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What value does Will Graham’s madness have to you? –Bedelia du Maurier, Rôti 


 

The pattern of Alana Bloom’s dress is green and black, a strange mixture of parallel lines and unevenly spaced shapes. It is resonant of a river, or the wind, waves of matter coming off it in wafts and practically overflowing into the room. Dizzying. It makes Will feel nauseous, but somehow he can’t look away, can’t stop his eyes from dragging across the material. It’s the most color he’s seen in months and it is suffocating him.

“Your dogs are doing well,” Alana tells him, pushing a cup of coffee across the table. Reaching for it would make the shackles on his wrists explicitly jingle and clang; he leaves the Styrofoam cup be. He doesn’t respond for a long while and when he does it has nothing to do with the pitiful excuse for small talk that Alana seems to desire.

“Has the judge decided where I’m going next week?”

His innocence may have been proven due to the lucky happenstance of CCTV cameras in the airport, and of the eye witness account of a gas station attendant just away from Hobbs’ cabin that saw Abigail walk by almost an hour before Will came in to purchase gasoline and a bottle of water. Despite the overwhelming forensic evidence, the veracity of Will’s insanity, and his washed-up memory of that day, it had become overwhelmingly apparent that Will Graham was framed for the murder of Abigail Hobbs.

However, that does not eliminate the fact that he broke out of FBI custody and evaded capture for well over twenty-four hours. The judge and Will’s lawyer agreed that he would remain in the asylum for an extra month, then serve his time in other ways for an unresolved amount of time upon release.

Alana’s perfectly manicured fingers cascade across the steel table in a series of clipped beats. She regards Will with level eyes, as if she wants to say something important—at least to her, anyway. During the pause, Will thinks of all the things he’ll say to her if she tries to rekindle something, if she talks about how she still has feelings for him. In his mind, he rehearses all the snide remarks he could make, all the rants about how she betrayed him. He knows he’ll never say any of them, will remain silent in the face of her sentiments, but it’s therapeutic to fill his minds with negative thoughts directed at someone other than himself.

Finally, she straightens up and plucks a folder from her briefcase. She scans her eyes across it once, twice, then opens it and slides it across the table to him, past the untouched coffee.

“I should warn you…It’s a bit of a strange arrangement.”

Will looks for himself. The manila folder is thick, filled with all the details of his case and the judge’s ruling, but what he is looking for has been helpfully placed atop the first page.

“Jack and the judge struck up a deal, so that you can go back to work a month after release. You’ll have to do some community service in addition, but this really seems like it’s best for everyone, Will.”

He wants to slam his cuffed wrists against the table, wants to demand of Alana: I was framed, how is any of this good for me? But he doesn’t. Instead, he skim-reads the page, tries to make sense of it all.

“Dr. Chilton, Jack and Judge Avery had a meeting last week. Chilton suggested that you be placed under constant supervision by an esteemed medical professional, in addition to the typical ankle monitor. One familiar with your case, as sort of an alternative to house arrest.”

The panic rises in his throat before Alana can continue, masked by the bitter tang of bile. He must remind himself to breathe.

“He did recommend himself, but, in the end, Hannibal Lecter’s name came up.” 


 

It takes everything in him to keep from disregarding entirely the monitor on his ankle, Jack standing assiduously beside him, and take off running. Rationally, Will knows the exterior of Hannibal Lecter’s home, the actual look and scope of it, has not changed in the months he’s been locked up. But it seems to be reaching out, as if the walls already are holding him captive. The fear, the panic, makes his pulse thump in his throat.

If Jack notices Will’s discomfort, he doesn’t care. He stands stiffly at attention, characteristic of a high-ranked, self-cognizant FBI agent. Finally, the door opens.

“Agent Crawford,” Hannibal says to Jack by way of greeting. Then, he turns his eyes on Will. They only make contact with Will’s for a split second, but it’s as if all the hells from before come pouring back in. “William. I hope you will forgive me for not meeting you at the hospital. I was quite busy preparing the house for your arrival.”

Will doesn’t reply. With the monitor hanging heavy on his leg and Jack lingering too close beside him, he feels spectacularly like a miscreant child being delivered safely by the police to his parents. Or a runaway dog brought home.

The silence runs on, as he is growing used to, and Hannibal’s eyes never once leave Will. It shifts around the three of them until Jack is so uncomfortable that he blurts out, “Sorry about him.”

Searing hot blood rushes to his cheeks and Will feels even more childlike than before.

“There is no need to apologize for William. His mood is understandable, everything considered. He has been through quite a lot as of late.”

Jack tilts his head, acceding the point a little too easily as Hannibal stands aside to let them enter. Hannibal’s welcome is too warm to be entirely sincere, almost sickly sweet; Will cannot understand how Jack doesn’t see it.

He has a light lunch prepared, apparently, which he offers to Jack—“You are welcome to stay and join us, Jack, although I’m sure you have other matters to attend to”—in such a way that the man feels inclined to refuse.

He does, playing into the doctor’s hands. Mumbles about things to do back at Quantico, the long drive back. Most likely wants to escape the poisonous environment as quickly as possible—Will nearly begs to leave as well. Take me with you.

“Is this all right, Will?” Jack asks quietly. As if Hannibal isn’t standing right there. As if there’s another option. As if Will has a say in the matter. He must realize this, because he moves on to the next question before he can do or say anything to express his discontentment. “Is there anything we can do to make this better for you?”

“I want my dogs,” Will says flatly. He glances in the direction of Hannibal’s tie.

Crawford speaks up before Hannibal can, “Will, Dr. Lecter is already making sacrifices allowing you to be here, taking a leave from his other clients and such. Alana is looking after your dogs and she can bring them by to visit. There’s no reason to cause him further inconvenience.”

“Nonsense, Jack.” Hannibal responds promptly. “If William’s dogs will be helpful in his recuperation process, I see no reason for them not to be brought here.”

His voice makes the hair on the back of Will’s neck stand up. He honestly does miss his dogs and want them with him, but he would be lying if he said demanding they be brought into Hannibal’s home had nothing to do with taking miniscule revenge on the man. Hannibal’s unexpected willingness makes him bristle.

“Right. I’ll speak with Alana and have them brought over later this week,” Jack says. He bends his neck in an awkward goodbye, first to Hannibal, then to Will, who pretends not to notice. Then, he’s out the door.

Too fast, too soon, Hannibal and Will are alone together. It’s almost like old times, Hannibal’s eyes on Will, Will’s on anything but Hannibal. But whereas that was purely uncomfortable, this is so much worse.

The last time they spoke was mostly uneventful—they were not quite alone, after all, keeping company with the various security cameras and Will’s fellow prisoners—save for the terrifying smile Hannibal utilized to supplement the silence. Will’s nightmares have faded away for the most part, but when they do make an appearance, they are almost always filled with that smile, the raven-stag, and Hannibal himself. The doctor encompasses the entirety of his worst dreams and Will is stuck with him.

The last time they were truly alone was in Minnesota, when everything was revealed and Jack shot him down to lay in Garret Jacob Hobbs’ bloodstains on the floor.

I’m as alone as you are, Will had said. It may have been true then, but it hardly is now. For two months, Will was torn from the outside world. Any friendly acquaintances have long abandoned him and he himself burnt the sturdier of bridges, namely with Alana and Jack. Will is irrefutably lonelier now.

“I have already ensured a portion of your possessions be transferred here. They are upstairs, for when you would like to unpack. If there is anything else you would like retrieved from the storage unit, do not hesitate to inform me.”

Hannibal leads the way into the dining room; Will follows, dragging his feet. The lights throughout the house are all off, but the light streaming in through the windows more than suffices.

“Please sit, Will.”

He shifts from foot to foot, glancing between a Japanese painting and a medieval looking vase. “I’m tired. I want to sleep.”

“I am sure you do. I doubt you have successfully acquired a full night’s sleep at any point over the past few months. But you can sleep later, I would much prefer you have a nutritious meal first.”

Nausea wraps around him, smothering him. He tries to speak, to say as much as a simple I can’t but he cannot even get that out. It all falls on dead air.

“I prepared a simple salad and some bruschetta,” Hannibal says gently. “Please sit.”

His heartbeat begins to return to normal as he approaches the table. Sure enough, the meal contains no meat for will to fret over the origin of. He sits and tries to relax. Hannibal serves him first and Will pointedly begins shoveling the food into his mouth before Hannibal even begins serving himself.

“I have a bottle of champagne to celebrate your release, but as you wish to sleep afterward, I think I shall save it for another day.”

Will shrugs. He doesn’t care about the champagne. He doesn’t care about lunch or sleeping, he just needs to get away from Hannibal as quickly as possible.

“But perhaps I can interest you in a glass of whiskey?” For whatever reason, something snaps in Will at that. He gently places his silverware on the plate and turns to glare at Hannibal.

He says, “No,” as firmly as he can. “I don’t want anything from you.”

For less than a second, Hannibal’s overly civil expression shifts. Will isn’t sure what it shifts too, it resembles nothing he has seen on the man before, and it is gone before he can ponder it. But it strikes him suddenly that perhaps he should fear for his life. Hannibal has every reason to want him dead.

He grips the edge of the table with both hands, tightens his hold until his knuckles are white from the force. “I’m here because I have to be. I don’t want to be your friend. I don’t even want to be your patient, as I’m sure you were aware when you accepted Jack’s fucked-up proposition. I’m not—“

I’m not your toy. He cuts off to breathe, to regain his bearings before he says something that he will really regret. Wind him up and watch him go. Instead of continuing, he straightens up and looks Hannibal straight in the face. “Just show me my room.”

Hannibal smiles and, as if he has elected to entirely ignore everything Will has just said, says, “Are you sure that you have had enough to eat, Will?” 


 

Will spends the larger part of the next two days locked in his room. He ventures out every so often to use the bathroom and swipe some food from the kitchen (never meat). In reality, the bedroom and the house serve as a less dirty, more comfortable prison cell. He would frankly prefer the hospital to this. At least in the hospital he need not fear that the serial killer living down the hall from him would choose to make a midnight snack out of him.

On the third day, Hannibal knocks on his door, bringing the news that an officer would be arriving with the dogs over the next half-hour. Will strides past to wait downstairs for them, trying not to look too giddy, but Hannibal stops him.

“Before they arrive, I hope you will recognize the fairness in my request that the dogs remain downstairs.”

Will sees the rule for what it is—an attempt to get Will out of the room to the rest of the house, where Hannibal can see him. But he isn’t exactly in a position to refuse. The higher chance of seeing Hannibal is a price he is willing to pay to be able to see the animals that essentially make up his family on a daily basis.

This feeling does not fade, when the door opens and his eight closest friends come rushing in around him. God, did he miss them.

“Hey, hey,” he says to Winston. He can’t help but smile, despite the knowledge that Hannibal is standing extremely close, watching. He can’t help the laughter that fills his lungs, at the sight of them jumping over one another to get to him. It is the best he has felt in a really long time, by far.

“I purchased some dog food and treats from the store. If they prefer a different brand I would be happy to obtain that instead.”

Will ignores him, opting to toss a ball across Hannibal’s living room instead, to watch them all scamper for it, (hopefully) scratching into the hardwood floors. The officer brings in a stack of blankets and floor mats as well, which Will arranges in a parlor towards the back of the house. Then, he takes the dogs into the backyard and plays with them until the sun sets and longer.

When he finally returns inside, he prides himself in making no effort to clean off the dogs’ paws. There are only so many weapons he possesses, so many ways he can attempt to fight back. Leaving muddy paw prints across Hannibal’s pristine white floors may be feeble, may be juvenile, but it is all he has.


The judge decided Will should wait a month before going back to work, remaining for an indefinite amount of time in Hannibal’s home, depending on what the doctor himself prescribes. Something about not rushing into things, taking it slow. Will honestly doesn’t give a flying fuck. As much as he misses his office, his research, and even his lectures, he is well aware that ‘work’ really implies flitting from crime scene to crime scene at Jack’s request. It’s the only reason he got out so early, after all. Jack wouldn’t have bothered if he would only be teaching.

Still, another part of him looks forward to getting out of this house. He was in prison for what felt like an eternity, then the hospital, and now a new prison. The intense need to stretch his legs is beginning to overcome him. While the house is large and the backyard is vast (although nothing compared to the fields surrounding his own home), claustrophobia is beginning to set in. Interesting, because he never felt it in his cell, a fraction of the size.

Perhaps it’s the silence that’s getting him. In prison, he had the grating sounds of the inmates flinging curse words at one another. In the hospital, he had Chilton attempting to poke around in his head. But Hannibal has always used words sparingly, even when he was meant to be Will’s psychiatrist. While Will does eat meals with Hannibal (more because the food looks fantastically fresh thank anything else), they barely speak during the meal. The doctor explains the contents of the meal and Will doesn’t say a word. The dogs aren’t allowed in the room while they’re eating, so there isn’t even the white noise of them bustling under the table, begging for food scraps.

“Cauliflower steaks with olive relish and goat’s cheese,” Hannibal tells him one night. On his own plate is a small slice of meat, unfound Will’s. “All acquired from a farm in Northern Virginia. And a Chablis accompaniment.”

Through the resounding silence, Will eyes the meat on Hannibal’s plate, until he can’t take it anymore.

“I know you’re the Ripper,” he says, doing his best to keep a foolish accusatory tone from his voice. He has no interest in feigning civility or playing at a dinner party, but he has to break this poisonous silence. “In addition to the Copycat Killer, of course.”

“Oh?” Hannibal says, giving nothing away in his expression. Although, he shouldn’t be surprised, considering Will’s refusal to eat any meat served to him in Hannibal’s home. “What makes you think that?”

“I’ve had a lot of time to myself lately. Lots of time to think.” He takes a long swig, for courage. “It all matches up. The kill cycles and your dinner parties. You used to be a surgeon, so there’s that. You enjoy art, and you’re foreign. You would have been on the list of doctors and associates that Jack sent Miriam Lass to interview.”

Hannibal regards him with complete and utter interest as he goes on. As if he’s proud of himself—or perhaps proud of Will.

“And—“ Will leans forward. “You were a bit too happy about being brought into the investigation.”

“I’m impressed,” Hannibal says. “And all that, without any of the evidence in front of you for reference.”

“Once someone’s in my head, it’s tough to get them out.”

Suddenly, a cold sweat breaks out across his skin. He feels as if he’s said something incredibly wrong, but he can’t quite figure out how. Hannibal, as if aware of his abrupt discomfort, cocks his head slightly, although his smile barely flickers.

He drives onward, trying to ignore the feeling. “More than that, though. You don’t only kill during those cycles. You have other personas, other masks to shield your kills. There’s plenty of unexplained disappearances and unsolved murders—some of them are you. It must kill you to not have them on display for all to see.”

When he finishes, Will realizes that he has forgotten to breathe. Air floods into his lungs, making his eyes water and his cheeks flush. Hannibal simply looks on, swishes his red wine back and forth in his glass, absently smelling it from time to time.

“Which are they?” Will asks breathlessly. He pushes his plate away, though it is still half full. Hannibal quirks an eyebrow at him in question. “What are your other masks?”

He chuckles in response—Will shouldn’t have expected any less. As if Hannibal would simply offer information like that freely. “A man must retain some semblance of privacy, don’t you think?”

But the way he intones the statement, it’s almost a challenge. As if he wants Will to figure it out. Will feels torn between doubling the effort and abandoning it altogether—he isn’t sure which is worse. Either could very well be playing right into the monster’s hands.

He stands, suddenly exhausted beyond belief. His headache has flared up in addition.

“Turning in for the night?” Hannibal asks. Will gives a short nod.

“I think I will do the same.” To Will’s horror, Hannibal follows him up the stairs, uncharacteristically leaving all their dishes upon the table to be dealt with later. His heart beats hard in his chest as he crosses his threshold, glancing nervously over his shoulder to see what Hannibal is doing. The man is standing a bit away from the door, eyes on Will, but he seems to have no intention of entering the room.

“I am very glad you are here, William,” he finally says. The sincerity in his voice makes Will sick.

“Shut up,” he replies, and slams the door. 


 

A few days later, Will finds a stack of academic papers in Hannibal’s personal library. They are unmarked and every single one is about him. Some have titles like The Psychosis Effects of Encephalitis, with his name tucked into the subtitle, if not examples throughout, while others blatantly read The Empathetic Disorder of Will Graham. He knew there were papers written about him, he would be stupid to think otherwise, but he had no idea there were so many. In this pile alone are at least twenty of varying lengths—four written by Frederick Chilton.

He takes the whole stack and brings them outside with him. Hannibal doesn’t generally bother him while he’s with his dogs, and he wants to get through as many of them as possible before speaking with him.

“What were you reading?” Hannibal asks when he comes back in through the slide glass door, hours later. He is preparing dinner, slicing up vegetables and mixing a sort of sauce.

“Your reference archive about me,” Will dully replies. He’s exhausted, feels as if he’s been hit by a freight train. Hannibal raises his eyebrows in question.

“I beg your pardon?”

The resounding thump of the stack of papers dropping on the countertop echoes in Will’s eardrums. “You compiled all the research journals written about me. I found them in your library.”

“Ah, those,” Hannibal says. “What did you think of them?”

There’s no response Will has to give that does not contain at least five phrases that Hannibal would consider unreasonably rude. He sits at the countertop and lays his arms across his chest.

“I admit I have not read any of them yet. Chilton send them over in an effort to… aid me, is the phrasing he used, I believe. They are not exactly written by particularly esteemed members of the field.”

“Chilton included?” Will asks.

Hannibal laughs, as he begins to place the table setting on the counter in front of Will—strange, they don’t normally eat in the kitchen. He doesn’t confirm the point verbally, but gives an inclination of his head that more than suffices. “Should I bother with any of them?”

Will grunts, rubbing his thumbs over his eyelids and down his unshaven face. “I don’t know, Dr. Lecter. Would you agree with the characterization of me as ‘humanity’s sole window into the souls of monstrosities’?”

He can’t help the grin that breaks out across his face at the memory of that paragraph. Chilton did not write that particular paper, but it drew from and quotes the man’s work so much that it may as well have been.

“Another one discussed the various diseases medical professionals should consider giving me to see what effects they would have.”

“Ah, yes. Dr. Sandra Charlesmith’s work, I recall.” He pauses to place a plate of stuffed cannelloni, with a side of salad, in front of Will. “I met her at a gala event a few weeks ago, after the decision had been made for you to return to my care. She was less than subtle in her attempts to convince me to infect you with a few. Terribly unprofessional.”

He shudders. He can’t stop himself. The idea that there’s a psychiatrist out there that wants to inject him with various sorts of bacterium to see what effects it has is disturbing.

Once Hannibal is seated, Will asks, “You really didn’t read any of them?”

“I did not. I would like to believe I have the best gauge of your condition, given our history. In addition, it became very apparent after your confinement at the State Hospital for the Criminally Insane that many of my colleagues intended on projecting their various theories on you, as I am sure you noticed while reading those papers. You are a bit of a blank book, when it comes to your neurosis.”

Will sips his wine. It’s fruity, fruitier than the wines Hannibal usually serves. Not quite a dessert wine, but it’s definitely a step in that direction. “But not for you.”

He knows he shouldn’t, it only even means trouble, but he turns in his seat and meets Hannibal’s eyes.

“Not for me, no.” Sure enough, he regrets it immediately and whips his head back towards his plate.

For a time, silence returns. But this time, it weighs heavier on Will. It makes his fingers clumsy, makes his actions messy until finally Hannibal breaks the silence.

“If you do not mind me asking, Will, why did you not offer my name up?” Hannibal asks. “I have seen the transcripts from your case. You did not even make an attempt.”

The answer falls easily from his tongue; he gives it to himself every day as reminder. “They didn’t believe me when I said I didn’t kill Abigail Hobbs. Why would they believe me if I said you did?”

“Hmm, it was to be expected: they think you insane.”

Will sees the bait even as he wittingly takes it. “And you don’t?”

The smile Hannibal offers doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “Insanity has many implications, William, as I am sure you are aware. While you may fit by way of instability, you are neither unreasonable nor unaccountable for your actions.”

Unbelievable. The only person Will can get to have faith in him is the one person he wants nothing to do with.

“You have no traceable motive,” Will continues, resonant of that day in the Hobbs’ home. “You cover your tracks too well. If I accused you, no one would believe me and I would have been locked up for longer.”

Although, I certainly would not have ended up here.

Hannibal’s smile is too wide, gives too large a hint of teeth. “So you hoped to find the evidence on your own, upon release?”

Will doesn’t answer. He doesn’t need to. It’s so obviously true; he couldn’t rebuff it if he tried.

“In that case, I wish you luck.” And there it is again—that sincere tone, too raw to be sarcasm.

He can’t take it, this dancing around the point. So he gives in and demands, “Why are you acting like you want me to catch you?”

“Hm. I think you have gravely misinterpreted my motives William.”

Spell it out then.” He waves his hand between the two of them and when he speaks again hysterical laughter is at the edge of his voice. “This thing, this game, whatever it is, is exhausting. You keep trying to get me to play, to make my move, like this is chess, but I don’t have a move. You already called checkmate.”

Beside him, Hannibal’s fingers twitch nearer, as if to touch his arm. But in the end, he keeps his hands to himself

“You assume that finding traces of my actions is the equivalent of incriminating me. Another step is necessary.”

Hannibal’s idea that Will would not turn any evidence he unearths straight over to the police is atypically naïve for him. Hopeful. It poses the question of why Hannibal would risk having Will (likely the only person possessing the means to bring him to justice) so near to him—especially when Will has already completed half the puzzle, needs only a few pieces more to see the clarity of the entire image.

“No,” he says flatly. “You can’t trick me into thinking that you have no safety nets in place.”

Hannibal hums. “You underestimate the rush of being seen, I think, William.”

Will shakes his head, he knows what it feels like, he does understand. He’s spent the last two months of his life being accused of horrors he himself cowers from on a daily basis. “But that still isn’t—why would that be important to—?“

He stops, because he remembers vital memories that he had surely forgotten, or perhaps never cared to realize.

The first Copycat murder was the day after Will and Hannibal met, in Jack Crawford’s office. It was the day after Hannibal looked at all the evidence and the day after (he assumes) Jack told Hannibal of Will’s struggles with seeing through the case. The crime scene of Cassie Boyle was, as Will put it to Hannibal, ‘gift-wrapped,’ the exact negative of the Minnesota Shrike murders. In other words, the murder was committed and put on display for Will’s sake—to aid him in his hunt for Garret Jacob Hobbs. The very next day, Hannibal appeared on his doorstep with breakfast in hand (in hindsight, it most likely contained the lungs of the victim) and a string of questions regarding the murder.

The same occurred after each of the other Copycat murders, as well as those of the Chesapeake Ripper’s. Will had not noticed before because the same occurred following the other cases he was in contact with. He unconsciously assumed that his doctor asked for Will’s analysis of the murders he himself committed so as to camouflage them—after all, he would not need a description of his own crimes.

The truth is the opposite. In reality, the other murders were the façade. Hannibal did not care in the least for Will’s various metaphoric descriptions of the Angel-Maker or Eldon Stammets. He was simply choosing to be patient, waiting for Will to explicate every thought and feeling going through his mind at the time of his kills, every tiny inspiration seen and understood and expressed verbally, beautifully on Will’s own tongue.

“I was the only one,” Will says shakily, answering his own question. He realizes, for the first time, the value his ‘gift’ must hold for a man like Hannibal Lecter. A man who hid himself behind mask after mask, depending on the circumstance, from necessity, from self-preservation, rather than true desire to stay hidden. The man is an artist and what artist wishes to remain anonymous forever?

“No one else saw you. Miriam Lass came close, but she only saw the mask, not the inspirations behind it and I—“

He cuts off, realizing that his use of the word ‘inspiration’ mirrors Hannibal’s use of it in the same context—in reference to Will. For a long moment, his tongue is thick and dry in his mouth; he cannot speak.

“When Jack interrupted our discussion by shooting you down, in the Hobbs’ kitchen, you looked up at me,” Hannibal says gently. His voice floats warmly through Will’s ears, as if putting him to sleep. “And you said ‘see.’ Do you recall?”

“Yes.” His voice is still strained, but at least he can talk.

“The look in your eyes—it was as if you were seeing me as something other than myself. What did you see me as?”

Will closes his eyes and sure enough—the nightmare that haunted his dreams for months returns, slides easily into his inner eye as if it never truly left.

Without opening his eyes, he says, “The dark stag, the raven stag. You were a shadow, with—with enormous antlers and no eyes. I had been seeing it for months, just as I saw Garrett Jacob Hobbs, but after you killed Abigail, the thing became you. It stood where you stood…and it had your face.”

He opens his eyes again, but Hannibal is not looking at him. He is gazing pensively across the room, staring at nothing in particular. When he finally turns his eyes back on Will, his eyes are so full of awe, of some sort of dark need, that he has no choice but to look away.

“Thank you, William,” Hannibal says.


 

He has a nightmare that night. Shapeless shadows track his every step and he must be a child, because he feels too small and helpless to be himself. He hides himself behind a tree and tries to stifle his sobbing. But there’s nothing he can do, nowhere he can run, as the shadows are upon him, pulling him from his hiding place, out into the open where they can cut him open and rip out his insides and see all the things that he tries so hard to keep hidden—from the world and from himself. And throughout it all, Hannibal’s voice rings over and over again, asking, “Ever feel abandoned, Will?” 


 

The next morning brings pouring rain and Will cannot pull himself out of bed until well past noon. It’s Saturday, not that that makes any difference, all the days of the week run together anyways. The cool humidity cannot be kept out of the house; it seeps through the windows, through the walls and into Will’s skin even as the tiled floors are chilly beneath his feet. He lets the dogs out but cannot bring himself to follow. Instead, he grabs a blanket from his bedroom and the research papers from where they remain on the kitchen counter and curls up in the window seat. He spends the day like that, skimming over misguided understandings of his psyche and his disease.

At around four, Hannibal strides through the room and says something that Will doesn’t care to listen to. He repeats it and Will only looks up when he hears Jack’s name.

“What?” He asks, a bit dazed.

“Jack has just called. He would like to bring some photographs over for you to examine tomorrow, if you are not opposed.” Hannibal face is blank to the point that Will cannot discern what the man wants him to do. In the end, he lets his apathy decide for him.

“No. I’m going back to work in ten days. He can wait until then.”

“I will pass the message along. Dinner will be at seven, this evening. I am going out for a bit.”

“Fine.” Hannibal is technically not meant to leave the property without an officer of the law stationed in a patrol car outside to ensure Will doesn’t make a break for it. Apparently, he has decided that Will has too much to lose by leaving and nothing worth risking it for—the ankle monitor would, after all, go off as soon as he managed to travel as much as a quarter mile away. Hannibal leaves the room and Will is instantaneously so enthralled in the papers that he doesn’t even hear the front door open as he leaves.

Eventually the sun disappears and the dogs paw at the back door to be let in. Will grabs a towel because he’s feeling strangely culpable and doesn’t want the dogs making a mess of the house. One by one he dries them and off they scamper to nap upon the blankets Will has set up in the back room.

Will is reading again when Hannibal returns and continues to do so as he prepares their dinner. Reading becomes harder—the words and ideas seem to leap all over the pages. He feels anxious, as if on the edge of something new and terrifying. When Hannibal appears in the doorway to announce dinner, he practically jumps in his seat.

“I brought you something,” Hannibal says without preamble once they are seated across from one another in the dining room. The meal is ratatouille with balsamic reduction. A platter of what looks like (but probably isn’t) pork sits in the middle of the table, but Will doesn’t touch it and Hannibal does not offer him any.

From a large shopping bag (Sax Fifth Avenue, written in broad letters on the side), Hannibal withdraws a familiar box.

“My lure supplies,” Will says. He accepts it and raises the lid. A few things are missing, likely from the investigation, but all in all, everything is there.

“I thought a more hands-on activity would be a welcome change from your reading,” Hannibal says in explanation. “I know how you enjoy making your own lures.”

He swallows his instinctive words of gratitude, despite the fact that they would be well deserved. Then again, the missing lures are on account of Hannibal winding strands of his victims’ hair around it. His fingers have been itching for activity lately and this is exactly what he needs.

Why are you doing this? Hannibal has consistently attempted to make Will happy, not even attempting to serve him meat, allowing his dogs to come, stocking the liquor cabinet with Will’s favorites, and now this. None of it makes any sense.

Why do you even want me here?

“Can I ask you something?”

Hannibal smiles and Will knows that he knows. “Anything.”

So he veers away: “What did you say to Hobbs, that day, to make him react the way he did?”

Hannibal’s eyebrow quirks. He is silent for a long while, no doubt evaluating the costs and benefits of truths, untruths, and an answer somewhere in between.

“I simply informed him that those hunting him were coming.”

Will’s grip on his fork shifts until his hand is a fist. If the metal was of lower quality, perhaps his own, the ones tucked away in a storage unit somewhere, perhaps it would bend with the force of it. But it is Hannibal’s silver, and the quality couldn’t be higher; it holds strong.

Will wants to ask, Why? Why would you do something inevitably catastrophic? But he knows the answer already, can see it in the monster’s glinting eyes, peering out at him like a silhouette in a window. The boredom, the need for fulfillment—it’s there even now, as Hannibal watches him as if he’s something to be dissected and examined, inside and out. The man’s every action is no doubt part of an elaborate experiment to be conducted, planned weeks, if not months, in advance.

Will wonders how long it will take for Hannibal to tire of him. To extract every tiny fragment of interest and ultimately discard him like a broken toy.

Winston brushes the leg of his chair, breaking the spell he hadn't realized he was under. He breaks eye contact and rubs his fingers across the dog’s ears before shooing him back out of the dining room.

It’s a fear that he is familiar with, abandonment. He’s experienced it so many times; he can recognize it like a forgotten enemy. First through his mother, then his father, the majority of his comrades from his youth, his colleagues at the police academy in Louisiana. More recently, through Alana Bloom and Jack Crawford (although the later was admittedly less surprising).

When Hannibal framed him, left him to suffer for his own crimes, Will assumed that that too was an instance of desertion. What made that moment more painful than anything was that Will actually allowed himself to trust Hannibal, of all people. He could have placed his faith in anyone, and he chose the man that would single-handedly destroy him.

Hannibal gave him the means to cope—he was Will’s paddle. When he could not discern dreams from reality, Hannibal reminded him who he was. Will depended on him, trusted him and Hannibal betrayed that trust in the worst possible of ways.

Behind all that, though, there is a truth that he keeps down, doesn’t like to acknowledge by even thinking on it, resting now on the surface of his mind as a result of his dream last night. Hannibal indicated to Will more than once that he considered them to be friends, but Will almost thought that they were more than that. It was little more than an inkling of a thought, a consideration among a multitude of others. But Hannibal went undeniably beyond the calls of a doctor (formal or informal), beyond that of a simple friend. He offered to feed Will’s dogs. He tracked Will down at his office when he was late for an appointment. He was one of his only visitors in the hospital following his fever’s flare-up. Perhaps if things did not end the way they did, he and Hannibal would have a real relationship right now. If he is honest, he does not know which he prefers. The thought makes him sick to his stomach.

More than anything, Will fears the possibility of that being the reason Will did not indicate the guilt of Hannibal Lecter, when he had ample opportunity.

He was wrong, of course, regarding Hannibal’s desertion of him. That moment has yet to come, as is made apparent by his willingness to allow Will, a man with every reason to harm and thwart him, to stay in his home.

“Why am I here?” Will asks, finally voicing the question he couldn’t bear to earlier.

Hannibal hums and takes a small bite of roast potato. “Jack called me and asked if I would be willing. He also listed off a few other psychiatrists, including Dr. Chilton, whom they were considering. I admit the thought of you with any of them was incredibly displeasing.”

He wanted to keep me to himself, Will reads between the lines.

“Despite our history, I was undoubtedly the best choice. The imbeciles Jack spoke of could not even begin to comprehend the orders of your mind. Your health would be forfeited for the sake of their various academic papers.”

“You don’t want me healthy,” Will snaps. The disdain Will holds for Hannibal’s colleagues because of an assumed desire to publish articles on Will pales in comparison to that of the man himself. “You want to experiment on me, just like them. You want me to be like you.”

Hannibal sighs, a small sound that encompasses disappointment and patience simultaneously. “As I insinuated to you before, we are already one in the same. My wish for you is not to do with change, as much as expression.

Cultivated them as the inspirations that they are.

Anger rises; he feels his nostrils flare. “I won’t do it,” he hisses. “I’m not a murderer and I never will be.”

Fuck this. He rises, because he’s taken all he can of this without sending a plate flying to shatter into a million pieces against the wall. He needs to get out of this room—out of this house, really.

“Sit, Will,” Hannibal says. He doesn’t look up from his plate until Will has obviously no intention of obeying. “You are being exceptionally rude. I am not finished speaking with you. You can sit, or I can return your pets to the care of Miss Bloom. I am sure she would be more than happy to oblige.”

The threat makes an icy sort of dread fill Will’s stomach. Hannibal has done nothing to force Will into admission, has made no intimidations and no power plays until now. It reminds Will how truly trapped he is.

With fingers tightly clenched, he sinks back down into his chair.

For a long while, there is silence. Taking a long sip of wine, Hannibal empties his glass to match Will’s. The man is angry, fuming really. Contained though it may be, he can recognize it in the burning shine in his eyes, the stillness of his eyebrows, and the tiniest twitch in his parted lips, shaken by ragged breaths made silent. It’s a subtle, controlled sort of anger, directed less toward Will than toward everything but Will.

Hannibal rises to pour himself a new glass of wine. With the decanter in hand, he circles the table and refills Will’s empty glass. He sets the container, nearly empty, atop the table and in one swift motion presses his palm to Will’s cheek. Will jerks barely an inch, means to move farther away, but Hannibal makes a small tzz sound, like what Will uses on his dogs to keep them quiet and it somehow makes him freeze.

The touch shifts, fingertips brushing against Will’s earlobe and thumb tracing the corner of his mouth, until his hand effectively conforms to the contours of Will’s face. It strikes him suddenly how starved for human contact he is, how this is likely the first time a person has touched him for reasons other than to forcefully transport him in months.

As the contact continues indefinitely, Will lets his fingers unfurl to fan out across the expanse of the table. His heartbeat eventually slows, from an uneven staccato to a sluggish adagietto.

“I know you must be angry with me,” Hannibal murmurs. It’s the quietest Will has ever heard the man speak. He cannot bring himself to break the quiet to quip about how that is the understatement of the century. “Even more so because I effectively trapped you here. But you must understand that I had and have your best interests in mind. Remember that we were friends. What happened resultant of my methods before is simply water under the bridge.”

“But it’s not water under the bridge,” Will says. He feels as if he’s swaying slightly, back and forth. “You’re still the Chesapeake Ripper. Abigail is still dead and you still framed me for her murder.”

Forgiveness requires apology and apology requires authenticity in desire to change.

“You still…I still trusted you, and you used me.

With finality, Will shifts away from Hannibal’s touch. The doctor simply allows his arm to drop back to his side.

“I’m going to bed,” Will says. He gives Hannibal a look that dares him to make another threat. The man is mercifully silent, leaning back to let Will pass. But just as he is beginning to escape, the doctor catches hold of one of his wrists. He shifts the grip to slide his fingers around Will’s and lifts their joint hands to his mouth.

For a terrifying second, Will’s mind plays tricks on him and he truly believes Hannibal’s teeth will close around his index finger—but he doesn’t. Just slowly and gently kisses his hand and Will feels heat fill his cheeks, more and more until Hannibal’s hand slackens enough for him to pull away.

“Sleep well, Will.” 


 

Safely locked away in his room (as safe as he can be, trapped in a house with a cannibalistic serial killer that possesses the key to every room), Will finally allows himself to keel over. He kneels, gasping on the floor, until all he can do is collapse beneath his own weight.

Why, why, why? He chants in his head, over and over and over again. He wants Will here, he wants Will beside him, that much is clear, but why?

He did not drink that much wine; his head should not be spinning as it is. His blood should not be rushing as it is.

The light touch of Hannibal’s lips has seared a permanent scar into his hand. Even now, he can feel them there, can feel the faint brush of the man’s exhalation against his fingers.

This can’t go on. They can’t keep dancing between the lines, praying the intended messages will get across. It will be the death of him. Will may have his empathy, Hannibal may have his astuteness, but they are worthless if not exercised.

But what does he even want? He has no clue what he wants out of all of this. He knows what he used to want—freedom. But now freedom just means loneliness and loneliness would surely mean death, or a more terrible equivalent. But fear of loneliness is not reason enough to sacrifice his being. Nothing is, really. But Hannibal said that he doesn’t want to change Will. The words could be lies, but they are as genuine as Will has ever heard from the man.

This isn’t a realization—this is a reexamination of a memory, a thought long gone.

On a whim, Will stands, unlocks his door and opens it just a crack. For a long moment, he listens, looking for any sign against the silence of his room and the pounding of his heart. Sure enough, the distant sound of rushing water and the occasional clang marks Hannibal tidying up in the kitchen. As quietly as possible, he descends the stairs.

He gazes into the kitchen from the doorway, watching the muscles of Hannibal’s back strain as he scrubs at the pans. I can stop, Will tells himself. Hannibal has not noticed his presence yet. I don’t have to do this. He takes half a step backwards.

“Are you hungry still, William?” Hannibal asks. Fuck. Hannibal probably knew he was there the whole time. Mildly annoyed, he steps into the room.

“No.”

“Thirsty, then?”

Will swallows thickly. “Do you still have that champagne?” Hannibal never offered it again and Will is suddenly craving something crisp and alcoholic.

Hannibal finally turns, a light smile lying across his lips. “Of course.”

Sure enough, he draws the bottle from the refrigerator, a tall bottle with an orange label that Will doesn’t care to read. He holds the cork firmly in his hand and twists the bottle flat upon the table until it finally pops off. When Will receives his flute, he must exert extreme self-control to not immediately down the entire thing.

“We need to talk,” Will says, once Hannibal has his own glass held nimbly in his hand.

“Regarding?” Will almost wants to scream at him not to play dumb, but again, he contains himself.

“I can’t—I don’t understand…” I should have thought this through. Oh god, what am I doing? “…You. I don’t understand your intentions toward me—Or how you feel about me.“

Am I sixteen? There is no excuse for his complete lack of maturity in this conversation. He wishes for a literal fort to hide himself away in.

Hannibal reaches across the counter to pour Will more champagne—he doesn’t remember emptying it.

“I think you are wrong.” The response makes no sense, makes Will’s entire body clench up with humiliated dread.

“Wr-wrong…?” He doesn’t understand.

“I think you do understand. I have expressed myself; you have simply chosen to ignore me.”

What?” He means to sound affronted, but it sounds more breathy and distressed than anything else. Hannibal circles the island to stand before him. “You haven’t—“

“You possess pure empathy, Will. Try to see.” Now that Will understands the true extent of Hannibal’s obsession with his abilities, the man seems intent on getting him to exercise them whenever possible. Try to see what, though? He’s so frustrated by all of this, because he shouldn’t even be here, he should be home in Louisiana, working as a police officer, with a wound-free back and a murder-free mind. He should be in Wolf Trap with his dogs, working on the requested extension of his monograph. He should be so many places, but instead he’s here.

He’s frustrated because Hannibal should want him dead. Will has the potential to end him and instead of attempting to finish the job himself, Hannibal is spending his efforts on making Will comfortable, giving him everything he can (short of freedom).

Because he knows Hannibal is a psychopath, or something similar, and therefore cannot feel affection, at least not in the classical sense. All these tiny things, these tiny methods of expression cannot, by definition, be anything more than another mask, another game to play.

Because he’s scared, he’s terrified that that is really all this is. Another trick to manipulate Will further into the palm of his hand.

Because he can see the dark emotion in Hannibal’s eyes, growing fiercer each time he sees it. He knows what it is, has too wide of eyes to ignore it, the open desire for more than daily confirmation of Will’s empathy.

Because he, Will Graham, needs Hannibal, desperately. He needs Hannibal to legitimate everything around him, to validate his existence. There was a time when the only things Will truly believed in were those that Hannibal assured him of. But look where that got him—look where he is now, trying to find a way to tell the man that ruined his life that he loves him.

And because Will knows that Hannibal, no matter the circumstance, will not make the first move. He won’t kiss Will, or touch him extensively, or pin him to the wall and draw his legs up around his waist and take him against his will, as much as he may want to. He will wait forever and a day for Will to make the choice and accept this completely of his own accord.

So he does.

He grabs the doctor by the shoulders and kisses him as hard as he can. Tries to convey everything inside him that he doesn’t understand in the hopes that Hannibal will understand, because what’s the point of any of this if they can’t understand one another? He tries to coax his mouth open to deepen it, to no avail. Hannibal stands stony against Will’s advance. He may as well be a statue, for all the response Will gets out of him.

Eventually, something shatters inside Will. He can feels the shards of it piercing his guts, gauging at his heart. He knows he’s been in darker places than this. He remembers what it felt like after he shot down Garrett Jacob Hobbs, but the memory is nothing in comparison to this rejection.

He takes a step back, ducks his head, unwilling to so much as glimpse whatever emotions Hannibal expresses. He tries to run, but hands hold his, pulling him closer until the only way he can continue to hide his shame-filled face is to bury it in Hannibal’s chest.

“Oh, Will.”

“What do you want?” He gasps between his dry heaving. Because there has to be a price. Hannibal may want this as much as Will, if not more, but he wants the rest as well, will not settle for any less.

“I want you to be happy.” The response knocks all the air out of his lungs, sends him mentally reeling.

Kiss me then,” he begs. Any articulation he generally possesses falls away. “I need—I want you to—fuck, please don’t—“

Please don’t make me say it.

Fingers cup his face for the second time this evening, this time both hands, pulling his head up to meet Hannibal’s eyes. When he responds, he speaks as if Will is not a sobbing mess, kneeling at his feet. “Would you object to my bathing you?”

Will lets out the breath he had unwittingly been holding. The resounding sob is so powerful that he nearly loses balance, even as almost all of his weight rests on Hannibal. He’s so unbearably relieved that this is all Hannibal wants of him. The man could have asked for anything and everything that Will has (which is admittedly not much) and Will likely would have agreed. He would have regretted it later, hated himself for it, but he’s so weak in this moment. Giving in would be almost too easy.

He nods, but Hannibal does nothing until Will can pull himself together enough to gasp out a small, “Yes. Ok.”

“Wonderful,” Hannibal says, and bends to bring Will up into his arms. He hasn’t been carried before, at least not since he was small enough for his dad to do so. It isn’t exactly something men generally do for other men. But, in all honestly, Will is thankful for it. He isn’t sure that his legs could carry him, if he tried to go the distance on his own. As they go, the dogs nip at Hannibal’s feet, curious as to why their master is in his arms. Hannibal shoos them easily and carries Will up the stairs. He hasn’t been in the master bedroom before, but he has little time to regard it, as Hannibal strides quickly through it and into the bathroom.

Gentle fingers undo the buttons of his shirt slowly, and Hannibal surveys him carefully, as if to watch for the slightest indication of the need to stop. But, as the tub fills with steaming water, Will allows his limbs to go soft and pliable until he’s naked and shivering under the doctor’s small caresses up and down his body. He brushes over his flank and the slight curve of his waist. Goosebumps rise across his flesh and, when he touches them, Will is sure Hannibal holds his breath.

Hannibal’s touch feels so terrifyingly good that Will wonders why he didn’t submit to this earlier. It can’t be all-bad, giving into the man’s will, if he treats his possessions in this way.

Finally, the tub is full enough and Hannibal can shut off the water. A gentle nudge and Will sits daintily on the rim. As he sinks into the water, the heat eliminating all gooseflesh from before, Hannibal’s hand moves to his back, rubbing small circles across the tingling base of his spine.

While Will acclimates to the temperature, Hannibal removes his suit jacket and folds his sleeves up past his elbows. By the time that he returns to Will’s side, he already has his head tipped back to wet his hair. His curls dampened, they hang heavy against his scalp and Hannibal moves to them first, lathering his hands with sweet-smelling shampoo.

The feel of firm fingers against his scalp makes him all but fall apart. His eyes fall closed, less the welling tears escape and Hannibal, obviously aware of this, presses his lips to the corners of his eyes, then his forehead. He feels raw. He feels as if his insides have been scraped away. Of all the ways he had imagined this would go (although he admittedly did not think things through), being gently bathed into oblivion was certainly not one of them. His breathing is made up of tiny panting sounds, airy and feeble sounding.

Hannibal hums out calming sounds as he works, moving as if Will is a skittish animal apt to bolt at any moment. Which, Will supposes, he is. The unshakeable fear that Hannibal can and should end his life at any moment is more prevalent in this moment than in any other. But another part of him recognizes that he’s progressed too far into the lion’s den—turning back means death more certain than if he remains.

Will lets himself be lowered into the tub to wash the suds from his hair and Hannibal moves down his body, rubbing soap covered hands across every inch of his chest, his arms, and Will finally lets his eyes open to watch the methodical way he moves. Their eyes meet for just a moment before Hannibal circles the bath and to wash his back. The steady touch starts at the base of his neck and migrates lazily southward. Will’s back curves with the pressure, a tightly strained arch, and it is almost too much, though he could not say why. About halfway down his back, Hannibal brushes over a certain spot, a pressure point or something similar, and it makes Will sharply exhale, emptying his lungs entirely.

The answer hits him so suddenly that his entire body flinches—neither into nor away from Hannibal’s touch.

This isn’t about power, or control. This isn’t even a manipulation thing. This is about trust, unconditionally. Hannibal needs Will vulnerable like this so he can show the extent of his adoration—and that’s what it is. There’s no mistaking it, the adoration lacing every glance Hannibal lays upon him. It’s even in his fingers. Hannibal isn’t seeing Will as a possession, a person or thing to be owned, but as an equal.

Will knows that Hannibal could lie. He could exaggerate, effortlessly list off words of poetry that have little to do with Will and everything to do with what Hannibal wants from him, but it wouldn’t be true. This, bathing Will, taking care of him and trying to show him how he is an adulated necessity is the only way he can tell the truth, because, for Hannibal, words are just another tool to be used and manipulated for personal gain. Actions are the only believable method for showing Will (who can see everything with such a resounding clarity now) how he truly feels.

Maybe that’s what he has been doing this whole time.

He takes hold of Hannibal’s wrist and brings the lathered hand away from his back, turning slowly in the water to meet his eyes and Will understands and Hannibal knows that he understands. Face filled with uncontainable relief, he leans in and kisses Will so hard his toes curl, wet fingers rising to grip the collar of Hannibal’s shirt. Teeth on Will’s lower lip makes him gasp—a meek sound that makes him wonder if the heat is getting to him. Their tongues touch then and Will can taste all the remaining flavors from their dinner (including whatever marinade Hannibal’s meat was in). But under all of that is the raw taste of Hannibal, smooth and musky and almost alcoholic.

He imagines Hannibal must be having a similar experience, tasting him for the first time. This thought is confirmed when Hannibal moans and presses deeper, so forcefully that Will is crushed between the rim of the bathtub and the weight of Hannibal hands. The curve of the bath forces his back to arch up.

Will finally breaks the kiss, simply because he feels on the verge of fainting from lack of oxygen. But their grips do not lessen; neither pulls away as Will pants wetly against Hannibal’s jaw. Lips move across Will’s cheek, his ear, then down the curve of his throat. The hand resting gently on his shoulder moves down his chest, down his abdomen below the water.

The contact on his erection is so sudden that Will flinches, nearly sending a wave of water out of the tub and onto the floor. Hannibal shushes him, soothing him quiet as before. Fingers tug at him, trailing across the sensitive spots between the head and the shaft. He’s already so close, unable to handle the knowing way in which Hannibal touches him.

“Can you stand?” Hannibal asks and Will nods, letting himself be pulled from the water. The doctor bends to let the tub drain and when he straightens Will sees the proof of his own erection.

Once Will is dry, or dry enough, Hannibal tugs him along into the master bedroom. He presses Will back, bends his knees and folds him into bed, atop the duvet. The room is cold, but Hannibal makes no effort to cover him. Instead, he begins removing his own clothing, hanging it nimbly from a chair on the other side of the room. When he’s naked and Will can drag his eyes up and down his body, he returns to the bed and gently crawls up along Will. Their chests touch, barely, Will still damp from the bath and Hannibal cool and dry, as Hannibal kisses him again slow, but just as feverish as before. An arm delves under Will’s lower back to force him to arch into it, as if he wasn’t already.

Will is not prepared for the first kiss against his collarbone, nor any of those that follow. Hannibal makes his way down his body slowly, leaving a trail of tiny kisses and love bites in his wake, until he finally reaches the base of his erection. In one smooth movement, Hannibal curls his lips around him and lets Will thrust up into the hot, heavenly feel of his mouth.

Will’s head tips back, farther and farther until the crown of his head nearly presses into the mattress. An arm thrown over his eyes, he tries his hardest to control his body’s arching and quivering.

Slowly, Hannibal’s mouth moves towards the head. Will hears the wet sound of the suction breaking.

“Look at me, Will,” he says. His voice sounds a little hoarse, perhaps from the head of Will’s cock brushing the back of his throat. A hand pulls the arm away from his eyes. “I want to see you. Please, darling.”

A hand cups his cheek and he finally opens his eyes, with a tiny gasp. Stray tears hang heavy from his eyelashes; Hannibal wipes at them with his thumb.

“Sweet Will,” he murmurs, kissing him. He can taste himself on Hannibal’s tongue. “Sweet Will.”

Hannibal kisses back down his chest, his abdomen, until he is perched between his widespread legs and can take Will in his mouth again. Will pants, his eyelids flutter, but he keeps them open to watch as Hannibal focuses on his ministrations, glancing up to watch Will react every so often.

Lips close around the base again, teeth grazing so, so lightly on the skin there. Hannibal swallows around the head, forcing a tiny scream from Will’s throat.

Oh—“ He can’t breathe, can’t think beyond the idea that every inch of his skin must be ablaze. Hannibal’s head begins to bob up and down, mouth curling and sucking along every ridge of him. “Hannibal—I—“

Hannibal glances up at the sound, meets his eyes, hums, and that’s how Will cums—hard, down Hannibal’s throat. He’s so far gone, so out of his mind with pleasure, but he can still see feel Hannibal’s throat contracting around his throbbing cock as he swallows down Will’s release. He can still see the burning starvation in Hannibal’s eyes, which he never once breaks contact with.

He rides out the waves of pleasure gasping, panting, trying not to sob—he fails, of course. It’s all too much to bear and the tears that come are overwhelming, entirely unbidden.

“Please, please,” he whispers when he is finished but remains trapped between Hannibal’s lips. He doesn’t know what he’s asking for, he just needs. Hannibal has mercy. Releases him and inches up his body. There are no traces of Will’s pleasure on his mouth, save for his own saliva on his lips. Before the man can duck to kiss him again, Will takes hold of his face with both hands

With a small voice, he says, “Thank you,” for nothing in particular. For everything. Hannibal shakes his head and moves out of Will’s grip to kiss him passionately, as if to return the unwanted words of gratitude. Hannibal, entirely awake, moves against him in harsh, quick movements—almost possessive. But Will is exhausted and finds himself opening up languidly to the kiss, letting Hannibal do as he pleases. He very nearly drifts away beneath the feeling of Hannibal pressed to him.

When Hannibal has drunk his fill, he pulls back, but only slightly, to keep their foreheads pressed together. Will manages to crack his eyes open, just a bit, to look up at him. Closed eyes, gentle features, Hannibal looks so different from this angle than any way Will has seen him before.

Will closes his eyes once more and a few moments later Hannibal gently rolls off of him. As he goes, Will feels his still very present erection brush hard against his thigh.

“Yr’hard,” Will mumbles, but he can’t bear to open his eyes. Hannibal slides the blankets out from beneath them and up their bodies to keep warm.

“Shh, Will, sleep,” he replies. Will thinks Hannibal might take care of it himself, but instead he feels the man lay down parallel to him, disregarding his erection, still hard and searing at Will’s hip, entirely. Hannibal wants to spoon him, but Will turns over instead, to nuzzle gently into the crook of Hannibal’s chest. Hands circle his waist and pull him nearer until they are impossibly close, separated by nothing but skin.

Their bodies fit together perfectly, in a way resonant of the compatibility of their minds. It makes Will, his mind admittedly hazy from fatigue, wonder if perhaps they were meant for one another. Perhaps no matter what decisions they made along the way, it all would have ended like this. Perhaps they, the two of them, have been spiraling chaotically toward this moment since their first meeting in Jack Crawford’s office. Or maybe even longer—perhaps they were both born for this. Will does not particularly believe in fate, but what other way is there to explain this seamless symmetry?

In less than two weeks, he will return to work. He may still be living here in this house, but he will be unable to ignore the real world, staring him so plainly in the face. He needs to prepare himself, steel himself against all the struggles it will bring. There will be more Ripper murders, more dinner parties. And each one, Jack will bring Will in to study them, and, back at home, Hannibal will ask him questions about them, will pine for the expounding words that Will brings, filled to the brim with utter clarity.

Will has not and will not ask Hannibal to stop killing, so long as Hannibal does not ask him to break with his own morals (fading and feeble though they may be) and take up the knife with him. It’s an unspoken promise that Will truly hopes will never need to be questioned.

As if sensing this mild unease, Hannibal buries his face in Will’s hair. The feel of his breath is both grounding and surreal, calming and distressing. Fingers skim his spine again, this time resting solely at that spot in the middle, rubbing tight crisscrosses into it until it remedies the unnerve and he can fall to sleep.