a fish out of water [fic]

An incomplete “accidental sex” prompt-fill ficlet…

Last year there was an accidental sex prompt challenge making its rounds on Tumblr. I silently picked a prompt unbeknownst to my friends and got to work. The problem was that I also made it a fix-it for Fromage, the scene where Will rushes to Hannibal’s office to see him all dewy-eyed and concerned. It was supposed to fix the scene so Will actually dabbed Hannibal’s bloody face with the gauze sitting on the desk like it said in the script.

I failed.

No matter.

Try as I might, I couldn’t get our canon, season-one boys to get down and dirty. I just couldn’t. It’s not in their personalities yet. They hadn’t betrayed each other. Will hadn’t been assaulted by Hannibal yet. Hannibal hadn’t come to terms with his emotions yet. There was no sailing to Italy. No heart on swords. No tragic “It’s beautiful” or the fall.

So I didn’t share on Tumblr because there was no accidental sex. I didn’t share on AO3 because it’s a pointless scene that I never finished. But here on my personal blog, I don’t mind sharing since I am all alone over here.

So here’s what I did for prompt #22:

I showed you insert sexual thing here as a joke but you’re actually turned on sex

Rated: T
Leda and the Swan is totally inconsequential, but it’s pretty 
and has far more to do with sex than this failed fic.

“You are – and I mean this quite literally – the only person who doesn’t think I’m a laughing stock.” Will gave up on his forkful of salmon, lowering his hands to the table as the day’s embarrassing festivities replayed in his mind like an unforgivable set piece.

He’d been called to work – nothing exciting. The world goes on after traumatic events despite our fatigue, worry, or willingness to acknowledge the passing of time.

When he’d arrived at the morgue that morning, he found it decked with brightly colored rubber gloves and congratulatory banners hastily printed on the office laser. Before the door had latched behind him, a neon orange party hat had been snapped around his head.

“I heard,” said Hannibal, a smug grin refusing to leave his face. He took a bite of a scallop. “You’re free to blame me; it was partially my idea.”

“I intended to blame you, and they told me,” he replied, now rubbing his aching temples.

“You have to understand, Will, they want to be your friends. Friends celebrate important events together. No one was singling you out. To think that might be considered narcissistic.”

Narcissistic? No. Narcissistic would have been him handing out pre-approved gift lists to everyone he knew because no one could possibly know him like he does. Narcissistic would be reminding everyone for months, weeks, days before the blessed event, who was about to be celebrated and why.

Will had been singled out because of his distaste for social events. He’d been made a fool for the fun of others; he knew it. If coming to that conclusion was considered narcissistic, then Hannibal was free to call him the conceited son of Cephissus.

“It was an anti-birthday, Hannibal. They called it my You’re Still Kickin’ party and held it in the morgue. The morbidity of that aside, I didn’t go to Alana’s birthday bash, or that fifteen-year thing for Jack. Why would I assume anyone would throw me a party? If any of them were actually friendly with me, they’d know parties and I don’t mix.”

“Your friends wanted to celebrate your life. I, personally, don’t think enough people do that.”

“What exactly did you say to egg them on?”

“My exact words were: Would you all show a little appreciation for the man. He survived something traumatic.”

Will’s shoulders slumped. “You should have said nothing because I don’t need to be coddled by these people. And the last thing you should be doing is planning parties. You’re recovering from an attack and just witnessed two men die less than a week ago. You should be resting, reflecting–”

“Were you not attacked, as well? Did you not witness two men’s death? Somehow you’ve managed to be back in the field.”

“My wounds are superficial and those two officers died in the line of duty. A murderer violated your office. He violated a safe space for you. He killed one of your patients in front of you – a man you were trying to help. He attacked you. He stabbed you. He shattered your sense of security. Your wounds have to go far deeper than mine.”

Hannibal filled their wine glasses, appearing to consider Will’s comments. “I wouldn’t say my security was shattered.”

“Cracked then.”

He agreed with a nod. “Did you at least enjoy your cake?”

Will took a sip of wine. “The cake was the only part I appreciated. Thank you. German chocolate’s my favorite.”

“It was made with only the finest, hand-selected Germans, Will – just for you.” His grin was damn near assaulting. “I’m sorry I had to miss the festivities, though. A nice meal with friends is the best remedy after something as exciting as a psysical assault.”

“You didn’t miss much.” Will was all too aware of the unpredictable nature of duty calling. “How did it turn out? Was he alright? Everything under control?”

Hannibal had been detained that morning when an off-duty police officer snapped inside an Unpainted Huffhines furniture outlet in downtown Baltimore. The officer had been the first on the scene to Will’s grisly attack at Chordophone – a man who had been traumatized by finding his dead colleagues littering the music shop. Hannibal had been temporarily summoned to talk some sense into him before more lives were lost.

“The smell of raw, unfinished wood was apparently very triggering to this individual,” said Hannibal. “He’d relived the trauma of tripping over the bodies of his friends, became overwhelmed, and started brandishing his gun. His wife and daughter, as well as the manager of the store, were unharmed, thankfully … for the most part.”

Will dabbed his lips, then returned his napkin to his lap. “For the most part?”

“The officer and his wife were picking out his daughter’s new big girl bed. She’d declared herself no longer afraid of the dark apparently – a milestone for a child. Something tells me after her father’s violent outburst, that she just gained a new and very visceral fear of something far scarier than the dark.”

Will set down his fork. “Her father’s lack of stability?”

“The questioning of faith and the loss of control are the monsters under everyone’s bed, Will. And now she’s wary of them, too.”

Will’s gaze dropped to his plate as he pushed around the periwinkles that had suddenly lost their appeal.

“But he seemed to respond well to my suggestions. He even agreed to have a few sessions with me. I’ll dig around a little – see what I find.”

“Well–,” Will mustered a smile and attempted another bite, “he’s in good hands then.”

With that, their attention returned to their dinner: wild Alaskan salmon on a bed of something green which, when arranged with little shellfish and gelatinized balls of lemon juice, made a luscious and picturesque underwater scene. Will was impressed, though he had no idea how to acknowledge the amount of work and attention to detail was required for such a remarkable work of art, so he remained quiet, allowing his occasional hums and gentle nods to express his gratitude for their delicious and private anti-birthday celebration.

“I’m glad you’re enjoying dinner,” said Hannibal, refilling his own wine glass. “My fish always seems to be well received.”

A memory suddenly smacked Will in the face, and he set down his fork. “Fish …,” he groaned. “Too many people know about my hobbies now. It’s embarrassing.”

“Embarrassing?” Hannibal cocked his head.

“You didn’t happen to make this dish because of something Price said, did you?”

“No. Why?”

“Doromania,” he sighed, “our collective obsession with giving gifts to each other. It’s out of hand. I received several unwarrented gifts from my caring, charming, wonderfully supportive new friends this morning … The same friends who were so excited to not see me in a body bag.”

“Is this about the cufflinks? I tried to tell Alana–“

“No. The cufflinks were benign – useless and impractical – but benign. The rest of my haul wasn’t so mundane. In addition to those delightful schooner cufflinks which will never grace my wrists, I received a costume quality sailor cap from Zellar – very practical. From Bev, a new fishing vest – arguably the most useful object I received; and–” He stopped, leaning back in his chair. “Let me just go get it. It’s the cruelest of all the jokes.” 

Hannibal would certainly appreciate Will’s embarrassment if the object was presented in all of it glory, so he hurried to his car, returning a moment later with a small black box.

He dropped back into his seat. “They are funny, guys, Hannibal. So funny, funny, funny,” he said, shaking the box. “Little, loony, lonely Willy Graham.” He tossed the box across the table. “This is what my dear friends thought I needed most of all. In fact, Price has about two hundred photos of me opening the box and holding it up.”

Hannibal, obviously curious as to Will’s overly dramatic issues with the innocuous box, slowly removed the lid. Inside, on a bed of crumpled black tissue paper was a chubby teal silicone fish, complete with textured scales and a tiny smiling face.

“That,” snapped Will, pointing at the fish, “epitomizes my relationship with them – a pain in my ass.” 

Hannibal tipped the box, letting the five-inch rubber fish roll into his palm.

“That,” continued Will, now tutting at the fish, “is what they think of me. Thankfully, I’m still alive so I can continue to be the butt of all their jo–” He stopped and cradled his eyes. “That’s not what I meant …”

Hannibal’s withheld amusement bubbled into his eyes. They were practically welling.

“Laugh it up, Hannibal,” he snapped. “Let it all out.”

“Will, it’s in jest. They play. They joke. You can’t assume this has ill intent.”

“I will assume ill intent and a blatant need to embarrass me. I had no idea what it was! And believe me, they got a good goddamn chuckle when I smelled it.”

The laughter was imminent, Will could see it. He watched Hannibal press the back of his wrist against his lips, stifling a snicker. 

This was ridiculous. Hannibal was supposed to defend him. “Friends don’t buy friends sex toys,” snapped Will. “It’s weird. It’s gross. If anything, it’s projecting. You’re a doctor. Say it’s projecting.”

“If you want me to say it, I will,” laughed Hannibal, “but knowing Mr. Price, I’m sure this was merely his way of getting you to open up.”

Will’s mouth dropped open. This was unconscionable. They were all against him. Now his own doctor was cracking jokes at his expense. “Oh, you want me to open up?” he sneered. “It’s not bad enough that Jack is doing everything in his power to push me toward my own demise, and you wanting me to get in touch with my feelings, now I have to deal with Price wanting me to poke things where the sun don’t shine!” Will huffed and crossed his arms. “I hope you’re all aware that this is akin to sexual harassment.”

“You have to prove persistent inappropriate conduct to call it sexual harassment, Will; this was an isolated, though obviously inappropriate joke that got out of hand. I’m sure he now understands that you don’t appreciate his humor.”

“You’re goddamn right I don’t appreciate it. Would you want a gift like this? Would you want all your friends gathered around to laugh at you like you’re some sort of ignorant prude or a gullible virgin? No. You wouldn’t.” 

Hannibal enjoyed another bite of salmon and leaned back in his chair. “I agree that it’s in poor taste. And I will concur that the morgue was an inappropriate place for a gift exchange.”

“Not just a gift exchange – a foisting of unwanted sexual devices.”

“At least it’s fish-shaped.”

That wasn’t funny. “I catch fish – I eat fish,” he said, shoving a fork-full in his mouth. “See? I don’t shove them–” He dropped the fork again and rubbed his eyes. “I don’t shove them up my ass …”

“Is that a moral standing or just personal preference?”

Will glared.

“I wasn’t making light of this by claiming Mr. Price wants to see you open up. You surround yourself with unscalable walls. Something traumatic happened to everyone: we almost lost you. I think your friends are simply relived, and that relief presents in curious ways.”

“Buy suggesting I violate myself?”

“They’re happy you’re alive and are celebrating by joking and playing with you. They’re relieving stress.”

“They relieve their own stress by foisting it on me?”

“Unwrapping an inappropriate toy in a morgue seems rather inconsequential when you compare it to unwrapping your friend.”

Will huffed and adjusted his glasses.

“They see you as something unique, Will, as they should. You are beyond them and that makes them uncomfortable. Your skills in the field are unprecedented. They can barely talk to you. Sexuality is an inherently human quality – an intimate human connection we share with each other. By seeing you as a sexual being rather than an unknowable clairvoyant, they level the playing field. They get to imagine you as a human like them.”

“I’m not a god,” he snapped. “I breathe – I eat – I shit like a human but in private. Sex is not part of my public life.”

“I’m sorry you felt like this was a personal attack. I guarantee it was a peaceful gesture.”

Will angrily ate another bite of food, unwilling to drop it. “So you’re saying that knowing I’m being forced to go home with that,” he said, waving at the little teal fish now sitting erect by Hannibal’s wine glass, “somehow magically makes me more approachable?”

“More relatable, too; why not?”

“Relatable?” he scoffed. “You act as though everyone enjoys a collection of fish-themed sexual aids. I highly doubt that’s the case.”

“The thematic element aside, sexual aids are quite commonplace – perhaps they aren’t given to us by coworkers over the body of a deceased serial killer – but I wouldn’t be so quick to scoff at Mr. Price’s gift. The offering of pleasure isn’t cruel, Will. It’s actually quite benevolent.”

“Ah yes, Mr. Price was so very generous with his unsolicited and tasteless gift.” Will sipped his wine, now far too bitter for his taste. How could his own psychiatrist be defending this behavior?

“But, here’s a question: do you know what’s inherently neither unsolicited nor tasteless?”

When Will opted to swish the wine in his mouth and glare from over his glass instead of answering him, Hannibal continued.


Will spit into his glass.

The wine, he surmised, was suddenly flushing his cheeks.

“No, I, uh … I suppose that can’t be unsolicited.”

“You’re talented in the ways of compassion, Will. You empathize with everyone. Do you empathize with yourself?”

“No,” he said, swirling his wine to disperse the bubbles of spit. “I don’t empathize with myself. I’m much to busy for that.”

“The rest of us empathize with you. We see you exhausted, angry, and so tightly wound you can barely keep your emotions in check. You forgot your place and snapped at Jack recently for no reason. You can’t control yourself – you can’t relax. We watch you grit your teeth, unable to make eye contact with your colleagues. It makes us all wonder if you’re taking care of yourself.”

“Well, you can all stop wondering. You shouldn’t be thinking of me in those terms anyway. It’s unprofessional.”

Hannibal snickered and leaned on the table. “We worry if you eat, Will – if you drink too much. We worry if you’re sleeping, bathing, getting adequate exercise. I, probably more than anyone, worry about your mental health. I wonder if you think of yourself in negative terms. I wonder if you stop and congratulate yourself on a closed case or just bury yourself in the next one. I wonder if you allow time for hobbies, if you allow yourself to daydream, play games, solve puzzles beyond the inescapable havoc of your day job. What I wonder, Will, is if you find yourself worthy of respect, adoration, compassion, or love, and that inevitably includes self-love.”

This was supposed to be a congratulatory dinner, not a session. Hannibal survived a scuffle. Will survived a scuffle. It was supposed to be an opportunity for him to enjoy a nice fish fry and a cold beer – though the fish wasn’t fried, and the beer was a clean and crisp Montrachet. What this wasn’t supposed to be was an opportunity to feel ashamed of himself. He had felt plenty of that in the morgue that morning when Jimmy had to explain his gift to him as though Will was a ten-year-old boy.

“Can I ask you a intimate question?” asked Hannibal. “You don’t have to answer.”

“I have a sneaking suspicion as to where this is going … go ahead anyway.”

“How often do you masturbate?”

“As often as necessary.”

“Only out of necessity? Never for pleasure?”

“As a distraction mainly.”

“What about for shits and giggles?”

Will grinned and scratched his scruffy neck. “Not typically, no. I’m not a shits and giggles kind of guy.”

“Something tells me Jimmy is a shits and giggles kind of guy, Will. You should probably take a page from his book – might learn something about yourself.”

Will laughed as he shook his head. “And what exactly would I learn from Jimmy’s book?”

“That you enjoy catching fish with more than just your rod and reel.”

Will groaned and nervously flicked the edge of his glass before snapping back the rest of his wine. “With my net, so to speak?”

“With your fishing hole.” 

Will laughed, but it was mostly nerves getting the best of him.

If Will was grateful for anything, it was that they were alone through all of this nonsense. His morning may have been embarrassing, but at least he could claim to be the hapless victim. In Hannibal’s home, he had nothing to hide behind but a fork. 

However, the predicament he now found himself in could have easily been prevented if he’d left that piscatorial plaything in his car. He wasn’t a hapless victim in here. His ineptitude and poor judgment were his own worst enemies. He’d brought this upon himself.

There had to be a way for Will to worm himself out of the conversation. “The page from Jimmy’s book is blank,” he said, “no instructions. It’s just a crudely drawn pictograph of a stick man with an arrow aimed between his legs.”

“That’s the gist,” Hannibal chuckled, rocking the teal fish across the table like a metronome. “No shame, no guilt, no stigma – just pleasure and self-satisfaction. What could be better?”

“Not being here for one thing. Not being in this particular chair at this particular table talking about this particular topic would be far superior to me.”

“I think Mr. Price gave you more than a novelty toy. He gave you an opportunity to test your own personal limits.”

“I’m fine with my limits. Have been for quite some time.”

“Let me ask you this then: how do you flex your skill set?”

Will bristled at the implication. “Flex my what?”

“How does one become better at empathizing?”

Empathy had never felt difficult to master. It was simply a fact of Will’s existence. He was therefor he felt – no training needed. But then again, to hone one’s skills there were a few tricks you could employ. “Engaging with others works well. Thought exercises. Reading. Writing. Talking to people outside your personal bubble. Stepping out of your comfort– No.”

“You talk to victims. You talk to murderers. You read, you study, you immerse yourself in evidence and science and psychology, but ultimately you are at the mercy of your own experiences, correct?”

“Did Jimmy put you up to this? Why are you so invested in this now?” Will suddenly craned his neck, checking all four corners of the dining room. “Are there hidden cameras in here?” He stood and rushed to the fireplace, eyeing the painting over the mantel. “Maybe a pinhole camera in that swan’s eye? You know for a fact, no one dare’s to make eye contact with it. It would be the perfect hiding spot.”

Hannibal’s amusement rolled from his chest like thunder. “I’m invested in you, Will. I’d hate to see you fall apart at the seams just because you’re afraid of being labeled a deviant.”

“Uh, no. I’m not afraid of that. And also, not playing with myself will not cause me to fall apart at the seams.” He meandered back to his seat.

“There really is no other explanation, unless you’re just too embarrassed to admit you have no idea what to do with it.” That unsightly little fish wagged in front of Will’s face as Hannibal grinned. 

“You are very rude, Dr. Lecter.”

“Not as rude as Jimmy, but I do understand his desire to watch you squirm. It’s somehow incredibly satisfying to watch your empathy cycles, especially when you trip, and I don’t mean that condescendingly.”

“Empathy cycles?”

“Your cycles of intrigue, confusion, reckoning, and climax before you’re suddenly intrigued again. I’m not trying to be offensive, but it’s child-like – not illogical, but certainly fun to witness.”

His eyes narrowed. “Explain.”

“Take for example you seeing a pink sphere on the ground. It doesn’t belong there. What do you do?”

“I weigh what I know about pink spheres with what I see, what I’ve heard, and what I assume.”

“In your confusion, you lay out all possible explanations like roads fanning from your feet, right? The well-beaten path is the one you walk first – maybe it’s a child’s ball – but you know the road most traveled is not traveled by everyone, so what do you do?”

“If I’m certain it’s not a ball, I’ll hop between trails and reassess. I missed something about the sphere. A new line of thought and reasoning will take me to my conclusion, but I have to weigh every option.”

“Each time you hop a path, you reassess reality through your personal experience and your own intuition – the sphere is the size of a hazelnut –another path. It’s textured – another path. You reconsider all of your options until you reckon you’ve figured it out. You narrow down your conclusion to a single path and there, at the very end you find your climax – the resolution – your explanation for what brought that pink sphere to the ground before you.”

“It’s chewing gum.”

“Your denouement would be filing away your journey to that conclusion so you can more easily find your way back to it next time. Small, round, textured wad on the ground equals chewing gum. Single, educated, aloof man with a love of music and a penchant for narcissistic behavior equals Tobias Budge, a musical murder. Then suddenly, whether you want to or not, your brain is intrigued by something new – a little black box – and the cycle begins again. No time for social engagement, conversation, corporeal pleasure – there are roads to explore, and your mind intend to master them all.” 

Will picked at the wilted green leaves still decorating his plate. He’d never thought about how his empathic technique might appear to others; it all felt automatic to him. He would close his eyes and walk the paths of killers in his head. Hannibal’s assessment of him was teetering a little too close to psychoanalyzation.

“What’s most intriguing to watch,” continued Hannibal, “is what happens when you encounter something wildly out of your level of expertise. All paths are over-grown, confusing, disorienting. You have no clear road to travel so you guess and suddenly trip.”

“So what you’re saying is that my fall is entertaining?”

“Like watching Buster Keaton take a dive.”

Will laughed and leaned back. “You know, the trick to Buster Keaton’s legendary stunts was that there were no tricks. The man was battered black and blue by his falls. The film probably helped hide that fact.”

“No one has ever claimed that your empathy doesn’t hurt, Will. In fact, we all admit that it does.”

“You know what else hurts? Shoving things up your ass.”

Hannibal chuckled and emptied the rest of the Montrachet into Will empty glass. “If it hurts, you’re doing it wrong.”

“Is this a hazing ritual? Because it feels very much like a game they used to play at my old college. What was it called? Oh yeah, Trick the Freshman into Sodomizing Himself.” 

“Are any of my efforts working?”

“No, they aren’t.” He laughed to himself and leaned on the table. “And why are you trying so hard?”

“Honestly, I don’t know.” He smiled, then relaxed in his seat, his eyes wandering out the patio doors to his darkened backyard. “Maybe it’s morbid curiosity. Maybe my age or my concern for you.” His gaze wandered back inside and met Will’s. “Something happened the night I was attacked, and I’ve spent the last few days coming to terms with it.”

“What was it?”

“I felt an uncontrollable panic.”

“You had a panic attack. That’s not surprising. You just have to remember that the monsters under the bed aren’t real – of course, in your case, they kind of came after you … That’s a bad example.”

“It wasn’t an irrational panic attack. I was panic-stricken when I was under the impression you’d been shot. But you being killed in the line of duty is a reality that everyone with a badge has to grapple with – you aren’t a special case.”

“Well, I’d like to think of us as amicable, Hannibal, even if we have a professional relationship, I’m still a client – a colleague – a friend of yours. I don’t think its that farfetched or unrealistic for you to have been concerned with my wellbeing. I was overwhelmed when Jack called to tell me what happened to you. I had no idea what I was walking into when I got to your office. I was just as shaken as you.”

“You hid it well.”

“I wanted to vomit, but the paramedics hadn’t left yet, and I didn’t want them rushing to my aid with Pedialyte. Talk about embarrassing.”

Hannibal smiled. “You have an iron stomach, Will.”

Will snickered.

“Speaking of, how are you enjoying your birthday dinner?”

“It’s wonderful. Damn near makes up for this morning, but, honestly, I shouldn’t have put this burden on you. You really need to be resting and not entertaining the likes of me.”

“I feel most supported by my friends when I’m useful to them. You needed dinner. I needed company and here you are. You are doing me as much of a favor by being here, as I am by feeding you.”

Will smiled and they both raised their glasses with a clink.

“Fair enough,” said Will. “Then consider me at our beck and call this evening. If you need your leg re-bandaged, a barrel of ibuprofen, someone to run to the liquor store, consider me your man.”

“I may take you up on that.”

“I hope you do.”

I never got to the part where Hannibal is actually turned on by Will’s “joke.” And they never had accidental any sex …

Oh well.

If I do a part two and you want to be notified, leave a comment and I’ll reply if I post it.