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Title: Man Behind 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 "Color Within the Lines."
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 shook his head as though to clear it as he walked slowly from the Federal Building where he'd spent the last part of the day out to his car in the parking lot. He felt wilted; it had been a particularly hard day, and he'd been working on a case that he wanted to see the last of.

That wouldn't happen until they caught this killer -- and this was a vicious one. Four headless corpses so far; a mix of men and women, as well as different ages. There didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to the killings; they were just horribly violent expressions of anger.

He hated seeing things like that, but it was his job.

There was no way he could get away from it. He had to slip oh that mask of impassiveness, and pretend that getting into this killer's mind didn't get to him.

But the truth was, it always got to him. Sometimes that mask was hard to wear; there were times when he wanted nothing more than to strip off that mask and toss it aside, to let the people he worked with see just how horrified he was by what he saw.

Sometimes, he was even horrified by what he himself did, even though he knew that it helped to catch the killers who committed these grisly murders. He hated knowing that he was looked at as some kind of freak, as a person who stood beyond the pale.

No one really knew him -- or wanted to know him. They didn't care about whoever the man behind the mask might be; it was easier for them to see him as the freak of nature, as the person who could be brought out and used to further their investigation, and then put away again.

He made people uncomfortable. He'd always known that. Hell, sometimes he made himself more than a little uncomfortable with his uncanny ability.

But the people he worked with didn't have to live with that discomfort. He did.

No one really cared about the man who existed behind the mask. They might say they did; they might even reach out a comforting hand to him once in a while. But they didn't really want to know him; they wanted to keep him at a safe distance from their lives.

Will supposed he couldn't blame them; he wasn't an easy person to know. He'd learned from a very young age that it was always easier to close himself off than to let people in, and as he'd grown older, he'd learned how to adjust that outward mask accordingly.

Now, he was so good at being the man behind the mask, at keeping everyone around him at arm's length, that it was second nature to do so. He didn't even blink when someone new came into his orbit; they were filed away automatically into a neutral gray area.

Hannibal was the only person who had ever managed to look behind that mask for more than a few seconds -- and he was the only person who had ever wanted to continue looking. For that alone, Will felt drawn to him, more than he'd ever been to anyone.

And because of Hannibal's willingness to remove the mask and see what lay beneath it, Will was willing to let him look, to see all of the imperfections clearly written there.

No one else had ever cared enough to look. No one else had ever dared to see.

But Hannibal was different. Hannibal had not only cared enough to see behind the mask, but he had made Will feel as though those imperfections were perhaps not so bad after all, that they didn't mark him as someone who would never fit in with society.

Hannibal made him feel as though he was just as worthy as everyone else, not as though he was something that shouldn't be brought to light, something that should be used and then hidden, only showing itself when it was needed, and then crawling back behind the mask again.

His life had changed so much since he had met the man who was now his lover; and after last night, his life felt as though it had completely turned a corner, leaving everything he'd known before far behind. He wasn't a man alone any more. He had someone in his life.

Even if that someone did sometimes make him feel as though he was being carefully watched and kept in a cage, studied as though he was some kind of ....specimen.

No, Hannibal didn't see him in that light, Will told himself firmly. If that was all his lover thought of him, then they wouldn't be lovers. He would simply be a patient, someone who Hannibal talked to, someone whose mask he kept unsuccessfully trying to pull aside.

Hannibal actually cared about the man behind the mask.

He hadn't said that in so many words, of course, but Will had thought more than once that he'd seen a flash of something in Hannibal's eyes, something that revealed what his true thoughts were. And Hannibal wouldn't have been so gentle with him last night if he didn't care.

Just thinking about last night made Will's heartbeat quicken -- and his body harden. He squirmed slightly as he pulled the seat belt across his chest and fastened it, then started the car. Amazing how just thinking about Hannibal and what had happened last night could arouse him ....

No one else had ever had that kind of power over him. No one else had ever made him want them with this kind of aching need, a desire that he couldn't control.

Hannibal wore a mask, too. He knew that. He'd known that from the first time they had met; there had been a shuttered look to Hannibal's face, and he'd kept his tone carefully modulated, avoiding making eye contract with Will. At first, Will had thought he was hiding something.

Now, he didn't believe that any more. He simply felt that Hannibal was more like him than he'd thought, a man who had a hard time fitting in with society and all that was expected of him. Hannibal hid who he really was, as if he, too, was afraid that someone would get too close.

Will was sure that Hannibal, like him, was a very lonely man.

He wanted to assuage that loneliness for both of them. It might not be the easiest thing he'd ever attempted, but he wanted to build a life with Hannibal. He couldn't help but feel that the two of them belonged together, that fate had somehow brought them to each other.

One day, they would both be able to rip off those protective masks they wore, and stand before each other with all of their failings and shortcomings exposed. And they wold both be able to accept each other for who they were -- and love each other the more for those failings.

He was sure that their relationship would only grow stronger with time. Once they knew each other better and grew closer, all of those masks would fall away, and be gone forever.

Will wanted to strip all of those masks away, to let Hannibal see him exactly as he was -- and he wanted to see Hannibal in that way, too. It might take a while, but they would get there. Every day would be a new step towards that point in time.

Whatever was hidden behind that mask, he wanted to see it fully, in all of its glory.