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Title: Lifting the Mask
By: angstytimelord
Pairing: Hannibal Lecter/Will Graham
Fandom: Hannibal
Rating: PG-13
Table: writers_choice
Prompt: #64, Masks
Author's Note: Sequel to "Lead in the Dance."
Disclaimer: This is entirely a product of my own imagination, and I make no profit from it. I do not own the lovely Hannibal Lecter or Will Graham, unfortunately, just borrowing them for a while. Please do not sue.


Will raised his eyebrows, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, his fingers steepled beneath his chin in the same position that Hannibal so often took.

"If I don't wear the glasses, then it's easier for people to look me in the eyes," he said, keeping his voice steady and measured. "It's said that eyes are the windows to the soul, and my soul isn't somewhere that I want a lot of people to have free rein in."

Hannibal nodded slowly, leaning back and exhaling.

"I can understand that, Will," he said, his own voice soft and almost persuasive. "But you have to realise that hiding behind those glasses won't protect you."

"Are you so sure that I want to protect myself from others?" Will drawled, deliberately keeping his tone light. "Maybe I want to protect the rest of the world from seeing into my soul. After all, with everything I see on a daily basis, there's a lot of darkness there."

Hannibal nodded again, his brows lifting in question this time. "You could be right about that, Will. You've seen a great deal of the ugliness in the world."

"And I wear a mask to protect the rest of the world from it," he said, almost feeling triumphant. :I don't want other people to become .... tainted by what they might be able to see in me if they were to look into the eyes that have seen all those things."

"You don't really believe that, do you?" Hannibal asked, tilting his head to one side. "That people could be somehow tainted by looking into your eyes?"

Of course he didn't. The very idea was absurd.

But he wasn't going to tell Hannibal that. He wanted to keep this up, to see just how far Hannibal would to try and reach behind the mask that Will wore.

That mask wasn't slipping, not if Will could help it; it was going to stay firmly in place, and neither Hannibal nor anyone else would be able to see behind it. He didn't want anyone seeing into his soul; that much had been the absolute truth.

But not because of the things he'd seen. Not because he was worried about others being tainted. Because he didn't want anyone to see what resided there.

He didn't want anyone to see how lonely he was.

Yes, Hannibal had told the truth when he'd said that Will saw a lot of the ugliness in the world on a daily basis. That was a given.

But that wasn't something that other people needed to be protected from. People ate that shit up, Will told himself. They loved to be shocked, and to be repulsed. They would probably welcome the chance to see into his mind, to be repelled by the things he had to look at.

He didn't want people to see into the core of him because he didn't want them to see behind his mask, the mask that made him seem like everyone else.

He didn't want anyone to see the ferocious loneliness that he kept hidden there, the ache to have someone in his life who was more than a casual friend.

If that loneliness was revealed, then he would be vulnerable. And he would probably be expected to be more social, to be around people to assuage that loneliness. He couldn't do that. It was a paradox, wasn't it? he thought, holding back a rueful smile.

He wanted someone in his life, but he didn't want to socialize to try and find that person. He wanted them to drop into his lap like manna from heaven.

And that definitely wasn't going to happen.

No one was just going to appear magically in his life. At least, not the kind of person he wanted to have in his life, someone who would understand him.

No, he'd have to look for a person like that -- and he didn't think he'd ever be able to find them. Any person who became involved with him would have to be someone very special, and Will wasn't sure that he would recognize them if he did happen to run across them.

They'd have to be able to see behind the mask he wore, and that would be practically impossible. Maybe he wouldn't even be able to remove it.

Maybe he would hide behind that mask forever.

It was hard to let anyone get behind that mask; he hadn't done so in years. Maybe he never would; it never seemed like the right time to start.

A part of him actually wanted to let Hannibal see behind that mask, to let it slip away, a little at a time, until it had completely fallen and this man saw him for all that he was, saw into his soul. But something told him that it wasn't a good idea.

After all, he could sense that Hannibal wore a mask, too. And something deep inside told him that he didn't want to see behind it.

He couldn't help feeling that if Hannibal's mask fell away, he wouldn't like what he saw there. And that if he let himself get too close to this man, let himself see Hannibal with a clear vision, that he would be repulsed by all that he would discover.

So he didn't try to get behind that mask, and he kept his own firmly in place. But there were times when he knew it slipped, even though he tried to hold it firm.

There were times when Hannibal did get a glimpse into his soul.

Will tried to keep his mask in place, but there were times when Hannibal managed to lift it -- and Will was afraid that it was happening more and more often lately.

He didn't want that mask lifted. He didn't want anyone seeing inside his soul. Especially not Hannibal, who had an uncanny way of knowing what he was thinking, and seemed to have no qualms about voicing those thoughts in these sessions.

It was disconcerting to know that someone could read him so easily when his mask wasn't firmly in place. And he didn't want it happening often, if at all.

So he kept the glasses on, and kept the mask in place as best he could.

As those dark eyes assessed him again, Will found himself wishing that he could make doubly sure his mask was in place, and keep it from slipping. But he had a disconcerting feeling that Hannibal was already looking behind that mask, seeing much more than Will wanted him to view.

But he couldn't get behind Hannibal's mask at all.