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Il Faut Souffrir Pour Être Beau

By The Clever Magpie

Romance / Thriller

Prologue

“Cream.”

“Yellow.”

“Cream is a calming neutral.”

“You want a neutral? Then pick white. I’m not having cream, it’s sickly. I want yellow. Like lily pollen.”

“White is clinical. I am sure I have enough of white at work.”

“Well then, yellow should give you a break.”

To see his husband smile, even when tinged with resignation, always gave Will Graham a subtle feeling of triumph. Hands on his hips, he surveyed the empty room beforef him, pale blue carpet needing replaced, one large, bright window without curtains; it was a wonderfully blank slate he couldn’t wait to fill. Hannibal Lecter, half way out of his light summer jacket, seemed to pause thoughtfully. Will watched the play of minute emotions on his face, irritation, affection, acceptance. Will smiled and ducked his head to laugh.

“I dislike arguing with you,” Hannibal said eventually, jacket draped elegantly over his left arm.

“Because you always lose?”

“That may be the case.”

“Hey, you’re the one who proposed. You’ve got no one to blame but yourself.”

“Then I must remember to thank myself later,” Hannibal slipped his free arm around Will’s waist, drawing him near enough to kiss.

He tasted of bitter coffee with a hint of caramel; hospital cafeteria cappuccino. He knew Hannibal hated them, but couldn’t get through the day without at least one. Will decided to turn the innocent kiss into something deeper. His rabid hormones were driving him crazy but he found it easier to obey them than fight against them. Hannibal, thankfully, appeared to be unable to resist the temptation to indulge him. The other arm lifted up to join the first, linked across the small of his back to pull Will close. A sudden intensity blazed across the backs of his eyelids, hot and fresh and debauched. Will moaned, breaking the kiss and pushing his face into the crook of Hannibal’s neck. He inhaled deeply, savouring the heady scent of musk.

He could feel the pounding of a heart against his chest and knew it was not his own. For a rare moment, Will allowed himself to be content. When he pulled back and turned to face the room once more, Hannibal slid behind him, wrapping his arms around Will’s middle to place his hands protectively over his abdomen. As if to hold the budding life there dearly. Will closed his eyes and unconsciously leaned back against his sturdy weight, fingers finding the others and stroking gently over them in a rhythmic fashion.

“So. Yellow.”

A puff of incredulous but amused breath ghosted by his ear, “You are tenacious.”

“I prefer practical. And anyway, it’s gender neutral. We won’t have to worry about stereotyping.”

“I believe she will like yellow.”

“You’re still convinced it’s a girl?” Will shook his head gently.

“I am. You have not made up your mind?”

“I want it to be a surprise.”

“How unlike you.”

“Well, there’s a first time for everything. At least this surprise will be good either way,” Will half turned in the embrace, “God, you just got home and look at me, dragging you up here. Hungry?”

“Mmm, but it can wait.”

“I’ll get you something. You cook lousy on an empty stomach.”

“I believe that was an insult,” Hannibal said as Will disentangled himself and made for the stairs.

“Yeah, but lousy for you is still a hundred times better than anyone else, so take it as a backhanded compliment.”

Hannibal’s laugh followed him down the stairs and into the kitchen. The evening was stretching on, throwing a bright, golden western glow onto the walls and shadows into the corners. Will turned on the lights and ran his hand over the granite counter as he passed, savouring the smooth chill against his fingers. In the fridge he decided to be impulsive and began pulling out the things he would have liked: thin proscutto, loosely tied rocket and some delicious dressing Hannibal had concocted the day before. While looking for something else to toss into a sandwich Will’s stomach rumbled.

“Christ, now I’m hungry,” he muttered to himself as he listened to footsteps on the stairs.

“You did not have lunch?” Hannibal asked as he entered the kitchen, undoing his tie with one hand as he hung up his jacket with the other; when Will didn’t answer Hannibal sighed softly, “Must I scold you every day?”

“I was working,” Will shrugged, “I forgot. I’ll have something now, alright?”

“Not particularly.”

“Look, I’ll not make a habit of it, ok?” he said as he grabbed some goats cheese and stood, putting it next to his ingredients on the counter, “I was just focused on writing earlier and then I started thinking about decorating and I got carried away.”

“A little close to the deadline to still be writing,” Hannibal still sounded sore, and Will knew he was simply picking a new, contentious topic rather than continuing to harp on Will’s unhealthy eating habits.

“Actually it’s all finished and sent,” Will raised his hands, palms up, “you know how I hate to work up to the deadline. Anyway, Harris said it’s not even a sure thing it’ll be published.”

“Nonsense,” Hannibal rebuffed Will’s fears, adding “ah, there are golden tomatoes in the bottom drawer,” Will ducked back down to the fridge to fetch them, “they would be fools to decline. It is a seminal work.”

“Sycophant,” Will smirked, pulling a loaf of fresh bread from the breadbin as the phone began to ring.

“Allow me,” Hannibal said, pulling out a bread knife.

The phone in the hall rang shrilly two more times before Will picked up, stubbing his toe on the skirting board in his hurry.

“Ah, dammit,” he couldn’t stop himself from cursing into the receiver.

“Will?”

“Sorry, I...hello?” the line crackled with interference.

“..ill? Is th..”

“Sorry, I can’t make you out. Can you call back? Hello?”

The line rang dead and Will sighed, replacing the receiver and reaching down to rub agitatedly at his toe. The smell of zesty fruit and herbs greeted him as he walked back into the kitchen. Will leaned in the doorway and smiled at the domestic scene before him. He liked to watch Hannibal cook. The man’s hands were dextrous instruments, one minute saving lives in the operating theatre, next preparing some exotic amouse bouche with a critical eye. There was something definitively sensual about how his hands moved, fingers twisting around the tomatoes, holding them pertly as they were slit, the effortless concentration in his keen eyes as he laid the rocket out in neat rows upon perfectly sliced brown bread.

He remembered the first time Hannibal had cooked for him, he had felt embarrassed watching the man slice olives. From awkward beginnings, Will thought with a small laugh. The sound drew Hannibal’s gaze.

“Who was it?” he asked.

“Don’t know,” Will shrugged, “bad line. They cut out. I’m sure they’ll call back if it’s important. Anyway, when you came in you said you had something to tell me?”

“Ah, of course, how remiss of me...” Hannibal was cut off once more by the shrill phone.

“Guess it must be something important after all,” Will said with humour, “give me a minute.”

This time the line was clear, though the echoing quality and the background noise told Will the caller was outside and moving. He prepared himself to be cut off again at any second, “Hello?”

“Will? Is that you?”

“Yes,” Will half recognised the voice but the line was noisy with passing cars and ruffling wind, “who is this?”

“Listen to me, it’s Jack,” the wind died down and Will found himself shocked by the realisation of who was on the other end of the line; he paused, “can you hear me? Will?”

“Yeah, I can hear you,” Will shook himself out of his stupor and couldn’t help but become indignant; Jack Crawford, the man who never let go of the bone once he had it in his jaws. Weeks now he’d been badgering Will to come back to the team, always with a rough edge and terse compromise. Will had made it plain several times that profiling wasn’t part of his life any longer. Worst of all he knew that, before Hannibal, he would have given in, let Jack drag him back into that world. The world that nearly broke him, put him in the asylum for a month, set him up in hospital four times with broken bones and gunshot wounds. Now, at least he felt he had the confidence to refuse.

“Good, ok, look...” Crawford started, sounding agitated and stressed.

“No, Jack, you look. You can’t keep hounding me about this job, alright? I said no and I damn well mean it.”

“That isn’t the point I’m...”

“For god’s sakes just give it a rest!” Will burst, feeling suddenly furious, “Can’t you just let me be, alright? I’m happy, we’re happy. We’re...we’re having a kid, ok? I can’t come back. I just can’t.”

“You’re...” Will realised Crawford had barely finished a sentence since the phone call started.

“Yeah,” Will said, a little calmer, feeling suddenly embarrassed at his outburst, “I’m...yeah. Look, I’m flattered, ok? But this has got to stop.”

“God, you’re...” he thought he heard Crawford say, “I need you to listen to me.”

“I told you Alana Bloom is more capable than me any day if you just a need a perspective on this guy.”

“Jesus, Will, that’s not why I’m calling...”

“Goodbye Jack.”

He hung up with a decisive click, mirroring the sound of someone closing their car door outside. The kitchen was empty when he returned. He followed the well trod path through the opposite door out and down into the dining room, finding Hannibal at the table by the French windows. The room was warm with evening sun and the crimson lilies in the vase on the mantelpiece perfumed the air. Will sat at the place Hannibal had set for him and bit into his sandwich hungrily.

“Not someone you were expecting?”

“You won’t like it,” Will warned, wiping his mouth on the napkin by his plate.

“Jack Crawford is certainly persistent if nothing else,” Hannibal said coolly.

“You heard then,” Will said after swallowing, sitting back and rubbing at his eyes, “I turned him down. Don’t know how many more times I’ll have to but it’s always going to be the same answer.”

“Perhaps I should pay him a visit.”

“I’d rather not have anyone sent to the hospital,” Will said wryly, “and I know your levels are all over the place since I tested positive. Having to deal with my hormones is bad enough, never mind yours. I really don’t think rampaging through Quantico to beat up a department head is such a hot idea.”

“You are always so very...” Hannibal paused, frowning as he looked to the stairs; when he did not speak Will followed his stare and found nothing.

“What is it?”

“Nothing,” Hannibal shook his head, smoothing out his frown as he turned back to Will, “all I am saying is that sometimes men such as Crawford prefer to be told no by their own kind.”

“Oh here we go,” Will said deprecatingly, shaking his head.

“It is a simple fact, I am not demeaning you.”

“So the big bad alpha of the BAU can’t stand the idea of me telling him no? He needs you to do it for me, huh?”

It was an argument as old as their relationship, if not older. Will had taken the same umbrage with his father, always forced to be deferential to his alpha parent in all decisions. A small part of him, which he was never sure if he resented or not, had almost been relieved when his father had died. Will had been left free to follow his own life, to be his own man, not tied down by the trappings of society.

Then he’d met Dr. Hannibal Lecter and the world had tipped one hundred and eighty. He was sure no one was more surprised than he was when Hannibal began obviously courting him. Even his colleagues at Quantico had been bemused. Of course bemused was preferable to outright malice, which was all he had received from Hannibal’s family. He had always known that Hannibal was, to put it bluntly, out of Will’s league. Born to a noble and powerful family of lawyers, politicians and ambassadors, raised and bred to be successful and carry on the family lineage.

And he’d ended up marrying lowly omega Will Graham, who lived in a cottage in the woods and was infamous in his field for being mentally unstable. Infamous for flaunting the rules of society, for striking his own path as a single omega with no intentions of bonding. Even when Hannibal had proposed, Will hadn’t been able to help feeling affronted.

“No husband of mine will be caught dead in corduroy.”

Standing in King’s tailors on Guilford Road as he was measured for a jacket, Will had instinctually snapped out the retort, “Well more fool him for saying yes to you” before he’d realised the significance of Hannibal’s words. After five months of awkward courtship, slowly leaning towards acceptance, bitterly tinged by his inability to supplicate himself before another’s will, he’d begun to think this was never going anywhere. In fact he’d been unsure at the time that he’d even wanted it to go anywhere at all. Then he’d been dragged out to the tailors on Hannibal’s insistence, to be dressed for one of Hannibal’s many gatherings. It had put him in a foul mood.

When Hannibal’s words had finally sunk in he’d been unable to think of anything clever to say.

“I see I have finally stolen your tongue,”Hannibal had said, a subtle quirk to his lips, “although I hope not so much that you cannot say...”

“Yes.”

Even Hannibal had seemed momentarily taken aback by Will’s sudden approval. Will wasn’t even sure where the answer had come from, other than it had been a knee jerk reaction to the idea of being with Hannibal for the rest of his life. He thought he might have remembered the tailor saying his congratulations as they kissed, Will’s arms around Hannibal’s neck and shock swimming in his system. When they finally broke apart Will had remembered where they were and what they were doing with an audience, instinctually hiding his head in the crook of Hannibal’s neck and closing his eyes.

“A tux, Malcolm, once you have his measurements. And a black velvet dinner jacket, puce silk lining and a charcoal whip stitch on the lapels. I feel it will be necessary quite soon.”

“Of course, Doctor Lecter,” the tailor had replied with deference.

It had been the first time since his father’s death that Will had allowed anyone to make a decision for him. Dumfounded as he had been by the situation and the feeling of unexpected, giddy happiness that had accompanied it, Will had decided to let Hannibal have his power trip. Had let the man savour the first and last time he would not be argued with till the bitter end.

Of course being married had changed all that, at least in the eyes of others. Getting pregnant even more so. Now it seemed everyone who knew him had collectively accepted that impertinent Will Graham had finally been put in his place. Now he found his hard won independence was tainted by the appearance of a strong, wealthy alpha in his life. One who, irritatingly, had every right to be in charge.

Will stood up, heading back towards the kitchen. He could hear Hannibal following him but he didn’t stop until he was back upstairs, putting the used chopping board and knives into the sink, jamming on the water to rinse away the tomato seeds.

“I had hoped you would not be difficult about this,” Hannibal said reasonably; it was the tone which always served to put Will’s back up.

“I’m not being difficult, I just want to take care of this myself.”

“Which will only prolong...” again Hannibal paused. Will turned away from the sink, drying his hands, to find Hannibal once more frowning, his head turned as if to listen while his eyes looked to the counter.

“I don’t care how long it takes,” Will said, ignoring Hannibal’s behaviour, “if Jack wants a fight on his hands he’ll damn well get one. I...”

Hannibal held up his hand for silence, making Will bristle.

“Don’t think you can just wave your hand and I’ll shut up,” he bit out.

“I hear something,” Hannibal said, sounding curt and alert.

“What?” Will asked, putting down the dish towel and bread knife on the counter as he walked towards the kitchen door determinedly.

Which was the moment their front door swung open. At first Will hadn’t known exactly how to react, other than to take a faltering step backwards. He bumped into a solid chest and instinctively huddled against Hannibal, feeling absurdly safe as the man wrapped a strong arm around him and hauled him backwards into the kitchen. Will stared in disbelief as a stream of black kitted-out SWAT moved into the house, guns raised, walking almost silently on heavy tread boots. His head swam and he blinked rapidly, recognising the third man in as Jack Crawford, grey coat and gun drawn, eyes alert as he stared into the entry hall.

He heard something being picked up from the counter behind him but couldn’t concentrate as the first officer turned left and saw them, calling out,

“Put the knife down! Put the knife down now!”

Knife? Was all he could think. Knife? The press of something against his neck was secondary to the thought. He felt suddenly constricted as Hannibal hauled him backwards, stumbling away from the sudden swarm of police and FBI converging in their kitchen. Will felt his breathing hitch as he met Jack Crawford’s familiar, steely gaze. He felt as if he were dreaming again.

“You don’t need to do this Dr. Lecter,” Jack was saying.

“Hannibal...” Will managed to say, sounding strange to his own ears; quiet and terrified.

“I am disappointed Jack,” Hannibal said, “I had thought we were on a first name basis. Am I to presume our friendship has come to its end?”

“Wh-what’s going on?” he asked, his voice lost to the clatter of boots on wood.

“We can do whatever you want after you put the knife down and let Will go,” Jack said calmly, underpinned by a harsh worry.

“Then I see we are at an impasse,” Hannibal said, hauling Will back another few lurching steps until they were past the counter, heading towards the dining room stairs; Will shook, his instincts kicking in as he tried to struggle free. Hannibal held him like a vice, the crush of his hand around his right wrist grinding the bone. Will huffed out an aborted cry of pain and stayed still, “he has told you, yes? I heard him tell you.”

“We can talk this through,” Jack pleaded.

“I would keep your distance,” Hannibal retorted, “or it will be the blood of two on your hands, Jack. Could you live with that?”

“Could you?” Jack asked, seeming stricken but appalled.

The knife, he had not seen it but it could be nothing else now but a knife, pressed tighter against his jugular. Will swallowed, feeling his skin catch on the blade. How? How had this happened? Will couldn’t get himself together long enough to begin thinking it through, only able to focus on what was happening right in front of his eyes.

Crawford chasing Hannibal.

Hannibal guilty of something awful enough to merit being chased.

His husband holding a knife to his throat.

To the throat of their child.

“Hannibal,” Will managed to speak loud enough to be heard. Everyone seemed to stop. He felt the man behind him tense, as if he were unable to hide his true feelings from him; he was frantic, caught off guard, though no one could surely understand it but Will. Feel it through the tight bond they had together.

No one could understand but the man who had felt as if he had seen Hannibal from the first day they met, truly known him for what he was, unable to avoid being inevitably drawn in by it.

Now all of that had come crashing to a halt, broken and twisted and nightmarish. Who have you seen, it mocked, who did you truly know? He heard his voice, steady and calm as he spoke, though inside he felt as if he were dangling from the edge of the cliff face, “Hannibal, please. Let us go.”

A heavy silence. The knife moved to the right, he could feel the serrations against his skin, the moisture on the blade. The bread knife he’d rinsed and put on the counter. Time slowed down to the minuscule movement of steel teeth.

When the shot came Will didn’t register the pain until after he had been dragged up from the floor by strong hands, more than one pair. He could hear Crawford on his radio, ‘Hold your fire! Hold your damn fire!’ His shoulder hurt, he thought his shoulder hurt, and he felt heavy. He tried to turn but the hands, belonging to two masked SWAT officers, held him in an iron grip as he was hauled from the house. His legs would not walk. He could smell blood.

As they turned into the lobby, evening light throwing them into long shadows on the polished wooden floor, he caught sight of Hannibal through the doorway. Barely a glimpse of his upper body on the ground, gasping, eyes glazed, a pool of blood widening beneath his prone form. Will felt himself crumple as he was pulled gently over the threshold, his legs giving out.

“Oh god, oh god Hannibal,” he gasped, as if suddenly everything had flashed back into reality. No longer was he caught in the nightmarish bubble of the kitchen. Outside the air was cold against his face and arms, outside there were cars and vans and police and FBI rushing to and fro, outside their neighbours were standing in concerned clusters near the cavalcade of vehicles, peering on as they were held back by local beat cops. Will felt the officers to his sides take the weight of his weakened body, lifting him carefully and carrying him to the waiting EMTs, “wait, please wait” he was trying to say, but it came out as nothing but a gasp.

“Gunshot to the right shoulder, it’s gone straight through,” one of the officers was saying as the EMTs rushed up to meet them, gurney in tow, “think he’s going into shock.”

“We’ll take it from here,” a young, stern faced woman was saying, blonde hair tied tightly back above her green uniform.

“And...” as one of the officers rushed back to help his teammates, the other stayed behind, pulling down his face mask and leaning in, “he’s pregnant, Jerry. Just lost his alpha. It’s gonna be rough.”

“Jesus,” the woman said, hand on her hip as she rubbed at her forehead, “thanks Greg. We’ll take care of him.”

Lost. It was the only word Will could hear as they strapped him into the gurney, his breathing coming shallow and fast. Lost. Oh god, he thought blankly as the world tipped and tipped and he felt the bile in his throat, oh god please no. Everything bumped and moved as the gurney was loaded into the back of the ambulance. The bright evening light, that wonderful golden yellow, was suddenly cut off as the doors slammed shut.

“Stay as still as you can, ok Will? We’re taking you to the hospital,” he felt the lurch as they started to move, “but I need to get some fluids into your system, ok? You’ve lost some blood and you’re going into shock. I’m going to put a needle in your arm,” a sharp pain as she did as she said, “and I need you to keep it straight for me, can you do that?”

Yellow.

“Will?”

It would have been yellow.

“Can you hear me? Jake put your foot down, we’re losing him!”

She would have loved yellow.

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