Characters: Mainly Hannibal Lecter, with some Claire Matthews and many mentions of Joe Carroll.
Summary: Crossover AU. She was his one link to his faraway friend.
Author's Note: This was just supposed to be an exercise. I sincerely hope it isn't completely awful.
The doctor checked his watch again, squinting down at the little hands as they ticked their way across the device’s flat face. If he had had another watch to check, or if he hadn’t known his wasn’t perfectly timed, he would’ve checked again. But his was perfectly timed and a verification wouldn’t make the time any different.
She was late.
He stared at his watch, waiting for the second hand to move from its momentary perch on the left of the ‘12’ to the right of it. It moved and then it was official—she was indeed late.
She was late and he was not a man who permitted tardiness in his professional sphere. Humans, each and every one one, had such little time on this earth—why waste the bit that was left?
He had expected someone like her—someone who had been through all that she’d been through—he’d expected her to appreciate the value of time. She’d had so little of it left for so long and she hadn’t even known it and yet it was clear she hadn’t learned. Why hadn’t she learned?
The doctor had accepted this appointment hoping that she would be able to provide some insight into his faraway friend, but if she never showed up to her appointment, what good was she? What use?
He had been looking forward to this morning ever since she’d called up two weeks ago. On the phone, she’d been nervous and only half-committed to the idea of seeing a psychiatrist, but by the end of the call they’d set up and appointment and he, frankly, had been sorry that he could not fit her in sooner. He’d briefly toyed with the idea of shuffling around his other patients—maybe dropping some of them altogether—but that would be strange and abnormal, and if there were two things the good doctor was not, it was strange and abnormal.
His faraway friend, however… Well, he was another matter entirely.
One that the doctor had hoped to gain some more understanding of this morning, but, it seemed, their go-between was not going to cooperate.
He did the math briefly in his head, not having to look at his watch again to know that she was now five minutes late.
His mind played with all sorts of scenarios, all the ways he could get her to start talking and keep her talking, and while he knew those methods would have fast results, their execution was complicated and tiring and messy. He preferred this—sitting in his office, conversing, probing—doing his job. It was neater, quieter. It kept his suits clean, at the very least.
If she proved to be as uncooperative during their appointment as she was arriving to it, however, he might just have to resort to those other methods. At least he would get his answers.
He got up from his chair, and walked over to his desk. He awakened his computer from its hibernation with one click of the mouse, and then quickly accessed the Internet. The name of his faraway friend appeared immediately in the browser’s suggestion box after he typed the first letter, and it made him smile. The doctor knew he should erase his computer’s history, do away with the instant suggestions, but it always pleased him to see his fellow’s name pop up so quickly. It made it seem, to the doctor, like he wasn’t so far away. It made the doctor feel like he knew him, just a little bit.
The doctor’s eyes flickered over the top results, moving past all that he’d already read. The page was filled with news articles—some recent, most dated a few months ago following the arrest—and videos. His hand hesitated over the mouse, keeping his cursor hovering over one of those recordings.
He wanted to watch it but he knew he couldn’t. What if she walked in while he was in the middle of it, and the first thing she heard was his voice? It would scare her away; he knew that for certain, and he couldn’t have that. Not when he was closer than he’d ever been to his friend…
He moved the cursor away from the video, appeasing himself with perusing the pictures in the sidebars instead. They were, for the most part, silent and unmoving recreations of what he could’ve found in the videos, but that made them no less valuable, or enjoyable.
He progressed through the pictures slowly, saving his favorites for last, as he did everything. While his new client’s tardiness did irk him, he truly was, at his core, nothing but a patient man. It would have been impossible for him to survive this long if he hadn’t been.
He clicked his tongue, thinking of his faraway friend. He was impatient, that one. Or at least his hunger was.
The doctor supposed he couldn’t blame the man for that, however. Every man’s hunger got the better of him at times. It’s how he cleaned up the table afterwards that really mattered. And he’d done a good job, the doctor’s friend had. It wasn’t his fault an uninvited guest had shown up just as the final course was being served.
The doctor wished he’d been there to advise his friend on what to do with such rude interlopers. Sometimes it took more than just one hit, even one as nicely placed as his friend had managed.
The doctor was clicking through, faster and faster now, and he had nearly arrived at a favorite portrait of his—Victim #5, or, Rose Wyland, as the press referred to her corpse—when the door to his office opened. He clicked the browser shut immediately, and a cold, unsatisfied feeling fell down into his stomach like a great weight. He’d been so close…
He had little time to dwell on it, however, for she was already talking, making her way across the room as if he’d invited her to do so.
“I’m so sorry I’m late. I don’t know if you know this, but I have a son; he’s just a baby still, and he’s been so fussy this past week that it’s been hard to leave him. I would’ve just gone, though, and left him with his nanny, but she was late today and there was no one else—”
“Fine.” The doctor held up a hand, silencing her with his abrupt tone. He did not want to hear any of her excuses, no matter how valid they may or may not be. She had been late and now she had interrupted him—right when he hadn’t needed to be interrupted—and he thought of what his friend did with intruders and for a moment it calmed him. For a longer moment, he wished he could do the same.
But he couldn’t, in part because she wasn’t his to do away with and, in greater part, because he needed her. If he could not speak directly with his faraway friend, she must be the next best thing. She had to be. She was all he had.
And he had just offended her—he could see it on her face. Her mouth was hanging slightly open in shock, and her eyes, they were filled with hurt, stirring with anger. He looked at them—into them, through them—and saw all that she hid from those too stupid or slow or uninterested to perceive the truth.
He knew he would have to rectify this first impression immediately or forever suffer the consequences. She was his one link to his faraway friend. He could not let their connection break before it had even been forged.
“It’s fine,” he told her, softening his voice and turning up his lips ever so slightly. Doing so brought a little warmth to what he knew some suspected to be a gaunt, cold face. He didn’t want to show too much warmth—just a little bit, just enough to mollify her—and there, she was smiling too. Smiling back.
He could tell already that this one would need to be coddled a bit—most of them did, after all—and he resigned himself quietly to the extra work with the attitude of a man who had taken a lifetime’s worth of highs with their lows. He knew it would all be worth it in the end. The information he would gain along the way was all that really mattered.
“In the future, however,” he advised her, walking past her to close the door she’d left open, “I must ask that you to arrive a few minutes prior to the time of your appointment.” He walked back to face her, pulling the right corner of his mouth a little further back than the left, and lowering his voice slightly as if sharing a mildly amusing secret, “We don’t want to shortchange you, now, nor run into others’ designated time slots.”
“Of course.” She smiled again, a little nervous still, the doctor could see, but he didn’t mind, nor did he try to put her at ease. It was normal, he knew, for a patient to experience some anxiety during their first visit. “I’m sorry,” she repeated.
“No apology necessary,” he replied, circling back to her side so he could lead her properly into the room. He inhaled through his nose as he passed by her, and her scent confirmed the truth of what he’d already known hadn’t only been an excuse. He wondered how long her little son had been suffering with that diaper rash. She’d used so much talcum powder that the smell of it hovered around her like a cloud of perfume.
“Will you sit?” He held out a hand towards the two chairs in the center of the room, and he watched as she took one, setting her bag down protectively in her lap.
He sat opposite her, and remained quiet for a minute, knowing from her earlier outburst that it wouldn’t take long for her to speak.
She smiled nervously, her eyes flickering between her feet and his face as she spoke. “Well, I’m sure you know why I’m here. Everyone knows why I’m here.”
The doctor raised his eyebrows. “Everyone knows you’re here?” he wondered. He couldn’t help but be pleased with the idea—maybe this meeting might catch his friend’s attention.
But she shook her head. “I didn’t mean it like that,” she told him. “I just…” She sighed tiredly, looking away. “Everyone knows, you know?” She shrugged sheepishly, her sad eyes returning to his. “I bet there’s nothing left that I could tell you that you haven’t already learned from the press.”
He smiled politely. “Quite the contrary, in fact.”
“Oh?” She laughed quietly, but it wasn’t a happy sound. He watched as she set her purse aside and settled back into her chair. “Somehow I doubt that.”
The doctor paused, rubbing the tips of his fingers against the armrest of his chair as he decided on the best course of action here. There were many forks in the road ahead, and he wasn’t yet sure which would yield the best results. A quarter of a minute passed before he’d made up his mind.
“Maybe I know everything about you already and maybe I don’t,” he told her. When he stared at her, she stared back without blinking, and he knew it was a promising sign. “But let’s hold off on that for now. Just tell me what you want to tell me; tell me what you need to get off your chest.”
“We’d need more than an hour for that,” she warned him mildly.
“I can arrange that,” he replied honestly, already envisioning it. “I may need to meet with my other patients, but it wouldn’t take more than a couple minutes to set them aside.” He withheld the truth that he’d be happy doing it. More than one of his clients had begun to grate on his nerves. It would be nice to start fresh.
She shook her head, however. “No. I only have an hour before I have to be back home. And I wouldn’t want your other clients to lose their designated time slots.” She held his eye as she spoke, a small smile hinting on the edges of her lips. She had caught him out and they both knew it.
He blinked at her response, quietly impressed. He hadn’t expected his faraway friend to have this spirited of a wife. In truth, he hadn’t expected him to have a wife at all—even less a son. But he had the both, and probably many more secrets, and it seemed the doctor only had more to learn. That disgruntled weight in his stomach from earlier disappeared, and excitement took its place at once. He had always enjoyed learning new things, especially things he could understand and apply himself to so readily.
“Well, then, we should get right down to it, I suppose.” He turned his lips up in what he well knew was a warm, yet still professional smile, to brush away her jab. “Enough small talk, hm? Shall we begin?”
“With what?” she asked back automatically. He knew she was hoping to knock him off balance and he welcomed the attempt. It was so easy—almost too easy, unfortunately—to turn it around on her.
“Why not your husband?”
She blinked, and the confidence she’d garnered from their earlier exchange drained from her face like blood from a corpse. She looked away, rolling her lips together and chewing on the bottom one to compose herself. Finally, she returned her attention to him. “Don’t you want to talk about me?” she asked. “I’m your patient. Aren’t you interested in me?” Even though her tone had hints of defiance laced through it, it still reminded him of a petulant child’s, desperate for the attention she so sorely did not deserve.
“I’m interested in why you’re here,” the doctor answered smoothly, brushing away her complaints as deftly as he’d made them appear. He gestured towards her with a spread hand. “And I am assuming that your reason for being here lies not with who you are, but with who he is.”
His reasoning was sound, and they both knew it. He could see it in the way her face relaxed as she processed what he was telling her—she believed him. Trusted him. He was glad she wasn’t hard to convince. He hadn’t expected her to be, not after all he’d read about her ignorance of her husband’s crimes, but still… There was something disappointing about gaining her implicit trust so easily. It was like winning a match through forfeit and not genuine prowess; the victory felt hollow.
He wondered if his friend had felt the same, during all those years he’d spent with her. Hollow.
The thought made the doctor unhappy for a moment, but the phantom feeling was quickly replaced upon the realization that at least his friend did not have to wallow in the shadows any longer. He was free to be his true self now. The doctor could not say the same for himself, but then again, he wasn’t sure he even wanted to be able to.
He leaned forward, clasping his hands together in front of him as he met her eyes. He forwent the politeness of posing his want as a question this time. It was an unnecessary and misleading pleasantry; it was beneath him, and too good for her. There was no point in offering her the ability to refuse something he would make sure that, in the end, she fully accepted. Through one method or another.
“Tell me about Joe Carroll.”
I apologize profusely, and into eternity, if I ruined the amazingly layered Dr. Lecter. I tried my best; who knows if it was enough.
Any and all reviews/comments are welcome. Thank you so much for reading.