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“It’s important to note that it started consensually,” Will says, focusing on the divots in the ceiling.

*

It starts with leather gloves, laced up over his elbows, and then he reclines on the bed with his hands over his head.

(Really it started with dinner, small plates of rich food eaten by hand, a light sweet wine low in alcohol, clear minds evaluating each other and moving into a deliberate caress.)

“Shall I secure you?” Hannibal asks.

He nods. He’s starting to feel anchored in his body. He closes his eyes and lets Hannibal strap his wrists to the headboard.

(Hannibal had the gloves made, of course, custom molded to him. Before Hannibal, he would bind himself with shirt sleeves or tie his ankles to the bed. Before Hannibal, this had always been solo.)

He exhales. He squirms, slightly pulling against the restraining buckle, and starts to really feel the fabric under his shoulders and ass and calves.

Hannibal bends over him and he can feel Hannibal’s breath reflecting off his skin. "You smell delicious. Thank you for indulging me.” Hannibal’s nose traces the inside of his arm, down into the damp hair.

(No aftershave, no deodorant, he didn’t even wash his hair; he’d been acutely aware of himself all day. But Hannibal hates his products and loves his sweat and skin.)

Hannibal’s unlinked cuffs trail over his stomach and down along his sides. Hannibal’s palms slide over his ribs to his back. Hannibal lifts him, making his back arch, putting his weight on his neck and ass, displaying his stomach and chest.

He feels Hannibal’s mouth just below his ribs. “You’re too thin,” Hannibal murmurs into his skin.

“Definitely not your fault,” he replies. It’s hard to speak with his chin pushed into his chest, so he stops; he breathes through his nose and focuses on touch.

Hannibal’s stubble is always surprising. He’s so tidy, so elegant, impeccable, but even he can’t stop the tide of nature. It scratches across his belly in what feels like a pattern, maybe a treble clef, then switches to short quick brushes like Chinese calligraphy. He feels warmth rising in its wake.

He shifts and draws his legs up around Hannibal’s waist. He presses into Hannibal’s solidity with his knees and pulls against the straps and then the tide of warmth falls over him and he melts into Hannibal’s arms. “Ohh.”

“Lovely,” Hannibal says. He grasps the flesh over his ribs with his entire hand and squeezes. It would be a pinch if he only used his fingers, but there’s no pain, only pressure, showing him where his body is.

Hannibal takes his nipple between his teeth and squeezes as he moves with his hand. Again, no pain, and he melts into Hannibal’s fine clothing, crisp cotton against his chest, soft wool between his legs, and the strength of Hannibal’s body under it all.

He wonders what Hannibal will do to his body. He knows it will feel good.

*

“Enthusiastic consent,” Will says. “He had the gloves made for me because they’re what I like.”

“Will, you don’t have to--” Jack says.

“So when you look at the crime scene, you know where he ends and I begin.” Will shifts his gaze to the IV drip.

*

The mood is spoiled when his phone vibrates across the end table. A text. He sighs. “Is it work?” He doesn’t open his eyes.

Hannibal slowly disentangles himself and sits up as two more texts rattle the phone. He’s quiet for a long moment. “Yes,” he says.

*

"I sent those texts," Jack says, very quietly. "Mass texts to avoid the same conversation five times. I'm sorry."

"You couldn't know." He flicks his eyes toward Jack, landing on his sleeve. "Was it a case? You should go."

"Miriam Lass is alive. She's four rooms down from you, in fact. She walked into a corner store, still dragging leg shackles, and asked the clerk to call 911."

"I'm willing to bet it wasn't far from Hannibal's house," Will says.

"Not far at all. She's missing an arm. We found an arm in Hannibal's freezer. The DNA is still coming back, but it sure looks like hers."

"It is. He told me he was the Ripper. He told me."

*

Will opens his eyes. “I should go,” he says. The warmth is draining from his body. His messed up rotator cuff begins to twinge, complaining about his arm binding. He sighs. Moment ruined. “Can we try this later? It was good, really good.”

"I’m glad,” Hannibal says. He cups Will’s cheek. He brushes his thumb back and forth under Will’s eye, looking down at him.

“I need help to get up.”

“I know. I like you here, though.”

Will smiles. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

“You won’t, though.” Hannibal’s face falls smooth as marble. He touches Will's neck lightly. “As soon as one of us leaves this room, we will never see each other again.”

His mind spins out. Never see each other--why? What is the reason-- ”What did Jack find?” Will asks. His stomach turns over.

“A very important clue that will lead him to the Ripper, with your help,” Hannibal says.

Will knows, then, all at once, in a hideous spin of evidence, one trace leading to another to another to another to Hannibal’s hand on his neck. He clenches his hands in the gloves uncontrollably.

His voice catches in his throat. “What are you going to do?” He can feel his heart, beat beat beat beat as helpless as a fish gasping under the knife. He let this man in and surrendered to him his mind and his body--

He kicks up with his left leg, aiming for Hannibal's kidney. Hannibal catches it easily, hand dashing from jaw to knee, cupping Will’s leg against his body. There’s no strength in Will’s position. He doesn’t have the leverage to push Hannibal off him.

He starts to shudder. Adrenaline tells him to fight, to move, to get the predator away, gives him extra strength to fight and analgesic against the pain, all of it useless, left turned against himself. He pulls against the strap of the gloves, begging it to give, but Hannibal reaches up and yanks the buckle tighter. He bucks, twisting his body with both feet against the bed, and Hannibal stretches over him and rides him out.

He gasps and clenches his teeth and presses his head into the bed. “Please,” he chokes out, just asking for something to happen and stop the anticipation.

“How precious you are,” Hannibal says. “Utterly unlike anyone else I have ever known. But like a vein of gold in the naked rock, I would have to melt you down to take you away with me.”

“To take me?” His muscles are jumping under his skin. His flesh is trying to escape.

“I planned to have more time to convince you. Eventually, you would join me of your own accord, gold melting from stone into my hand. But we are here, now, and I must leave you or break you.”

Behind his eyelids it's midnight. His hands are clenched into fists, his body is cramped and seized, and acrid sweat covers him like any other nightmare.

"Look at me, Will," Hannibal says.

Will opens his eyes. Hannibal is perched on his chest. "I will leave you," he says, and Will breathes in great heaving gouts.

"If you give me something first," Hannibal continues.

Will holds his eyes. Kidney, liver, lung, heart, thymus, tongue, spleen, stomach, intestine, loin, sometimes a leg, often the cheeks. Will eats the cheeks of fish, he loves them, the tenderest part of the animal, he eats the eyes, he sucks the heads.

"I was looking forward to this night," Hannibal says. "I would very much like to finish it before I go."

Will exhales. He doesn't know how to respond, yes, no, possible, impossible.

"Look at me," Hannibal says.

*

"I feel comfortable classifying what happened afterward as rape," Will says.

"That's not in question," Jack says.

"Maybe not by you."

*

He breathes, deeply, trying to send it into his muscles, thinking of the shooting range, forced relaxation and readiness. His fingers are numb inside the gloves. The buckle is too tight. "My hands? Just a notch, please?"

"Will."

He breathes again. He flexes his hands. He's looking at the ultimate sociopath. Hannibal doesn't care how Will feels. No empathy, no mercy, no affection, but he can be flattered and appeased. "How would you like me?"

"I would like you to look at me," Hannibal says.

Will does. If he...if he can...

He looks into Hannibal’s black pupils and summons the pendulum.

Forward, backward, flashes of light. The evidence is all here. The killer, not wanting to kill, wanting something else. Connection. Being seen. But more than just seen: being seen and being loved.

He holds Will in his hands. Love me, he thinks, and Will smiles and relaxes into his touch.

Why does he want this? He wants love not because he loves in return, he's not capable of that. He loves art, music, food, beautiful things. He wants a beautiful thing. He wants submission under his hands.

Will submits, beautifully, with abandon, and Will drinks him in with eyes and hands and mouth. Will bites into Will's soft flesh to make him squirm.

He's not gentle this time. He wants every grimace and shudder and cry. He wants to see everything. He's making a memory to take away. He will be safe as long as he performs well now. And Will is doing well, as he pushes against his bonds and Will's hand, as he keeps his eyes open and locked on Will's eyes.

Will is rippling around his hand, he is penetrating him to the wrist, watching him wracked with pain and ecstasy. Will's eyes flicker closed; he is nearly overcome. "Open," Will says. Will complies, though it's obviously difficult.

Will closes his hand and Will screams as he climaxes. His muscles batter Will's hand rhythmically, painfully.

Will holds Will's gaze as he frees his hand. Will is streaming with tears, gasping, beautiful.

Will smiles. "Dear Will," he says. He strokes his face with his unbloodied hand.

Will showers. When he returns to the room, Will follows him with his eyes without moving.

Will unties Will from the headboard, but does not unlace the gloves. He frowns. "Where are you, Will?"

Will stares back and does not answer. Will sighs. He picks up the phone and sends a message.

*

"So he sent the text," Jack says. "I wasn't sure. The text said to come get you, you were at Lecter's, which seemed odd, since he always seemed happy to get involved." There's a twist to his voice that shows what he thinks of that now. "The door was open. I searched the house and found you."

"Most of me."

*

Will empties his bank account, retrieves his emergency passports, and is on a plane to France within the hour.

Will is curled blankly on Hannibal's bed as Jack tries to shake him awake.

Will is charming the flight attendants, ordering champagne served on linen napkins.

Will is being treated, bandaged, circulation coaxed back into his wrists and hands. When he doesn't respond, the doctors look into his emergency contacts, don't find any, decide his condition can't wait and take him into surgery.

Will is turning his face to the sun.

Will is waking up from the anesthetic.

Will wakes up.

Will is in a hospital bed. Jack is sitting beside him. Will has a long, pained moment while he sorts out what has happened. Who did this to him. Who he is.

"How are you feeling, Will?" Jack asks.

He swallows. He finds his tongue. "Like I was hit by a truck. Did you process me already?"

"We did. Before your surgery."

(While Jack says this, he has an underwater memory of Beverly speaking calmly into his ear, explaining what is happening as someone else's hands touch his body. His eyelids are taped shut because his blink reflex is away with the rest of his mind. Blood samples, semen samples, blond hair combed from his head, pubic hairs combed from his bush, dried saliva combed from his beard, bite marks photographed and measured, bruises photographed and measured, ligature marks photographed and measured, anal exam, oral exam. She changed her gloves in between, Beverly says with the ghost of a laugh.)

"When I was still in France," Will says.

"Do you think Lecter is in France? Did he say something to suggest that?"

"I think it's likely, but I'm basing that on knowing him, not on anything he said. All he really said in the moment was to keep my eyes open." He hears Jack shifting in his chair. "Yes, I remember what happened."

Jack leans forward. "So what happened?"

Will breathes in; exhales. He removes his injuries one by one, starting with the broken arm, until nothing but his bruised mind is left. “It’s important to note that it started consensually,” he says.

*

"You were able to empathize with Lecter well enough to keep yourself alive. That's an impressive feat of survival, Will."

"When you're out of strength you fight with weakness. Nothing about what happened to me is going to help you find Hannibal. You should talk to Miriam, Jack. Tell her how brave she is. She lost two years and an arm. All I lost was my anal virginity."

Bitter. Ironically bitter. Hannibal just wanted his body after all. Plenty of people find him physically attractive; he turns heads. They turn away once they discover his personality, except Hannibal, who called his mind baroque, fascinating, alluring.

He shouldn't be upset by the end of the relationship, but he is. He needs so much therapy he's not going to get.

(And his one kink, his secret pleasure, has been stolen away. Being bound will never be comforting again. He will wear sunglasses and short sleeves and shy away from hands.)

He closes his eyes. He's exhausted. "He said he would leave me alone and I would never see him again. He could have been lying, but I don't think so. I think I'm okay. Miriam is going to need serious protection, though. She wrecked his life. He's going to be enraged and offended and he doesn't let that kind of thing go. Ten years from now she still needs to watch her back. Did he take any surgical trophies from me? I don't think so, but I can't tell."

"A lock of hair from the back of your neck, unless that was already missing," Jack says.

"It wasn't." Hair soaked in his sweat, the scent that Hannibal said he loved. It's almost romantic.

"I'll let you rest. I'll find him, Will. Now that I know what he looks like, there's nowhere he can hide."

"If anyone catches him, it will be you," Will says. He turns toward Jack and looks directly at him.

Sadness, determination, excitement, triumph. Jack will go to Miriam and go to the office and contact the French and Italian police and Interpol. He will put Hannibal on the Most Wanted list. He will dog Hannibal until one of them dies. And he wants Will to help him. He thinks Will has the same drive.

"When I leave the hospital..." Will keeps his eyes on Jack's. "Don't call me."

He sees Jack's heart break. He sees the words he doesn't say. Will, your insight is invaluable. Will, I need you. Will, don't give up.

Jack just nods, though, acknowledging him, and leaves.

When his eyes close, he is in France, bringing a lock of hair to his nose.

end.