock but that would be all to the good. Burst of pleasure, stretching out, Will letting go, yeah.

Long and slow and he'd definitely hang on until Greg was begging for it. He wasn't, not yet, but after a few more hard thrusts he might be ready for it. Will grinned, sliding a hand over his ribs playfully.

"More Will, please," he moaned still trying to kiss him, taste him as he thrust into him. He squirmed as he felt a little ticklish but that just served to stimulate Will.

He could see it in Will's eyes when he gave another thrust, groaning this time. "Oh yes. Yes, you're perfect just like that."

He ached with the need to come but just lacking that little bit to push him over the edge and he reached for it every time there was a rush of sensation. He was maddeningly close to the edge but as if he couldn't quite let go. "Harder! I can't...I need to..."

Almost. Almost but not quite, so he didn't expect it when Will leaned forward and pinched a nipple, tightly, with his next thrust.

He inhaled sharply and it drove him crazy. "Again," he begged, everything feeling good now. A few more of those and he would be okay.

"My pleasure." He thrust, paired to the pinch again, and again, fast succession.

It was enough eventually, enough to carry him over the edge as he gasped and moaned and eventually came in response to that overload of stimulation, clenching hard around Will as he did so.

He lost track of what Will was doing, but he was thrusting and slowing and god, god that felt good, especially when Will leaned down over him and kissed him again, hard, slow.

He felt loose and languid and with a peculiar sense of triumph. He had managed it without freaking out, without a psychotic episode or a breakdown. This was Will, his Will and everything was fantastic.

His Will, kissing him and reaching up to release the cuffs, pulling out of him. The closeness, body to body, didn't fade.

He was going to be all right.

And looking up at Will, and the almost amazed expression he had as if he couldn't believe this was happening to him either he knew that this was more than a more intimate than recommended Patron and Protégé contract like it had been with Douglas. He wasn't some sort of indentured servant, he wasn't a whipping boy to take punishments for someone else; Will wanted to actually teach him, encourage him, protect him and he wanted to do that right back. If it took taking what Lecter had done, and dealing with Douglas to get Will, he'd pay that price again and again.

He wanted, no, he deserved that kind of life, and so did Will.

It was up to them to make sure they got it.