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A Great and Gruesome Height

Chapter Text

No amount of planning can prepare him for the reality of the free fall.

Once, Will might have identified the stomach-clenching sensation as terror, but now he can give it it's proper name: freedom. The wind whips at his hair, and he presses his face more firmly against Hannibal's chest, drawing in a deep breath thick with the coppery scent of blood and the salt of the rising Chesapeake.

Recalling what Hannibal said before, Will draws in his abdomen and balls his hands into fists so tightly they ache, still clinging to Hannibal's shirt. Hannibal is the one guiding them, using the momentum to turn their bodies in a tight arc.

In his mind, the fall lasts a small eternity. In reality, it's maybe two seconds.

They hit the water at close to fifty miles per hour. Rocks kicked loose in their fall break the surface tension, then Hannibal leads them in feet first. It softens the impact for Will only barely; he feels it shuddering through his limbs, rattling his spine, shoves his head hard against Hannibal's chin. As they plummet deeper and deeper, pressure building, Hannibal's arms go slack, his body a limp, dead weight.

Will's right arm aches all the way down from his shoulder, and his fingers won't grip, but he refuses to panic. He twines his legs around Hannibal's chest, clenches his thighs tight and locks his ankles together. The water is pitch black, and if he loses Hannibal for even a second, he knows he won't find him again. They rise together, or they sink together. Will readily embraces either scenario.

For a long moment, they drift with the current, lower and lower. Everything is silent and Hannibal lays heavy and still, cradled between Will's thighs. Will closes his eyes and imagines the bay's arms closing around them like a mother's embrace, washing away the blood, soothing the pain.

It's a reoccurring dream of his, to slip beneath the welcoming waves, watching the light fade as he goes down, down, down, until he's past the point of return. And then the panic fades, replaced by a sense of peace, of belonging, and Will braces himself, opens his mouth, and breathes the water in.

Something buried deep in Will stirs, rebelling against the thought. His muscles contract all at once. He presses his lips closed tight and starts dragging them up one armed. Each stroke is agony and they never seem to rise any higher. The waves are pushing them relentlessly towards the bluff, then jerking them back. All the while, pressure builds in his ribcage, rising up and aching in his throat. His strength flags quickly, and he feels his thighs loosening their grip.

Hannibal surges against him, coming to life. He draws them chest to chest, arm a steel band around Will's back. They rise, light filtering through slowly but surely, as Hannibal effortlessly cuts through the water.

Closer to the surface, the current is stronger, and they are buoyed up. Will gasps for the air while he can, before they're pulled under again. The waves are relentless. Calm in the daylight, the bay is roiling angrily now. A storm is building, and Will isn't entirely sure how much of it is real and how much is in his mind.

They're tossed against the cliff face, three times in quick succession, and again Hannibal takes the brunt of the impact. His fingers dig into Will's skin, but he is soundless. On the fourth swell, they move as one, scrambling to find purchase. The striations bite into the tender flesh of his palm and it's impossible to say whether he's slick with water or blood. Everything is black in the shadows.

One of them is wailing, and it's all too blurred for Will to know which. Maybe they both are. His one good arm strains to pull his weight even as his fingers slip and it feels like tearing. But then Hannibal is wrapping around him again. His chest heaves against Will's back, his arms coming up on either side, caging in him in and Will takes a second to lay his head back against Hannibal's shoulder and calm his wild breathing.

Then they're moving, an awkward sideways climb, stopping whenever the waves crash, threatening to wrest them back. The journey is painful and long and more than once Will pushes back against Hannibal's weight, ready to succumb to the water. Each time Hannibal presses him flat against the wall. His breath is hot on the skin of Will's nape and his mouth just skims there, so light it might be imagined.

And they move again, as one.

Chapter Text

Before

They leave behind the carnage the Dragon has wrought on the roadside, another half-dozen bodies to weigh on Will's conscience. He spares a moment's empathy for Jack, when he discovers it, but there is no regret. The Dragon has taken the bait, and Hannibal is free. All that he's wanted to accomplish, he has. Hannibal drives them across the Patuxent River and into true desolation. Farmland turns into marshland that stretches for miles on both sides of the lonely highway, then dense, unpopulated forest. It's the sort of setting that wouldn't be out of place in a horror film.

How very fitting.

Jack will be on their trail soon enough. Even if he isn't watching their progress like a hawk, they're meant to rendezvous with the Marshals and the Secret Service in little over an hour. There's no point in saying as much; Hannibal already knows. All law enforcement vehicles are lojacked these days. Dolarhyde would have done better a decade ago or more. Hannibal could teach him a thing or two about modernisation of serial murder.

Out of the corner of his eye he sees the streaking ink black feathers, the blur of galloping hooves, the impatient toss of antlers. He already knows what he'll see when he looks out the other side. The leathery spread of the Dragon's wings, the sinuous flex of powerful muscles, blotting out the sky.

Beside him, Hannibal watches, as if he knows what Will sees. The things he's never spoken out loud, even in his most fevered state. Reality shifts, allows Will to see the truth of things. Hannibal, nothing but muscle and bone, talon like fingers and deceptively velvet antlers. His flesh is such an empty, aching black he sucks in all the light around him, swallows it whole, and Will is crossing inexorably beyond the event horizon. Hannibal is speaking, but Will can't hear over the stamping of hooves and the flap of wings. He can only see tar dripping from his mouth.

Will closes his eyes, struggles to calm his suddenly racing heart. When he looks again, the stag and the Dragon are gone. Hannibal is clothed once again in his human skin. If Hannibal noticed, he doesn't let on. Their tacit agreement to ignore just how far gone Will is, though their motivations for doing so are wildly divergent.

“During our last conversation, I admit I wasn't thinking quite as rationally as I normally would have been,” Hannibal says, breaking the silence.

Will arches a brow at his reflection in the window. Hannibal has been practically giddy since Dolarhyde's intervention, for Hannibal. He hadn't realised how much he'd missed the man Hannibal was when he was free, until the moment he rolled up next to Will in the police car.

“Jealousy often colours our perspective,” Will says, because it's both kinder and crueller than saying love.

Hannibal glances at him long enough that Will starts to wonder if they'll drift into the berm. His hands shift and tighten on the wheel, and he only speaks once his eyes are back on the road. “It was only after your...masterful performance this morning that I was able to consider what you said in a different light.”

Will knows the moment of enlightenment. The subtle change on Hannibal's face, when Will finally spoke his name. He's curious how long it would have taken Hannibal to figure it out, if Dolarhyde had perished in the fire.

“You only heard what you wanted me to say,” Will says. “You're enamoured with the thought of your great, unrequited romance.”

“Would you have returned?” Hannibal asks. “Had the Great Red Dragon not faked his own death, had you not engineered my release?”

It was a question Will himself pondered, after their last goodbye. He'd laid himself as bare as he was willing—more than he'd thought himself capable—and put the ball firmly in Hannibal's court. Hannibal, Bedelia, Jack, Alana, even Molly, they all wanted decisiveness from a mind constantly preyed upon by any stray whim his empathy landed upon. He had been ready to return to Molly and ready to run away with Hannibal in equal measure, but which path he took was left to Hannibal to decide.

“I think we should be...thankful for Dolarhyde's visit,” Will says carefully. Every word he speaks now feels foreign in his mouth. They're the sort of things he's thought before, but never seriously reflected on. Now he speaks them in earnest. Maybe that's why everyone around him is having so much trouble figuring out his intent.

Hannibal isn't displeased with the answer, though it wasn't what he wanted to hear. Will can see the cogs turning, see Hannibal adding these new facets of Will to the ones he's already stored away in his mind, making a more accurate and complete replica for his mind palace. Will could tell him, Hannibal will never get it quite right, but he'd rather let Hannibal discover that for himself.

“I must know, and be honest with me now, Will,” Hannibal says, like he already knows anything out of Will's mouth in response will be a lie, no matter how the question is framed, “how did you feel when you saw what had become of Frederick Chilton?”

Bedelia asked him the same question, and Will wasn't able to acknowledge the tangled mess of emotion to himself, let alone to her. Now he brings those feelings to the surface, remembering with clarity the first, gut reaction to seeing Chilton's fate, before the sickening horror kicked in. In that moment he was drunk with power, heady at the realisation of his own potential. In that moment seeing for himself what Hannibal had seen in him from the beginning. He had to reel himself in before the thoughts could fully form and take hold, or there would be no turning back.

Now, Will thinks, it was already too late. It's been too late since the moment Hannibal first took interest in him.

He thinks of voicing these thoughts, or any of the things he told Bedelia, but words only cheapen the feeling.

“I could show you.” Will hears his own voice before he makes any conscious decision to speak.

Hannibal tilts his head to the side. “Was this all an elaborate ploy for you and Jack to finally rid the world of the Chesapeake Ripper?” He sounds amused at the idea.

“As far as Jack is concerned,” Will mutters. Has Jack figured it out by now? Was he ever fooled to begin with? Will has never lied to him about his desire to run away with Hannibal, after all. “What was done to Chilton is a pale comparison to what I would do with you.”

Anyone else might fail to notice the subtle changes in Hannibal, in response to his words. The slight flare of his nostrils, the way his lips slacken, his eyes dilate. His hands flex on the steering wheel with a squeak of leather.

Will still doesn't know the answer to Bedelia's question, at least not in the way she meant it, but the reaction his words cause in Hannibal is nothing short of thrilling. He considers saying that out loud, just to garner another reaction. Giving up any pretext of politeness is such an absolute relief.

“Do you have someone in particular in mind, then?” Hannibal asks, voice thick with what remains unspoken.

Over the past weeks, throughout the course of his becoming, Will has repeatedly gathered and deconstructed the resolve to be Hannibal's agency in one particular endeavour above all others. There is more than one person Hannibal has promised a visit, but among them, only one has struck a nerve in Will. He imagines her neck purpling beneath his hands and his stomach turns. Thick, black pitch is creeping over his arms, up his neck, pushing into his mouth and down his throat, choking him.

Anxiety or anticipation, it hardly matters at this point.

“I do,” Will says.

Chapter Text

It's two-hundred-some yards to the small inlet, if it even deserves the name. Nothing more than a small stretch of rocky beach, maybe a hundred feet long and ten feet deep at high tide, but Will collapses gratefully to the ground. Where he isn't numb from the cold, he's one long exposed nerve lit up with pain. Hot, nausea-inducing spasms ripple through his shoulder and arm.

Hannibal goes down on his hands and knees and vomits water and blood. He manages to look as if he finds it all mildly distasteful as he leans back on his heels panting. His hair hangs lank around his face, black with blood.

Will grabs a handful of his torn sweater to pull himself up and drag Hannibal closer. Hannibal comes more willingly this time, tucks Will close without hesitation. It's more than satisfying that particular ache he still won't name. There's a feeling of relief, like all his jagged edges being soothed. A sense of belonging he'd never hoped for and long ago stopped believing in.

Now that he's found the way they fit together, he doesn't think he'll ever get enough of just this.

Will's hand draws lightly across Hannibal's back, feels the shredded fabric and torn skin with the tips of his fingers. Hannibal shudders and arches into it. His breathy exhale sends shivers down Will's spine, and heat shoots through his gut. He turns his cheek into Hannibal's chest and nudges his head to Hannibal's chin, pure animal affection he can't quite bring himself to voice, even now, the words stuck in his throat, threatening to choke them both.

“Will.” Hannibal's voice is as ragged as their bodies, raw and tinged in wonder and disbelief. The way Will has never heard his name spoken by another tongue, has feared and hated hearing it from this one. Now it suffuses him in warmth. There's power in naming a thing, but somehow it seems that Will is the one with the power. He swallows it down, swaying at the headiness.

“Hannibal,” he answers, as calmly as he can manage. He draws back just enough to meet Hannibal's gaze, black as blood. Their chests brush with every shaky inhale. He nods once, slow and precise, answering the myriad questions Hannibal asked in the single syllable of his name. The second time, Hannibal nods with him, expression turning smooth and clinical.

Hannibal's hands are all over him, testing the skin of his cheek. The taste of blood and sea salt are thick on his tongue, but the wound is surprisingly painless, even at the touch. He spreads the flap of fabric over Will's other stab wound. The skin is puffy and angry red, but no longer bleeding. He doesn't know if it's the stabbing that's rendered his arm useless, or the impact with the water, until Hannibal tears away his sleeve.

The skin from shoulder to elbow is a sickly purple-green in the moonlight and his arm hangs at an odd angle. Will stares at it dispassionately. “Broken?” he surmises.

Hannibal hums without comment. He takes Will's wrist in one hand and his other tangles in the hair at the back of his neck. He gives a gentle tug and leans his body into Will's, easing him back.

Every instinct in Will says to fight. He's long past fear of anything Hannibal might do to him physically, but there remains a deeply ingrained resistance to relinquishing his autonomy. Hannibal senses his struggle. Their eyes meet, and Hannibal's are inscrutable. He doesn't ask for Will's trust.

Will forces himself to relax, allows Hannibal to lay him out flat. All the adrenaline that kept him moving until now gives way to cold, trembling exhaustion. Hannibal shifts, his socked foot tucks into the crook of Will's armpit and his grip on Will's wrist tightens. When he begins to pull, Will can't help the cry of pain it shocks out of him, or the instinct to jerk away. Hannibal makes a shushing noise, but he is relentless, pulling steadily as Will's muscles resist.

He must black out, because the next thing he's aware of is the pinprick points of light in the sky above. His shoulder is a steady ache that radiates throughout the entire right side of his torso, but an experimental wiggle of his fingers tells him he's regained control. He levers himself up stiffly.

Hannibal is wrapping the torn shreds of Will's sleeve around his own ankle. He never looks more knowable or accessible than when he's covered in someone else's blood. The lines of his face are expressive, set with pain and determination and a fierceness that calls to Will, tugs him in. Their collision has always been inevitable.

“I wasn't certain you meant for us to survive that fall,” Hannibal says.

Will shakes his head. “Neither was I.” It's swallowed up by the roar of distant waves.

“But you held on to me, regardless,” Hannibal says. His words are thicker than usual, not just down to accent, or fatigue. Will thinks he recalls slamming into his chin.

There's a question in Hannibal's tone, but Will can't explain his motivations when even he doesn't understand them. It's all chaos, and as discomfiting as that should be to a man who's always known not only his own motivations, but those of everyone around him, it's actually rather liberating.

The silence stretches, and Hannibal is waiting on Will to do or say anything to ease this tension between them. Will's made one choice more than meant, when he decided to pull them out of the deep. He's exhausted. It's more than enough for one evening. Hannibal lets the matter drop, for now.

The shoreline here is less turbulent. Erosion and rising water levels have swallowed the beach, but they can wade, chest high, clinging to the wall. They come out along the banks of the estuary, and brackish water gives way to marshland.

Even with his wounds, Hannibal is light and sure on his feet. Will's balance is off; the makeshift sling fashioned from the remains of his shirt pins his arm to his side. Somewhere along the way his chest wound starts bleeding again, though it's sustained no more trauma.

More than once Hannibal catches him and propels him forward, until Will's legs won't carry him any further. His legs feel as though they end at his ankles, nothing more than numb stumps. Hannibal sweeps him up as if it requires no effort at all. Will snorts humourlessly, to find himself in this position yet again. Through a haze of blood, he sees the curve of Hannibal's lips in response, the affectionate flick of his eyes towards Will's face and back up.

“You're developing a habit.” Will feels the rumble of the words more than he hears them.

It's more true than Hannibal fully realises, Will reckons.

*

Before

“There is a boat docked near Cove Point.” Hannibal says. “In the marsh there will be no trail for them to follow.”

“Jack will give us enough time to finish the Dragon.” And maybe each other. “But he won't risk having you on the loose again. He'll have roadblocks and helicopters between us and any possible route of escape.”

Hannibal smirks. “So we take the impossible route.”

The trees open up, revealing how closely the road hugs the coastline. A short distance away, Will spies their destination. Hannibal has set a stage tailored to his own desire for theatricality and Dolarhyde's need for privacy. The house runs right up to the edge, and the horizon is empty as far as the eye can see in all directions. No one to see his moonlit ritual.

“The rise of the cliff at this point is no more than twenty metres,” Hannibal says. Even before he spoke, Will had a good idea of exactly what Hannibal was suggesting.

“People have died from far lesser heights,” Will points out.

“They have survived far greater ones,” Hannibal says. “The water is deep. The cliff face is straight down. An experienced swimmer could make it.”

Hannibal has no doubt tirelessly worked the math, figuring in all the variables, testing his findings. He would never leave such a thing to chance. This isn't a plan made up on the fly, but one Hannibal's had simmering on the back-burner for years.

Will, however, is a variable Hannibal won't have anticipated before. Whatever outcome Will desires remains uncertain even to himself. There are too many paths branching out from this point. Throwing himself over that cliff—in premeditation, no less—is rather akin to making a choice.

“Just because you like to play God doesn't make you invincible,” Will says.

Hannibal is silent as they come to a stop in the gravel drive. He turns off the ignition, hand lingering on the keys, a pose of deep thought. When he turns to look at Will, it's clear he's contemplating visiting some harm upon Will's person.

“I think you've proven that,” Hannibal says at last. When he climbs from the car, Will is surprised to find he is disappointed. He follows, and Hannibal gestures to the south. “There is a lighthouse five hundred yards down, just ahead of the estuary.”

“Five hundred yards.” Will says blankly. “In fifty degree water. After a sixty foot drop.” It's not even worth consideration.

Will follows anyway as Hannibal strides across the paved patio coming to a stop mere feet from the edge. It looks a lot further down than twenty metres. All he can hear is the roaring of the ocean, even as Hannibal makes his ridiculous crack about eroding bluffs. Will glares incredulously at the cliff, the swirling waves, the distant drop of the shoreline. Back at Hannibal. He looks far too pleased with himself.

Hannibal tells him, “Soon, all this will be lost to the sea,” more than a fact or a promise, it holds the gentle edge of a threat.

They're going over, one way or another.

Chapter Text

The boathouse is more ramshackle than Will pictured Hannibal owning, tucked on the edge of one of a thousand branching waterways cutting through the peninsula. The motor boat docked within, on the other hand, looks too nice and too well-maintained to have been sitting there three years. Hannibal had this arranged somehow, between the time Will came to say goodbye and his escape.

They clean themselves as best they can in the sink, basin after basin going muddy red. At least the water is hot. Hannibal turns to debriding the lacerations left from the cliff face. Will is surprised to find them all along his thigh and shin as well as his arms and hands. They're largely superficial, only four or five deep enough to require any real care beyond cleansing. These will not require stitches.

Circulation returns to his extremities, slowly but surely. All the same Will's muscles are quivering, threatening to give out on him again at any moment. He makes himself focus when it's his turn to tend to Hannibal's back. He's not particularly squeamish, especially considering the truly horrifying crime scenes he's investigated. It's seeing the damage done to Hannibal that makes it difficult to stomach. That's new, and not entirely welcome.

Knowing that Hannibal had shielded him from the worst of the damage is different from seeing the proof. His back is a solid wall of mottled yellow and purple, cut through with hundreds of broad, sweeping scratches, flowing like brushwork over the skin, each a stark slash of white through red. These, like the majority of Will's own, are superficial.

It's the dozens of abrasions from which Will must tenderly separate the fabric of Hannibal's sweater, the three deep lacerations stretching across his upper back from shoulder to shoulder through the scar tissue of Verger's brand, the raw, red pulpy patch on his lower back where the skin has been ripped off clean, that cause Will's stomach to roil. His fingers linger, tracing the neat entry wound of Dolarhyde's bullet.

Hannibal requires medical attention that he can't give himself, and is beyond Will's limited scope. As if reading his thoughts, Hannibal reaches back, holding Will's fingers to his skin for a brief moment before turning to face him again. “The bullet missed the liver,” he says, taping gauze over the wound in question. “Though I believe it's nicked the intestine.”

Will's been to enough autopsies to know what that means for Hannibal's prognosis. What's astonishing is the fact he's still on his feet. They need to do something before sepsis kicks in.

“Come,” Hannibal says, and leads Will into the main cabin, settling him on the bed. He brings his medical bag and sits beside Will, carefully unpacking gloves, surgical scissors, forceps, and bottle after bottle of pain-killers and antibiotics.

In the harsh, uneven light, Hannibal is pale and haggard. He shoots himself up with a cocktail of drugs before turn his attention on Will. Hannibal numbs the area all around Will's wound, rubbing the skin. He cleans the area with a gentle reverence that settles heavy on Will's shoulders.

As he begins to stitch, Will can tell there's something he wants to say. He doesn't even need to read the micro expressions. Hannibal keeps licking his bottom lip, inhaling sharply, as if ready to speak. No words are forthcoming.

After his chest is stitched and bandaged, Hannibal tends to his cheek. With the numbing agent, all Will feels is the tugging sensation as Hannibal threads each stitch. As he's finishing, Will speaks. The stretch of his skin will take some getting used to. “Who will love me now that I'm not so pretty?”

Hannibal goes still, not even breathing. Will can imagine a dozen different responses, from fervent affirmations of Will's beauty, to metaphysical discussion on the nature of inner versus outer beauty, to open scorn and violence of every flavour.

Will knows he's being cruel, he just isn't entirely sure how to stop. They've been in opposition too long. In the end Hannibal takes it with grace. He finishes his last stitch and bandages it with the gentlest touch. “With proper care, it will barely scar,” is all he says.

All things considered, Will is in decent shape, but rather than focussing on his own wounds, Hannibal continues to fuss over him. He gives Will three different shots, one for pain, two to fight infection. Then he's removing his gloves and touching Will all over again, looking for anything he's missed, any hidden hurt. His fingers push through Will's hair, probing his scalp.

Whether it's the heat Hannibal gives off, or a physiological reaction to his proximity, Will is flushed with warmth. His eyes track Hannibal's face, both clinical and concerned, and he reaches up, closing his hand around Hannibal's. He holds them still and waits until Hannibal looks him in the eye.

“I'm okay,” Will says, considers, and clarifies, “I'll be okay.” It isn't until he's spoken that he notices how quickly his breath is coming.

Hannibal brings their hands down, touch ghosting across Will's unblemished cheek and a sweet-hot pain throbs through Will's chest. It's nothing to do with any of the damage he's taken tonight.

He licks his lips and Hannibal tracks the movement and he looks stricken with hunger. Will once thought this thing between them was too complicated and too abstract to ever name, let alone act upon. But in this moment, he knows that's all besides the point. He's hyper-aware of his own nudity, at the near magnetic pull between them.

“What are we going to do about you?” Will asks. He meant to break the tension, but he can't stop from reaching out to touch, cupping his palm over the bandage on Hannibal's abdomen. He shouldn't be so affected, but that doesn't change the fact.

Hannibal shifts their position, leaning Will back. This time Will doesn't struggle. Hannibal looms over him and it's suddenly dark in the cabin, nothing beyond the frame of Hannibal's arms. “I'm thinking of a slight deviation in our plans.”

Will unsticks his tongue. “Oh?” he manages.

“I know you had your heart set on Bedelia,” Hannibal says. Though Will hadn't put a name to his desire, he's unsurprised that Hannibal has come to that conclusion.

Will thinks back to his conversations with the Doctor Du Maurier in recent weeks. At first, unable to reconcile the bitterness he felt towards her, and later his disgust and disdain. But, casting aside petty jealousy, there is a stab of admiration at her audacity. Maybe he and Hannibal together could find a way to satisfy themselves without consuming her entirely.

“I am...” Will tastes the word, considers the implications, then lets it roll off his tongue, “malleable.” Hannibal's eyes flare at the insinuation.

They're both moving, independent of one another, but perfectly in sync, as if choreographed. Hannibal sinks against him and Will rises up, arms twining around his waist and shoulder, mindful of his wounds. Skin catches skin, every tender, bruised spot like a tongue pressing against a sore tooth. Will shudders and cradles Hannibal to his chest and the v of his thighs.

Hannibal noses along his collarbone, inhales the line of his neck. His body is a solid, suffocating weight and he settles in place with a long, contented sigh. The draw of his hands over Will's uninjured arm, the way his fingers skirt the edge of his wounds, every touch is reverent. Will holds still, fingers digging into skin maybe more roughly than he intended. This moment is too delicate, suspended out of time. Borrowed, for now.

“Shall we pay the good doctor a visit, then?” Hannibal asks, voice muffled by Will's skin. The intimacy is almost unbearable.

Hannibal is burning hot with blood and life and the feel of him washes away the memory of him slack in Will's embrace as they sank into the sea. They're somewhere well beyond the threshold of pain and exhaustion, but for the first time Will can imagine this under different circumstances. If his body were able right now, he'd be hard. It's telling that despite the wreckage of their bodies in the wake of this evening, his heart is racing at the idea.

Too soon Hannibal moves, dressing again in warm, dry clothing from the closet. He helps Will into a flannel and sweatpants, and then allows himself to be dragged back down to the bed. The weight of the covers is too much, the sheets too confining. Too reminiscent of the relentless, black sea smothering them. Will struggles, trying to kick free, but Hannibal strokes him like a pet.

The pain-killers are kicking in, scattering his focus. No matter how hard he fights the drag of fatigue, the gentle lapping against the hull, the familiar rise and fall of a ship around him, it's too easy to drift away.

At some point, Hannibal rises, dodging Will's clinging hands. The last thing he's aware of is the press of chapped lips to his temple and a hand stroking his hair. If he hadn't been committed to his decision before, he knows he is, now.

And he's ready to make more.

Chapter Text

Before

There's a bracing Atlantic breeze buffeted by the cliff, cutting through Will's clothes. He hunches over, tucking his hands in his sleeves, and his thoughts wander. For maybe the millionth time since he got the call from the hospital and set this whole crazy ride into motion he has to ask himself if he's committed to this.

As far as Will can see, there was never a clear, good option. There never will be. He can imagine Molly here alongside him as easily as he can imagine Hannibal.

Molly survived the Dragon, and Will can see her triumphant once again over his fallen body. Her quick thinking and survival instinct let her compartmentalise like Will's never been able to. Her fierceness is devoid of empathy in the face of a threat to those she loves. Will saw a glimpse of that for himself as she lay in her hospital bed.

In that scenario, Will is passive. He would allow Molly to save him, trust in her to know and do what's best.

When he sees himself with Hannibal, he is an active participant. He can almost feel the pride radiating from Hannibal, at seeing his creation come to life. He can feel the rush of blood in his veins, remembers the crunch of bone beneath his fists and the satisfying snap of Randall Tier's neck, the exhiliration of chasing Freddie Lounds in those brief seconds of indecision when he didn't know where the lies he was telling Hannibal ended, and the ones he was telling Jack began. In that moment of damning potential where he could have easily ended her life.

Ending the Dragon with Hannibal is something Will craves, beyond reason. Whether one of them falls in the process, or both of them, he needs to know the incandescent rush of pleasure at a righteous kill. His knees almost buckle, it's Frederick Chilton all over again, shocks of arousal coursing through his veins.

Will opens his eyes, breathing hard through his nose, fists unclenching.

A treacherous voice tells him there still time to save this. Hannibal is inside, Will has his cell. Jack could be lying in wait, just as they had originally planned, and when it's all done, Molly could tend to all his wounds in her careful way. She'd give him his space, never push him for more than he's willing to give. She'd be sweet and safe.

Molly would never really be her true self with him, and she'd never push to see the truth Will keeps buried deep. And Will finds that acceptable. With enough time and distance, it will even be desirable. He learned how to turn himself off once, when he'd first rejected Hannibal. He can do it again. It's never been difficult for Will to lose himself.

There would be long days of fishing, cosy nights cuddled up reading by the fire. Walks along the river with his pack at his heels, his wife's hand tucked in his, and the easy, unassuming love of the child at his side.

Until he'd known Hannibal, Will had never desired complexity. He gave it up once, but things have changed since then.

The path with Hannibal was unclear before, when Will first let himself fantasise about running away together, as they dined on his first kill. The two of them cutting a murderous swath through Europe. The whirlwind of days spent walking ancient streets, dining at street-side cafés and wandering through darkened museums. The evenings drenched in blood and sweat.

But what would they be in the quiet, dark spaces they occupied together? How would they ever possibly fit two such distinct personalities into one life? The Will who hangs on Hannibal's arm at the opera, who wears thousand dollar suits and dines in the finest restaurants, is a construct just as much as the Will Molly can love. And is there any version of Hannibal who would huff in affectionate resignation at the dogs weaving through his legs, shedding fur on his neatly pressed trousers?

Then, no one had ever put a name to what they were to one another and Will could see it lasting only so long until it ended in a truly spectacular bloodbath. All it took was a simple confirmation from Bedelia Du Maurier, and now the visions took form and solidified.

Hannibal in their kitchen, sleeves of his sweater pushed back. Will sits on a stool across the counter, reading aloud the latest article about their escape, privately delighting in the amused curl of Hannibal's lip whenever Will interjects his own commentary.

A half finished bottle of wine between them. Will's bare toes curl around the rungs of the stool, and he leans across to drag a finger through one of the saucepans simmering on the stove, grinning at Hannibal's exasperated sound of disapproval.

There's a study with French doors that opens onto the veranda. Will is throwing camouflage bumpers for the dogs—two, maybe three of them, if Will is persuasive enough and Hannibal is in the mood to be convinced—who fall tumble and roll over one another in the chase. The air is pleasant with the first hint of autumnal crisp.

Hannibal will be writing at his desk, or maybe playing the harpsichord, and Will comes inside, the dogs waiting obediently at the threshold, happy to chew on the bumpers and each other's ears. Hannibal pauses in his work when Will draws a hand across his shoulder. The touch is familiar by now, but Hannibal always savours it.

The two of them stumbling down some cobblestone alley, tipsy and handsy, oblivious to the faint echo of another set of shoes until they reach a darkened doorstep. Then Hannibal transforms before his very eyes. There is no more sprouting antlers, no more slick black spilling from his tongue, but wholly inhuman predator nonetheless.

Will can almost feel the sticky hot spill of blood over his hand, plunging the blade deep, dragging through muscle and across bone. He's never killed that way before, but all he has to do is borrow from one of dozens of the killers who occupy his mind to know. And suddenly, he realises he wants to know it from his own experience.

A dozen other scenarios play out in the span of a few seconds. Lives yet unlived. They would be glorious, this Will knows to be the utter truth.

Hannibal would never stop testing him, never stop peeling back the layers Will's spent a lifetime piling on. It is truest connection he's ever found, and the sacrifices he needs to make to have it seem small in comparison.

The overcast sky is giving way to true night. Dolarhyde will be coming soon; they need to be prepared as they can be. Through the floor to ceiling windows he can see Hannibal moving around inside, freshly showered and dressed. Time to get this show on the road.

He spares a last glimpse over the cliff face. Molly has a framed, cross-stitched poem in the laundry room, a gift from her grandmother because the title had her name in it. It's a silly little thing--he's never been fond of that poet, but the last bit has always struck a chord with him. He can't help but think of it now—for whatever we lose (like a you or a me) it's always ourselves we find in the sea.

Chapter Text

Will stirs when the engine stops. It hasn't been more than a few hours, but he feels rejuvenated and though the meds are wearing off, the pain had yet to return in full force. He takes the stairs slowly, feeling each step in every muscle, and finds he is grateful for the reminder that he is alive.

Hannibal is in the cockpit, and for one heart-stopping moment, he is as still and quiet as the dead. The skin around his eyes is paper thin, dark and sunken and his eyes are dull and distant.

Will touches his shoulder and Hannibal is burning hot to the touch. His head lolls drunkenly to the side and he murmurs something in an unfamiliar language. Sleep has given Will new focus. He can see the details he missed before, like Hannibal's ankle, black and swollen easily double it's normal size, or the blood matting the hair at his temple.

“Jesus Christ,” Will mutters. He drags a hand over his face and closes his eyes and concentrates. Like the swing of a pendulum, his mind kicks over, and he's thinking like Hannibal. He slips much more easily into the mindset when he isn't resistant to the idea, it appears.

Hannibal puts up no struggle when Will drags him to his feet. He winces, his first sign of discomfort over his ankle and Will curses himself for not noticing earlier. How much more damage was done, carrying him through the marsh like some wilting flower. This concern for Hannibal is new, but not exactly startling, nor unwelcome.

They're docked at a small, private wharf. Hannibal must have planned this, too. Will's banking on it, because he doesn't have the time to waste removing every trace of their presence from the boat.

There's an ancient blue pick-up waiting on the shore. The doors are unlocked and the keys are tucked into the visor, just as anticipated. Will hoists Hannibal into the passenger seat with his good arm and has to dodge Hannibal's fumbling hands to buckle him in.

Will leans against the seat, panting from the exertion, letting the pain in his shoulder settle back from sharp and bright to the dull, insistent throb. He takes Hannibal's face in both hands. Hannibal licks his dry, cracked lips over and over, compulsively, and he has trouble focussing on Will's face, but Will is patient until their eyes meet.

“Hannibal,” Will says, slow and careful, “let me take care of you.” Hannibal shudders, eyes falling closed.

It doesn't take long for Will to get his orientation, pulling into the nearest service station and pouring over the atlas in the glove box. (There is also a .45 he tucks in his waistband). They're close to the outer belt, and from there it's less than an hour to Bedelia's home office in non-existent traffic of the wee morning hours. The commercial stretch outside her neighbourhood is lined with grocers, big box stores and the sort of chain restaurants that would make Hannibal's lip curl in disdain. When Will's eyes fall on the unlit sign of a walk-in urgent care, he makes a tactical decision.

This is the sort of break-in Jack will be looking for, especially given the proximity to Bedelia. Jack will have found the scene they left him by now. The evidence will show they went over, but they aren't foolish enough to think Jack will leave it at that, after everything. But the hours on the front door announce the clinic will be closed until Monday morning. By the time anyone notices anything's missing, he and Hannibal will be long gone.

At Will's gentle but persistent shaking of his shoulder, Hannibal stirs long enough to provide him a list of the equipment and drugs they'll need. As he breaks in through the back and disables the alarm, Will sends a sardonic mental thank you to the criminals whose minds have gifted him with the skills to carry this out.

There's an unmarked car five houses down across the street. Will keeps driving, thoughts racing. That there is only one car means Jack isn't overly worried for Bedelia's safety, or no one else at the FBI is willing to listen to his concerns. He imagines others are scrambling. Chilton hiring private security to guard his room. Freddie Lounds going to ground. Every witness from trial, every expert who's written their definitive diagnosis of Hannibal's pathology, any orderly who offended Hannibal in the slightest, all clamouring for protection.

Will spares a thought for Alana, lips thinning in a grim line, and hopes she's already gone. Any affection he'd held for her once has drifted away like so much smoke. Once she'd read as simple, warm, and safe to him, much the same way as Molly, but now there's a darkness lurking behind the polished exterior. Will can't even say Hannibal is to blame—he only brought to the surface what was already buried deep.

No, he's not particularly bothered by the idea of Hannibal keeping his promise to her. What he can't tolerate is the idea of Margot or their child being changed by the loss. He can't help thinking of the child that wasn't, and maybe that colours his view, but he wants Alana's son growing up with both his parents, happy and whole. Untouched by this whole damn mess.

Sometime in the near future he and Hannibal are going to have to sit down to a very frank discussion on boundaries. Will is ready to give so much than Hannibal has even anticipated, but Hannibal will make concessions.

He parks a few blocks away and they make their way through the yards, under the cover of shadow. Hannibal is practically useless, shuffling his feet, a dead weight against Will's side. Bedelia's home is dark and still. Will leans Hannibal against the stoop and tries the door. It's unlocked.

Will draws the colt, checks the clip, flicks off the safety. He's considered that this may be a trap and he may have to kill a member of law enforcement. The idea should bother him more than it does, but it's been a possibility all along, and besides, the blood of all those agents killed by Dolarhyde in Hannibal's escape is on Will's hands already. A new man rose from the water, and he will do whatever needs to be done to ensure their freedom.

There's no one but Bedelia, sitting alone in the dark, tumbler full of amber liquid dangling from her hand. Will isn't sure whether he finds it incredibly stupid or incredibly impressive that she is unarmed. She takes him in with that same unruffled, hollowed-out expression she wore throughout their sessions, and finishes off her drink in one swallow.

Will lets the gun fall against his thigh and Bedelia arches one sculpted brow in faint surprise.

“We've got a deal for you.”

 

*
Before

 

For all the physical damage they've done to one another, it's nothing compared to what they've done with their words. Even now, so close to the precipice, fully intending to take that plunge, Will follows the steps of this familiar dance. Parry and jab. Twist the knife a little deeper. Watch with wonder at the hurt on Hannibal's face.

Bedelia's confirmation of this love was almost better than hearing it from Hannibal himself; it cost her something to tell him the truth. Still, to see the evidence before him brings a rush of paralysing disbelief. This is real. Past all the anguish they've caused one another, all the things Hannibal has stolen from him and all the lies Will has told to cut him deep in retribution, they're here.

And for all that Hannibal has become an open book to Will, it's clear the same cannot be said for Hannibal reading Will. How frustrating it must be, but Will isn't quite ready to lay himself bare. He enjoys watching far too much as the fraying edges of Hannibal's control snap one by one. The result will no doubt be stunning. When they come out the other side, though they may wear new scars, they will cast aside all the old hurt, bitterness, and regret. There will be time aplenty to dress the deep wounds they've given one another.

Hannibal asks, “Do you intend to watch him kill me?” and Will answers, “I intend to watch him change you.”

It isn't a lie. Dolarhyde will change them both, but not in the way he intends. Nor will it be the transformation Hannibal has imagined for Will. This is Will's becoming. This is Will's design.

So when Dolarhyde makes his entrance, Will is calm and sure and ready. This is not the adrenaline fuelled fight for survival that took Randall Tier's life, nor the blind, panicky desperation behind pulling the trigger again and again with Garrett Jacob Hobbs. Not even the cold, distant malice when he sent Matthew Brown after Hannibal, or placed his hand on Frederick's shoulder.

They may be going up against a serial killer, but there is no longer any room for deluding himself about his motivation. This isn't about ridding the world of evil—it isn't even revenge for the attack on his family. Will is going to murder a pretender, a lesser predator, who had the audacity to think he could share some connection with Hannibal. He's going to murder Dolarhyde because he wants to.

Will goes for his pistol, and what is that they say about best laid plans?

Though, perhaps, it will be equally satisfying. As much as Will would have liked to put the barrel to the man's skull, to treat his life with the same disregard as he'd shown the men and children he's killed, to deny him the dignity of knowing that he's about to end, it lacks the carnality Hannibal craves. He's covered more in his own blood than the Dragon's, but his pulse is steady and he is unafraid.

Something powerful unfurls within him. Something sickeningly wonderful. His consciousness is somewhere else far beyond, watching this play out like a memory. His body is present, hot in suffocating lust, aching for release. Who swings the axe, who buries the blade deep, these are details that don't matter; they are inside one another now, each moving as the extension of the other. Will feels the flesh between his teeth and blood spilling hot into his mouth. Hannibal's weight is behind the thrust of the knife; Dolarhyde's is torn open by his hand. The body between them is nothing more than a conduit.

There will be no artistry here, no elaborate tableau. Let the world see the brutality of it. They would never understand what truly happened here, even if they were shown; the perfection of it is beyond his capacity to describe.

It's beautiful.

In the creeping darkness, just beyond the halo of light cast from the window, Will hears the plodding approach of hooves over frozen grass. The wendigo walks alongside, claws delicately curled at the back of the stag's neck, guiding. They watch him, expectant. But Will won't be led into this, he won't follow blindly. His hand tightens on Hannibal's shoulder and he leads.

Chapter Text

Bedelia comes with him to bring in the equipment. The two of them manage to move the dining table into the office, where the lighting is best. Will needs to be alert, and the blessed relief the pain medications gave him has faded. His cheek throbs with every beat of his heart, and he has to bite back shocky gasps of pain every time he shifts his weight, the whole of his right side is rigid and inflexible. He covers as best as he can, but Bedelia must see it.

They cover the table in clean linens that smell like lavender and vanilla, and Bedelia lays out the surgical instruments. Hannibal watches them from the patient's chair, eyes at half-mast. Bedelia has already given him analgesics and more antibiotics, and he's far more lucid. When Bedelia goes to help lift him, Will's hand twitches near his waistband. The look she gives him is scathing.

“It will be difficult to perform surgery without touching him,” she says, putting extra emphasis in all the right places to make Will's teeth clinch.

“I think it goes without saying-”

“Then perhaps you shouldn't say it.”

Bedelia will never know how lucky she is, in that moment, that Will's hands are full wrestling Hannibal onto the table top. He is gentle as he can be, but he can see the toll this is taking on Hannibal, etched in every line of his body.

“If he doesn't make it out of this alive, neither will you.”

“A life for a life,” Bedelia echoes. She's filled a syringe and now she smooths her delicate hands over the crook of Hannibal's arm, rolls the vein under her finger until it stands out in stark relief against the skin.

First is the anaesthetic. Will knows from past experience with Hannibal how quickly that goes to work. “Give that a minute,” he says, even if Hannibal isn't cognisant enough to appreciate the jab.

Bedelia is unbuttoning Hannibal's shirt, pushing it back over his shoulders. Will doesn't watch and doesn't think about how many times she's done it before, under different circumstances. It takes the aching of his cheek for him to realise he's clenching his teeth.

“Will.” Hannibal's voice is hoarse. His hand closes around the hem of Will's shirt. His eyes are cloudy and far away.

Will takes his hand, wraps it tightly in his own. “I'm here, Hannibal.”

A faint, dreamy smile crosses Hannibal face at hearing his name. Maybe Will is making up for before, all the times he denied Hannibal the pleasure of it. Hannibal has a whole lifetime left to hear all the ways Will can say it.

It's pure impulse that Will doesn't bother to fight when he bends over, brushing his lips over Hannibal's. There's barely any pressure at all. Yet Hannibal exhales in pleased surprise, and his hand goes limp in Will's.

Will presses his face to Hannibal's cheek, breathes him in, and promises, “I'm with you.”

Will watches Bedelia hawkishly; she admitted already that her first instinct is to kill, rather than to heal. It is apparent once she begins working on the internal injuries, however, that she is a more than capable surgeon. She works quickly, with calm detachment, never pausing when she selects another instrument. Will thought it would take longer, but in less than an hour she's flushed the wound, stitched him up internally, and packed it with the special dressing Hannibal requested.

Then she begins to tend to the lesser wounds. She stitches the gashes high on his back, scrapes the abrasions, cleans and dresses them. At some point Hannibal wakes from his drug-induced slumber. Perhaps it's a result of the pain and drugs, but the moment he realises Will is still at his side is written clearly across his face. How long will it take before he believes Will is here to stay this time?

Bedelia rewraps Hannibal's ankle with a clean bandage and puts it in a brace. When she turns her attention to his head, Bedelia's fingers ruffle through Hannibal's hair with the familiarity of a lover. Will steps forward then, but fights the urge to edge her aside, even when she smirks. The wound is disturbingly long, but shallow. Bedelia has to shave a thin strip of hair and Hannibal does not protest, though he gives a moue of distaste.

Will can't help a chuckle, which only causes Hannibal to draw his brows together in further annoyance. Will brushes back the hair from his forehead, stakes his claim. Now that he isn't censoring his own thoughts and feelings, he is ridiculously fond of this man. “No one will even be able to notice.” Were Hannibal a less disciplined man, he'd doubtless insist that he would notice.

“Touching though this is,” Bedelia murmurs, “I would hate to be remiss in fulfilling my side of the bargain.” She's holding the surgical stapler loosely in one hand.

“Bedelia,” Hannibal says, as if he's only just noticed her presence. “You look delectable, as ever.”

Bedelia, to her credit, looks as unimpressed as Will is. “Hannibal. I see you've cast aside your person suit.”

Hannibal looks reflective. His eyes are still soft and distant; it will be sometime before the pain-medication passes from his system and his fever breaks. Until then, Will hardly knows what's going on in that wonderful mind, or what will pass his lips. “One might argue I had done so long before now.”

“One who knows you better than most would argue that you'd merely traded one disguise for another,” Bedelia says. She punctuates her words with the jarring click of the stapler. It makes a neat row along his scalp.

“Oh?” Hannibal doesn't even flinch.

Bedelia sets aside the tool and goes to the side table. She pours herself another glassful of bourbon before she speaks again. “The love-sick fool working his way through Florentine scholars, trailing dead bodies along behind like love letters?”

Hannibal tilts his head. It is as good as bidding her to continue.

“But what good was baring that gaping chasm devoid of soul if the one you wanted to see it wouldn't look?” Bedelia says, gaze flicking to Will and back again, and drinks. “Better to robe yourself again, secret away any vulnerability.”

“Compelling analysis,” Hannibal says.

Will watches the back and forth and tastes copper on his tongue. He starts at the brush of Hannibal's fingers across the back of his hand, and when he looks down, Will finds a scalpel clenched in his own fist. Hannibal looks absolutely smitten and Will can't even deny the reason for it any longer. “Bedelia,” he says, without taking his eyes from Will. “Do you remember the gown I bought you in Florence, for a special occasion? Do you still have it?”

For the first time since their arrival, Bedelia looks shaken. “Yes,” she says, at length.

“I think tonight qualifies.”

Chapter Text

“Second thoughts?” Hannibal asks, gauging Will's reaction to the shopping list.

Will gives him a sharp look. “I'm with you.” He'll say it as many times as he needs to. “But Kalua, Hannibal? Really?” He's going to have to visit a hardware store, garden shop, and two different speciality grocers.

He supposes he should be grateful Hannibal isn't suggesting they dig a pit. Of the three of them, Bedelia is the only one in any real shape to take on that task, and he hardly sees her cooperating. She's masterfully ploughing her way through an entire fifth of bourbon, anyway. Will idly wonders if it will change the flavour of her meat.

“I promise it will be worth the effort.”

Will doesn't doubt that it will be as delicious as anything else Hannibal has served him. He'd never experienced quite the same level of horror as the others when he'd realised what was on Hannibal's plates; he'd kept dining with him, regardless. Any lingering qualms he'd parted with long ago. He more than proved that when he sliced up Tier.

“I'm more concerned about drawing unnecessary attention.” He twitches aside the curtain. The car is still there, a single agent inside. She seems more interested in her phone than anything going on in the house. All the same someone is going to notice their winter luau barbecue.

Hannibal touches Will's good cheek, brushes his thumb across the stubble. “I won't risk our freedom.”

Will just nods. Hannibal has never failed to make good on a promise to him. He casts one last look at Bedelia, but she's not much of a threat, loose limbed and bleary eyed, slouched on her sofa. Even halfway delirious from fever, Hannibal is more than a match for her, and he has the gun.

The first crimson fingers of dawn are clawing their way over the horizon when Will ventures out. The houses are far apart out here, sprawling manicured yards a statement of wealth and status. There are plenty of old trees that provide privacy even bare of leaves and entire row of firs completely obscures the neighbours to the right. Bedelia's patio is shaded by a pergola, dripping with thick, thorny wild grapevines. He grudgingly allows that this might not be an absolute disaster.

First, he heads back to the boat for the medical kit and garment bags Hannibal had requested. Because of course they needed to be properly attired for dinner. Too sore for any more elaborate physical representation of his annoyance, Will had rolled his eyes. Hannibal, not looking up from where he'd been writing the list, had murmured, “Don't be gauche.” Will still wasn't sure if he was referring to the gesture or Will's suggestion of a more relaxed dress code.

Behind the suits, buried in the back of the closet, he finds the safe and punches in the code. It's filled with tightly rolled wads of cash in a dozen currencies, and their new identities—passports, driver's licenses, birth records and more—any sort of documentation they might need. Will grabs the license and one of the credit cards in his name, William Reins. William is a common enough name, after all. Out of curiosity, he looks for one of Hannibal's IDs and immediately hopes he isn't married to it, because...Linas Vasiliauskas. Will experiences a moment's weary resignation for the life he has condemned himself to, stitches stretching from his grin.

The Will Graham of a mere week ago would be a nervous wreck walking into the hardware store. He'd have shuffled along, shoulders hunched, eyes glued to the ground, painfully conspicuous in his attempt to go unnoticed. The new Will Graham strides in, meeting the gaze of anyone who looks—the banal horrors hidden behind their eyes can't shake him now.

An over-eager worker with a name tag that reads Kevin insists on helping him find everything he needs and rather than being curt, Will weaves a humorous tale of the neighbourhood committee's decision to have an authentic Hawaiian Luau in an attempt to break up the monotony of winter. He even works in a bit about injuring himself while attempting to break the frozen ground and having the shovel handle splinter at the force. Kevin hangs on his words, laughing more than the story really deserves, and Will finally understands he's being flirted with. He takes advantage of it, lets the kid load the items in the cart and then follow him to the truck.

On the drive to the garden centre, Will marvels at how easy it was, how natural it felt. He practices at the rest of his stops, playing a different character each time, and the lies roll naturally from his tongue. None of the people he encounters are at all suspicious of him. And it's fun.

He stops at a department store on the way back. Beyond a couple changes of clothing and one set of linens, the boat is mostly empty of supplies. He visits the pharmacy, throwing in sunscreen, bug repellent, toothbrushes for them both, grabs a couple pairs of sunglasses from an end display. He tosses in a bunch of travel-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner, shaving cream and deodorant. He knows from experience that it's better than anything from the hospital.

As far as he knows there is no particular destination in mind, so in the clothing section he fills the cart with long underwear, sweaters and thick slacks, along with light-weight button downs, a few packages of t-shirts, linen pants, and cargo shorts. He's already smiling when he envisions Hannibal's reaction to clothing bought from Target.

Bedelia and Hannibal are sitting across from one another in her den, and Will wonders if Bedelia has taken advantage of his absence to further Hannibal's therapy. “It went smoothly?” Hannibal wonders, at the smile Will is wearing when he comes through the back door.

Will is still high on the roles he's inhabited and he feels loose and comfortable in his skin. That is how he finds himself bracing his arm on the back of Hannibal's chair and leaning in. Hannibal's eyes drift to Will's lips and then fall closed. He makes a faint, tremulous sound when their lips meet. Will lingers only a moment, long enough for them to see how the curves and swells of their mouths fit together, and then he goes to make his next trip to the truck. He patently ignores Bedelia's muttered, “I suppose that's a yes,” and all the implications therein.

When he comes back in, laden with several hundred dollars worth of banana stalks and kiawe wood blocks, Hannibal is still sitting there, fingers pressed to his mouth. Bedelia's head rolls along the back of the sofa to pin Will with an arch glare and says dryly, “Can you just eat me already?”

 

*

 

They put down fresh linens and Bedelia climbs on the table, regal as a queen ascending her throne. She's still quite steady on her feet at this point, and Will can't help the spike of vicious glee at the thought of how well she'll manage when they're finished. A leg is what they've agree upon—or at least what Hannibal has told her they're taking, and what she did not protest losing.

Hannibal is out of breath just walking from the den to the office and Will is ready to call this whole thing to off. As much as he's looked forward to this, the idea of sailing away with Hannibal is far more appealing right now. They could come back for her when they've healed, when they've been forgotten. He says as much once Hannibal has administered the sedative.

“My dear boy,” Hannibal says, and for fuck's sake, Will is a couple years shy of forty. Hannibal calling him a boy should be absolutely absurd. It shouldn't curl sweet and hot in his chest. “Let me give you this, before we leave this life behind.”

Will drags a chair up to the table and reaches for the electrical bone saw. “So sit down, and walk me through it.” Hannibal looks absolutely besotted.

Offering to do the thing and actually doing it should be radically different, but whether he's assumed Hannibal's professional detachment or it's his own, he has no trouble. From this point of view, it's actually fascinating. He follows the line Hannibal drew earlier, slicing carefully through the skin. “Not so deep,” Hannibal murmurs, and Will eases up on the pressure. When he finishes, the skin just slips down. There is far less blood than he'd imagined.

Next are the muscles along the inside of her leg. Hannibal names them as Will severs them, sartorius, vastus medialis, and on. He directs Will to clamp the major blood vessels as they are cut. The bone is the most difficult part. Something about the feel of it vibrating up the blade of the saw makes him suppress a shudder. Then Hannibal is pressed all along his back, wrapping his arms around Will's, hand covering his on the saw. Will's head falls back against Hannibal's shoulder and he let's himself be in the moment, feeling the rapid beat of Hannibal's heart against his back, hot breath stirring his hair, the delicate drag of his finger along the line of Will's index finger to the tip of his thumb. Somehow he's lived his entire life without realising how erotic such a touch could be.

“Hannibal,” he drawls, aiming for playful reprimand. The catch in his voice gives him away, and Hannibal huffs in amusement. “I hardly think this is appropriate behaviour for the operating theatre.”

Hannibal guides him through the rest of the procedure, but takes over once the amputation is complete, tying off the veins and arteries, smoothing the bone, folding over the excess skin and sealing it. This takes all of his strength and he has to rest, leaving the bandaging to Will.

Walking through the preparation of the leg is far more enjoyable, in Will's opinion. Besides telling him what seasoning to use and how it will cook, Hannibal leaves the artistry to Will. Almost an extension of the tableaux they've both created, creating a masterpiece from the remains. After he's rubbed the meat in lulo, horned melon, and pomegranate juice, he splits open the rest of the fruits to save for the serving of the dish—the bright oranges and greens and the rich reds will compliment the flowers Hannibal requested. He doesn't just tie the Ti leaves, he wraps them in banana stalk and skewers a blackberry on each pin to hold them in place.

When he is finished, no one would ever tell it hadn't been done by Hannibal's hand. Hannibal says, “I couldn't have done better myself.”

And Will places his hands on Hannibal's hips, lets himself just bask in Hannibal's presence for a moment, and says, “You're a terrible liar.”

Hannibal's eyes dart over his face. “Only for limited audience,” he says.

Will thinks about kissing him again, but as much as he'd enjoyed the reaction, he decides against it. He's sore and weary, and there will be time to figure this new aspect of their relationship once they've rested and healed. So instead, he ushers Hannibal into the bedroom and orders him to lie down, and Hannibal doesn't put up any protest.

It takes Will well over an hour to drag all the cinder blocks from the truck to the backyard, set them up, and assemble the grill, and another hour to get it to the heat he needs so he can lower the meat inside and cover it with the sand. By then it's early afternoon, and even the latest weekend risers will be awake. It's the kind of cold that makes you want to forget the world outside even exists, and either no one notices, or no one cares about the impromptu cook-out.

Inside it's quiet and still; Bedelia won't wake for hours, and even when she does she won't be able to move in her weakened state. There's a different car out front, one house closer on the other side of the street. The man inside is eating a packed lunch and reading a paperback novel. Will can't recall a more lax stakeout in his entire career, and he's never been more certain that Hannibal Lecter possesses an uncanny sort of luck. At least this time it's working in Will's favour.

So he goes and lies down next to Hannibal, setting an alarm, because he can only imagine the apoplexy Hannibal will have if the leg is overcooked. After their dive and the boat, and the constant motion since, it is strange and unsettling to be still and alone in his thoughts. But Hannibal looks as peaceful as someone so dangerous can, so Will scoots closer, twines their feet together, and Hannibal's body acquiesces, shifting to let him near. That Hannibal sleeps through this is a sign of such enormous trust, Will can't even fully comprehend. He nudges his forehead to Hannibal's and closes his eyes, feeling the puff of each exhale across his cheek, and he focusses on that until he drifts to sleep.

Chapter Text

Will assembles the platter while Hannibal is dressing for dinner. They've showered and re-bandaged, and Bedelia awaits their presence in the dining room, so hopped up on drugs Will's not sure how she's staying upright in her seat. He doesn't exactly have Hannibal's flair, so he just keeps layering the flowers and fruits, seed pods and splintered bits of the kiawe wood until he finds it suitably ostentatious, then, on a whim, he sprinkles some of the ice over the charcoal so it hisses and steams.

He unwraps the end and cuts a slice for Hannibal's approval, setting it aside. The rest he carries to the table, Bedelia tracking his movements as he enters and places her leg before her. Her lips part on a particularly rough breath. “Don't worry,” Will tells her, voice light, nudging the plate of oysters closer. “You aren't expected to partake.”

Will can tell something is off the moment Hannibal steps into the kitchen. Will is taking the taro root and sweet potato from the oven and Hannibal pauses in the doorway, head tilted to the side, and inhales deeply. Will notes the thoughtful, analytic look on his face and says, “Something's wrong. With the meat?”

Hannibal doesn't answer right away. He dips his hand in the waiting ice and pinches off a piece of thigh from the piece Will sliced. It practically falls apart in his hand, and Will's never exactly relished the idea of eating human meat, but it looks mouth-watering. Hannibal sniffs at the meat and places it on his tongue, rolls it in his mouth, and neatly spits it out.

“Deadly Nightshade,” he says, and wipes his fingers on the dish towel. “Hardly detectable amongst the other flavours, but deadly enough. The atropine doesn't break down when cooked.”

“She tried to poison us?” Will asks, incredulous.

Oddly, Hannibal smiles. “She's poisoned herself to poison us,” he clarifies. “Bluebeard's final wife, sacrificing herself to rid the world of his evil.”

A savage noise rips its way from Will's throat and he grabs the carving knife. “If she wants to die, I'm glad to help hasten her along.”

“Will.” Hannibal grabs his arm and holds firm. Will knows, or is at least moderately sure, that Hannibal isn't aware of the conversation that passed between Bedelia and himself, in this very place. Doesn't know how Will struggled to put a name to the bubbling mess of emotions Bedelia provoked in him with her mere continued survival, let alone the things she'd said. How she'd placated him with assurances that he was the last.

He jerks his arm free, points with the knife to the doorway and beyond that, Bedelia. “You found a way to convince me to spare her, and now she's tried to poison us, you'd ask me to spare her again?” Will scoffs and turns anxiously on the spot, knife dropping impotent at his side. “Are you still in love with her?”

“If you wish to slake your bloodlust with her, I won't stop you,” Hannibal says. His eyes track the way Will's wrist flexes at his words. “But I assure you, your jealousy is misplaced.” Will sneers at the word, but he has nothing to say to that.

“The belladonna will finish her,” Hannibal says, voice pitched low. “I imagine she was masking the early symptoms with her alcohol consumption. Soon she'll succumb to the more serious effects—hallucinations, convulsions, delirium. Then her nervous system will lose the ability to regulate autonomic responses and she will suffocate.”

Hannibal must know the effect his embrace has on Will, at this point. He uses it to his advantage, crowding Will back against the counter careless of the blade, tucking his chin in Will's hair. Though he waits, patient and knowing, until Will's shoulders loosen, until Will leans in and sighs, before bringing his arms around Will's shoulders and closing that last bit of space between them. “Don't give her the satisfaction of a quick death.”

He'd say it's unfair for Hannibal to have this power over him, but Will knows his power over Hannibal is far greater still. There is, of course, wisdom to what Hannibal is saying. As much pleasure as Will would take in slitting her throat, he already knows that Bedelia wouldn't give him the reaction he desires. He can anticipate triumph in her eyes even as she bleeds out, secure in the knowledge of how deeply she'd crawled under his skin. And she would stay there, tainting everything that followed between Hannibal and himself. Maybe she's tainted it already.

“Fine, we do it your way,” Will concedes, resigned. He disentangles himself from Hannibal and steps back, eyes on the floor. He's waiting for Hannibal to hook a finger under his chin, bring them eye to eye, but Hannibal turns away, gives him his space.

Will puts the knife down by the sink, maybe with more force than necessary, and follows Hannibal into the office. He's angry with Hannibal—angrier than he'd been when he'd heard about Dolarhyde going after Molly and Walter and known it was Hannibal behind it. It's so fucked up he can't even begin to process it.

In the office, Bedelia sits tall and proud, though she's trembling and her breathing is laboured. She's clutching an oyster fork in her lap. Apparently poisoning them isn't enough for her; she wants to draw blood. Hannibal cuts a sophisticated figure in his suit, even with a slight limp, face haggard from pain and lack of sleep. He goes to Bedelia, standing behind her, cupping his hands around her shoulders. “Bedelia, you have been a most gracious hostess,” he says. She remains still, tracking him in her periphery. “And it is inexcusably rude of us to leave you in such a state, but I'm afraid we must depart.”

Bedelia lashes out but Will is quicker. He grabs her wrist, pressing hard between the delicate bones with his thumb, until she makes a soft noise of distress and drops the fork.

Hannibal purses his lips and leans in close to her ear. “Now that is disappointing,” he whispers, and Bedelia has the good sense to be afraid with that mouth so near her skin. He inhales her scent deeply and straightens. “I thought you and I were beyond such petty jabs.”

“Were it not for the fact that you required medical attention, I have no doubt I would have met a similarly crass ending at the hands of your pet,” she says, lip curling in disgust.

Hannibal smiles serenely and says, “Will is a creature entirely of his own making. It is not to me to guide his hand. Merely to share in the sublime perfection of his vision, when he allows it.”

Will squats beside Bedelia, picking up the fork, twisting the tine against his fingertip. “You've created a narrative of your version of reality, casting yourself as a victim. Carefully manipulated the perceptions and shaped the reactions of everyone around you, including myself, in service of whatever best furthered your self-interest. But ultimately you're victim of your own design.” He stands, tossing the fork on the table, out of her reach.

Bedelia raises her chin, gaze drifting slowly upward to meet his, and the look on her face is nothing he would have expected. There is no defeat, no resignation. Instead it's a curious amalgamation of pride and satisfaction.

Hannibal, half-turned to leave, goes still, scrutinising her expression. “You've contrived to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat; if we were to partake, we too would be consumed by the bella donna to whom you have consigned your fate. If we abstain, you have denied me the consummation I have long desired,” he surmises.

“A Pyrrhic victory, but victory nonetheless,” Bedelia murmurs, a faint smile gracing her lips.

For a split-second, Will thinks Hannibal may be the one to yield to his bloodlust, eyes sparking with rage like fireflies converging on their prey. Just as quickly, it passes, replaced with a imperious smile and he reaches into his jacket, producing Bedelia's phone. He dials and waits with a patient expression. Even across the table Will can hear the 911 operator inquiring as to his emergency.

“My wife has mistaken a homeopathic remedy for tea, and now she is having difficulty walking and breathing. After an examination of the ingredients, I believe she is suffering from the effects of Deadly Nightshade.”

Will watches Bedelia's face, the subtle tightening of the skin around her eyes as she blinks slowly, refocussing her gaze upon her hands. Though she clasps them in her lap, she can't hide the little involuntary twitches as her muscles lose control. The press of her lips in a thin line. It looks like disappointment. He can't help but smile as Hannibal gives the address and, affecting a panicked tone, asks that they please hurry and disconnects the phone.

“You understand now,” Will says softly, looming over her. “No matter how carefully and cleverly you plan, you won't win.”

Bedelia tilts her head to the side, raises her shoulder in a disaffected shrug. “Perhaps I won't,” she says, and glances at Hannibal and back again. “But neither will he.”

Hannibal lays his hand on her shoulder again. “You'll never know where, or when,” he says, “But we'll be seeing you.”

Will studies her, tonguing the stitches in his cheek, and he nods. “Goodbye, Bedelia. It's been fascinating knowing you."

Chapter Text

Hannibal is just outside the back door, breath steaming in the frigid night air, completing a transaction for two Amtrak tickets to Chicago. Will waits silently, patiently, watching from the stoop. The ambulance will be arriving within a few minutes, and as soon as they do, that agent out front is going to have Jack on the phone. They've given up any head start their cliff dive gave them, but Will is unconcerned. Hannibal books a flight to Bangkok under the same aliases as the train ride and powers down the phone.

Will raises his brow. “Ready?”

“Not quite.” Hannibal turns to face him, tossing the phone in the still glowing charcoal. Zeller and Price will be able to retrieve the data regardless, but it gives them wiggle room. Hannibal steps closer and Will steps down from the stoop, bridging the gap between them yet still refusing to meet Hannibal's gaze. Now Hannibal does lift a finger to his chin, applies the slightest pressure, and Will sighs, lets himself be led, but casts his eyes to the side in defiance.

“Will,” Hannibal chastises, and Will clenches his jaw, rolls his eyes upward, and finally gives in. Hannibal's eyes are shimmering black in the moonlight, just like the blood. “Bedelia has an almost pathological need to be right.”

Will snorts. “No wonder the two of you got along so well; you have so much in common.”

“Will,” Hannibal says again, this time a sharp edge in his tone.

Will swallows back his bile. “Go on,” he says between gritted teeth.

“I can imagine the things she said to get under your skin. To engineer this evening's series of events.” Will is familiar with the predatory tilt of Hannibal's head, can see the gears turning. “I assume, from the way it set you off, it must have been the discussion of Bluebeard's wife.”

There's no point in denying it, so Will just lets his patent displeasure show on his face. “I suppose it rather flatters your ego, the two of us fighting over you, staking out our territory.”

“That is to assume that there was any part left of me unclaimed by you,” Hannibal says.

Probably it's meant to mollify him, but it's just more of Hannibal's flowery words that don't actually mean anything. Will shifts his weight to one side and gives him an insouciant smirk. He adopts the same casual, indifferent tone he'd used with Hannibal at the hospital, a mock play at submission. “Bedelia is fond of hearing herself speak, and she has no compunction about lying, I know better than to take anything she says at face value. You don't need to placate me, Hannibal,” he says, drawling out each syllable.

It has the desired effect on Hannibal—the tensing of his jaw and thinning of his lips, the tic at his temple. In another person it would indicate minor irritation. In Hannibal it could mean anything from that all the way up to literal bloody murder. A spark of excitement goes through Will at the sight—not quite as vivid as what he'd felt when they'd killed Dolarhyde, but still bright and enticing.

Will goes with impulse, brushing against Hannibal's shoulder as he passes. He strides in the direction of the truck, more quickly than Hannibal's wound will allow him to keep pace with. Any rational person would experience a shiver of fear turning their back on Hannibal Lecter mid-conversation, but Will feels reckless and isn't very interested in having this out right now.

He can feel Hannibal approach more than he hears him, the heat of his gaze tracking Will like he's prey. Hannibal catches up with him, shoves him hard into the side of the truck and follows with his full weight, grunting from the force. The impact sends hot, shocky pain up Will's arm and his vision goes black for a minute when Hannibal presses an elbow right where his shoulder dislocated. Will's heart is racing, but it isn't from fright.

“I guess you're working through that whole inconvenient compassion thing,” Will says, laughing. It dissolves into a coughing fit. The air freezes in his lungs as he breathes through the pain.

Hannibal steps back and Will turns, still half-laughing, half-coughing. He supposes it's a step forward that neither of them is actively trying to kill the other.

“I should think if nothing that has occurred between to this point has diminished my feelings for you, you can consider them unchangeable,” Hannibal says. Somehow Will's heart goes faster still. “I don't know what reaction you wish to provoke, but there is no longer any need for these games. Ask me what you wish to know, and I will answer you honestly.”

There are sirens in the distance, and here they are squabbling over what, exactly? Will has hardly cared in the past who his lovers slept with before him. He doesn't care that Hannibal slept with Alana anymore, even considering Hannibal's motivations in doing so. Why should he care what happened with Bedelia, whether sex or love or something else entirely that he can't fathom? Why, knowing how she's baited him, do Bedelia's words still ring in his ears?

Drawing a comparison between his sex life and whatever this is with Hannibal only confuses things further; outside of the quiet intimacy they'd shared in the wake of their escape, it's difficult to even imagine having Hannibal in that manner. He's surprised himself with his willingness to do so. Maybe even eagerness. But Hannibal, for all the emotional vulnerability he's shown, maintains an air of unattainability.

Will drags a hand over his face. There are too many conflicting thoughts swirling around inside and no time to unpack them all. “We need to go,” he says.

Hannibal nods once, accepting not an end to the conversation, but a brief recess. He pushes his hair back from his face, straightens his jacket. He's probably going to need his bandages changed after that move.

They climb into the cab in silence. Will didn't realise he was so tired until they're back on the highway. Every street light is blindingly bright, fracturing through the wind shield. The lines of the lane blur and he has to keep blinking to refocus. Hannibal is slumped against the passenger door, hand tucked inside his jacket, pressing against his wound. Will pushes the truck as fast as it will go, dares someone to pull them over, still clinging to that recklessness. His shoulder is aching all over again and he digs into the muscle with the heel of his hand.

At the dock, Hannibal leans against the hood, gathering the strength to make the trip to the boat. Will goes to him, gets his good arm under his shoulder, mirroring their early morning trip. Hannibal doesn't verbally thank him, but Will hears it in the unsteady exhale and the way Hannibal leans into him. They go below deck and Will sorts through the bottles on the counter until he finds the right antibiotics and painkillers. Hannibal watches him, no doubt thinking of the reversal between them, just as Will is.

It only takes a couple of trips to bring aboard the rest of the supplies, tossing things into the fridge haphazardly to deal with later, shoving the clothing in the drawers. Hannibal eyes the red and green plaid pyjamas dubiously, but dons them anyway. With his hair ruffled and his feet bare, he looks so achingly vulnerable and Will is caught with the need to touch him and be close. He sits on the edge of the bed, hand next to Hannibal's on top of the covers. He's well aware how absurd it is that last night they were naked in each other's arms and now Will is being coy about holding hands.

“I asked Bedelia if you were in love with me,” he says, studying the contrast of their hands, the difference in skin tone, Hannibal's long fingers and neat nails torn ragged by the cliff face, Will's rougher, callused ones less damaged in the climb.

“And what did she say?” Hannibal asks.

Will flushes at the memory. “She said you were.” There is no need to embellish as she had.

Hannibal is silent. Will lays his hand over Hannibal's and Hannibal turns his palm up, tangles their fingers together. “Are you?” he asks.

“Yes,” Hannibal says, without hesitation.

Will closes his eyes at the rush of heat up his spine, creeping around his throat, up the base of his skull. He licks his lips. “Did you—were you in love with her?”

“No.”

“Okay,” Will says. He draws a deep breath and lets it out slowly, feeling the tension bleed from his shoulders. “Good.” He gets to his feet and Hannibal tips his head back to watch him expectantly. It strikes Will that he's not looking for reciprocation, merely waiting to see if there are any further questions to come. Will pulls his hand free. “You should sleep.”

He grabs a change of clothes, the bag full of pharmacy things, and ducks into the bathroom. His reflection is haggard, dark circles under his eyes stark against the pallid tint of his skin. He wants nothing more than take a handful of pills and sink into bed as well, but there's still too much to be done. So he unpackages the sling he picked up and hooks it around his neck. It's mesh, lightweight, but still an unwelcome hindrance. Awkward with his left hand, he relieves himself and splashes cold water on his face, then brews a cup of tea before above deck.

When he passes through the cabin, Hannibal is out cold. Will casts off and heads toward straight for the Atlantic. It will take them at least three hours to reach the ocean, and he won't be able to rest easily until they're in open sea. Even if Jack decides to look for them on water, they'll be far enough away and that's too much area to cover with what little resources he can scrounge up.

They cruise at close to top speed, the waters going from choppy to smooth over the course of a couple hours, and keeps a close eye on the screen for traffic. No one's out at this hour except the shipping boats. Even the serious fishers won't head out for a few hours yet. It's around three in the morning when they leave the Delaware River and enter the Atlantic. Will finds himself drifting in and out of sleep, the frigid ocean air finding it's way into the cockpit.

After dawn he finds he can't hold off sleep any longer. He stops the engine and anchors the boat, then goes below deck. Hannibal is the exact same position he was six hours before; the rise and fall of his chest is nearly imperceptible. Will dry swallows a couple of vicodin and climbs under the sheets. He's asleep so quickly he doesn't even remember lying down.

Chapter Text

It's daylight again when Will wakes, and were it not for thirst and gnawing hunger, he probably could sleep the entire day through. Hannibal is moving around in the galley. Will can hear the hissing of a skillet and a faint, musky aroma. Adjusting the strap of his cast, Will follows the scent. Hannibal is at the stove and it's such a familiar image, evocative of the entirety of their friendship. Every moment they shared in Hannibal's kitchen, at his dinner table, every conversation cast in a new light when Will had realised he'd been having them with the Chesapeake Ripper. Cast in an altogether different light now, knowing the Chesapeake Ripper is in love with him.

“Good morning,” Hannibal says, turning and wiping his hands on the dish towel.

Will holds up a hand and goes to the fridge. He chugs down two and half bottles of water before the ache in his throat eases. “Morning. Smells good.”

Hannibal reaches out tentatively, and when Will remains still, he touches the curve of Will's neck. All this physical contact, devoid of the threat of violence, is accompanied with an intense feeling of rightness. These hands made to touch him, fitting in all the right places. Hannibal pushes his fingers through Will's hair and Will closes his eyes in pleasure and submission, goes willingly when Hannibal tugs him in and up.

But there is no kiss. He can feel Hannibal's breath on his lips, the barest brush of skin as Hannibal noses along his cheek, the corner of his eye, rests his forehead against Will's temple and breathes. Will can feel the gossamer flutter of his lashes and his own body responds in kind, a fine tremble as if his every atom is straining towards Hannibal's touch.

“Has sleep eased your troubled mind?” Hannibal asks, voice the barest of whispers.

Will sighs. Whether because of the drugs or his newly unburdened conscience, Will slept solidly and heavily. No nightmares, no dreams, even. Waking here in this new life, occupying this space with Hannibal, this is what feels like a dream. It seems impossible, after years of shameful longing for what might have been with Hannibal and Abigail, pockets of desperate loneliness even when surrounded by those who loved him and whom he loved, and they're here, finally. He turns his head, sliding his forehead along Hannibal's, tilts his head. Unwilling to open his eyes, to shatter this moment, he finds by touch, lips drawing over skin until he catches Hannibal's mouth.

Hannibal is still, as he has been both times Will has kissed him before. Will places a careful kiss to his each of Hannibal's lips in turn and draws back, considering. Love, after all, is divorced from sexual attraction. He licks his lips, wonders if he can still reel himself back in from the abyss he's quite suddenly found himself suspended above, coursing with all the desires he's kept long buried. He tells himself he isn't disappointed; just these embraces are enough, if this is what Hannibal is willing to give.

Will, testing, kisses him again, firmer pressure that he feels along the muscle of his cheek. Wetted, their lips slide together more easily and Will sets his teeth against the swell of Hannibal's bottom lip, gives a little tug. Hannibal's breath hitches and his fingers tighten in Will's hair and then he is kissing back. How he can convey desperation with just the simple, sweet press of their mouths, Will can't say, but it sets his heart faster.

They move together at the same time, Will wrapping his good arm around Hannibal's chest, Hannibal's fingers urging him closer, his other hand going around Will's shoulder. Hannibal has entirely taken over and Will is breathless to keep up with the fast, shaky kisses Hannibal presses to his mouth, the edge of his stitches, the line of his jaw, the skin behind his ear. It's raw and unskilled and Will doesn't want it to end. His hand draws around Hannibal's side, feeling the muscles quiver in response, up his chest, fingers pressed to his jaw, guiding Hannibal back to his mouth again.

Hannibal parts Will's lips, and it goes from clumsy and careful to slick and frenzied in an instant. The drag of Hannibal's teeth shivers through him, imaging them along his throat and his thighs, every vulnerable, sensitive place. Hannibal's hand guides him, tipping back his head. He licks into Will's mouth, kisses him harder and faster with each laboured breath. Will can only curl the fingers of his weaker arm in Hannibal's shirt and open his mouth wider to take whatever Hannibal will give, until they're both tasting blood and Will is whimpering more in pain than pleasure, and he still can't bring himself to stop.

Hannibal tears himself away, panting. “It is not my desire to make you bleed,” he says. His voice is rough, and the words more than anything else he's said or done melt in Will's chest. “When I kiss you, I want you to know only pleasure.”

Will is more desperately aroused than he recalls being in at least two decades, ready to pull Hannibal close and roll against him. He wants to see Hannibal undone, find his own release of control in Hannibal's. He surges upwards, steals another fast, searing kiss before Hannibal forcibly retracts himself from the embrace, making space between them where there had been none. Will grips the edge of the counter to keep from reaching out.

Hannibal turns back to the stove to salvage what he can. At least he no longer looks unattainable; his hair is mussed, his mouth red and swollen, clothing rumpled. Will could push the issue and Hannibal would indulge him. There is a gnawing hunger in his gut, however, and he realises it's been nearly forty-eight hours since he last ate anything more substantial than a piece of fruit or store-bought pastry. So he sets the tea kettle to boil and goes to set the table in the breakfast nook, drawing his hand along Hannibal's back in parting.

Breakfast is scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, both of which Will remembers from the list the hospital gave him when he'd been recovering from his own gut wound—easy to digest and high in protein. Of course Hannibal's dressed it up with capers and extra calories from goat's cheese and a drizzle of truffle oil. It's decadent and filling, though it stings where he's strained his stitches. The chamomile tea soothes the throb, eats away at the lines of stress laying on his shoulders, and when he finishes he's ready to sleep again.

It's the first time they've laid down together with the intention of sleeping together and Will approaches the bed carefully, uncertain of how to proceed. The mere thought of touching Hannibal sets his mind racing with scenarios of what will follow and that's enough to set his pulse racing. Hannibal lies down and holds out his hand in beckoning and Will gives his hand without hesitation. He allows himself to be pulled close, rolled onto his left side as Hannibal settles behind him and wraps Will in his arms.

Other lovers would spoon up behind him on occasion and it always made him feel trapped and exposed. He knows it's been done out of an attempt to comfort and shield him, so he'd never mentioned it. And none of them had never seemed to notice the miasma of blood and tar hanging thick in the air and constricting, shoving through his mouth and nostrils and choking him, until he had to get up, pretending to need the toilet as an excuse to escape.

Now Will's muscles relax entirely without his permission, a new dose of meds going to work. Hannibal is plastered to his back and heat radiates between them, making him drowsier still. Yet he can't help but seek out the corners of the room from his recumbent position, expecting to find a creeping, spidery darkness. Perhaps the heavy, hollow click of hooves on the deck above, descending the stairs, the antlers first appearing over the threshold. But there is no sound save the hum of the motor and Hannibal's even breathing. No smell but that of antiseptic and their mingled sweat, no shadows more sinister than those cast by the sun through the blinds.

Chapter Text

They drift for days. The outside world and any construct of time is meaningless. Sometimes when they wake it's light out, and other times it's pitch black but for the electronic lights of the boat. Will is amazed at how quickly it becomes his new normal, waking with Hannibal's fingers carding through his hair, twining their legs together beneath the sheets in a slow, sinuous drag. Hannibal had the boat stocked with books and magazines and they fill the waking hours with reading, eating and growing stronger, lying together in quiet intimacy.

Will finds that he rather likes lying about doing nothing, for the time being. Now that he has put aside the morality of others and given up shame, he is no longer troubled when his mind wanders in dark places, dwelling on the things he's seen and his second hand experience of them. He has spent most of his life avoiding becoming too intimate with his own thoughts and now he wonders if he's ever even known himself.

Their conversations aren't all that different from what they'd once been. Hannibal still craves a better understanding of how Will's mind works, still wants all of Will's secret thoughts laid bare before him. Will's empathy has never allowed him to begrudge Hannibal this need, though he was reticent at first. They've become so entwined in one another over the years, the rooms in their minds expanding and overlapping, that at times it has seemed there is no line between them at all. Hannibal's thoughts are Will's own, so shouldn't the opposite also be true?

But Hannibal doesn't have Will's imagination, so he's relentless in his study. He engages Will on every topic and gauges his reactions, the things he says, and more importantly, the things he leaves unsaid. Will has never been particularly fond of psychiatry, but this game with Hannibal has always been thrilling to him, even before he understood the source. Hannibal is as much a participant as Will in his therapy, though perhaps unwittingly at times.

Now it is a mostly equal give and take. Will is just as likely to ask his own probative questions as Hannibal. He learns of the shackle that left the scars on Hannibal's neck, sees the boy he was, alone and lost in the horror of what he'd seen and experienced, mute and hollow. He learns of the time Hannibal spent in the orphanage, how Hannibal used his own form of empathy to protect himself, drawing on the memories of his tormentors and Misha's murderers. The savage violence visited on him in that place and how that shaped the killer he became.

It seems that Hannibal had been earnest when he'd said Will could ask him any question and have it answered honestly. Will only has to gather the courage to ask them.

“How long have you been in love with me?” he asks, in the cover of dark. Somehow, the discussion of love is more disturbing to Will than those they've had on pain and loss and murder.

“I knew it was inevitable from the moment I first saw you, though the opportunity to toy with such pure empathy was too much for me to resist,” Hannibal says. His lips brush Will's neck as he speaks, like so many tiny kisses. He pauses and presses a smile into skin. “That you regarded me with such disinterest and disdain only made you more fascinating. Unlike those other patients under my influence, fledglings who saw me as both mentor and foe, you only ever allowed me to see your potential as a true equal.”

Will snorts. “I suppose I should just feel lucky I didn't end up with my business card in your rolodex.”

“My desire to devour you has only ever been metaphorical,” Hannibal says. The words rumble through his chest and into Will's.

By now Will should be used to this perpetual state of low-grade arousal, but he isn't. It still burns hot under his skin. He swallows hard and tries his best to ignore it. “You were going to eat my brains, Hannibal.” It's so absurd that even saying it makes him feel like he's in some cheap horror flick.

Hannibal growls and Jesus Christ, Will's getting hard and Hannibal has to feel it pressed against his thigh. Hannibal's fingers move over Will's face, up his temple, along his hairline almost reverently. “How else to better understand the mystery behind your motivations? You lie more effortlessly and effectively than anyone I've ever known, and you do it shamelessly. I give you my love and you use it ruthlessly to your advantage.”

“Would you have done it?” Will asks, more out of curiosity than anything. It hardly matters now.

“Would your blade have sliced me open as triumphantly as it did the Dragon, had Chiyoh not intervened?”

Will hides his face in the hollow between Hannibal's jaw and the pillow, suffocating on his own hot breath. “I thought it was the only way I could forgive you,” he says.

Hannibal strokes down his back, hand resting against his spine in comfort. “We are not so different, you and I.”

Will shakes his head in agreement. “No.”

 

*

 

They sleep and rise and sleep again. Within a few days Hannibal is moving around more easily, and he does stretches several times through the day, while Will checks on the ships systems and makes adjustments to their course. He still has no idea where they'll go and Hannibal makes no indication as to his preference, but Will is tired of the cold. It feels as though it's been winter forever. So he guides them south.

Though he's luxuriating in this time alone with Hannibal, separate from the world, it won't be long before they both start going stir crazy. Hannibal's been caged for years, and he won't be satisfied with Dolarhyde alone. In the Caribbean Sea they could drift from island to island. All the transient traffic, tourists, smugglers, drug dealers, it'd be so easy to make someone disappear. Will isn't so much surprised by his line of thinking, nor how dispassionate he is about it, but looking forward to it is unexpected.

Will can see them laying low in some small, coastal town. It's easy enough to adapt his vision of their life to this new locale. Runs on the beach in pre-dawn with the dogs. Afternoons relaxing on the water, bringing home his catch for dinner. The two of them at the local market, deciding on how to prepare it. In the evenings Hannibal would drag him to operas and galas and openings of museum exhibitions. Perhaps they could indulge in more prurient pursuits.

The weather is growing steadily warmer as the boat heads south. Will spends hours sitting on the deck with the roar of the engine and the wind cutting through his hair, just drinking in the way the light hits the water, indulging in the incredible freedom of no longer being Will Graham.

Hannibal changes Will's bandages and remarks on how well his cheek his healing; the stitches will be dissolved within a couple of day. The sling can come off within a week. The stitches on his chest look good, but the internal damage will take longer to recover. It might be months before it's back to normal, but at least it no longer radiates pain throughout his entire torso. Hannibal's wound has healed enough from the inside for Will to close it with stitches.

Will showers when they've finished, letting the hot water pound the muscles of his back. Most of his bruises have faded, just faint yellow and green lingering on his jaw and shoulder. His skin has darkened from his time in the sun, he's seen Hannibal notice, and the appreciation in his gaze. He's never been an exhibitionist, but the power he has over Hannibal is addictive. All he has to do is show some skin to get to his Victorian sensibilities. Will dresses accordingly, in a pair of boxer shorts and a tight t-shirt that lifts when he stretches. It gets stuffy in the cabin during the daytime anyway.

Hannibal is fixing a meal; they're nearly out of fresh ingredients and soon they'll have to make a stop or resort to canned foods. Will grabs the laptop and goes to the table to research real estate options on the smaller islands in the Caribbean. He has no idea what their cover story will be or if anyone will even care, but if the locals were to draw their own conclusions as to why two unrelated men were living together, only a few of the islands are even an option. Saba has a certain appeal. Will would appreciate the slower pace and the central location, but Hannibal would bore quickly.

St. Barthélemy is large enough to get lost in and Hannibal would appreciate the dining and shopping options, and with festivals and concert halls and the vibrant nightlife, they could always find entertainment. There are plenty of properties available, but they're either too small and cramped, original Swedish homes from the 19th century with abysmal kitchens, or too ridiculously opulent, sprawling compounds over acres of property.

He keeps coming back to one near Gustavia, built into the hillside. It's sleek and modern, all granite, glass, and dark wood, large enough for them to have their space. Hannibal would be at home in the kitchen, easily the largest room of the house, filled with chrome appliances and open to the living room, patio, and dining areas. There's a neatly manicured lawn and gazebo, and an infinity pool dropping over the horizon, into the thick rainforest surrounding the edges of the property. Stairs cut through it down the hill to their private stretch of beach.

Hannibal brings their plates to the table, sliding in beside him. He leans in and Will tilts his head to the side, letting Hannibal close to press a kiss to his neck. His hand falls on Will's bare knee and slowly drags upward until he hits the fabric of Will's shorts. Will smiles in smug satisfaction and pushes the laptop aside to focus on his food. “What do you think of Saint Barts?”

“I've never been, though I have heard wonderful things of the gastronomical delights to be had. Has something there caught your eye?”

Will shakes his head. “Nothing in particular.” He shifts lower in his seat, nudging Hannibal's hand higher. “My French is pretty rusty, but it's enough to get by on. Or you could do the talking for me,” he says, leaning into Hannibal's space with a smile. “You'd probably like that.” Hannibal answers by digging his fingers into sensitive flesh of Will's thigh.

“Did you know that Jamaica has the third-highest murder rate in the world?” he goes on blithely. “Hundreds of people have gone missing on the islands or from cruises in the Caribbean over the last decade and no one even talks about it.”

Hannibal chews thoughtfully and removes his hand from. “I can't help but wonder,” he says, glancing at Will from the corner of his eye, “if you have some ulterior motive.”

Will arches his brows, eyes widening. “Do I need an ulterior motive to try to seduce you?”

“Forgive me my suspicion when you come to me suggesting we go on a murder spree through the Antilles,” Hannibal says, and he's not even remotely buying the innocent routine any longer. “It is quite a different thing from slaying the Dragon to commit premeditated murder.”

“You don't actually think you need to tell me this,” Will mutters, tone flat.

“No,” Hannibal agrees and turns to face him. “Allow me to be clear, however: I don't expect it of you.”

Will reaches out to touch his cheek, draw him in for a brief kiss. “Allow me to be clear,” their lips brushing with each word, “I want to.”

Hannibal looks uncertain, maybe even concerned. “Hannibal,” Will calls to him. He sinks his hand in Hannibal's hair, tightens and jerks. “This is real. I am real. I am here with you.” He rests his forehead against Hannibal's.

After a moment Hannibal nods. “It is a dangerous thing, giving a man everything he's ever wanted.”

Will grins, presses a kiss to his temple and rests back against the bench. “Well in that case, allow me to shatter your perfect vision of our life together. I want a dog.”

Hannibal exhales roughly, a sound that can't decide if it's a laugh or a faint sob, closes his eyes, shakes his head. “I love you,” he says at last.

“So, that's a yes,” Will decides, and goes back to his meal, clasping back tightly when Hannibal takes his hand.

Chapter Text

With a clear plan in mind, Will alters their course and picks up speed. Even pulling 25 knots, it's over a day and a half to St. Barts. He's suddenly impatient to start their life there, to discover the person he will become. Hannibal strolls up and down the deck, making plans on the satellite phone. It's astonishing what can be accomplished with unlimited funds and a charming phone voice. Will can't understand much of his rapid-fire French about contracts and security deposits.

Hannibal makes them black bean coconut soup for dinner and slices up the last of the bananas, batters and pan fries them to dip in it. Even mostly from cans it's amazing. Maybe Hannibal will teach him to cook. He's not exactly useless in the kitchen, but he's never had any real instruction, either. Maybe he'd be good at it. Maybe it would relax him in the same way fishing has, and he knows Hannibal would be so, so pleased to share it with him.

Will is off antibiotics and he's not taking the hardcore pain meds anymore. Hannibal on the other hand is still taking over a dozen pills a day. He falls asleep shortly after dinner when it's still light out. Will goes up to watch the sunset and stays out in the balmy evening air until it's completely dark. When he comes back down he takes the laptop to bed. Surfing online earlier made him wonder—he hasn't been online since before Hannibal's escape, until today.

The news outlets are still in a frenzy over Hannibal's fake escape, though it's been somewhat overshadowed by reports of Dolarhyde's death and the details surrounding his life. Someone's let it slip about the cliff-dive, but there's no mention of Bedelia, no confirmation of their survival. Maybe Jack's trying to hold off further panic. Will's name goes unmentioned except in the Tattler, where Freddie Lounds does a pretty decent job of guessing how things actually played out.

Will closes the laptop and tosses it aside, brushes his teeth, and climbs between the sheets. He can't help grinning as he thinks to the future, trying to picture the expression on Freddie's face when he and Hannibal visit her some day, after this has all died down. Let her see the Murder Husbands in action first hand and see if she finds it as amusing.

Hannibal hums, still mostly asleep, and pulls him closer with an arm around his waist. “There will be rules, Will, when we are sharing a home. No laptops in the bedroom.”

Will slides a leg between Hannibal's and wriggles closer, tucking Hannibal's face in the curve of his shoulder. “How else am I supposed to entertain myself when my old man falls asleep and leaves me unsatisfied?”

Hannibal growls, but somehow it's less than intimidating when he can't keep his eyes open. Will's heart clenches with a familiar tenderness and he sinks into the embrace, the warm thought of sharing a home with Hannibal lulls him to sleep.

 

*

Hannibal is already awake, head resting on Will's sternum, when Will wakes. He has his notebook full of indecipherable equations, pencil poised to write, though his expression is far away, lost in thought. A world where Misha hadn't died, where Abigail hadn't, where Will had run away with him the first time. Will shifts, pushing himself up to rest against the headboard. He takes the notebook from loose fingers and tosses it on the bedside table. Hannibal watches it go, but remains distracted.

“Haven't we reassembled the teacup already? We're together now, and whole,” Will says.

“Only at the expense of the time and energy it took us to achieve this outcome. True negentropy returns everything to it's original, most perfect state.” Hannibal stares at the ceiling, and exhales slowly. “It is merely hypothetical,” he says, gesturing towards the notebook. Maybe he's trying to convince himself.

“Then why torture yourself?” Will asks, ruffling his fingers through Hannibal's hair.

“A rather paradoxical question from a man who's spent most of his life torturing himself with those things over which he has no control and cannot change,” Hannibal says, lifting his gaze to Will's. There is a teasing smile in his eyes.

Will smirks back. “For the man who's spent half a decade trying to convince me to embrace and revel in those things.”

Hannibal gives the briefest chuckle before falling silent again. Will can feel how distant he becomes as his thoughts drift, almost as if he's gone somewhere else entirely and only left the husk of his body behind. Will drags his nails over the nape of Hannibal's neck, calling him back through touch, smiling at the shiver he elicits. Hannibal responds to his touch like no lover has before, with an immediacy that is flattering and powerfully arousing. Will varies the pressure of his touch—hard enough to leave marks, light enough that he barely skims the fine, invisible hair there—learning Hannibal's reaction to each.

Given their history, Will would have assumed Hannibal would prefer, if not outright violence, a firm touch. But while he responds to such touches with enjoyment, his response is greater still to tenderness. In his hesitant exploration with Will, he is true to his word that he wishes only to give pleasure. Like now, his hand curves over Will's ribcage, fingers tracing the arch and the space between each, down, down. Will has the impression he's being played like some instrument and finds it appealing.

“If simply reversing entropy would revert everything back to it's original state, taking all our memories along with it,” Will wonders, “Wouldn't we just be destined to make the same mistakes again?”

“You are presupposing that we are governed by the hand of god or fate,” Hannibal tells him. His hand continues its downward journey, stopping at the hem of Will's t-shirt, just stroking the bare skin where it's risen. “Our lives are a result of predisposition coupled with circumstance. Though our choices may, by and large, remain unchanged, it only takes the smallest difference to change the path our lives take.”

Will finds it comforting to think of all the infinite worlds running alongside theirs. Worlds where Misha lived and perhaps ameliorated Hannibal's more destructive psychopathic tendencies. Worlds where his own mother never abandoned him. Worlds where he and Hannibal sank heavy into the sea and never rose again.

“Do you believe things would turn out differently for us if you'd known then what you know now?” Will asks. Hannibal toys with the hem of his shirt, pushing it back and letting it fall in place again. It's hard to focus on anything but the points where they're touching. Hannibal turns his face into Will's chest, breath hot and moist through his shirt. Will isn't even sure he's still constructing coherent sentences when he speaks. “Would you forgive me my betrayal and take us away, me and Abigail?”

Hannibal speaks, every word felt against Will's skin. “You could not be with me as you are now without the events of the intervening years.” His voice is calm even as his fingers make their way between cotton and skin, smoothing over his abdomen, around the dip of his belly button, unerringly finding Will's scar and tracing the edge from one side to the other. “The man you are now is shaped by the losses you've suffered and survived.”

“The man you've made me to be,” Will says, voice thick and broken on a moan when Hannibal's teeth scrape over his nipple. He arches his back, tilts his hips in entreaty. From his position, it must be clear to Hannibal the effect he's having. “Only it wasn't the scars you left. It wasn't what you took from me or what you tried to take.”

“Oh?” Hannibal murmurs. In one smooth, easy motion his hand is free of Will's shirt and down the front of his shorts, closing around his cock and pulling lazily. Will whines in mingled relief and disbelief and thrusts into the touch. Hannibal sounds smug and amused when he says, “Please, Will, enlighten me.” Will can feel his contentment, an unassuming happiness that is no doubt as foreign to Hannibal as it is to Will.

Hannibal twists his wrist on the upstroke, gathers moisture thumbing the slit at the head of his cock. It's still too dry and the friction sends sparks through the small of his back. Will has to bite his lip and concentrate to regain his train of thought. “It was learning how you felt about me,” he says. “That's when I decided to run away with you.”

“Surely you must have known,” Hannibal says, distracted, pressing kisses down along the line of his abdomen, pushing his shirt out of the way to trace the scar with his tongue. The wet heat calls the mind that first thrust of the blade. How differently that could have played out...

Will shakes his head, and realising Hannibal can't see it, forces himself to speak. “It may have been wilful ignorance,” he allows.

Hannibal hums, drags his teeth along the waistband of Will's shorts and Will has to reach down, fumbling one handed, to push them off his hips. And then he can see Hannibal touching him, see his cock red and already dripping in Hannibal's grip. “Your empathy would not allow you to ascribe such emotions to a monster.”

“No,” Will says, means to explain, but all thought is lost when Hannibal bends over his lap and sucks him down. “Fuck,” he hisses, drawing out the fricitive and grabs tight a handful of Hannibal's hair, thrusting up.

Hannibal takes all of him, until Will can feel his cock hitting the back of Hannibal's throat. Will's whole body strains, so fucking ready to come from just five seconds of that mouth on him. It's hardly going to take anything at all. Then Hannibal eases back, breath coming fast from his nose, and he suckles at the head of Will's cock so gently, draws back to trace the ridges with his tongue, lips his way down to the base.

No amount of pulling on his hair will redirect him, so Will gives in, lets himself be pulled back from the edge. Hannibal is slow and methodical in his exploration. His hands smooth over Will's thighs, spreading his legs wide, and Will feels overexposed, in a way he's never been before. Part of him wants to fight it, though there is a rush of excitement and anticipation shivering through him. His body doesn't know how to react, hips rising from the bed in search of more even as his knees try to draw back together.

Hannibal palms the underside of his thighs, fingers brushing the curve of his ass. He rubs his prickly cheek against Will's thigh, nostrils flaring as Hannibal inhales the scent of him. Will screws his eyes shut tight and makes the muscles relax. He lets his legs fall open and then Hannibal's mouth is on him at once, licking and biting up the crease of his thigh, sucking Will's balls and rolling his tongue. He goes at it like he's fucking starving and Will is the most delicious thing he's ever tasted, which, given his dining habits has no right to be so hot.

Will hand falls to the bed sheet, fisting the fabric to keep from touching himself. Hannibal rewards him with exactly what he wants, wraps his lips around Will's cock and sucks. His fingers probe lower, searching, until Hannibal finds his perineum and strokes so lightly, yet the touch goes straight to Will's dick, making him leak. Hannibal hums his approval and Will has to bite his lip against crying out. His hips work frantically, pushing against Hannibal's fingers for a firmer touch. He wonders if Hannibal is considering touching him even lower, if he might trace his opening, perhaps just enough pressure for Will's body to let him inside.

“Fuck,” he moans, “fuck, Hannibal.” His hand is back in Hannibal's hair and he has no idea when or how it got there, but he's pulling him down and Hannibal's letting him, just taking it, and the sounds Hannibal makes, wet and sloppy, cut through with desperate moans, like he's the one being blown, or, Will's brain volunteers, like he's being fucked. Because Hannibal would let him—will let him, and that's it.

That's all the more Will's body can take after all this longing, all this tension; it finally reaches the breaking point and he's coming so hard, fingers woven in Hannibal's hair and holding him down as Hannibal's throat works around his cock, swallowing every pulse. It feeds Hannibal's arousal, which Will can feel so keenly along every nerve as if it were his own, creating a feedback loop, until he's drained and oversenitive.

Will moans, pushing feebly at Hannibal's head, but still Hannibal holds him loosely in his mouth. Will can't help the weak whimper that rises from his chest when Hannibal starts sucking again, just the slightest pressure and still too much. “Please, Hannibal.”

But Hannibal is ruthless. He lays out flat between Will's legs, arms sliding between sheet and skin up Will's back, hands grabbing his hips and holding him in place. Will could get away if he tried. Hannibal is still weaker than he is, and his grip isn't that tight. Will is trembling from the stimulation, can't keep still, planting his feet on the bed, squirming away from Hannibal's mouth, always Hannibal pursuing him. He lets Will slip free from his mouth, only to lick root to tip in broad strips.

Will is distantly aware of his own voice, a whining litany of please and fuck and Hannibal, though he's no longer certain what he's asking, or whether his knees are squeezing together in an attempt to put an end to this or hold Hannibal in place. Somewhere along the way his hand has gone from pushing at Hannibal's head to stroking through his hair. Entirely of their own accord his hips are rocking into Hannibal's face, his toes curling painfully in the sheets.

Hannibal keeps making those starved sounds, each one like a spark in Will's gut. He's getting hard again, and it's way too much sensation. His hand scrambles down to Hannibal's shoulder, nails digging in, scoring skin when Hannibal starts sucking him in earnest. His heels slip on the sheets, their legs dragging together and Will rubs mindlessly, looking for any physical sensation to counter the one between his thighs. Instead he finds himself winding his legs around Hannibal's hips and using leverage push deeper, fucking into that wet, velvet heat. He keeps grunting little unh, unh, unhs and clamps his hand over his mouth, bites down on the heel of his palm to try to stop, but they keep spilling out.

When Will comes the second time, his body drawn taut, it feels as though his orgasm is being torn from him. He's crying, maybe, gasping sobs that shake his chest. He folds himself up in half, cradling Hannibal's head to his groin with his whole body, as his dick jerks again and again, and he's half certain it's never going to stop. Hazy black creeps in around the edges of his vision and for a moment all he can hear, all that of which he is aware, is the rush of his own blood and the galloping beat of his own heart.

Will opens his eyes to find he's fallen back on the sheets, drenched in sweat and panting. Hannibal kneels between his thighs, eyes smouldering, shoulders heaving with each breath, boxers down around his thighs and he's fisting himself. It's sort of hypnotic, watching the slick, purple head of Hannibal's cock disappearing into the foreskin before it slides back, peeking out again. Will is loose and ruined, and he thinks that if Hannibal wanted to fuck him right now, his body would open without resistance. The mere thought has him moaning, twisting his thighs together, cupping a hand over his softening cock protectively.

Hannibal's lips twist up in a smirk at the sight. He crawls up Will's body, wraps both hands around Will's throat and lifts him into a burning kiss. Their mouths open to one another, Hannibal's tongue rolling against his, licking along the roof of his mouth, sucking Will's tongue hungrily because apparently he's wrung two orgasms from him and that's still not enough.

In a different situation, Will might have held out, might have teased Hannibal for his urgency, but he's too tangled in the moment. Hannibal's dick nudges his thigh as they slide together, leaving a wet trail on his skin. Will reaches down, runs his palm up the impossibly silky foreskin, gets it between his thumb and first two fingers and eases it back, rolling delicately around the edge of the glans. Hannibal drops his face against Will's neck, bites along the line of his collarbone and sucks at the hollow it forms in the curve of his shoulder.

Will wraps his hand around Hannibal properly, marvelling at the easy glide of it. Even with the awkward angle limiting his range of motion, Hannibal is coming in seconds, spilling over Will's wrist and hand, striping across his abdomen, Will's name on his lips. Will leans in and Hannibal meets him halfway in a hungry, inexpert kiss. Will moans and shivers with the reciprocal pleasure that trembles along the thread of empathy between them, the inescapable sensation of Hannibal's love enveloping them both. Hannibal collapses at Will's side, breathing gradually returning to normal. He rests his against Will's shoulder, smiling blissfully. Will finds himself grinning in return, feeling the stretch in his cheek.

“I apologise, Will,” Hannibal says, and he doesn't sound the least bit repentant. “You were laid out before me like a feast, and I could not resist.”

“Mmhmm,” Will hums in mostly faux annoyance. He considers making a jab about lack of stamina, but the endorphins flooding his body have left him feeling magnanimous. He watches with amusement when Hannibal takes his hand and begins licking his own come from Will's fingers. As endearing and vaguely arousing a sight though it is, Will is more ready for sleep than another round. He grabs his shorts from the end of the bed and balls them up, wiping the come off his stomach before Hannibal can go after that, too. Hannibal's lips purse and Will laughs out loud at the expression, falling limp against the bed.

There are things to do before they arrive in port, but they have another six hours until then. There is time for a nap. With the sweat cooling on his body, Will feels comfortably cool, and he likes the weight of Hannibal's arm over his chest holding him to the bed. His eyelids are so heavy.

“What were you going to say, before?” Hannibal asks, voice languid and sated, half asleep himself.

It takes Will a moment to recall what they were discussing, and another moment to regather his train of thought. What, precisely, he'd been about to reveal. He wonders if it's possible that Hannibal could have been more desperate than he'd already been without that knowledge. The knowledge that Will couldn't see Hannibal's love for him because they'd become too deeply entwined—that Will couldn't separate Hannibal's thoughts and motivations from his own. That all Hannibal had ever needed to do was say the words and it would have changed everything; that's all it would have taken for Will to realise his love in turn.

Will rolls onto his side, draping his good arm over the curve of Hannibal's waist and snuggles close. “I don't remember.”

Chapter Text

There is a car sent by the realtor waiting for them at the harbour. Will watches the city of Gustavia pass in a blur as they rise into the surrounding hillside. It's smaller than he imagined, a sea of uniform red roofs and the occasional church spire, interspersed with thick foliage all on a neat grid-work of streets. There is little automotive traffic, though a fair number of pedestrians dot the sidewalks. Hannibal won't be able to hunt here; it would draw too much attention. But there are dozens of islands within a two hour boat ride.

The roads narrow as they reach the edges of town, winding along the coastline. Within a few minutes the roadside is overtaken by forest and rambling wildflowers, every few miles delineated with the gated mouth of a driveway. Eventually the road climbs higher, curving again towards the south, and all that Will can see of Gustavia is the distant flash of the lighthouse. The gate to their house, because Will already knows they're going to take it, opens at their approach and the house sits back another quarter of a mile from the road.

Only the top level is visible from the front, the rest of it built into the hillside, and painted a crisp, clean white, stark against the warm teak accents and neat flower garden lining the stone walkway. A woman meets them in the driveway, leading them through the garage (4-car, finished and air-conditioned, lined with shelving and peg boards, and Will can already see his fishing and fly-tying supplies) and down the open-sided breezeway into the house.

Every wall along the sea-facing side of the house is rolled open, faintly floral-scented air drifting through the curtains. Hannibal is silent as they're led through, drinking everything in. Will wonders if he's surprised at how well Will has done in choosing this place for them, especially when he sees the maroon glass front cabinets and back splash of the kitchen, set against dark grey granite counter tops. The dining room is mahogany panelled with a deep red-shaded chandelier casting golden light and strange shadows over the table. Will can almost see one of Hannibal's laid out there, the two of them sitting across from one another, dining on their game.

There are three bedrooms, one right off the living room that Will plans to convert into the dog's room, and another in the front that he could see made into a library. Besides the kitchen and generous basement, the master bedroom was the largest draw. Will is far from hedonistic. Left to his own devices, he's always gotten by with the bare minimum of furniture and decoration. Anything extra was just more upkeep and more distraction, and his own mind was unkempt and distracting enough.

This bedroom, with its high, exposed beam ceiling, stone tiled floor leading out through French doors and directly into the pool down two steps, is very far from anything Will would have considered. A sumptuously appointed king sized bed sits in the middle of the room and the glass-walled Roman shower serves as a divider between the rest of the room and the long, angled granite basin and dressing area. Two doors lead off the room, to the ridiculous closet (he has no doubt Hannibal will fill it with clothing enough for the both of them) and the water closet.

It's the sort of opulence Will has only ever seen in magazines and movies, only ever indulged in simple wouldn't that be nice sort of thoughts. He's never allowed himself to actually want it. Maybe it's fear left over from a childhood of constantly moving, dressed in hand-me-downs, equally likely to have a sofa or chair to sleep on as a bed. Never having everything he really needed, let alone wanted.

Now he is allowed to want anything, and he wants Hannibal in that bed, sweating and writhing beneath him. Wants to sprawl out across the crisp sheets, luxuriating in stretch of well-used muscles, watching Hannibal going for his morning swim, and dozing. Wants to put that shower to use in all the different ways he can imagine, and he's got quite the imagination. And hell, he doesn't even really mind the idea of letting Hannibal dress him up however he wants for their nights out. He's rather looking forward to slipping into a different skin with every different crowd, playing shy and reserved fumbling with his glasses; or wealthy, cultured, and over-confidant staring down his nose; or the carefree playboy with the conman grin.

When they leave, Hannibal arranges with the realtor to meet the next morning in her office. She offers to show them other properties and Will can see her confusion and hesitance over their refusal. Obviously Hannibal looks like the sort of man to whom she normally rents, but Will lurking around, trailing behind gives her pause. She can't seem to decide if this is an honest look or a waste of time.

On the drive back to town, Hannibal directs the driver to a car rental business. If they want to buy a car, it will have to be shipped from off island. The realtor mentioned something about providing chauffeur service, but Will doesn't like the idea of that sort of dependency or infringement on their privacy. They'll want to come and go as they please at all hours of the day. While Hannibal arranges for the rentals, Will strolls down the street from the car lot.

The sun is starting to sink back towards the horizon and the town is busier now. There are women bustling to and from the expensive boutiques, groups of rich young co-eds gathered around the fountain at the end of the street, joking loud enough for their voices to ring out across the plaza. Couples with kids and couples hanging off one another, and a lot of middle-aged white people escaping their boring lives for a few bright moments. Will is just another traveller among them. No one even gives him a second glance, too wrapped up in their own narrative of the perfect island paradise or their petty affairs.

In the plaza Will finds a boulangerie. The cases are mostly empty so late in the day, but there are still a variety of macarons, mostly with flavour names he doesn't recognise. He's in the Caribbean with his cannibal lover, so he figures there will never be a better time to start being more adventurous. He manages enough French to indicate which ones he wants and to figure out how much he owes.

The girl behind the counter, Hélèn, her nametag reads, smiles indulgently and throws in one that is deep purple with golden filling that she says is her favourite. She gives him a wink on his way out the door and he flushes and ducks his head. It's interesting how different it feels, the exact same gestures he's used to, only done as an act. He's starting to understand why Molly would get so exasperated when waitresses and tellers and clerks would just give him whatever he wanted at the submissive averting of his gaze and mumbling. Of course, they'd never understood it was his distaste for their thoughts.

Hannibal finds him on a shaded bench and sits beside him, stretching his arm along the back. Will finds it easy to lean into the space Hannibal has made for him, reaching up to offer him a bite of the purple and gold macaron. Hannibal takes a delicate bite and makes a vague hum of approval. “I have no idea what most of these are,” Will admits, gesturing to the box of macarons each missing a single bite. He points at the green one and the pink. “Pistachio and strawberry. And I guess that one you had was honey something?”

“Fig, and just a hint of rosemary,” Hannibal says. “We'll have to work on that palate of yours.”

Will glances at him sidelong, a smirk tugging at his cheek. “As far as come-ons go, I've heard worse.” Hannibal sighs like he's aggrieved, but Will knows better.

“Shall we go to dinner? Or have you ruined your appetite?” Hannibal asks. The insinuation in his tone shivers down Will's spine. He still feels raw from this morning.

Will closes his eyes. After over two weeks on the sea, alone with Hannibal, being around so many people is overwhelming. Hannibal, with his arm across Will's back, his fingers curling over his shoulder possessively, is a haven in the crowd. In a way, he always has been, even when Will had to tell himself otherwise, even when he had to feign horror to placate his own conscience.

“There are still leftovers on the boat,” Will says.

Hannibal draws his hand up the nape of Will's neck, rubs his fingertips against the base of his scalp. “Tomorrow then,” he says. He lays a kiss against the crown of Will's head. “Let's just stay in tonight.”

Will isn't even surprised anymore when the words he's been thinking pass Hannibal's lips as if they were his own. He just takes Hannibal's proffered hand gratefully and lets himself be led to the car.

Chapter Text

Later, after they've eaten on the deck, watching the sun set over ocean, they take turns showering. Hannibal is waiting outside the door, leaning against the frame when Will comes out with a towel around his waist and backs him against the sink. Will arches a brow, but he brings his arm up around Hannibal's shoulder indulgently. Hannibal leans in for a kiss and Will tucks his chin to his chest. “If you think I'm going to be getting it up again after this morning, I'm afraid you might have unrealistic expectations in this relationship.”

Hannibal grabs a handful of towel and tugs it free, at the same time getting a knee between Will's thighs and rolling his hips. He bites down hard on Will's jugular and then sucks. Heat spills down his throat and over his shoulders, straight to his groin. Will moans and stutters out a half-formed protest, but his fingers flex against Hannibal's bare shoulder, digging in before pushing away. But Hannibal just bodily lifts him onto the sink and sucks kisses along the column of his neck and down his chest. His destination is fairly clear.

“Jesus Christ, Hannibal,” he pants, “I—I can't.”

Hannibal bites the skin just below his belly button and grins up at him. “I believe you said the same thing earlier.”

Will sighs and parts his legs at Hannibal's questing, stroking fingers along the inside of his knee. “You're fucking killing me,” he says—or starts to say, but Hannibal gets his mouth on Will's dick, and it comes out fairly garbled. Hannibal doesn't go slowly this time; his nails bite into Will's thighs and he just sucks hard and fast.

Will's hand flies out, bracing against the wall and arching his back as he comes within seconds, his balls aching with each twitch. He sits there, panting, staring down at Hannibal crouched between his legs, smiling like the cat that got the canary and asks, “Is this payback for the old man comment?”

Hannibal chuckles and they stand at the same time. Will's legs are weak and they stumble together to the bed, rolling until Will is straddling Hannibal's thighs. “You may have more resiliency,” Hannibal says, drawing his hands up Will's sides, tickling, “but what of stamina?”

Will bites his bottom lip and leans back, wrapping his good hand around Hannibal's erection. “I don't think you're one to be lecturing me on stamina,” he says, getting a feel for a strange cock in his hand. Everything from earlier is mostly a blur. He's never actually seen an uncircumcised erection outside of a class on human sexuality. Watching porn has never appealed to him; his empathy makes it impossible to see past the bored, tired, sore performers.

The idea of giving a handjob has never been particularly troublesome to him, even before meeting Hannibal. Will has never questioned his sexuality, but he's never cared about crossing lines. A dick is a dick, whether he's jerking his own or someone else's. But Hannibal's is utterly foreign, and Will isn't only doing it for Hannibal's pleasure. He isn't just going through the motions. Will wants this just as much.

Now gives a little twist of his wrist, watching the skin slide easily. Natural lubrication is beautiful thing. Will gives a few easy tugs. It's an altogether different movement than the one he uses on himself, a shorter range of motion, and it's fascinating. Hannibal is watching him, mouth open, tongue pressed to his teeth. Testing, Will eases the foreskin open as far as it will slide down Hannibal's cock, then closes it back, and down again. Each upstroke leaves the head shiny and glistening and asking to be kissed. Each downstroke makes the ridges of his frenulum stand out in stark relief. Hannibal lets out a hiss when Will presses his thumb against them, lifts his hips when Will rubs back and forth.

Out of curiosity and a spark of mischievousness, Will bends down, never taking his eyes from Hannibal's, and replaces his thumb with his tongue, licking along the rigid lines. Hannibal's hands clench in the sheets, his quads go tense beneath Will, abs drawn in tight: the perfect picture of a man trying desperately to keep from losing control, and Will isn't having any of it. He hasn't given a whole lot of thought to this sucking cock thing, even considering current developments in their relationship, but he's really good a faking it until he makes it.

Will holds the foreskin back and licks around and over the head. Hannibal grunts through clenched teeth, eyes shutting briefly, overcome and unable to stop himself. Will stops, pulls back until his lips are barely brushing skin, and waits until Hannibal meets his gaze again. This time he tries with the foreskin eased closed, sucking at the loose skin, mouthing the shape beneath. He doesn't need his empathy to tell him that the exposed head is almost painfully sensitive, and that this is pleasurable but not enough to make Hannibal come.

Will has known Hannibal inside and out for what seems like an eternity, but until now, this part has been missing, and quite honestly it changes everything. They could have never become lovers, and perhaps Will wouldn't have regretted it, but then he'd have never known Hannibal entirely. Now the idea of never having explored this physical intimacy seems impossible. Holding the most delicate part of Hannibal in his mouth—the trust and vulnerability Hannibal is showing in allowing it, after everything they've done to one another—just thinking about it makes arousal stir low in his gut, and there's no way his body is going to respond right now, but it makes him groan in pleasure.

Hannibal's head falls back against the pillow, fingers tightening and loosening in the sheets. Will groans again, drawing it out, smiling around his mouthful when Hannibal's eyes close once more and his hips twitch. More precome leaks onto Will's tongue. Apparently, performing fellatio is almost as nice as giving it, a revelation that is welcome but unanticipated. His desire for Hannibal has mostly been abstract until now, and logically he's known he is capable of adapting over time, but he had not expected such an immediate and intensely positive reaction. The taste of Hannibal is strangely sweet, quite unlike the salt he's tasted from the mouths of his past lovers. The contrasting textures are interesting. And there is the challenge, of finding the right combination of sucking and licking and twisting his wrist to get the reactions that he wants.

Hannibal is not stingy in dispensing approbation. He pets at Will's hair and down his cheek, draws his thumb over Will's bottom lip, watching the drag of his cock against slick skin. When Will has done something especially enjoyable, Hannibal moans his approval, whispers Will's name and tells him it's so good, he's doing remarkably well, what a lovely boy he is, and though the words themselves are fairly safe and the tone cloying, it sounds utterly filthy coming from Hannibal's lips.

Hannibal paid special attention to his balls, so now Will decides to return the favour, and he is not disappointed. Just a single drag of his nail across the sack has Hannibal's legs trembling, and the firmer pressure when Will gently closes his hand around them entirely makes rewards Will with another flood of sweet precome. They draw up tight and heavy in Will's palm, and Will knows Hannibal is close.

Very slowly and purposefully, Will lifts his head, watching Hannibal watch him as he sucks on his middle finger and reaches between them.

“Will,” Hannibal breathes, voice soft and awed, with just a hint of desperation.

Will lowers his head again pushing back the foreskin with his lips and oh so carefully drawing his tongue over that too-sensitive head, all the while tracing his finger along the narrow stretch of skin just beyond his perineum. It's awkward with only one hand, and Will is already looking forward to trying this again once they're both completely healed, but Hannibal is virtually quivering in anticipation. Will can hear his harsh swallow when he traces Hannibal's opening with a firm touch. The drawing of his feet up the sheets, the spreading of his legs, the way he lifts his hips, all akin to a long, drawn out yes of supplication.

It only takes the slightest pressure to push inside, and then it's an easy glide deeper. Will's dick is making an earnest effort to get hard again at the thought of sinking into that tight, welcoming passage. He barely has the presence of mind to attend to the cock in his mouth, so focused is he on the slow, easy in and out of his finger. Deeper inside with every stroke, and faster too, spurred on by the way Hannibal rocks his hips, the low, sweet moans rumbling through his chest.

Will hasn't really planned on anything fancier than a hesitant first touch, but he's in the moment, swept up in Hannibal's pleasure. He pulls back and licks his index finger, gets it nice and wet and pushes back in with both, until his knuckles are digging into the curve of Hannibal's ass. As truly delicious an experience though it was to have Hannibal in his mouth, this is even more powerfully addictive, to stroke Hannibal from the inside and watch in awe and lust as Hannibal shakes apart on his hand.

Hannibal's cock jerks, untouched, and Will discovers another hitherto unknown predilection, this for another man to come on his face, landing across his lips and nose and in his beard. There's no reason he should find this anything other than absurd or slightly offensive. No reason he should wait until the little twitches of muscle along Hannibal's thighs and abdomen have calmed, watching the faint smile and the way Hannibal's eyes cast about under his eyelids. Finally Hannibal blinks down at him, and only then does Will lick the come from his lips, making a show of rolling it on his tongue before swallowing.

“How quickly you break free of your rotting chrysalis and unfurl your wings,” Hannibal says.

Will grins and sits back on his heels. “Do you always get more pretentious after sex?” he asks. “Because if so, you're not giving me a lot of incentive to sleep with you.”

Hannibal growls and grabs him by the wrist, jerking him close. Will goes, a bright, unencumbered feeling in his chest that is still hesitant to name happiness. He scrapes the come out of his beard and rubs it off his nose with the side of his hand and makes a face.

“Don't pretend as though you didn't enjoy it,” Hannibal says. His voice is smiling, smug and sated.

“I just showered,” Will says dryly.

Hannibal's fingers touch his cheek gently and tilt his head back for a kiss. When he draws back, all traces of humour are gone from his face, replaced with that intense sincerity that has often caused Will to avert his eyes. Now Will looks back steadily. “Too many times you have made a fool of me,” he says. “Too many times I thought I had caught a glimpse of the creature in whose creation I had a hand. Each time you resisted my influence and then you withdrew, only to emerge miraculously restored to your previous form, yet changed. Each time, I fell in love with these new versions. Each time, you denied me.”

“Hannibal,” Will starts, and falls silent at the fingers stroking over his lips.

“Now, at last, you have revealed yourself to me in all your glory, and never have I been so pleased to have my expectations defied. Never have I loved any version of you more,” Hannibal murmurs, and Will has no idea how to respond, and so he lean up to stop his words with a kiss. Hannibal indulges him at first, and then, slowly, loses himself in the kiss, pulling Will into a closer embrace, winding their limbs together. “Allow me my pretension?” he says, between gentle nips at Will's bottom lip and along his jaw, before closing his teeth around Will's earlobe.

Will smiles, half-ruefully, half-indulgent. “Do I seem inclined to deny you anything anymore?” he asks. The silence that follows isn't exactly comfortable, and Will immediately realises there is at least one thing he has withheld.

Hannibal noses along the sensitive skin right behind Will's ear, and it no longer seems strange when Hannibal smells him. Instead it sparks something primal in Will. “You needn't indulge me out of some misplaced sense of obligation, or in penitence for all the ways we have wronged one another. I would have you exactly as you are.”

Will props himself up on his elbow to frown down at him. “I didn't blow you out of guilt, Hannibal. I'm done with feeling bad about who I am, and I'm done being angry with you over the part you played in manipulating who that is. And I won't tell you I love you because it's what you want to hear.”

Hannibal smiles, though it is tinged in melancholy. He cups Will's cheek and rubs his thumb gently along the still raw scar. “That's my boy.”

Chapter Text

The first few days on the island, Hannibal is busy taking care of all the little details of their new lives—things Will wouldn't have even thought of. Getting them both cellphones, setting up bank accounts on the island and transferring funds, scheduling grocery delivery, hiring a maid service through the realtor (despite Will's protests that he can do the cleaning). While he works on those, Will is left to his own devices.

The rental is an ostentatious silver mini-cooper convertible, which is literally the most absurd vehicle Will has ever driven, including the Honda he'd driven in college composed mostly of rust, duct tape and zip ties. It is nice to ride with the top down along the coastline, taking in the changing scenery, the tiny villages scattered between stretches of rugged, uninhabited land. Though he has to stop more than once for the passage of rambling wild goats, it only takes a couple of hours to circumnavigate the entire island. It's a diverse landscape nonetheless. From the beaches and coves, to the dense forests and dramatic wind and sea battered cliff sides, and the towering mountain of the nature reserve. Across the bay to the north are the black shores of Fourchue.

He wanders through each of the small cities on foot, discovering the hidden delights the island has to offer. The locals are polite—always greeting him with a bonjour on the street and a sort of intense personal interest when he comes into the shops. There's a café in Saint-Jean that sells coffee on tap, and Will is dubious as it pours like beer into the cup, but it only takes one taste and he's sold. Rich and creamy, with the scent of cedar smoke and the flavour of pineapple and vanilla on the tongue and chocolate aftertaste. They have dozens of other flavours and he's looking forward to coming by every day to try a new one.

Off the main stretch of town in Pointe Milou, there's a charming little shack that sells and rents sporting equipment and boats. It's run by an old man named Isandro who speaks a version of Creole and is eager for distraction. Maybe it's the accent or maybe it's the subject matter, but Will finds it far easier to communicate with him. They talk for hours about the which fish are in season (wahoo and tuna) and when Will can expect to to land himself a white marlin (not until May), and the best method for getting lobster (the Marine Reserve folks say it's more sporting to use a loop, but Isandro prefers a spear-gun).

Hannibal gave Will a checkbook as well as the credit card in his name, and when Will had asked about a limit, Hannibal had only said it was impossible for Will to deplete it. Will has seen the Lecter estate, and learned enough from Chiyoh and the rare glimpses Hannibal has given into his past to know that the family was obscenely wealthy. Hannibal hid most of that wealth away for this very eventuality.

Will is a long way from the dirt poor boy he was, or the college student living paycheck to paycheck. Even once he had a job that paid him enough to live comfortably, he'd never really spent his money on luxuries beyond his boat and his liquor. Habit made him hold tightly to the strings of his purse. To chose the house here on St. Barts was an extreme deviation, and he's still recovering from that particular sticker shock, especially when he saw what it would cost if they were to buy outright instead of renting. The number of zeroes attached to the sum is beyond anything Will's ever tried to conceptualise.

Then Isandro sees him eyeing the Sage salt rod and puts it in his hands, and it's all over. Will knows he's grinning like a child on Christmas morning being handed the best gift ever. He takes the rod, and a reel he's seen advertised in fly-fishing magazines, which costs roughly what he made in two weeks with his salary. After that it's not really difficult to justify the line and fly-tying tool kit. Isandro throws in some of his personal fly-tying materials, from hooks and fish heads, to vibrant coloured marabou and iridescent feathers that he promises will attract any fish in the ocean.

They go out together on Isandro's boat to test out the new rod and reel. It's a beautiful temperate day and the water is impossibly bright and clear. The precision of the rod is unlike anything Will has handled before, and the casting is smooth and quick. Isandro is an acceptable fishing companion, quiet and unobtrusive. As he stands there, watching the surface, drinking in the sights and sounds and scents and committing them to memory, he waits for the familiar empty calm to settle over him.

Only he slowly realises that his muscles are already relaxed, his mind already untroubled. As if rebelling at the very idea, his brain tries to rile him, supplies him with the image of Abigail coming to sit beside him, bare feet dangling over the edge of the boat, a whispered reminder of what could have been. He will always miss her, the vibrancy she possessed, and all the potential struck down so ruthlessly. But no matter how he tries to call it forth, the bitter regret is no longer to be found.

 

 

*

 

Once all the details have been ironed out, they begin to settle into island life. Hannibal wakes far earlier than Will, easing into more strenuous exercise and stretches. Their nearest neighbours are over a mile away, and Hannibal swims in the nude as the sun rises. Some mornings he comes to the bed still damp, pushes back the covers and lays water-cool kisses along Will's thighs, hair dripping rivulets across his abdomen. The contrast of Hannibal's mouth, burning when he sucks down Will's cock, is enough to make Will beg for more.

Will goes running while Hannibal showers, and it's surprising how quickly his body adjusts to the dry heat, how much further he can push himself each day. In the past few years, he's let himself grow weak, settling into the domestic routine. The man who married Molly by necessity couldn't be the same man who was capable of beating Randall Tier to death. Now, his lungs burning after a five mile run, the familiar ache in his calves and thighs, the way his whole body is quivering by the time he climbs the last few steps from the beach to their backyard, now he feels himself growing strong again.

He can't do much upper body work with his shoulder still healing, but he starts with some wall-presses and resistance bands. Though his plans are still vague and hypothetical at best, he won't allow another to gain the upper hand like the Dragon had. He can remember with perfect clarity that moment of paralysing fear when he'd woken in the hotel room, before he'd realised his spine was still intact. He never should let himself to end up in that situation to begin with.

By the time he showers, Hannibal has made breakfast and they eat on the patio. Neither of them have bother to dress, Will in his boxers, Hannibal in nothing but thin linen slacks. They spend the morning reading the local newspaper. When it comes to French, Will's reading skills are far superior to his speaking skills, but the subject matter makes for a lot of unique, unfamiliar vocabulary.Hannibal is all too eager to help him improve. He smiles in pride and satisfaction when Will asks the right questions, or fixes a tricky pronunciation.

“You have quite a gift for languages, Will,” Hannibal tells him, which is funny because no language teacher has ever been particularly impressed by his abilities. “By the time I take you to France, you will be fluent.”

Dis-moi, oú est-ce que tu m'emmènerais?” Will asks, mostly to see the pleasure on Hannibal's face, to be pulled close as Hannibal sucks kisses down his throat in between whispered promises. Will still doesn't understand everything he says, but that hardly matters.

They lie entwined on the chaise, Hannibal drawing vivid pictures, making love with words, describing all the places he wants to share with Will. Strolling through the gardens of Giverny, like stepping back in time, seeing the world as Monet had. Provence at dawn, the sun a glowing orange fairy fire through the haze of fog hanging over endless rows of lavender and rapeseed. Drinking in the history in Normandy and the culture and cuisine in Paris. Hiking across the Bay of Mont St Michel in the springtime, where every step the light refracts on water in a new way. Lazy days drifting along the river in Pontrieux, flowers spilling from the lavoirs over the surface of the water. Lazy evenings on the French Riviera, surrounded by warmth and golden light.

Will is greedy for this life in a way that is almost frightening. He's never known how to want something, let alone with such an intensity. With the knowledge that he will kill to have it. He rolls Hannibal beneath him, hungry and possessive, and Hannibal submits to him. He lets Will bite his lips red and raw, leave purpling bruises down his neck and over his shoulder, where they'll be seen in public. Lets Will grab his wandering hands and press them to the cushion above his head. Hannibal's muscles are free of any tension, no sign of anything but complete compliance.

Hannibal coaxes him on, still murmuring in French of how he will spoil Will. Dressing him in the finest clothes, decorating him with jewels, feeding him thousand dollar chocolate dusted in gold and sipping Armand de Brignac in their suite at the Hotel Fouquet, the balcony open to an unobscured view of the Eiffel Tower. His voice catches when Will licks up the length of his cock, growing fatter by the second, but he continues on. As Will begins to suck him in earnest, Hannibal tells him how he'll leave a new trail of bodies behind them, each a declaration of his love for Will, making it perfectly clear how thoroughly his heart has been claimed.

Will clambours to his feet, legs as ungainly and weak as when he's just finished a run, and goes into the bedroom. When he returns, Hannibal is still lying there, waiting, curious. Will dips his fingers in the bottle of lube and sets in aside before lowering himself back down on the chaise. Even with this very purposeful display of submission, Will doesn't know how far Hannibal will let this go. He reaches between them and Hannibal tilts his hips, which is all the encouragement Will needs. He finds the puckered skin and pushes in with two fingers.

Just like before, Hannibal opens so easily for him, tight but smooth. Will is uncomfortably hard, straining against the fabric of his boxers, but he's still distracted by the way Hannibal responds to his questing, stroking fingers. His face contorted in pleasure isn't so very different from his face when he's in pain. At some point Will might have to reexamine his past motivations for wanting to hurt him.

When Will adds a third finger, Hannibal's eyes flutter closed and he licks his lips. “Tu ne me cassera pas. Je ne suis pas une petite chose fragile,” he says, falling abruptly silent and moaning when Will rubs in just the right spot. “Baise-moi, Will.”

Hannibal grabs the waistband of Will's boxers and tugs them down over his hips. “Ecarte mes cuisses et mets ta queue dans mon cul."

Will can't get his hand free fast enough. He does as he's told, hands gripping tight at Hannibal's thighs and pushing his legs open and back. Hannibal pours lubricant in his hand and reaches for Will, wraps a slick hand around his cock. “Baise-moi,” he says, guiding Will to his opening.

It's so fucking tight, more than he even anticipated. Hannibal's body welcomes him, pulls him in deeper and deeper, and Will is helpless but to relent. He sinks in, mouth hanging open with a soundless cry, until he's flush against the curve of Hannibal's ass. Hannibal's fingers curl into his biceps, slipping with sweat and lube, nails scoring the skin. He arches up and licks into Will's mouth, murmurs, “Baise-moi.

A sound rips its way from Will's chest, foreign and feral and on the edge of anguish, and he does as he's told, fucking into Hannibal again and again, bunching up the soft flesh of Hannibal's thighs in his fist until it's streaked red with burst blood vessels. Hannibal rocks up to meet him thrust for thrust, sucking and biting at Will's mouth between demands of plus fort and plus vite.

Will is caught between the reverence at the joining of their physical bodies and the carnality of the way these bodies have met. The contradiction is dizzying, reverberating between them, making Will tender and savage not in turn, but simultaneously. He shifts, angles deeper, hands bruisingly tight on Hannibal's hips and punishes with each thrust, even as he nuzzles along Hannibal's hairline, leaves open-mouthed kisses on the marks he's left. He's fucking Hannibal like he wants to split him in half and crawl inside. He's kissing him with a swell of love as terrifying as it is great.

This thing between them will devour them both and destroy everything in their path, and Will won't fight it.

He leans over Hannibal on his good arm, going from short, rough thrusts to deep, rolling ones that make their skin slap obscenely each time they meet. Hannibal's cock is trapped between their bellies; Will can feel the sticky wet trail along his scar. He arches his back, giving more friction and pressure and Hannibal's teeth snap close to his ear, and the growl he makes prickles the skin at the back of Will's neck. It triggers his own animal response to hold Hannibal down and fuck harder and faster, giving up any attempt at rhythm.

Hannibal strains against him, bites Will's lip and tugs hard enough to draw blood. He falls back on the cushion, grinning to reveal red teeth and slick lips, and says, “Jouis en moi.

Will hangs his head, groans in the hollow of Hannibal's collarbone fuck. It's such a profoundly woeful expression of everything he's feeling and can't put into words. He doesn't know where either of them begin or end anymore. There is no longer Hannibal's love for him, or his desire or Hannibal; they are one and the same. Will feels his orgasm building in his fingers and his toes, curling at the base of his spine and when he comes, he feels each pulse in his teeth, dick pulling so taut it's almost unbearable, giving way to a rush of boneless pleasure.

Hannibal embraces him with arms and legs, pulls him in close and tight, riding out those last few rocking thrusts with a sinuous twist of his hips. He whispers filthy praise for Will's come inside him, made all the filthier in French and the sudden slickness flooding between them.

When Will tries to withdraw, Hannibal's thighs tighten around his hips, his wrists link behind Will's neck. “Reste,” he says. Will rubs his face in the soft, greying hair of Hannibal's chest, kisses the skin over his heart, and stays.

 

*

 

Hannibal doesn't leave the house much. He spends his afternoons creating mouth-watering feasts, or sketching. Sometimes he spends an entire day at the piano, composing. Will catches bits and pieces before his run and as he showers, when he comes home from exploring the island, or fishing, or shooting the shit with Isandro. Strains drift down the breezeway in the evenings as he ties new flies with bits of shell and seaglass he's gathered from the beach.

Will buys a speed boat and starts scoping out the nearest islands. There are over a half-dozen islands within a two and half hour ride at top speed, each vastly different from the next in atmosphere and attitude, each with different appeal. He spends several afternoons in Antigua, roaming the streets. The crowds here are thick and loud, and beyond the attraction of the museums and concert halls, there is a seething underground revolving around the trafficking of goods from drugs and guns to women and children for sex and men for labour. Will tucks himself in dark corners of rundown bars and cafés and watches for hours, begins to discern patterns in the comings and goings.

He is unconcerned with being recoginsed—there is still no public news of their survival, though he knows that won't last forever. Whatever reason Jack has for maintaining silence won't keep the FBI from putting Hannibal back at the top of their most-wanted list. Even once that happens, Will doesn't imagine they'll have much trouble here. Most of the tourists are European, and outside of America Hannibal just never got the same amount of media attention. The vast majority of the visiting American population simply isn't observant enough to warrant any concern.

In the evenings they dine together, most often at home. Even with the abundance of truly excellent restaurants on the island, Will prefers the solace of their home after a day surrounded by all that humanity. They sip their wine on the patio in the breezy, balmy evening, and Hannibal will play for him. Will lies back on the sofa, drinking in the notes of Hannibal's composition, all those bits he catches throughout the day coming together more and more with each passing night. He feels as though are words in some foreign language, and if he studies long enough, his perception will shift, and he will understand.

Some nights Will stands and goes to kneel between Hannibal's feet as he reads, strokes and sucks him through his pants until he's painfully hard and his hands are clenched in Will's hair. Some nights all it takes is the sight of Hannibal's bare forearms, sleeves rolled up as he washes the last of the dishes, and Will grabs the ends of his apron and tugs him to the nearest flat surface, bends him over and fucks him hard and fast and desperate. Some nights they make it to the bed and they take their time exploring one another, and fall asleep between kisses, sated and sweaty, cooling in the open night air.

Hannibal is mostly healed, but he still gets weak if he pushes himself too hard with his exercises. There are nights when he's asleep as soon as he hits the sheets, and these nights Will takes the laptop out on the back deck and researches. Hannibal will grumble and moan about the glow of the screen, but he never actually kicks Will out of bed.

Will reads everything he can dig up on sex-trafficking on Antigua, every news blurb, every story about another rich white man coming to the islands and claiming he's done these women and children a favour by paying to rape them. Even if he hadn't been resolved before, everything he's seen and heard and read would have changed his mind. As it is, he's ready more than ever.

Chapter Text

When he's out on the sea, he mostly catches barracudas, which he has to release. On a tip from Isandro's daughter, Hilli, he heads to a different area on the leeward side of the island and finds an abundance of gorgeous red tuna. He releases all but one, the largest of the group, and bleeds and guts and cuts it into steaks before taking it back to Hannibal to prepare.

“You were underwhelmed by the tuna at Black Ginger the other day,” he says, plopping the fish down on the counter next to where Hannibal is dicing an onion. “So now you can do it better.”

Hannibal gives the tuna an appraising look. “The chicken can marinate another day,” he says, and goes to the special drawer in the refrigerator where he keeps the fresh herbs. “Go pick a couple of mangoes.”

There is an avocado tree and a mango tree on the property. The branches of the avocado tree are beginning to blossom, but the mango season is just starting, and the first fruits are softening, ready to be picked. Will has always liked the flavour well enough, but it wasn't until Hannibal had served him the first ripe fruit of the tree, sliced and grilled, sprinkled with cinnamon, red pepper, and coriander and drizzled with honey and blue cheese, that Will became obsessed.

The tree produces far too much fruit for them to eat alone, and Will takes them to Isandro, to Paul and Dani at the coffee shop. Hannibal finds a way to use them at least once a day in their meals, and Will hasn't grown tired of all the different ways he can prepare it, bringing complexity to such a simple fruit. His palate is expanding and maturing not only because of Hannibal's tutelage, but because Will is giving himself permission to enjoy the more hedonistic pleasures life can offer. Hannibal's cooking has always been delightful, but allowing himself to enjoy it had once felt like giving in, losing ground in the dance they'd been engaged in since day one.

Will picks two soft, bright yellow-orange fruits, sniffing the skin as he brings them inside. Hannibal is mincing garlic and there is fresh cilantro in a small bowl. The scents rise and mingle pleasantly with the onion and ginger sautéing on the stove. Hannibal slides a cutting board and knife across the island. Will pulls up a stool and begins to slice the cheeks of the fruit from the core, and scores lines along the flesh inside. He's getting better at this sort of thing, at least he's not reducing the mango to mush, but he still can't quite get the chunks to fall neatly from the skin in even little cubes like Hannibal manages.

Will lips twist in mild derision and pushes the board back. Hannibal, master of expressing indulgent amusement without actually making any expression at all, accepts the mango magnanimously. “It's for the salsa,” he says. “It hardly matters what it looks like.”

“Gee, thanks,” Will mutters, rolling his eyes and pushing back from the counter. “I guess I'll just fuck off then.”

Hannibal quirks a smile at him and points with his knife at the jalapeno. “That still needs mincing.”

“I seriously have no concept how to possibly accomplish that,” Will mutters, but Hannibal's gaze is unwavering and Will sits back down with a sigh. He understands mincing in theory, has seen Hannibal rocking his blade over piles of garlic or onion, making it look artful and effortless. He seeds the jalapeno and slices it and tries to approximate the move he's seen Hannibal make, surprised when it actually comes out fairly well.

Will leans an elbow on the counter and rests his chin in his hand, watching Hannibal move around the kitchen. It's almost hypnotic, the way he scrapes the garlic onto the blade of the knife and into the pan, the easy flick of his wrist when he tosses the ingredients around the pan, the way he measures the pour of orange juice by eye, his long fingers gathering pinches of cilantro and mint and crushing them as he sprinkles them over the pan. The vibrant colours bleed together as the brown sugar is absorbed and the juice reduces.

Hannibal removes the bubbling mixture from the heat and Will watches the steam rise, inhaling deeply the tangy-sweet scent. He leans across the island, toes slipping on the rungs of the stool, and scoops a finger through the salsa. Hannibal tsks and swats at his hand with a wooden spoon. Will grins around his finger as he sucks it clean. Smiles wider when Hannibal leans over the counter, chasing the taste with his tongue, licking into Will's mouth.

“Your kitchen etiquette is appalling,” Hannibal murmurs, lips brushing against Will's cheek before he straightens.

Will shrugs unapologetically. “All good chefs taste their dishes.” He is struck by how this scene is playing out, the eerie similarities between his imagining and the real world. He hadn't truly anticipated the contentment he'd feel, though. The absolute sense of belonging somewhere—to someone. And yet, there is a final piece lacking, an empty space carved out between them, and it won't hold.

“I've been thinking,” Will says, and actually right now he's very carefully not thinking. “We've been here nearly a month.”

Hannibal glances up at him from the sink where he's rinsing the knives, arching a brow as if to say continue.

Will gets to his feet ad paces back and forth between the threshold of the dining room. He lets the words come out unplanned. “I know you've needed time to recover, and I know you've been giving me time, too. Maybe you didn't think I meant what I said, or maybe you think I meant it at the time, but when it comes to practical application I'm not committed.”

Hannibal has stopped cleaning, leans back against the counter, arms crossed over his chest. The rope-like muscles of his forearms stand out in stark relief, his skin still damp and glistening in the light. Will can close his eyes, and with a sweep of light, see the way those arms looked wrapped around the Dragon, cradling his throat in the bend of his elbow, presented to Will like an offering and a question. The memory of the slick spray of blood over his face, down his arms, is still vivid. He can smell copper and salt water, and feel the burn of the cold air up his nose, freezing down his throat into his lungs. But a memory it isn't enough. If it was, they wouldn't even be here now.

“I want you to stop playing at being domesticated,” Will says, slowly opening his eyes again. “I want you to come with me Antigua.”

“And what shall we do in Antigua?” Hannibal asks. He is no longer looking at Will, busying himself with fetching a clean cutting board and his sashimi knife.

Will comes around the island, pressing himself to Hannibal's back, face between his shoulder blades, inhaling the blend of spice and chlorine that is uniquely Hannibal's. He wraps his hands around Hannibal's biceps, holding but not restricting his movements. “There are a lot bad people there. The sort of people that when they go missing, the cops thank their luck and move on.”

Hannibal's focus is entirely on the tuna under his hands. His eyes follow the blade as it slices through the flesh, leaving thin, almost translucent medallions. Will tucks his chin over Hannibal's shoulder and presses a kiss to his jaw.

“Forgive my hesitance,” Hannibal says, words cool and detached, as he shrugs neatly free of Will's embrace. He puts the counter between them on the pretext of going for his spice mill. “It is only that I cannot help but recall the last time you brought me a slice of meat and suggested we kill someone together.”

Will sighs in frustration, shakes his head. “I didn't know we were still hanging on to that. Or am I supposed to still be making petty digs about you trying to get inside my head?”

Hannibal doesn't look his way, but his shoulders aren't so tense as before. Will braces his hands on the counter top, leaning towards him. “Please, Hannibal,” he coaxes, voice soft, like he's used with his strays. “I love you, let me share this with you again.”

At his words, Hannibal's hands freeze. Even his breathing seems to stop. He lifts his head to look up at Will, face stricken with emotion. It doesn't even register with Will what he's said for a moment, and when it does, his breath comes faster. His own shock must show on his face.

“I do not enjoy being emotionally manipulated,” Hannibal says, a thoughtful quality to his voice.

“Well gosh, Hannibal,” Will drawls, “you do it so well yourself, I thought you might appreciate the effort.”

Hannibal's shoulders draw up and immediately Will feels contrite. With it hanging there between them, Will's lack of reciprocation until now seems too pointed, too cruel. Why withhold it, saving to use like a weapon? He's the one saying they don't have to hurt one another anymore, yet he's still clinging to any petty advantage he has.

“I'm sorry,” he says. “I—that wasn't—I didn't mean to say it like that.” He reaches out and takes Hannibal's hand, easing the knife from already loose fingers. He meets Hannibal's eye and tries for an earnest expression. “It's true.”

No words pass Hannibal's lips, but every line of his body is asking for Will's touch. He has the look of a man who's just been given his heart's desire but can't take it for fear of discovering it all to be a dream. His hand closes tight around Will's, squeezing until Will feels his bones starting to creak.

“Come here,” Will says, pulling on his hand, and they meet at the end of the island. Hannibal's arms are a vice around Will's waist, bending him almost in half with the force of his kiss. Will is drowning in the swell of emotion coming from Hannibal, conveyed through touch. When he parts to draw a breath, the kiss becomes a fragile, trembling thing. Hannibal lips gently at him, traces the seam of his mouth with his tongue. His hands are not those of the skilled lover who knows just where to touch Will and with the right pressure to reduce him to a begging, shivering mess. These hands are halting, slipping beneath Will's shirt to hesitantly rest in the small of his back.

Will takes Hannibal's cheeks in his hands and holds him still, but it's so hard to tear his mouth away from Hannibal's. There is a naked, innocent sincerity in every brush of their mouths, every catch of Hannibal's lip against his. He forces himself to duck his head, put some space between them, because it needs to be said again, purposefully. Whether Hannibal deserves it or not is entirely beside the point. Will loves him, and that rarely has anything to do with being deserving.

Hannibal dips his head in pursuit, nudging with his nose, asking with his touch for Will to lift his head. His fingers trace up the bumps of Will's spine, hands splayed out huge and warm across his back. “Will,” he pleads, “let me.”

Will turns his head to the side and back again, letting Hannibal suck on his bottom lip, lick into his mouth, gets distracted by the slide of their tongues together, the back and forth, and pulls away again, breathless. He holds Hannibal's face firmly, waiting until their eyes meet, and then he's distracted by that same longing that changed everything when he saw it in the hospital. That unassuming love and hunger, now tinged with awed disbelief. And then Will has to kiss him again, walking backwards towards the bedroom.

They stumble into the wall, catch on the door frame, trip over the rug in the bedroom. Hannibal pulls at his clothing and Will can't get to skin quickly enough, undoing the line of buttons down Hannibal's shirt front, leaving it to hang open. Will traces the raised skin of his scar and smooths upward, along the sharp planes and hollow dips, through soft curling hair, coming to rest on the curve of Hannibal's neck.

Hannibal's legs hit the bed and they fall backwards, Will on top, settling in the vee of Hannibal's thighs. Hannibal arches his hips off the bed, lets Will pull down his trousers and boxers all at once and fling them across the room to land in a heap. He tears ineffectually at Will's jeans and Will's fingers tangle with his, getting the top button undone and then just shoving them down over his hips, leaving them to bunch around his knees, jerking open his boxer shorts and accidentally ripping the whole front panel off. He can't seem to tear himself from Hannibal's clinging arms and sucking kisses long enough to get them undressed any further.

“Please,” Hannibal says, a sort of plain entreaty Will has never heard from those lips. “Will, tell me—”

“I love you,” Will says in a rush, before he can even ask. “Hannibal, I'm so—I ached for you, for years, and I thought having you would make it better, but it's even worse.”

Hannibal closes his eyes, a thin line of moisture clinging to his lashes, wetting the curve of thin skin above his cheekbones. Will hardly knows what possesses him to kiss him there, open-mouthed, licking away his tears. He wants to apologise for all those wasted years, and the weeks he's wasted since, not saying those words, but there's nothing either of them can say to erase the hurt they've caused one another. All they can do is paint over it with pleasure.

Will licks his palm and slicks it up the length of his cock. Hannibal hooks a foot behind his thigh and tugs him in, and Will sinks inside that welcoming heat, working his hips deeper and deeper to the hilt. “You're a part of me, Hannibal, I've got you inside me, but it isn't enough.” He wants Hannibal everywhere, everyway. “Being apart from you was painful to me, like losing a limb, and I tried to ignore it, but just the sight of you, behind that glass—”

Hannibal locks his ankles around Will's ass, holding him in place. There's nowhere to go in his tight embrace, so Will wraps his arms around his back, lays his cheek to Hannibal's, and rocks into him. “It was as if I'd been made whole, again,” he says.

“Every time we touch, we are remade,” Hannibal murmurs, words breathy and tremulous. Teardrops slide down the corner of his eye, sliding along the curve where their cheeks meet.

It is true, that each day spent with Hannibal, every exchange of intimacy, whether physical or emotional, shapes him. Will is starting to understand the broad outlines, can see them taking form, but the details remain elusive at times. With Hannibal they begin to resolve, all the intricate lines filled in a little more with each passing day. To know that Hannibal isn't unchangeable, that Will in fact has a hand in his ongoing evolution...

Will buries his face in Hannibal's neck and loses himself in sensation. The tendrils of his empathy wind between them, and they move in that perfect synchronicity possessed from residing in one another's thoughts. Just as in those moments on the cliff side, as they became one creature, slaying the Dragon together, they are lost in one another now. It is Hannibal's hips rolling in slow, tight thrusts, driving into Will's welcoming body. It is Will clinging to him, tear tracks drying tacky on his cheeks.

Will isn't even entirely sure he's still moving, isn't sure that he even has a body any more, until Hannibal lets out a raw sob, head tossed back on the sheets. Hannibal's hands frame Will's rib cage, fingers curving strong and gentle around his sides, resting on the slope of his back, cradling Will delicately. Will raises his head, watches the play of emotions over Hannibal's face, unlike anything he could have anticipated—the anguished furrow of his brow, the fluttering sweep of his lashes against his skin, the broken sounds spilling from his open mouth. He swallows hard, and Will's eyes track the harsh bobbing of his Adam's apple and Hannibal's tongue darting out to wet his lips.

This is too much—the two of them together is too much. They can't be contained by the limitations of their skin. It falls apart around them; the centre cannot hold. Will had thought he was becoming before, but now he sees how wrong he'd been. There was no way he could have foreseen this, though. No way to know that his becoming and Hannibal's were one and the same. Hannibal's sure-footedness is nothing more than a bluff, so easy to see through when Will knew how to look. He is stumbling as blindly as Will to find their path. Will's tenderness towards Hannibal grows at the realisation.

“I love you,” Will says, fervent. He touches the side of his cheek. “Hannibal, look at me.”

Hannibal makes a rough, distressed sound and opens his eyes. His pupils are blown wide, the shape of his eye limned in unshed tears, and he seems to have trouble focusing on Will's face. Will stills his body, pets his fingers through Hannibal's sweat-damp hair. It is difficult to provide calming comfort when he himself is drowning the same devastating crush of emotion and sensation, but Hannibal rises to his touch, as though Will is the sun and Hannibal, a plant too long in the shade.

“I see you,” Will whispers, and Hannibal's eyes light on his at last, searching, wrecked and lost. Will kisses his forehead. “I see all of you, and I love you.”

Hannibal tips his head back and they kiss. They kiss for what must be hours, until Will's mouth is sore, parting only when Hannibal drags Will's t-shirt off, and finally they're all skin to skin. He moves again, or Hannibal does, giving in to the inevitable tidal pull of aching need for completion. When Hannibal comes he is silent save for the heaving, broken breaths he draws. Will draws a hand down the outside of his thigh, hitching it higher, driving deeper, fucking him through each shuddering pulse and kisses the lines at the corner of his mouth, whispers I love you once, and then again, and then he is coming, too.

Fine tremors run through Hannibal's body in the aftermath. Will kicks off his jeans and ruined shorts. He shifts them both until they're curled on their sides and he's tucked up behind Hannibal holding him with a firm grip around his waist. He waits, mind nothing but static, mouthing absently along Hannibal's shoulder blade. He has never felt so perfectly still, and it is a moment of blissful peace. Slowly, Hannibal comes back to himself, breath evening out, body falling still once more. He places his hand over Will's, slotting their fingers together.

It is still light out, and it hardly seems possible that such little time has passed, when it felt like an eternity. The late afternoon light glows orange on the tile at the edge of the room, glitters on the surface of the pool. Hannibal is cast all in shadow and Will drinks in the sight of him, the fading marks of passion on his skin. The faint black splotches on his neck and shoulder, the welts down his back, the scabbed over scrapes on his hips. How has it never occurred to him until now, how thoroughly Will owns this man? And is it possible that Hannibal doesn't know how thoroughly he owns Will?

Hannibal turns to face him, linking their hands together on the rumpled sheets between them. “I don't know what I've possibly done to deserve you,” he says.

Will finds himself grinning in the face of that earnest declaration. “I don't know what I've done to deserve you,” he laughs, and it earns him the hint of a smile curving Hannibal's lips, brightening his eyes.

“It must have been something truly wicked,” Hannibal murmurs. Will hums his amused agreement.

They lie there long enough that the sunlight sinks from the room entirely and an early evening breeze rustles through the curtains, tracing diaphanous shapes in the air. Will idly wonders if dinner will still be any good after this. He supposes he should be seriously flattered that Hannibal would let a meal go to hell like that to take him to bed.

“I have heard there are some lovely museum on Antigua,” Hannibal says at great length.

“And Harmony Hall's winter concert is a programme of Shostakovich and Mahler, starting next weekend. It runs through the beginning of February,” Will says. He is not familiar with either of the composers except by name, but he is not opposed to attending. He thinks he'll like seeing Hannibal's reaction to him dressed up, cleaned and polished.

Hannibal brushes the curls back from Will's brow. His thumb traces the scar cutting across Will's forehead, then along his temple, over the raised, still pink edge of the scar on his cheek. “You are magnificent, Will,” he says. “You must know that I will play whatever role you require of me.”

Will shakes his head. “I don't want you playing a role. I want you.” He drags his nails down Hannibal's chest, digging in to the soft, vulnerable skin of his belly. “I fell in love with a killer, not in spite of your nature but because of it. You would have me exactly as I am; let me have you the same way. Let's both be true to our nature, Hannibal.”

Chapter Text

There are a handful of high-end, stupidly expensive men's clothing shops on the island. Hannibal has already seen a tailor and ordered suits and shirts for himself, though his everyday island wear is more casual than Will would have anticipated. He dresses in cream coloured linen suits and dressier lightweight button downs, tieless, left open at the collar, goes sockless in his suede loafers, and dons a Panama and brown Burberry sunglasses outdoors. With his freshly dyed and trimmed hair, and his stubble greying along the jawline, he looks both sophisticated and affable, and somehow comfortable despite the layers.

Before leaving for Antigua, Hannibal insists on Will visiting the suit-makers for evening wear. After he is measured, they make their way to the neighbouring ready to wear shop. The clothing Will purchased before they'd left America has served him well enough, but walking alongside Hannibal he looks shabby and incongruous. And honestly, with the traffic on the islands picking up, the streets flooding with a veritable who's who of Hollywood faces, he'd probably draw less attention if he was better dressed.

Will is ready for Hannibal to lead him around and pick out all this clothing, and already knows how far he'll indulge Hannibal in this. Beyond giving his order to the tailor, however, he is silent as Will browses the shops, idly dragging a hand along the rows of shirts. He's out of his depth here—there are a half-dozen styles of collars alone, and he's never paid enough attention to even know when one he's used to. None of the colours or patterns are the sort of thing he'd wear. There are no plaids, no dark colours. You don't hide behind layers in the Caribbean.

It gets easier every time Will tries on a new persona, so he does it now. Thinks about the charming doctor of the French Quarter, always showing up in the society pages dressed in crisp whites and bright pops of colour. Will had investigated his wife's murder—watched how he'd smiled for the news crews and charmed the jury into a not-guilty verdict. Watched the ease with which he'd inhabited his own skin, and wondered at such a possibility.

Now that conman grin stretches his lips as he is approached by a salesman. Sets his shoulders back and lets limbs go loose, talks with his hands as he answers the questions directed his way. Makes up a story on the fly about losing his luggage and needing an entirely new wardrobe, speaks with casual, thoughtless disdain for the morons at the airport. Hannibal's gaze is heavy on him, watching every gesture, the way Will cocks his hip to the side, his expression pensive.

The salesman leads him to a changing booth and brings him hanger after hanger polo shirts and button downs with colour names like shell or cornflower. Hannibal sits in the leather chair in the corner and watches. Will has never been overly concerned about his appearance, but he's also never felt so acutely aware of his nudity as he is now, the way Hannibal is studying him so intently. It makes him move more slowly, conscious of how his muscles of his back shift and flex as he draws on his shirt, how the twill fabric of his shorts stretch over his ass, which seems to have Hannibal's particular attention.

Will shows off for him, bending to adjust his sandal strap. Hannibal rewards him with an arched brow and pursed lips, and Will can't help but smile. He climbs carefully into Hannibal's lap, settling his knees on either side of his hips, smug when Hannibal's hands palm his ass. “You're being uncharacteristically quiet on the topic of my wardrobe.”

“I have never been afforded the opportunity to appreciate your talent so openly before,” Hannibal says. “Watching you inhabit the minds of those other killers, how it sparked that latent hunger in you. The way you would tremble in fear, not of what you saw in their minds, but the damning potential you saw in yourself. Always with Uncle Jack at your elbow to guide you back to safety.” He brushes back the curls from Will's brow. “It is as though another being entirely wears your skin.”

Will hears in his mind the belligerent and bitter response he would have once given, accusing Hannibal of being the devil on his shoulder, talking him right back up on the ledge. Now his words give Will pause. What form does he take, beneath all the monsters living in his head, beneath his own person suit, carefully cultivated over years of self-deception. He's known the beast disguised by Hannibal's person suit for so long—easily seeing the truth of the thing, long before he'd understood that Hannibal and the beast were one and the same. But how much of that creature was a reflection of Will himself? How much was his defence mechanism against the encroaching darkness of Will's true nature?

He stands and goes to the mirror, staring intently at his own reflected eyes. It has been weeks since he's seen the wendigo or stag; the last time they appeared to him was at the side of the cliff. He's waited, expecting to see them from the corner of his eye at any moment. He searches now for any sign of them lingering beyond the surface, but all he sees is a spiralling darkness. With a strange detachment he watches his body move, unbuttoning his shirt and casting it aside, kicking off his sandals, shoving down his shorts and boxers and stepping out of them to stand naked before the mirror.

Hannibal rises from the seat and comes to stand behind him, close enough to touch though he does not. “What do you see?” he asks.

Will draws a hand down his chest. If he could just find the seam of this skin and split it open and leave himself bare. If only he could do the same to Hannibal. He traces the smile Hannibal left him and feels something brittle crumble between his fingers. “Touch me,” he says, and doesn't wait for Hannibal, reaches back and grabs his hands and leads them to his body.

Of course Hannibal knows just how to touch him, knows to drag his palms against the skin hard enough to burn. His nails leave tracks over his hips and low on his belly, scrape hard through the curls there. More of that brittle shell cracks and falls at Will's feet, and what's beneath begins to take shape. Hannibal takes that last step to press himself against Will's back, cock hard through the layers of his clothing, tucked between Will's ass cheeks. He wraps a hand around Will's cock, punishingly tight, and each dry stroke strips him further.

How foolish he'd been to think he'd been nude in Hannibal's presence before this moment. He is the only one inside his skin, now.

“Tell me,” Hannibal says, voice deafening though he whispers, “tell me what you see.”

Tell Me What You See by theseavoices

Will rocks back against him, chest heaving with each breath, skin cracking as it expands and falling loose as it contracts. It is not the black of the wendigo, nor the vibrant colours of the butterfly Hannibal has intimated. Silvery grey and brown shifts and shimmers, one minute appearing as ruffling feathers, the next as powder on rippling gossamer. Antlers curl up from his temple, but when he glances up at them, they're gone. Now there is movement along his shoulder blades, and the brush of wings down his back and along his sides, flashing red. These too disappear when he tries to look directly at them. Instead there are spidery legs sprouting from his sides, each tipped in razor sharp spurs, and when he looks at them, cloven hooves form from his feet. Again and again it changes, the shimmering mass surging and flowing from one shape to the next.

Through it all, Hannibal will not be ignored. He ruts against Will's ass, each brutal stroke of his hand jerking Will back towards him. When Will focusses on Hannibal's reflection, it is no longer the wendigo he sees. Darkness still ripples from him in waves, the antlers still sprout from his head, but his form is more man than animal. Those familiar, well-loved eyes stare back at him, though they glint deep red. His black blurs against Will's brown, and together they catch and rise, billowing out to block the light.

Will's puts his hand against the mirror and uses the leverage to grind back against Hannibal. His other hand fumbles with Hannibal's, linking their fingers together over his abdomen. “We—” he moans when Hannibal twists his wrist and palms the head of his cock. “We are the beast that was, and is not, and is about to rise.”

“Upon our heads shall we bear the name of blasphemy,” Hannibal says, the tar of his mouth spills down Will's neck, over his shoulder.

“It's...” Will is too caught up in the sight of them, watching the black and brown coil together, shot through with crimson streaks, crackling like lightening. Glorious, sublime, exquisite. Nothing he could say would do them justice. His orgasm wells from that place where they join, both deep within his gut and entirely outside of him, beyond his influence and control. Hannibal growls and bites down hard at the nape of his neck, pushes him up against the mirror and grinds against Will's ass until he comes. Then they are no longer in the dressing room, but standing on the shore of a seething sea, the water turning to snakes as it coils around their ankles.

The mirror is shockingly cold against his fever-hot, too-tight skin. He turns is cheek against it, breath fogging the glass. “You're wrong, Hannibal,” he pants. “There is no God. There's only the two of us.”

Chapter Text

Antigua is so dramatically different from St. Barthélemy, it seems impossible that it takes less time to travel between them than it had once taken Will to drive from his home to Hannibal's office. Over twelve times the size of St. Barts, with sprawling cities and a constant press of bodies filling the streets, loud and boisterous. Downtown St. John's is open twenty-four hours, pounding bass spilling from the nightclubs, the glittering lights of the casinos, both the extraordinarily wealthy and woefully poor crowding the sidewalks, taking in the stalls of the night markets and street performers.

Hannibal is at ease here as he is everywhere, drinking it in with a placid expression. There is nothing predatory about him, though Will is no longer fooled. He sees the same things Will does—the things all the tourists can't see, or are willing to ignore. The Haitian women hovering in the doorways of nondescript buildings, shoulders hunched, avoiding eye contact. Even at the performers at high-end gentleman's clubs and the waitresses in the smaller casinos sometimes have a look about them. When Will extends his empathy, he is taken by a sensation of blankness—not exactly a void of feeling, but a lack of critical self-awareness, a surrender of free-will. It is a sickening, lead weight in his gut.

Will's role as Hannibal's companion is still new and evolving. In St. Barts people know Will, greet him by name with clasped hands and la bise on each cheek. Hannibal is a more mysterious figure, only occasionally coming out for dinner, and then lingers in the darkened corners, far from the island's famous visitors and the flash of the camera. Their neighbours and all of the shopkeepers of the businesses Will frequents are always inquiring after his gentleman friend. Will is uncertain why Hannibal has preferred to stay home, but isn't concerned by it.

On the streets of Antigua, they walk side by side through the crowd, not quite touching. The attitude of locals towards homosexuals is less than favourable, and while part of Will wishes to thumb his nose at the law, they are not here to draw attention to themselves. They take in the street performers and taste the offerings of the vendors. There is the Ducana, sweet potato and coconut dumplings spiced with ginger and nutmeg, stuffed with saltfish. They eat it without utensils, still so hot it burns their tongues as they bite it off the grape leaf in which it was steamed. Patties of curried potato and beef, slightly crunchy on the outside. Black pineapple, all sweetness, without the acidic bite on the edges of his tongue.

They browse the boutiques and charming little shops near the harbour. Hannibal buys him a pair of crushed blue fire opal cufflinks, the mosaic pattern catching bright green and red in the right light. Will sees a shaving set, the stand made of nickel and the base of a stag's antler, the curving tips used as the handles of the razor and brush, the shaving bowl is polished rosewood. He hasn't told Hannibal of the wendigo and the stag, of his glimpse beneath skin; Hannibal probably won't understand why this particular piece caught Will's eye.

When he presents it to Hannibal, he is rewarded with amused pursed lips and a murmur, “Are you trying to tell me something?”

Will strokes his hand down Hannibal's cheek, the now familiar scrape of facial hair under his touch. “I like it either way,” he says, shrugging. “But I thought you might prefer the clean-shaven look with your tux.”

The shop owner eyes them uneasily, and Will drops his hand back to his side. He glances out the window where the sun is glinting off the cars. “It's getting late,” he says. “We should get ready.”

*

“What do you have planned?” Hannibal asks him, as they dress for dinner in their suite. Hannibal looks out of place in his formal attire, surrounded the charming island aesthetic of the bungalow. Will didn't realise until now how much he's missed the sight of him clean shaven with his perfectly tailored lines, how it makes Hannibal's features sharper and more dangerous.

Will supposes, studying his own reflection, it does the same for him. He's slicked back his curls, managed to tame them into waves, given some shape to his beard. This suit Hannibal had made for him is the nicest thing he's ever owned. The jacket, waistcoat, and slacks in a dark blue, lightweight fabric with a faint sheen, the shirt, crisp white with the faintest blue pinstripe, and necktie with a powder blue and chocolate brown geometric pattern. He didn't know he could look so well put together—he doesn't even need to use his empathy to feel like a different man right now.

“There's an Australian businessman, Ethan Robinson, attending the symphony this evening,” Will says, adjusting his collar, pulling of his shirt cuffs. He isn't ill at ease in the suit, but he can't stop fidgeting, for no reason he can really pinpoint. “He's in town for a convention, travelling without his wife. Lonely, and with a predilection for child pornography.”

Hannibal steps close to him, plucking up the cufflinks from the dresser top and Will obediently holds out his hand for Hannibal to affix them. When Hannibal fastens them in place on his wrists, Will likes the weight of them, the flashes of colour he catches from the corner of his eye when he runs a hand through his hair. Hannibal straightens his tie and his hand lingers.

There is a familiar look in his eye, but one Will has not seen in at least three years. Mingled pride and amusement, and banked arousal. In the past, Will had managed to convince himself it was a figment of his imagination. Now Hannibal gives a faint tug on his tie, and for a second Will thinks they'll kiss, but then Hannibal lets him go and turns away. Will's heart is inexplicably pounding; he can have Hannibal anytime he likes. He could push now, and Hannibal would give. Yet the hot, thrilling tingle of anticipation down his spine is almost unbearable.

“And what did you have in mind for Mister Robinson?” Hannibal takes a seat at the end of the bed, sliding on and lacing up his shoes.

Behind his eyelids, Will can see a dozen different scenarios of what they might do to Ethan Robinson. Scenarios truly befitting the nature of his crimes at the hands of the Chesapeake Ripper. Flesh carved open in swirling patterns by a whirling wind storm of his own lust. Exsanguinated, choked on his own severed penis, butterflies lighted on every bare expanse of skin.

Will opens his eyes again. “Any of my more...colourful imaginings would only draw the sort of attention I'd like to avoid,” he says. Then, considering, adds, “For now.” Jack will be scouring the news for any sign of them, and Will isn't ready to leave their island home just yet.

Hannibal smiles faintly. “A shame,” he says, coming to his feet. “I would love to see your vision, unencumbered by the confines of your conscience and what Jack and the FBI would allow.”

Will arches a brow at Hannibal in the reflection of the mirror. “If you think Jack gave any prior permission for what was done to Randall Tier, you are sorely mistaken.” He recalls with fondness and regret Jack's weary resignation for how that all fell out. “But you're right. That wasn't my vision. That was my interpretation of what you thought my vision would be.”

He turns to face Hannibal directly and shoves his hands in his pockets. Then he thinks he's ruining his lines and maybe he should take them out, then decides fuck it, and leaves them where they are. “I was thinking suicide,” he says. “Hanging,” drawing out the syllables, saying it out loud for the first time and getting a feel for the idea more completely than he had when he'd thought it alone in the safety of his mind.

His eyes flicked to the ceiling, around the edges of the room. Robinson was in another cabana, just like theirs. The fan probably wasn't sturdy enough. Possibly the rails on the poster bed. “It isn't the death he deserves, but done right it can be long and painful.”

“Indeed,” Hannibal agrees, with a slight nod of his head. Will is aware of his gaze, heavy on him, in his periphery. Hannibal is searching for something in his face.

“Do you still question my sincerity?” he asks, unable to keep an edge of bitterness from his tone. There is a metal railing just under the eaves on the balcony. The cabanas are nestled in amongst the tree covered hillside. Late at night no one would witness them there.

“No,” Hannibal says. He steps closer. “I question this reality.”

Will glances at him then, notes the distance that remains between their bodies, the strange reserve with which Hannibal holds himself. Will's brows draw together in thought; his tongue presses against the back of his teeth, and he inhales before he speaks. “Did...I...visit you, during your incarceration?”

“Day and night,” Hannibal confesses. “You were cruel and capricious, and lovely.”

There is an odd, alien atmosphere in the room. Will wants to go to Hannibal, wrap his arms around his neck, lay his cheek against Hannibal's chest, but is suddenly unsure of how he would be received. They are different people here, outside of the safe space they've carved out for themselves at home. “Would it be easier for you now if I were cruel to you?”

“Perhaps.”

“What did I do, that was so cruel?” Will can't honestly imagine much worse than what they've done to one another in the real world.

“You were happy,” Hannibal says simply.

Will snorts. Inexplicably, his eyes are stinging. “Without you,” he says, stating what Hannibal left unspoken. “I was married, and I had a child, and you were out of my life, and it made me happy.”

Hannibal says nothing, but there isn't really any need for words.

“Are you happy now?” Will asks.

Hannibal's eyes fall closed briefly, lashes trembling against his cheek. “Terribly,” he says.

“You once told me that the palace chambers of your memory were full of holes.” Will aches at the memory just as he had when the conversation took place. When he'd straddled the impossible edge between two versions of himself, and was trying so desperately to stay in the light. When the idea of seeing Hannibal imprisoned was too much for him to bear. “That living there would never truly fulfill you. In those dark, cramped, empty spaces of your mind, you would starve. Did the sight of me there ease your heartache?” Will asks. “Did it provide you sustenance?”

“It was...a respite from the loneliness,” Hannibal says. “Though it was unfulfilling.”

Will takes a hesitant step forward, then another one, more sure. He holds hand palm out, fingers splayed, and Hannibal mirrors him almost as without thought, a pure autonomic response. “Then let me fulfill you. Let me feed your hunger. And you won't have to doubt I'm real.”

Chapter Text

The gala is fundraising for an educational charity, thrown by a member of the Antiguan elite. They stroll through the grand mansion admiring the private art collection, the catered refreshments, the string quartet playing in the ballroom. Under different circumstances, Will thinks Hannibal might try to talk him onto the dance floor. Under different circumstances, Will might allow himself to be talked there. As it is, he has a singular goal for the evening, and won't be distracted.

Most of the party-goers are European, with a handful of native Caribbean Islanders. Hannibal blends in effortlessly, speaking French with one couple, German with the next, Italian with another. The guests are delighted by his wit and charm. Will lingers around the edge of the party by the open bar, nursing a scotch. Just beyond the edge of the bar the room opens onto the veranda and the ocean breeze ruffles his hair, keeps him cool in all the layers.

There are maybe a half-dozen native English speakers in the room. Inevitably Robinson makes his way to the bar, moping at the sweat on his forehead. Will lifts his glass in greeting and nods his head. Robinson nods back and comes over to him once he has his drink in hand. “You look about as miserable as I feel,” Robinson chuckles awkwardly.

Will fights the urge to sneer in disdain. Instead, he pulls at his collar. “This isn't exactly my scene,” he acknowledges.

Robinson rocks on his heels. “I know what you mean,” he says. “I'd have skipped it if I could, but my boss's boss is friends with someone on the committee. I had to at least put in an appearance. You?”

Will gestures with his drink towards the edge of the dance floor where Hannibal is engaged in conversation with the wife of one of the casino owners. The woman is tall and slender, with warm gold skin and dark hair falling over her bare shoulders. Her teeth are very white when she laughs at something Hannibal has said, and she laughs quite frequently. Will purses his lips and refuses to be annoyed. “My friend, Linas, he's all about these things. Let's just say I could find better things to do in an island paradise than putting on a jacket and tie and rubbing elbows with a bunch of self-congratulatory so-called philanthropists.”

“Tell me about it,” Robinson says with a snort. “Ethan Robinson.” He offers a hand.

“William Reins.” He makes himself shake hands, very careful not to meet the man's eyes.

“What brings you to the island?” Robinson asks.

Will takes a slow drink of his scotch and rolls it around on the tongue. “Ostensibly for a fishing trip,” he says. “Only because my wife would lose her shit if she knew we were down here for a bachelor's weekend.” He shoots Robinson a sly grin, lifts his brow.

Robinson laughs. “What wives don't know, can't kill us,” he says. “You should take your friend down to Diamond Ice. Those girls will spread their legs for a shiny penny.”

“Not really my type,” Will says, swallowing back the rising bile in his throat.

Will has positioned himself by the veranda for a good reason; the same reason he knew Robinson would eventually make his way over. The host's daughter, fourteen years old and all coltish legs and long blonde hair is out there with her friends. None of them are wearing much. Lots of skin tight mini-dresses, gauzy fabrics with low backs, cut out sides or slits nearly up to the hip. It's the sort of thing Will would barely notice, let alone find titillating. His disorder makes it difficult for him to find someone attractive unless he knows them, and even then, he doesn't sexualise children.

Now he casts a glance at them over his shoulder, and makes himself look at them like Ethan Robinson looks at them. From the girls he can feel a jumble of emotions—some preening at the attention; some wishing they'd worn something different, tugging at their hems; some feeling a hot, trapped, panicky sensation in their chests—but all of them aware of how Will is staring at them. He has to close his eyes and turn away, swallowing hard.

Robinson must mistake his reaction. He sucks in an appreciative breath and says, “Don't know what their parents were thinking, letting them out like that, but I'd like to thank them.”

Will chuckles weakly, shores himself up, and opens his eyes and looks again. “Well, if her father doesn't want to show her any discipline, I'll gladly pick up the slack.” He finishes the last of his drink and the ice clinks against the glass. “Want another?”

Robinson throws his much fuller glass back and follows Will back to the bar.

Two hours later, Robinson is much looser with his tongue and much less steady on his feet. There is an apartment building down town, with the pimp on the first floor so none of the girls can come or go without him knowing it. Though Will knew most of this, Robinson fills in the necessary details. The pimp has a coke habit and keeps a shotgun by the door and a pistol on his person. The only way to get into is with a special code, and Robinson has it, if Will would like to be introduced.

When the party is starting to break up and Robinson lets Will guide him towards the door. There is a line of taxis out front, and Robinson groans when he sees them, patting at his pockets and pulling out his wallet and frowning at the contents. “We can give you a ride,” Will says. “Linas never drinks to excess.” Hannibal has been watching them all evening, and now when Will catches his eye, he heads their way.

“I can get a taxi,” Robinson protests.

“Where are you staying?” Will asks, as Hannibal comes up at his elbow.

“Blue Breeze Cove,” Robinson says. “It really isn't a bother.”

“But that is where we are staying as well,” Hannibal says smoothly. “And it will likely be a much more direct route with me behind the wheel.”

Robinson laughs and claps him on the shoulder, clearly missing the utter disdain in Hannibal's face as he refrains from breaking the man's hand. “Fair enough, mate. Lead the way.”

The entire drive back, Will watches the tension in Hannibal's shoulders and how tightly he grips the wheel. The thin pressed line of his lips. Will has never known Hannibal to be nervous, certainly not leading up to a murder. He wants to dig into the hard muscles of Hannibal's shoulders, relieve some of his stress. There will be time for it later. Now they are committed to this path.

By the time they get back to the hotel, Robinson is half-asleep. Hannibal parks near their bungalow. There are people in the distance, the sound of music and laughter rising from the beach, but the area around the bungalows is dark and quiet. Will helps Robinson stagger back to his door. “Thanks for the ride,” he mutters, fumbling with the lock.

“Hey,” Will says, leaning against the frame. “Do you think I could get that number? For that guy you were telling me about.”

Robinson looks up at him blurry-eyed, as the door comes open. Then recognition dawns on his face. “Oh. Man. Oh sure. Come on in.”

Hannibal follows, surveying the area around the bungalow before closing the door behind them and locking it. Robinson shoots him a look as he starts fumbling through his briefcase. “Your friend okay?”

Will glances back at Hannibal, then to Robinson. “You don't need to worry about him.” Robinson pulls out his phone and begins scrolling through it, back to them. Will draws a pair of gloves from his pocket and slides them on.

Robinson's suitcase is open on the settee at the foot of the bed, wrinkled shirts and slacks scattered over the sheets and on the floor. Will bends to pick up one of the belts laid coiled on the floor. Robinson is a girthy man. This length of leather would easily be enough to hang him with from the bathroom door. A more likely suicide method, and less likely to draw unwanted attention. Hannibal stands just inside the door, watching, and he meets Will's eye, expression unreadable.

This is not the beautiful synchronicity they shared with Dolarhyde. Will has no idea what's currently going on inside Hannibal's head, which is both exciting and terrifying. He crosses the room in two long strides and loops the belt across Robinson's throat, ends wrapped around his fists. He pulls up, under the chin and Robinson sputters, scrabbles at the leather. Will jerks harder and dodges the attempt at a headbutt.

“You stop fighting, I stop squeezing,” Will says, and has to repeat himself twice before it sinks in and Robinson goes still. Will lets the strap loosen just enough for the man to get in a breath.

“What the fuck?” Robinson hisses. “What the fuck you fucking freak, I'm going to fucking kill you.” He chokes out the last few words as Will tightens the strap again.

“Now, now,” Will chides. “Only one of us is dying tonight, and it isn't going to be me. But it's up to you just how that goes.”

Robinson shoves his not inconsiderable weight back and they stumble to the floor. Will's first instinct is to strike out, but any bruises on the body, anything other than the marks around his neck and the police will start questioning it. He rises into a crouch and waits until Robinson rushes at him and dodges to the side, bringing his arm up under his ribcage, hard enough to knock the breath out of him but not to break any blood vessels. They rolls across the floor and Will straddles his back, getting the belt back around Robinson's neck.

“I'm not going to tell you again,” Will says, teeth clinched tight. “You try to get away and I will kill you in the most painful way you can imagine. You cooperate, and maybe I can make it a little quicker.”

“You just gonna stand there and watch this shit?” Robinson demands of Hannibal. He hasn't moved at all since this started.

“This is all Will's doing,” Hannibal say, his hands clasped behind his back. “I would not dream to intercede on your behalf.”

“What the fuck do you want?” Robinson asks.

“What I want,” Will says, leaning in to whisper close to his ear, “is to sodomise you with your own severed penis. What I want is to flay every inch of skin from your body so you know exactly how every girl you've raped has felt, stripped of their dignity, of any sense of self-worth, bare and helpless at the hands of a monster.”

Will threads the belt through the loop and buckles it tightly, holding the end in one hand and grabbing Robinson by the elbow with the other. He shoves him across the room to the writing desk and into the chair. “Maybe you've heard of Hannibal Lecter?” he says.

Robinson's eyes are bulging wide and fearful. He struggles to swallow around the restriction and nods as much as he's able. “Maybe you've seen the tabloid photos of what he's done to his victims?” That's the part people pay attention to—not the wanted posters or the candid shots of the killer, but the gruesome art he left behind. “That is what I want to do with you. Knowing Hannibal as intimately as I do, you might say I've been inspired by his work.”

Robinson keeps darting looks at Hannibal, and he's trembling. “B-but w-what's the other way? The quicker way?”

Will nudges the pad of paper on the desk and slams a pen down in front of him. “You write a letter to your wife. Tell her you've been struggling with depression, the stress of work is too much to handle, you wanted to do it here so she wouldn't have to find the body.” Robinson whimpers at that, clenching his hands in fists at his side. “You do that, and then we close this belt in the bathroom door and you step off a chair. And your wife never has to find out that she married a child rapist.”

“I—I didn't rape anyone,” Robinson cries. “They're all paid, they send the money back to their families, they get to stay in those apartments—if you saw where they came from—”

“I would advise you to stop talking now,” Hannibal says. “If you wish your body to remain intact.”

Robinson's hand is shaking as he starts to write, and Will takes the paper and rips it up, shoves it in his pocket and says, “Start over.” The second time the note is shorter, the writing more legible. Will jerks him to his feet and drags the chair over to the door with them.

“Go on,” he says, when Robinson hesitates. His knees buckle and he falls to the floor, shaking his head and sobbing. “You can climb up yourself, or I can put you up there.”

No amount of threatening or coaxing him will get Robinson off the floor and Will doesn't have the same sort of strength Hannibal possesses. He's good in a fight, not at hauling bodies. Will looks up at Hannibal over Robinson's prone form. He doesn't even need to say anything and Hannibal is there next to them, bending down on one knee and hauling Robinson to him. He stands in one fluid motion, lifting him over his shoulder. Will helps position Robinson on the chair, holding his feet firmly in place while Hannibal puts the belt over the door, locks it from the inside, and pulls it shut.

When they step back, Robinson stands still, hands at his side, eyes closed tightly. Suddenly, without warning, he starts to scream, and Will kicks the chair out from under him and he falls barely an inch. He hangs there, nails drawing blood trying to pull the belt loose, making wet clicking noises in the back of his mouth. Will's vindication is countered by a wave of nausea, and he wants to look away, but he makes himself watch.

It takes almost five minutes before he stops struggling and his eyes close, another ten minutes for his limbs to stop jerking. Almost 20 minutes before he finally dies. Will read all he could find on short-drop hangings, and what he couldn't learn from the internet, Hannibal had supplied. The right length to ensure maximum suffering, which is still far better than the man deserved.

Will waits for that same satisfaction that came from Dolarhyde and Tier. And if he's being honest with himself, Hobbs. But he feels strangely hollow. Hannibal is beside him, close enough to touch, but not.

“How do you feel?” Hannibal asks, tone so much like the one he'd uses years ago, when they'd sat across from one another in his office.

Robinson's phone is on the floor by the dresser. Will scrolls through his recent messages until he finds what he's looking for, then slides it back in Robinson's pocket.

“Like I'm not done,” Will says. He turns towards Hannibal, looks up into his face. “Are you with me?”

Hannibal nods. “Always.”

Chapter Text

They drive back into town, Will behind the wheel this time. He feels a thrumming energy coursing through his nerves. It's late—even the casinos have closed for the few brief hours before dawn. The only traffic is cabs coasting slowly along the main stretch and pedestrians outside the clubs.

Women saunter down the street in neon mini-skirts and glo-sticks on their necks and wrists, men in thousand dollar suits leaning against the facade smoking and catcalling. Couples in the shadows, lingering in the alleyways, the seedy underbelly of the island.

The apartment building is near enough to the clubs to hear the throbbing bass. Drunken college kids rove in packs down the sidewalks, slurred voices overly loud. Hannibal and Will follow in suit, arms wrapped around each other's shoulders, weaving and stumbling until they reach the door. Will jabs the code into the panel and the electronic lock disengages. Inside is quiet but for the strain of the television coming from the single first floor apartment.

Will pounds on the door and hears someone cursing inside, the clatter of glass bottles, and then heavy footsteps across wooden floors. It jerks open just as far as the chain will allow and dark eyes stare out at him. “Who the fuck are you?” the man demands.

“A friend told me to come and see you. Said you could help us out?” Will raises his eyebrows suggestively.

“Get the fuck outta here,” the guy says. He starts to shut the door and Will gets his foot in the gap first and leans his weight in.

“Ethan Robinson gave me your address,” Will says. He holds up a roll of US hundreds. “He said you take the term barely legal to a whole different level with your girls .”

The man looks at the cash, then at Will, then Hannibal. “What are you lookin' for?” he asks, eyes narrowed.

“What will this get us?” Will passes the cash through the door, watches the man count it, then jerk his head in welcoming. Will steps back, lets him close the door and undo the chain.

They're barely through the threshold before Will has a handful of hair and ear, harder than he meant, feeling skin rip. He grabs the guy’s shirt front and puts all his weight into pushing him across the room to the darkened door of the bathroom.

The pimp twists, hair ripping from his scalp, sinks his teeth into Will’s wrist, hard enough to bruise, maybe to break skin except Hannibal hooks a finger in the corner of his mouth and jerks his head back.

“Now now,” Hannibal says, as gently as if chiding a pet, “if you behave like an animal, you give us little cause to treat you like a man.”

The man makes an furious roar, pushing back against Will’s weight. His hand goes for his waistband and Hannibal grabs his wrist and forces it backward until bone snaps. Then, using his handkerchief, plucks the gun from his hip and tosses it across the floor. The pimp cries out and Will slams him against the wall of the shower, arm over his throat, cutting off the sound.

Will looks down between them. His hand around the hilt of the blade already in the man’s gut. Blood seeps slowly through his designer shirt, spreading and blossoming and Will isn't entirely aware of having stabbed him. For a brief moment, his mind is blank. He twists his wrist, opening the wound wider, watching his own hand dragging blade through skin.

Then the roaring white noise in Will’s head gives way to a rush of memories that aren’t his own. Girls torn from their families, whose parents will never know what happened to them. Girls arriving willingly, thinking they would be gainfully employed. Girls sold by their own parents out of greed or desperation. Scared and alone, stripped of identity.

And it’s so easy to pull the blade out and stab him again, and again. All the rage he couldn't take out on Robinson, all the disgust and hatred fuelling each thrust of the knife. Each thrust another woman or child inhabiting his mind, using his body for their vengeance.

The man isn't even fighting any more. His hands grasp weakly at Will’s jack and fall to his side. Blood burbles from the corners of his mouth. Will jerks his arm back before it can get on his suit, letting the man fall to the bathtub floor. Hannibal's hand is suddenly on the back of his neck, fingers in his hair, a touch meant to be both soothing and restraining. Will fights the urge to shake him off.

“We should move the body,” Hannibal says, voice matter-of-fact. “They won't look twice at Robinson's suicide, but if an associate of his is murdered the same evening, it will raise suspicion.”

Will watches dispassionately as Hannibal slits the man's throat. The movements are precise and detached as if he were a hunter handling game. He compresses the chest, making the blood come faster. It runs down towards the drain in thick rivulets from each stab wound.

“I'm not sure there is much left intact of his internal organs,” Hannibal muses.

“I don't want to eat him,” Will bites out, more viciously than he intended. The mere idea makes his stomach heave. Something so foul has no place on their plates.

Hannibal rises to his feet his face perfect picture of disinterest and obedience. “As you wish.”

He turns on the shower and lets it run until the last streaks of red swirl down with it. They wrap the body in the shower curtain and Will uses bleach to wipe down the surfaces of the bathroom and the front door, the trail of blood from the livingroom to the tub. He still feels ill at ease. The women and girls are silent now, though not out of satiation. A buzzing sensation persists under his skin, the sound of his own blood rushes in his ears, and he has no good answer for why.

Hannibal carries the bundle over his shoulder. They wait in the shadowed alcove until the street is empty, then toss the body in the trunk of the rental. They're docked not at the main harbour but a smaller one nearer to their hotel. At this time of night, no one is around.

Will has studied this area over the past month, reading about currents, shipping routes and cruise routes, fishing areas, and tides. There's no where perfect to dump a body out here. It might disappear forever, but it might also show up in six months on the shore of one of a dozen islands. He's not particularly concerned with that eventuality. No one is going to be surprised at a dead pimp washing up, and if he ever does, it will be far enough in the future that nobody connects it to Robinson and starts asking questions.

They change in their bungalow before heading out. Will’s jacket is rumpled though otherwise unaffected, but the cuffs of his shirt are lined in blood. He’ll have to burn it when they get home. Changing into more casual clothing, he expects to feel more like himself. He doesn’t.

Will takes them out to the north east, keeping an eye on the sonar. Hannibal weights the body with large rocks before tying up the shower curtain with bungee cords. Will knows he is not exactly pleased with any of what is happening, but he is silent.

When they've reached an area with little traffic and deep water, Hannibal throws the man overboard and Will leans on the railing, as the body sinks and the air bubbles rise to the surface. He waits while the water goes still and silent again, waiting to feel something.

“This is not what you want,” Hannibal says.

Will turns his head to stare at him. “Oh, it's what I want,” he says. “I want to kill every single sick bastard that's ever visited that apartment building. I want to find the men that brought those girls here, the ropers in Haiti and Jamaica.”

“Yet killing these men gave you no satisfaction,” Hannibal says. Will pushes his tongue against the scar inside his cheek, bites the raised flesh. “You expected what you did here, in premeditation, to feel the same as what you have done previously in the heat of the moment. I warned you it would not.”

Will hangs his head over his clasped hands, inhaling the salt water air. “So what do you suggest I do?”

Hannibal straightens and reaches for him again, and Will fights the urge to flinch. It's an absurd reaction, given how many times Hannibal has actually done him harm without Will's apprehension. But now...now when he's as sure as he can be that he has nothing to fear, he's recoiling.

Hannibal sees this and says, “May I?”

Will lets out a harsh breath and nods. Hannibal wraps a hand around his neck, thumb pressing into his pulse. Will closes his eyes, tries to focus on Hannibal's touch and his own breathing, but it's not working. Suddenly, Hannibal's grip tightens and he jerks Will away from the railing and pushes him down over the vinyl covered bench cushion. Will's breath leaves him at the force of it and he pushes back out of reflex.

He's running on unspent adrenaline, frustration, and anger, but Hannibal's hand splays over the middle of his back and holds firm against his struggles, waiting. Will digs his nails into the cushion, feels his lips curled back in a sneer, but he makes himself stop straining and go still. He is rewarded with Hannibal letting up his weight, his hand going from restraining to petting.

When Hannibal is certain Will won't fight him again, he moves. His hands go to Will's fly, making quick work of it, then jerking his pants down over his hips and letting them drop around his ankles. Will rolls his back in a long stretch. The muscles of his arms and legs are stiff, his joints locked to keep from fighting. Hannibal pushes down his boxers and the night air is cold on Will's dick. He's not hard—his thoughts are torn in too many different directions and he's confused and disappointed.

Hannibal doesn't touch him there, though. His thumbs press into the dips at the rise of Will's ass, fingers kneading along the curve of his hips. Will tries to keep his breath slow and steady, but it isn't working. He presses his face against his arm when Hannibal grabs a handful of ass cheek in each hand and spreads him open. His mouth opens, maybe to protest, he's honestly not sure. Instead he bites the curve of his bicep and waits.

Icy hot spikes of mingled pleasure and anger tingle along the backs of his arms, the nape of his neck, down his spine, anticipating what Hannibal will do. Will knows he's going to let Hannibal fuck him if that's where this is going. He's willing to trust that Hannibal knows him well enough, but it doesn't make him feel good about any of this. Hannibal shifts behind him and his knees hit the deck. Will barely has a moment to register it before Hannibal's mouth is on him.

Will stifles a cry against his arm, eyes open wide in shock. His body moves without his permission, undulating back against the hot, clever tongue, the broad swipes from his perineum and over his hole. He locks his knees tighter, waits out the initial overwhelming rush of sensation, his whole body shuddering with each pass of Hannibal's tongue. It doesn't get any less intense, though. If anything, it grows stronger when Hannibal draws the tip of his tongue lightly around the tightly bunched muscles. Will's legs shake at his effort to hold still, he sways as his knees buckle and he tries to force his legs straight again, but they give out under him and his knees hit the bench.

Hannibal doesn't miss a beat, tongue still stroking relentlessly. He squeezes Will's ass and pulling him wider apart and Will acquiesces, spreading his knees as far as he can. Hannibal hums in approval and leans in closer, tongue pressing harder. Will wraps his arms over the back of the bench, holding on, open mouth pressed against the cushion. He can't stop the desperate little huffs of breath or the way his hips have a mind of their own, rocking back against Hannibal's questing tongue. His eagerness spurs Hannibal on; he buries his face in Will's ass, until Will is fucking dripping with saliva and he feels stripped raw, like he's gaping open, and Hannibal hasn't even pushed inside him.

Hannibal moans, sucks at him, nibbles at the puckering of his hole like Will is best fucking thing he's ever eaten. Will arching his back, head falling back and cups his palm over his mouth, tries to keep quiet, but can't. “H...h...please, j—just do it, just fuck me, Hannibal, I need—” to be filled, to be taken out of his own mind.

“Oh, Will,” Hannibal purrs, a pure rumble of pleasure that Will feels in his toes. He noses along sensitive skin, laps at Will's perineum, mouths at his balls, licks at the base of his cock, hard and leaking and desperate for a hand around it. Until this moment he hasn't even thought of it, but now he wraps his hand around himself, jerking fast and desperate.

Hannibal covers Will's hand with his own and forces him still. He pries Will's fingers from his cock and laces their fingers together, squeezes briefly before leading it back to the bench. “Let me,” Hannibal says, and Will nods fitfully, hand clenching and releasing compulsively around the back of the cushion.

But Hannibal doesn't rise and unbuckle his slacks. He doesn't slip a slick finger inside. Doesn't even push past the ring of muscle with his tongue. He just keeps licking and sucking and nipping until Will is on the edge, teetering and uncertain how long it can last, or if he can even come like this, just from this.

The sounds clawing their way out of his chest, something Will doesn't even recognise as his own voice, high-pitched, almost wailing. His throat aches being drawn tight over the cries, his brow aches, furrowed in tortured pleasure too long. Hannibal shoves the tip of his tongue against Will's hole, not enough to push inside, but it's still enough to tip him over.

Will comes hard, whole body jerking, hot stripes painting his stomach and chest and the back of the cushion. It is such a pure wave of relief, more than pleasure, all his muscles going slack at once and he slumps backwards, trusting Hannibal to catch him. He does, warm and solid at his back, arms wrapping around him securely, face tucked in the crook of Will's neck. Will lets slip another of those high-pitched, breathy whines, clasping his hands over Hannibal's.

“Better?” Hannibal asks. He kisses Will's neck and inhales along his hairline, sounding faintly pleased, but not smug.

Will can't find his voice, so he nods instead, drawing his fingers over the backs of Hannibal's hands, hyper aware of the soft skin and raised veins. He swallows hard and closes his eyes, lets Hannibal lean them back across the deck, half curled to the side.

After several long moments of silence, rolling gently on the waves, Will feels the tension returning to his muscles. At that first touch of tongue, all thought had flown out the window, but now it comes slowly creeping back.

“Your taste, Will, like everything about you, is a maddening, addictive thing,” Hannibal whispers, breath hot on Will's ear. “I could lose myself in your body for days. I will, if that's what you require of me.” He nips at Will's earlobe playfully.

Will moans indulgently, but pulls away from Hannibal, sits up, leaning over him. He tries to smile, but he knows it comes out wrong, so he stops. Hannibal covers his hand. “I will also follow you to Haiti and Jamaica, and stalk every smuggler, roper, and John with you, kill them with you, and help you get rid of their bodies, if that is what you require of me.”

Will gets to his feet, tugging up his pants, fastening them as he paces the short distance of the deck. He looks out towards the lightening horizon, grabs the railing tight and leans out over the water. His stomach was churning, a quiet, mild discomfort that settles in as if it intends to stay. He shakes his head, laughs humourlessly at himself, and this whole fucked up situation. “I don't know,” he says. “Right now let's just go home.”

Chapter Text

It takes several days back at home at St. Barts before Will starts to feel like himself again. He runs harder and longer in the mornings, only stopping when his legs won't carry him any further. The range of motion in his shoulder is better and he pushes himself harder, starts working on his shoulders and back. He should be able to lift a dead body as easily as Hannibal, should the need ever arise.

He works himself to exhaustion, two or three hours a day, push ups and chin ups, deadlifts, clean and press, hammer curls, holds himself in plank until his shoulder aches and then goes numb, and keeps holding it, the pain so distracting his mind can't focus on anything else. Hannibal watches with pursed lips and narrowed eyes, but says nothing and makes no effort to stop him. He makes smoothies and protein dense meals, follows him around refilling his water, drags him to bed earlier.

Will feels an all too familiar tension rising between them, the result of all the things left unsaid between and what is brewing inside Will. He's on edge and not in the mood to be appeased. Fishing, tying flies, early morning sex, or Hannibal's music—none of it helps to settle the coil of anger, guilt, and disappointment, ready to snap.

Even with all that’s changed between them, the words won’t come easy this time. It could have gone on longer. Maybe Will would have done something to regret, but then Samantha happens.

Samantha is a stroke of pure dumb luck. Will drives down to Saint-Jean for the coffee as is becoming habit. Most days the barista is a woman slightly younger than himself named Dani, or a college kid named Paul. He's gotten to know them passably well, mostly by redirecting all their friendly, pointless questions, and now they both greet him with a ready smile and all the latest gossip. It's an easy way to practice his French in a casual setting, and they're both forgiving of his mistakes, which is more than can be said for a great deal of the island population.

Will takes his mug and sits on the terrace overlooking the ocean, vaguely outlining a trip to Haiti in his head, when he sees Paul coming up from the beach with a pinched expression on his face, leading a mini pinscher on a leash. It's the only dog he's ever seen on the island outside of the the ones carried in the bags of rich tourists, and he gets up to meet Paul halfway. He goes down on one knee holding out a hand and she comes without reservation, nudging her nose into his palm. Will's cheek hurt with how widely he's grinning as he pets her sleek coat.

“Some asshole tourist just left her tied up to one of the tables out front,” Paul says. “I chased her fat ass halfway down the beach and then she says it's not her dog. Abby saw her with it.”

The dog is friendly and docile, and Will honestly can't think of a single reason why someone would deal with the hassle of bringing her here just to leave her. “Maybe she got her mixed up with someone else?”

Paul shrugs. “I don't know. I'm going to drop her off at the police station after my shift. They can deal with it.”

Will is not about to question the opportunity. He's pretty much given up having a dog for now. There aren't any strays wandering the island, no kennels or pet shops or vets. And here's this beautiful, sweet girl practically gift-wrapped for him. “I'll do it, if you'd like,” he offers, scratching behind her ears. He tilts the name tag on her collar until the engraved name catches the light. “You wanna go find your people, Samantha?”

“Seriously?” Paul asks. “That would be awesome. I have too much crap I need to do today.”

Samantha sits with her front paws perched against the window in the car, watching the island zip by. Will drives to the police station in Gustavia and talks to a very bored sergeant who has no idea what Will expects him to do with the dog, and eventually pretends not to be able to understand Will's French. He's tempted to just take her home after that, but she curls up in his lap when they get back in the car, and he knows someone has to be missing her.

There are about twenty hotels on the island. Will drives around to all of them in Gustavia and within walking distance of Saint-Jean, but none of the guests registered with dogs are missing them. He calls the rest of the hotels on the eastern coast, leaves his contact information and a description of Samantha.

No one he speaks to seems to care, and there are literally hundreds of rental homes dotting the island and no way to contact them. But anyone who lost her would surely check the coffee shop and they could contact him through Paul.

Will pets along her spine as he drives back southeast from Saint-Jean to the house, and wonders if it's actually possible that someone left her on purpose. She's trained and calm, and doesn't bark very often. When he lets her down just inside the door, her tiny nails click on the granite tiles as she begins to explore.

She sniffs down the hallway and through the kitchen and dining room, across the plush rug in the living room and hops up next to where Hannibal is reading, turns around twice and settles in the narrow space between Hannibal's hip and the arm of the sofa.

Standing in the doorway, Will watches the bemused expression on Hannibal's face with bated breath. Hannibal plucks at the charm on her collar and says, “Hello, Samantha,” then settles back against the cushions and finds his place again in his book. His long, elegant fingers come to rest on Samantha's back.

That cheek-aching grin is back on Will's face, joined by a full, warming rush in his chest. He comes into the room, leaning over the back of the sofa to wrap his arms around Hannibal's shoulder and press his smile into Hannibal's hair. He smells like spice and chlorine, and scent Will has begun to associate with home somewhere along the line.

Hannibal wraps a hand around his wrist, stroking his thumb back and forth over the sensitive skin drawn thin over veins, making Will shiver. He kisses Hannibal's hair, his neck, drags his lips over the rough stubble on Hannibal's jaw and breathes out contentedly. “I love you.”

“And I, you,” Hannibal says.

That evening when Will comes to bed, the room is lit with lavender and sandlewood candles. He arches a brow at Hannibal, seated against the headboard, face made soft by the flicker of candlelight. “How romantic,” Will says, drawing a hand along the fresh cut flowers on the night stand.

“I thought you might benefit from a massage, as much as you've been exerting yourself,” Hannibal says, unperturbed.

Will is faintly amused and it is true there is a constant dull ache throughout his entire body these days. He's never particularly cared for massages. For one thing he's found it difficult to relax with someone's full attention devoted to his body. And then there's the fact that they've never seemed to do anything. Then again, Hannibal's touch has always had a profound effect on him.

He tugs off his t-shirt and steps out of his boxers, then climbs onto the bed and spreads himself out. Closing his eyes, he luxuriates in the cool, soft sheets against his bare skin. The bed shifts with Hannibal's weight as he moves, straddling Will's legs.

Hot, silky oil dribbles down Will's spine and he twists, bites back a sound of surprise. Hannibal's thumbs gather the liquid in the small of his back and smooth up and out, covering the skin. It’s nice and comfortable, but nothing more.

There is a familiar sensation of frustration beginning to settle in him when Hannibal digs into the muscles at the back of his neck, hard enough to really hurt. Will gasps, tries to wait it out, but the pain doesn't lessen; it feels like a pinched nerve, sparking pain all along his skull. Right when it reaches the point where he doesn't think he can bear it any longer, Hannibal releases and there is a rush of deep, melting heat in his muscles.

Hannibal continues down Will's shoulders, the heel of his hand a hard, blunt press, his thumb the precision instrument finding all the dull aches and lighting them up, working them until Will is groaning and biting his tongue against the mingled pleasure and pain.

With every stroke, a little more tension and disappointment bleeds away, leaving him loose and heavy. Hannibal's fingers trace the knobs of his spine, rolling bone and muscle and knots under the skin. He leans over to kiss Will's shoulder and murmurs, “Though I hesitate to bring it up, I feel I must reiterate what I said before, when you first suggested using the Caribbean as our hunting grounds.”

“Oh?” Will says blearily. He's only somewhat conscious, and Hannibal has found a particular spot between his shoulder blades that sends liquid relief through his nerves when touched.

“You don't have to take on this burden,” Hannibal says at length. His hands fit just right along the swell of Will's ribs, rubbing through the length of each intercostal muscle. “I don't expect this of you. And despite what various academics have written about my pathology, I do not have a compulsion to kill. If you wish, we need never indulge in these darker instincts.”

“Hannibal.” Will cranes his neck back to give him a dour, incredulous look. His body is too weak and relaxed, he can’t hold up his head and lays his cheek back against the bed. “You have spent every second of our time together manipulating me, shaping me to be this thing, and the moment I give in, you tell me to stop?”

Hannibal doesn’t respond right away. He rubs lower and lower, leaving Will’s muscles feeling loose and supple as he goes. His elbow presses into the place where hip flexor meets gluteus medius and Will gasps in shocked agony, fisting the sheets to keep from bucking Hannibal off him.

“You should stretch more,” Hannibal comments. “Perhaps yoga would help you find some peace, as well as increasing your mobility and flexibility.”

Will grunts, non-committal. At Hannibal's urging, he rolls onto his back. His fingers prod the base of Will’s skull, and Will stares up into his shadow-darkened eyes. “I wished you to see the beauty of your potential,” Hannibal says. The ponderous, rhythmic roll of his words from his tongue are hypnotic, equally a part of the massage as what he does with his hands. “And you have, in the most spectacular way.”

“So we just keep playing house? You—we would go stir-crazy. You made damn sure I couldn't just go back to normal, apple pie life,” he spits the words out with more intensity than he meant. Hannibal responds by digging his fingertips into the nuchal line, sending a shivery pins and needles sensation through Will’s scalp, making his words come out softer, gasping. “I want to do this.”

Hannibal turns his attention to Will's legs, following the ache in his hip around the joint and then dragging hard along the swell of his quadricep. “They will not all be dragons that you slay,” Hannibal says.

He lifts Will's leg into his lap and presses the sharp line of his knuckles into Will's tight, aching calf. Will sighs as the restless, tingling sensation that follows him all day after his run dissipates. Hannibal's voice sounds far away, like a dream. “That does not mean you can't find pleasure in hunting smaller game. Maybe it wasn't what you thought it would be, and maybe that's the problem.”

“I set my expectations set too high?” Will asks, the words coming languorously. There is, of course, more than a little truth to it, if he is being honest with himself. He planned for weeks, letting the rage swell and bank within him, letting his empathy for these women and children take root. Then what? He thought killing two men would make it all better?

“You are walking a narrow line,” Hannibal murmurs. His thumb sweeps along the inside of Will's foot, pushes in hard in the arch, finding aches Will wasn't even aware he had until now. “Casting aside society's notions of morality, only to exchange them for your own darker brand. But you risk falling prey to the same destructive patterns in which you engaged in effort to deny your darker urges. This could easily become an obsession.”

“Is there something wrong with being obsessed with murdering bad people, Doctor Lecter?” Will voice is biting.

“If that is the best way for you to be true to your nature, no,” Hannibal says. He leans in to kiss absently along the inside of Will's knee. “But allowing your empathy for these victims to control your actions is no different than allowing the empathy of murderers to do the same. It is not who you are, and you will never find peace.”

The part of Will angry and hurting is the part that knows Hannibal is right. He often is when it comes to what's going on in Will's mind, oftentimes before Will himself. Hearing these words offers a small measure of comfort, but Will still has no idea how to proceed from here.

As if reading his mind, Hannibal stretches out over him, their skin sliding slickly together from oil, and the scent of the candles and the ylang-ylang of the oil mingles. Hannibal's thigh presses between Will's legs, nudging the burgeoning hardness there. He draws his open mouth along Will's jaw and Will is not won over yet, but ready to be. He turns his head, catching Hannibal's mouth in a quick, wet kiss, but Hannibal moves on, trailing feather-light kisses down his neck.

“You have enjoyed our life here,” Hannibal says, biting softly. “You have felt at ease in your own skin for perhaps the first time in your life. That is not the man I saw the other evening in Ethan Robinson's hotel room.”

Will swallows hard and Hannibal draws back to make eye-contact. “If you want to kill these men, you must do it for yourself, to slake your own appetite.”

“And you, Hannibal?” Will's brow furrows. “What will slake your appetite?”

The curl of Hannibal’s lip, the spark in his eye, are pure, gleeful hunger. “I should have thought that was abundantly clear at this point,” he says. A shift of his thigh makes Will gasp; his hand wrapping around Will's cock, still slick with massage oil, draws forth a groan. This time when Will arches up for a kiss, Hannibal lingers.

“You’re not going to distract me,” Will says.

“Are you sure about that?” Hannibal rises over him, reaching for the massage oil.

Will watches him pour some in his palm and spread it over his fingers, and lets his legs shift wider in anticipation. “I’m not saying you can’t try.”

Hannibal chuckles, a low, rich rumble that warms along Will’s nerves. He swings his leg over Will’s hip, straddling him, and raises up on his knees. Will follows the glistening of his fingers; he scoots back on the sheets, tilts his hips. But Hannibal reaches between his own legs, wrist twisting as he spreads himself open, and Will tells himself he isn't disappointed.

Will reaches out, has to touch, fingers curving around Hannibal’s thigh. His eyes are fixed on the place where Hannibal’s hand disappears, mouth dry. Any lingering thoughts disappear when Hannibal pulls his hand free and wraps around Will’s dick, holding steady while he sinks down the length. Will hisses, nails digging into skin, watches Hannibal stretch around him. Hannibal’s head falls back, mouth open on a deep groan, as he settles in Will’s lap.

Never, in all his secret imaginings, had Will imagined the way Hannibal looks when they’re making love. He had expected the same cool reserve he’d observed outside of the bedroom. He had expected a man who never lost control. He couldn’t have anticipated the sinuous, liquid roll of his hips, absolutely shameless in pursuit of pleasure. The expression on his face, so open and revelatory. All the little sounds that send shocks of heat right to Will’s cock, those hungry, satisfied, desperate gasps and moans.

Will rubs his hands up over the flex of Hannibal’s thigh. He wraps his fingers slowly around that long, thick cock rising up from grey thatch and gives a lazy tug. Lets himself be momentarily caught up in the easy glide, the heavy heat of Hannibal in his hand. His thumb sweeps over the head, already slick. Hannibal looks down at him, a self-satisfied smile on his face, though his eyes have lost focus, distant with pleasure.

“You still haven’t answered my question,” Will says. He lifts his hand, sucking his thumb between his lips and snaps his hips up hard out of time with the rhythm Hannibal has set.

Hannibal snarls, grabs Will’s wrists and push them back by his head, holding him down. “Clearly I haven’t provided enough of a distraction,” he says, and kisses hard enough for their teeth to clash, chasing the taste of himself.

Testing, Will flexes his wrists, but Hannibal squeezes tighter, not quite hard enough to bruise, but enough to hurt. It’s a bright counterpoint to the exquisite glide of his body, hot and impossibly tight around Will’s cock.

Will thrusts up, as much as he can with Hannibal’s weight bearing down on him. Hannibal responds with a sharp nip at his tongue. He shifts his weight to his hips and grinds in a tight, slow circle, over and over until Will’s breath is one long plea, swallowed by Hannibal’s mouth.

“I--ah--” Hannibal moans, breath coming in hot puffs along Will’s jaw. “I have hardly kept my appetite a secret from you, whether it be my victim’s flesh, or yours, for which I hunger.”

“And here I was under the impression that I was one of your victims,” Will murmurs. He lunges up for a kiss that Hannibal allows for a brief moment before pinning him back to the bed.

Hannibal leans back and looks him over appreciatively, a fond smile curving his lips as his eyes trace the long, angry scar on Will’s stomach. “Though you’ve more than once found yourself at the receiving end of my blade, do not ever mistake yourself for a victim, Will.” He punctuates his words with a hard snap of his hips, taking Will deeper still.

Will would snort in disbelief, but Hannibal is rocking his hips again, robbing him of his breath. Hannibal bends to suck marks down his neck and Will cranes his head back in submission, fingers curling uselessly in the air. He wants nothing more than to get his hands around Hannibal’s hips, roll him beneath him and fuck him fast and hard.

As if reading his mind, Hannibal goes more slowly. Will lets out a frustrated groan and feels the smirk Hannibal presses against his collarbone. He tests again, with more force than before, the muscles of his arms straining against Hannibal’s grip. His wrists twist, skin burning at the friction, and Hannibal’s fingers tighten past the point of bruising, hard enough to ache in the bone.

Will grins, feral, and puts all his weight into the next effort, enjoying the startled expression on Hannibal’s face as he pulls back to stare down at him. There is the monster peeking out at him, lurking dark in Hannibal’s eyes.

Will gets one hand free and Hannibal catches at his fingers, but Will moves faster, shakes him off. He grabs Hannibal’s hair close to the scalp and tugs, using the momentary distraction to draw one leg up the inside of Hannibal’s thigh, almost unseating him in the process. Hannibal’s legs tense around him, enough to force the air from his lungs.

A wild, weightless sensation takes hold in Will’s chest when Hannibal closes his free hand around his throat, thumb digging into his carotid. Hannibal's chest is heaving, mouth open, biting his tongue in a sort of absent lust, yet Will is unafraid. He plants his heel next to Hannibal’s, lets go of his hair to grab his arm, and surges up at the same time he shifts his hip, knocking Hannibal off-balance, tipping them up and to the side.

Hannibal growls and tries to regain the upper hand, but Will takes advantage of the new position to get his hand around Hannibal’s cock, grip tight and punishing, jerking fast. Hannibal buries his face in the crook of Will’s neck and bites hard enough to break the skin. Will can feel flesh giving way as Hannibal’s cock twitches and pulses in his hand, covering them both in his release. Will’s own orgasm takes him entirely by surprise, distracted as he is by the struggle and the pain, it’s almost an afterthought, the way his hips strain against Hannibal’s weight and his clutching heat as he comes.

He falls back on the sheets, panting and laughing between each harsh breath. His neck throbs with every heartbeat, and he brings his hand up to touch it delicately, fingers coming back wet. Hannibal still has a death grip on his other wrist and Will has no particular desire to get away. He is a heavy weight mostly on top of Will, still rolling his hips softly in what seems to be a reflexive motion. He makes a faint, animal sound and presses into Will’s neck, nudging his hand out of the way to close his mouth over the wound. The pressure of it actually dulls the pain.

Between the massage and the sex, Will is pleasantly exhausted. He tugs idly at Hannibal’s hair and says, “I need to get up.”

Hannibal raises his head, propping his chin on Will’s chest and looking up at him expectantly. “The point, my love, was to render you incapable of thought or movement. Have I failed in this endeavour?”

“Mmm, but now I have to take care of my neck.”

Hannibal releases Will’s wrist and takes his chin in hand, tilting it to the side, and looks him over. “I barely broke the skin,” he says. “Soap and water and a bandage should do.” He turns Will’s head back, meeting his gaze, "Should I apologise?”

Will’s brow furrows. “I provoked you,” he says. “On purpose.”

“And why did you do that?” Hannibal asks, the same curiosity in his voice so familiar from their time together in therapy.

“Because I wanted to,” Will says. He kisses Hannibal, tugging his lip between his teeth as they part. “Because it was fun.”

Hannibal looks at him with an expression of naked awe and adoration, and brushes Will’s sweat damp hair back from his forehead. His hand skims down the side of Will's cheek. “I’m glad you are feeling more at ease with yourself.”

“Thanks to you.” Will says, stretching and feeling the pleasant tug in his muscles. “You’re good at taking me out of my head. Though I suppose you’ve had a lot of practice at that, even when I was unwitting.”

The smile Hannibal gives him isn’t even remotely apologetic. “If it means having you here, with me, then every action I’ve taken was worth it. Because, to answer your earlier question, having you in whatever way you’ll allow, is all I need to ‘slake my appetite.’”

Will shakes his head. “No, Hannibal.” He stares him down. “That can’t be enough. This will only end in the most spectacularly bloody way. You’re not some besotted schoolboy and no matter what you say, you won’t be content living out your days in quiet domesticity. At least be honest with me.”

“My God,” Hannibal says, rolling off him entirely. Will finally slips free from his body and the room suddenly feels much colder as he lies exposed. “Twice I’ve attempted to use my sexual wiles to distract you and twice I've failed. I’m not sure my ego will survive.”

Will laughs, climbing over Hannibal and off the bed. He stumbles to the sink and surveys the damage in the mirror. It’s both better and worse than he imagined--it’s true the skin was barely broken, only bleeding in a couple spots, but the whole outline of Hannibal’s mouth is there, teeth imprinted in vibrant blood bruises and a fainter, yellow bruise is starting to spread further around. He can’t help admiring it.

“I’m...processing everything,” he says, gently dabbing at the area with soap while he lets the water run from cold to hot. “To say that your efforts have been unsuccessful is hardly fair, though your ego could deal with a few blows.”

Hannibal rises from the bed, going to the linen closet and coming back with antiseptic and a roll of gauze. He sits on the counter and watches as Will rinses the soap away, then pats it dry with a clean towel.

“I understand the turmoil you are feeling,” Hannibal says, as he rubs the antiseptic cream over the wound and tapes the gauze in place. “I have been considering how best to help you proceed, and if you are interested, I will formulate a course of action.”

Will studies his face and sees the earnestness there, though he’s been fooled before. This time, it hardly seems to matter what Hannibal’s intentions are, beyond the fact that they share the common desire to remain together. He nods, wincing, though the cream is slowly numbing the pain.

“I put myself in your hands, Doctor.”

And somehow, as simple as that, Will feels the remaining tension bleed away. He sways on his feet from exhaustion and relief, and Hannibal catches him with an arm around his waist. “Right now, I suggest you sleep,” he says, and Will gratefully allows himself to be manhandled back into bed.

For the first time in days, sleep comes easily and is untroubled, and he doesn’t fight the arms holding him tight.

Chapter Text

*

Three days pass, and no one calls about Sam. Another trip to the police station and the sergeant there gets frustrated and tells Will to just keep the damn thing or leave it to be destroyed. Between that and the first incident with him, Will figures it's a good thing Hannibal wasn't around. Otherwise the sergeant might end up on the chopping block, and a missing police officer would draw some measure of attention.

She likes to sleep on the rug in their room, even after Will sets up the empty spare room with a sheepskin doggie bed and buys a ridiculous amount of toys. She rarely barks, and never at night, and Hannibal doesn’t protest. Even when she jumps on the bed and tucks herself into Will’s arms, a brief grumble is all the reaction Hannibal gives.

Will didn’t realise how much he’s missed having his dogs until he found Sam. She follows them everywhere through the house, eagerly waiting for one of them to sit so she can lay beside them. Watching her prance back and forth on the steps into the pool, snapping at the water, or chasing after toys in the yard, reminds him of those brief, bright points of happiness he’d experienced at home with Molly and Walter, and in Wolftrap.

Only then they were fleeting, tragically beautiful in their brevity. Now he can stretch them for entire days, if he just lets go of the minds that haunt his thoughts. It is easier now, knowing he can call those thoughts back when necessary, but not allowing them to colour everyday life. Though he struggles with guilt, it is fainter than that he felt when he struggled with the minds of murderers. This guilt isn’t over what he’s done or might do, rather the things over which he has no control.

Will takes Sam with him on his morning run, shortening his stride and the length of time, so she can keep up. He finishes feeling more refreshed than worn out and walks the last stretch of beach to their home. Sam loves the beach, tripping and sinking in the sand, rolling in the surf. A few dozen yards off, Hannibal has set up a picnic. Somehow the blanket remains pristine and free of sand, and there is plate after plate of delicious-looking finger foods.

He laughs, dropping down under the umbrella, still dripping sweat, and grabs a ball of fresh mozzarella wrapped in a basil leaf. “Candlelit massages, picnics on the beach,” he says around the mouthful. “What's next, rose petal hearts on the bed? Barefoot dancing in the moonlight?”

“Is it surprising to you that I am inclined towards romantic gestures?” Hannibal asks. He leans in to pass Will a tall flute sparkling with champagne and fresh mango juice, lingering for a kiss.

Sam, the traitor, has already laid down at Hannibal's side, chin on his knee. Hannibal pets her absently and greets her with a soft, “Samantha,” as politely as if she were another member of the conversation. He offers her a slice of prosciutto which she delicately nibbles from his fingers. She’s such a sweet, gentle girl, anger cuts through him sharply when he thinks of who could have left her behind.

“Surprising, no,” Will says, smiling. He feels a blush spreading over his cheeks and he averts his eyes, sipping his mimosa. “How susceptible I am to your romantic gestures, on the other hand...”

A pleased smirk plays across Hannibal's lips. “Well then. Perhaps now is the best time to make another one.”

Will leans back on his hands and waits. With the shadow that's hovered over him since Antigua finally broken, and he feels light and carefree again. Now, alone in his mind, he can focus on the small, everyday pleasures--the pleasant ache of the fading bite on his neck, the textures and flavours of the culinary delights Hannibal serves him, the simple but breathtaking beauty of the stark white sand against the impossible blue of the ocean.

“I booked us a room in Kingston for a few days,” Hannibal says. “There is a dance company there that blends traditional Jamaican dance and music with classical ballet. I thought we could take a flight Thursday evening and spend a long weekend.”

Hannibal has spent weeks on end cooped up inside their home; every time they've left has been at Will's urging. And dance is far more appealing than hours on end of some opera in some language that Will doesn't understand. “Okay,” he says cautiously. “So what's this really about?”

“Do I need an ulterior motive to seduce you?” Hannibal asks and Will shakes his head ruefully at hearing his own words turned on him. “In all seriousness, Will, I had hoped we might have another chance at at pursuing your prey.”

Will swallows his mouthful of watermelon gazpacho a bit hastily. “I thought—” He stops, because he has no idea what he's thought, honestly. He's been studiously avoiding thinking about it altogether the past few days.

“It might go differently, if you are able to alter your expectations, and I had an idea of how you may achieve that.”

What a strange twist of fate that Will has come to a place in his life where he will once again put his psychological well-being to Hannibal's care. This time fully aware of the man's nature, no less. “Should I ask?”

“If you wish,” Hannibal says. He proffers a slice of fig covered in pungent, marbled cheese. “Or you could trust me.”

Will considers all the potential responses to that, but before he can speak any of them, a voice rings out across the beach, calling their names. Will groans, chin falling to his chest. Hannibal doesn't roll his eyes, because he would never do such a thing, but it's a close call.

“Rose,” Will calls back, offering a little wave.

“Aren't you two just adorable,” Rose gushes, kicking up sand carelessly as she approaches them.

Hannibal gives Will a private, aggrieved look before turning to greet her. “Rose, won't you join us?”

“Well,” Rose says, giggling a little, “if you insist!” She drops down across from them and immediately helps herself to a slice of fig. “This is so sweet. I couldn't talk Peter into a picnic on the beach if his life depended on it.”

Rose and her husband are their nearest neighbours to the east, and when she isn't busy shopping or hosting parties at her house, she likes to walk along the beach until she finds some poor bastard to babble at ceaselessly. Will has heard all about her sister's divorce, the renovations being done on their house in the Hamptons, and ongoing attempts at Baby Number One, at least three times each, and he puts up with it because the fragile loneliness in her eyes looks like it will break at the slightest provocation. He is counting down the days until the end of February, however, when she will return to the United States until next winter.

“Oh my gosh, how have I missed this little fellow?” She exclaims, scratching Sam between the ears. “How sweet! Peter's allergic, you know.” Will is all too familiar with basically every detail of Peter's medical history.

“What a shame,” Hannibal says diplomatically, “though once you have a child, I am certain you'll be thankful you can provide him with your undivided attention.”

Rose puts a hand to her chest and looks genuinely touched. “Linas, you are just so thoughtful! I wouldn't even have thought of that.” Then she tsks. “When am I ever going to get you two to come to one of my parties? I've been telling everyone about you, they're dying to meet you! The mysterious gay couple down the beach—you've got all those Hollywood folks coming up with all kinds of stories about you.”

Will almost chokes on his drink and darts a look at Hannibal. Rose isn't rude, she's just thoughtless and desperate for company, and incredibly young and rich. Altogether a horrible combination.

“We're actually really boring,” Will says, searching Hannibal's face for any sign of murderous intent. “I just dragged Linas down here for the fishing and he spends all day writing. I think your friends would be sorely disappointed.”

Rose pulls a face. “Are you kidding? Everyone around here knows everyone else. They're all dying for a fresh face. You should come by this weekend! One of Peter's college buddies is in town just for a couple of weeks, and he's friends with that one director from those spy movies? And he's bringing Spencer Andrews with him!”

“As delightful as that sounds,” Hannibal says, and Will has to bite back hard on a bark of laughter at the sincerity Hannibal manages, “I'm afraid we have other plans for this weekend.”

“Yes!” Will says, quickly building on the excuse before she starts asking more personal questions. “In fact, maybe you could look after Sam for us for a day or two? We're going to Kingston, and I don't have the papers for her to travel there.”

“Oh,” Rose says, first in confusion and disappointment, and then brightening again. “Oh, well, just for a couple of days Peter couldn't complain! And she's such a sweetie.” Sam allows Rose to pick her up and cuddle her to her chest without complaint. “You just let me know when.”

“I'll bring her by Thursday morning, if that's alright?” Will asks, and at Rose's nod, he gets to his feet. “Now, if you'll both excuse me, I've just finished my run and I really should shower.”

Will can feel the dark, accusatory look Hannibal levels his way like a blow across his back. He knows he's going to pay for it later, but he sneaks a grin and a wave over his shoulder on his way up the stairs. Hannibal looks unamused, to say the very least.

*

Will takes Sam down the beach to Rose's house early on Thursday, in lieu of his run. Their flight leaves in the early afternoon and Will still has to pack, a point Hannibal has made no less than three times in the last twenty-four hours. Now Will is putting it off simply to annoy him.

He can hear voices coming down from the house as he mounts the stairs, and on the patio Rose is having breakfast with two other men. All three of them look like they’re ready for a photoshoot for the cover of some home magazine.

“Will!” Rose stands with her usual exuberance and comes over to help him with the gate latch. There is a woman sunbathing on a chaise lounge and a man doing laps in the pool. Will was slightly unprepared for a full house, but he takes in stride.

“Peter,” Rose says, going to stand behind the generically handsome blond at the table, eyeing Will's pink jogging shorts with mild disdain, “This is Will. I’ve told you about him and his husband.”

Will is almost positive he’s never called Hannibal his husband, but it hardly seems worth arguing about. Anyway, who knows what Hannibal has told her. “Will Reins,” he says, leaning over the table to shake his hand, Sam still tucked under his other arm.

“Yes, you and your--husband?--have been the topic of a fair amount of gossip,” Peter says, brow arched.

“So I’ve heard,” Will mumbles and for the first time in months, reaches to straighten glasses he no longer wears. He covers for it by running his hand through his hair. “We’re just a couple of homebodies. I’m sure you just wouldn’t find us very interesting.”

Peter nods in disinterest, doesn’t even bother to hide the raised brow he shoots at the guy next to him like can you believe this loser?

“Alexander Rook,” the man says, half-standing to shake Will’s hand. “And the sleeping beauty over there is Spencer, and Thomas in the pool.”

With names put to faces, Will realises he recognises Spencer and Thomas. Not from having seen any of their films, if you could call them that, but because their faces are impossible to avoid. They’re on the covers of magazines, on billboards, in commercials--the sort of generically gorgeous Hollywood brand. Rook, on the other hand, looks vaguely familiar, but Will can’t really place him.

“Well, it’s very nice to meet you,” Will says, and perhaps he’s learning a thing or two from Hannibal, because he almost sounds like he means it. “But we’ve got a flight to catch, you understand.”

Peter eyes Sam and says, “I guess this is the mutt you’ve pawned off on my wife.”

Will feels a mask slipping over his features, a cold, patently fake smile curving his lips, and scratches under Sam’s chin. “If it’s a problem…”

Rose sweeps in, laughing a bit too loud, and scoops Sam away from Will’s arms. “It’s no trouble. I set up a little place for her in the living room already.” Will hands her the stuffed lamb that is Sam’s favourite toy, almost as big as she is.

“Say, when will you be back?” Rook asks. The way he’s staring at Will makes him uneasy for no good reason. He gets the strangest feeling the man is staring at the bite mark that only peeks out from his collar when he moves a certain way. Self-conscious, he tugs the neck of the shirt higher.

“It’s just a couple of days,” Will says. “We’ll be back on Monday. Sam is well-trained; she won’t give you any trouble.”

“We’ve rented out Bonito’s for Spencer’s birthday next Thursday,” Rook says. “You should bring your husband.”

“Yes,” Peter says, tone dry. “We’d all love to meet the mysterious pianist slash writer slash chef you’ve got hidden away up there. It seems a shame to keep such a dynamic talent all to yourself.”

Spencer seems to take note of Will for the first time, lowering her sunglasses on the bridge of her nose as she gazes at him head to toe. “Well, if your husband is anywhere near as good-looking as you, I say the more the merrier.”

Rose looks at Will hopefully, clasping Sam to her chest. Will smiles tightly. “I’ll discuss it with Linas,” he says. “Right now I’m afraid I have to run.”

The idea is so absurd that Will doesn’t really give it a second though. By the time he’s home, he’s completely dismissed it from his mind. He allows himself to be distracted by Hannibal’s passive aggressive suggestions about packing and his faint anxiety over travelling by plane under these assumed identities, and then he’s basically forgotten about it.

Chapter Text

Hannibal is unconcerned breezing through airport security, and Will borrows that from him to keep his nerves at bay. They fly first class, and Will has never indulged in such a luxury. It seems a shame the flight only lasts two hours, barely enough time to take advantage of all the free champagne and reclining seats with their extra legroom. Their seats are tucked behind a partition wall and curtain, giving Will all sorts of ideas.

Kingston is sprawling and even busier than Antigua. With the towering skyscrapers, businessmen in suits, and bustling traffic, Will could almost imagine he's looking out on the streets of DC or Baltimore. And it’s loud--louder than Will had anticipated, and louder than he’s become accustomed to. Not just the sounds of honking horns and squealing tires and the din of hundreds of thousand voices, but with all the lives being lived, flowing over Will’s mind and looking for purchase.

Hannibal holds his hand and leads him through the concourse and to the air conditioned car waiting to take them to their hotel. Will leans against him in the backseat, breathing in his familiar scent and taking some measure of comfort from it. This is not an unusual situation, and a few months ago it would not have had such a profound effect. He’s let his guard down and was unprepared for the onslaught, but already he can feel the walls of his mind shoring up their defenses.

Perhaps someday, hopefully in the not too distant future, Will's empathy will be fully under his control. Until then, Hannibal’s mind, as placid and fathomless as the deepest of lakes, opens to him and envelops him in that cool, calm depth.

The hotel is more in keeping with the image he has constructed of Hannibal over the years. Spanish colonial outside with a smooth coral stucco facade and intricate decorations around the windows and doors, double hung windows, and red clay tile roof. Along the first floor runs an arched colonnade and there is a grand courtyard of spiral red brick leading to a reflecting pool.

Inside is a respite from the bright sun. The creams, golds, and reds are soothing and the dim lighting create a glowing, inviting atmosphere. The rich brocade fabrics of the victorian style chairs, the warm, polished woods of the floors and furniture, the elaborate chandeliers all bring a rich elegance.

Hannibal looks at home moving through the hotel. Will can see the halls of Lecter Castle overlaying the rooms here, can see the influence of the place on the man before him now. As much as Will is enjoying their time in the islands, he looks forward to the day when he will see Hannibal in his old world habitat. When they can walk down those ancient streets together with no ulterior motives, no hidden blades up their sleeves. Will wonders how it will inform his perception of Hannibal to know him in that place.

Will has always just lived out of his suitcase when travelling, but of course Hannibal insists that everything be hung up or put in the dresser. As they unpack their things, Hannibal checks the contents of a small, silver case resembling a lady’s compact. Will sees an assortment of pills in different colours and shapes, separated by divides and he is curious, though he doesn’t ask. Hannibal wants his trust, and Will finds himself willing, even eager, to give it.

They spend the afternoon wandering through the halls of the National Gallery. Will is drawn to the modern Jamaican art--dark, violent, and disturbing themes painted in vivid colour. Many of the pieces are like puzzles, with too many different elements for him to discern. He isn’t sure whether he likes it or not.

Hannibal spends forever studying every detail of of the intricate Taíno carvings. The wooden vessels and statues, stone masks, sections of stone wall with cave drawings, all of their zemi. Will wanders back to him, standing alongside and trying to understand what it is that Hannibal sees.

“The zemi were greatly loved and feared,” Hannibal tells him. “Yúcahu the creator provided the bounty of land and sea, but his jealous brothers brought deadly, disastrous storms that drowned their fisherman and destroyed their homes, and blight to ravage the land and crops.

“Brave shaman would travel to a place between our world and that of the zemi, through elaborate ceremony.” He gestured to the delicate arc of a rib bone, etched in geometric patterns. “They would first induce vomiting with the spatula to rid their bodies of earthly nourishment, then snort ground cohoba seed. The hallucinogenic properties would aid him on his journey to the astral plain.”

“The zemi would grant the shaman insight. With their assistance, he could see beyond to the truth of things. The pain he experienced, the tears he shed--these were both sustenance for and payment to the gods.”

Whether it was the words Hannibal chose to use, or simply the description of the process itself, it triggers an onslaught of memories. Flashing lights, Hannibal’s hands gentle on his jaw, the the tube down his throat, Abigail’s ear in his sink. The moment of understanding, eviscerating him more thoroughly and painfully than Hannibal's blade, a brief moment of clarity in the haze of his fevered dissociation.

Will closes his eyes, expecting a wave of nausea, but it doesn’t come. It is more like watching a video of something that happened to someone else. Hannibal’s hand falls heavily on his shoulder and Will blinks his eyes open and turns to give him a wry smile. “Is any action you take ever without calculation?”

“I believe it would be more accurate to say that there is little in life that I cannot help but connect back to you or our relationship.” Hannibal is hesitant, waiting for Will's reaction.

“Seriously, Hannibal.” Will turns away so Hannibal can’t see him rolling his eyes. At least Hannibal finds Will's influence on his life as impossible to escape as Will finds Hannibal's influence on his own. "Enough creepy animal bones and vomit talk."

Hannibal doesn't protest. He lets Will drag him out of the gallery and even talk him into a trip to the cinema. They’re showing a Best Of… series, and the best comedy is Dr. Strangelove. It’s just the right level of absurdity for Will to appreciate, as well as being something that Hannibal doesn't protest outright. And if they spend the majority of the film making out, well, it’s no particular loss.

Will missed out on a lot of the typical teenage dating fooling around, thanks in large part to how awkward and stand-offish his empathy made him, along with the fact that he was constantly moving from school to school. He’s never known the giddy rush of newly reciprocated attraction, the inability to keep their hands off each other--his past relationships either skipped that part altogether, or didn’t last long enough to reach it.

The fact that they could be caught, the danger of reprisal from homophobic natives or a brush with the law only makes it more thrilling when Hannibal reaches a hand inside Will’s slacks and slowly jacks him off. He doesn’t even bother to try to examine or justify his response to danger.

That evening they dine in a seaside shack, decorated in bits of ships lost to the sea and washed ashore. The table legs are uneven and the plates are chipped and mismatched, but the staff are friendly, and treat them as long lost family. Will has the saltfish and callaloo fritters served with a tangy orange sauce and it's simple, yet maybe the most delicious things Will has ever tasted, even considering all the things Hannibal has made him. They finish the meal with bite-sized tarts filled with caramelised nutmeg spiced coconut.

In their room as they ready for bed, Will’s eyes once again fall on the case of drugs Hannibal has brought. Hannibal notices him looking at it, and arches a brow at him, silently asking if Will wants to know what they are for, when he will use them. But Will shakes his head, presses an easy, minty kiss to Hannibal’s mouth, and pulls him backwards to the bedroom.

*

Hannibal wakes him in the predawn hours. Will is mostly useless, wiping sleep from his eyes as Hannibal practically dresses him in the gloomy blue light of the room. The city is asleep as they ride Hannibal’s rented motorcycle through the streets and into the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Will holds on tightly, enjoying the vibration of the bike and the steady, warm back he’s pressed against. The roar of the motor blocks out all other sound, and the city lights give way to nature with only moonlight to illuminate their surroundings. Through the visor of his helmet, everything is shaded in blue.

It takes over an hour for them to reach their destination, climbing at a steady rate that makes Will’s temples ache at the constant changing pressure. Fog flows around them, thicker and thicker the higher they climb, obscuring the dense forest. All Will can see is the pavement a few feet ahead of their headlight.

They reach a gravel pullout with a motorbike and a Jeep, though there is no other sign of life here. The early morning is still and dark. Hannibal leads them on a trail into the forest, and they climb higher still. Will’s muscles are unused to the incline, and his calves burn after an hour, but he’s never minded physical labour or pain. Something about this place reminds him of the peace he’d known at home in Wolf Trap, or in the still quiet of his river.

Hannibal is unflagging, barely out of breath, catching Will under the arm whenever he stumbles on a divot or stray branch underfoot. After the third time, Will slips his arm free and laces their fingers together. Giving himself over the Hannibal’s care becomes increasingly easier each time he does it.

When they reach the summit, there is enough ambient light to see by, though dawn has yet to break. It’s cool enough that Will appreciates the jeans and long-sleeved shirt Hannibal dressed him in. They’ve risen above the damp of the fog. Below them the mountain, Kingston, and the ocean are blanketed in thick cloud cover. As the sun begins it’s climb over the horizon, they light up vivid orange and red, and as though they’ve caught fire, dissipate on the air. The sky goes gold along the sea, fading into pale pink and bruised purple.

Slowly the details of the landscape become discernible. The bodies of water first, as the sun climbs higher. The rivers spreading inward from the ocean as though they’re being filled anew only when the light touches them, cutting through and around the city. As he watches, Will imagines new pathways being created in his mind. Blood flows through them, making order where before was darkness and chaos. It seems inevitable that he come to this place, now indelibly ensconced in the palace of his mind, cut through with his river.

“Thank you for bringing me here,” Will says, his voice breaking the silence for the first time since they began their climb.

From his periphery, he can see Hannibal turn to look at him, soft-mouthed and wondering. He draws a breath and holds it for a moment before speaking, and it occurs to Will that he’s having to think about what he wants to say. It is a rare thing to catch Hannibal off-guard enough that he doesn’t have a response already formulated.

“You wander so easily through the halls of my memory, Will, I can only hope to someday find my way into yours.”

Will turns to him fully and smiles out of nothing more than happiness; Hannibal echoes the expression. As clearly as if he is occupying two moments at once, Will can see that same smile directed at him as they sit together in the Uffizi. If only his touch could reach across the time and space between them, to draw Hannibal in as he does now, kissing him tenderly.

“You’ve always been there,” Will murmurs, twining his fingers in the hair at Hannibal’s nape. “In every dark corner. In every secret, hidden place.”

“A monster, lurking, waiting to strike?”

Will shakes his head minutely. “Another part of me I couldn’t acknowledge.”

“And you accuse me of being a romantic,” Hannibal teases, but Will can see how the words have affected him.

“I blame you,” Will says, smiling through another kiss. There is a moment of disconnected reality, where he feels as though they might actually be existing within his memory palace this very moment--the only two people in the entire world.

“When you left me, bleeding out on your floor, and when you locked yourself away in your cell, you took up residence in my mind once again." Will thinks of things he did in Hannibal's absence that he can only attribute to the presence of his lingering influence on Will's mind. All the conversations they had in blameless safety there, where Will could admit to things he never could in life. "I survived our physical separation, but I wouldn’t have survived the mental one.”

There is an familiar hurt lurking in Hannibal’s gaze, the sting of rejection and every cruel thing Will said designed to wound. Now tinged with regret and the faintest hint of betrayal at discovering an old lie. Realisation comes to him now. “If I had told you--If I had just said--”

“Hannibal,” Will says, closing his eyes briefly. He rests his forehead against Hannibal’s. “We’re here now.”

Hannibal makes a rough, rueful sounding chuckle. “I suppose I owe Bedelia my thanks.”

With distance enough to be objective now, with the knowledge that Bedelia had never been Hannibal’s love or lover, Will can concede, “I suppose. Although,” he adds wryly, “had she known the end result of her admission, she might have held her tongue.”

They turn back to watch until the sun is fully over the horizon, casting a sparkling column of light over the ocean. The forest is alive with the sound of wildlife and the distant voices of other hikers. Hannibal helps Will to his feet and he stretches, feeling the old, familiar ache in his shoulder. He wonders if he could sweet talk Hannibal into another massage, then grins to himself when he realises he could probably manipulate the situation to make Hannibal insist upon the massage in the first place.

Will stops him halfway down the slope, perched precariously on the shifting rocks and loose soil, pulls Hannibal in by his shirt and says again, “Thank you for this. It was perfect.”

“There is nothing I would not give you, Will. Nothing too extravagant, nothing beyond my means. I bought you a home, boats, clothing, treat you to the finest hotels and dining the Caribbean has to offer...Yet it is this gift you treat it as priceless, and when I thought it impossible, you make me love you more.”

Chapter Text

As morning fully settles on the mountain, they drive down from the summit through the terraced farmland. They stop at one of the coffee farms in the foothills. There is a stone cottage built into the hillside, swallowed up by creeping vines. The woman who runs the farm invites them inside to try the various blends. Will has never tasted coffee so fresh and strong, cut only with the dollop of honey she pours in each cup.

They head back towards Kingston, stopping in St. Andrew Parish for brunch by the river--curried goat served over pumpkin rice with scotch bonnet spiced ackee and coconut blinis. Everything tastes amazing and Will eats way more than he probably should. Between the physical activity and a full stomach, the effects of the coffee are essentially negated. Hannibal takes them back to the hotel and Will barely strips out of his clothing before he passes out on the bed.

This time Will wakes naturally, the late afternoon sun golden on Hannibal’s skin. Will finds himself sprawled over Hannibal’s chest. He lays there listening to the steady, slow beat of his heart, all the faint internal workings of his body, reminded as he occasionally is that Hannibal is just a man, same as he.

Then, when he feels Hannibal begin to stir, Will pushes back the cover and slides down his body to suck his sleep-hard cock. Once he has Hannibal good and wet, he rises back over him, hands propped on either side of his head, and brings their dicks together in a slow, sweet grind. Hannibal stares up at him silently, and their eyes don’t part once until Hannibal comes, head tipped back as he gasps.

Will bites a fading bruise on his neck back to life, and works his hips faster. Hannibal’s hands come up to grab his hips, fingers digging into flesh. He pulls down hard, angling so Will’s dick slides in the crease of his thigh, sweat damp and tight. One hand shifts lower, following the curve of Will’s ass and then pressing between to brush over his hole. Will bites out a curse and comes.

Sometime later, when he’s regained his breath and is considering a shower, he looks up from where his head rests on Hannibal’s chest and says, “You know you can fuck me, right? You know I’d let you?”

Hannibal’s hand, drawing patterns on his back, stops and he looks up at the ceiling. “I have perceived a willingness from you, yes.”

Will tries not to frown, but he can feel the furrow between his brow. “Don’t you want to?” The nails of Hannibal’s hand dig into his spine and draw down his back hard enough to sting. Will supposes that is answer enough, but doesn’t explain why he won’t.

Instead of explaining further, though, Hannibal sits up, dislodging him. “We should shower. I have dinner reservations for us before the show and, if you are still willing, I have something for you that might make the evening go more smoothly.”

Will is intrigued enough to let the issue of who’s fucking who slide for now. He gets up and follows Hannibal into the bathroom. Hannibal brings out the silver compact and unscrews the lid. He selects a clear capsule filled with pale blue powder and holds it out for Will to take. Meeting his eye, Will leans forward and opens his mouth, swallowing it dry when Hannibal places it on his tongue.

“Aren’t you curious?” Hannibal asks.

Will shrugs. “Of course I am, but I’ll find out soon enough, won’t I?”

“It is very unlike you, to put something in your body without knowing its effect,” Hannibal observes.

“You asked me to trust you,” Will says simply.

Hannibal gives him a searching, vaguely suspicious look, lips tight. “Our shared history has not given you much motivation to do so.”

“And yet.” Will drapes his arms over Hannibal’s shoulders and places kisses on Hannibal's mouth until he softens and begins to kiss back. “Here we are.”

*

By the time they arrive at their dinner reservation, Will knows the drug has kicked in. The restaurant, with its crisp white tablecloths set with gold-lined fine china and cut crystal, sparkling chandeliers casting warm golden light, waiters dressed more nicely than he is, is just the sort of place that should make Will distinctly uncomfortable.

Once he would have hunched his shoulders and buried his face in the menu, hiding from the judging looks from his fellow patrons. Tonight his feet carrying him forward lightly and effortlessly, as if on a conveyor belt. All the light in the room is sharper and brighter, the easy smile he normally adopts from the killers in his head now becomes his own. He meets the eyes of his fellow patrons head on and his mind is moving so quickly, processing so much, their thoughts and emotion find no purchase in him.

This drug, whatever it is, could easily become addictive. He is confident, clear-headed, and more relaxed than he can ever recall feeling. He says as much to Hannibal once the waiter has served their drinks and taken their order. Even Hannibal’s order of Cow Cod Soup for them both doesn’t phase him. He’s eaten stranger things than a bull’s penis at Hannibal’s table.

“Certain components of the mixture tend to be habit forming,” Hannibal says. “In your particular case, I would imagine the anxiolytic effect is quite a powerful and euphoric one. However, your anxiety has already decreased significantly over the course of the past several weeks, and there are ways to help it along without pharmacological intervention.”

“That’s nice, but it’s not what I meant,” Will says. He finds it difficult to hold Hannibal’s gaze for long; there are so many fascinating details around him, drawing his attention. “I can’t hear it. I can’t hear any of it.” He looks back at Hannibal and taps the side of his head. “It’s only me in here.”

“Mmm.” Hannibal’s face is carefully neutral, and Will can’t immediately discern what emotion he’s feeling. “You must have known there were medications you could have taken, before now. To allow you to function normally in society.”

Will is smiling again, for no particular reason, or maybe he never stopped. “Yes. Doctors made the suggestion on more than one occasion.” He makes a face. “But all I could think about were the people that might die if I didn’t help them. Even when I was teaching, I needed to be able to help the students understand a killer’s point of view, to prepare them since I couldn’t go into the field in their place. But now…”

Hannibal is studying him, and Will makes himself focus on his expression. He finds his empathy lethargic when he calls on it, responding slowly to pick up on Hannibal’s annoyance and slight concern. Will reaches out, laying his hand over Hannibal’s and squeezing. “Now, who would I be without my empathy? At least that’s what you’re thinking.”

Hannibal’s lips twitch in a faint, not entirely pleased smile. “There is no medication to deaden your empathy that wouldn’t simultaneously reduce you to a husk of a human being. Placid and unbothered, unable to feel emotion or desire with any intensity, whether burdensome or enjoyable. I would never allow such a thing. I would see you dead, first.”

Rather than being particularly bothered by the words, Will feels a rush of elation and fondness. He strokes his thumb over the back of Hannibal’s hand and says, “It was just an observation, Hannibal, not a suggestion.” The words roll from his tongue, feeling as thick and tangible as a if they have actual form. “And I love you, too.”

Hannibal exhales a slightly surprised, amused sound and withdraws his hand. “You’ll never fail to defy my expectations, will you?” he asks.

“I have to keep you on your toes,” Will says with a shrug. “So, Doctor, if you were concerned about my reaction to it, why give me the drug in the first place.”

Their waiter returns with their soup and refills their wine glasses, then leaves them again. Hannibal waits until they’re alone to speak. “You can empathise with anyone, but during your time at the FBI, you only ever empathised with the killers you sought. You were taught that to empathise with your victims would make it more difficult to work objectively, and you took that to heart, distancing yourself from them.”

“It wasn’t just that,” Will says. “As horrifying as it was, taking on the minds of all those killers, the idea of taking on their victims was worse. To feel that helplessness and paralysing fear…”

Hannibal takes a long sip from his wine glass and savors it on his tongue a moment before swallowing. “Yet you empathised with Robinson’s victims. With all the women you saw on your trips to Antigua. You allowed that to become your motivation.”

“It was impossible not to,” Will says. “There are so many of them and they’d had their voices stolen from them, but their minds were screaming out.”

“This particular compound should give you the opportunity to sharpen the focus of your empathy,” Hannibal explains. “Instead of being overwhelmed by the victims, you can allow yourself to take on the perspective of their tormentors.”

The disbelief and confusion Will feels is muted, more of an echo of what he might normally experience. “Why would I want to do that?”

“Because it is what you do.”

“Yes, and it nearly drove me crazy,” Will says, frowning. “Some might argue that it has. Hannibal, I took on the minds of killers and I became a killer. Now you want me to take on the mind of rapists and paedophiles?”

“I think we have reached a point where you can acknowledge that the impulse to kill was always your own. The killers you encountered only made it more difficult for you to suppress your own urges,” Hannibal says. His eyes are dark in the candlelight, reflecting red, pinning Will open and daring him to deny it.

“If it weren’t the case,” Hannibal continues, “you wouldn’t have been haunted by the ghost of Garrett Jacob Hobbs or any of your others. If their thoughts weren’t so seductive, you would have cast them aside.”

“Okay,” Will drawls. It doesn’t cost him anything to admit it. They’ve killed together three times now, and they’re about to do it again. “Even so, why would I want human traffickers in my mind?”

“Were you to assume their point of view, to understand their desires and motivations, then excise them through the act of killing them, I think you might find it cathartic,” Hannibal explains.

Will considers this, sipping a spoonful of his soup.

He has been mostly successful at quieting the chorus of victims in his head, but they aren’t gone--he isn’t sure they ever will be, though with time he won’t have to try so hard to bury them. Eventually he will consign them to some distant, deep crevasse in his mind, unless he continues to kill for them, in which case they will gain ground each time, until they lurk behind every tree and around the corner of every turn of his river.

Hannibal’s idea has merit, even if it’s fairly tasteless. If it hadn’t been for the encephalitis, Hobbs’ likely wouldn’t have lingered so vividly after his death. Since Will’s recovery, none of his kills have troubled him in the same manner. Tier’s death had been a release for Will. The same as Dolarhyde’s. The same as his complacency in Mason’s fate and that of Mischa’s killer.

For the same reason that the victims of the sex trafficking ring now haunt him, Will suddenly understands with perfectly clarity why Hannibal hadn’t allowed him to kill Ingram for Peter. Why he couldn’t have taken Chiyoh’s prisoner for his own kill.

“Alright,” he says. It’s easier to see things he wouldn’t normally allow himself to see, make connections he might otherwise steer clear from. Hannibal arches a questioning brow and Will mirrors it, mouth splitting into a teasing grin. This drug is truly amazing. “It’s worth a try.”

*

The dance performance is enthralling. Will has always enjoyed watching others dance, though he’s never had any skill at it himself, but he’s never sought it out. Maybe it’s thanks in part to the drugs heightening his senses.

The movements of the dancers are so precise and fluidly graceful it almost seems impossible, but it isn’t serene, controlled dance Will has always thought of when he’s heard the word ballet. There is a raw, emotive energy in the dancers. They throw themselves wholly into each step, telling a story of sadness and triumph, oppression and identity, with their bodies alone.

The music, heavy on percussion, with soaring horns and acoustic guitar, swells to the ceiling. Will feels it in the thrum of his blood, with each beat of his heart. He thinks even without his empathy it would be affecting. They’ve found a way to distill the human experience and present it on the stage without speaking a word.

By the time the show is finished, Will has reached the state of euphoria Hannibal mentioned. His limbs feel loose and limber, like after one of Hannibal’s massages, and each movement feels as lyrical and graceful as the dancers. A low, pleasant hum of arousal crept upon him during the show and lingers as they move among the throng to the exit. The idea of going after one of the traffickers now, the way he currently feels, is irresistible.

“Where to now?” Hannibal asks him, as they stand together in the balmy night air.

Will holds out a hand for the keys and Hannibal passes them over without question. “I have an idea,” Will says, and climbs behind the wheel of the rental.

Friday night in Kingston is full of chaotic energy, expensive cars roaring down the road. In the slums, there are men and women of all ages still on the streets, children playing on the sidewalk, wild dogs roaming in the darkened alleys, tearing through the trash.

Any other time, driving through these streets, Will would step into a hundred different lives in the blink of an eye--the mother moving through her kitchen, fragrant spices and tropical fruits sizzling on the stove; the young father watching a game with his infant sleeping on his chest, his wife out turning tricks to pay their rent; the widower on the darkened porch, drinking himself to death.

Now he soaks in the memory of the performance they’ve just seen, lets the thread of anticipation grow taut and sharp. The streetlights blur as they speed towards the edge of town, catching on the brilliant kaleidoscope of murals that cover the walls.

As the houses give way to warehouses, the pedestrian traffic thins out. Here there are prostitutes walking packs, men huddled together trading money for small baggies of weed and coke. There are dozens of clubs, and Will drives back and forth down the main drag a few times before he sees the one he wants.

Will looks over Hannibal, in his beautifully tailored suit and frankly absurd tie, perfectly coiffed hair. He unknots the tie and tugs it loose from around Hannibal’s neck, tossing it carelessly in the back seat. Maybe if they’re both lucky, Hannibal will forget about it entirely. He reaches out and rakes his hand roughly through Hannibal’s hair until it looks artfully tousled.

Hannibal watches him, eyes soft with indulgence, focused on Will’s mouth. Will licks his lips, Hannibal tracking the movement, and flicks a hank of hair across Hannibal’s forehead. “I like you dishevelled,” he says, words muffled by Hannibal's kiss.

Will shrinks back against the door, grinning. “Later,” he says. “Take off your jacket, and undo a couple buttons. Roll up your sleeves a bit.”

Certainly Hannibal knows how to blend in; he doesn’t need Will telling him this. But there’s something about the faint upward curl of his lip and the easy slope of his brow that says he likes it, as he obeys Will’s orders.

Will discards his own jacket and button down. His undershirt is heather grey, lightweight, and fitted with a deep v-neck. With his beard and unstyled hair, he’ll fit in far more easily than Hannibal. It’s a nice reversal of their usual situation.

The music in the club is loud and the treble is too high, tinny and piercing. Between that and the neon track lighting and flashing strobelights, Will feels a headache coming on. Though Hannibal looks calm and placid on the exterior, there is tension at his temples. It’s just as well; Will doesn’t particularly want to linger here.

They push through a crowd that flows around them like water. Everyone is high, whether on drugs or a lot of alcohol, or both, the dance floor one giant writhing pit of bodies like something out of a Bosch painting. There are women fighting in a ring in the back room--ostensibly boxing, covered in bruises and blood. Men in the bathroom shooting lines of cocaine and ketamine, kids dropping ecstasy.

This is one of the places Will’s heard about, lurking in the shady Antigua bars. Lots of desperate girls, easy targets to woo with free drinks, nice dresses, and fast cars. Treated as precious long enough to build dependency before forcing them into sex work here on the streets of Kingston, or shipped off around the world.

Will can pick them out in the crowd. The men who lay on the charm, with their slick smiles and slicker words. An oily film hangs in the air around them, and when Will focuses on them, closes his eyes, the film slides over his skin and holds him down, like a net dragging him under water.

He’s at one of the brothels. One of the girls got caught skimming from her take and he’s going to make an example of her. She’s huddled in the corner of her room, watching him fearfully as he goes to the closet and takes a hanger. Every move is slow and precise, violence simmering just under the surface ready to boil over, as he folds the hanger in half and twists it together.

Not in the face, can’t damage the goods, but everywhere else is fair game. His fist tightens around the end of the hanger, wire cutting into his hand and he whips it through the air to let her hear it sing before he rushes at her.

He beats her until welts form, and then split. Bright pink stripes cover her back and thighs, slick with fresh blood. At first she tries not to cry, and then she screams for hours, until her voice goes raw and she hovers on the edge of unconsciousness. That’s how he likes to fuck her, with her body gone limp. Grab a handful of her weave and--

Will opens his eyes, refusing to let that go any further. The man has moved from the bar towards a dark hallway past the bathrooms, and Will follows. Hannibal is close behind. The man punches a code into the door at the end of the hall and disappears inside. Will catches the door just before it swings closed, and they slip in after him. The door slides closed behind them, lock clicking in place.

The guy turns, frowning at them. “Hey, you’re not supposed to be back here.”

Will assesses the scene--long narrow hall with no doors and at the end a stairwell leads up to the second floor. A single guard is eyeing them from the foot of the stairs, hand on the butt of his gun. The music is loud enough to drown out the sound of a gunshot in the club, but it will probably be heard by anyone upstairs, warning them.

Whatever Will does, whoever he goes after, Hannibal will undoubtedly handle the other. Even before they move, Will can see the end result of how this will play out. The guard bleeding out from a wound on his neck, slumped against the wall with a smear of blood following him down. The pimp's face bashed in beyond all recognition. His identity taken from him as thoroughly as he's taken it from all the women he's turned. Deep lacerations all over his torso, arms and legs, his genitals, leaving only ribbons of flesh.

The posses that make up the organised crime on the island are constantly at war and always looking for more gruesome, horrific ways to slaughter one another, how best to terrify their opponents. Mutilation, beheadings, removing ears, fingers, tongues, hearts. It’s not absolute freedom to create their own design, but it’s enough wiggle room to let them have some fun. Hannibal can even take some of the meat without raising any questions.

It all runs across the back of his eyes in a split second. He’s always been a quick thinker, but this is a thrilling new break-neck speed. Will moves faster than he knew he was able to--almost faster than his own decision to do so, just like the pimp on Antigua, except this time he is present. He’s not watching with detachment, floating somewhere above his own body. He is acutely aware of the limitations and capabilities of his own body. Every flex of muscle, every beat of his heart.

He can still feel the weave under his fingers, rough, tiny curls at the root tickling his knuckles. Can see the dark skin, shining pink in the lamplight, cut through with red. Blood and righteous violence surge through him at her betrayal--her body belongs to him, and so does her pain--along with the perverse sexual pleasure from seeing those helpless tears streak down her cheeks.

A heady combination of cold rage and hot desire is what propels Will forward. He grabs the man by his throat and slams him sideways into the wall, hard enough to dent the plaster. The guard lets out a shout of surprise, and Will is peripherally aware of Hannibal moving, the displacement of air as his blade goes flying end over end.

Will’s rage is the pimp's rage, and he's strong. He fights back, striking out with a kick at Will’s knee. The angle’s wrong, or else he might have actually broken something. As it is, the blow drives Will to one knee. He uses the position to his advantage, throwing his whole weight into the man’s core, knocking him flat on his back and falling on top of him.

The pimp has at least fifty pounds and three inches on him, and he fights dirty. He grabs Will’s shoulders in both hand and surges up, headbutting him. Will reels back, head throbbing. He sees black around the edges of his vision and bright, disorienting sparks. The pimp uses the temporary flash of pain and disorientation to punch Will in the chest, driving the air from his lungs.

Will lands a solid punch under the man’s jaw, then his cheek. Never in the face. Illicit pleasure at indulging in the forbidden makes the next blow come harder, breaking his nose. So many times he’s beaten girls to the point of death and had to rein himself back in, call the doctor. He’s never felt this satisfaction that Will knows when he gets a handful of hair on each side of his head. Uses all his strength to slam the pimp’s head against the floor, hard enough to hear it crack.

The hand clawing at his jaw goes slack and drops across the man’s chest. His eyes are unfocused, breath coming in a slow rattle. Will looks down at him dispassionately and sits back on his heels. “Huh.”

Hannibal comes to crouch next to him, waits until Will lifts his gaze to give him a questioning look. Will looks back at the body, not quite dead yet. “It’s not quite what I saw.”

“Does that bother you?” Hannibal’s tone is all clinical curiosity.

Will shakes his head. His hands are still clenched in the man’s hair--he can’t feel it as distinctly through the gloves, but he imagines the short tight curls are similar in texture to the girl’s weave. He makes his fingers loosen, tears open the pimps shirt, and rises to his feet. A quick glance around the hall confirms there’s nothing even remotely like a wire hanger around. He unhooks his own belt and pulls it free from the loops.

There is a slight stab of regret over the fact that the pimp is so far gone he probably won’t even feel the beating, but not enough to keep Will from delivering it. Almost as if the man himself is the one controlling Will’s arm, he draws back and lets the whip sing through the air and crack against skin over and over, making a criss-cross pattern of lines down his chest.

The girls call them tiger stripes when he gives leaves these same marks on them. A symbol of their tenacity and survival. It is a mockery on the pimp’s body, a sure sign of his inferiority to them. He was never an apex predator, merely a coward taking advantage of those smaller and more vulnerable.

As a final touch, Will takes his pocket knife and carves the HC in the centre of his chest, in one of the few unmarked stretches of skin. It is framed on every side by the livid welts left by the edge of the belt and the wide, bruised and puffy skin from the flat width of it.

When he looks up, Hannibal is watching, head cocked to the side. “A rival posse,” Will explains, looping his belt back through his waist and fastening it. He sincerely doubts there will be much of an investigation either way, but it doesn’t hurt to point a finger in another direction.

At the end of the hallway, the guard is indeed slumped against the wall, Hannibal’s blade still in his throat, body loose and still in death. Will pulls the knife free, but there is no rush of blood, just a sluggish line slowly dripping down his throat. He wipes it on the man’s shirt and grabs the gun, then stands.

When he turns around, Hannibal is very close, so close Will has to resist to the initial urge to step back. His eyes are bright, almost twinkling, if such a thing could ever be said about Hannibal Lecter. The expression on his face is nothing short of approbation.

They head up the stairs. Will takes them two at a time, high on endorphins. At the landing, Hannibal eyes the gun in Will’s steady grip. “I’m better with a gun than a knife,” he says. He rolls his shoulders, marvelling even now at the lack of tension.

“We have no idea how many are in there, and I know that isn’t how you do things...”

Hannibal is silent a moment, eyes closed, head tilted towards the door. “Five. One of them is a woman.” He opens his eyes, brow and lip quirked to the side. “And I should think I perform admirably well when taken off-guard.”

Will’s forehead wrinkles in disbelief. Ending up at the mercy of Matthew Brown, the polizia, Mason Verger twice, each time saved by luck and circumstance alone. “Yeah, okay,” he says. The sharp, dangerous look Hannibal gives him sends a spark of heat down his spine and makes him grin wider.

Hannibal reaches out, covering the barrel of the gun, his thumb digging into the sensitive skin and nerves between Will’s thumb and finger. “You don’t need it.” Will lets the gun go. Hannibal flicks on the safety and tucks it in his waistband. It’ll be more interesting this way, and that’s what they both want.

Chapter Text

When they enter the room, it takes a moment for the men inside to realise what’s going on, but Hannibal is already moving. Will has to just watch at first. The way Hannibal cuts through the room is mesmerising--all savage, nimble grace, light on the balls of his feet, he looks like one of the dancers, each step perfectly choreographed for the deadliest impact.

He cuts the throat of the man who rises from the couch before he’s even on his feet, arm moving in an elegant arch through the air. One movement leads seamlessly to the next and he follows through on the momentum of the blow, turning and grabbing the woman around the neck with his left arm, choking off her airway and effectively shielding himself from the other men in the room. His knife goes flying again, this time lodging in the shoulder of the man going for his gun.

One of the remaining two men, a short, heavyset guy in a tracksuit, rushes at Will with a knife of his own. Will ducks to the side and feels the icy cold burn of the blade on his arm. He shoves his own blade up, catching tracksuit in the side, hitting a rib. The impact reverberates back up his arm, throbbing at the source of his wound. He angles the blade to slip between ribs and up, puncturing the man’s left lung.

Tracksuit swings wildly with his knife again, but it’s easy to dodge this time. Will grabs his wrist in both hands and breaks it against the door frame. While the man is still gasping for breath, Will stabs him again, this time in the gut. As clearly as if it happened yesterday, Will remembers the slide of Hannibal’s blade across his stomach, and he can mirror it now, leaving the man to fall bleeding out on the floor, sucking in progressively shallower breaths.

Will steps over the body, casts a glance at Hannibal, holding his own against the other underling. Somewhere in the scuffle he lost his knife, and they’ve resorted to their fists. Hannibal elbows the guy in the throat and kicks him in the gut, knocking him flat on his back, but the guy grabs his ankle and brings him down.

Even with a gash bleeding freely down his cheek and teeth bared in a feral grimace, Hannibal radiates a rapturous energy that is infectious. He wraps his hand around one of the prostitute’s high-heeled shoes and lunges at the man with a snarl.

The man behind the desk is on his feet, hand in his jacket. Like Hannibal, his movements are calm and precise; he is not panicking. When Will focuses on him, he sees a monster rivalling the worst he ever experienced in a lifetime of law enforcement. Cool and detached, murdering and torturing and raping not because he enjoys it, but as a means to an end.

Will drops his knife with a clatter. He doesn’t want to use it for this man. This man, who keeps himself so removed from danger. So ready to hurt others but never suffering any pain himself. He deserves a more personal death.

There’s maybe ten feet between them, standing at opposite ends of the room. Maybe if the gun’s safety is already off, it will change the odds, but Will is fast. He jumps over the back of the sofa between them as the man pulls his gun free.

With the boss inside his mind, there is suddenly an endless supply of possible weapons in the room--things Will wouldn’t have considered. Like the tray covered in a heaping pile of cocaine. Will grabs a handful of it in one hand and the tray in the other. He flings the cocaine in the boss’s face and with that distraction, hits the gun out of his hand with the tray.

Between them the cloud of cocaine hangs heavy in the air. It’s impossible not to breathe it in when Will comes around the desk. The boss is choking on it, one eye blinded by it, but he doesn’t hesitate, throwing a quick jab to Will’s liver followed by the heel of his palm to his solar plexus.

The first one catches him, but he blocks the other and it glances his shoulder. He’s winded, puts a little space between them, drawing and holding his breath before letting it out slowly. Repeat a few times until the urge to vomit has passed. The whole room smells coppery like sweat and blood.

Will blocks another blow, this time to his face, and drives his hand into the bridge of his nose. Bones crack, and Will’s stomach turns--it isn’t a reaction of his own. This man, known and feared in his neighbourhood for his brutality, can’t handle the breaking of his own nose.

He becomes frenzied, no longer aiming for precision in his blows, only to connect. His nails break skin on Will’s neck and chest. Deep, ragged gouges that wet the neck of his shirt with blood. And then suddenly Hannibal is rising behind the man, delivering a blow to the small of his back and the man falls to his knees with a grunt of pain, insensate.

Hannibal looks up from him to meet Will’s eye. His cheek has clotted, his lip is split and swollen, there’s blood over his shoulder and down his chest, and Will can’t say how much of it is is own or one of the dead men’s. Definitely not how he’d done things as the Ripper or the Copycat, keeping his crime scenes neat and free of any physical evidence, but Will thinks this suits Hannibal better.

This is what drove Will over the cliffside. This tension coiled between them, thick with hunger and desire for the only other person who could understand. Hannibal licks his lips and the coil pulls taut. Will can feel it at the base of his spine, tugging him closer. It’s almost a physical pain, muscles pulled tight in anticipation of Hannibal’s touch.

“Would you care to do the honour?” Hannibal asks, gesturing at the man between them with a sweep of his hand.

Will shakes his head dumbly. He can’t find his voice. Can’t swallow around the heavy rise of yearning in his chest. He can barely breathe. Hannibal reaches out to cup Will’s cheek and Will takes a hasty step back before Hannibal can touch him. He stumbles and catches himself against the edge of the desk.

“Kill him.” It takes a Herculean effort to get the words past his lips, forcing all the air from his body. “I want to watch.”

Hannibal smiles at him, a dark, twisted thing, so different from the tender ones Will is accustomed to, but no less full of love and perhaps even more honest. “Would that please you?”

Will closes his eyes and tries to draw in a steadying breath. He can’t find the line between them anymore. It’s no longer blurred--it doesn’t even exist. Maybe it never did. He looks at Hannibal, gaze hot. “As much as it pleases you to watch me, I’d wager.”

It’s the right answer. Hannibal’s sheer delight at the words rings out across their connection. He hauls the man up by the back of his shirt, wraps an arm around his neck, braces against his jaw, and snaps his neck with a clean jerk.

Will has to close his eyes against the overwhelming rush of sensation, both Hannibal’s and his own. He’s painfully hard, hips straining up from the desk. He holds tighter, letting the edge bite painfully into his palm.

There is a thump as Hannibal releases the body, and then Hannibal is pressed against him in one long, hard line. Will whimpers, a tremulous sound cut short when Hannibal’s fingers close bruisingly tight around his chin. He forces Will’s head up, breath hot on Will’s mouth. Will can’t help the desperate grind of his hips against Hannibal’s.

“Look at me,” Hannibal says, and Will obeys. Every touch, every word only amplifies his need, even when it’s already unbearable. He doesn’t know if it’s the cocaine or the drugs Hannibal gave him, or just the act of doing this together, but he honestly thinks he might lose his mind if it keeps growing like this.

Hannibal reads him like a book, bends him back over the desk with slick, hot, possessive kisses that leave Will’s lips numb and swollen. He tries to keep up, hands fisted in Hannibal’s shirt to keep him close, licking over the raw edge of his cut lip to taste the fresh blood.

Will cries out in frustration when Hannibal pulls away, uses all his strength to jerk him back, but Hannibal braces his hands on the desktop and resists. He goes down on his knees, making quick work of Will’s belt and slacks, reaches inside his boxers to pull out his cock.

Will hisses at that first touch of vinyl gloved hand, hips thrusting forward. He’s so fucking close, he’s going to come before Hannibal even gets started. He grabs a fistful of Hannibal’s hair and whines at the first touch of Hannibal’s mouth to the head of his cock. “Please,” he says, pulling hard. “Hannibal, please, I want--”

Hannibal takes him deep, no teasing, nose pressed against Will’s pelvis, breath coming hot from his nose stirring the hair around the base of his cock. Will can feel Hannibal’s throat working around him, tongue stroking the length as he sucks rhythmically, and Will arches off the desk, shoving deeper as he comes, feeling Hannibal’s jaw stretch, hearing the rough sound of his choked breaths.

Still clinging to Hannibal’s hair, Will tugs him up to his feet. His lip is bleeding freely now, mixed with the thick thread of saliva running down the corner of his mouth. Will hooks a foot behind his knee and pulls, and Hannibal stumbles on top of him.

“I want you to fuck me, Hannibal.” He fumbles between them for Hannibal’s belt. His fingers feel thick and useless, scrabbling at the leather until he gives up and just palms Hannibal’s dick through his pants. “I need it, I need you.” He still feels so hungry, a distinct physical emptiness that is so absurd given how fully they are entwined with one another.

There is a brief moment, red flaring in Hannibal’s eyes, when Will knows he’s about to get what he wants. But then he’s pulling free of Will’s grasp, putting distance between them, and Will lets out a helpless sound of protest. He sits up and reaches for him. “No,” Hannibal says, with a sort of firm finality that Will is unaccustomed to.

Will props himself up on his elbows, eyes narrowed. He can feel Hannibal’s conflicting desires. “We should finish here,” he says, ignoring Will’s glare, and then sighs. “If I touch you right now, I’m not going to stop and this is neither the place nor the time. I would rather not have your memory addled by the drugs currently in your system.”

It is not the answer Will wants to hear. Right now he’s perceiving everything with crystal clarity, but he knows well enough that by the morning most of this will be a series of disjointed memories. He’ll be able to see the whole image of the evening, but details will be lost.

He gets to his feet, legs still shaky, and does up his slacks. Of course now is not the time, no matter how much he wants it. There are still hundreds of people downstairs, and another member of the gang could come along at any moment. Once they see the bodies in the hallway, they’ll be prepared, maybe even call or backup. Time to finish here and disappear.

Will picks up his knife where it landed and looks around at the damage. Tracksuit’s cut was deeper than Will realised, and the way he fell, half propped against the door, his intestines have spilled out into his lap. The man Hannibal struggled with is sprawled flat on his back, the stiletto heel driven into his skull through the eye.

The woman is slumped over the arm of the sofa, next to the other guy. The slit to his throat was deep, and his head fell back, leaving an obscene gaping wound exposing severed vocal chords and trachea.

Of all the bodies, the boss is the cleanest. Besides the sick twist of his neck, the only visible damage is his broken nose. Will goes to stand over him, grabs his knees and tugs him out flat on his back. His arm is throbbing and the skin feels sticky and too-tight from the dried sheet of blood coating elbow to wrist, but he ignores it.

“Do you always have a recipe in mind when you kill them?”

“Often times, yes. I prefer the meat fresh, if at all possible. Though occasionally it does not go to plan.”

“What would you take from him?” Will probably won’t ever share Hannibal’s predilection for human flesh, but neither does the idea of partaking disturb him. If anything, it will make them closer. Simultaneously sharing with Hannibal something he dearly desires while looking towards the possibility of some future absolution for whatever guilt he harbours over what became of Mischa.

“The oysters, if we had the time and proper tools.” Hannibal crouches next to him, looking thoughtfully over the corpse. “Or Rocky Mountain Oysters, though perhaps too on the nose. The tongue would do nicely--there is a Mexican dish that would lend itself to a Caribbean interpretation.”

With the proper resources they could be more creative-perhaps replace his tongue with that of the wise cow and sew his mouth closed. Will’s been in the islands long enough to hear the idiom about the wisdom of keeping one’s mouth shut. Just taking the tongue will be enough to cause some suspicion and confusion that he was a rat or thief and have everyone chasing their tails.

Hannibal takes the tongue, and something from tracksuit guy as well. Maybe seeing him cut open was too much temptation to resist. While he wraps it in paper and stores it in one of the hundreds of plastic bags littering the coffee table, Will investigates the two doors on the far wall. One leads to a catwalk over a darkened warehouse. At the end, there is an exit to the alley running alongside the club.

The other leads into a bathroom and Will catches sight of himself in the mirror. With the pain in his arm and stomach, he forgot about the headbutt. There’s a yellow bruise and a trickle of blood over the swelling. He cleans it up, then starts scrubbing at the blood on his chest and arm. Once they’re clean, the scratches on his chest don’t look too bad. They’re starting to bruise, but they should heal within a couple of days without leaving a mark. Next to the bite mark Hannibal gave him, they look downright tame. His arm, on the other hand, is still bleeding.

Hannibal, watching from the door, tugs off his gloves and comes in to push up his sleeve for a closer look. Will grits his teeth as he probes at the skin. “It tore through the epidermis only. I don’t believe it will require stitches, though we’ll have to keep an eye on it for the next several days.”

“Your face?” Will asks, running his thumb just under the gash on his cheek.

Hannibal shakes his head dismissively as he ties a hand towel around Will’s arm. “I have my kit at the hotel; we can attend to our wounds there.”

He goes back into the office and grabs one of men’s discarded jacket to cover his bloodstained shirt. It’s lying over the back of the sofa, and as he comes near, he can see the woman’s back rising and falling with her breath. Will feels for her pulse, sluggish but steady. Cool relief washes over him. “You didn’t kill her?”

“It would be cleaner,” Hannibal says, tone matter of fact. He’s discussing the slaughter of an animal rather than a person, even a mostly blameless one. “I doubt she’s either sober or observant enough to provide any useful information on the attackers, but the rival posse you are framing would not spare anyone in such an attack.”

Will narrows his eyes. “So why didn’t you kill her?”

“Because I knew you would prefer she live,” Hannibal says simply. As if going against his nature because it’s what Will wants is just a matter of course.

“You’re making it very difficult for me to remember why we’re not fucking right now,” Will tells him.

Hannibal gives him a faint smile and tilts his head towards the bathroom. “We can lock her in,” he says, pointed in his change of subject. “I doubt she would provide any information to the police anyway, out of fear of reprisal, but it would give her a credible reason for her survival.”

Will carries her in and wedges her in an upright position between the tub and the toilet, angles her head back so she can breathe more easily around the swelling of her throat.

He wishes there were anything else he could do for her, but even if he gave her all the hundreds of thousands of dollars in the other room and took her to the airport, there’s no guarantee. She’s likely been under the thumb of these men since her early teens and used to relying on them. Either someone would catch up with her and kill her, thinking she had something to do with this, or she’ll end up being taken advantage of by someone else.

They go out the back way and come out of the alley onto the busy sidewalk. Once there, they blend right in. Even Hannibal’s face doesn’t draw any attention. They happen along more than one brawl on their walk back to the car.

A few miles back towards the hotel they stop at an all-night pharmacy. Hannibal goes in to get a cooler and ice and Will waits outside, sitting on the hood of the car. The humidity is still unbearable, but a cool wind is picking up. Probably going to storm before morning.

The streets are mostly empty now save the dogs. Feral, baring their teeth at anyone that gets too close. Will clicks his tongue in beckoning but only gets a vicious warning snarl in response. A block or two away glass breaks and a woman screams, and the dogs scamper off towards the dumpster. The mangy black lab at the back of the pack is limping behind the rest.

Hannibal comes back with his supplies and follows Will’s line of sight. “I believe you said you wanted a dog,” he says, not without a hint of humour in his tone. “Singular.”

Will glances over his shoulder with a cheeky grin. “Come on, we both know you didn’t believe that for a second.”

Hannibal puts the cooler in the backseat and then comes around to sit beside him. There’s no one else in sight so Will leans against him, resting his head on Hannibal’s shoulder. He thinks he might be coming down, hit in just the past few moments with a wave of exhaustion. He buries a yawn against Hannibal’s sleeve and feels the faint press of a kiss on his hair.

“How are you?” Hannibal asks.

“I miss Winston,” Will says. “I miss all of my dogs. It’s funny, I don’t even miss any--” he cuts off that train of thought before it can fully form itself in his mind. It isn’t funny at all, actually, it’s horrible.

“Anyway.” He wipes his hands on the front of his slacks and sits up. “There are literally hundreds of stray dogs in this city, and that lab doesn’t look like he’s going to last long out here. Let me bring him home.”

Hannibal spreads his hands in capitulation and gets to his feet, following as Will leads the way to the dumpster. The pack is scattering food wrappers and rotted food across the ground, yipping and snapping at one another as they fight over the best scraps.

The lab is licking at the remains of a yoghurt cup and eyeing the doberman nearest him chewing on a chicken carcass. When he takes a tentative step that way, the doberman lets out a violent growl and lunges for the labs throat. They wrestle and the lab sulks away, fur matted with slobber and blood.

Will crouches and goes slowly. The lab is watching him from the corner of his eye, his hackles raised. As Will draws closer, a low growl rises up in the lab’s throat. When Will reaches out a hand, the dog scampers away, further from the pack.

“I should--” Will looks around for some sort of bait. “I should go get some treats or something.” When he turns back, Hannibal is holding out a travel pack of beef jerky with an indulgent lift of his lip. Will chuckles. “Am I seriously that predictable?”

“You’ve been gazing longingly at every stray dog we’ve come across in the past two days,” Hannibal says. Will snatches the bag from his hand, but doesn’t try to object to the assessment.

Once he has the jerky, it’s easy to get the lab to come nearer, first tossing a few pieces, then dropping them just in front of himself. Up close he can see all the raw places on the dog’s fur, all the clumps of mud and blood, the torn ear. Will holds out a piece of jerky, but the dog is still too jittery to take it from his hand.

It takes close to an hour to get the lab close enough to touch. Once the other dogs have taken what they can from the trash, they start crowding around. A great dane, clearly the leader, almost drives the lab off. Will talks to him--low, soothing, nonsense sounds, while Hannibal shoos off the others. Finally, the lab lets him touch, brushing his hand down the matted fur of his back.

Hannibal drives them to the hotel and Will sits in the back with the dog. Now that he’s allowed to touch, he can get a better look and see he is actually a she. She has to be a stray, not one of the ones born wild, as easy as it was to get her to come along.

“I hope this isn’t going to become some sort of habit,” Hannibal says. Will aims a questioning look in the rearview mirror. “Bringing home a new dog every time you kill someone.”

“Only the first dozen or so,” Will says flippantly.

Hannibal huffs a vaguely amused sound. Will leans back against the seat, hand on the dog’s back, head tilted to watch the passing of the street lamps. Everything is a little duller now, and slower, but he feels good. Tired, and sore, but happy. There’s no guilt or shame or lingering disappointment. It wasn’t what they experienced with Dolarhyde, but it felt right. Will is hesitantly ready to call Hannibal’s experiment a success.

Chapter Text

Will is never going to get used to what obscene amounts of money will get in life. Putting back on his dress shirt and jacket, he looks like a rich guy who’s been on a bender, but no worse. He borrows some of Hannibal’s easy charm, the way he plays with words, flirts his way into getting exactly what he wants when he goes to the front desk of the hotel. They have an in-house kennel and vet who they actually wake up at three in the morning to look over the stray. The woman is astonishingly patient for someone just roused from sleep, gentle and sweet with the dog.

She has worms and mange, and wounds on her throat, belly, and leg. Will hangs around, stroking her fur and helps keep her calm while she’s shampooed and given a tranquilizer, but then the vet practically pushes him out the door and tells him to come back after ten the next morning.

Hannibal is awake, sitting up in bed, freshly showered, when Will returns to the room. Will strips down to his boxers and climbs onto the bed, crawling up to straddle him. There’s a row of butterfly stitches across his cheek and some bruising on his shoulder. His bare chest is undamaged, and Will skims his hand up and over Hannibal’s shoulder, pulls him forward to check his back, also undamaged. The blood belonged to someone else, then.

He cups Hannibal’s jaw and draws him up for a kiss. With his eyes closed, he feels like he could fall asleep just like this. His body is heavy and weak, his mind drifting. “Come,” Hannibal says, pushing him to his feet then towards the bathroom.

Will grumbles in protest but allows Hannibal manhandle him into the shower. Once the water gets going, he has to acknowledge that he needed this, washing away sweat and caked on blood he’d missed at the club, and the residual oily sensation he’d gotten from the pimp.

After, wrapped in a towel, he sits on the sink and lets Hannibal tend to his arm. A shot of some antibiotic and a painkiller, then cleaning and dressing the wound. There’s a vivid bruise on his stomach, under the right side of his ribcage. Hannibal prods at it, as gentle as he can be, but Will still has to fight the urge to twist away, nails biting into his palm.

“All the strength you gain will only get you so far if your opponent has any skill as a fighter,” Hannibal says.

“Did I really perform that poorly?” Will asks, not bothering to hide his irritation. He’s alive and mostly unharmed, and the other guys are dead.

Hannibal is unimpressed, fingers digging in with more force than necessary. Will hisses and glowers at him. “Either of his blows could have killed you with enough precision and force. You did a decent job blocking him, but you could have done better. You could learn to incapacitate before your opponent has an opportunity to do you any damage.”

He rubs a cool cream into the bruised skin and it’s instantly soothing. “I would be happy to work with you, if you’d like.”

Will closes his eyes, leaning back against the mirror and takes a deep breath. He tells himself to stop being so defensive. “Might not be a bad idea,” he says. “I guess the only real training I ever got was in take downs and various wrist holds. Unless you count all the drunken brawls I observed in the boatyards.”

“A first class education, I’m sure,” Hannibal says. He puts two pills in Will’s hand and gives him a glass of water.

Will shrugs and swallows the pills. “It’s kept me alive so far.”

Hannibal pushes back the curls on Will’s forehead, fingers sinking into his hair and rubbing gently at his scalp. Will moans in appreciation, closes his eyes again and let’s Hannibal pull him closer. He’s tired down to his bones ready to fall asleep sitting up.

“You did not perform poorly at all,” Hannibal murmurs, lips like a kiss at his temple. “You were radiant.”

Will smirks. “You didn’t do too badly yourself. The shoe to the eye was a nice touch. Excellent improvisation.”

Hannibal tugs playfully at his hair and growls, “Insolent boy.”

As always, Hannibal calling him boy sparks hot in Will’s gut. He rubs his hands up Hannibal’s back, skin warm and soft under his touch. He’s so different here from the lethal figure he cut at the club, now inviting and human. “Are we going to talk about you fucking me now?”

“I should tell you to sleep,” Hannibal says, and before Will can protest, lifts him up from the counter.

“But you’re not going to,” Will says, suddenly breathless, clinging tightly with his arms and legs. Hannibal carries him so effortlessly, and Will never thought about it before, always with women, but there’s something powerfully arousing about having a lover stronger and bigger than him.

Hannibal shakes his head, lowers him to the bed. “No,” he agrees, and kisses him. “How can you expect me to resist when you keep asking so nicely?” He bites at the healing bite mark on his neck and sucks gently.

That hot, desperate longing from the club comes back in full force. Will tightens his legs, pulling them closer together. “Fuck, Hannibal, I’ll beg if that’s what it takes.”

Hannibal hands are rough on his hips and he bites hard, enough to really hurt. Will whimpers and tips his head back further. If Hannibal wants to tear him open, Will isn’t about to stop him. For whatever reason, he’s held himself back--fear over Will’s response or perhaps regarding the loss of control--and Will isn’t going to give him any reason to think his restraint was justified.

“I don’t think you understand what you do to me,” Hannibal breathes. He sits up, reaching for the bottle of lube on the nightstand.

Will grabs his dick and rubs him through his silk pyjama pants. “Hannibal,” he moans the name, drawn out and needy, because he knows exactly what he does to Hannibal. He tugs at the waistband and Hannibal rises up to pull his pants down and off. “Please?”

Hannibal bites down his chest, leaving a series of stinging marks, and Will twists under him. Will can’t breathe properly all of the sudden, in anticipation, realisation that he’s going to get what he’s asking for. His body moves entirely without thought, legs falling open, hips tilting up urgently.

Will threads his fingers in Hannibal’s hair and tries to push him where he wants. Hannibal licks along the crease of his thigh, close enough that Will feels the brush of hair against his cock, but Hannibal doesn’t touch him. Instead, he slides his hands under Will’s ass, grabbing a cheek in each hand, and buries his face there.

This is something Will doesn’t think he’ll ever grow accustomed to, Hannibal licking him open so hungrily. It elicits such a raw reaction from him. The sort of unrestrained, undiluted honesty he’s spent a lifetime repressing, undone by Hannibal’s mouth. He’s exposed in a way that borders on discomfort, and if were anyone other than Hannibal, he’d never allow it.

But Hannibal treats him with such reverence, like eating him out is some sort of divine experience. Will wants to be mortified, to hide his face and bite back the helpless cries of pleasure when Hannibal spears him with his tongue, but Hannibal’s every touch demands unabashed honesty.

It’s slippery and hot, and he is awash in sensation, rocking his hips against Hannibal’s face, hands twisting in the sheets, in Hannibal’s hair, in his own hair, and he doesn’t even realise Hannibal has slicked his hand with lube until one finger is pushing inside.

There is pressure and a burning tingle through his ass and down the back of his thighs. Hannibal stops and withdraws, brushes his lips along the inside of Will’s thigh. He makes a soothing sound against skin and Will can feel the vibrations all through his body. Something deep in Will responds to something deep within Hannibal and his muscles relax.

So, so slowly Hannibal tries again, pouring more lube on his hand and Will’s skin, before pushing back inside. It’s really slick, and it doesn’t exactly hurt--it’s a strange sensation, like he should be trying to push Hannibal out. Then Hannibal beckons gently with his finger, and it’s...nice. Still too strange to be pleasurable, too much like being exposed. It does draw a moan from him, makes him shift restlessly.

Hannibal pours lube over his hand and eases in a second finger alongside the first, followed by that same burn as before. It eases more quickly this time, as Hannibal rocks his fingers in and out, curving up as he pulls back, teasing the sensitive ring of muscle at his opening each time, until it starts feeling good. Really fucking good, and Will is rocking down against him for more.

Hannibal pushes deeper, all the way to down to his knuckles, driving all thought right out of Will's head. Hannibal murmurs his praise, lipping down the slope of Will's thigh, telling him, “You’re doing so well.”

Will whimpers, shaking his head. His hair sticks to his face, damp with sweat, and his fists are sore from clenching so tightly. Then Hannibal finds just the right spot, crooking his fingers and stroking there. Will arches off the bed, working his hips in frantic little circles.

“Oh fuck,” he moans. “Oh fuck, Ha--” his words cut off abruptly when Hannibal pushes down harder, massaging, and Will’s dick, neglected and half-hard, grows harder.

“That's my boy, you can take it,” Hannibal says, and to prove his point, adds a third finger.

Will bites his lip hard enough to draw blood. It isn't painful anymore, just the too much too close too raw stretch. He's teetering on the edge of some terrifying precipice, and if Hannibal doesn't just fuck him soon, he’s going to take matters into his own hands.

“Hannibal.” He clutches at Hannibal's arm and tugs. He can't get enough air. Each time he sucks in a breath, a trembly feeling seizes his lungs before they can fill.

Hannibal covers Will's body with his own, fingers still rubbing back and forth over his prostate. The different angle stretches him wider, leaves him feeling simultaneously too full and not full enough. Hannibal kisses his brow, murmurs, “Shhh,” and down his cheek. Will strains his neck back, trying to catch his mouth. Hannibal draws back, denying him this comfort.

“Dear Will,” Hannibal says, not entirely kindly. Will blinks blearily down at him, watches with a dry mouth as Hannibal pours lube over his cock and fists himself, his fingers still working Will open. “Always in control, even at your most vulnerable.”

Will makes a sound of protest, and Hannibal shoves his fingers in roughly. Along with the spark of pain is a very satisfying jolt of pleasure. “Let me take care of you.”

“Please.” Will's chest clenches in anticipation.

Hannibal pulls his fingers free and braces his hand on Will's thigh, lifting a little and pushing it wider as he positions himself. His cock presses against Will's hole, and it's so much bigger than three fingers, there's a moment where his body simply refuses to give. Then the head finally pops inside and it's like a floodgate has opened, and Will can't shut up. Just a constant stream of “yes, yes, finally, yes, please,” cut through with desperate, gasping breaths.

After that initial resistance is breached, Will grunts in surprise at the feeling, almost like relief. Hannibal stops, petting down Will's chest, the soft skin of his lower stomach, thumb flicking over his scar. Will draws a centring breath, but it doesn't help.

Hannibal traces the place where Will's body stretches to accommodate him, looking down between them, mouth open, tongue between his teeth. Will has to close his eyes. Hannibal's touch moves over his perineum, along his balls and up the now rigid line of his dick in a teasingly light stroke of his finger.

Please,” Will says, a ghost of a whisper. He swallows, but it doesn't help. His voice is still faint and ragged when he speaks again. “Hannibal, please don't make me wait anymore.”

Hannibal drapes himself over Will, one hand cupping his cheek. “Look at me,” he says, and Will's eyes flutter open. “Let me see you like this.” Will nods, and his breathing stops when Hannibal shifts his hips forward in a steady press. He fixes his gaze on Hannibal's almost desperately, his eyes a dark void. Will can't discern what's going on inside his head beyond the immediate roaring of carnal lust, hunger, and possessiveness.

When Hannibal settles deep inside him, bodies flush where they're joined, it's the satisfaction that comes from finding that thing he's been lacking. Filled up entirely, stretched beyond what he thought was possible, until there's no room for any thought other than that of Hannibal.

Will can feel every place they touch, the way each inhale and exhale causes little shifts of their bodies together, sparking a chain reaction of sensation. How he imagines he can feel Hannibal's heartbeat throbbing inside him. Racing, in fact, in time with his own.

Hannibal's arms are rigid, shaking, clasped around him, his face taut with restraint, but there's something wild in his eyes. This is not the dewy-eyed, unfettered adoration that is almost difficult to bear a times, this is the monster that has only afforded him glimpses until now.

Will reaches out, fingers curved around Hannibal's throat to press against his pulse, can feel it jumping, as if the blood will burst free. “Hannibal.” He almost doesn't recognise his own voice, a cooing, comforting tone. “You don't have to hide from me.”

Hannibal bends to tuck his face in Will's throat, slowing. He breathes, hot and damp, mouth open against Will's skin and when he lifts his head, he catches Will in a kiss. Will gladly surrenders to it, twining an arm around Hannibal's neck, fingers in his hair.

Will swallows again, and then again, almost convulsively. “It’s like you’ve…” He can’t find the right words to explain what he’s experiencing, to explain how Hannibal feels inside him, so hard and solid and...essential.

Unthinking, he tightens his muscles, and Hannibal answers with a rough jerk of his hips--he’s as deep as he can go in this position. “Oh fuck,” Will gasps. His hand in Hannibal’s hair and tugs him up for a kiss. “Oh fuck, oh Hannibal, it feels…”

The only thing he can think of is Biblical, to any others profane, which gives Will a little thrill. But it’s hardly blasphemous when they’re their own gods. He clenches again, delights in the rough sound it tears from Hannibal’s throat, the twitch of his temple as he holds back some more violent impulse.

“Like I’ve been made by you. For you.” Will lets out a panting, aching breath as Hannibal begins to move, rocking back and in again.

The red has eclipsed the brown of Hannibal’s eyes. His skin is slick under Will’s touch, and though he retains his form, a dark, heavy shadow hangs over them both. Will’s hand loosens it’s grip, smoothing down Hannibal’s neck and holding to his shoulder, using the leverage to roll his body in a slow grind against Hannibal’s groin.

“Oh fuck.” He doesn’t even care that his vocabulary is shrinking. The way Hannibal moves deprives him of any higher thought. There are so many different nerves, each seemingly connected to a different part of his body, so that when Hannibal moves, the pleasure sings through the entirety of him.

Will has to fight the urge to close his eyes; he won’t miss the struggle taking place before him, the man and the monster warring for control. Their love for him is two diametrically opposing things--to handle him with nothing but utter care and tenderness, to preserve him whole and untouched juxtaposed with the desire to rend him to pieces, body and sole, and devour him entirely, making them quite literally one.

And Will has his own monster, calling back, eager to be seen and known. His fingers dig into Hannibal's shoulders, along the scarred ridges of his back. Hannibal's muscles ripple with each thrust, hips working faster, pulling out further before thrusting back in. Will's nails tear at him, slipping on sweat slick skin.

“It’s like you’ve carved me open again, leaving a place only you can fit.” Will has made himself vulnerable to Hannibal in countless ways since nearly the first time they met, and knows him more intimately than anyone other. Arguably more intimately than he knows himself, and long before they'd become lovers. But this, welcoming Hannibal inside, holding him within his body, is entirely different.

“It’s only fair,” Hannibal tells him softly. Every time we touch, we are remade. Will remembers that moment so clearly, the rawness revealed in Hannibal by his confession of love, but he hadn’t understood until now.

There’s a fine sheen of sweat on his forehead, beading over his lip. Will arches up to lick it away and then lick into Hannibal’s mouth. He brings his knees up to frame Hannibal's hips and the change in position makes the head of Hannibal's dick brush against his prostate on each downstroke. His dick is leaking, where it's trapped between their bodies and he is already so close. He plants his feet and uses the leverage to meet Hannibal's thrust, quickening the pace.

Hannibal growls low in his throat and Will feels it rumbling everywhere they touch. “Will,” he says his name into the kiss, voice tight and warning. His hips snap rough and deep one single time before returning the gentle, slow pace. It draws a deep, pleased groan from Will, and he bites Hannibal's tongue in surprise.

“Please.” Hannibal parts from his mouth with an almost anguished sound, and presses their foreheads together, eyes closed tight. “Please, like this.” He reaches between them, hand slick in lube, and grips Will’s cock. “Just like this.”

Will can’t answer, between the feeling of Hannibal moving inside him, and the familiar hand that knows all his most sensitive spots jerking him off. Each rocking thrust drives a moan from him, rubs against that blindingly sensitive spot, his orgasm building fast now, out of his control.

He gives himself over to it; it’s different from the usual building of pleasure in his balls, to that point of inevitability. This stimulation is brutal and relentless, little waves rippling through his stomach. Hannibal holds his gaze, eyes intense, until Will can’t bear it any longer. He has to turn his head away, eyes closed as he cries out as he comes. His whole body tremors with the force of it and Hannibal keeps moving inside him, every stroke prolonging the sensation.

Wrung out and trembling, his arms go loose around Hannibal, and fall heavy to the bed. His feet slip on the sheets, legs falling open. Every thrust sends liquid heat through his nerves. He is now acutely aware of how wide open he’s stretched Hannibal’s cock; the skin there feels swollen, numb, and tender. He whimpers when Hannibal picks up speed, looks up at him through his lashes.

Hannibal is right there on the verge. He just needs that last little nudge. Will reaches out with one hand, limbs so heavy it’s an actual struggle. He grabs at Hannibal’s hip, feeling the flex of his flank as he drives in, and Will moans just at the thought of all that carefully reined in power simmering there. He reaches further, grabs Hannibal’s ass and pulls him close with the desperation to see him come.

“Hannibal,” he says, amazed at the timbre of his voice, high-pitched, as trembly as the rest of him. It does something to Hannibal to hear it, makes him grit his teeth and slow his thrusts. With a sudden snap of his hips, he’s coming too, pinning Will to the pillow with a crushing kiss. He collapses over Will at the last pulse.

Hannibal’s whole weight rests between Will’s thighs, over his chest, a familiar, comfortable anchor. Considering how wrecked he feels at the moment, he clings back, twining a leg between Hannibal’s, wrapping both arms around him and pulling him closer. Hannibal’s heart beats a wild tattoo against Will’s own and he is struck with wonder as he sometimes is when he is presented with the evidence that they are indeed two different beings.

Too soon, Hannibal draws away, and the feel of him slipping free of Will’s body is an uncomfortable one. Will has to touch himself there, pressing hard to counter the throbbing heat and emptiness. He stifles a cry against his shoulder and takes a long breath, and then another, until the exhale is steady.

“Are you hurt?” Hannibal asks. His brow is furrowed as he pulls Will’s hand back.

Will shakes his head. Now, sated and sore, the exhaustion of earlier is back with a vengeance. “You didn’t hurt me,” Will says, making sure that Hannibal can hear the truth of it. “It just feels strange.”

There is pain, but it’s good. The kind of pain he likes to poke and prod at for days after, feeling satisfaction when it flares. Just like any of the marks Hannibal has left on his body, permanent and otherwise. He closes his eyes and stretches, luxuriating in the tugs in his muscles, the dull pain in his arm, the icy ache in his side.

Hannibal gets up and returns with a damp cloth, tender and careful as he cleans between Will’s legs. “Come back,” Will says, opening his arms in beckoning. “I don’t care about the mess.”

“You will in the morning,” Hannibal says, but he comes anyway, curling up at Will’s side. His head rests on Will’s good shoulder, arm stretching over his chest to stroke gently at his nipple. It’s like an electric shock, and Will has never had the aftershocks of an orgasm last so long after. Hannibal makes an amused sound when Will jumps at the touch.

“That was...really nice,” Will begins cautiously. He laughs. His muscles are loosening with approaching sleep, the afterglow of satisfying sex, and whatever medication Hannibal gave him. “That’s an understatement.”

“But…?” Hannibal knows him so well.

Will looks down to see Hannibal looking up at him. “You were holding back.”

Hannibal chuckles, a low, sensual sound that Will warms to. “You have taxed yourself physically and emotionally this evening. You’re exhausted and injured, and you’ve never been penetrated before--never even been stretched. A modicum of patience and restraint would not go amiss.”

Will grumbles wordlessly, but he can’t really argue with single part of what Hannibal’s said. His eyes are stinging and when he closes them, it’s blissful relief. “When I’m not about to pass out,” he says, tone sour, “we’re doing it again, to hell with patience and restraint.” The words catch on a yawn.

Hannibal kisses his chest, fingers drawing shapes on the skin beneath his hand. It, along with everything else, has a soporific effect. The last thing Will recalls before falling asleep is Hannibal’s voice, accent thick with sleep, saying, “You really must be more careful what you ask for, before you get it.”

Chapter Text

Will comes slowly back to consciousness, tangled in tightly wound sheets with the hot press of Hannibal’s body behind him. He’s overheated and disoriented, and his cock is achingly hard. Hannibal’s hips rock against him, driving his cock between Will’s thighs. His breath comes in hot puffs, stirring Will’s hair, tickling behind his ear.

Each thrust rubs along the sensitive stretch of skin from Will’s dick along his perineum. He’s still half asleep and desperate to come already. He reaches down to fist himself, but Hannibal catches his hand and rolls him flat on the bed, pinning his hands at his side with a growl.

Will shudders, tries to arch his spine or grind against the bed, but Hannibal’s weight and force of his thrusts effectively keeps him held down. He might come anyway, just like this, which is unbelievable and also incredibly arousing. Hannibal has a way of making his body do things he never imagined possible.

“Fuck.” He bites down on the sheet and whines when Hannibal’s dick rubs past his opening. He has to take a centring breath and lifts his head. There’s a lingering soreness, but no worse than that initial stretch, not enough to turn him off to the idea. Hannibal had been so careful with him, after all.

But Hannibal doesn’t push inside. Will grunts in frustration. “Hannibal, please. Come on, just fuck me.”

Just to spite him, Hannibal comes with a low, almost inhuman groan. Will twists his wrists and bucks upward, but Hannibal just collapses on top of him, holding him down. He bites the nape of Will’s neck and scraping down his spine, still working his hips at the last few spasms of his cock.

“Fuck you,” Will moans, irritated and incapable of coming up with any other coherent thing to say. He’s still dazed from waking the way he did.

Hannibal hums in amusement. He rises up on his knees and shoves Will’s legs apart. Before Will can say or do anything, Hannibal goes down between his thighs. Hannibal licks up his own release, from behind Will’s testicles back against his hole. This time he doesn’t tease, just pushes his come inside with his tongue.

It shocks the breath of out him and he flails out, fist punching the mattress, feet tangling in the sheets. He rocks his hips back and Hannibal moans against him, thrusts his tongue in deeper and sucks at the rim of his opening. Will can’t stop a whimper; his thighs are quivering, muscles spasming from how tense he’s holding them. He buries his face in the sheets, panting and rocking back on Hannibal’s face.

Hannibal pulls away abruptly and Will makes a bereft sound, lifting his head to stare over his shoulder. He watches as Hannibal leans over him, grabbing the lube. He sits back on his heels and smacks Will across the ass. It’s hard enough to sting, skin heating under Hannibal’s palm. “On your knees,” he says.

Will, though incredulous, finds himself obeying, up on all fours. “What--”

Hannibal shoves two slick fingers in him, and that shuts Will up. His hands slip on the sheets from the force of it, mouth agape in surprise and the sudden rush of hot pleasure. Hannibal spreads his fingers apart, stretching Will open, and thrusts his tongue between them.

The touch is unlike the shallow penetration of his tongue before, or the feel of his fingers or his cock. It’s so light, almost too light, sending tiny jolts of sensation. No matter how Will pleads, Hannibal won’t give him anything more substantial. Though it’s maddening, he can feel the tendrils of pleasure slowly tickling up the backs of his legs and the small of his back.

And then, before long, he’s rocking back against Hannibal’s face, soft uhns falling from his mouth with every breath. He’s so close, but he knows he can’t come like this, dick thrusting in the empty air. He props himself on one hand and reaches for his cock.

Before his fingers can even brush the skin, Hannibal is moving, lightning fast like when he strikes his prey. He grabs Will’s fingers, crushing them in his grip and with a hand between his shoulder blades, shoves him down. Will’s other arm gives and he falls, cheek pressed into the mattress.

“Not yet,” Hannibal whispers, breath stirring Will’s hair. He jerks Will’s hands behind his back and pins them there with one wrist. His neck is at a weird angle, his back curved in a tight line with his ass high in the air and shoulders to the bed, and he has no leverage to lift himself.

Instinct tells Will to fight back, even if can’t win. Giving in without a struggle goes against who he is at the very core. He can’t shake the feeling that Hannibal’s testing him, though, and so he makes himself hold still.

In his head he can see the way he looks, on display for Hannibal, willing and submissive, like some kind of thing to be had. He can’t help but moan at the thought, at the realisation that this is something that turns him on and he’s gone his entire life without knowing it.

“Will you stay?” Hannibal asks him. Will takes a deep breath and nods his head. Hannibal releases him and Will laces his fingers together, holding them in place behind his back.

Hannibal strokes him in approval, down his back, around his hip, and over the curve of his ass. He is tender, fingertips tracing the lines of his body. The touches are pleasurable but calming rather than stimulating. Will feels his muscles loosening as he settles into this position, and he’s no longer teetering on the edge of coming.

“Good,” Hannibal purrs. He brushes aside Will’s hair to kiss his neck. Gentle, sucking kisses that steal Will’s breath, make him light-headed. As he brings a bruise to surface, he probes between Will’s legs, pushes inside with two fingers but only for a few brief strokes before pulling out, cups his balls.

Will turns his head to the side, cheeks hot against the cool sheets, breath coming fast again, already, just from this. He considers asking for more, but Hannibal isn’t going to give it to him unless he wants to, no matter what he says, or how prettily he begs. He weighs in his head the embarrassment it would cost him against the pleasure it will undoubtedly bring Hannibal, and that is enough to unlock his tongue. He exhales Hannibal’s name, more, please.

Hannibal licks his way down Will’s spine, biting down hard between the T3 and 4, where he holds most of his tension, before continuing down. Those two fingers drag back over his perineum and thrust back in again, and the slow, torturous process begins again. A few fleeting strokes, pulling out, cupping his balls, rubbing the sensitive stretch of skin between, and in again.

Will makes a strangled sound. It’s a struggle to keep still when all he wants to do is break free, pin Hannibal to the bed and climb on him. Or maybe hold him down and fuck him like this, make Hannibal lose his mind with need.

Like he’s reading Will’s thoughts, Hannibal kisses the inside of each of his wrists where they’re stretched across his back. “I can hear you thinking,” Hannibal says. His teeth drag over thin skin.

“Then maybe you should just fuck me already and shut me up.” Will looks over his shoulder, biting his bottom lip. He’s going for flirtatious, though he probably just comes across debauched.

Hannibal’s nails scrape down his ass cheeks, first just the barest whisper of a touch, then again harder, and harder, until Will knows there will be angry streaks on his skin for days and his dick is leaking, the small of his back aching from the tight line of his spine. And fuck, he’s close again. Each time Hannibal’s fingers sink deep into him, he feels in building higher.

Will rounds his back, draws in his abs, rocks down and back, making his dick rub between his thighs and and pelvis. It’s hardly anything, but it’s enough to get him off. He grinds down, balls drawing tight and gasps out, “Oh fuck, I--”

“Don’t you dare,” Hannibal growls, the tone making the hair of Will’s arm stand on end. He wraps an arm around Will’s waist and grabs him around the base of his cock punishingly tight, and presses down with the tip of his finger behind Will’s balls. His cock jerks, like he’s coming, but there is no relief, no hot liquid streak. He’s still painfully hard.

“Fuck, Hannibal, come on,” he snaps. He’s past the point of caring about Hannibal’s little game any longer. It feels as though it’s been hours since they began. His body is dripping with sweat, sore and stiff in this position.

Hannibal rubs his other hand over Will’s hip, grabs a handful of ass cheek and squeezes, and Will reflexively pushes back. He is empty, aching for Hannibal to fill him up and when he finally feels the blunt press of Hannibal’s cock pushing against his opening, he almost cries in relief.

In a single flex of his hips, Hannibal buries himself in Will’s body and then he starts fucking him. He draws back slowly each time, then thrusts in hard and fast. Will is shoved up the bed and finally lets go of his own hands, bracing his hands against the headboard. Hannibal covers him chest to back, arm like a vise around Will’s hips, hauling his body back on his cock. The force is jarring; Will can feel it in his teeth. He can get so much deeper in this position, splitting Will open.

This is closer to what he’s wanted--the obscenity of being held down, filled up, and used. The ecstasy of being take out of his own mind, of Hannibal giving him pleasure until it becomes too much. The slow, tender love-making was so far from his expectations as to be thrilling in its own right, but this…

This has Will panting like some sort of wild creature, each breath ending in a weak, high-pitched whine. He is mindless with lust and he’s not sure if he likes the way it feels, like his chest has been split open and Hannibal can see everything inside, like he’s giving up some final shred of control he wasn’t even aware he’d been clinging to, some last part of himself that Hannibal has yet to touch. A dangerous, needy hunger that goes beyond the codependency Hannibal has fostered in him. It's something visceral, unthinking, and instinctive.

Hannibal grabs him by the hair and yanks him back up on all fours, and Will finally has the leverage to really meet him thrust for thrust, bearing down and rocking back hard and fast with no sense of rhythm or finesse. The only thing keeping him from coming is Hannibal’s grip on his dick, and he needs to come so badly it’s a physical pain.

Will’s breathing is so shallow he might actually pass out before he comes. He thinks he’s crying, but it’s hard to say, when the only things he can really focus on is the feel of Hannibal moving inside him and the points where he restrains him.

“Please, Hannibal,” he whines and fuck how is that his voice? Like he might die if he doesn’t get what he needs.

“Begging is so lovely on you, Will,” Hannibal says. The words feel like an actual physical caress.

Hannibal sits up suddenly, holding Will fast to his chest. “Oh fuck,” Will moans. “Oh fuck, you’re so deep.” He widens his legs and swivels his hips, grinding himself down on Hannibal’s lap. His hands flail out at his side, unsure what to do with them. Hannibal has a tight grip on him still and every part of his body is over-sensitised. He settles for reaching behind himself, twining his hands in Hannibal’s hair.

Hannibal noses up the side of his neck and Will can feel the broad smile pressed against his skin. He bites Will’s ear and tugs. The hand on his dick releases him and a single finger draws up his length.

“No,” Will protests weakly, and Hannibal ignores him, circling the head of his cock with his thumb, smearing the precome, then stroking back down with the same light touch. Any second he’s going to come, at this point it’s inevitable, and he needs Hannibal’s hand around him.

“Someday,” Hannibal says, “I’m going to tie you down, fuck you for hours,” and Jesus Christ if hearing Hannibal say the word fuck, rolling of his tongue like it belongs there, doesn’t push him that much closer to the edge. “And you’re going to come, just like that, just from my cock in your ass.”

Will cries weakly, “Please, Hannibal.” This is dirty pool.

“Make me come,” Hannibal says. “Make me come and I’ll give you my hand.”

At his words, Will leans forward, braces his hands on Hannibal’s knees and gives up any sense of shame. This is what Hannibal wants, this is what turns him on, makes him say these things that are so ridiculously hot that Will almost wishes he weren’t about to come so they could keep doing this for hours. That’s enough to make him unrepentantly wanton.

His legs are quivering from the strain of overextended pleasure, burning when he rises up on his knees and works himself back down on Hannibal’s cock. Each time he seats himself, he draws his muscles in tight, enjoying the grunts it earns him from Hannibal.

They’ve done this enough that Will can read the signs that Hannibal’s close--the way his thighs tense, his nails biting into skin, the harsh breaths through his nose picking up speed. He squeezes around Hannibal’s cock and draws his hips in tight circles, ruthless, and lets out a little ha of delight when Hannibal’s hips thrust up again, involuntarily. The sound he makes is just utterly filthy, a gluttonous, satisfied groan breathed in Will’s ear, drawn out with each pulse of his cock.

Before he’s even finished, Hannibal wraps a hand around Will’s cock, and it doesn’t even take a full stroke before he’s coming, too. Hannibal’s grip his hot and slick, pumping him through each spasm. This is not the white noise, heavy limbed relief of an orgasm. This is like a fucking storm laying ruin to his body, leaving him battered and bruised and lucky to be alive. He’s never come so long in his life--thick, hot stripes all over the bed and the both of them.

At some point, he must actually black out, because the next thing he knows he’s lying on his stomach, Hannibal sitting beside him on the edge of the bed with a glass of water and a smug expression. Will rolls onto his side, head flopped back, and lets out a trembling moan. Hannibal lays a hand on his forehead, palm cool from the sink, and pushes back his sweat-soaked hair.

“Fuck,” Will says, succinctly. He can still feel the ghost sensation of Hannibal inside him and shifts his hips chasing it. He glances down at Hannibal’s lap, his flaccid dick, then back at his face. “How long before we can do that again?”

Hannibal gives him an indulgent smirk. “While I appreciate your enthusiasm,” he drawls, “I have just come twice in the last hour and though I’ve yet to succumb to the ravages of old age, neither am I in my sexual prime.”

Will arches a brow, but he’s too pleasantly spent to muster any real cheek. “If this is you past your sexual prime, I’m not sure whether I should envy or pity your lovers from your youth.”

That provokes an unexpected, open smile, the kind that softens Hannibal’s whole face, warms the colour of his eyes. “Your jealousy over my sexual history is unfounded, let me assure you. It’s true I’ve slept with many, many people--likely more than you imagine. But what I was engaging in with them is not what I have shared with you.”

“Oh?” Will asks cautiously, uncertain he wants to hear any more. The post-coital haze is quickly being eaten away by the rising swell of prickling heat in his chest, as if being told his jealousy was unnecessary ensured he double down on it.

Hannibal puts the water glass on the nightstand and pulls Will closer until his head is resting on Hannibal’s thigh, Hannibal’s hand teasing gently through the tangles in his hair.

“Sex has always been a means to an end,” he explains, like he’s telling a story. “Whether to manipulate or for the aesthetic pleasure, or merely to pass the time in an enjoyable manner--different from a night at the opera due only to the lack of any emotional aspect to the sex.

“I understand that is difficult for you to believe or even comprehend the idea of sex without intimacy. I imagine even with your one night stands you found it impossible to avoid an emotional attachment to your partner.”

It is an unfortunate truth, and the reason that the number of people he’s slept with barely exceeds the number of fingers on one hand, but none of that makes him feel any better about it. No matter how often he marvels at this newfound jealousy over his lover’s exes, it never goes away.

Hannibal sighs, that long exhale that says Will is testing his patience with this attitude. “To be more explicit, I have never craved sex. I have never sought it out based on my attraction to another person. This purely figurative longing for your flesh is an utterly new and novel experience for me. Feeling not only desire for you, but the covetous compulsion to have you, again and again, in whatever way you’ll allow...” His fingers draw enticingly along the back of Will’s neck.

“If anything, it is I who should feel resentful towards your past lovers,” Hannibal says, with an easy, cool malice, “with whom you’ve shared yourself so completely.”

Even now, Hannibal’s tone makes him shudder in something akin to fear. Not for himself, not even for what Hannibal might do to the women in his past. Fear over the fact that he enjoys this dangerous possessiveness they harbour for one another, and what that will inevitably lead to.

This is an easy wound to salve. Will sits up, looks Hannibal in the eye. “Don’t mistake my empathising with them for intimacy, Hannibal.”

“Don’t mistake my sleeping with them for the same, then,” Hannibal counters.

Will rolls his eyes and shrugs in concession. “I guess that short of hunting down every person who’s ever touched you and amputating limbs there’s nothing to be done for it.”

“Such an undertaking would keep us occupied for some time.” Hannibal tucks back Will’s curls behind his ear; it’s become a common, comforting gesture that counters the pointed sting of the words.

He shakes his head. “You’re an asshole,” Will mutters.

Hannibal gives him a placid, beatific expression. “Come, I’ve run a bath for you. Epsom salt and an assortment of anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic essential oils.”

Will sinks in the steaming water, hissing at the sting of every exposed bruise and scratch. After adjusting to the heat, he relaxes back against the rim of the tub with a deep sigh. Hannibal likes to wash him, and Will likes to indulge him.

It’s a unique, delicate sort of vulnerability and intimacy from what he feels when they’re sharing their thoughts or having sex--the methodic, almost ritualistic way he massages the shampoo into Will’s hair, the gentle tug of his fingers combing through the curls as he rinses it clean. The sensual drag of the sponge, warm water rolling over his skin.

After, Hannibal leaves him to soak. Will can hear him speaking softly on the phone in the next room. Between the heat and scent of the water, the lingering afterglow, and the lyrical tones of Hannibal’s voice, he finds himself dozing off.

By the time he rises from the bath, the water has gone cold and his skin red. He wraps himself in the robe Hannibal left for him and goes back into the suite. There’s a room service tray by the table and covered dishes set out, champagne and fresh juice.

The doors to the terrace are open and the stray is basking in the sun. Her fur is shining and other than the bandages she looks like a different animal from the one he found just last night. Grinning, Will grabs a slice of toast and goes to sit beside her.

“I called and had them bring her up,” Hannibal says. “I thought you might like some time together before taking her home. They’ll be back to take her to the kennel at four.”

Will hasn’t even thought about the logistics of getting her back home. He tears off a piece of bread, closes his hand around it, and offers his fist to her. She looks up at him, considering, before snapping at it. The bite isn’t hard enough to break skin and Will waits while she snaps again, then starts pawing at him. The vet has clipped her nails, but she still leaves welts on the back of his hand.

“How are we going to get her home, anyway?” he asks, still patient as she licks and snaps at his closed fist.

“The veterinarian has already signed the exit paperwork for her, though she needs a name,” Hannibal says. He’s sitting at the breakfast table, waiting for Will to join him, ankle crossed over knee, cheek propped against his fingers. The very picture of sophistication even dressed only in his pyjama pants.

Will chest feels too full and happy, he has to take a moment to marvel at the life he is living. He looks down at the lab, finally just nudging at the seam of his fist and he praises her, opening his palm so she can take the treat, stroking the thick fur on her neck. “That’s right,” he tells her. “Gentle. What’s your name, huh girl?”

Hannibal, apparently reaching the limit of his tolerance, pours them a steaming cup of tea. Will takes the hint, clambering to his feet. He washes his hand and sits across from Hannibal, lifting the lid of his plate.

“We’ll have to charter a private plane,” Hannibal says and though Will is struck dumb by that, Hannibal hardly seems bothered. “Otherwise it might take several weeks before the commercial airlines will ship her.”

Will bites his lip to keep from remarking on how entirely under his thumb Hannibal is. Paying thousands of dollars for a private plane just so Will can bring his dog home right away. Probably Hannibal can read his thoughts anyway, in the grin he’s wearing. He reaches over the table to take Hannibal’s hand in his.

“Thank you,” Will says, tipping his head towards the dog. “For her. And for last night.”

Hannibal’s eyes brighten with interest. “Ah. I admit, I was concerned at first, wondering if I’d made the right decision.”

“Not as much fun toying with your patient when you actually care about him?” Will teases.

“Now Will,” Hannibal chides, “I’ve cared about you for quite a long time and have always taken great pleasure in toying with you. Though I am glad to hear that you still view last night’s activities as enjoyable, now that you are no longer under the influence of the medication.”

“It’s mostly like a dream,” Will says. He can easily call to mind the feelings he experienced the night before, though in his memory the actual events are brighter and faster than it could have possibly been in reality, blurring together and bit more than he’d like. “I do remember how it felt, watching. I---I shouldn’t--”

Under the influence of the drugs, it was a lot easier to accept his glee over the killing, and the staggering arousal at seeing Hannibal do the same. It isn’t the guilt and shame he felt the first time, in Antigua, just disbelief.

Until now some part of Will has harboured doubt. Some part of him has been waiting for the other shoe to drop, for all of this to end bloody. Could Will actually kill for nothing other than the enjoyment of it? Could he still live with himself if he did, or would he find a more decisive method for killing them both than going over the cliff? That last rational holdout is what fell away under Hannibal’s touch as he dismantled Will this morning, Will loving every moment of it, begging for it, even with the memory of what they’d done together the night before.

This is who they are, and Will accepts it. He knows now that his love for Hannibal, tested in both thought and in practice, is enough. Even if nothing else came out of last night, that would be more than enough.

Hannibal is watching him, sharp as a hawk and Will swallows around his mouthful of food and takes a drink before speaking. “It was a good idea, but I don’t think I want to do it again.”

“Oh?” Hannibal’s tone is cautious and guarded.

Will nods, dabbing at his mouth with his napkin and getting up from his seat. He comes around the table, nudging Hannibal’s chair back to sit in his lap. Hannibal drops his crossed leg and brings his arms up to frame Will in an unthinking gesture. “That way you can’t give me any bullshit reason not to fuck me when I ask you.”

“That would make for some very damning forensic evidence,” Hannibal says, slowly warming, though still hesitant. Testing.

Will waves a hand carelessly. “Well, we aren’t staying in the Caribbean forever,” he says. “Might as well leave Jack a really interesting crime scene, though it’s a pity we won’t be around to see his reaction. And just think how truly ecstatic Freddie Lounds would be if she ever got ahold of that little tidbit.”

Hannibal’s lips pull back in a sneer and he says, “I doubt it would be more outlandish than any of the current theories she’s publishing.” Will closes his eyes, lets himself focus on Hannibal’s wandering mind, watching all the beautiful, vengeful plans he has in mind to visit upon dear Miss Lounds. He feels no revulsion, no regret.

When he opens his eyes again, Hannibal is watching him with an expression of naked adoration. His thumb strokes over the scar on Will’s forehead, and Will understands the gesture for what it is. They meet for a kiss, both leaning in at the same time, lips soft and searching.

“I know you said you’d stop for me,” Will says. He’s already breathing quickly and he can’t bring himself to pull any further away than to speak. “I know you wanted to mean it because you worried I wouldn’t actually be able to live this life with you. But I’m in this, Hannibal. As much as you would change for me, I’ve already changed for you.”

Chapter Text

Will goes to pick up Samantha and finds the house blessedly empty save the housekeeper. Apparently there’s a party on some rock star’s yacht and half the island is there. Will passes on to her the rum cakes and coffee beans they brought as thank you gifts, and counts himself lucky.

Sam and Tara spend five minutes walking in circles sniffing each other’s butts, then spend the afternoon chasing each other through the yard. Hannibal looks somewhat aggrieved by the disruption but doesn’t actually say anything. For now Tara will have to stay in the spare room until Will can break of an unfortunate habit of chewing through power cords, but he thinks she’ll fit right in. She’s smart and a quick learner.

After their vacation, Will thought it would be nice to come home. He'd enjoyed their time away, more than enjoyed the things they'd done, but even with all the changes he's been through lately, he's still an introvert at his core. He still wants the comfort and solace of his own private, familiar space. But instead he feels anxious and unsettled. It’s nothing in particular, just a faint buzzing under his skin as he goes about his daily routine. The coffee shop, out fishing, going for a run, there’s an odd, lurching sensation, like he’s waiting for the ground to fall out from beneath him.

He spends a long time on the beach, throwing pieces of driftwood into the surf for the dogs to chase, trying to pin down the source of this feeling. Not guilt over what they did in Jamaica. It isn't his past--Abigail doesn't even visit him anymore, which is bittersweet, because he misses her more. He doesn't miss Molly and Walter. The part of him that loved them--needed them fell away when Will made the decision to fight against the dragging ocean current. He can't even feel sorrow over the lost potential of that life, but he does wish that his transformation hadn't caused them so much pain. They deserved far better than him, but they will recover. Molly is strong and good, and she won't let this destroy her.

So what is this sudden discontent?

Isandro has them over for dinner Tuesday evening and Will is thankful for the distraction. His quiet little Swedish cottage on the north side of the island is cosy and full of the history of those who’ve lived there. Photographs of Isandro and his late wife, Karina, Hilli from the moment she was born and throughout her childhood and teen years. Will lets the affection and warmth echoing from the walls, a life he's never known for himself, wash over and soothe him.

Hannibal is friendly and charismatic, easily charming Isandro and Will suspects Hilli is in love by the time they finish their soup. Isandro makes a creole-style fish and polenta that’s simple but delicious, and Hannibal is even complimentary. Will finds himself smiling in pure pleasure at the effort Hannibal is putting in to making a good impression on Will's friends, and gives his hand a squeeze under the table.

They stay late, drinking cognac in the den. Isandro and Will swapping fishing stories while Hilli and Hannibal discuss French poets. Will might go so far as to believe that Hannibal is enjoying himself in earnest.

When they get home, Will pins him to the car door and goes down on his knees, right there on the poured concrete floor, ignoring the ache. He blows Hannibal until he’s steadily leaking precome and his fingers are tugging in Will’s hair. Then he bends Hannibal over the hood of the car and slicks himself with spit.

Hannibal is so fucking tight, legs trapped together by his slacks. Hannibal's sharpness is softened with drink--not drunk, but tipsy at the least. He grunts when Will shoves in, braces his hands on the hot metal and shoves back on his dick with needy little moans that makes Will thrust harder. He comes first and hooks three fingers in Hannibal, rubbing relentlessly over his prostate and jerking him off until he comes all over the car.

Will kisses the back of his neck and says, “Thanks for coming with me. And being nice to my friends.”

Hannibal stands, slightly unsteady on his feet, redressing himself. Will likes the way he looks, cheeks flushed, hair falling in his alcohol-brightened eyes. “You have such low expectations of me,” Hannibal says, still out of breath.

“Just realistic,” Will says with a shrug. He bites back a smile when Hannibal growls and grabs him around the waist, tugs him into a hard kiss.

Some of the anxiety has lessened throughout the evening, but when they’re lying in bed that night, it returns. There is a fragrant breeze blowing through the curtains, and Hannibal is sleeping soundly beside him, but sleep is elusive for Will. He’s wide awake and restless for no good reason.

For hours he tosses and turns, until Hannibal lets out a sigh and grabs him, hauls him close, and pins him to the bed with his weight. He nuzzles against Will’s hairline before resting his chin in the curve of Will’s neck. “Do you wish you share what’s troubling you, love?”

Will gives an aborted shake of his head. “I don’t--” He draws in a deep breath, holding it for a second before letting it go. Normally that helps ease the heavy ache of anxiety these days, but there is no release in his chest. It just catches higher. “I’m sorry, I’ll just get up.”

Hannibal’s grip tightens, muscles flexing and shifting as he pulls Will closer. “We shouldn’t both be miserable in the morning,” Will protests.

“Close your eyes,” Hannibal says. It’s an easy direction to follow; his eyes are stinging from the effort to keep them open.

Fingertips brush lightly up Will’s side, turning on the downstroke, the edge of Hannibal’s nail tickling along his ribs. Hannibal takes a deep breath as he draws his hand up and exhales slowly on the way down. Will follows his lead, focusing on the feel of Hannibal’s chest expanding against his back, in time with his own, the hot rush of breath against his neck.

After a time, Hannibal speaks, his voice barely more than a whisper. Will has heard Hannibal speak his mother tongue maybe a handful of times, only briefly, but it’s enough for him to recognise the sound of it. The strangely melodic blend of sibilants and consonants, words flowing one into the other. Will can’t understand a single word of it, but he likes listening nonetheless. There is a rhythm to it, following that of their mingled breaths, and it carries Will to the twilight place between wakefulness and sleep.

*

Will has forgotten all about the invitation to Bonito’s until the doorbell rings the next afternoon. Hannibal is in his study--sketching the last time Will poked his head in, and Will is closer anyway. “I’ll get it,” he calls down the hall of his way to the front door.

The actress, Spencer, is standing there, looking magazine ready in a bikini under a sheer coverup, hair artfully tousled and makeup perfectly applied. Rook is with her at the other end of the spectrum in skinny jeans, an old, faded Rolling Stones shirt with a blazer and fucking Newsie cap, never mind the heat.

Will manages to school his features as to not show his disdain, opening the door just enough to be friendly but not enough to invite them in. “Spencer, Mister Rook. To what do I owe the honour?”

Maybe it’s obliviousness, or Hollywood entitlement, but Rook pushes inside, turning sideways to squeeze past Will. Spencer gives him a blinding smile and follows along. Rook lets out a low whistle. “Nice digs--especially for just the two of you.”

“We like our space,” Will says, cautiously, stepping past them into the hall that leads to the living area. “Can I offer you a drink?” He gestures towards the kitchen.

“I would kill for a mojito,” Spencer says.

Will nods graciously, because of course you drink at one in the afternoon when you’re a movie star. He leads them down the hall to the living room--making a big deal out of this is only going to draw unnecessary attention. The door to the study is closed, thankfully.

“So we missed you the other day when you picked up Sam,” Spencer says, going down on one knee to coo over Sam. Will goes through the wet bar for the rum, pulling out ice and fresh mint from the mini-fridge.

“Yeah, sneaking over while we’re out, almost like you were trying to avoid us.” Rook’s tone is playful, but there’s something about the look in his eye that makes the hair at the back of Will's neck prickle.

Will gives him a tight smile as he pours the rum over the ice and muddled mint. “We were just tired from the trip--wanted to get Sam as soon as possible.”

Spencer, oblivious to the tension, flops herself down on the sofa with a sigh. “Well, that coffee was just awesome,” she says, and accepts the glass Will hands her.

“What can I get you, Mister Rook?”

Rook comes over to lean against the tiled cabinet top. “Alexander, please. I don’t suppose you have a Heineken in there?”

Will lets out a little chuckle of disbelief. What he wouldn’t give right now for some of Hannibal’s special brew to give the man. “Sorry.”

“I guess I’ll just have to have a mojito, too, then, though I certainly wouldn’t kill for it.” It’s an awkward thing to say, even considering Spencer’s use of the phrase. With Rook standing so close, Will can’t help but notice the intensity with which he’s being watched. “That’s, uh, an interesting scar you have there,” he says, brushing a thumb over his own cheek.

“I like it,” Spencer says. “Very rugged. Very manly. You should totally write a character with it in your next film.”

“I really should,” Rook says. Will is uncomfortable with the way he says it, layered with implications. He realises how tightly he’s holding the muddler and makes himself relax.

“Well hopefully your character is a fisherman, then.” Will slips on an easy, comfortable persona and lets the story fall from his tongue, lets his hands move as he talks, painting the picture. “It was from a run-in with a blue marlin off Bimini. Nasty sucker, almost nine-hundred pounds. Took three of us to wrangle it on board, and I ended up getting speared.”

Spencer looks vaguely sick. “Guess it adds veritas,” she says. “All about the details.”

“Mmm.” Rook hums in agreement. “I’d love to hear more stories about your...markings.”

Will struggles with his incredulity and carries on with his character. “I would really love to tell you all about them,” Will says. “But you know, Linas and I actually have dinner plans this evening, and I should start getting ready soon.”

“Maybe tomorrow,” Spencer says brightly. “You’re still coming to Bonito’s, right? Can’t miss it--my birthday, the big two-five.”

It’s as though Will has found himself in one of the ridiculous movies they’re referencing and the genre’s just changed on him. He stumbles upon them in Rose’s backyard or they walk through his front door, and he’s suddenly in a situational comedy where the middle-aged serial killing cannibal and ex-fbi profiler lover move in next door to a bunch of Hollywood twenty-somethings and wacky hijinks ensue.

“Certainly a big one,” Will says, as gamely as he can.

“Yeah, we’re still all dying to meet your husband, too.” Rook casts a look at the study door. There’s soft music playing. “Is he here, now?”

Will stops himself before he moves protectively between Rook and the door. “He’s working. He doesn’t like being interrupted while he’s writing.”

Rook nods, swirls his glass, ice clinking. “And your husband...Lect--I’m sorry, Lucas, was it? What does he write?”

Cold grips Will by the back of his neck, shivering down his spine. He lifts his gaze, meeting Rook’s eyes for the first time head on. The man arches his brows innocently, but Will looks past that--sees the smug satisfaction at the reaction he’s garnered. He’s almost insufferably egotistical with a modicum of intelligence, and whatever he knows, or thinks he knows, he believes he’s playing a game.

“Linas,” Will says slowly, “writes poetry.” He’s quick enough to incapacitate them both if he goes for Rook first, and with a cry Hannibal would be there in seconds.

But this isn’t the sort of death that people will ignore. Rose and the rest would come looking if they were gone too long. They’d have to run, immediately. And Spencer remains unaware of what’s going on. She doesn’t deserve being caught up in this, and Will can’t even say what this even is.

“Bonito’s,” he says, turning a bright smile on Spencer. “Sounds good. What time?”

Chapter Text

“Are you planning on sharing with me the reason we’re attending the most publicised fête in all of the Caribbean this evening?” Hannibal asks, when Will tells him of the dinner.

“Not yet,” Will says. It’s entirely possible he’s blowing this all out of proportion.

“All right,” Hannibal says with equanimity.

That’s all the more he says on the matter until they’re driving to the party the next evening. “There will be paparazzi photographing from out at sea,” Hannibal points out.

Will’s hands tighten and loosen around the wheel. “So we stay off the patio.” He can feel the curiously amused look Hannibal is directing at him and his hands tighten again, making the leather squeak under his fingers. “There’s.” He stops, breathes hard through his nose. “There’s this guy. This friend of Peter’s.”

When Will is no more forthcoming, Hannibal readjusts himself in his seat, turning to look at him fully. “Is there something you want to tell me, Will?” It’s only mostly teasing. There’s an honest, electric current underneath, that speaks of absolute bloody carnage.

“That’s not it,” Will snaps. He knows it’s hypocritical, being annoyed by Hannibal’s jealousy, but Hannibal has no cause for it. “Look, he’s just--They were all asking about you and I thought it would be better to just give them what they want. We just go, and be normal and boring, and then they stop pressuring us to go to their fucking parties.”

A long silence, and then Hannibal says, “Very well,” his tone cold enough to burn.

The party is already in full swing when they arrive, dozens and dozens of beautiful young things mingling, shouting to be heard over the music which is some obnoxiously loud top forties mix being led by a dj on the patio.

It’s surprising how much they don’t stick out like sore thumbs, Will in his jeans and fitted tee, Hannibal as casual as he ever gets in grey slacks and a short-sleeved red button down left untucked and unbuttoned enough for Will to see the beginnings of his chest hair. Under any other circumstances, Will isn’t sure they’d have made it out of the house once he’d seen how Hannibal was dressed. But he needs to see Rook, make sure he just misunderstood the guy.

The crowd is eclectic to say the least--models of both sexes looking like they’ve just wandered off the beach in their bathing suits and bare feet, actresses in barely there dresses and full red carpet makeup, middle-aged actors who wouldn’t look out of place at a homeless shelter with their thick, untamed beards and ill-fitting bermuda shirts. Slick, behind-the-scenes sorts in full suits talking on their cells.

Then there’s the group gathered around Rook where he’s holding court, all skinny jeans and flannel and fucking beanies, and it takes all of Will’s energy not to scoff out loud when Rook sees them and gestures him to come over. Hannibal follows his gaze and Will can feel the change of energy, from a general violent foul mood into focussed, deadly rage.

Rook is attractive, Will supposes, in an objective way. Tall and whip-thin, bright blue eyes and honey blond hair, and a wide smile that lights up his face. But all Will can really see is the mind behind that, slimey and self-important, smug and comfortable in his seeming superiority. It’s frankly ridiculous that Hannibal would think that Will would be attracted to that.

Apparently, Rose spots them, too, and comes rushing over, stepping between them and Rook just as Hannibal starts to head that way. Hannibal stops himself short and gives her one of his deceptively sincere smiles.

“Guys!” she exclaims, and smacks them both on the chest in an excited gesture. Hannibal looks at the place she struck him bemusedly. “I had no idea you were coming! This is great, let me introduce you to everyone!” The level of unfettered enthusiasm is frankly bewildering to Will. She calls over her shoulder, “Peter, come meet Linas!”

Peter strolls over, looking as though he’d rather be just about anywhere else, so at least they have that in common, then. When he sees Hannibal, his eyes narrow. “I guess it’s true; you never can tell,” he says under his breath, though clearly meaning to be heard.

Hannibal’s smile tightens, though Will is the only one perceptive enough to notice it. “Peter, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you,” Hannibal says, offering his hand. “Rose speaks so frequently of you.”

“Rose speaks so frequently,” Peter says, with an equally false smile. Rose clasps her hands in front of her and looks at the ground. There’s an air of embarrassed sadness around her that makes Will want to reach out in comfort, but he keeps his hands to himself. “So, Spencer says you’re a poet. I guess that makes sense. You must be pretty good at it, but it’s funny, I’ve never heard of you before.”

Hannibal casts a glance at Will, a brittle, vicious amusement on his face. “My creations are for my own enjoyment, rather than public consumption. The luxury of being born into money is that I may pursue my interests at leisure.”

“Hmm, must be nice,” Peter says. Will is so over this shit; Bedelia has raised the bar for exchanging barbs and barely veiled insults and Peter is sadly lacking in that respect.

Thankfully Spencer chooses that moment to spot them and come over, enthusiastically greeting Will in the manner of the islanders. She rests her hand on his shoulder as she leans in to kiss him on each cheek, teetering on her heels that make her tower over him. Her breath smells strongly of cigarette smoke and marijuana and she’s carrying a martini in her free hand.

“Will! Is this gorgeous guy your husband?”

That shakes Hannibal momentarily from his single-minded, murderous intent and he glances from Spencer to Will in obvious surprise that melts soft and smitten when Will says, “Yes, this is Linas. Linas, Spencer.”

Hannibal brushes a kiss over her knuckles and Spencer blushes in honest delight. “Spencer, I enjoyed your performance in The Lonely Pioneer. You portrayed Signa’s loneliness and her tragic love for Carl with grace.”

Spencer laughs. “I can’t believe anyone even remembers that!” Will’s never even heard of it, but leave it to Hannibal to know off-hand her most obscure film.

They’re led around the room by Rose and Spencer, introduced to Hollywood elite, oil barons, and business tycoons, and propositioned for a threesome more than once. Hannibal takes it all in with unfazed, polite detachment. He never looks, but Will knows Hannibal is keeping track of where Rook is in the room.

Will is all too aware of the way the man is staring at them and isn’t surprised when he finally comes over, draping an overly-familiar arm over Will’s shoulders. “Spencer,” he says, in a teasing tone. “No fair keeping Will and Linas to yourself.”

Spencer gives Rook a not altogether pleasant look. “It’s my birthday, Alex, fuck off.”

Rook takes a plastic bag from his pocket and shakes the white powder inside at her. “Go find Nyla and get blintzed, baby,” he says.

Spencer stares daggers at him a long moment, then grabs the bag and storms off. Rook shakes his head at Hannibal and Will, smiling gamely and says, “Actresses, am I right?”

“Linas, this is Alexander Rook,” Will says. “You know, the director of all those Agent Caine films?”

Will had looked him up the moment he’d finally gotten rid of the two of them, read all that he could on the man, though there wasn’t a lot. Born in upstate California to an upper middle class family, went to film school, never ran into any trouble with the law. Fairly young and new by Hollywood standards--a handful of indie films under his belt, mostly coming of age dramas and quirky manic-pixie-dream-girl romances.

The Agent Caine films have been his big break, the third of which is supposed to be released in the summer. There’s nothing about the guy to give any indication why he’d do anything other than call the cops if he suspected that the people next door were serial killers.

“Oh, please,” Rook says, holding up a hand. “Please, the less said about Agent Caine, the better.” He rolls his eyes. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have the studios taking me more seriously, but I really only took them so I could work on my own stuff. I’m a writer, too, ya see.”

“How nice for you,” Hannibal says. Will is impressed by the way he makes it sound both complementary and scornful at the same time.

“Yeah, you know, I love meeting new people, learning their stories. All my characters are based on real people.” Rook glances at Will, then meets Hannibal’s gaze. “Like, I was thinking I could work it into a character somehow, when your husband was telling me about how he got his scar the other day.”

“Was he?” Hannibal looks at Will, lips pressed in a thin line.

“I gotta say, it was a little disappointing. I was hoping for something more...dramatic than a fishing accident.”

“Oh?” Hannibal asks.

“You know, I was thinking street-hardened cop,” Rook says. A faint smirk toys at his lips. “Maybe ex-FBI turned private detective, wounded in the line of duty.”

Hannibal sniffs in disinterest. “Doesn’t sound much different from the subject matter with which you’re currently working,” he says.

“Oh, well that’s because you haven’t heard the whole thing,” Rook says. Will can sense his excitement, a faint arousal that isn’t sexual--or at least not aimed at either of them, and arrogance. “That spy shit is so fake, man. This...this is going to be the real deal. True to life.”

“There are plenty of fact-based narratives in Hollywood,” Hannibal says. “Soulless, vapid creations utterly lacking in authenticity.”

Rook nods, lips pursed. “That’s because they all make the mistake of thinking the shit they write is more interesting that what actually happened. They hire experts and historians and fucking witnesses to give them an accurate portrayal of how shit went down, and then they throw it all out the window and add in lots of tits and explosions. But this story...this story I wanna tell exactly how it went down because this story...I gotta tell you. Better than fiction.”

“Sounds fascinating,” Will says, drawing the word out. Catching Hannibal’s eye, he tips his head just slightly towards Peter staring into the distance, bored as hell, and Rose nodding at everything they’re saying, though with a slightly glazed look too her eyes.

“Yes,” Hannibal agrees. He puts on that charming smile for socialites and talking Jack Crawford down from a rage. “I’d love to hear more, Mister Rook. Perhaps you might join us for dinner some evening to discuss it further?”

Rook tilts his head back and laughs incredulously, an aborted, scathing sound. “How about we go out somewhere?”

Not a complete idiot, then. Will has to reassess slightly. There is no outward change in Hannibal’s demeanour, but Will knows him so well, he might as well be actively gnashing his teeth at the man.

Sensing their reluctance, Rook goes on. “I have this really fascinating article I can share with you. This woman--she works for a gossip rag, of all things, but she seems to really know her shit--maybe you’ve heard of her? Freddie Lounds?”

Okay, an idiot after all. Clearly doesn’t know when to shut up. Thankfully Peter and Rose don’t seem to mark the name. All the same, Will is marginally concerned Freddie is going to be writing about the wholesale slaughter of half of Hollywood at a birthday party in St. Barts, at this rate.

Will reaches out to take Hannibal’s hand. Hannibal’s fingers are stiff and squeeze too tightly at Will’s when they twine together. There is a barely contained energy thrumming through him, making him tremble almost imperceptibly--the struggle to keep from killing the man right here and now. Will strokes his thumb over the inside of Hannibal’s wrist, soothing, but it makes no difference at this point.

“Linas and I have little time for tabloids,” Will says, dismissive, and Rook gives him a contemptuous roll of his eyes. “But if you insist on dining out, Le Tamarin has a lovely garden. The seating is very intimate.” Hannibal squeezes his hand more tightly and Will has to bite down on his tongue to keep from making a pained sound.

“Sounds good,” Rook answers, though he’s looking at Hannibal. “I’d really love to get your opinion on what I’ve got so far--you know, one writer to another.”

Rose lets out an audible sigh and Will latches onto an easy exit. “Rose, you look like you need a refill.” He takes her empty glass from her hand before she can protest. “What can I get you?”

“Oh.” Rose looks startled to find her hand empty, then realises they’re no longer discussing Rook’s film and brightens. “I had a bay breeze. But I’ll come with you--I still need to introduce you to Maggie Sullivant. You too, Linas.”

Hannibal allows Will to lead him away by the hand, though all of his attention remains focussed on Rook, and Rook knows it. They meet Maggie Sullivant, and a dozen others, and stay until the enormous cake is wheeled out, taller than Spencer and probably nothing she’s going to be eating anyway. Will leaves her gift on the table by the door on their way out, piled high with so much expensive shit she’s probably never going to use.

Outside, the rest of St. Barts is quiet and still. They walk in silence down the street to where the car is parked. Will is trying out what he might say in his head, but he can’t seem to get to the point where he opens his mouth. He is reminded of Florence, the uncertainty and potential for violence crackling between them.

When they reach the car, Hannibal leans over the top of the passenger side watching as Will unlocks the door and climbs behind the wheel. There is an intensity to his gaze, as if he’s trying to solve a puzzle. After a beat, Hannibal climbs in as well. Will puts the keys in the ignition, but doesn’t start the car. He’s still trying to figure out what to say.

“I have often found trust to be a fickle thing,” Hannibal says. He strikes a conversational tone, staring into the middle distance. “How can we trust anyone implicitly--even ourselves--when, in a single instant, everything we know to be true can be turned on its head?”

“I’m not playing this game,” Will whispers, voice weaker than he meant. “I didn’t betray your trust, Hannibal.”

Hannibal doesn’t answer and Will turns the key and starts the engine. He drives faster than he should, taking the curves at breakneck speeds. It’s pitch black except the beams of the headlights, spilling over the cliffside. Will clenches his teeth, tongue pressed hard against his teeth.

Will tells himself he doesn’t feel uneasy, getting out of the car before Hannibal, walking ahead of him into the house. But Hannibal is quiet and reflective, moving slowly. Almost dismissive of Will.

Uneasy and discontent, Will storms through the hall into the living room where Sam and Tara are waiting, tails wagging. He opens the rolling door to the night air and they run out ahead of him. Will follows, crossing his arms over his chest as though he’s cold. There's a strong breeze coming off the water, ruffling his hair, and normally he takes comfort from that sensation. Now his mind is occupied with thoughts of running. He clenches his fists, in his biceps, imagining tearing in and ripping away muscle in his ineffectual rage.

When he comes back inside, the light is on in Hannibal’s study. Will looks between the bedroom and the study before finally heading that way. Seeing Hannibal sit there in his office chair, legs crossed, chin in hand, Will only wants to go to him. Climb into his lap. Push close until he hears the steady beat of Hannibal’s heart, feels his hands warm and possessive pressing against his back.

Will crosses the threshold and goes to the chair across the rug from Hannibal’s and takes a seat, mirroring his pose. “You know, I’m not responsible when some asshole recognises us.”

Hannibal doesn’t even acknowledge that and Will feels the pit in his stomach growing. “I wasn’t even sure he knew anything,” Will says. The way Hannibal’s eyes slit, the pinched lips, the tense line of his shoulders all suggest that Will should probably stay silent. “We could just leave, now. I’ll bring the speedboat, we just take what we need and we can be in Venezuela by morning.”

“Is that really what you want?” Hannibal cuts him a knowing, provocative look from under his lashes.

“What I want,” Will echos with a rueful chuckle. “What I want is for us to be free. I want for us to be alive, and together, if at all possible.”

“Will,” Hannibal says, the name a reprimand. “At even the slightest suspicion, you could have told me and we could have fled. Instead, you chose to expose me to that...boor. That was a conscious decision on your part.”

He gives Will a moment to deny it, though, of course, Will doesn’t. “No, we’re staying, and we’ll see this through to the end.”

“And if he tells anyone about us?”

“If Rook were going to turn us in, he’d have done so already.”

“He thinks this is a game.” Will practically spits the words out.

Hannibal leans back in his seat, folding his hands together over his abdomen. “Then we’ll play.”

Will narrows his eyes, guarded. “You weren’t in a very playful mood at the party.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about Rook, before?” Hannibal asks, tilting his chin up in a gesture both challenging and inviting.

The sudden shifting of gears throws Will. The argument that Rook hadn’t said anything outright isn’t going to appease Hannibal. It’s a habitual motion, leaning forward, elbows digging into his thighs, turning his head to the right to regard the crackling fire that isn’t there any longer. No loft where he can retreat, regroup, and reorder his thoughts under the pretext of browsing Hannibal’s books.

“Would you care to hear my opinion?” Hannibal asks, and when Will remains silent, he rises to his feet. From the corner of his eye he sees the fluid, graceful movement accented by the casual, clinging lines of his wool slacks. Will watches with interest as he crosses the space between them and goes down on his knees at Will’s feet.

“You liked the idea of keeping me in the dark,” he goes on, hands closing around Will’s ankles, under the hem of his jeans. “It excites you to have me under your power in this way.” Hannibal rests his chin on Will’s knee, and just from this alone Will’s breath is coming faster, his dick stirring.

Their faces are close enough for Will to see the variations in colour of the radial striations of his irises--dark brown giving way to warm amber, flecked through with shades of green or red or black depending on the light. Will can’t pinpoint the exact moment when he first allowed himself to be lost in those eyes, allowing the line between them to begin to erode. Whenever it was, that was the beginning of the end, for him. That was the point of no return.

Will’s hand feels leaden as he lifts it to cup Hannibal’s cheek. He draws his thumb over the fine arch of his cheekbone and the scar there, along the plushness of his bottom lip. Hannibal catches it between his teeth, biting into the soft pad of Will’s thumb gently, though they both know the threat that lies beneath.

“You are at a crossroads. For the first time since we met, you find yourself in confrontation with a stranger whose only crimes are an inconvenient predilection for consuming tabloid journalism and, by means of his careless tongue, endangering the life we have started to build here. Dire though these transgressions might be, you cannot justify to yourself the destruction you crave. You know that I, on the other hand, have no such compunctions.”

Will closes his eyes. He doesn’t have to consider it. He already knows it to be true, clarity achieved even as Hannibal spoke the words. As entwined with one another as they’ve become, he should be used to Hannibal providing insight Will himself has not already discerned. In this moment, it fills him with unease.

This particular morsel is somewhat difficult to swallow. How far he’s come in such a short time, from trying to convince himself of his own morality in spite of his darker impulses, to fooling himself as to his own motivations in order to indulge those darker impulses. That old tug of conscience that has guided his hand as he’s chosen their prey.

“I didn’t…” realise? intend? Truthful though they both may be, either seems like a lie.

Hannibal’s hands slide from beneath Will’s jeans to smooth over them, up his calves, palming his knees and nudging them apart, thumbs following the seams along the inside of his thigh. Will watches the way Hannibal’s fingers settle into the creases of his hips, then back up to meet his eyes again. He can’t miss the submissiveness in the gesture, Hannibal at his feet, and he can’t deny that it excites him.

“I have no qualms about being the obedient attack dog at your side, awaiting only your word.” Hannibal doesn’t take his eyes from Will as he speaks. He slides his hands from beneath Will’s jeans and go to unfasten them, nimbly freeing the button and working the zipper down. “However, don’t do me the disservice of pretending I don’t know you.”

Hannibal jerks at the waistband and Will leans back in his seat, lifts his hips enough to get the jeans down around his knees. “No,” Will agrees on a breath. Hannibal draws Will’s dick from his boxers, stroking the edge of his thumb up the underside and tracing his nail around the head. Will bucks his hips, cock twitching at the touch.

“And don’t deceive yourself by thinking you can use subterfuge to play me for a fool,” Hannibal warns.

Will slides his hand further along Hannibal’s cheek and into his hair, fingers digging in with just enough pressure to urge Hannibal forward. “Oh, never that,” Will says, insouciant arch to his brow. The words die out on a moan as Hannibal swallows him down.

Chapter Text

Normally when Will wakes, he likes to lie in bed a while. Enjoying the crispness of the sheets against his bare skin, the soft sounds of nature through the open walls. Watching Hannibal cutting smooth, powerful lines through the surface of the pool.

The morning sun is a cold blue light in the bedroom, casting strange shadows and there’s a sick, roiling feeling in his gut. Hannibal isn’t in the pool, and when Will glances at the bedside clock, he sees he’s slept longer than he normally does.

Hannibal is in the study, standing at the open wall, gazing absently into the distance, deep in thought. Will sees the moment Hannibal senses his presence. He doesn’t speak, or turn, but Will can read the subtle body language. The tiniest shift in his stance, the slightest, welcoming tilt of his head.

Will goes to him, presses a kiss to his shoulder. Fingers trace across Hannibal’s back. The raised edges of the brand are mostly indecipherable now, cut through with the scars from the cliff face. A sigh of discontent warms against Hannibal’s skin. Even when Hannibal’s tight muscles begin to uncoil and he reaches out to draw Will to his side, arm tucked firmly around his waist, the feeling doesn’t subside.

Rook has soured this for him. Even if they were to find some miraculous resolution that removed the threat Rook posed and allowed them to stay, Will knows it’s too late. Time to move on. They’ve rested and recovered long enough, and this slow, quiet life was never meant to last forever.

“Amsterdam is beautiful this time of year,” Hannibal says. His voice has a dreamy, relaxed quality to it that tries to take hold in Will, tries to ease his anxiety. “Perfect weather for biking in the countryside. There's a cottage just outside of the city, under a pseudonym, within a twenty minute ride. Soon the flowers will be in bloom, the private canals will open for garden tours.”

Hannibal’s hand draws up Will’s back, fingers toying with the ends of his curls. “I could show you the Rijksmuseum. The building itself is a work of art--the soaring Spanish architecture and Moorish embellishments. One can spend days lost seeing the world through the eyes of the Dutch Masters. How I’d love to see you there.”

When Will is silent, Hannibal offers, “Or Japan. The ume blossoms are already fading in all but the northern most prefecture. Soon the sakura will be in full bloom. The viewing in DC is lovely, but I’ve always wanted to experience a proper hanami.”

Hannibal gives him a tug and Will allows himself to be pulled to face Hannibal, let’s his chin be guided up so their eyes meet. Hannibal’s hand traces lightly over his cheek and through his hair, and Will finally melts into the touch. By now more than familiar, it’s a calming, affectionate gesture that he craves, that tells him as clearly as any words Hannibal might use that he is loved. That he is adored.

Will pushes his cheek into Hannibal’s hand, closes his eyes with another sigh, this one dispelling the cold, dissatisfied feeling in his chest. “We can do both,” he says. A smile comes easily to his lips. “Years, Hannibal. We have years to see them. Show me everything.”

The kiss Hannibal gives him is at once hungry and sated, a strange, fragile thing that shakes Will to his core. A vow, made and sealed. Will’s heart is racing, can feel it in his temples and chest, against Hannibal’s fingers when he traces them down Will’s jaw and wrap gently around his throat.

When they part, Hannibal does not go far, resting his forehead to Will’s, breathing deeply of him. “First, we must deal with Alexander Rook.”

Will nods once, then again with more certainty, coming back to himself for that cocoon of drowsy warmth brought on my Hannibal’s words and hands and mouth. The tension winds back through his muscles, aching in his bad shoulder all the way down his back and arm.

Hannibal’s fingers dig into the hard, knotted mess of his shoulder and Will groans in mingled pain and relief. “If you are still interested, I could show you how to harness the strength you've been building,” Hannibal says. Will groans again when Hannibal finds a sweet spot and applies more pressure. “And then perhaps a massage?”

He’s being distracted from thoughts of dinner this evening, Will knows, and he’s thankful for it. His head hangs as Hannibal moves up his neck, thumbs tracing the ache that leads into the base of his skull with unerring accuracy. Then Hannibal stops, hands falling away, and Will bites his lip on a sound of disappointment.

Hannibal is watching him expectantly, and Will remembers there was a question somewhere in there. He can think of worse ways to spend the afternoon than getting sweaty rolling around with Hannibal. Rolling his shoulders brings a sweet pain left by Hannibal’s hands, and he’ll never say no to one of his massages. “Sounds good.”

Will has gathered some equipment for himself--some weights, a punching bag, foam padding for the floor, a mat and bench--set up in the empty half of the garage. They push it all to the side and lay the mat out in the centre of the floor over the padding.

“It’s little wonder that you’ve incorporated what you learned from watching others fight into your own repertoire. The clarity and complexity of your memory, your keen instincts, along with your ability allow you to easily assume the role of the combatant and recreate what you saw.”

“You make me sound like some kind of superhero,” Will snorts.

Hannibal grins. “Vigilante would be more apt, I think.”

He gestures Will closer, and Will goes with a bit of wariness. Hannibal’s stance has widened. There’s the slightest bend in his knees. His arms hang at his side, his shoulders back and down, but there’s a sort of lithe fluidity to his muscles as he moves, a potential for sudden and deadly violence.

“Okay,” Will says. Eyes track Hannibal’s movement as he moves in a semi-circle around the outside of the padding. “So what do I do?”

Hannibal wets his lips. It’s purely predatory and goes straight to Will’s dick. “I imagine you’ll end up losing quite a lot,” Hannibal says. His voice is a husky promise. “And learn a thing or two, in the process.”

Hannibal is the stronger of them, still. He has more mobility than Will and the benefit of training. But Will doesn’t think that necessarily counts him out. Randall Tier was stronger than him, younger, in peak physical condition. Then, of course, Will had rage on his side, but it isn’t something he can muster for Hannibal now.

He turns with Hannibal, copying his stance, and then feels ridiculous doing so. It doesn’t make him any more prepared for this. In the end, he’s still considering whether he’s supposed to be on the offensive or defensive here when Hannibal moves, almost too quickly for Will to react.

With a single stride of his right leg, Hannibal crosses the space between them, right foot dragging along the mat as it rises, aiming for his thigh. Will can see how it would play out, making his leg give out under him and Hannibal’s fist, already drawn back, driving into his jaw, the power of it, and the leverage of his position enough to lay Will out flat on his back.

Will shifts all his weight to his other leg and swings back just in time to avoid the kick. It’s an automatic, almost surprising reaction when he counters with his own kick, making firm contact with Hannibal’s leg. Unfazed, Hannibal ducks low, grabs him around the thigh and throws him.

More than the jarring impact as his back hits the floor, Will’s struck breathless at the power, the ease with which Hannibal accomplished it. He stands over Will, the only sign of exertion a fine sheen of sweat on his shoulders and along his brow, and offers his hand.

Will enjoys the firm grip, the blatant show of strength as Hannibal hauls him to his feet. Against his chest, rising and falling with his own steady breath, against Will’s heaving one. The brief moment of contact, made intimate by the smile in Hannibal’s eyes, before he steps back and says, “Again.”

If he thought it’d be easier the second time, knowing what was coming, he’d have been sorely mistaken, but Will isn’t that foolish. Countering with a kick hadn’t worked; now he strikes back with an uppercut, and Hannibal twists to the side, the blow just grazing his jaw, making his teeth clack together. He throws a cross that Will manages to avoid, leaning back, but it throws him off balance. Hannibal catches him with a foot behind the knee and Will is on his back again.

Hannibal smiles down at him, teeth bloody, and pulls him to his feet.

“I can’t shake the feeling that I’m stuck in some bad training montage,” Will mutters. His chest, oddly, is what feels sore, though he’s yet to be struck there. He rubs absently at the sore, strained feeling in his sternum.

That provokes an actual chuckle. “I’ll refrain from having you wax the car. Though there are exercises you can perform, to build your muscle memory.”

And Will knows he shouldn’t be surprised by anything Hannibal says or does at this point, but pop culture references are still beyond the pale. He shoots Hannibal a dubious, arched brow, which only makes Hannibal laugh again. “I do not exist in a void, Will,” he says affectionately.

Hannibal steps in closer, lays his palm against Will’s chest, nudging aside his hand, and directs him to turn, arm wrapping around him as Will obeys. Hannibal’s hand rests against his spine and with a firm twisting motion, he pushes in, hard. Will feels something give, his breath coming more easily.

“Thanks.” Will draws a deep breath, just because he can, rubs at the spot just to confirm that it no longer hurts at his touch.

“Again?” Hannibal says, as he steps away.

The third time ends much the same as the times before, but the fourth time Will manages to bring Hannibal down with him. It doesn’t actually work in his favour--Hannibal lands solidly on him, knee to Will’s gut, near enough to his healing bruise to nauseate him and Hannibal uses the distraction to get him in a choke hold.

The seventh time, Will manages to stay on his feet, the two of them trading blows until Hannibal disengages, steps back to let them collect their breath. The ninth time, Hannibal is the one on his back, looking up at Will with feral delight. His mouth is still bleeding freely, no time to close with the constant jabs and hooks, and there’s a bruise forming at his jawline.

Will is frozen in momentary disbelief that he did that, that he threw Hannibal off balance, shifted his centre of gravity, lifted and slammed him down, without feeling any rage, without some rush of adrenaline, without borrowing from any other mind.

Then Hannibal’s hand shoots out and grabs him by the ankle, knocks him down flat and uses the leverage to pull Will across the mat and pull himself up onto his knees in the same fluid motion, climbing over Will’s body, arms and legs caging him in.

Will’s muscles tense in anticipation, uncertain if this is still part of the game. He’s been half-hard since Hannibal proposed the idea of sparring and his arousal sparks higher at the look on Hannibal’s face, hungry and predatory. But Hannibal stays up on all fours, sweat damp hair falling to brush against Will’s forehead, eyes dancing over his face.

“It’s a shame you’ve never had any formal training,” he murmurs. “I’d wager you could have taken the Dragon yourself.”

That seems highly unlikely. Will has always been acutely aware of how small he is--average at best, slim and boyish, able to put on a layer of compact muscle, but not anything substantial. He’s always know that his greatest strength--and his greatest weakness--is his mind. There’s a reason he likes carrying a gun. His incredulity must show on his face.

“I suppose it’s an unfortunate side-effect of your empathy, allowing other’s perception of you colour your own,” Hannibal says. He sits back gingerly, letting his weight rest on his heels and the vulnerable, soft skin right above Will’s pelvis. “In time you’ll see for yourself.”

Will brings his hands up to frame Hannibal’s waist. He likes the way the sweat slick skin gives just a little under his hands, soft above the hard line of his muscles. Just another deception to make Hannibal seem less threatening than he actually is. A shift of Will’s hips nudges his dick against Hannibal’s ass, enough to show his interest.

Hannibal’s eyes catch fire, his tongue sweeps across his bloody teeth, sending shivers down Will’s spine. He leans in, face tucked into the hollow of Will’s throat and inhales deeply. Will feels the wet slide of his tongue along the curve of his neck, up the shell of his ear and Hannibal’s hot breath tickling his skin. Will tightens his grip and rocks his hips again, with more intent this time.

“I believe I promised you a massage,” Hannibal says and pulls away.

Will groans in protest, but he considers how he feels after Hannibal’s hands have worked the tension from his muscles, loose and blissful, somewhere out of his head. He imagines how it would feel with Hannibal fucking him like that, how easily his body would give to Hannibal’s touch. How Hannibal himself might enjoy having Will limp and pliable in his arms.

He watches the play of muscles in Hannibal’s back from his prone position as he returns order to the room, putting everything back in it’s place, arousal banked. Hannibal likes to say that Will is impatient, but he’s getting better. The sweet promise of what’s to come is a pleasure of it’s own.

“I’d like that,” Will says softly.

*

Rook is already waiting for them when they arrive at dinner. Friday nights are busy on the island, but he’s likely paid someone off. Their table is at the far edge of the garden--furthest from the other diners and the restaurant, and closest to the band. What conversation might carry from their table will be drowned out by the music.

Will is riding the endorphin high of the afternoon’s activities--his posture relaxed, his gait loose, almost drunkenly so. Rook is a pest, nothing more, and Will won’t allow the man the pleasure of unnerving him.

Hannibal has had time to perfectly compose himself this evening, calm mask firmly in place, adorned in appropriate armour. Will’s gotten so used to seeing him in casual suits, or their occasional nights out in formalwear, that seeing him in a suit he might have worn at his practice in Baltimore is jarring.

Rook is wise enough to wait until their waitress has taken their orders and brought their dinner before he breaks the tense, awkward small talk. “I just gotta say, this is...this is fucking unreal,” he chuckles, shaking his head.

Will bites back a sigh, rolling his eyes towards the dining area. No one is paying them any mind, not that he’d expected them to. “What do you want, Rook?”

Rook glances at him as if he forgot Will was there, then redirects his attention to Hannibal. “You know, when I first started doing research for my script, I wanted to do something timely. You got films for the Zodiac, Dahlia, Bundy...Dhamer--” This with a pointed smirk at Hannibal.

“But serial killers are a product of their times, man, and what was scary twenty, thirty, forty years ago is fucking tame compared to the shit we’ve got now. This Tooth Fairy guy. Sorry, Red Dragon.” He waves a hand. “Whatever, I think the Tooth Fairy has got more bite to it.”

And dear god, Will has enough horrible puns in his life already. “Get to the point.”

“Hey, man.” Rook looks at Will as though he is nothing more than a petty annoyance. “I’m the one with the upper hand, here, okay, so maybe you’ll shut the fuck up and let me tell my story.”

Will can feel Rook’s disdain for him like an actual blow. This man sees Will as inferior to himself, which makes a sort of incredulous, hysterical amusement bubble in Will’s chest. He casts a casual look at Hannibal.

Though Hannibal doesn’t take his gaze from Rook, the faintest twitch of his lips, the infinitesimal narrowing of one eye, the twitch of his finger against his wine glass are all for Will. A gentle affirmation and request for patience. Then Hannibal speaks, “Will.” His voice is a reprimand and dismissal.

Will’s jaw ticks, but he falls silent. He doubts he looks very happy or obedient, but it’s the best they’re going to get from him. Turning to Rook, he arches a brow as if to ask him to continue. The triumphant look on the man’s face makes Will clench his fists under the table in an effort not to throttle him.

“Anyway,” Rook says, “I was digging up everything I could on the guy. Crazy shit, what happened with his grandma and all. And that blind chick, she’s like pure gold. That’s what I mean, man. Hollywood would give their killer some perfect blonde bimbo--some fucking Spencer, ya know? Who’d like, actually drive him to murder-suicide with her magic pussy, whatever. This guy, he turned that shit right on its head. Hollywood wishes they could come up with something that perfect.”

“Francis had a great sense of purpose, before Reba,” Hannibal says. “It was the process of his Becoming that allowed him to have her. His mistake was thinking her love could change him in the same way he’d changed his victims. That her love could elevate him beyond his current form. He made the mistake of questioning his own vision in the face of that love.”

Will resists the urge to snort, biting back a comment on the compromises Hannibal has made for love. It warms him, to think of it, like Hannibal is saying two distinctly different things for two different sets of ears. “Francis,” he says, making a mockery of the name, “Was a snivelling child, using his pity-me, tragic childhood to justify slaughtering whole families and committing acts of necrophilia on the bodies.”

“Huh,” Rook says. “So, necrophilia is worse than cannibalism? Just trying to figure out the hierarchy.”

The fact that he has to ask makes Will’s skin crawl in disgust. “So what, you want the inside scoop on Dolarhyde?” he asked, swallowing back his bile.

“Freddie Lounds has done a pretty good job of that already,” Rook says. “She’s eager, really wants her name attached to a picture, not afraid to bend the law to get what she needs. Hot little body, too, might have to do something about that.

“But…” He pauses, draws his finger around the ring of his wine glass. “Imagine my fucking surprise when I’m just working on the script, minding my own business, and Will Fucking Graham comes strolling into Peter’s backyard talking about his reclusive genius husband…”

“As an aside,” Rook says, “I gotta say, I’m not sure how I feel about the whole playing queer thing. It’s just not going to go over very well. Outside of Freddie’s limited readership, no one’s going to buy Murder Husbands.”

Hannibal spreads his hands in cool deference. “It allows us to travel together without raising any undue attention. If you’re going for veritas…”

Will ignores them both, idly plucking up his butter knife and twirling it back and forth between his thumb and index finger. He could kill with it, he speculates, but it wouldn’t be a very efficient or satisfying weapon. Thoughts of what Hannibal said the night before echo in his head now, about Will’s reservations over killing Rook himself. At this moment, it wouldn’t be a hardship.

“The Tooth Fairy’s death was overshadowed by you two,” Rook is saying, when Will forces himself to focus. “The whole scandal over Chilton’s book, your escape, your seemingly dramatic demise. Some bloggers are even turning you into a fucking hero. Slaying the Dragon, pointing out you only ever killed people who’d wronged you in some way, where the Dragon was after happy families.”

“And the crazy ex-FBI profiler,” Rook says, turning his attention to Will. “Who, if Freddie is to believed, has some kookie mind-reading ability.” He’s clearly trying to provoke a demonstration, and Will isn’t going to give him the satisfaction.

After a pause, he goes on, “Who actually is the big fucking hero, sacrificing himself to take out two monsters. Man, would the media shit themselves to know you’d just run off with him again, for real this time. Which is why I want to write it.”

The barely veiled threat is just pathetic.

“So we give you information and then what? Anything you write after Dolarhyde is going to be pure fiction as far as anyone else is concerned, unless you name us as your source.” Will leans in closer, voice dropping in mock anxiety. “I don’t think the FBI is going to look too kindly on you consorting with Hannibal the Cannibal to make your movie…”

Rook shoots him a smirk. “The FBI probably hasn’t dealt with the studio lawyers,” he says.

Hannibal, silent through this exchange, clears his throat. He takes a sip from his wine glass, looking at Will over the rim. Then, addressing Rook he says, “Very well. We’ll supply you with the information you request.”

“Ha!” Rook slaps his hands together once, and rubs them. “I knew it. You guys always love to talk about what you’ve done, and what’s fucking better than someone who’s gonna tell it from your perspective?”

“Yes.” There is a reserved, hesitant look about Hannibal that even Rook should see. A deliberate show of weakness designed specifically for Rook’s benefit. “Though consorting with Ms Lounds must stop. Her embellishment of the truth will only detract from the purity of your vision.”

Rook purses his lips, elbows on the table, fingers laced under his chin. He’s weighing the pros and cons of cutting Freddie loose. Will huffs a sigh. “Stop thinking with your dick,” he says. “You went through the trouble of drawing us out, and now you’re getting what you want. Freddie Lounds will only find a way of fucking you in the end, and not in the way you’re thinking.”

“Fine.” Rook shrugs. “I only really needed her with I was writing about the Tooth Fairy. But that means no bullshitting.” This he directs at Hannibal, pointing a finger, and Will entertains himself with the mental image of Hannibal biting it off. “I want all the details, from the beginning.”

“It would be a very long film indeed if we went back to my origins, Mister Rook,” Hannibal says. “And frankly they’re no more extraordinary than those of Francis Dolarhyde. Tragedy and loss are unavoidable consequences of the human condition.”

“So you believe yourself to be human?” Rook asks, honestly curious. “Chilton, Bloom, Freddie...they’re all under the impression that you see yourself as something other than--better than--humans.”

“Though Will does like to flatter me, I am not a god. I am not immune to the passage of time.” Hannibal smiles then, a sharp, self-satisfied thing that even Will doesn’t entirely understand in this moment. “I suppose my uniqueness deprives me of some humanity. No human being can ever truly be unique, can they?”

“Where does your story begin, then?” Rook asks. He taps at the screen of his phone where it lies on the table, bringing up a recording app.

Hannibal draws a breath, eyes narrowing. He sits back on his chair, shoulders set high. “I understand your reticence to dine at our home,” he says. “Certainly you can understand my own at the thought of divulging such information in a public setting.”

“Well I guess we’re at an impasse, then,” Rook says, slumping sullenly.

“Come now,” Hannibal says. “You were clever enough to get us here this evening. Surely you can think of a solution.”

How many absolute morons have allowed Hannibal Lecter to stroke their egos to death, Will has to wonder. The words have an actual ameliorative effect on Rook. “I have a few ideas,” he says. “I rented a cottage at Eden Rock. Told Peter I needed a different setting to write. Fewer distractions. I’ll give you a call in a day or two.”

Until now, Will has found himself dictating what they will do and where they will go. It is with great relief that he surrenders control now to Hannibal. Hannibal who has planned countless murders, who spent years juggling all his disparate plates in Baltimore without ever drawing attention to himself.

When Hannibal agrees to Rook’s terms, the idea of biding their time does not make Will anxious. Hannibal knows what he’s doing, Will can trust that much, even if he doesn’t yet know the plan. Will they go after him in his cottage? Will they wait to see Rook’s next move? He does not question it. The look of warm approbation that Hannibal gives him is reward for his faith.

Chapter Text

After his run and his usual stretches and exercises, Will incorporates the new movements Hannibal has taught him. It will be days and weeks before the maps are laid out in his muscle memory, but he doesn’t mind. The process is almost meditative, with nothing to focus on but making each move smooth and precise. Within a few repetitions, he’s lulled into a sort of trance as he gains familiarity and confidence with the motions and go faster.

Even once he’s finished, showered and dressed, that calm hangs over him. This might be his last Saturday in this place, which tinges everything in melancholy. They were never meant to stay here forever, but Will somehow knows with certainty that once they leave, they won’t be able to return. He takes his time, walking through the home, committing the details to memory so he can recall them vividly in his mind.

The truth is, even though he’ll miss their home here, it is more the idea of what they’ve shared here, rather than the physical place. This has been their safe haven, where they’ve learned who they are when together, broken down the last few barriers between them, and grown comfortable. It’s happened more quickly than Will ever imagined, and maybe that’s why it’s difficult to consider leaving. He thought they’d have more time.

But everything he needs will go with them. Hannibal spends the morning shopping and preparing the boat. Restocking the kitchen with plenty of food, the bathroom with toiletries. Will sets up an area for the dogs--beds in the cabin, bowls and a few bags of food, and a training rug for them to use on deck.

He goes through his own belongings, trying to decide what to take. A few of the suits and some of his more casual clothing--he knows they can always buy more, but he likes the idea of something that belongs to him. Something that when he wears it reminds him of where he’d been and what he’d done the last time he wore it. The cufflinks Hannibal has purchased for him, his fly-tying materials, the fishing equipment he’s collected.

There is one faint regret after all he realises, as he considers this. Isandro and Hilli have been warm and welcoming, and have had no inkling who they were befriending. He wonders how they’re react when they find out the truth, as the most inevitably will.

After packing a small case with the rest of the things he wishes to bring along, he gathers his fishing rod and reel, and his box of lures, and calls Isandro to invite him out. They go to the north of the island, spend all of the afternoon into the early evening casting lines and drinking beer. At the end of the day, they don’t have much to show for it, but that wasn’t really the point, and Will is glad for the companionship, free from complication or expectation.

Upon arriving home, Will is drawn to the kitchen by the aroma--garlic, ginger, and lime--and an enticing sizzling sound. Sam and Tara are lying on the cool tile of the hallway just outside the kitchen, watching with wide eyes. Will steps over them and stands in the threshold, just watching for a moment, and appreciating.

As incredible as it is to watch Hannibal fighting for his life, vicious and bloody, there’s a different type of beauty to him in the kitchen. If Hannibal fighting is analogous to the unrestrained, raw and emotional dancing they saw in Jamaica, then his work in the kitchen is a ballet, delicate and graceful.

Each movement carefully considered and performed with precision. He moves between the stove, the refrigerator, and the island. Chops the cilantro and sprinkles it over the mashed avocado fresh from the yard. Stirs the pot, briefly lifts the lid of the saucepan and smiles in approval at the savoury scent that rises in the air, cracks the stove open to peek inside.

Will crosses the space between them and wraps his arms around Hannibal from behind, briefly pressing his face into the hollow between his shoulderblades before standing on his toes to look over his shoulder at the array on the stovetop.

“Smells amazing,” he says.

“Lengua De Res Estilo Caribe.” Hannibal looks quite pleased with himself, turning to tuck an arm around Will’s shoulder and pull them close side to side.

Will can’t help but smile back, though there’s a strange, queasy anticipation in his stomach now. Certainly he’s eaten human flesh knowingly before now--in fact he’s provided it. Somehow this feels different. This is the step he meant to take months before, when Bedelia stole the opportunity from him, and now it’s finally here again.

Hannibal tucks his nose in Will’s hair and breathes him in. “It will be ready soon,” he says, voice muffled. “You should shower and change.”

“Yes, your majesty,” Will mutters drolly, and grins and yelps when Hannibal palms a handful of his ass before smacking it soundly.

He can’t really bring himself to be offended, knowing how sensitive Hannibal’s nose is. The scent of ocean salt and fish clinging to Will’s hair and clothing would ruin the experience of their dinner. And Will won’t have that happen. Not with this dinner.

The shower Will is going to miss, he thinks fondly, as he steps into the warm spray of the broad, rectangular ceiling mounted showerhead, like stepping into rainfall. He’s growing hard already just thinking about the things they’ve done here--Will fucking Hannibal bent over the bench, or Hannibal riding his lap, hands on Will’s knees, grinding back on his cock. Will on his knees under the spray of the shower, half choking from the water and Hannibal’s cock nudging the back of his throat but completely unwilling to stop.

Will rubs the heel of his palm against the rise of his erection, as if he could force it down. It’s so tempting to give in, fist himself and get off to those memories, but it seems wasteful. He’d rather wait until after dinner and talk Hannibal into the shower with him one last time.

With effort, he removes his hand, reaches for the shampoo and works it into his hair, filling the space with the faint scent of orange blossoms and bergamot. The more time he spends with Hannibal, the more Will begins to appreciate aesthetics he’s never noticed before. The way the water sluices through his hair and runs in thick rivulets down his chest, thick with suds, collecting in the curve of his elbow against his side before spilling over.

Cleaning himself has always been a necessary, perfunctory thing. Now, he takes his time working the body wash into a lather against his skin. All their personal care products were purchased by Hannibal, no doubt more expensive than Will would have deemed them beyond consideration, but he likes the faint almond and green tea scent and the sandy scrub of it that leaves his wind and sea roughened skin softer after.

He puts on one of his fitted button-downs. Though Hannibal’s never said as much, Will has seen his appreciation of the way they look on him, pulling tight across the chest, accentuating his waist and the jut of his hips. A pair of mid-rise jeans, showing a slip of belly between the ends of his shirt when he moves. He leaves his feet bare.

Will likes the intimacy of it; a casual manner he’d never dared attempt at Hannibal’s table before. This time, it’s his table, too. This time neither of them are hiding behind masks or false pretences. This time he’ll be the one at the table. Not the Will who was blind to Hannibal’s crimes, nor the Will who was playing Hannibal and Jack simultaneously. He’s not putting on a performance any longer.

His reflection is like looking at a stranger. These aren’t the clothes Hannibal would choose for him, but they aren’t the ones he’d have chosen himself, months before. His beard is thicker and fuller than he’s ever worn it. He scratches at it absently, wonders how Hannibal would react if he came to dinner shaved. Perhaps once they’ve left the islands. Amsterdam in spring, being reborn along with the earth as a new man in a new world.

Hannibal’s settings aren’t the ridiculous, overly complicated things they once were. He simply doesn’t have the resources, but he makes do. There is a sprawling floral centrepiece--mixed zinnias, bright gold and orange nasturtium, and some small, pinkish white flowers with petals that twist upward around purple spotted white lilies, with ripple-edged petals. The whole thing is ringed in a wreath of peacock feathers.

Red light from the chandelier casts an eerie glow over the room, but the candles burning to either side of the centrepiece pool warm, golden light over the place-settings. A bottle of Argentinian Syrah is breathing to the side.

Hannibal comes in from the kitchen with their salad plates, pausing for a moment as he takes Will in from head to toe. The faint curl at one corner of his mouth and the softening of his eyes are as good as spoken words of praise. Anticipation flares hot in his chest, and Will takes his seat.

Hannibal places his dish before him. “Fennel, arugula, and manchego cheese, with pear and pomegranate, and a truffle oil vinaigrette.”

Before Hannibal started feeding him, Will never really ate what one might call a balanced diet. As a child, the closest he got to fruits and vegetables were orange juice from concentrate and the tomato sauce on pizza. His dad always went for cheap and easy. As an adult he’s done better, but it still came down to what’s convenient and not time-consuming.

Developing a taste had been necessary not only for the rich, complex dishes that Hannibal creates, but for the fresh, crisp-tasting greens as well. It’s surprising how quickly Will’s come to crave the healthy, nourishing things Hannibal makes for him. As with all the new, indulgent creature comforts he’s learned to embrace in the past few months, it now seems impossible he lived so long without this.

Hannibal pours their wine and takes his seat across from Will. He just watches Will eating for a moment, studying before he opens his mouth. “Did you enjoy your time with Isandro today?”

Will’s eyes narrow automatically. Hannibal will listen attentively if Will brings up Isandro himself, but has never inquired about him. He swallows his mouthful before speaking. “It was nice,” he says. He feels around for words, careful and hesitant. “He’s easy to be around. Doesn’t ask any difficult questions. Has a lot of stories to tell.” He cracks a smile at that. “Though I have a feeling at least half of them are pure fabrications.”

“Is that appealing to you?” Hannibal asks. “Simplicity in your relationships? Would you rather have entertaining lies than painful truths?”

“It’s a nice change of pace,” Will says cheekily. Hannibal gives him a faint grimace and Will sighs, rolls his eyes. “It’s been a relief, surrounded by people who knew nothing about me, about what I did for a living, the things I’ve seen. Even Molly, who didn’t know all of it, knew enough. She had this…”

Will closes his eyes, black and gold flashing behind his lids, and he sees the look on Molly’s face, when he’d come back to himself and realise he’d let his mind wander to Hannibal and the dark things in his past. She’d be watching him, eyes shadowed with something akin to fear and sadness.

There were things she’d never asked, answers she could have easily found if she’d just put his name in a search engine, but she never had. It was there, even so, the wilful lack of knowledge as damning and crippling as the possession of it.

Hannibal is watching him, expression keen, when Will opens his eyes. Will snorts in a broken approximation of laughter. “I wonder if she’s finally asked Jack the questions she never asked me. Or maybe she’d just rather forget I existed.”

Of course there’s no way Molly knows what’s become of them, but if this whole situation with Rook plays out as he imagines, it won’t be long before she does. He wishes he could spare her and Walter that pain. Knows how difficult it will be for Walter especially, how he’ll be hounded by his schoolmates for his stepfather’s crimes. He feels more regret over this than any of his more heinous crimes.

“Molly and Alana, trying to pretend to my face that I wasn’t as broken as we all knew I was. Jack ignoring it for his own purposes. Margot, using it to get what she wanted. Fuck, Beverly was the closest thing I ever had to a normal friend, and she was still dancing around it.”

Hannibal bites his bottom lip, and Will has the strangest realisation that he’s pondering apologising for what he’d done to Beverly. It’s absurd and unnecessary, because Hannibal’s done so many other utterly unforgivable things, and Will’s already forgiven him.

Will draws in a breath and takes a bite of his salad, and when he speaks again, it’s with the calm, careful tone. “There’s never going to be anyone else who understands and accepts me in my entirety, except for you, Hannibal. And I know it’s the same for you. So yes, I value the simplicity of my relationship with Isandro, and I’ll miss it.”

“There will be others,” Hannibal says. There’s a timbre to his voice, sincere and forceful, as though wishing to convince Will.

Will smiles coyly, extends his leg under the table and lets his foot brush against Hannibal’s ankle. “I know. I’ll miss having a fishing companion, though,” he says, and lowers his head to look at Hannibal from under his lashes. “I might have to drag you along with me.”

Hannibal responds with an honest huff of laughter. “No dragging required,” he says. “You need only ask.” He rises from his seat, gathering their empty plates.

When he returns, that delicious scent from before comes with him. The plating is, as always, gorgeous--the thinly sliced tongue fanned out in a circle, alternating with toasted plantains, around an artful arrangement of thinly sliced bell peppers and pigeon peas, sprinkled in shredded coconut. There is a garnish of whipped avocado-lime sauce, dotted in green olives stuffed with cream cheese and sautéd in bacon fat.

Hannibal looks quite pleased with himself as he describes the dish, tracking the open hunger Will doesn’t bother to cover. “Bon appétit,” he says as he refills Will’s wine glass with a flourish.

With the plate before him, Will savours every individual scent as they rise and blend together in complexity, waiting until Hannibal has taken his seat, as well. Their eyes meet over their prey, Hannibal’s redder than usual, catching the strange light of the room. He smiles, a secret thing, unknowable to anyone but Will, and raises his glass. Will tips his own in return, letting his teeth show when he smiles back.

The meat cuts easily, and Will shuts his eyes as he brings it to his mouth, closes his lips around it, and lets the melange of flavours melt over his tongue. It is rich and delicate in texture, and under the blend of spices Hannibal has seasoned it with, the taste is not too unlike beef. Fainter than, some intrinsic thing he can’t name setting it apart, and he wonders if, as they continue on this path, he like Hannibal will be able to easily discern the differences.

For now, he will simply enjoy this creation they have brought to bear. The transformation of something artless and remorselessly cruel into something delicious and truly lovely. He swallows and takes a long sip of his wine, enjoying the way the flavours mingle. Under Hannibal’s guidance, he’s still learning to discern the complexities in a glass of wine, but though he is nowhere near proficient yet, he can appreciate when a food enhances a wine, transforming it entirely.

When he opens his eyes it is to see Hannibal watching him, his own food forgotten. As much as Will appreciates the coupling of the food and the wine, Hannibal quite clearly appreciates Will’s enjoyment of the food. The meal is enhanced by Will’s pleasure as he willingly and joyfully partakes.

Will knows he shouldn’t be surprised by now when he finds himself enjoying something he’d never have tried for himself. Honestly, though, he’d been more troubled about the idea of eating tongue than eating human flesh. He’s careful to keep the surprise out of his voice when he comments, however, knowing Hannibal would take offense.

“It’s really delicious,” he says, and follows it up with another forkful, this time dipping the meat in the avocado. It adds an entirely new dimension to the dish. A bite of the peppers helps cut the richness of the dish.

“For a man known throughout Kingston for his acerbic temper, certainly any transformation is an improvement of the source material,” Hannibal says, adopting an innocent expression.

“I suppose you’re saying he tastes better now?” Will says, tone dry as the desert. He considers it a superhuman feet that he’s able to keep from rolling his eyes at the exchange.

Hannibal’s eyes sparkle and he pauses with his wine glass raised to his mouth. “Bite your tongue, darling,” he says.

Will tries to fight his grin, but it’s no use, tugging hard across his face, making his scar ache at the force of it. He hangs his head in defeat, chuckling around his mouthful. “You’re lucky I love you,” he says after he’s swallowed. “If only all your high society friends had realised that your dinner conversation was nothing but atrocious puns, they’d have left long before their discovery of what it was you served.”

“Hmm,” Hannibal says, as if he’s actually pondering something profound, but then he adds, “They only have themselves the blame. My words were intended to be tongue in cheek.”

Will glares at him, in the middle of a mouthful of wine, and swallows quickly. “I take it back,” he says. “I don’t love you at all.”

Chapter Text

Rook’s call comes on Sunday afternoon and he asks Hannibal to meet him at his hotel. It’s clearly implied that Will is not invited. Hannibal brings him anyway, which Will considers fairly rude for the man, but then again, Rook omitting him from the invitation wasn’t very polite. Besides, the flash of irritation in Rook’s eyes at seeing Will is very satisfying.

“You brought your pet!” he exclaims, with mock enthusiasm.

Will refuses to bristle at the comment. At some point, Rook will realise just how fucked he truly is, and Will’s patience now will only make it more enjoyable when that moment comes.

Hannibal says, in a calm, unbothered tone, “I wouldn’t provoke him, Mister Rook; he’s been known to bite.”

“Then you should keep him on a leash,” Rook says. “I’ve made arrangements. If I don’t login to my email every evening, a message will be sent to local authorities and the FBI, alerting them to your presence here.”

Will and Hannibal share a look. Will can sense the faint amusement radiating from Hannibal, warring with affrontary. Rook honestly sees this as a deterrent and not an outright challenge. “You needn’t have done that,” Hannibal says, the underlying malice and implied threat falling on deaf ears.

Rook shrugs. “It’s just insurance. I thought it was best to be forthright. With that out of the way, we can talk now. No one to overhear us, and I don’t have to worry you’re going to turn me into dinner!” He says it with such unbelievable glee.

“Terrific,” Will says, tone scathing. “So why don’t you ask what you want to know for your...film. Let’s not draw this out any longer than it has to be.”

“Will,” Hannibal says. “There’s no call for rudeness.”

“Thank you,” Rook tells him graciously. “Why don’t you come into the sitting room and have something to eat? I don’t really cook, but I ordered from L'Entracte.”

Hannibal follows and Will catches his eye, arches a brow, asking really? We’re doing this? And Hannibal just smiles back serenely, reminiscent of their dinner at Mason Verger’s table. That blithe, unbothered cheerfulness, as if all of humanity is performing a particularly clever play just for his amusement. Will gives a put upon sigh and resigns himself.

They sit around a spread of truly mediocre food which Hannibal eyes dubiously. Rook, looking up from the tablet he’s holding, takes note of this and gives him a sly smile. “I know it’s hardly your normal fare, but surely you can’t always dine on human flesh...I mean, Freddie’s got your body count somewhere around thirty, and even if you stripped them clean of everything edible, that couldn’t last you all that long.”

Hannibal, legs crossed and hands clasped in his lap, leans back in the loveseat, deceptively casual. “You might be surprised at just how much of the human body can be used, and in what manner. The marrow for broths or used as a spread. The bones and ligaments can be boiled for gelatin, which gives a terrific clarity to home brewed beers. The blood is delightful as a base for soups, puddings, and sauces. These are simply a few examples.

“Then, of course there is the meat, and the organs, including those which some might be squeamish to try, but can be quite delicious when prepared properly--the brain, the heart, the stomach, and intestines.”

Rook looks vaguely ill, and Will has to stifle a cruel burst of laughter. If he’s already so affected so early in the game, how can he hope to do justice to Hannibal in his writing? Will, feeling impish, reaches across the space between them and covers Hannibal’s hand with his own. “Don’t forget the tongue,” he says. “Dinner last night was mouth-watering.”

Hannibal turns his hand and laces their fingers together, an apparently thoughtless gesture, though they both know better. Rook’s eyes flick between that and their faces thoughtfully. Hannibal’s lips twist and Will can tell he’s fighting the urge to make some ridiculous pun. He doesn’t disappoint, but it certainly isn’t how Will expected. “Ah, how could I forget such a rapturous pleasure as was made by the tongue last night?” he asks.

Will feels his cheeks heating, and gives Hannibal a fierce grin. Hannibal responds with the gentle crinkling at the corner of his eyes, and the sweep of his thumb across Will’s hand. Rook, making some notation on his tablet, looks startled, but oddly eager. “So you are still eating it? Where do you get the…meat?”

Whatever happens here, if Rook’s notes make it back to the authorities, there goes any plausible deniability about Will’s involvement. If Bedelia has covered for him for whatever twisted reason. If Jack thinks he’s dead, or fooling himself with hopes that maybe, just maybe Will was drugged like Bedelia claimed to be. His willing and uncoerced cooperation will be unmistakable. Will finds that idea as liberating as the leap from the cliff had been.

“We’ve taken a few hunting trips,” he says. At this, Will feels the wave of shock from Rook, as he’s clearly taken aback. “Sadly we were unable to display them in the normal manner, but they served a necessary purpose.”

Hannibal grants him a fond smile. “You see?” he says, “Every palate can be expanded, with proper care. Even one as lacking in sophistication as dear Will’s when we first met. He has learned to appreciate many an exotic dish.”

Will waves his hand, aloof. “What can I say? I’ve developed a taste for it.”

Rook is practically squirming, though whether from their words or the positively lascivious look Hannibal has aimed at Will, it’s difficult to say. He’s frozen somewhere between fascination and disbelief. Clearing his throat and licking his lips nervously, he tries for light-hearted when he speaks, and fails miserably. “I should get you to make a list. All the different parts you can use, and for what. It’d be great for lending authenticity to any of the cooking scenes.”

“Certainly,” Hannibal says. It’s the offhanded way someone might offer to jot down a recipe for a dinner guest. “And, to return to your original question, I will simply say that though Freddie Lounds is hardly the detective she thinks she is, and her estimation is far from the mark, my diet is not entirely composed of human flesh.”

“If her estimations are low, then what is the actual number? Of your victims?” Rook asks. He glances up from his tablet. “Or do you call them that? Freddie said they were like pigs to you. Something you, Will, used to say in your lectures?”

“Oh, goodie,” Will says. “You want my opinion now?” He can see the wheels turning in Rook’s head, wondering if he’s miscalculated Will, as he observes him with Hannibal.

“Well, you were considered something of an expert on the Chesapeake Ripper,” Rook says.

Will’s lip curls, but he answers, regardless. “In my expert opinion, Hannibal Lecter cares so little for his prey, the number is of little consequence.” For Will, it goes without saying that though this is true, Hannibal’s memory, as perfect as it is, nonetheless kept count merely down to the fact that each murder has its own room in the palace of his mind. “That disregard for the lives he took is why I referred to his sprees as ‘sounder.’ Somehow my description of his prey as pigs became conflated with his own, as far as the press is concerned.”

“And he killed them because they were rude?” Rook laughs. There’s an energy he’s trying to keep in check. “I’m sorry, that just--that sounds sort of unbelievable. There has to be something more to it. I mean, you can’t just go around killing everyone who’s rude to you.”

“Yeah,” Will snorts, “You know, it probably wouldn’t have hurt to consider how a serial killer chose his victims before blackmailing him. That is, after all, incredibly rude.”

Rook shoots him a dark look. He opens his mouth to respond, then seems to reconsider, biting his lip. “It was never my intention--” he starts, then stops and tries again, looking Hannibal in the eye. “I only wanted--I apologise, if it seemed as though…”

Hannibal takes pity on his floundering. “Ah, you’ve got your insurance,” he says, with a gesture towards the laptop on the desk. “Your email. Surely I wouldn’t risk my freedom just to teach you a lesson in manners, now would I?”

There is a moment of silence, and then Rook gives a nervous chuckle. “Please, Mister Rook,” Hannibal says. “Continue with your questions.”

They give Rook the answers he wants to hear to his questions. A watered down account of what happened with the Vergers, the time spent in Italy, and the final confrontation with Dolarhyde. Hannibal weaves a completely fictitious version of his own history, starting with his studies in medical school and his surgical rotation.

It clearly isn’t the story Rook was expecting or wanting, from the disappointment he radiates. “But why cannibalism?” he asks. “Even if you see your victims as pigs, that’s a huge leap, from killing to eating them. How did it even happen, in the first place?”

Will watches Hannibal’s face, taking in the twitch of his cheek and the tilt of his head, and thinks that this might be it. This might be the last thread of Hannibal’s patience snapping. This artless, tactless man blindly groping around Hannibal’s past for answers he doesn’t deserve and would never understand.

“What do you think, Rook?” Will asks, voice soft. He pulls on the cords of manic energy and self-assuredness, the hard-edged humour and domineering presence, and it unravels before him to expose what lies beneath. Bi-polar, anxiety, risk-taking.

Will speaks again, looking beyond the man sitting before him to the child he was. “What would explain a man who kills? A neglectful childhood? Parents who forgot their middle child even existed, except when he made a mistake? Watching his siblings succeed without trying, or having everything handed to them, while he, smarter and harder-working than any of them, struggled for every single achievement only to have them swept aside, discounted or ignored.

“Would that drive a man something far greater--something that couldn’t be ignored, elevating death to an artform?” The words are little more than a whisper, but Rook is listening, attention rapt. “And then, does that isolation and bitter loneliness create a desire to consume? Making someone else a part of you forever, with the knowledge that you were better than them. A thorough, unquestionable display of superiority.”

“Are--are you suggesting--” Rook can’t finish the thought. Sweat beads along his hairline. His pulse is a rapid, shallow throb, distinct on his throat as he swallows. The dry-mouthed disbelief at being caught off-guard is tangible, and just beneath, the faint hint of forbidden craving.

“Would you take comfort in that?” Will asks. “Would it make your own interest better, somehow?”

“That’s a neat party trick,” Rook says with a shaky little laugh that falls flat between them.

“If you wanted a taste,” Will goes on, “You should have just asked.”

“It just so happens,” Hannibal says, “that I have a little something left from our trip to Kingston. If you’re interested?”

“You’re serious.” It’s a statement rather than a question.

“Oh, come on, Rook,” Will says playfully. “You wanted authenticity. This is about authentic as you can fucking get.”

Rook is contemplating the offer, but Will already knows he’ll accept, and he’s beginning to see Hannibal’s design in all of this. The realisation makes him feel loose, warm and satisfied, like he’s just finished a tumbler of bourbon. Though he’s contented himself to follow Hannibal’s lead in this, he is eager to watch it play out.

“Yeah,” Rook says at last. Suddenly, Will catches a flash in his eyes, a stray thought lighting through him, and Will knows he’s up to something. “Okay, sure. What the hell, right? You only live once, right?”

“And life can be so short,” Will agrees, absently. Maybe even shorter than Hannibal has counted on, depending on what Rook’s planning.

“Tomorrow evening, then,” Hannibal says. “Any longer and I’ll have to freeze the meat--it’s really best prepared fresh.” How Rook can hear that as anything other than both threat and promise is beyond Will.

“I’ve got a thing,” Rook says, and at Hannibal’s expression, hastily adds, “I can reschedule it, of course.” His phone buzzes and Rook takes it from his pocket, scowls in annoyance at what he sees. “Fucking Christ, you’ve got to be--” He makes a frustrated gesture. “Sorry, I’m going to have to make a call. Maybe we can pick this up over dinner tomorrow.”

Hannibal dips his head in gracious assent. “There are still many things about my past you’ve yet to learn,” he says.

Rook, already busy tapping out a response on his phone, gives him a distracted hum of agreement and Will has an image of Rook missing his scalp, his brain exposed and pulsing in the open air, trickles of blood down his temple and cheek. His mouth working, but no sound escaping save the wet clicking of his tongue. Easily an improvement on his current look.

He sees them to the door, Hannibal going out first, and Will watches Rook suspiciously, trying to catch another hint of whatever Rook’s planning in his gaze. Maybe a word or two of the conversation taking place on the phone.

Rook arches a brow and puts the phone back in his pocket, leaning in the doorjamb. “So tell me how you did it,” he says. Clearly he’s recovered from his earlier shock over Will’s profile. “Did you look at my wiki page? Get your hands on one of my high school yearbooks?”

“Sure, Rook,” Will drawls. “Whatever you’ve got to tell yourself.”

“You know what kills me?” Rook asks.

Will laughs loudly, in earnest. “Oh, wow, with an opening like that…”

“He was your psychiatrist,” Rook ploughs on, unamused. “Everyone goes on about your skills as a profiler and that empathy bullshit, but the two of you worked alongside one another on all those cases for the FBI, half of them people he killed, and you never--it took you months to see what he was, only after he framed you.”

“We all wear masks,” Will says with a shrug. “Some are better maintained than most.”

“Whatever you’ve got to tell yourself,” Rook says, mimicking Will’s tone. “He pulled the wool over your eyes. Had you thrown in a looney-bin, fucking gutted you, then sent another serial killer after your wife and stepson, and yet here you are, following him around the Caribbean. And you think I’m the one having trouble gripping how dangerous he is?”

Will considers explaining to Rook just how dangerous he, Will, is. But it’ll be more fun just to show him, later. Hannibal, waiting patiently near their car, tilts his head questioningly but Will gives him a dismissive wave. He takes a casual step closer to Rook, leans in conspiratorially, brow arched, smile sardonic. “Trust me, Rook,” he says, “I know perfectly well how dangerous Hannibal is.”

With a wink and a flash of his most disingenuously innocent smile, Will turns to leave. The endgame is in sight, and there is much to be done.

Chapter Text

“He’s planning something,” Will says. It isn’t for Hannibal’s benefit--surely he knows this already--merely thinking out loud. “You think he’s stupid enough to contact the FBI?”

“I doubt it,” Hannibal says. “Though there is very little I would put past our dear Mister Rook.”

“Whoever it was on the phone, he didn’t want us to know.” Will taps his thumb against the steering wheel. “Can I ask what you have in mind for tomorrow evening?”

“Beyond eliminating the threat Rook poses, I hadn’t formed a specific plan. This is, after all, our design, dear Will. We’ll create it together.”

Will flushes as the words take root in him. After all they’ve done together, this is it--what they’ve both wanted all along. This is what Will saw unfurling between them, twining and rising and turning into something darker, deadlier, and far more beautiful than the two of them alone.

They’ve created their love letters to one another, with Tier, with Freddie’s stand-in, with Hannibal’s Florentine victims. Dolarhyde allowed them to consummate that love. Now it’s time to declare that love to the world, just as Hannibal promised. No turning back.

As his mind wanders, the silence stretches between them. Hannibal rests a hand on Will’s thigh. Will can detect the gentle concern, and Hannibal’s own, tightly reined in anxiety. It must be a new sensation for him, and no doubt he finds it thoroughly unpleasant. Does he regret falling in love with Will and making himself vulnerable to these feelings?

“I’m ready,” Will assures him, laying his hand over Hannibal’s. “I’m…” He searches for the appropriate way to describe the swirling miasma of restless anticipation and jittery excitement, and gives up, settling for, “I’m eager.”

Then Will laughs, amazed as ever he is these days when he expects the heavy weight of guilt and responsibility to fall on his shoulders and never does. A sudden, relentless surge of arousal shoots through him and he shifts his hips, sinking slightly lower in his seat and urging Hannibal’s hand higher.

From his peripheral vision, Will can see Hannibal’s arched brow and the faint, amused look on his face. Will prefers this to the unwarranted concern. Hannibal’s hand tightens, digging his fingers into the seam of Will’s pants, getting a handful of flesh and rolling it in his grip. The drag of nails against sensitive skin goes straight to Will’s dick.

Hannibal leans across the space between them, face tucking into the curve of Will’s neck and Will turns his head away and up, stretching the line. He keeps his eyes on the road, hands steady as Hannibal sucks a mark on his skin. His hand comes up to palm Will through his slacks, just enough pressure that Will has to fight to keep from bucking his hips in response.

“I’d say you are, at that,” Hannibal murmurs. He squeezes at the base of Will’s cock and rolls upward, and Will swallows hard, hands flexing on the wheel. Hannibal chuckles, and those long, elegant fingers make quick work of Will’s fly.

“Shit,” Will says. It’s about as much eloquence as he can muster when Hannibal parts from his neck with one final nip and sinks lower. He fists Will’s cock and goes down on him. Will lets out a harsh breath, gaze darting back and forth between the curve of the road and Hannibal’s head bobbing between his thighs.

A few cars pass by, heading into the city, and the illicit thrill of it is a shock through Will’s groin. He thrusts upward and Hannibal’s answering moan has Will pushing his foot down harder on the gas. The faster they go, the stronger the subtle vibration of the car around them. This is not a scenario he’s ever imagined, but now it might be a thing.

It doesn’t take any time at all for Will to get close, but he’s not ready for it to be over. He laces his fingers in Hannibal’s hair and tugs. Hannibal lets him go with some reluctance, tongue swirling over the slit at the head of Will’s cock and sucking as he pulls back with a slick, wet sound. He moans at the loss, and Will turns his head to kiss him, messy and distracted, watching the road from the corner of his eye. Hannibal’s lips are swollen, his mouth salty.

As soon as they part, Hannibal is back on him, placing stinging bites down his jaw, going back to the bruise on Will’s throat. Will reaches over with one hand to cup Hannibal’s erection, trapped in his dress slacks. Hannibal’s legs part for him, a clear invitation, and Will curses under his breath, swerving off onto a side road that cuts down the cliffside.

There’s a beach a couple of miles down the road, no one really goes down there to sunbathe. Isandro showed it to him as a decent fishing spot, if only because of the lack of traffic. It’s late in the day, Will’s banking on the fact that it’s a weekday, past prime swimming time, sun on its way to the horizon. Even if someone was down there earlier, they’d be moving on.

Sure enough, the gravel pull-off is empty, and Will parks the car behind the line of tropical shrubbery dividing the lot from the beach. Hannibal’s eyes are dark and heavy with arousal when Will jerks up the parking brake and climbs over the console and into his lap.

They meet in a crush of lips, Will arching backwards to discard his jacket. Hannibal helps, pushing the sleeves back and off his arms. Will’s elbow catches on the doorframe and he curses, rubbing at the sore spot even as Hannibal draws him close again. He swallows Will’s helpless, pained laughter, arms are tight around Will’s back, bringing them flush together.

Will had seen himself spreading Hannibal out over the backseat, fucking into that willing body. But now that he’s squirming in Hannibal’s lap, he has a different idea. He pulls away enough to draw in a breath, and Hannibal busies himself with kisses down Will’s neck, fingers working on the buttons of his shirt. “You got anything with you?” Will asks.

“Glovebox,” Hannibal answers, and they wrestle briefly to reach it, Hannibal pulling the lever to scoot the seat back, Will twisting to open the glovebox and grab the lube. Hannibal parts Will’s shirt, his teeth scrape gently over one nipple before biting down, and Will jerks back around, hips thrusting forward, rubbing their cocks together. There’s still way too much fabric between them.

Hands groping between them, Will gets Hannibal’s pants open, just enough to pull his dick free, curving hard between them. Hannibal wraps his hand around them both, stroking, and Will allows himself to be momentarily distracted by the sensation of it--the drag of Hannibal’s dry palm on one side and the smooth, silky glide of his foreskin on the other.

Will rests his forehead against Hannibal’s looking down between them. He rocks his hips to see the way his dick rises against Hannibal’s, the way Hannibal’s big hand almost spans the both of them. Hannibal tilts his head back, licking into Will’s slack mouth, and Will loses himself in the kiss and the touch of Hannibal’s hand, working the buttons of Hannibal’s shirt loose until they’re skin to skin.

Will feels giddy, like a teenager messing around for the first time. As if he’d ever done such a thing as a teenager. He whispers as much to Hannibal, whose eyes light up, lips twisting. “No sticky fumblings in the back seat of the car?” he teases, voice a slick, licentious purr that goes right to Will’s dick.

“No one wants the awkward new kid who won’t make eye contact taking them on a date, let alone feeling them up in their dad’s pickup,” Will mutters with an eloquent shrug.

Hannibal must see that it still stings. He pushes his hand back through Will’s curls and tugs him in. They kiss, and Hannibal murmurs against his mouth, with each breath drawn, “The things I’d have done to you, had I found you then. Young and untouched.” Hannibal scrapes his teeth over the swell of Will’s bottom lip. “Defiling you would have been an absolute delight…”

“So do it now,” Will pants into the kiss, pouring lube in his hand and reaching for Hannibal’s cock. Hannibal releases them both, watching as Will slicks the lube down his length..

In the narrow space between the seat and console, Will wiggles out of his trousers and boxers, kicking them off one leg and letting them dangle from the other ankle. Then he climbs back into Hannibal’s lap, rising up on his knees and positioning himself.

“You haven’t been prepared,” Hannibal protests, even as he places a steadying hand on Will’s hip and the other holding the base of his dick.

Will lowers himself slowly. “You take me all the time when I haven’t stretched you,” he says. The last word dies, all his breath driven from him, as he feels the first press of Hannibal’s dick behind his balls. He shifts his hips, letting the head of Hannibal’s cock drag along the sensitive skin until it reaches the right spot and Will can start to sink down.

“Oh,” Will says and swallows hard as Hannibal’s cockhead splits him open. “Oh, oh fuck, Hannibal.” His hands curve over Hannibal’s shoulders, grip tight, and he’s probably ruined that shirt now, smearing lube over it, and doesn’t give any fucks.

It’s a sharp, painful sting, but Will can’t make himself stop. Loves how it feels being filled up by Hannibal in this way, the inevitable drag of gravity forcing him to take more and more, as much as his body can take, as deep as Hannibal can go. Hannibal holds his weight, keeping him from taking it too fast, slowly easing Will down onto his cock, until at last Will’s bare ass is settled in Hannibal’s lap.

Will can’t do much for a long moment, other than hold on to Hannibal and let out shallow, whimpering breaths. Hannibal’s hand is soothing, stroking up and down his back as Will rolls his spine, adjusting to the stretch. Despite the persistent, piercing ache, however, there’s a visceral satisfaction to it. He rocks his hips, and once he starts he can’t stop. It eases the burn, but every downstroke leaves him gasping in pain.

Hannibal’s head falls back against the headrest, staring at Will like he’s some sort of wonder, mouth hanging open, eyes glazed over. Even though Will’s legs are trembling from the burn and strain, he can’t stop. He doesn’t want to. There’s a thrill of exhilarating power at reducing Hannibal to this point so quickly.

WIll braces his hands on the seat back, caging Hannibal in, and finds his rhythm. The perfect angle to make Hannibal’s cock rub at just the right place inside as he shifts his weight back and forth.

“I can’t believe you did that,” Will says, and he’d be more embarrassed by how weak and breathy his voice is if Hannibal’s hands weren’t grasping at him so desperately. He leans in to nuzzle up Hannibal’s throat and biting hard at his earlobe, tugging.

“Sucking me off while I was driving. Fuck, Hannibal,” he pauses, licking the shell of his ear, “you’re just gagging for my dick, I swear. I bet you’d let me fuck your face pretty much anywhere I wanted.”

Hannibal bucks his hips, driving up into Will punishingly hard and he lets out a panting breath. “Mmm,” he hums in agreement. “Just like you’d let me fuck you wherever I want. Pulled off on the side of the road where anyone could drive by and see how hungry you are for this.” He punctuates the words with another thrust, pushing Will’s back into the console for leverage.

Will doesn’t bother to argue with that. He tangles his hands in Hannibal’s hair and kisses him, grinds down to meet every harsh stroke. It’s a fast, frantic climb to completion, between the discomfort of the console digging into the small of his back and the burning twinge with each drag of Hannibal’s cock inside him.

“I think,” Will grunts, “you’d let me fuck you in front of Rook.” He bites down hard on Hannibal’s bottom lip, enough to taste the warm copper of his blood.

“I think you want to claim ownership,” Hannibal says, even as he fucks into Will relentlessly.

“Well,” Will says, heaving a breathless puff of laughter. “You’re the one who said you’re my faithful attack dog.”

Hannibal growls, a pure, animal sound that stirs something primal in Will, makes him want to bare his throat. It’s an appropriate reaction, given that Hannibal jerks Will’s collar over his shoulder and sinks his teeth in over the healing bite there--now nothing more than faint yellow bruising and the glossy red of new skin--and marks him again, tears the skin open anew.

A gurgling cry rises up from Will’s throat and he clutches Hannibal’s head to him, the pressure the only thing really keeping the pain of it at bay. His eyes roll back in his head as he comes, a violent surge of agonising pleasure.

Hannibal fucks him through it, and keeps fucking him, shoving Will back against the windshield and Will braces his hands on the dashboard to meet his thrusts. Every breath leaves him on a weak moan, head hung back in submission. They both know who they belong to, after all.

“Someday, Will,” Hannibal says, low and dangerous, “you’re going to learn to stop poking the slumbering bear.”

“Am I?” Will asks. He’s going for cheeky, but it comes out far more ruined. Hannibal’s voice his shivering through him. “Because--fuck--” Hannibal shoves into him hard enough to make him bite his tongue with the force of it, the teeth of his zipper cutting into the sensitive skin of Will’s ass and thighs. “Because if this is the result, that isn’t actually--ah--a deterrent, you know?”

Hannibal pulls back to give him a fierce grin and a fiercer kiss, as good as a declaration of love from him. Wallowing gleefully in his luck over having Will, who is as recklessly greedy for this as Hannibal himself. Will brings one hand up to grab him by the nape of his neck, nails ragged from working on the boat tearing easily into Hannibal’s skin, marking him just as much.

Will plants his heel on the back of the seat and rocks down hard on Hannibal’s cock, taking him deep. His knee buckles when the force drives Hannibal back into the seat and Will rides him fast, drawing his hand around Hannibal’s neck and leaving a line of vibrant red scratches over his shoulder and down his chest. Hannibal hisses at the sting, back arching as he comes. His fingers will leave small, round bruises all along Will’s hips and thighs, which they’ll both admire for days to come.

Utterly spent, Will drapes himself over Hannibal’s chest, dragging in one harsh breath after another. The bite is a searing, throbbing pulse as Hannibal licks up the mess he’s made of Will’s neck, like an animal tending to its wounds. Will can’t help but wonder, given the fact that the man is a doctor and should know better, if Hannibal wants it not to heal properly. Just another scar on Will’s body, marking territory. Will chuckles. They really were made for one another.

Hannibal makes a querulous noise against his skin, and Will forces himself upright. “Just trying to figure out what gets you off more--knowing how thoroughly I own you, or exerting your dominance in response.”

“Does it need to be just one or the other?” Hannibal asks, not even a little rueful. Will squeals when Hannibal grabs a handful of asscheek and tugs him close. He is incredibly sore right now, and it’s only going to get worse, but Will luxuriates in the slowly softening hardness of Hannibal’s cock inside him.

The concession is clear, hanging there in the air between them. “I wasn’t just saying that,” Will tells him. He flexes his internal muscles, grinning when Hannibal groans and shifts his hips. “I want Rook to know how badly he’s miscalculated. I want him to know you’re mine as much as I am yours.”

Hannibal lifts his hand to trace a thumb over the scar on Will’s forehead and down his temple, bristling over Will’s beard and the curve of his mouth. “And so he will.”

Chapter Text

There’s only so prepared they can be, Will knows it. Try as he might, he can’t stop the slightest fissure of anxiety and paranoia over how the evening will go. Not that they will have any trouble with Rook himself, but over what he might have said or done to others, and how that could complicate things.

The boat is ready to go--to Colombia, first. Then with new identities, they’ll cross into Ecuador, and on to Germany. It will be trains and rental cars the rest of the way to the Netherlands.

Will wears the dogs out in the morning, running with them, then throwing tennis balls into the surf for hours. By the time he takes them down to the dock in the late afternoon they’re grateful for their crates and the new toys he’s bought them. He feels bad knowing they’ll be locked up for hours, but he’ll make it up to them soon.

And then, there’s nothing to do but wait and see how it falls out. They’ll be gone in roughly twelve hours, and that’s what they’ve prepared for. If Rook’s threat is good, there will only be a few hours of wiggle room to create a scene for Jack to find, and then they’ll need to disappear. But Will isn’t entirely sure that Rook doesn’t have something else up his sleeve, with whoever he was texting. They need to be ready to run immediately if it goes sour.

When he gets back, Hannibal is just out of the shower, freshly shaved, hair drying feathery light around his face. Will stands in the doorway of their bedroom as Hannibal styles it, only enough to smooth back the long ends from falling into his eyes. He comes up behind Hannibal and rests a hand on the curve of his shoulder.

“It’s getting long,” Will says, watching them both in the mirror, the soft, absent smile Hannibal gets at his touch.

“I’ll need to trim it soon,” Hannibal says, flipping the ends back with a moue of distaste.

“No.” Will reaches up to tuck the ends behind Hannibal’s ear. “I like it like this. You could let it keep growing.”

Hannibal’s brows arch in indulgent amusement and he meets Will’s gaze in the mirror. “Is that your preference?”

Will shrugs. “No one would think it was you,” he says simply. He comes around to boost himself up on the counter, stroking his hand over Hannibal’s cheek speculatively. “Let it grow out, a bit of a beard...instant disguise.”

Hannibal smirks, starting to do up the front of his crisp white button down. His vest and jacket are hanging on the back of the door, ready to be donned when their guest arrives. Will reaches out to help roll back his sleeves. How Hannibal manages to keep his clothes so tidy and spotless while cooking, Will can’t say.

“You have made allowances where your appearance is concerned, catering to my preferences,” Hannibal says. “I am not opposed to doing the same, for you.”

Will grins and pulls him closer by the wrist, twines his legs around Hannibal’s thighs as they kiss, feet digging in below his ass. Hannibal gives one gentle, rocking thrust. There’s no intent, just a brief pleasurable drag; a reminder of things to come.

“Would you like to help in the kitchen?” Hannibal asks, drawing his lips over Will’s beard. There is no indication in Hannibal’s tone that he would prefer it one way or another, but Will knows it will give him pleasure.

Will tugs at Hannibal’s undone collar, leading him back to his mouth, and nips at Hannibal’s full bottom lip. Gets distracted for a moment by how his teeth drag against the plushness of it. “Let me get changed and I’ll be there.”

Hannibal goes with one last kiss, eyes smouldering with promise and delight, and disappears into the hallway, leaving Will to lean back against the mirror with a dopey, wistful grin. He drags himself to his feet and into the closet. Though they’ve packed that which they wish to take with them on the boat already, there remains one final of the bespoke suits Hannibal had made for him.

Will has only had a few opportunities to wear them, he’s already grown used to the way they feel and the lines of them--the white button down just a bit tighter than he’d have ever chosen for himself. The vest, with its silver and shining black overlapping circles cinches in all the right places, and the charcoal jacquard fabric of the jacket shines with darker chevrons in the right light. Will’s concessions to Hannibal’s need for patterns without being too thoroughly ostentatious.

He’s always surprised when he catches sight of his reflection in these clothes--of course he can see Hannibal’s hand in the design of them, clinging more at the waist and in the seat than he would have chosen himself. But he looks sleek and powerful, and he finds that he likes it. Clothes making the man, and all of that.

He drapes his jacket over a dining room chair and grabs an apron from the pegs just inside the kitchen door. He might look ridiculous, but he though he’s slowly becoming competent in the kitchen, he can’t stay clean to save his life. Hannibal seems to find it endearing, anyway, wiping away smudges of sauce from his cheeks and brushing flour from his clothing when they cook together. Will thinks it shows personal growth on Hannibal’s part, how often he’s allowed Will to distract him, until dinner is scalded or burnt and essentially inedible.

“What are we serving this evening?” Will asks, leaning across the island to inspect the organ Hannibal has on his cutting board. At the time, Will hadn’t paid any attention to what Hannibal was taking from the bodies.

“Devilled Kidney Canapé,” Hannibal answers. Will watches as he cuts away the stringy white bits, quarters, then dices the kidney into small bits. “Traditionally a breakfast dish, though more and more it has become an acceptable dinner appetizer.”

“And for the main course, sweetbreads.” Hannibal gestures to a stainless steel bowl by the sink. “Grilled with nectarine, in a honey balsamic sauce. I hadn’t intended to use the kidney and pancreas together, but I’d hate for either to go to waste.”

Will has his own idea of what is wasteful, sharing this with Rook who can’t ever fully appreciate what he is receiving. But Hannibal has always enjoyed the whole performance, even when his guests were unwilling, unaware participants.

“Sweetbreads? I thought that was the thymus,” Will mutters, coming around to Hannibal’s side of the counter to peer into the bowl. The pancreas is submerged in half melted ice and doesn’t look very appetising, but Will has learned not to underestimate Hannibal’s skill to make basically anything taste delicious.

“The water needs drained, and fresh ice added, until the water is no longer cloudy,” Hannibal says. Will obeys, using his hand to strain out the liquid, then going to the freezer for fresh ice.

“The thymus is most often referred to as the sweetbreads,” Hannibal says. “However, there are others--the pancreas, or the belly sweetbread; the parotid and sublingual glands, or the cheek and tongue sweetbreads. In the broadest application of the term, one would include the testicles, as well.”

Will grins indulgently where Hannibal can’t see it. He wonders if Hannibal knows how he sounds, like a teacher lecturing a student. “What else can I do to help?” he asks, after he’s washed his hands and dried them on the dish towel.

Hannibal extends a hand. “Come here.” Will lets Hannibal pull him close, positioned in front of the stove with Hannibal at his back. There is a frying pan of oil, just starting to smoke from the heat. “You must sauté the kidney only briefly, or else it will dry out and the texture will become mealy.”

“Then maybe you should do it.” Will has become confidant with some tasks, but anything that requires delicacy or perfect timing is something best left to Hannibal.

Hannibal ignores his protest. He passes the cutting board into Will’s hand by the handle. His other hand presses in the small of Will’s back. “Go on,” he says.

Will glances around at the ingredients Hannibal has lined up on the counter next to the stove. “Where’s the recipe I’m following?” he asks, with mounting incredulity that Hannibal is leaving this up to him.

“There is no precise recipe. You will sauté the kidney, then add a dash of dry sherry and a dash of cider vinegar. From there, you will add the ingredients to taste.”

With a mental fuck it, Will scrapes the diced bits of kidney into the pan, where they immediately begin to sizzle and hiss. He tosses the pan, like he’s observed Hannibal do so artfully and effortlessly, and is blankly amazed when it actually works.

“Now the sherry and the vinegar.” Hannibal sounds so confident, Will can’t help but feel capable as he pours a bit of each in the pan. The liquid bubbles away almost immediately. “Now the red currant. A spoonful.”

Hannibal walks him through the rest of the ingredients, and then prompts him to taste. It’s strong on the mustard at first, and Hannibal won’t tell him what he needs to do to fix it. Will scowls and mutters under his breath, but after he adds some more of the cream and a splash of Worcestershire sauce, it tastes pretty good. Really good, actually.

Compared to that, the rest of the dinner prep is easy. Skimming away the clear sack around the pancreas, slicing the nectarines, heating the grill and preparing the croutons for toasting, while Hannibal takes care of the more important aspects.

Will sets the patio table--Hannibal special ordered the devil’s trumpet blossoms from Puerto Rico, and arranged them with the dried fruit tucked among the flowers and winding stems. The whole thing is nestled in the open curve of a pair of ram’s horns. Will finds the contrast of the soft, delicate, drooping petals and the long, sharp-tipped spikes of the datura rather nice, even if Rook won’t appreciate the imagery.

The doorbell rings just as the grill is ready and Hannibal has finished brushing the glaze on the skewers. If nothing else, the man is punctual. A heavy feeling settles in Will’s gut, like the anticipation at the peak of a roller coaster, waiting for the plummet to the ground. Hannibal steadys him with a hand on his arm and a brief press of their lips, before going to the bedroom to finish dressing.

Will removes his apron and snags his jacket on the way to the front door, stands there for just a moment and takes a deep breath, holding for a count of ten before releasing in a slow exhale. Then he opens the door and immediately feels his jaw clenching so hard his scar aches.

Rook stands there with a shit-eating grin, Peter and Rose standing just behind him. “Rose was just so excited when she heard you were finally having a dinner party,” he says, before Will can comment.

Will swallows what he’d like to say, and steps back to open the door further, plastering a smile on his face. He takes Rose’s hand when she passes, like he’s observed Hannibal do countless times and lays a kiss over her knuckles, slanting his gaze towards Rook. “It’s about time,” he agrees. If he thinks he’s going to accomplish something by catching them off-guard, he’ll soon find there’s something else coming.

“Linas,” Will calls, the name warning enough, as he leads them into the sitting room, “our guests have arrived.”

Hannibal comes in with a pleasant, welcoming smile, looking impeccable and unflappable. He greets Rose and Peter warmly, though there is a dangerous spark in his eye for Rook. While he is making drinks, Will excuses himself to place two more table settings and breathe in the fresh night air to calm himself.

Will hands are shaking in barely controlled rage, and he finds himself envious of Hannibal’s easy calm. Peter alone wouldn’t have complicated things. Though he hasn’t done anything to earn Will’s ire, he’s earned his disdain, and that’s more than enough for Hannibal to kill the man. But Rose...He thinks even Hannibal would hesitate to kill her, and not only for Will’s benefit.

Rook likely understands this, probably thinks this is just further protection. Already, though, Will’s mind is racing, his vague plan factoring in their unexpected guests. He comes back in the house through their bedroom, Hannibal’s case of drugs open on top of his dresser.

There is a bottle of paralytic with the top punctured--Hannibal must already have the syringe on him. That’s Rook squared away. Will sorts through until he finds the bottle he wants. He tips a small, white tablet into his hand and pockets it, letting it rest with the heavy, comforting weight of his blade. Then he goes back out to join them.

“Why don’t you go out and put the food on the grill?” Will asks, laying a hand between Hannibal’s shoulder blades and pressing briefly against him, with enough force for Hannibal to appreciate the effort Will is exerting. “I’ll finish the drinks.”

At the wet bar, he grinds the rohypnol into powder and mixes it into the bitters before adding them to Rose’s Agavoni. They take their drinks onto the patio while Will gets the canapé. When he returns Rose is standing at Hannibal’s elbow by the grill, prattling on about her plans for a new rose garden when they return to the Hamptons. She’s sipping steadily on her drink, Will notes with relief.

Rook is texting again, and Peter looks around with his fixed expression of distaste. It takes a second for Will to realise why Rook looks so awkward, that he’s angling his phone to attempt a surreptitious photograph of Hannibal. Will’s eyes narrow, and he steps neatly in the line of the shot to place the canapés on the table.

“Alexander,” he says, tone playfully chiding. “We don’t allow cell phones at the table at our dinner parties. They only get in the way of honest discourse, wouldn’t you agree?”

The expression on Rook’s face is somewhere between incredulous disgust and unease, bordering on fear. He pockets his phone without complaint, however. Will gives him an approving head nod and nudges the plate. “Devilled Kidneys,” he says. “Have some.”

“Did Linas make them?” Rook asks. They all know what his real question is.

“Will made them,” Hannibal says, glancing absently over his shoulder. “He’s coming along quite nicely in his lessons.”

With a dark smile only for Rook, Will says, “I’ve learned quite a lot from Linas. Primarily, sourcing the finest ingredients. Not everyone has the stomach for it, but procuring the meat oneself is really the best way to go. Of course, that’s easier said than done here in the islands. All the meat is imported.”

The others readily help themselves, and even Peter looks grudgingly impressed as he bites in. Rook, on the other hand, just watches them eating for a good, long while. To his credit, he doesn’t look as though he’ll be ill. Will is almost intrigued when he pushes beyond the surface and feels the reflective hesitance. Rook isn’t bracing himself for this; rather he is savouring the moment just before he crosses the line. Then he reaches out and takes his first piece.

Will spares a flash of regret for the fact that Rook is going to die tonight, and he will never have to face any further fallout from the questionable choices he’s made here. It only lasts a split second.

“Where are the dogs?” Rose asks. “I saw you had a new furbaby--I wanted to meet her!”

“They’re crated for the evening,” Will says. “Wouldn’t want them begging for scraps.” Rook’s eyes narrow, as if Will has just confirmed some suspicion he had, and his hands twitch towards his pocket for his phone before stopping. Will is glad he moved the boat closer, and has the speedboat docked down by the beach.

Hannibal serves the grilled nectarines and sweetbreads, plated over a bed of cauliflower rice, drizzled in the glaze and pours them all glasses of a fruity pinot noir. Will allows himself to enjoy the food, even as Peter drones about some deal he’s working on.

Rose, bless her dear heart, can sense the tension at the table, and Will has no doubt it’s killing her. She keeps pushing her fork around her plate and casting sidelong glances at her husband, who ignores her. When at last Peter pauses to take a drink, she latches onto the silence to change the subject.

“Rook mentioned he’s been working with you for his new project, Linas,” she says, oblivious to what, exactly, she’s stepped in. Her words are already slurring. Will gives it ten minutes, maybe, before she’s passed out. As soon as she does, things will happen quite quickly.

“Has he?” Hannibal murmurs.

The look Peter gives Rook clearly questions his friend’s sanity. “I thought you were working on that Fairy guy. The serial killer or whatever. What the hell does a poet have to do with that?”

Hannibal takes a moment to chew and swallow, and sip from his wine glass, stem pinched delicately between his fingers. “Francis Dolarhyde took a great deal of inspiration from the poet Blake. In fact, it was his paintings of the Great Red Dragon that fuelled his becoming.”

“Becoming?” Peter echoes, mocking, under his breath. He rolls his eyes at Rook. “Fascinating.”

“It is, rather,” Hannibal agrees, ignoring the sarcasm. “But Mister Rook has since changed the subject of his film.”

“Oh?” A smile dances around Peter’s lips. “Is the another serial murdering poet I wasn’t aware of?”

“I imagine there’s a great many things you aren’t aware of,” Will tells him, flatly, and feels a little bad for Rose when her eyes go wide with fear. He takes it out on her, Will knows, and now she’s worried what he’ll say and do to her later. Well.

When she wakes up tomorrow, Rose won’t have to worry any longer. No more hiding bruises and shrinking into herself when he’s around, a duller, sadder version of herself. Maybe Will should thank Rook for bringing along Peter and allowing him to give this to Rose.

“Excuse me?” Peter says.

Rook shifts in his seat. Even as Will has come to appreciate the additional guests, Rook is questioning the wisdom of his decision to bring them. It suffuses Will with good cheer. “Did I stutter?” he asks.

“Will,” Hannibal chides him gently. Rudeness is rudeness, regardless of the reason, after all. He turns his attention to Peter.

“There are indeed a great many serial killers and sociopaths who are attempting to create art through their victims. Any action possessing of great meaning is poetic in its own way, even if only to the responsible individual.”

Rose sways in her seat before steadying herself. Will sees Hannibal take note, though his attention is still devoted to Peter. Neither of the others notice, or they don’t care. She clutches her head and grimaces, but it passes quickly. She ruthlessly clamps down on it, and pastes a smile on her face before turning to Will. “Can you point me to the bathroom?”

“I’ll show you,” he says, offering her an arm. She puts most of her weight on him, weaving drunkenly on his arm. As they pass into the living room, Will can hear Peter muttering scornfully about how his wife can’t hold her tequila.

Will takes Rose into the powder room and leaves to get her water. He’s fully prepared to knock her out, if need be, but when he comes back she’s slumped over the toilet bowl. The fondness he feels for her is surprising in that moment. A sort of vulnerable tenderness he’s thought he’s beyond for anyone other than Hannibal at this point, never mind how downright obnoxious she is most of the time.

There was never a point in his life when he could have enjoyed her company, but he feels a camaraderie with her, all the same. He brushes back her hair and she mutters something unintelligible. Not yet unconscious, but she’s not getting back on her feet, let alone making her way back out to the patio. Will leaves the water and locks the door on his way out.

Peter’s voice is loud and grating, carrying through the house. He’s going on about how there’s nothing artistic about murdering people, unless you’re a psychopath. Will thinks it’s a fair assessment, generally speaking. Hearing it from Peter just makes Will feel irrationally indignant.

He’s ready to get this show on the road.

Will sinks his hand in his pocket, feeling the edges of his knife and curling his fingers around it. Rook is talking when Will comes outside, explaining to Peter that his film will focus on different aspects of the killer, not just his crimes. His gaze flicks to Will briefly, and away just as quickly, dismissive. Even with all his missteps, Rook is confident he has secured his survival.

“You have to get inside their heads,” he’s saying. “You have to understand who they are in order to understand their motivation. And once you do, you can appreciate the beauty from their perspective, and the--”

“So I suppose you’ll appreciate this,” Will says, voice low, approaching the table. Rook glances at him, brow raised, annoyed by Will’s interruption and unimpressed and Hannibal goes still.

Will unfolds the knife as he pulls it from his pocket, and Rook doesn’t see it, until Will grabs a fistful of Peter’s hair. Rook stares in disbelief, even as Peter begins an outraged cry that dies out in a gurgle when Will jams the blade into his carotid. He allows the man to seal his own fate, watching in amusement as Peter pulls the knife free. Hannibal slides his chair back neatly, out of the way, but Rook is rooted to the spot, under the hot spray of blood.

There’s a vicious blossoming of satisfaction at the growing horror and realisation that spreads across Rook’s face as he drips in Peter’s blood. Then Rook is scrambling to his feet, grabbing at the edge of the table to propel himself along, towards the back gate, hand shoved in his pocket for his phone as he goes.

Will leans a hand against the back of Peter’s chair, striking a casual pose and gives Hannibal an expectantly arched brow. He tips his head in Rook’s direction, both invitation and question. Hannibal rises to his feet with that familiar, deadly grace that makes Will’s skin tingle in base, animal dread, even as his conscious mind thrills in delight.

Peter makes a wet, sucking sound, trying to breath, and Will pats his shoulder absently, watching as Hannibal cuts across the space between them and Rook. “You know, I’m not sure whether it would be more fitting to elevate your death to a work of art deserving of the masters, or to deprive it of artistry altogether,” he tells Peter, righting him as he starts to slump to one side. “I guess I’ll let Hannibal decide on that one.”

Rook’s almost made it to the gate, but even so Hannibal seems in no particular hurry. He picks up the tray he’d used for the skewers and hurls it like a discus, which would probably be absurd if it weren’t so impressive. It catches Rook in the shoulder hard enough to knock him off balance and send him crashing into one of the lounge chairs.

As Rook struggles to untangle himself, he finally gets his phone free, screen lighting up in the darkness as he unlocks it, but then Hannibal is on him, needle pressing into the skin of his neck as he leans over to pluck the phone from Rook’s hand.

“You have a new text, Mister Rook,” Hannibal exclaims cheerfully, as he swipes through the phone. “‘Pics or it didn’t happen.’ There’s no name, but it is a 202 area code.” He holds the phone up for Will, who lets Peter fall against the tabletop with a dull thunk and saunters over, taking his time.

Rook struggles against the hold Hannibal has on his arm and Hannibal shoves him roughly to the ground, bringing his foot to rest against Rook’s neck. “The paralytic I’ve administered will soon take effect, but if you’d prefer your paralysis to be more permanent, I am happy to oblige.”

A faint sound escapes before Rook manages to stop it. He shakes his head and puts up no further struggle. Will takes the phone, scrolling up through the course of the conversation. Rook bragging, alluding to his meetings with Hannibal, though never saying anything outright, or revealing their location.

The recipient expresses clear disbelief at first, giving way to wariness, and finally a blatant appeal to Rook’s common sense, just before Rook’s meeting with them on Sunday. Then shifting back to the original disbelief when Rook survived his supposed rendez-vous, and then this challenge.

Even without a name, Will would know that voice anywhere. Freddie texts like she talks, like she writes her articles. He’s intrigued by how ruthless she’s been, daring him. It’s clear she was inclined to believe him, from the information Rook imparted that he shouldn’t have had. He can’t tell if she’s fooling herself into thinking Rook’s lying, or if she’s hoping to bait him, and by extension force Hannibal and Will’s hand, force them to reveal themselves.

“Careful what you ask for, Miss Lounds,” he says under his breath.

The mantra no turning back, no turning back running through his head, Will tucks himself close to Hannibal’s side. It only takes a second before Hannibal realises his intent and pulls him in with an arm over his chest. He presses his cheek to Will’s as Will holds up the phone, arm extended, and snaps a photo of them.

When he looks at the picture, Will almost doesn’t recognise himself. The sinister glint in his eyes, the grim line of his mouth, exuding an air of menace. And next to him, their closeness impossible to misinterpret, Hannibal smiling, the cat who’s caught the canary. Freddie will probably have it printed on a shirt.

Will pockets the phone; as soon as he sends it, they’ll have an hour, maybe two, before Freddie alerts the authorities, and then it will be the simple matter of tracking down Alexander Rook. No, he’ll send that message when they’re through.

“Bring him inside?” Will says, stepping away from Hannibal again.

Hannibal obediently hauls Rook to his feet. Rook is mostly loose limbed, legs giving out under him, but Hannibal half-carries, half-drags him to the table. Peter’s cheek is resting on his plate, sightless eyes watching them. Will leaves him that way for now. The blood has soaked through the tablecloth and dripping to the ground, staining the once purple and white flowers vibrant red.

Will holds open the door of Hannibal’s study for them to enter and Hannibal settles Rook’s weight in the deep, overstuffed chair by the piano. His body is limp, and Hannibal has to carefully position his arms on the rests, his head against the cushioned back, to keep him from slipping.

They should probably restrain him just in case. Will brings in cord and zip ties from the garage and kneels in front of Rook, starting with his feet. Rook has just enough control over himself to move his eyes, and no more, and he stares down at Will in terror.

“Now that we’ve got you here, I have to be honest with you, you’re not leaving here with your life,” Will says, conversationally, as he applies the zip ties to Rook’s ankles. “But it would be goddamn tragic if you didn’t really get the full picture of who Hannibal Lecter is.”

Will rises to his feet, working on Rook’s hands next. “I mean, after all, that’s how you’ve come to find yourself in this predicament.” He leans over the back of the chair to loop the cord around the back, then hooks it through the zip ties.

“You wanted the real story.” Giving a tug and satisfied with the sturdiness of the restraints, Will leans back and gives Rook a beaming smile. “And I think it’s only fair that we give it to you.”

Chapter Text

Will pulls up the chair opposite Rook, until there’s only a few feet between them. Will knows from personal experience the strain on the eyes when they remain the only mobile part of the body, and he wants to make sure Rook sees him, and understands. He sits, leaning back into the cushion and crossing his ankle over his knee, folds his hands in his lap. It's a very conscious, purposeful mirroring of a familiar pose.

Hannibal stands just behind the chair, out of Rook’s line of vision, and Will can tell that’s causing their captive no small amount of distress. The way his eyes keep flicking in that direction, like if he just tries hard enough, Hannibal will finally come into view. It isn’t that Will blames him, exactly, it’s just that even now Rook fails to recognise the danger Will himself poses.

“I’m curious,” Will says, and Rook’s eyes dart back to him. “Did you honestly think you could trick us? That we wouldn’t eventually notice you were communicating with Freddie about us? Or were you simply so confident in your insurance that you thought we wouldn’t do anything about it?”

Obviously Rook can’t answer verbally, but then Will doesn’t need him to speak. “Oh, it’s cute, Hannibal.” Will lifts his gaze to look at him over Rook’s shoulder, voice and smile mockingly sentimental. “He thought we’d moved past that.”

Hannibal arches a brow, neither in direct response to Will’s words, nor his methodology. He is observing, intrigued as ever to watch Will’s empathy at work, and so Will indulges him. A show for him, as well. This, he’ll never tire of--sharing this gift with Hannibal, and in return, receiving the gift that is the knowledge that no one will ever see Hannibal as Will does--not only in these moments, but in the rest of their life together.

Will focusses on Rook, studying his face, letting the room go dim around the edges. It’s far simpler than the minds of the killers he’s inhabited, to rewind the truly mundane life the man has lived. Watching the branching choices he’s made that’s brought him to this point.

“Your mistake, Rook--well, okay, your biggest mistake--is that you can’t conceive of a world where you aren’t right, and everything doesn’t turn out exactly how you planned. Even if it means you have to get creative and rewrite history. You start believing your own lies, a little more each time you tell them, until you can pretend you don’t remember the truth.”

“Like that screenplay that girl in your creative writing class was working on, that you managed to get your hands on. You told her it was rough, but it had potential, only in reality you knew it was better than anything you could hope to achieve. Reading it brought about the realisation that while you might be able to recognise the seeds of genius in others, you were yourself barren soil.”

Rook swallows hard, and Will can feel the rush of shame and indignant, helpless rage. The words he can’t speak rise up in his throat, desperate to defend himself. And, simultaneously, the knowledge that Will can’t have simply looked this up on his wiki page.

“Then there was that car wreck, and you couldn’t just let her masterpiece sit there, unfinished and unseen.”

Will grins wider as the scene unfurls for him, piecing it together from all he knows of Rook, all he’s seen, and all Rook reveals now with each microexpression. How perfect. Will leans in closer, speaking in a hushed tone, as if sharing a secret. “At first, you’re just polishing it up in her memory. You’ll make sure she gets all the credit. Her parents are happy to let you have her laptop when you talk about what good friends you were and how you want to honour her.

“But then you’re working on it, and time passes, and no one else even knew it existed. Why should she get the accolades when you’re the one making it great? It’d be a waste--she’s not even around to enjoy the fame. You’ll credit her for giving you the idea. Except you knew, deep down, that every change you made was to the detriment of the work--pandering to the lowest common denominator.”

Will chuckles humourlessly. “You know,” he directs his words to Hannibal, conversationally, “I don’t even think she got an in loving memory of, in the end.”

“Bet you never told anyone about her. Bet you like to pretend you don’t even remember her name.” Will leans back again, adopting Rook’s usual smug, superior attitude. “Or what happened with Spencer, that time she blacked out at your party? Or that kid who sold you the blow outside that club in Hollywood?”

Rook’s eyes are fixed on Will’s face. These are the secrets Rook’s never told anyone. The sad, pitiful little things he keeps hidden away and won’t acknowledge, even in the privacy of his own mind. Will rolls his eyes a the mundanity of it. He reaches out to lay his hand over Rook’s, tied to the arm of the chair. With panic rippling from Rook, Will adopts an expression of faux sympathy.

“It’s so fucking pathetic I almost feel sorry for you, Rook. Almost. But don’t worry,” he says. “In death we’ll give your miserable life meaning, at last. And think of it this way: now you don’t have to worry that every film you ever make will always be held to the same standard as that first, and found severely wanting. Every critic wondering how the most promising break-out writer/director in a generation could have gone so far off course."

He glances up at Hannibal then, to share the welling of amusement and is caught by the expression on his face. Though he doesn’t take his eyes from Hannibal, he can’t miss Rook’s reaction in his periphery, his dismay and surprise. Will’s focus is devoted too entirely to Hannibal to spare any annoyance over once again being underestimated by Rook. Hannibal is still, simply watching and waiting, and after a moment’s confusion, Will realises Hannibal is waiting for direction from him.

Neither speak, and the silence stretches out between them. Rook’s harsh, uneven breathing is the only sound in the room. What Will plans to show Rook is only a portion of their reality. There is not time enough to show him any more than that, and he would neither understand nor appreciate it. Hannibal nods once, and Will can’t honestly say whether the thoughts were Hannibal’s and Will read them in his gaze, or if they were his own, and Hannibal intuited them.

In the end, it hardly matters. Hannibal comes around Rook’s chair and, very purposefully, never taking his eyes from Will’s, lowers himself to kneel on the floor at Will’s side. Will’s nostrils flare, a feeling of fierce possessiveness surging through him at the sight. He knows this for what it is, the temporary shifting of power between them that is ever changing. Lacing his fingers through Hannibal’s hair, Will turns his attention back to Rook, and lets a satisfied smile unfurl on his lips.

“You’ve crafted this persona that’s so popular, so magnetic, of course Hannibal was going to take to you. He would see your true value. He would find in you something that was lacking in all others.”

“But as you can see, Mister Rook,” Hannibal says, pushing into Will’s touch, “the position you sought has already been filled, by one far more worthy. And you, like your work, have been found wanting.”

“Now,” Will says, standing and rubbing his hands together brusquely. “We have a scene to set, and I think I have an idea of how to use your friend Peter. It really would be a shame to let him go to waste after you went through the trouble to bring him along.”

Taking Will’s lead, Hannibal rises to his feet as well, managing to look graceful as ever. He leans in over Rook, bracing his arm on the back of the chair. “Normally I would have dispatched of you far more quickly and I don’t want you getting the wrong idea about why you’re still alive--thinking you’re special--you hardly need more reason for your big-headedness. This is Will’s design, as much as it is mine, and I follow his lead.”

Will smirks at Rook in passing, and presses his hand in the small of Hannibal’s back to usher him from the room. They’re barely out of Rook’s line of sight when Hannibal turns on him, backs Will up against the bookshelf. Hannibal pins him there, arms above his head, the hard line of the shelf digging into Will’s back, and Hannibal’s body an unrelenting weight against him.

The force of it knocks the breath from Will’s chest, and his adrenaline surges in response to Hannibal’s proximity and the violence of the movement. Though their time as lovers has been brief in the overall scheme of their relationship, it’s been long enough for Will to overcome his automatic urge to struggle against Hannibal's hold. Hannibal’s head is bowed, face hidden by the fall of his hair. He noses along the curve of Will’s jaw, and unthinking, Will tips his head back. Hannibal draws a deep breath, inhaling Will’s scent. When he speaks, Will can barely hear the words, as softly as he speaks. “I thought you had another scene in mind, for Mister Rook.”

That shocks Will more than their current position. Though he hadn’t said the words in jest, he hadn’t honestly thought Hannibal would take them to heart--that he would allow something that he viewed as such a private, profound coupling between them to be seen by a victim of theirs. The mere suggestion now sparks a powerful lust in Will, and he arches into Hannibal, feeling the answering bulge in his trousers. He strains against the hold on his wrists, flexing his hands into fists. With a shift of his weight, he pushes back against Hannibal--not with his full strength, but enough to show his intentions.

Hannibal’s eyes narrow to slits, catching maroon in the light, and Will can see the warring desire there. At first, Hannibal gives in to instinct, teeth bared as his grip tightens enough to bruise. He shoves firmly with his hips and shoulders, grinding Will back into the shelf. There’s a dark, alien emotion rising from Hannibal in waves--something that hangs in the air between them, casting shadows over the room. If Will were to squint, he imagines he could see the faint outline of antlers sprouting from Hannibal’s head, the slick black pouring from his mouth and spreading over his skin.

It’s a tantalising promise of what lurks beneath Hannibal’s tightly held control that makes Will’s heart pound. There’s a very specific display he’s had in mind for Rook--subtlety would be lost on the man, and if Will wants him to understand the balance of power in their relationship, this isn’t the way. But Hannibal has shown such restraint to this point and Will can’t help but grin when he struggles. Just how far he can push before all Hannibal’s resolve crumble?

The tension coils tighter, and then just as abruptly as it began, it ends. Hannibal loosens his hold, and then releases Will’s wrists all together, hands dropping to his side. Back in his eyes is that expectant, searching look, waiting for Will’s guidance, which he is only too glad to give. He brings his hands to Hannibal’s shoulders, leaning in to brush a brief, almost chaste kiss over his lips before putting pressure into his touch, urging Hannibal to his knees again.

Hannibal goes, not breaking eye contact even as he unfastens Will’s pants, draws down his zipper, and reaches inside to stroke his fingers over Will’s hardening cock. Will can still see the monster, biding his time, and the anticipation shivers up Will’s spine. He brims with satisfaction and pride at how far Hannibal has come in his evolution, that he can indulge in this give and take.

A groan falls from Will’s lips as Hannibal closes his lips around the tip of his shaft and sinks down the length. His head falls back against the books with a thump, turned to the side to hold Hannibal’s gaze. He tangles his hands in Hannibal’s hair and gives an affectionate stroke, letting it card silky soft and fine through his fingers even as he thrusts his hips forward roughly, feeling his cock nudge Hannibal’s throat.

Above the wet sounds of Hannibal’s mouth sucking his dick, Rook’s breathing has gone ragged again, each exhale giving way to an almost hysterical whine. Giving into all the long held, dark urges, Will has discovered a great deal about himself that he’s refused to acknowledge. He’s accepted that seeing the perfection that is Hannibal in action, that alpha predator, calls to Will’s own primal desires. Until now he’s never been sexually excited by the prospect of murder or torture of another, in and of itself. Yet the panicky disbelief that has settled over Rook, along with the realisation of what, precisely, is happening just outside of his field of vision, only fuels Will’s excitement. Makes him grip Hannibal tighter, thrust more roughly, moan louder, unable to turn away from the knowing look in Hannibal’s eyes.

“Come here.” The words come out more of an order than Will intended. Hannibal’s shoulders tense, but he climbs Will’s body, replacing his mouth with a tight fist on Will’s cock, still working him relentlessly even as Will reels him into a kiss. Will bites down hard on his plush bottom lip, tasting himself and the remains of their dinner--their last prey--and with a rough jerk, Hannibal’s blood spilling onto his tongue. Hannibal responds as predicted, touch turning possessive and hungry, pressing as close to Will as he can be, with as much clothing as there still is between them.

Winding his hand in Hannibal’s tie, Will pushes his fist in the hollow of Hannibal’s throat. Hannibal goes blindly, trusting Will to lead where he wants. Will walks him backward, mouths still fused together, until Hannibal’s thighs meet the edge of his desk. And now Rook won’t have to use his woeful imagination. Will knows well enough that though he may be horrified, Rook will be compelled to watch, rather than close his eyes.

“Take off your pants,” Will says. His breath is coming fast, but he doesn’t care to hide his excitement. He takes a step back to watch as Hannibal does as he’s told, slowly and purposefully unbuttoning and lowering his pants, bending to step free of them. He looks a bit absurd in his boxer briefs, trouser socks, and dress shoes, still impeccably dressed from the waist up, but Will’s mouth still waters at the sight. He strokes himself absently, and says, “Underwear, too.”

Hannibal glances at him from under the fall of his hair, still half bent over, acquiescence in the set of his shoulders. He drapes both articles of clothing over the desk chair and stands there, dick hard and curving towards his stomach. Uncowed and unashamed, as Will would have him.

Will goes to him, hands on Hannibal’s wrist now. He doesn’t restrain as Hannibal did, merely seeks with his fingers past the cuffs, along delicate skin, for the raised edges of the scars that run the length of the veins there. He smiles against Hannibal’s mouth when he finds them, tickling the skin with a light touch. Hannibal growls in response, nipping at Will’s lips, fingers curling and pulling at his sleeve.

With little need of guidance, Hannibal turns for Will, bracing his hands on the desktop and exposing himself with the fine arch of his back. Will covers Hannibal's body with his own, makes a murmuring sound of appreciation and approval into his hairline. All the skin he wants to touch and kiss is still hidden by Hannibal’s jacket and shirt, and there simply isn’t time to completely disrobe and do all the things Will would like.

Instead, Will grabs him by the hips, lets his hands wander around to palm the sharp cut of Hannibal’s pelvic bones. His fingers curve into the flesh of his lower belly, animal delight at how the soft skin gives under Will’s touch. He rocks against Hannibal’s ass, leaning back to watch his dick slide between his cheeks. He’s so turned on he leaves a trail of precome glistening on Hannibal’s skin as he ruts there.

Hannibal splays himself over the surface of the desk and searches blindly for the drawer, pulling it open just enough to reach inside for the lube. Will snatches it from his hand, pumping a generous amount into his palm and over his fingers. He runs his thumb between Hannibal’s asscheeks, tracing the opening of his body, delighting in the way Hannibal’s muscles quiver. His hips cant back and up, exposing himself to Will’s probing touch.

As much as this is a show for Rook, Will can’t help but lose himself in his and Hannibal’s shared pleasure. He lays himself over Hannibal’s back, face tucked into the curve of his neck as he drags two fingers back and forth over Hannibal’s hole. He licks the bare skin he can find, behind Hannibal’s ear and at the bend of his jaw. His fingers search lower, applying the right amount pressure just behind his balls to make Hannibal roll his hips forward.

Again and again, Will strokes between his perineum and back, dipping just the tips of his fingers inside at first, but deeper with each pass, until Hannibal is rocking back, fucking himself on Will’s fingers, soft moans pouring from his mouth. Will bites gently at an old, pink bruise on Hannibal’s throat and sucks hungrily to hear Hannibal’s moans turn rough and needy.

“Will.” Hannibal pants his name, head hanging between his shoulders. His hands grip the side of the table, gone white from how tightly he’s holding on. The edge of desperation in his voice, the sight of him writhing back against Will’s body, the feel of his body clenching tight around his fingers, goes straight to Will’s dick.

Though he’d love to drag this out, to wait until Hannibal is sweaty and begging to be fucked, there’s only so much time. And, Will himself is already hard enough to hammer nails. He pulls his fingers free and slicks more lube down his cock. He bites his lip at the sensation and squeezes around the base while he takes a centring breath. Resting his cheek against Hannibal’s hair, Will guides himself to Hannibal’s opening and begins the glide inside. It doesn’t matter how often they do this, Will never fails to be amazed by how tight Hannibal is, how his body seems to pull Will inexorably deeper. How he can’t seem to help but bottom out, no matter how he’d like to go slowly and draw it out.

For a long moment, Will rests there, skin flush to Hannibal’s, breathing in the scent of their mingled sweat, Peter’s blood, Rook’s fear. He can feel Hannibal’s pulse beating fast when he wraps his hand around Hannibal’s cock and gives a tight squeeze.

“Fuck, Hannibal.” Hannibal makes a strangled sound in the back of his throat in response. He swivels his hips back on Will’s cock with a smooth motion, clenching his internal muscles tight. Will can feel the satisfaction rippling from Hannibal, can almost see the vicious, triumphant smile, when it Will slams into him roughly.

From there, it’s an inevitable, spiraling loss of control, the two of them straining and rocking together in a race for completion. Will grabs Hannibal by his flank, jerking him back every time he drives forward, spearing Hannibal on his cock. His hand strokes Hannibal in counterpoint to his own irregular thrusts. Hannibal is slick with leaking precome, running over Will’s knuckles in a thick stream. Will draws back his foreskin and thumbs the head of his cock, smearing it over the sensitive skin.

Hannibal arches back, bends himself in a harsh line to reach behind and wind his arm around Will’s neck, holding him close. It’s an awkward stretch that leaves Hannibal exposed to Will’s touch. He braces his hand on Hannibal’s stomach, using the leverage to fuck Hannibal harder. Each thrust jars Hannibal against the desk, sending papers and pens scattering, knocks the lamp over the edge.

Will chuckles helplessly, knowing full well that under most circumstances, Hannibal would be displeased over this treatment of his things. Hannibal must sense the cause of his amusement; he strains against Will’s hold and sweeps his hand over the desk top, sending everything crashing to the ground. Rolling his shoulders, Hannibal shoves Will away and turns onto his back, laying himself over the surface. He spreads his legs in welcoming, feet braced on the desk and Will drinks him in. Hair matted to his forehead with sweat, eyes dark and wild, cheeks flushed.

For a minute, Will revels in the rush of covetous need and the deep welling of affection that comes from them both, amplified as they reflect it back and forth between them, over and over. Then Hannibal grabs Will by the label of his jacket and jerks him close into a crushing kiss. By touch, Will finds his way between Hannibal’s thighs, and pushes back inside. A fine tremor runs through Hannibal and Will’s empathy has him trembling in answer. Hannibal’s powerful legs twine around Will’s hips and Will leans in close, so his stomach drags over his cock when he drives forward.

He can’t stop licking into Hannibal’s willing mouth. The cut on his lip has reopened from the force, lacing the kiss with the sharp, metallic flavour of his blood. He draws his forehead across Hannibal’s, breaths out his name between the brushes of their lips. Will's hips shove harder and deeper, sending Hannibal sliding across the desktop. His legs clutch tighter at Will.

And this...this isn’t for Rook, he realises. Rook’s presence here is no more than a tool, as his body will be, in Will’s design. Their design. To pretend that this display is anything other than an expression of Will’s possessiveness towards Hannibal--his need to own as thoroughly as he has been owned, to prove to himself and to Hannibal that as much as Hannibal has changed him, Will has changed Hannibal in equal measure--would be disingenuous.

Understanding washes over him, makes Will move more carefully. He slows his desperate rhythm. Hannibal’s touch caresses through Will’s hair and over his check, brushing against his beard with a whispering sound. When Will lifts his head to meet his gaze, he can see that Hannibal already knew as much. He still draws Will into him with a flex of his calves, heels digging into Will’s thighs. Still strains up for a kiss, his whole posture one of submission.

“Fuck,” Will breathes into him. “Fuck, Hannibal, I--” In this moment, I love you seem a weak and feeble way expressing of what he feels. Instead, he kisses Hannibal with the full force of his emotion behind it, hoping to convey through touch what he can’t with words. That feeling shudders through him as he reaches climax, giving over to impulse and burying himself deep with each spasm. Hannibal snarls into the kiss and rubs against him. He’s coming, too, cock untouched between them, as if feeling Will’s pleasure was enough to get him off.

And still, Will doesn’t want to part from him. He brings his hands to Hannibal’s face, thumbs pressing in along the fine arch of his cheekbones and the hollows beneath, fingers cradling his temples. Hannibal can’t miss the way Will’s hands tremble, barely brushing his skin.

Hannibal breaks the kiss, drawing the tip of his nose along the bridge of Will’s, over the curve of his brow. He presses his lips in a delicate kiss to Will’s eyelid, the corner of his eye, down his cheek toward his ear. Though he remains silent, Will hears the meaning behind his touch, as clearly as if he’d spoken. Understanding of just what Will meant to say with his kiss, and a declaration of his reciprocation.

“Let’s go create our design,” Will whispers. Hannibal turns his head for another kiss, lips catching briefly, before finally loosening his hold on Will. He lets his legs fall limp from around his waist and it takes a great amount of willpower for Will to withdraw from him.

Hannibal paints a very enticing picture, ass and thighs red from the force with which Will fucked him, his opening slick and swollen, Will’s come starting to leak from him. But Hannibal makes no move to clean himself up, merely grabs his underwear and slacks from the chair back and dresses quickly. Will’s slowing pulse picks up again at the thought of Hannibal walking around still full of his come, smelling like him, feeling him with every step he takes. He can’t stop a faint groan, and the twist of Hannibal’s lips says he knows exactly what Will is thinking.

Will tries to pull himself together and regain some of the calm he had earlier, when this began. He tucks himself away, does up his pants, smoothing out the lines of his jacket, and turns back to Rook, who is indeed watching, with saucer-wide eyes. Will is vaguely curious what Rook would say, if he were able--at first blush, all he can sense from Rook is revulsion and a reluctant acceptance of the extent to which he misread them.

“You know,” Will says, in a conversational tone to Hannibal as he straightens his cufflinks, “I thought I needed him to see our design, but…” He bites his lips and shakes his head. “You were right. He’s nothing special, and he’s certainly not worth the effort. He’d never understand.”

Hannibal comes to stand at his side. He gives Will a long, searching look that transports Will back to his living room in Wolf Trap, Mason Verger cackling as he feeds his face to the dogs. And oh, how far they’ve come. Will reaches out to take his hand and gives it a firm squeeze. With a nod, Hannibal comes to his own decision and goes to his desk, bends to pick the scalpel up from where it fell to the floor. He goes to crouch in front of Rook, a hand to his cheek to guide them eye to eye. He speaks in that detached, clinical tone that has in the past anchored Will, and then chilled him to his very core, and now fills him with cool amusement.

“That isn’t to say you can’t be of some use,” Hannibal tells him, as he begins to unbutton Rook’s shirt, laying bare his chest. It heaves with his laboured breathing.

Will comes up behind him, hands braced on the chair back. “Some of our old friends will be along shortly, and we’d like to leave them a message,” he says.

“And you, Mister Rook...” Hannibal says, as he puts the scalpel against Rook’s sternum and exerts just the right pressure to neatly slice through skin. He drags the blade down, down, leaving a red line in its wake, blood surging thick and vivid to the surface and running down his chest and stomach. A gurgling, terrified sound comes from Rook’s throat, trying to scream past his paralysed vocal chords. Hannibal sets aside the scalpel and pushes his hands in, spreading the skin open under his touch.

“You have something we need.”

Chapter Text

Will stands at the entrance to the house, looking out over the patio with satisfaction. It’s likely his own vanity speaking, but this arrangement is among his favourite of those left by the Chesapeake Ripper. More literal, perhaps, but just this once they have decided to forgo the more oblique symbolism. After all, they don’t want anyone misinterpreting the message here, and without Will to deconstruct the scene for them, Jack will be out of his depth.

And now Will lets his eyes drift closed, committing this all to the stream in his mind. Those sounds Rook made, as he died. It took long enough that by the time he was nearing the end of his life, the paralytic wore off. At that point he wasn’t going anywhere--too far along his journey with blood loss and ribs cracked open, drifting in and out of consciousness. Aware enough, however, to try to crawl away. Making it maybe two or three feet over the course of ten minutes, while Hannibal and Will watched him from the shadows in amusement. How he’d cursed Will, calling him all manner of names, when he’d come forward at last to drag him out to his final resting place on the patio.

The coppery tang of blood hangs in the air, thick enough he can taste it on the back of his tongue. Blood dried black on the grass and stone, tablecloth and flower arrangement, the spray of it almost artful. Fresher blood shiny and slick on Will’s own hands and arms, under his nails, clumped in his hair, trailed in shoe prints from the house.

This is not Hannibal’s perfect crime scene, devoid of evidence. They’ve left their signature in more than the tableau they created. Bloody fingerprints in door frames, hair and skin and saliva on the pillowcases and sheets, plates and glasses. The extent of their relationship unmistakable in their mingled bodily fluids. It isn’t the sort of crime scene they’ll likely leave again, either, if they wish to travel without constantly looking over their shoulders, but it feels cathartic. Just reveling in the visceral nature of what they’ve done, and who, precisely, they are.

Hannibal comes up behind him, wrapping Will in his arms. Will is hyperaware of everything, senses still heightened by the fading adrenaline. He can hear Hannibal’s heartbeat, and smell his scent beneath the stench of fear and death. It’s grounding and soothing, and Will relaxes into him.

“We should go,” Hannibal says.

Will nods once, and opens his eyes. “I’m ready.”

They shower, the water running pink from their bodies as they scrub away the blood. As usual, Hannibal has managed to remain far neater than Will. It’s as endearing as it is maddening. For all that they’re in a hurry, Hannibal insists on washing Will’s hair, as he always does when they shower together. Will submits, though he suspects some sort of fetish. He’s hardly going to complain, as good as it feels, comfort entirely separate from sexual pleasure. Hannibal’s fingers massage into his scalp, easing away all his tension.

After they change, Will goes over the house one last time, making sure he’s left nothing important behind. Rose is still out like a light, and Will spares a moment’s sympathy for what she’ll wake to find. He can’t help but wonder if she’ll grow to appreciate the gift they’ve given her, or if guilt and fear will torment her from here on out.

The docks are locked up and deserted this time of night--no one to witness them or give any indication of where they’ve gone. Will takes out Rook’s phone. Freddie’s message sits there, waiting. Pics or it didn’t happen... Will responded earlier, stalling her, putting her at ease with a simple I’m working on it. Now he attaches the picture he took of himself and Hannibal and sends it, along with a second photograph, this time of Rook tied up and bleeding, and the message Are you satisfied now, Miss Lounds?

It’s past two in the morning, but Will just knows Freddie’s the sort who sleeps with her phone next to her pillow, volume turned up. Once the message is confirmed as sent, he tosses the phone into the water. He’s not expecting a response anyway. Now they have a timetable to work with.

Sam and Tara perk up when they come aboard, running around their legs and sniffing the package Will carries, with Freddie’s name and address; the cooler Hannibal carries, with the remains he’s taken from Peter and Rook. Hannibal goes below without a word, the dogs on his heels, and Will stares after him for a moment.

Something hangs between them. It brews there, tingling along Will’s skin--not altogether unpleasant, but certainly not comfortable. He’s looking forward to investigating further, digging into all those chinks he’s exposed in Hannibal’s armour and finding that thing which lies beneath. Only, when they aren’t running for their lives.

For now, Will turns his attention to their escape and guides them out to sea. At this time of night, there’s little traffic--a cruise ship, a few yachts, and of course the commercial traffic and trawlers.

Within a few hours they’re all alone in the water for miles on end. By now Jack must know they were in St. Barts and he’ll know they’ve left by boat. His net won’t include Colombia just yet, and by the time it widens, they’ll hopefully be long gone.

Still, Will isn’t going to take any chances. If he pushes hard and the waves aren’t too choppy, they can make it to Santa Marta in just over 26 hours. They can sleep in shifts if need be. He thought he knew desperation during their last escape by boat, but upon reflection, Will now knows and appreciates just how much he has to lose.

How much has changed between Hannibal and himself since then? Having been certain of Hannibal’s love for him, but still navigating his own nebulous feelings. Panic over the idea of being caught muted by the pain of his injuries and the danger that Hannibal might yet succumb to his. Just further defense mechanisms on Will’s part, as he attempted to distance himself from what he knew, deep down, was an already irrevocable truth.

At the time, Will theorised the lengths to which he’d go to preserve this relationship, but now he knows just what he’s capable of to keep Hannibal by his side. It’s a far stretch from finding pleasure in killing bad people, or good people who are strangers standing in their way. Will now knows that if Jack puts himself between them and freedom, he will not hesitate this time. He’d really rather avoid that eventuality, if at all possible.

In the glow of predawn light, Will feels a prickling at the nape of his neck. Along with the awareness of being watched comes an unfounded trepidation, given that it could only be Hannibal watching him. Will swallows hard, his throat suddenly tight and dry, and slows their speed. He turns, feeling both strangely compelled to do so and apprehensive over what he’ll see.

Hannibal watches him from near the stern, cast in shadow. Will steps out from behind the helm and fights the urge to strike a defensive pose. He fidgets and clenches his fists at his side, raises his chin. “Well,” he says, tone as haughty as he can manage when his pulse is fluttering wildly. “What are you waiting for?”

Around and between them, an oily, inky black blooms over the deck. It takes on shape as it draws nearer to Will, growing tendrils that form fingers, clawing at the hem of Will’s trousers. Hannibal follows, stirring the wisps with each step, looming larger than Will knows him actually to be. He’s expecting Hannibal to speak, to respond to his taunt, and when he doesn’t, Will’s unease grows.

Instinct makes him take a step backward, and Hannibal lunges forward. His hand closes around Will’s arm tightly enough to make him grunt in pain. Some eager, rebellious part of Will thrills, causing him to struggle just to see Hannibal’s reaction. The experiment earns Will a growl and lands him flat on his stomach. It knocks the wind from him, leaves a bright, sharp pain in his lungs when he draws a breath.

Hannibal follows him to the ground, his body a heavy weight, erection digging into the small of Will’s back. And still he doesn’t speak. He rolls his hips forward, driving Will into the deck. That queasy warming rush of adrenaline from earlier is back, stronger than before. It narrows his field of vision and magnifies every touch.

Will knows he could put up a decent fight, but Hannibal’s body over his as good as a hand clamped at the scruff of his neck, holding tight and fast in dominance. It settles in Will’s groin, his cock growing hard and heavy as the rest of his body goes limp. He draws a deep breath and exhales slowly, letting himself melt into the floor.

Taking it as submission, Hannibal begins to move. Hands trail down to the hem of Will’s shirt, separating fabric from skin. Over the actual point of contact, warm palm pressed to his back, Will feels a searing cold, like what he imagines it must be in the vacuum of space. Knowing it to be in his head doesn’t lessen the sensation. Hannibal’s touch is sure and perfunctory, moving around Will’s side and down his stomach, all but tearing open the fastenings of his pants. Will lifts his hips as Hannibal jerks them down, but he leaves them bunched around Will’s thighs, trapping his legs together.

They struggle together to free Will of his shirt. It strains and tears as Hannibal lifts it up and over his head. When Hannibal moves against him, the fabric of his own clothing feels rough against Will’s over-sensitised skin. He shivers, caught in the dichotomy of sensations: the icy heat of Hannibal’s touch; the gentle ocean breeze and the coarse grain of Hannibal’s clothing; the animal fear response and his eager, almost impatient desire to see just what Hannibal will do.

The coiling black on the deck roils over him, blotting out the early morning light, brushing like smoke against Will’s cheek and taking new shape--the branching curves and points of antlers scraping across his mouth, as if seeking entrance. Just as Hannibal’s hands seek entrance to his body, splaying his ass cheeks wide with one hand and shoving two dry fingers inside without warning or preamble.

Will’s hands scramble over the polished surface of the deck, fingers curling, trying to find some place to hold on. He arches his back, wiggles his hips, tries to force his body to relax into the stretch faster, but none of it eases the burn. He’s still not used to this, ending up being the one to take Hannibal more often than not, and when Hannibal does take him, he’s always slow and thorough with his preparation.

There is nothing slow or thorough about Hannibal’s touch now. He pushes deep and twists hard, stretches him wide. No attention paid to Will’s pleasure, merely making a place for himself. Will’s breath comes fast and hard, in time with the rough movement of Hannibal’s fingers inside; despite the pain, his arousal is not flagged.

Hannibal pulls his fingers free and with them he pulls a wounded sound from Will’s throat. He takes the moment to drag in deep breaths, tentatively flexing the muscles in his ass, chasing the sensation. He isn’t surprised to find that he likes the sting, though the pleasure is more in response to Hannibal’s lack of restraint than something physical.

Over the rushing sound in his ears, Will hears the sound of Hannibal’s zipper being dragged down, the rustle of fabric against skin, falling discarded on the deck. His heart pounds in anticipation. He’d like to see the look on Hannibal’s face, but it’s an unexpected turn-on, being unable to see Hannibal’s intentions. No telegraphing from the small movements of his body or his microexpressions, not knowing what’s coming, or when.

When it does come, it takes his breath away. Hannibal’s cock is dry but for his own natural lubrication, pushing against him. It’s too much, Will’s body automatically clenching against the intrusion. Hannibal makes a rough, impatient sound and draws back. His mouth closes over Will’s hole, licking once with the broad flat of his tongue and spitting there before drawing back and positioning himself again.

No matter how he strains against his trousers, Will can’t spread his legs any wider, can’t find any give to ease Hannibal’s entrance. Hannibal shoves forward and the pain lights up along Will’s nerves, vision going fuzzy white around the edges. He tries to push himself up on his hands and knees, but Hannibal shoves him down with a firm hand on his back.

Fuck fuck fuck,” Will hisses, eyes squeezed shut tightly. He reaches behind himself to push Hannibal away, but his wrist is caught. Hannibal twists his arm up against his back and holds it in place as he fucks deeper.

And Hannibal doesn’t even try to take it easy on him. Using his grip on Will’s wrist and a hand on his shoulder as leverage, he rides Will hard. Each tight, punishing rock of his hips, drives him as deep as he can go in this position. It only takes a few minutes for Will to grow looser and Hannibal is leaking enough to slick the way, but it’s still so much drier than usual, Will is aware of each drag of Hannibal inside. Electric pain skips along all the places Hannibal’s cock finds, and up his spine.

Will tilts his chin to look over his shoulder, and Hannibal’s grip moves up to the curve of his neck. It takes all Will’s self-control not to struggle, but he remains still. When Hannibal is certain of his cooperation, his fingers loosen, push up through Will’s long curls and grab ahold. With a single, rough jerk he brings Will up on his knees, back to Hannibal’s chest, and closes his hand around Will’s throat to hold him in place.

The inky, tar black weaves a cage of bone and antlers around them. Will feels himself cracking at the invisible seams of his own skin. There is a sound of beating wings, a disturbance in the air. The change in position makes his pants fall loosely around his knees, and lets Hannibal drive deeper inside, but it still isn’t enough. Will uses his free hand to reach behind, clutching at Hannibal’s hip.

“Hannibal,” he pants, around the fingers digging into his throat, half constricting his breath. “Let me just--”

Hannibal snarls and Will snarls back, entirely without meaning to, teeth bared. He knocks Hannibal off his back, breaks free and staggers to his feet. On unsteady feet he stumbles across the deck and kicks off his trousers and boxers as he goes. Catching himself on the helm, he turns to face Hannibal as he rises to his feet, eyes black and fathomless. He watches Will like a wild animal watching prey.

Will can feel himself responding to what his empathy has latched onto, mirroring Hannibal’s stance, adopting the set of his shoulders, lowering his centre of gravity. They’ve brawled often enough with one another that he slips into this posture with ease. A beat of still, steady silence falls, then another.

They move at the same time, striking across the space between them and crashing together in a tangle of lips and teeth and limbs. Kisses land more like blows, fingers catch on vulnerable places, tearing. Will goes down again, this time on his back, Hannibal landing hard on top, straddling his lap. They roll to the side and back again before Hannibal grabs Will’s scratching hands and pins them to ground by his head, leaning in. Will meets him halfway, arching upwards to snap at his mouth. He snags Hannibal’s lip with his teeth, scraping over the slick, delicate skin inside. His stomach surges up into his chest at the noise Hannibal makes, threatening violent retribution.

Hannibal shoves his legs between Will’s, the sharp point of his knee digging into the sensitive flesh of Will’s upper thigh. He knows just the place to make Will wince in pain and stop struggling long enough for Hannibal to force his legs open wide and settle between them. Will’s mouth feels sore from the force of Hannibal’s kiss, the scar on his cheek aches, but he has no desire to stop or give in.

Will doesn’t stop fighting even as Hannibal reaches down to guide his cock back inside, defiant until he drives home, hard enough to push Will across the deck. He bites down at the spot on his neck that Will has come to think of Hannibal’s, as often and cruelly as he’s marked it. It’s then that Will shudders and parts his legs wider in welcoming, drawing his feet up and angling himself to let Hannibal in deeper. His one free hand grabs at Hannibal’s shoulder and slides on the sweat. Nails score down his broad back, over skin raised and scarred from cliff and brand.

Hannibal slams into him again and again, and Will is overwhelmed by all the bright, discordant sensations--the friction burn on his back as he’s forced along the length of the deck with each thrust; the throbbing of his pulse in the bite torn open anew; the sweet, sore rawness of his opening; the pleasure that sparks along his nerves, chased and heightened by the pain. All of it reflected and amplified by Hannibal’s demanding, possessive hunger as he takes what he wants.

Will surrenders to it all. He hears his own needy, keening whimpers, feels Hannibal’s mouth curling at the sound of them. A wave of smug satisfaction pours from Hannibal as he draws back. Will blinks up at him, drinking in the sight of the man-shaped monster that looms over him, moving inside of him.

Pitch dark against the growing light of the dawn sky, antlers raising up and out to twine with Will’s own, skin and muscle rippling as Hannibal slams into him again and again. And that face, with it’s rictus grin spilling out liquid black and eyes more like great, empty voids.

Perhaps anyone else would be terrified to peer behind their lover’s mask and see such a sight. But Will is brought low, humbled and filled with a tender, aching reverence. This wild, unknowable thing has grown to love him. What’s more, it has allowed itself to be caught and tamed by Will and has now bared itself to him at last.

The darkness spills over and burrows inside Will’s chest as surely as Hannibal’s cock has made a place for itself. To be greeted by Will’s own gaping black chasm. Will is needy for it in the same way, not only to possess but to be possessed. Not only to know Hannibal, but to be known by him in turn.

Will digs his fingers into the soft, fleshy skin low on Hannibal’s back. He arches his back and lifts his hips into each downward thrust, urging him on with a senseless litany of cries. “Yes, Hannibal, come on. Fuck me, please--oh! Harder, fuck.” He tears free of Hannibal’s hold on his wrist and pushes up on his elbow, grabs a fistful of his hair and jerks him close, teeth bared. “Come on and fuck me.”

Hannibal’s eyes light up and Will feels like he’s suffocating under the wave of conflicting emotions having it out inside his head. There is the vicious pleasure he takes in this display, and beyond that a cool wash of relief. But there’s more, layer upon layer, wrestling for dominance--a helpless, hopeless anger at Will, and at himself; shivery, alien fear of loss; that same awed devotion that strikes Will down to the bone whenever he sees it.

Beyond this, and under his bestial desire is Hannibal’s utter delight at finding Will not only accepting of it, but demanding more. Another of the countless tests they’ve put to one another, and Will has passed. Hannibal curves over him, wrapping him in the cage of his arms. They kiss and it tastes like vows, exchanged, acknowledged, and accepted. It feels as though Hannibal wishes to devour him, body and soul whole, and Will thinks wildly, madly, that he’d allow it. More, that he’d give willingly, if Hannibal were to ask.

“Please,” Will murmurs against copper-laced lips, trusting that Hannibal knows what he needs and wants, perhaps even better than Will himself does. His hand wraps around Will’s cock in a punishingly tight, dry grip. Will grits his teeth and focusses on the delicious edge of pleasure, hanging on stubbornly.

Will’s orgasm is more like the relief of collapsing after a long run, all his strained muscles giving out at once. He claws at the ground beneath him and rises up to meet Hannibal’s driving cock, spine drawn tight. And then, toppling over that edge with a rush, falling back limp against the deck as his dick pulses hot and pained.

He barely has time to savour it, let alone catch his breath before Hannibal is pulling out and rolling him over, then sinking back inside. It’s almost easy this time, Will’s body having adapted to the size of him, as roughly as he’s been taken. He grunts; the skin around his hole is swollen and tender to the touch and his cock drags along the smooth surface of the deck, all of it bordering on too much.

Will rises up on his hands and knees, snagged by Hannibal around the waist and pulled close, Hannibal’s chest plastered to his back. He bites the back of Will’s neck, breaking the skin there, too. Will can feel his own blood welling up and spilling down his shoulder, and wonders for a moment if the teeth will close together and tear away his flesh to swallow and take inside himself, though in the end he does not.

Hannibal’s rhythm stutters and falters, stinging against Will’s thighs and ass, and he can feel that, too, the hot rush of Hannibal coming inside him. He remains upright, sitting back on his heels, and takes Will with him, still holding fast, arms around his middle. Will tries to regain control over his breathing.

Will rests his hands Hannibal’s arm--tentatively at first, but with more weight when Hannibal doesn’t protest, either verbally or physically. He strokes the skin gently, and almost jumps at the first press of Hannibal’s lips, equally gentle, against his neck. Instead he turns his head to the side, allowing easier access, slowly enough not to dissuade Hannibal.

Carefully, Will reaches up to feel at the edges of the wound on the back of his neck. He can already imagine the faint necklace of wrinkled, off-colour scars Hannibal has begun to leave on him, when he’s finished with it. “I thought you were going to--I thought you might rip the skin away and eat it,” he says, and until he speaks, voice hoarse, he doesn’t realise just how much he must have screamed. Good thing they’re at sea, no one for miles.

Hannibal exhales, breath stirring Will’s hair. He nuzzles along Will’s hairline, mouths Will’s fingertips and the bite mark between them. “I...considered it,” he says. There’s a tremor of stress in his frame, held still and tight as he waits out Will’s response.

Will tilts his chin upward, catching sight of Hannibal’s face from the corner of his eye, all drawn, tense lines. “Do you think I’d stop you?” he asks. “Do you think I’d deny you that?”

“There are limits in any relationship, Will.”

Will removes Hannibal’s arms from around him, rises from his lap with a wince, and turns, crouching so they’re face to face. It’s Hannibal again, his face soft and known, those familiar, well-loved eyes shining red in the breaking dawn sunlight. Will meets his gaze and holds steady. “No,” he says, with single, firm shake of his head, “there aren’t. Not in this relationship, Hannibal.”

Hannibal reaches out to push the curls back from Will’s forehead, thumb rubbing back and forth over his scar. Will’s mouth quirks up on one side. “Just one example,” he says. “After all that we’ve survived--all the things we’ve done to one another, what do you imagine could drive me away from you?”

“I don’t know,” Hannibal says. “And though I’d rather never find out, I must confess that I feel compelled to do so.”

Will sighs and cups Hannibal’s face in his hands. He draws a breath and opens his mouth to say more to drive the point home. To somehow make Hannibal see the truth of the matter. But then he simply closes his mouth and strokes across Hannibal’s stubbled cheeks. In the end, he settles on, “I love you. Do you doubt that?”

“No,” Hannibal says, “it is one of the few things in this world of which I am certain.”

“Good.” Will brushes their lips together, mindful of the torn and tender skin. “You’ve trusted me so far tonight. Trust me a little further.”

“You may betray me again and again, and still I’d find there is little choice I have in the matter,” Hannibal confesses.

Will chuckles wryly. “I know the feeling.” He stands, the ache lighting up with every movement he makes, every muscle of his body abused. He’s going to be feeling Hannibal for days now.

He goes to the helm, unsteady on his feet, weaving as though drunk, checks their position and brings them to a stop. Right now his need to be close to Hannibal outweighs his paranoia over Jack. “Come downstairs with me,” he says, extending his hand for Hannibal to take and pull himself upright.

Hannibal stands and with hands on Will’s shoulders, turns him around, surveying the damage done from being pushed along the deck. “Is an apology in order this time?”

Will finds himself grinning as he starts down the stairs, picking each step gingerly so as not to stretch his already wrecked muscles. “Sure, why not,” he says over his shoulder. “You can kiss my ass all better once we’re in Colombia.”

Chapter Text

They arrive in Colombia mid-morning, over a day after leaving St. Barts. The dock near Santa Marta is a small, privately owned thing, and Will is given the distinct impression it is regularly used for less than savoury business. They’re met by a trio of very large men who pocket the thick roll of hundred dollar bills Hannibal passes them. In exchange, they an address in Bogotá and the keys to an SUV waiting for them.

Hannibal drives the first leg of the journey, with Sam sitting attentively in the passenger seat. Will curls up on the back seat with Tara on his chest, and passes out. On the boat, with adrenaline giving way to cold exhaustion, he could not fully relax--not until they were safely on land. Now he puts his trust in Hannibal and is out cold before they even hit the highway.

He wakes when they stop midway through, around dinner time, at a roadside cantina. Neither of them are especially proficient at Spanish, but between the two of them, it’s more than enough to get by. Will has never tasted anything as delicious as their meal is in that moment. Paying no mind to Hannibal’s wrinkled nose of distaste, he uses his fingers and the thick, fried slices of bread to shovel mouthfuls of beans and chorizo, dipping the fried plantains into dripping egg yolk. Hannibal tends to his soup with far less relish, though he eats it all down.

Refreshed and rejuvenated by sleep and a full meal, Will takes the dogs for a short run to tire them out. Each strike of his foot against the ground reminds him of the activities on the boat deck, the deep ache in his well-used muscles. Though it aches, he presses on harder, and faster, taking pleasure from the pain, teeth set in a grimace that feels like a grin, lighting him up with a surplus of energy.

After, he takes over driving the rest of the way. There is something oddly soothing about it, twilight falling as they head further south. Hannibal dozes in the passenger seat, Sam curled into a ball of fluff in his lap. Tara sits on the console, front paws pressed into Will’s thigh, watching the scenery passing by.

Looking around, they could just as easily be somewhere in Texas or southern California. The terrain, with long dusty stretches of sand and rock, cut through with low, scrubby brush, eventually giving way to rolling green meadows and farmland. The wide, well-maintained highway unlike anything in St. Barts. The blend of Spanish colonial and more modern, international architecture, with glass mansions sparkling from the hillsides like jewels.

It’s a gorgeous country, and at a different point in time, Will could see the two of them spending a great deal of time wandering through Latin America. They’re both quick to pick up languages. They could adjust to the different pace of life, drink in the culture--exploring the ruins of ancient civilisations or wandering the crowded streets, making their way through countless museums and cathedrals, evenings partaking of the vibrant nightlife full of theatre and fine dining. And, of course, there would be no dearth of murderers and drug dealers, rapists and thieves, just waiting for them.

There is a part of Will who wonders if it isn’t better to stay put and lay low for a time. Maybe Jack wouldn’t think to look for them so close by, and then there wouldn’t be the risk associated with border crossings and international flights.

But in truth, he will feel safer the further away they get, and he doesn’t really care where they end up. He’s never travelled in his life, except with and in search of Hannibal. Wherever they end up will be a new world for him to explore, and anywhere they go they will find bad people. Will appeases himself with the idea that in a different life they’ll have their chance to explore here.

What little traffic there is dies out when night fully falls. Will has read that it can be dangerous to drive certain stretches at night, but pity the robber who tries to hold them up. He almost wishes one would try it, but they make the trip without incident and arrive in Bogotá close to midnight.

They’ll visit the address in the morning, once they’ve had time to properly rest, clean and attire themselves. The men from the docks will have already packed up their things from the boat and shipped them as Hannibal directed. All that remains is securing the forged documents that will see them through the remainder of the second leg of their journey.

For the evening, they find a hotel--clean and quiet, but certainly not up to Hannibal’s normal standards. Will is just thankful for the hot spray of the shower after the day spent in the car. They walk the dogs through mostly empty streets, after, but even as two white men in their fine clothing, they are left alone. Will can’t help but wonder what others see, when they look at him and Hannibal together. If they understand the danger they pose, on some level.

The idea sparks like electricity in Will’s chest and he reaches for Hannibal’s hand as they walk, heedless of who might see it and what conclusion they might draw. Hannibal must sense some measure of it. He is loose-limbed and unresistant when they get back to the hotel room and Will backs him against the door, leaving the dogs to their own devices.

“I believe,” Will says, nosing the line Hannibal’s jaw, nibbling here and there along the way, “there was talk--” He makes quick work of the buttons down Hannibal’s shirt, easing it off along with his linen jacket. “Of you apologising?” He sinks his fingers in the thick, soft fur of Hannibal’s chest and gives a slight tug.

Pleasure curls Hannibal’s lip, makes it pull back from his teeth in the beginnings of a snarl as he lunges forward to haul Will into his arms. Will feels the strain through his back and ass, slinging first one leg then the other around Hannibal’s waist. Hannibal carries him effortlessly across the room and lays him out on the bed, licking into Will’s mouth for a languorous kiss.

He is careful stripping Will from his clothing, handling him as though he is something fragile. Though they both know it to be untrue, it doesn’t stop the thrill in Will’s chest from the treatment. How small he feels under Hannibal’s touch. He kisses the skin as he bares it, lips at the rise of Will’s bones, drags his tongue around the shapes of his scars. Will buries his hands in Hannibal’s hair and bites his lip on a moan when Hannibal comes to rest between his legs.

“Up,” Hannibal murmurs, mouth catching on the fine hairs just above the elastic of his underwear. Will meets his gaze, lets Hannibal see his smug, indulgent smile. Hannibal responds in kind, a wicked light in his eyes, and tugs at the waistband with his teeth. Heat courses through Will’s stomach, and he raises his hips to let Hannibal pull his boxers down and off. Then his mouth is on Will, sucking him down without preamble, letting Will grow hard on his tongue.

Will curls his hands in Hannibal’s hair, draws his foot up the inside of his leg, opening his hips up wide. Hannibal takes the invitation; he releases Will’s cock from his mouth and sinks lower, tucks his forearms under Will’s hips, lifting and angling him just right, before sealing his mouth over Will’s hole.

He arches his back and slowly relaxes against the mattress, letting his spine shift into place. Each muscle releases one after the other, gone boneless under Hannibal’s ministrations. If he simply lets his mind go blank, there is no urgency, he can wallow in the slow building, soothing pleasure. Hannibal’s tongue circling his opening and dipping inside, a little further each time. The way he exerts gentle pressure, as he sucks at the rim, teeth tucked behind his lips.

The pain is still there, still fresh and vibrant when the muscles of Will’s ass shift and flex. Still sore and raw when Hannibal plunges his tongue inside, no matter how delicate the touch. But it fades to a dull ache as Hannibal works him open, until all he can focus on is the mounting pleasure.

With eyes closed, in the echoing silence of the early morning, mind adrift, Will’s sense of touch is heightened. He’s hyper aware of the way his hands clench and release in Hannibal’s hair, feeling it crisp and silky soft against the palm of his hand, nails scratching at his scalp and earning an appreciative moan. Their legs moving together, and the drag of skin on skin. Hannibal’s fingers kneading at the mound of his ass like a cat.

Hannibal rises to loom above him, hand tracing the curve of his cheek, and Will blinks his eyes open to look up at him. “You’re so gorgeous like this, lost to the physicality of sensation, whether it be misery or ecstasy.”

Will huffs in amusement. “As long as you’re the source.”

Hannibal’s eyes gleam, that cruel, inhuman thing lingering just beneath the surface even now. The same wild creature that took from him last night, now domesticated and oh so tender. Neither is entirely the truth of the thing.

“Were it in my power,” Hannibal murmurs, as his fingers press into Will’s perineum, “I would ensure no hands but my own would touch you again, regardless of intent. You would bear no marks but my own upon your flesh.”

Will rolls his eyes and pushes down on his head. “There are better uses for your mouth than talking, Hannibal,” he says, letting the name roll from his tongue.

Hannibal snaps at his lips, catches the top one between his teeth and tugs, but there’s more amusement than outrage on his face, and he goes down without further protest. He rolls Will onto his stomach and licks into the cleft of his ass, spreads him open with his thumbs.

In this position, he can reach deeper with his tongue, and Will has the leverage to rock back. He sinks into a delicious rhythm, dick thrusting into the mattress on each downward roll of his hips and impaling himself on Hannibal’s tongue as he rises. His orgasm hits him like the swell of the ocean tide on the shore, rising up over his head as it breaks, moans pressed into the sheets.

In the stillness of the room he can hear Hannibal’s hand moving slick on his own cock. The head nudges against Will’s ass on each upstroke, leaving a damp trail on his skin. Will wriggles his hips back, rolls the line of his spine and looks over his shoulder at Hannibal expectantly. As anticipated, Hannibal is already close, just from eating him out.

Will lies there for a moment, considering letting Hannibal come on his back, and the worshipful cleanup that will follow. In the end, he’d rather have Hannibal in his mouth. He turns onto his back and shimmies down between Hannibal’s splayed legs, lifts his head enough to close his lips around Hannibal’s cock. His grip shifts, and all it takes is a few strokes and Will’s steady suction before Hannibal is coming on his tongue.

Hannibal looks down on him, somewhere far away in his thoughts as his eyes linger over the features of Will’s face. “What is it?” Will asks, and Hannibal shakes his head, leaning down to kiss him, over and over, until Will has forgotten the question, loose-limbed from pleasure, on the verge of sleep.

*

While Hannibal showers, Will looks up Tattle Crime online. It is little surprise to come face to face with a picture of himself pressed close to Hannibal, staring back at him from the screen. Even as he acknowledges how brash it was of him to send it to Freddie, he can’t stop the swell of dark satisfaction he gets, seeing them together.

Murder Husbands Alive and Well, reads the headline, and below, Bloody Honeymoon Continues on the Glistening Beaches of the Caribbean. Renowned Hollywood Director Confirmed Among the Dead. Freddie has posted exclusive photos, no doubt sent from Rook’s phone--a view of their home from the beach, a shot of their bedroom that he must have taken shortly before his death, and the photo of him that Will sent, just after.

Freddie’s article is appropriately scathing, blaming law enforcement for covering up their survival following the encounter with Dolarhyde. He is less than impressed by her creative take on the romance between them, how Hannibal lured him to the dark side with sex and murder. No doubt her readers are eating it right up.

Other news outlets are scrambling to keep up, but the fact is unmistakable that their faces are out there now, plastered over every news site, every social media site, their names trending in online searches. Definitely brash of him, but there is nothing to be done now.

After Hannibal dresse, he drives them to the address they were given--a private club in the heart of the city, amidst trendy boutiques, high-end restaurants, and the sort of bars that tout an experience. They’re greeted by two men in suits, very obviously packing heat, and led to the rooftop garden, overlooking the expanse of the city.

There is a young woman waiting for them with mimosas. She seats them at a table and presents them with bowls of fresh fruit and tells them, “Mister Moreno will be along shortly.”

“Interesting friends you’ve made,” Will remarks, a single brow raised at the treatment.

Hannibal’s expression brooks no argument. “I met David at Lycée,” he explains. “At the time, his father was nothing but a middling player in the family business, and he saw a different future for his only son. Since then, a number of rather fortunate tragedies involving his uncles and cousins have seen David’s rise to the top.”

Will doesn’t have to ask what business, and he is surprised to find that he doesn’t particularly care. Though society at large may find them incomprehensible and entirely reprehensible, Will has learned that Hannibal does possess a sort of morality. Better framed as his sense of aesthetic, given the motivation behind them, but there are behaviours he will not tolerate, beyond simple rudeness and ugliness. Perhaps it wouldn’t drive him to the point of murder, but they are things from which he would distance himself.

“Hannibal Lecter,” a booming voice declares, and Will turns to see their host. He is a handsome man, dark hair turning silver around the temples, eyes a piercing blue, teeth bright against the tan of his skin. He holds out his arms and Hannibal embraces him warmly.

“David,” Hannibal says, as they part, patting one another on the shoulder, “my companion, Will Graham.”

“Oh, I’ve read a good deal about you lately, Mister Graham,” Moreno says, offering his hand to shake. His tone is more teasing than not, but there’s something hard in his eyes.

“Is that so?” Will asks. It settles uneasily in his gut that this man knows who they are, but he trusts Hannibal to see them through this safely. “Hopefully nothing Freddie Lounds wrote.”

“Please, breakfast before business.” Moreno gestures to the table with a sweeping hand. “If I remember anything from our school days, it’s this picky bastard’s attitude about food.”

Hannibal arches a brow. “If what we were served could be termed as such.”

Moreno laughs out loud and snaps his fingers at the server. “Well, hopefully you’ll find breakfast up to your standards.”

While they dine on their tamales and eggs, Moreno seems more interested in discussing the good ‘ole days at boarding school rather than addressing the issue at hand. Under any other circumstance, Will would be happy to learn more about young Hannibal, but after having seen the reports of them online, he is more anxious than ever to leave the Caribbean.

“All the posturing bullshit, whose grandfather knew who, whose mother fucked who, Hannibal had no interest in it whatever,” Moreno is saying. “They could try, but they never got under your skin, did they?”

Hannibal gave an elegant shrug. “The petty concerns of small minds have little impact on how I live my life.”

“No kidding,” Moreno says, laughing. “I suppose none of us were very surprised by the news, after that bloodbath in Baltimore. Though I bet more than one former classmate was shitting their pants.”

Will is a bit taken aback by the man’s demeanour, but Hannibal does not seem bothered. That he is tolerant of a measure of rudeness makes Will irrationally, inexplicably jealous, but then again, this is a friend Hannibal made in his teens. Was Hannibal ever less fastidious than he is now, more permitting of this sort of casual crassness in his companions?

“What is surprising is your presence, Mister Graham.” Moreno turns a keen gaze on Will once again. “Hannibal has never been a particularly forgiving fellow. I still remember what became of poor Madame Savary.”

“Yes,” Hannibal agrees. “I doubt any of us could forget?”

Moreno straightens up a bit in his seat, and he clears his throat and gestures over his shoulder with hooked fingers. One of the suits comes forward. “Maybe it’s time we got you on your way. That Agent Crawford doesn’t seem the sort to rest until he’s got what he’s after.”

“As you wish,” Hannibal says, graciously.

The suit hands Moreno a folder, which he in turn passes to Hannibal. “Two clean identities each, at the regular price.”

Hannibal flips through the papers, and nods once in satisfaction. “I wired the money this morning. As for the other identities?”

Moreno gives him a broad grin. “My boys are already working on creating a nice little bread crumb trail for the authorities to chase.”

“Crawford won’t be fooled easily,” Will warns.

“Mister Graham, are you doubting my men?”

Will half-expects a quelling look from Hannibal, or a hand on his thigh. Hannibal only watches, though, waiting, and Will considers the situation. They have Moreno to thank for their previous identities, and those kept them safe from scrutiny until Will was recognised. A man in his profession has no reason to help the FBI, and plenty of cause to show his clients how trustworthy he is.

Will dips his head in deference. “No, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to imply anything about the capabilities of your men. We appreciate all you’ve done for us.”

Moreno doesn’t take his eyes from Will as he speaks. “I’m beginning to see what you see in him, Hannibal.”

An uncomfortable tension follows them as Mateo leads them back out to the street, where a new vehicle waits for them. He takes Sam and Tara with him, and they’ll be shipped to the Netherlands via boat. Will hates to part with them, but he knows that two men travelling with their dogs will only attract attention. Jack will look into details like that.

They’ll drive the six odd hours to Cali, then fly to Ecuador for their connection to Germany. The car feels empty without Sam trying to worm her way onto Hannibal’s lap, and Tara dancing around between the front and back seats.

“Madame Savary?” Will asks, in the silence.

“It should come as no surprise to you to find yet another skeleton in my closet,” Hannibal says, though he offers nothing more on the subject.

They’ve discussed Hannibal’s childhood and adolescence, but it never seemed completely real to Will--more like something out of a story. Surely the man before him must have raised fully-formed. Visiting the Lecter estate, meeting Chiyoh, having his every question answered by Hannibal since their escape, has all filled in the lines to help him understand the influence and interference that led to this point.

None of it has given him a true glimpse of the daily life of Hannibal in his teenaged years. All the mundane exchanges that seem far too dull to have occurred to Hannibal Lecter, but which certainly must have. What motivated a fifteen year old Hannibal Lecter to become friends with David Moreno, for example. Will finds himself eager and itching to know, while understanding to leave it alone for the time being.

They spend the night in Cali, Hannibal dying his hair black, Will lightening his own. In the morning, Hannibal skilfully applies makeup to them both. The subtle transformation takes place before Will’s eyes--shading and highlights to change the shapes of their faces just slightly, until Will is staring at a vaguely familiar stranger in the mirror.

Boarding the plane is a simple, uneventful affair.. Their new identities are yet another pair of strangers--Will an American, Hannibal a Polak. There’s no good reason for Will to find it disappointing that they don’t share a last name. It isn’t as if it would make their relationship more real. Wouldn’t be any more legal than the two of the walking into a courthouse under their assumed names and signing a paper.

It’s once they’ve landed in Ecuador that it starts going sideways. The immigration lines are excruciatingly long, as anticipated--all the flights arriving near to the same time. It’s easier to slip through with the crowd here. Over-taxed immigration agents are quick to pass citizens of most countries through with no hassle.

Will goes through first. As with their previous flights, he borrows from Hannibal’s calm to keep his heart from racing out of his chest and a nervous sweat breaking out on his brow, especially when he sees the pictures of them posted to the wall inside each window. They’re old photos--Hannibal’s from his original incarceration over three years ago, Will from his FBI consultant badge.

He looks different enough, without his glasses, his hair lighter and longer, and his beard thick and full. Despite his anxiety, Will passes through without issue. His passport is stamped with barely a second glance and he’s waved through to have his baggage scanned.

Several minutes pass as he waits for Hannibal to follow before he starts to worry. Other travellers continue to pour past him, and Will can’t quite see what’s going on from where he stands. He paces for a moment, before he realises how that must look, and forces himself to stand still, leaning against the wall near the barricade, trying not to look like he’s watching.

Hannibal is still at the counter; Will can see the print of his garish button-down, his ill-fitting slacks, purposefully picked as something Hannibal Lecter would never be caught dead wearing. That, along with five day’s worth of stubble and his longish black hair pulled back in a messy half-bun, were meant to serve as something of a disguise.

Will glances at the nearest photo of the two of them, and back again, trying to see Hannibal through the eyes of a stranger. To him, the features are too well-known, carved into the space behind his closed eyes. But certainly no one else would look at the urbane, exquisitely put together man in the photo and the dishevelled, middle-aged no one at the counter, and draw a connection.

Then another immigration officer comes along and begins to escort Hannibal away, and Will’s heart leaps into his throat. He takes an aborted step towards them before he remembers where he is. Hannibal is led past him, down the narrow hall, and his eyes flick to Will’s for a brief second before he is escorted into a room and the door is closed behind him.

In that moment, Hannibal’s gaze told Will not to worry, but he simply cannot help it. His mind races as he scans the hallway, taking note of the number of police officers, the exit down a corridor to the side, alarmed and guarded, leading out to a busy street. The steady stream of civilians crowding through, queuing up with their luggage, unpacking and repacking as ordered, the half-obstructed pathway, screaming children, and harried travellers. The guard by the X Ray machine, bored and disinterested, arms crossed, leaving his gun exposed on his hip.

In his mind’s eye, Will sees it unfold. Waiting in line, shuffling along until he stands alongside the man. Flipping open the snap of the holster and jerking the gun free, in the same smooth movement, hooking his arm around the guard’s neck and pulling them flush, using the man as a shield. It’s utter chaos, people scrambling, alarms going off.

“Will.” It’s Hannibal’s voice, and Will blinks his eyes open, half-convinced the voice is inside his head. But Hannibal is there, at his side. His mouth is pressed thin, lines drawn tight around his eyes, and he takes Will by the elbow and propels him forward.

“What’s going on?” Will asks. Hannibal ignores the question, urging him through the line to the X Ray machine.

Once they’re through, Will drags them away from the flow of traffic, tucked in one of the empty gates. “Are you going to tell me what the hell that was about?”

Hannibal’s eyes flit over his face. “Perhaps we should instead discuss what it was you were planning to do back there.”

“It wasn’t--I wasn’t planning anything,” Will bites out. “I can’t help what I see. But if you think I won’t do whatever need be done to ensure your freedom--”

“I assure you, I am quite capable of seeing to that myself.” Hannibal’s voice is tight, tone clipped. “When Jack found me before, the circumstances were different. The impetus to remain free is far greater this time.”

“Don’t try to placate me.” Will can hear himself like an echo of the man he once was when they first met, words over enunciated, spoken in a rush of nervous energy. “What the hell am I supposed to do if they take you? Do you expect me to just let them? Because let me assure you, that’s not going to happen.”

A muscle ticks in Hannibal’s jaw and he shifts his weight from one leg to the other. “It was a visa issue, nothing more. A new clerk unfamiliar with the Polish passport, some confusion over what restrictions, if any, were in place.” He is composed and sure, soothing Will with his words, still trying to pacify.

Part of Will wants to allow it. Let the moment pass and carry on. But a cold fear has gripped him, unlike anything he’s experienced in his entire life--not even in the moment of realisation of what Hannibal had done to him and who he was, not when Abigail stood in Hannibal’s arms, blade poised at her throat, not even when he and Hannibal plunged into the sea together.

He’s too far gone now, too entwined in Hannibal and the life they’ve begun to build together, too invested in the future he’s seen. “I can’t do this without you,” Will says, fighting for a calm he doesn’t feel. “If they took you, I couldn’t just go on running without you. When we went into that water, I decided, we survived or we drowned together, as one.”

“Oh, Will…” Hannibal sighs, sinking his hand in Will’s curls and tugging him closer. “Your mistake is in thinking they could keep me from you. I allowed myself to be caged for you; they would not hold me again.”

“And what if Jack isn’t willing to take that risk? He’ll use any excuse to put you down, just like with Dolarhyde. I’m not going to lose you.” After their weeks of peaceful domestic life, Will is unprepared for this. His chest is tight, restricting his breath.

Hannibal gives him a firm shake, demanding with his hands that Will’s gaze meet his own. “And you won’t,” he says. “Will, I need you to trust me.”

Will lets out a long breath. “You know I do.” He lets Hannibal draw him into an embrace, resting his cheek against Hannibal’s chest, where his heart beats slow and steady. Will breaths in and out, focusses on that heartbeat and the hand at the back of his neck.

“Then please continue to do so when I suggest that we travel separately from here on,” Hannibal murmurs.

Will pulls back to look up at him in disbelief. “Are you fucking kidding me?” He asks, tone deceptively even.

“This time it was only a visa issue, but you saw the photographs. Jack isn’t taking any chances. We’ll arouse less suspicion by travelling alone, than as two men travelling together. Particularly two men who vaguely fit the search parameters,” Hannibal says, placid. He might as well have been discussing dinner plans or the weather.

“You can’t be serious,” Will scoffs.

“It is highly unlikely you will be stopped at any point along the way, as an American, and far less recognisable than myself,” Hannibal says. “You will go ahead to Amsterdam and wait for me there.”

“No.” Will stares at him, shoulders back, arms crossed and says again, “No. Just no.” He shakes his head once, firmly.

Hannibal’s hands close tight around Will’s arms, dragging him further into the shadows, away from prying eyes. “This is not up for discussion. You can go to Amsterdam, or you can not, but either way, you will be alone.”

Will jerks free of his hold. The hard, unrelenting expression on Hannibal’s makes him feel helpless in his rebellion. “You--you--” Will swallows back the litany of curse words he’s like to let loose. “You don’t get to decide these things unilaterally.”

“I do, when you are prone to unsound decisions,” Hannibal tells him coolly. “You were drawing undue attention to yourself with your behaviour back there. Your concern for my well-being caused you to react irrationally. At this point, I am a liability to you, and you to me.”

“A--” Will stops, takes a step back, and sucks his lip between his teeth, until the urge to yell passes. “A fucking liability.”

Hannibal dips his head and spreads his hands before him, as if Will is only proving his point. Will is taken with the overwhelming, irrational desire to tackle him to the ground. To wrap his hands tight around Hannibal’s throat, squeezing, and biting kisses from his mouth until he gives in.

But there remains a part of him that is observing this whole situation, detached and analytical, seeing all the ways this could play out. And that part knows that Hannibal is right, as much as it pains him to admit it. The idea of being parted from Hannibal for who knows how long, uncertain of his continued freedom, is a suffocating sensation weighing heavily on his chest. It would be far worse, however, for them to be incarcerated, and Will to be the reason for it.

“Fine,” Will snaps, and holds out his hand. “I don’t like this, and I’m seriously fucking angry, but fine. Give me the passport.”

Hannibal tries to catch his gaze for a long moment before going down on one knee and unzipping his bag. He produces the new passport and papers, as well as a several hundred dollars in American bills, and more in Euros.

“We will only be parted a few days,” Hannibal promises, and Will ducks away from his touch when Hannibal reaches out to cup his cheek. He lets his hand fall to his side, ducking his head in another attempt to catch Will’s eye. “A week at most.”

Will clenches his jaw, staring at the floor. “You’re an absolute asshole,” he mutters, and surges forward, bringing their lips together with too much force to be deemed a kiss. He falls back on his heels after only a second’s contact and lifts his gaze to Hannibal’s. “You better come home safe.”

Hannibal nods somberly. “I promise.”

Will leaves him there, striding away, aware of little else but the pumping of his blood through his veins and the white haze around the edges of his vision. It’s a sick, nauseous feeling rising up in his throat, impotent rage and longing driving him onward.

Regret grips him almost at once, at parting how they did. He steadfastly refuses to even consider the thought that that interaction might be the last they ever have without glass between them and lawyers as intermediaries. He turns around, ready to apologise, but Hannibal is nowhere to be seen, lost in the crowd.

Chapter Text

Much of the journey to Madrid is made in something of a daze. Will goes through the motions of purchasing his ticket, checking his luggage, and boarding the plane on autopilot. He doesn’t really mark the passage of time. One moment he’s seating himself, vaguely aware of the stewardess offering him complimentary champagne as the screens flash with safety information, and the next they’re aloft and a stewardess is back at his elbow with the drink cart.

Will ploughs his way through five mini-bottles of whisky until everything starts looking soft around the edges, then passes out a couple hours into the flight, even though he’s only been awake a few hours. When he wakes up, no longer lost in a blur of alcohol, he is over the Atlantic Ocean, without the first clue where Hannibal is, what he’s doing, or what he has planned.

Time seems to slow down, crawling along interminably. The situation has spun out of his control--Hannibal’s continued freedom and safety are beyond his control. That fact settles queasily in his stomach as he watches the endless glimmer of the water beneath, cut through with patches of thick cloud cover.

Here, thousands of miles above the ocean, he is helpless. Up here, he’s disconnected. For all he knows, Hannibal has already been caught or killed, and he has another six hours before he lands in Madrid to discover if anyone has tracked him. If the authorities will be waiting at the gate to take him into custody.

It is utterly ridiculous to feel so lost and adrift without Hannibal at his side. He has navigated the entirety of his adult life alone, and the majority of his youth for that matter. He crossed the ocean on his own, made his way through Europe after being treated to Chiyoh’s tender mercies on the train. Travelling first class and getting trashed on overpriced airline booze is hardly a hardship.

Hannibal is perfectly capable of caring for himself, and evading the authorities, Will reminds himself firmly. He can rest assured that, whatever the lengths he is willing to go to to keep them both free, and to engineer Hannibal’s release if necessary, Hannibal will go to even greater lengths still to see them reunited. And if anyone awaiting his arrival in Madrid, Will too is perfectly capable of dealing with it when the time comes.

Telling himself this and finding any measure of calm are two very different things. By the time he lands, he’s a nervous wreck. After making his way through immigration and booking his flight to Frankfurt, he has a small window of downtime. He’s exhausted, stomach too sour to eat, and when he stumbles into the bathroom and sees his reflection, he’s frankly astonished they let him into the country with barely a second glance.

What he sees in the mirror is a mere shell of the man he’s become, too much like the man he was when he and Hannibal first met. Too much like the man in the photograph the FBI has released. Hair dampened with sweat and plastered to his face, dark shadows under his eyes, which flit about nervously, never settling for long. He looks like a man with a guilty conscious, or at the very least, hiding something. It’s a fucking miracle he wasn’t searched or detained.

He splashes his face with water and wipes it clean. Runs his fingers through his hair until it looks a little better kempt, and meets his own eyes determinedly. Just because he might be falling apart doesn’t mean he has to look the part and drawn unwanted attention.

No matter how many times it occurs, it is always strange to watch his reflection as he transforms, almost like another face knitting itself together over his own, pulling the strands tighter until one is indistinguishable from another. Though he now exudes an easy, collected confidence, he does not feel it.

It’s enough to get him through the rest of his journey: the flight to Frankfurt and then to Zürich by train. Once there, it is shockingly easy to find someone to help him sneak across the border into France, and then to locate another forger, even without Hannibal’s knowledge and connections. Will has an obscene amount of money and his skill for reading people. It only takes visiting a few bars and flashing a wad of cash before he’s taken to a woman who is able to give him what he wants.

The new id has no connection to either of the new ones, nor to William Reins. Even if Jack were to follow the tangled trail they’ve left, even if he were to get ahold of the identities sold to them by Moreno, it would end in Zürich, with no connection to the man travelling from Lyons to Brussels, and finally onto his destination, Amsterdam.

His travels see him through the end of February and into March, through weather cold, grey, and rainy. Amsterdam is dreary, despite how colourfully Hannibal spoke of it. But Will can see the potential--how the city itself will bloom right along with the flowers in springtime. Cool winter light turning bright and golden, bringing vivid life to the city.

Will is entirely aware that his perception is coloured by Hannibal’s absence. Just as certainly as the approaching spring will breath life into Amsterdam, so too will Hannibal’s presence quicken him. He only hopes he won’t have to wait as long for Hannibal’s arrival as that of spring. The idea of weeks still separating them is too much to bear, after he’s already allowed so many years to keep them apart.

The cottage, as Hannibal had termed it, is more of a farmhouse, twenty minutes by train from the city. When he gets a taxi from the nearby village of De Rijp, the driver informs Will that the house has sat dormant for sometime, and dates back to the seventeenth century. Between that, and the thatched roof he spies as he heads up the drive, Will isn’t sure what to expect.

Hannibal has had some renovations done, that much is clear when Will enters through the back door with the key Hannibal provided. The back entranceway is a narrow mudroom, with built in shoe storage and coat rack. Off to either side through open doors, the house is all warm blonde flooring, the walls and ceilings covered in white panelling with exposed beams, the occasional stone wall of the original fabrication.

The kitchen bears Hannibal’s clear influence--modern, high-end appliances in chrome, the overhead rack for storage, and the two-level island. It shouldn’t work next to the seventeenth and eighteenth century design of the cabinets, the built-in shelving and sideboard,the original tiled backsplash and matching chimney over the fireplace that lines the wall between the dining and living rooms. Hannibal has managed to draw it all together with the plain, rustic dining table and the more modern chairs and stools, the chrome fixtures and the antique cast iron fireplace tools.

It is the same throughout the rest of the house. Will walks from room to room, pulling the protective sheets from the furniture and throwing open the windows and shutters. The dusty stillness gives way to the fresh, crisp air and Will can see them occupying this space together. He can see Sam and Tara tearing wild through the backyard and curling up in a dog bed by the hearth. Hannibal moving around in the kitchen, Will claiming the front studio space for himself, where through the open window he has a view of the distant pond.

There is something about the space that is reminiscent of his home in Wolf Trap. Perhaps the way the rooms are cut up, smaller and more intimate than their home in St. Bart’s. Or perhaps the rustic country touches throughout the home. Furniture that is comfortable and cosy and looks handmade. A sofa that doesn’t make Will worry about leaving coffee stains behind.

With the property thick with trees, an overrun orchard in the back, and the long, winding gravel driveway, he is afforded the illusion, as he had been back home in Virginia, that there is no one around for miles and miles.

That first day he stands on the back patio, arms wrapped around himself, swallowed up by one of the sweaters he found in the ancient bureau in the master bedroom. It no longer smells of Hannibal--who knows how long it’s even been since he last visited this place--but Will finds it comforting nonetheless. His breath clouds on the cold air, and hedrinks it all in. He imagines their life here in great detail, and feels caught between one breath and the next, waiting on Hannibal’s return before he can exhale.

However long that might take.

Will has been keeping a close eye on the news, but there is little coverage of their crimes in Europe. No news is good news, or at least that’s what he tells himself. Allowing any other line of thinking is crippling, so he shoves it aside. He packs it up tightly and tucks it far away in his mind. Deep in the darkest, thickest reaches of the forest, far from even the narrowest, most overgrown paths.

Instead, he throws himself in to preparing the house for Hannibal’s arrival. There isn’t much of the winter left, but he chops a small amount of wood and stocks the fireplaces and stoves. He finds a car in the garage, modest by Hannibal's standards, a hatchback, no doubt purchased with Will and the dogs in mind. He isn’t sure when Hannibal had it ordered, but it has to have been fairly recent--it looks new and runs perfectly.

With a few trips to the village he stocks the kitchen with all the essentials, buys new linens and toiletries, and cleaning supplies. He takes a couple of days to remove the years of dust and grime from the house, cleaning from top to bottom, exploring the ins and outs and quirks of the place.

The attic space has been converted into a study. Will spends an entire afternoon there, pouring through the sketches he finds in the drawer of the ancient desk, drinking in every detail like a man dying of thirst. There are, ostensibly, no longer any barriers between them, but they’ve been together such a brief length of time. There’s only so much Will has learned about Hannibal’s life before they met.

Hannibal’s skill is clear as ever, but not as refined, yet through these sketches, Will is afforded a window into his past. Knowing Hannibal’s proclivity for using the faces of people in his life, Will meets the men and women Hannibal once knew, on the bodies of the ancient warriors and heroes, gods and queens. There are some that are familiar--a rounder-faced Chiyoh; forever young Mischa; an older man who must be related to Hannibal by blood, though whether it’s his father or his uncle, Will can’t say; Lady Murasaki, looking grim and distinguished.

And the places he’d travelled, too. The canals of Amsterdam, certainly, and the land around this very house, but other cityscapes are unfamiliar to Will’s eye. A couple strolling down a narrow cobblestone lane, a woman gazing deeply into the water from an ancient stone bridge, three men smoking outside a pub. Will knows, instinctively, that these people are all dead now, by Hannibal’s hand. More bodies to add to his count.

Will has to wonder at their crimes, what they must have done to earn Hannibal’s ire, if these were among his first kills. Those three men, solidly built, faces weathered and scarred, eyes guarded. Could they be the men who orphaned Mischa and Hannibal? Had they had some hand in Mischa’s fate? Will never asked the details, never asked how much truth there was in what Hannibal told Chiyoh about her captive.

There was always more time to ask those questions, or so it seemed at the time. To tell Hannibal what happened with Chiyoh, and what had become of her prisoner, after his death. Will’s first creation without Hannibal’s influence, as much a love letter to him as the folded heart in Palermo had been Hannibal’s love letter to Will. As much as the scene at their home in St. Barts was a declaration of that love to Jack and the world.

“There is always more time,” Will says out loud, words echoing strangely in the empty space. That dark, hidden recess in his mind protests, and Will viciously stamps down on it.

Later that night he finds the cellar, under a narrow, short flight of stairs into the pantry, full of dusty bottles of wine and hard liquor. Some of the bottles are worth more than his fucking mortgage. Maybe it’s a little petulant, that he takes the most expensive one he can locate and swallows down big mouthfuls as he kicks around that evening, imagining what Hannibal would have to say about that. Probably a lecture about savouring the nose of it, along with a history of where the bottle came from and how much he’d paid for it.

Though Will certainly doesn’t feel any better about any of this, after, he also doesn’t feel much of anything, the rest of the night. He wakes up on the sofa the next morning, cotton-mouthed, head throbbing, still wearing yesterday’s sweat and dust covered clothing. At least he gets to pick up the dogs today.

That is enough to distract him for a time. They’re both anxious from the long travel in a crate, without Will or Hannibal present, and they don’t want to let Will out of sight once he picks them up. He manages to drive home with Sam perched on his left leg, giving him kisses the whole way, and Tara’s head on his right knee, eyes looking up at him mournfully.

Now, with the dogs at his side, Will begins his exploration of their land. The forest is just starting to stir with the first signs of springtime, green leaves unfurling on the branches and small white flowers carpeting the ground. Tara has to sniff every tree they pass, while Sam prefers to stay close at heel, as if afraid Will is going to disappear again.

The forest isn’t dense, and they come out to a gently rolling hill, on the other side of which is a second pond. Beyond there is a fence separating their land from the neighbour’s, a pasture full of cattle that set both dogs yapping, running up and down the fence in excitement.

They walk along it for a good while, until they reach the edge of the small orchard. Will doesn’t know a whole hell of a lot about fruit trees, but even as overrun as it is with weeds, he can’t imagine it would take too long to get it back in order. It would be nice to have a project. They’ll need to lay low for a long while, and even if they are going to travel, it will be nice to have a home to come back to.

Of course, any extracurricular activities will have to be kept separate from this place, but that is no hardship.

On their walk, Will discovers a third shed, mostly swallowed up by creeping vines, and locked with a rusty padlock that he jerks loose. To his delight, he finds the leftovers of previous owners, probably stretching back seventy years or more. There are ancient tools, old fishing equipment that he can’t wait to sort through, equipment for tending to the orchard. An old steamer trunk full of books, some of which look to be actually worth something. He wonders if Hannibal’s ever looked through any of this before, or if he even knows it exists.

Then, with that thought hanging over him, Will leads the dogs back to the house and brings another bottle up from the cellar as his mood turns dark again. Sam and Tara curl up with him on the sofa, and he drinks straight from the bottle, idly flipping through the channels before finding some old Jimmy Stewart film. Will glowers at the screen drunkenly for an hour or so, before finally passing out.

The next day is Tuesday, a full week and a half since he and Hannibal parted ways in South America. As Will lies on the sofa, wallowing in his hangover, he realises it’s the longest he’s been alone in well over three years. Since the last time he journeyed to Europe, with nothing but Abigail’s phantom presence as company.

Then, it had been dangerous to be left with his own thoughts for long. Still caught between Jack and Hannibal, uncertain of where his desire and loyalty intersected, and in which direction they led. Afraid that, if left to his devices, he would allow himself to be ruled by emotion rather than reason. Emotion he had no control over. Emotion that cared not what reason said about the wounds Hannibal had inflicted upon him, physical, mental, and psychological. It was without sense, and as capricious as Hannibal himself.

How Will had ever managed to extricate himself from that situation, how he had ever managed to drive Hannibal away, to cause him to turn himself in, was impossible to say--not Hannibal’s actions and motivations, but Will’s own. He had warred with regret even as he’d spoken the words, even as he watched Hannibal fall to his knees in the snow. Even as he watched the trial unfold before the whole country, the spectacle of the new century.

Will vacillated from one moment to the next, just as he had through their whole dance, uncertain. Was he Hannibal’s man? Was he Jack’s? Was it even possible to be his own man? Finding Molly, allowing himself to become lost in the man he was with her, had afforded him an effective coping mechanism to resist those thoughts and inclinations.

And now, Will must wonder if he’s simply fallen under their influence again. He is not the same man he was then. He isn’t even the same man he was a few short months ago. All Hannibal has ever wanted is for Will to understand his own mind, free from intrusion of others and right now he has the opportunity to examine himself separate outside influence.

Has it all been down to Hannibal’s presence? Will’s growing confidence. The calm, settled feeling he has finally managed to achieve. Can he ever trust any decision he makes in Hannibal’s presence, if he can’t be sure of his state of mind is his own? He’s fucking falling apart without Hannibal, and it’s pathetic.

Will drags himself off the sofa, brushes his teeth until his gums are bleeding, and climbs into the shower. He trims and shapes his beard for the first time since they left St Bart’s, then dresses in a clean change of clothing from Hannibal’s bureau. Will needs to go shopping for his own, weather appropriate clothing. But a younger, slighter Hannibal’s wardrobe fits him decently enough for now.

After digging through two of the three sheds, Will finally comes across a trimer, ladder, and pair of pruning shears. He doesn’t really know what he’s doing in the orchard, but it seems like clearing out the wild bramble of overgrown weeds and grass is a good start.

It takes most of the day to get the four rows, five trees deep each, cleared enough to even hope to get a lawnmower through them. Sam and Tara chase each other through the yard, chasing bunnies and birds, and scattering his compost pile. The sun is low on the horizon when he finishes, casting blinding golden light through the branches, and Will decides to wait to start pruning tomorrow.

One of his trips to the town got him a tablet, and he’s been careful to keep from searching anything that might bear scrutiny. He spends the evening trying to come up with the magical combination of words to unlock the google search results he wants, on how to maintain an orchard. All he gets are hits for fucking computer games or information that’s over a hundred years old. There’s a library in Middenbeemster. He can make a trip tomorrow.

That evening he makes dinner for himself and for the dogs, the first time he’s really used the kitchen. After a day in the yard, he’s sore and tired, but he feels good. He’s more comfortable in his own skin. Once he’s cleaned up the dishes and the dogs are settled in for the evening, he soaks in the ancient tub. He watches the pattern the steam makes as it rises, and his mind wanders.

Without his mindful vigilance, it is inevitable that the wanderings lead to those thoughts he has tried so hard to keep buried. His eyes fall closed and he slides further down the rim of the tub, letting the water brush his chin. If Hannibal has been caught…

This is something he needs to confront, head on. If he allows himself to act in a purely reactionary way, people are going to get hurt. People are going to die, and chances are good Will is going to get himself caught, as well. If Hannibal is taken into custody, Will needs to remain level-headed. It will require careful, patient planning to free him again.

Of course, there is the alternative. Will has told himself it doesn’t bear thinking, but that sort of willfully ignorant reasoning is uncharacteristic of him. Keeping his emotions carefully blank, he reflects upon his behaviour this past week, tries to observe it clinically, from a remove, and what he sees is startling.

His fear of losing Hannibal is so tied up in his fear of losing touch with the man he has become, that he has drawn that old, nervous, anti-social persona around himself like armour. Will chuckles out loud and takes a long sip from his bourbon, perched on the stool by the tub. Proactively self-destructive. Seems about right.

Well, no more. If Hannibal thinks he’ll be coming home to some lovesick, pining fool, ready to forget and forgive how they parted, he has another thing coming. Travelling separately was a necessity, he’ll allow that much. But Hannibal making the decision for the both of them, in the manner he did...that Will isn’t quite ready to let go just yet.

This line of thinking is only making him angry and, perversely, aroused. Will drags himself from the tub and dries off, before wrapping up in Hannibal’s old silk robe, lying in the bed they’ll share. And what is taking him so long? What is keeping Hannibal from him, still? He rolls onto his side, staring out the window. There’s nothing but darkness this far out from the city. There are no answers for any of it to be found, within or without.

Chapter Text

It’s three weeks less a day when Will hears the crunch of tires on gravel coming up the drive. The whole house, washed in bright sunlight, suddenly feels much dimmer, and anger flares hot in his chest. It can only be Hannibal.

Will’s been in the yard all morning, digging up a stretch of grass by the patio for a vegetable and herb garden, and just took a break to come in for lunch. There’s still dirt deep under his nails and he smells like sweat and earth and fertiliser. He wipes his grubby hands on his grubby jeans and makes himself walk out the door instead of running through it.

There’s a silver sedan slowly making it’s way toward him, and Will can barely see over the haze of red curtaining his vision, can barely hear over the rush of blood in his veins. He’s ready to flay Hannibal open verbally, and fuck, maybe even physically at this point.

Over the past several days there’s been time to closely examine his own motivations and desires, and he can now safely say that his choices have been his own. The only influence Hannibal has had on him is when Will has actively sought it out. To put his mind at ease, or see him through a stressful or difficult time. He still wants the life they’ve begun together, and all that entails, even if currently he wants nothing more than to rip Hannibal a new one.

It should be more reassuring than it actually is. But after the initial relief, Will began to question Hannibal’s motive for leaving him how he did. Had he entertained the same concerns as Will? Did he worry of undue influence? Was this all some kind of a test? The thought turns his stomach and makes his heart thump faster with adrenaline and pure, unadulterated rage.

Will has a few questions, and Hannibal better have brought some good goddamn answers with from wherever he’s been the past three weeks.

The car rolls up alongside the patio, and Hannibal steps out, looking much the same as ever. Tired and haggard from travel, perhaps, but no worse for wear, and Will experiences a brief rush of relief before it’s swallowed up in anger. He’s halfway across the patio when Hannibal opens the back door, and Will stops short, jaw dropping open.

Hannibal’s gaze traces the lines of his face like a caress of his hand. It’s clear he wants to reach out, but he remains standing there, holding the door open, expressionless.

“You absolute asshole,” Will exhales. “You bring the one fucking thing...” He lurches forward, catching himself on Hannibal’s shoulders and crushes their mouths together, moaning in relief at the feel of Hannibal’s lips solid and real under his. Hannibal’s hands rough on his hips, tugging him close. It’s grounding, after weeks afloat.

The one thing that could make Will forgive the absence.

Will pulls away with a snarl, shoves Hannibal back. “Don’t think this gets you off the hook,” he says, and Hannibal just quirks a smile and murmurs, “Of course not, my love.” Will snarls and kisses him again, hard and fast, before pulling away, ducking around the door and going down on his knees.

“Hey, boy,” he coos, pitching his voice high and gentle. He pushes his hands in the thick, golden red fur around Winston’s neck, and Winston nudges into the touch. “Hey, I’ve missed you.” Winston answers with a faint whine, bumping his muzzle against Will’s jaw.

“What were you thinking?” Will demands, sitting back on his heels to glare up at Hannibal. He can’t quite bring himself to stop petting Winston, fur soft and plush under his hands, threaded through with grey now.

Hannibal leans against the side of the car, hands clasped together, face serene. “Are you not pleased?”

“Pleased?” Will echoes. “Pleased?” He rises to his feet. “Hannibal, you could have been caught--you could have been killed. Even if Jack doesn’t have Molly and Walter under surveillance, do you think Molly’s taking any chances after Dolarhyde? She’s got a rifle, and she’d have no compunction about shooting you.”

“Yet here I am, alive and well,” Hannibal says, arching a brow. “And before you insinuate otherwise, your wife and son are unharmed and none the wiser.”

Will makes a noise of protest and outrage. She’s not my wife anymore, he wants to say. Not in anyway that matters, at least. But Hannibal doesn’t deserve that, not now. Not the reassurance, nor the knowledge that he’s gotten under Will’s skin with the jab.

Hannibal ignores him, anyway, carrying on. “Though she will no doubt draw her own conclusions, likely close to the truth, Molly was not at home, and the dogs were in the run. I dug under the fencing enough to allow for Winston to fit through. It is not inconceivable that Winston could have escaped on his own.”

Will snorts. “And Jack?”

“There is an agent with each of them, but none watching the empty house. I have been doing this for some time, Will.” He stops speaking when Will steps closer.

“Three weeks,” Will says, and oh hey, there’s that righteous anger, back again. “Three weeks of not knowing where you were, if you were fucking dead, if Jack was holding you somewhere. And all this time you’re orchestrating a dog-napping, and you couldn’t be bothered to let me know what’s going on?”

“There was a bit more to it than that,” Hannibal says.

“Aha.” Will is supremely unsurprised. “Do tell. If not Molly, then who was it you were after?”

Hannibal sighs, as if Will is being unreasonable. “Perhaps we could continue this conversation inside. It smells as though something is burning.”

Will curses, and turns back for the door at once. He’d forgotten about the bread he was toasting under the broiler because of course Hannibal’s ridiculously stocked kitchen didn’t have a fucking toaster. He whistles, and Winston bounds from the car and comes to heel.

Inside, black smoke curls up through the vent in the oven, hanging heavy over the kitchen. Tara and Sam, observing from the hall and whining at the scent, catch sight of Winston, and begin the cautious getting-to-know-you dance. Will throws the charcoal bricks that used to be his bread in the sink and flips on the faucet, then goes through the room opening the windows by the table and over the sink.

Hannibal stands just inside the door, observing, with a faint smile on his face. “What?” Will snaps. Hannibal shakes his head and comes in the room, crowding close, framing Will’s face in his hands and leaning in. The kiss is slow and tender, and despite his best efforts to remember why he’s angry, Will finds himself lost in the gentle, familiar rhythm of Hannibal’s mouth moving against his, their tongues sliding together, the thrill of sparks down his spine when Hannibal’s teeth snag against his lip.

“I’m still waiting on an explanation,” he murmurs against Hannibal’s mouth, and when Hannibal leans in for another kiss, Will pushes him away with a hand to his chest. “Because right now I’m feeling less inclined to kiss you, and more inclined to kick your ass.”

Hannibal’s grin is all teeth. “I’m not entirely opposed, if you think it will help.”

Will takes a step back, leaning against the counters, and crosses his arms over his chest. He raises his brows expectantly and taps his fingers against the curve of his elbow.

“David did us a favour with our papers, and in return, I did a favour for him.”

“A favour,” Will repeats. “Murder for hire?”

“Nothing so distasteful,” Hannibal says. His posture and tone are dismissive, and there’s something cold and distant about him.

Suddenly Will has the feeling he shouldn’t push for any more information than just that. “Maybe you could give me some fucking warning that you’re not coming straight away,” he says with a scowl. “You just let us leave things how they were.”

“It was in our best interests to travel separately,” Hannibal says. “And we have both arrived safely. However, I am sorry for how we parted.”

“Really?” Will says. “Because you don’t seem particularly apologetic.”

Hannibal tilts his head to the side, gaze cutting to Winston, who’s patiently submitting to Tara’s full-body sniff search, and then back to Will. He spreads his hands open wide, as close to an expression of helplessness as anything Will has ever seen from him. “I brought you your dog, Will.”

Will can feel all his anger and resolve softening, no matter how fiercely he clings to them. “I seem to recall you admonishing me against bringing home a dog every time we kill someone. I think the same goes for you bringing one every time you piss me off. We don’t have enough space.”

“There’s quite a lot of land here,” Hannibal says. He steps forward, slow and cautious, as if Will is some wild animal he doesn’t wish to startle. “We could make some additions.”

Will lips twitch, threatening a smile. He doesn’t resist when Hannibal cages him in against the cabinets, just boosts himself onto the countertop. “Don’t think you’re going to win me over so easily.”

Hannibal’s own smile is slow and sensuous, hands possessive on Will’s thighs, spreading his legs open to come to stand between them. Will lets his arms rest on his shoulders, clasping his hands together at the nape of his neck. His fingers tangle in the fine hair there, gathered in a short pony-tail. He gives a little tug and Hannibal relents, head tipped back, his neck a long, taut line, eyes never leaving Will’s.

“I was scared,” Will says. His fingers tighten, and he can see the strain around Hannibal’s eyes. “I was fucking terrified, Hannibal, and pissed as hell.” He gives another, sharper tug, and then lets go.

Hannibal leans forward, tucking his face in the curve of Will’s neck, and a fine shudder goes through him. “I’m glad to be home,” he sighs. “And I am sorry.”

Will draws his cheek across his crown. “I was being irrational,” he allows. “But you picked a really shitty time to share your plan. You can’t just give me orders and expect me to follow them, and you can’t keep things like this from me. If we’re doing this, it’s together.” He’s come to the realisation that he could get along without Hannibal, but he has no desire to do so.

“In retrospect, I should have handled it differently, but I acted to ensure our freedom,” Hannibal murmurs, placing delicate kisses down the tendon of Will’s neck. Each one settles hot in Will’s groin. He scrapes his nails across the sensitive skin below Hannibal’s hairline, delighting in the hitch in Hannibal’s breathing.

“And, of course, it gave you the opportunity to do David’s favour without my interference,” he says.

“That was not my motivation,” Hannibal says, in protest, and Will’s nails bite sharply into skin.

“But it didn’t hurt,” Will counters. “Do you forget who you’re talking to?”

Hannibal draws back enough to meet his gaze. “I see that I will have to work to earn your forgiveness,” he says, the very faintest thread of playfulness in his tone. He glanced over at the sodden blackened slices of bread in the sink. “I could begin by making you lunch.”

Will hooks his legs around Hannibal’s waist. “Lunch can wait.”

“Oh?” Hannibal tilts his head to the side, mouth scant inches from Will’s. His hands run up the outsides of his thighs and around his hips to cup Will’s ass.

“You can begin,” Will drawls, brushing their mouths together, “by taking me upstairs.”

“Gladly,” Hannibal murmurs. He leans into Will, captures his lips more forcefully, licking into his mouth. Will doesn’t bother trying to hide his enthusiasm, pulling Hannibal close with his arms and legs, fingers deep in his hair, slanting his mouth over Hannibal’s.

Will clutches tighter when Hannibal lurches backward, taking Will with him. He lets out a startled sound that turns into laughter when Hannibal begins to carrying him down the hall, towards the steps. “You’re going to kill us both,” he says, between kisses.

Hannibal presses him against the wall, rolling his hips up against Will’s ass, cock already growing hard. He rests their foreheads together, breath coming hot and fast on Will’s cheek, and does it again. Will swallows back a moan, fingers curling in Hannibal’s jacket.

“Only la petite mort,” Hannibal says, words punctuated by the bite at the curve of Will’s jaw and the steady rocking of his hips.

Will braces himself with a hand on the banister, tipping his head back for Hannibal’s sucking kisses. The anger is still there, simmering just under the surface, but it’s been too long since he’s felt Hannibal’s body pressed against his, and it’s only fuelling his arousal. Hannibal’s teeth scrape against his jugular, and Will would swear his heart skips a beat. He arches his back and shoves off from the wall, twisting as he goes.

They land hard on the stairs, Hannibal first, grunting at the impact, Will sprawled over his lap. He doesn’t give Hannibal a chance to catch his breath, lunging for his mouth. His fingers start working open the buttons of Hannibal’s shirt, pausing only to let Hannibal shove his sweater up and over his head and toss it aside. Their hands tangle, the only sound the whisper of cloth on skin, the rasp of denim, and their heavy breathing.

“Fuck,” Will whines, when Hannibal finally gets his jeans open and a hand inside his boxers. He’s already so fucking hard, and Hannibal’s grip is tight, and sure, and so good.

“Succinctly put,” Hannibal says, and Will ducks his head, huffing out a breath, teeth pressed to the line of Hannibal’s shoulder.

There’s that familiar stretch of exposed skin for his perusal. He runs his fingers through the crisp curls on Hannibal’s chest, and lower on his stomach. It’s strange to see Hannibal free of any lovemarks. The reminder that he’s been gone long enough for them all to fade makes Will growl and bite down hard on the fine rise of his collarbone, and again on the swell of his pectoral, leaving the white indent of his teeth ringed in angry red splotches.

Hannibal’s hand threads in his hair, neither guiding nor restraining, simply touching. The gentle brush of his fingers against Will’s scalp is almost as pleasurable as the rough hand on his dick. Will hums his approval against Hannibal’s skin, and shoves up on his arms to kiss him again, hungry. “Upstairs,” he says into Hannibal’s mouth.

Will starts to rise, but Hannibal makes no move except to snag his finger in the belt loop of Will’s jeans and tug. They slip down over the curve of his ass and Will stops short, aiming a glare down at the smug twist of Hannibal’s lips. He slips his free hand in the pocket of his trousers and produces a small packet of lube.

“Wow,” Will says, brow arched, tonguing the inside of his cheek in annoyance. “That was really fucking presumptuous of you.”

Hannibal lifts one shoulder in an elegant shrug and tugs harder on Will’s jeans, bringing them down around his knees.

“You were just so fucking sure I was going to forgive you like that.” Will snaps his fingers. Hannibal just remains sitting there placidly, supremely sure of himself. “Just jump you right away.”

“I’m frankly astonished we made it this far.” Hannibal is clearly trying to get under his skin, and it works. Will snaps. Kicks his jeans off the rest of the way with his boxers, all but tears the zipper of Hannibal’s trousers apart opening them. Because the thing of it is, he’s not wrong.

“You absolute asshole,” he hisses, and snatches the lube from Hannibal’s hand in lieu of punching the smirk off his face. Maybe later.

“I’m going to start thinking you mean that as a term of endearment,” Hannibal says, tone lofty.

Will doesn’t give him the satisfaction of a response, instead jerking down the elastic of his boxers over his cock and letting it snap hard under his balls. He flashes a vicious grin when Hannibal winces. Will catches the corner of the packet between his teeth and tears it open, spitting the foil over his shoulder.

“You know me so well, Hannibal,” he purrs, rubbing his lube-slick hand up the curve of Hannibal’s cock, his own dick throbbing painfully at the familiar feel of it in his hand, of the sight of the foreskin easing back and the obscenely wet head, angry and purple. For a moment Will is distracted, caught up in the wet slide of it, and catches himself halfway bent to suck Hannibal’s cock. His mouth waters at the thought, tongue heavy, tickling across his palate. But that’s not what he wants right now.

He squeezes the rest of the lube over his fingers and reaches between his legs, hastily shoving two inside in a perfunctory way and rises up to toss one leg over Hannibal’s lap. Hannibal grabs his hips, steadying. His eyes catch the bright natural light in the hall, turning red, and he watches, hungry and expectant, and so fucking sure of himself.

Will reaches behind himself, guiding Hannibal’s cock as he lowers himself. His breath catches at the first press against his hole, and he holds it as he lowers himself just enough for the resistance to give. He breaths out at the hitching relief as the head of Hannibal’s cock breaches his body; he’s come to not only anticipate the stretch, but delight in it, that slow burn into pleasure.

Hannibal’s grip tightens, a subtle attempt to guide Will down his cock, and Will resists, grabs him by the wrists and shoves them against the step above his head. He sinks a little lower and rises again, almost letting Hannibal’s cock slip free, letting it tease against all the nerve-endings just inside the tight ring of muscle. He clenches down, taking fierce satisfaction in the way Hannibal’s breath catches and he flexes upward.

“Ah ah ah.” Will makes a tsking noise and rises with the thrust of Hannibal’s hips, refusing to take him any deeper. He swivels his hips slowly, sinking just a little more and up again, and Hannibal falls back without protest. He looks up at Will through the fringe of hair in his eyes, humour fading into dazed wonder. His wrists go slack in Will’s grip, as good as a verbal surrender.

The berber carpet is rough on Will’s knees, and his thighs are already starting to sting from the position he’s holding, half crouched, shifting just slightly up and down. He only has to imagine the rug burn Hannibal is going to have on his ass and the places where the stairs dig into his back and shoulder to decide it’s a pain he can deal with.

Will’s so keyed up, he’s not going to last long anyway. But he’s going to draw it out as much as he can, if only to make Hannibal squirm. He rocks up and down, sinking a little further each time, fixating on every twitch in Hannibal’s cheek, the flare of his nostrils, the furrow between his brows--all the signs of a man clinging to control by a thread.

And finally, when Will can’t resist any longer, he sinks all the way down, taking Hannibal as deep as he can in one smooth glide. His chin falls to his chest with a rumbling groan, and a powerful burning tremble in his thighs. Beneath him, Hannibal’s body trembles in answer with the effort to remain still. Will just has to rest there a minute, wriggling his hips back and forth to find just the right angle, and oh, fuck, there it is. Will settles in, nails digging into Hannibal’s chest, and starts to move in earnest.

There’s something about this position, how deep it lets Hannibal get, that always makes Will feel so exposed and vulnerable, the pleasure too raw, verging on pain. His heart races like it’s trying to burst free of his chest. Every exhale is a faint, breathy whine coming faster and faster because he can’t help himself, fucking himself on Hannibal’s cock as hard and as fast as he can.

He’ll feel it later every time he sits down, in his thighs when he’s crouching out in the garden, when he’s bent over his fly tying, the twinging muscles in his lower back protesting the abuse, the raw pink skin on his knees tender to touch.

Right now, he doesn’t care about anything but Hannibal’s cock splitting him open--it feels so huge like this, he still almost can’t believe he can take it all--and the drag against his prostate on every downstroke that leaves his arms shaking with the effort to support him. The look on Hannibal’s face, eyes dark and intent, all the subtleties others would never see between lust for blood and more carnal desire. His mouth hung open, tongue glistening, pressed against the uneven line of his teeth, and Will knows exactly what that mouth is capable of--has seen and experienced it, and that only serves to drive his desperation.

Will leans in, needing the feel of that mouth on his own, gasping against Hannibal’s skin at the change in the angle. He licks across the bow of Hannibal’s top lip, at the place where tongue and teeth meet, and, when Hannibal acquiesces, deeper. Trails kisses up the jut of his cheekbone and moans, “I’ve missed you, fuck, I’ve missed this.”

Hannibal sits up, almost knocking Will off-balance, but his arms come up around Will’s waist, holding him close and tight. Will could struggle, but it feels too good, his cock rubbing against Hannibal’s belly with every driving thrust. He hangs on, arms around Hannibal’s shoulders, lifting his head to look Hannibal in the eye. They’re close enough their breath mingles, lips catching and releasing as their bodies rock together.

“Did you fuck yourself on your fingers?” Hannibal asks, breath harsh. “Were you that desperate for me?”

Will bends his head to Hannibal’s shoulder, biting hard enough to make him feel it. “I was worried sick,” he growls.

Hannibal chuckles. “That isn’t an answer.” He heaves them both to their feet, dislodging Will from his lap.

Will moans at the loss of skin on skin and Hannibal’s cock filling him. He gives Hannibal a baleful look. “You know the answer,” he says. He’s never craved sex like he does with Hannibal, never felt the need for another person so acutely, even outside of their presence and influence, and Hannibal must know it.

“Mmm.” Hannibal’s hand settles on his shoulder. “But I’d like to hear you say it.”

Will scoffs, and Hannibal’s hand tightens. He moves fast--too fast for Will to really react, jerking him up a step and shoving him back on his knees. Will jabs an elbow back in pure reflex and catches him in the side, but Hannibal shoves him down flat, kicks his legs apart and kneels between them. He enters Will from behind in a harsh thrust that drives the air from him.

The carpet drags across his stomach, below his belly button, burning along the line of his scar. Will arches his spine, fingers curling around the edge of the stair, and holds on as Hannibal fucks him hard and merciless. Whether he means it as punishment, or if he knows it’s what Will needs, it doesn’t matter. There’s a steady dribble of precome leaking all over the carpet, and he’s going to come just like this, without a hand on his cock, and he can almost taste it.

“Yes.” It comes out as little more than a whisper, pressed into the skin of his wrist, where he rests his face. And again, louder, “Yes, fuck, Hannibal.”

Hannibal’s hands slip in the sweat on his hips and he hauls Will back on his cock, angling upward. “Tell me,” he says.

Will whimpers and spreads his legs wider, ignoring the sting of the friction burn. Hannibal’s mouth is hot on his skin, licking up his spine, biting down at each notch, and Will can’t wait to admire the marks he leaves in the mirror.

“Walking through this house,” Will pants, “seeing all your things...It was--” Hannibal’s pace makes him grit his teeth and squeeze his eyes closed tight. “Fuck, yes, like that.”

“Like that?” Hannibal asks. He snaps his hips hard and deep against the curve of Will’s ass, fingers digging into his pelvic bone hard enough to leave bruises.

Perversely, being handled so roughly leaves Will feeling precious. He reaches behind himself to sling his arm around Hannibal’s neck, holding him close. “Yes,” he breathes. “I’m so close, Hannibal, just keep--just like that.”

Hannibal’s chest rumbles, vibrating where they’re pressed together, and he does just as Will asks, keeping the same rhythm and pace, same shatteringly rough thrusts. One hand curves low against Will’s abdomen, just grazing the coarse curls of his pubic hair. The other grabs Will by the chin, fingers prodding at his mouth, and Will opens obligingly, sucking them in. He moans around his mouthful when Hannibal rocks in, heel of his hand pushing down hard just above the jut of his cock.

Will can’t control the way his body responds, rocking jerkily back and forth on Hannibal’s cock as his own dick jerks hard, spurts of seed striping hot across his stomach. His breath catches in his chest, ribs expanding like they’re going to burst, and it’s so fucking good, almost unbelievably good. How can it be so good, without either of them having touched his cock?

He closes his teeth hard around Hannibal’s fingers, sucks the pad of his fingertip against the roof of his mouth, prompting a broken moan from Hannibal, mouth open against the nape of his neck. Will’s body spasms on Hannibal’s cock as he rides out the high of his orgasm. It draws out the pleasure impossibly long and overwhelming.

Though Will can hear himself keening, he can’t stop the sound; it’s too intense. “Oh, fuck, Hannibal,” he whines. “It’s so fucking good. Fuck, I love you.”

Hannibal responds predictably to Will’s words. He sinks his teeth into the faded red scar he’s left on Will’s neck, in the shape of his mouth. Will can feel the skin give, and he knows it’s fucked up that his body no longer registers the pain of it, over the rush of endorphins. Hannibal lays himself over Will’s back as he comes, pumping Will full of his release.

Hannibal lays there after, catching his breath, licking over the mark he’s made. Will’s whole body feels heavy, limbs like they’ve been weighed down with sandbags. Were he somewhere any more comfortable, he’d be halfway to sleep by now. All the tension from the weeks previous has given way to this utter boneless relaxation.

“Can we go upstairs now?” he asks blearily, voice muffled against his forearm.

In answer, Hannibal gets to his feet. Will lets out a weary sigh, gathering the will to move. Before he can, Hannibal bends, hooking an arm under his knees, and another around his back, and lifts him. Will fights the initial urge to struggle, instead clinging around his neck as Hannibal carries him up the stairs.

“Facilitating my habit?” Will teases.

“It isn’t one I mind indulging,” Hannibal says, eyes sparkling. “Though I must admit, I prefer you conscious, and neither of us suffering life-threatening injuries.” He lays Will out over the sheets and follows him down, weighting him to the bed.

Will reaches up to push the hair back from Hannibal’s face, tracing the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, the lines leading to his mouth, and over the swell of his lips, before leaning up to kiss him, slow and gentle. When they part, he can’t help his soft smile. “I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to fuck you or fight you, first.”

Hannibal’s own smile is full of open, honest amusement. He rolls them onto their sides, legs tangled, hands clasped between them. “I’m glad you decided on the former, though I hope you’ll give me some time to recover before we move on to the latter.”

Will rolls his eyes. He’s too well-fucked to pick up their fight right now. He’s willing to put the anger on hold for the time being, if it means sleeping with Hannibal alongside him again. He nuzzles into the warm, dark curve of Hannibal’s neck, drinking in the scent of him. “Thank you for coming home.”

Hannibal’s hands tighten around his. “Thank you for being here.”

They kiss again, slower; Will’s mouth doesn’t want to cooperate, he’s too exhausted. His eyes drift closed and won’t open again. “Being here alone,” he murmurs, snuggling closer, “seeing the spaces you’d occupied, it was like having a conversation with the echo of the person you’d been here.”

Hannibal hums thoughtfully. His lips brush over the scar on Will’s forehead. “Was it an enlightening conversation?”

“As ever, the finer details remain elusive.”

“You know you need only ask, and I will tell you anything,” Hannibal says.

Will nods, burrowing closer, and Hannibal wraps him in his arms. Downstairs, he can hear the dogs milling around. Apparently the introductions went well. Hannibal pulls the comforter up over them like a cocoon, blocking out the daylight, and the air grows hot and moist, and stifling fast. Will’s mouth opens over the skin beneath him, tasting sweat and soap, and Hannibal’s own, unmistakable flavour.

“There’s plenty of time,” he says.

Chapter Text

Jack is tired.

Since the clusterfuck that was Hannibal Lecter’s orchestrated escape, he hasn’t had a moment to rest. Funerals, and hearings, hounding Price and Zeller as they worked their way through the evidence from the cliffside. Dodging Freddie Lounds’ persistent questions even when every other reporter fell in line.

There was a period of less than twenty-four hours there at the beginning, when he watched the recording left behind, when he’d clung to the hope that they were dead. It settled heavy on his shoulders and sour in his stomach, thinking of how he’d let down Will yet again. As much as he was filled with regret at the thought of telling Molly her husband wouldn’t return, it was preferable to the alternative.

He was putting off that inevitable conversation when he’d received the call about Bedelia du Maurier’s poisoning. Then he’d clung to hope a little while longer, that maybe Will wasn’t involved, until he’d heard back from the forensic team at the doctor’s home. She’d remained tightlipped about what happened, but both Will and Lecter’s fingerprints were all over the place, and Jack’s hope evaporated like so much smoke.

Will liked to play his cards close to the chest, and Jack had bet everything that Will was still his man. Now he has the endless procession of hearings, and Kade Prurnell haunting his every step. It’s only a matter of time before he loses it all, but one way or another, he’s taking Hannibal Lecter down with him.

This might be the nail in his coffin.

“Agent Crawford?” The officer meets him just inside the front door of the house. She looks about as haggard as he feels, and speaks with a strong accent. “You might want to take a moment to prepare yourself. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

No, he doesn’t imagine she has, here in this relatively peaceful, affluent slice of paradise. Who would look at this mansion, open to the fragrance of mango and jasmine, and the hypnotic crash of the ocean waves on the shore, and imagine something so horrifying could have taken place here? Who would have looked at the charming, intelligent gentleman and his handsome young husband, and imagine they were capable of such brutality?

Jack pats her on the shoulder as he passes into the house. He’s seen the pictures Freddie Lounds has already posted on her site. No amount of threats or court orders--nothing short of an act of god--was enough to stop her from making those public. The house is much as it was in those photographs, and Jack walks through it feeling like an interloper.

In the study, a dozen scattered evidence placards--the pool of blood and the trail leading across the room to the open rolling door. Dried red handprints on the carpet, the side of the coffee table, the doorframe. The desktop, covered in bodily fluids. Jack closes his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose.

Jack knows he’s putting off the inevitable, and forces himself to cross the threshold onto the back patio. He clears his mind of the feelings of lingering guilt, betrayal, and loss, and observes the scene with as much detachment as he can muster. There's no intuitive leap here. Nothing the evidence doesn't spell out plainly.

The director, Alexander Rook, is seated at the head of the table, face staring blankly back. His eyes have been removed, but they are nowhere to be seen. This man who, according to Lounds, was attempting to blackmail them, whose computer has been found with notes of his interviews with them, who thought he understood them and could somehow share their true story with the world? This man was blind. He saw nothing. He understood nothing.

The other man, Peter Anders, is laid out on the table, his head on Rook’s plate. Both their chests have been split open wide, ribs cracked to expose the chest cavity, hearts exposed. It’s hardly the most artful of the crime scenes left by either of them, but there is a certain poetry to it that Will no doubt appreciates.

“They’ve swapped the hearts,” Zeller says, interrupting Jack’s thought process. He gestures to the heart in Anders’ chest cavity, held in place with vibrant blue thread. “I’m assuming it was Lecter, from the precision of the cut and the skill of the stitching.”

“Awww,” Price says, clasping his hands together at his chest. “That’s kind of sweet, isn’t it?” Jack doesn’t bother glaring at him in disbelief; Zeller’s already got that covered.

“Yeah, real sweet, serial killers declaring their love for one another with murder and mutilation. Put it on a greeting card,” Zeller snaps.

Price holds up a finger. “Don’t forget the exchange of bodily fluids. The amount of semen in the study has to be from at least two different sources.”

Jack waves a hand to forestall further bickering and stave off that mental image again. He’s already well aware of the fact that he’s the one who drove Will right into Hannibal Lecter’s waiting arms yet again. He’s already reminded of what a spectacular fuck up that had been on his part, on a daily basis. Now, apparently, he has to face the exact nature of Will’s longing.

Maybe Jack doesn’t have Will’s crystal clarity, but it’s not too difficult to see, even if he doesn’t want to. The two of them having sex in front of their captive. He can’t help but wonder if that might have been his intended fate, once upon a time. The way the carpet was matted, the width of the drag mark. He can see the victim pulling himself across the floor, until something brought him to a sudden stop. Someone. The two of them working together to open up the chests of their victims, discussing just what message to leave behind.

It’s all too easy to put Will in his proper place in this crime scene. All he has to do is look at Hannibal’s previous murders to see where this diverges from those. Hannibal would never leave the trail of blood and bodily fluids behind on his own. He’d only ever left what he wanted the FBI to find his carefully tailored design.

This...this is Hannibal’s design married with Will’s. Will wanted Jack to see this. It’s a taunt. He wanted to make it damn clear, the choice he’s finally made.

The FBI is going to cut him loose sooner or later, but Jack is the one that put this whole tragedy into motion. It’s his mess to clean up, and whether he does it under the aegis of the government, or on his own, he’s going to bring them both in, or die trying.