Hannibal's body was falling, but his heart was soaring. Trust Will to always exceed his expectations. Not only to Become so brilliantly that Hannibal would probably see Will's red-toothed snarl behind his eyelids forever. Not only to utterly shock Hannibal by embracing him of his own free will. But to take a further step into the unprecedented and offer Hannibal a death more perfect than he could have dreamed: at Will's side, by Will's hand, with Will's small body tucked sweetly against his own.
He wasn't about to take the offer, but he was unspeakably moved by it. He hugged Will to him with all his remaining strength and turned their feet to the sea.
The water punched the air from his lungs, and felt like it slapped the skin right off his back, but it didn’t kill him. The same turbulence that lessened the impact made them sink far and fast. It was going to be a challenge, swimming back to the surface with no air for buoyancy or oxygen; Hannibal might die yet whether he chose to or not.
Will started struggling the instant they hit the water; apparently his death wish didn’t extend to drowning while conscious. He wasn’t pushing away from Hannibal, rather writhing and squirming in Hannibal’s grip. There was something… extremely bizarre about his movements, the way he felt, but Hannibal couldn’t afford to pay attention to it now. He would investigate further if they made it to the surface. He kicked doggedly upward, losing his shoes, sculling with the hand that wasn’t holding onto Will. Will's squirming eventually became rhythmic and purposeful, though no less odd, and Hannibal could feel that they were now moving much faster through the water, though Will’s legs never tangled with Hannibal’s own.
They broke the surface just as Hannibal’s vision was going black. When he could do something besides heave air into his screaming lungs, he looked at Will.
Or. Well. He looked at where Will should be. Hannibal was holding onto a seal wearing Will’s shirt.
“Arf!” said the seal. There was a deep gash on its right cheek. Even in the weak predawn light, the blood stood out brightly against its dark fur.
“Arf,” said the seal - Will - again, before curling downwards, gnashing its - his - teeth at the shirt. In a daze, Hannibal undid buttons until Will wriggled free. Hannibal watched, treading water, while Will turned a somersault. He was also bleeding just above his right flipper.
“If I must hallucinate,” said Hannibal, “I would prefer a scenario in which you can talk.”
Will persisted in sealhood.
“Alright. I believe the nearest shore is that way.” Hannibal pointed. Will swam up to him and nuzzled under Hannibal’s hand. The feel of the wet fur was totally unlike Will's sodden curls. Will turned away and shoved the back of his neck - such as it was - against Hannibal’s hand, then looked back at Hannibal. His eyebrow-whiskers raised and lowered; he was waggling them, the way he did when he laid out his ludicrous 'Secret Service setup' in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, only the day before. It felt like a lifetime ago.
Slowly, Hannibal slid his arms around Will's neck. He had to cling to avoid being left behind when Will took off swimming. Feeling the stout column of Will's body undulating briskly, pulling them along at an incredible clip, was one of the strangest sensations of Hannibal's life, and not something he thought his own brain capable of making up out of whole cloth. He was bruised, tired, and very cold, and the salt water burned his side like fire, but his thoughts were clear. This was real.
"There are more things in heaven and earth," he mumbled through chattering teeth, "and the ocean, apparently."
They swam like that for a long time. Hannibal was no longer thinking clearly by the time he felt his knees scrape on gravel. Will had to nip at his wrist to get Hannibal to unlock his frozen fingers and support his own weight on all fours. He crawled, feeble as an infant, the waves nearly knocking him down, out of the shallows and up onto the beach. His body was all but numb; the vibrations of the ground and the water were all he could feel.
Will hauled-out alongside him, flopping on his belly. It would have been a comical sight, were it not for the way each flop caused a pained grunt, and fresh trickles of blood from Will's wounds.
Finally they made it above the high-water mark. Hannibal collapsed in some scrub grass with a vague notion of needing to keep his body heat from leaching into the ground. Will rolled against his side, panting.
Hannibal laughed suddenly. "All you need is a stream, indeed!" he slurred, and passed out.
He woke to the noonday sun in his eyes, shivering and so sore he could barely move. There was a warm weight pressing into his uninjured side. "Will?" Will's answering grunt could have been human or otherwise.
Hannibal lifted his head minutely, sighing with relief to see Will's unruly mop on his chest instead of the sleek head of the seal. He reached down and palmed the side of Will's head, as he had numerous times in the past (all such instances strung together like pearls, lying in a chest of their own in the Will Graham wing of his memory palace), tangling his fingers in the dark curls, then stroking down his neck. Hannibal's breath hitched when he realised Will was stark naked.
Will palpably braced himself, and said, "Alright, you have questions."
Hannibal rubbed a tiny circle over Will's vertebra prominens. "Are you cold?"
Will twitched and deflated. "A bit. Not as bad off as you. We need to get inside."
There was a cottage at the top of an overgrown path winding down to the beach, the disused plaything of someone with more money than time, like most of the properties in the region. Breaking in was a gamble, but it was isolated; odds were on there being no security system beyond locks. Certainly there were no cameras or keypads visible.
Will vanished into the depths of the house while Hannibal poked around the kitchen, the site of most household injuries. Anyone with a modicum of sense would - yes, there was a first aid kit. A very good one, at that. He was just opening it on the table when Will returned, wearing a towel around his hips. There was the sound of a shower running not far away.
“C’mon, I don’t know how long the hot water will last,” said Will.
Will scowled. “You were an ER doctor; I don't need to tell you how bad it is that you stopped shivering for a while there. You’re getting in now.”
Hannibal opened his mouth to agree, when Will added, “And so am I, to keep an eye on you.” He shut his mouth again.
Hannibal knew, intellectually, that the water was barely warmer than tepid, but it felt scalding. He really was still somewhat hypothermic. He swallowed and bore it silently; it had nothing on a branding iron.
As first times naked together went, it was decidedly unerotic. They both moved stiffly, covered in bruises and lacerations. At one point Hannibal detached the showerhead and forced the spray into the through-and-through bullet wound in the muscle of his side. Will did the same for his cheek, bloody water and a bubbling scream escaping through his clenched teeth. Grey-faced, he leaned against the wall while Hannibal cleaned his shoulder. Hannibal spared a moment to be grateful that the Dragon's knife had been so short and struck Will so high. A sucking chest wound might have doomed them both, even with the benefit of Will's... ability.
"There is a suture kit among the first aid supplies." Hannibal patted the towel carefully around his wounds, not letting the cloth touch them directly. Will noticed and followed suit.
"Somebody likes to be prepared."
They limped back into the kitchen, wrapped in more towels. "Indeed. I would leave them a thank-you note if it did not risk squandering our opportunity."
Rummaging in the freezer for ice cubes, Hannibal said delicately, "We are a very long way up the coast. If the search extends this far, they will be looking only for our corpses." The unspoken implication hung in the air between them: no human could swim so far. He handed Will the ice. “Hold that against your cheek - inside and outside, please.”
Will winced as he tucked an ice cube between his cheek and gums, and held another against his skin. “Aren’t you curious?” He demanded.
Hannibal thought while he dressed his bullet holes, and the stab wound on Will’s shoulder, all too small to bother with sutures. He thought, You don’t remember your mother. How young were you when you found her pelt and set her free? and, Is your Spanish going to have a Creole accent at first, or a Lithuanian one as we learn it together? and, Do you like sushi, or does it fail to measure up to the fish still thrashing when you swallow it? and, What do the backs of your knees smell like?
In the end, all he said was, “Very much so, yes. And, no more so than I am about every other part of you.”
Will’s eyes flew up to meet his. His mouth curled in the same smile he gave Hannibal on the clifftop. For the second time that day - and in their lives - he reached out with intent, and gripped Hannibal’s forearm. Hannibal closed his eyes and swallowed. Once again, he could not store the feeling away for meticulous reflection; it was too powerful, crashing over him like a tremendous wave. It could not be examined, only experienced.
Will kept his hand on Hannibal as he pulled himself together, and finally started to stitch up Will’s face, the ice having numbed him as much as it was going to. Will’s grip went from soft to iron-nailed, leaving half-moons of blood on Hannibal’s skin. Hannibal wondered if it was worth trying to force them to scar. By the time he was done, Will was clinging to him, damp with sweat. Hannibal took a covert whiff as he helped Will to the nearest bedroom. It was still beautiful to him, but he dared to hope that someday the smell of Will’s hurt would be less familiar than the smell of Will’s joy.
“Stay,” Will muttered, when Hannibal would have tucked him in and found a bed elsewhere, “I have learned that I hate to sleep alone.”
Hannibal throttled his jealousy of Molly; it was not worthy of his attention compared to the continuous parade of new things Will was giving him. Astonishing, delightful: Will’s small frown as he burrowed into the blankets, trying to get comfortable on his back; the sidelong, drowsy squint he shot Hannibal where he loomed facing Will, conveniently unable to lie any way but on his left side.
“The last time you smiled like that, I had a mouthful of Cordell’s cheek,” Will whispered.
Hannibal beamed at him. "This is even better."
“Oh, hell,” Will grumbled, and was asleep in seconds.
They slept away the remains of that day and well into the next. After an unappetizing meal of whatever soft foods they could scavenge (for both of them - every blow from the late Francis Dolarhyde was like being kicked by a horse, and more than one of Hannibal's teeth felt loose), they investigated the cottagers' closets. Hannibal died a little inside at having to wear cargo pants and a hoodie, but at least they were warm, and could hide their faces while they went boat-stealing.
"Of course you know how to hot-wire an engine," said Will, steering them out of the harbour.
"The Bentley was entirely too distinctive for some purposes," said Hannibal, poring over the GPS. What ever happened to his beautiful car? Sold, most likely, and the proceeds distributed among the families of his groceries. "Bear this way; I have a vessel under an alias... here."
"Ugh, you are a detective's worst nightmare," lamented Will, "where do you get the money for all this?"
"Bequests from certain elderly patients. Running a lucrative practice for many years, with very few involuntary expenses. And... well."
Will pounced immediately. "Well, what?"
"You've been to my family's estate. My estate." Hannibal spread his hands. "Count Hannibal Lecter the Eighth, at your service."
Will cackled. "The Eighth? Hoo, boy! Ow!" He prodded gingerly at the bandage on his cheek. Eyes twinkling, he promised, "Hand to God, all Dracula jokes are permanently off the table."
"I should hope so."
Hannibal sulked until Will hip-checked him lightly and said, "Man, do I ever keep marrying up," which sent his mood tripping skyward again.
They abandoned the stolen boat outside the town where Hannibal's ship was kept, and picked up some supplies on their way to the marina. Will insisted on including a full set of fishing gear.
Hannibal's curiosity got the better of him as he watched Will lug the shopping bags aboard, all handles bunched in his left hand, fishing pole bobbing overhead. "Do you really use all that?" he asked.
"Oh, sure," Will said, "with company. Or when it's raining."
"When it's raining?"
Will set his bundle down and scrubbed the back of his neck with his hand. "I can't, uh, turn back unless I'm completely dry."
"Oh." Hannibal had meant to sound politely interested, but it came out more breathlessly thrilled. Will dropped his eyes. Quickly Hannibal asked, "Did your father teach you to fish with tools?"
Will looked relieved. "He got me started. Even up here, I'm really good at it. It was a good cover. We ate an awful lot of fish for two guys who didn't, y'know, buy any."
"Perhaps I should have considered a cover career as a rancher," Hannibal mused, unpacking the provisions into the galley. Just the essentials for now; he could build up their stores as they travelled. It would not do to leave another trail of receipts. This was no halfhearted lark with a companion who joined him on a whim; this was Will, with Hannibal at last, escaping to a new life together. He would go without any amount of Bâtard-Montrachet and tartufi bianchi to keep this.
"Farmer Hannibal's Fine Meats," Will mused, then shook his head. "I've just found the limits of my imagination: trying to picture you in shit-kicker boots."
Hannibal laughed. "Perhaps not, then."
Will laughed with him. He paused for a beat, then murmured, "I missed this."
Hannibal latched the cupboard. "We never had this."
"I missed my chance. I feel... lucky, to get another one."
Greatly daring, Hannibal reached down and twined his fingers with Will's. "Dear Will. So do I."
Will let out an unsteady exhale and squeezed his hand.
Will wasn't just bragging: he was a very good fisherman. Inhumanly good. Hannibal suspected he was the first person to ever see Will show off this way.
"Stop, stop!" Hannibal said, "the freezer is very small!"
Will looked at the overflowing bucket. "Good point. Guess we'd better have some for dinner tonight."
Hannibal had only turned his back for a matter of minutes. Will was using a single pole. Suddenly Will’s sailing alone to Italy three years ago seemed marginally less reckless; certainly he must not have feared going hungry. "We're in the open ocean. Where did these even come from?"
Will shrugged and pointed to various spots among the waves. "Big fish, little fish, school of fish, shark. You learn to pay attention when a single flash means the difference between eating and being eaten."
Hannibal realized aloud, "By comparison, a static crime scene must be like an open book to you." Everyone made so much of the empathy Will used to connect details, and ignored the prodigious powers of observation he used to collect those details in the first place. And of course Will did nothing to correct anyone.
"Pretty much, yeah."
“Canny boy.” Will looked only mildly flustered by the praise. Constant exposure was leading him to take Hannibal’s admiration with less ill grace.
“Don’t go looking for Alana,” Will said, reclining on the deck and looking up at the stars. He spoke in the slow, profound cadence of the intensely drunk.
Hannibal was not quite so drunk, but he was still far from sober. “I promised to kill her.”
“You will. Chronic pain, chronic fear - they shorten lives. She’ll die because of you even if you never see her again.”
“You know what else is goddamn dissatisfying? Being shot to death. Alana has the same money that caught you once, and she’s not a manic sadist. She won’t fuck around.”
“I feel fuckin’ strongly about this! Let her be, Hannibal. Stay alive. Stay with me.” Will shoved a graceless foot onto Hannibal’s deck chair and nudged his calf. “Please.”
Hannibal should probably be more concerned about what a soft touch he was when it came to Will, but it wasn’t as if he didn't raise some very valid points. “Alright. I still want to eat Bedelia at some point.”
Will snorted. “Bedelia. I’ll be there with bells on.”
Hannibal grinned. “A tie will do just fine.”
They went shopping in Miami, first trading their stolen clothes - nearly rags now - for thrift shop items, then swapping outfits in progressively nicer changing rooms until Hannibal was as satisfied as he was going to get with off-the-rack. Next, they bought wine. They also had to buy one of the store’s hand trucks to move it all.
“I can’t believe you, of all people, are willing to drink wine out of a box.”
“It’s true that the worst wines come in boxes, but so do the best. And it’s more practical for the shipboard environment than glass bottles.”
Maybe the mugger knew a little something about wine and concluded they had money. Maybe he saw Hannibal's slow pace, and Will’s sling and scruffy beard, and thought they would make an easy mark. Whatever the reason, they found themselves backed at knifepoint into a narrow brick alley by a pale, shaky, diaphoretic man.
Will’s eyes were luminous with unholy glee. Hannibal made a ‘you-first’ gesture, and leaned the hand truck carefully against the wall, the better to obscure them from the view of the street. By the time he turned around again, Will had punched the man in the throat, taken away his knife, and was slicing through the man's femoral artery.
“Mind your shoes,” Hannibal said mildly.
“Mind yours,” Will retorted, handing Hannibal the knife hilt-first. Hannibal made a matching cut in the mugger’s other thigh. The man - ghost-white and unconscious in seconds - slid to a sitting position against the wall. It was probably overkill to pin him there by driving the knife straight through his neck and wedging it in the wall, but Hannibal couldn’t resist the flourish.
No sooner had he wiped down the hilt of the blade and straightened up than Will was on him, shoving him against the wall, fisting his shirt, and yanking him down into a hard kiss. Hannibal groaned and opened to Will, squeezing his slim waist in his hands. Will licked into his mouth and nipped at his lips, then pulled back, breathing fast. He was visibly hard in his slacks. Hannibal’s blood roared in his ears.
Will spared a glance for their hapless victim. “Not here.”
“No,” Hannibal agreed.
Will looked at Hannibal’s mouth and swallowed. “Not - not at all, right now. Okay?”
“Whatever you need, Will.”
They scattered litter over the spreading pool of blood and hurried back to the docks.
“Do you regret not being able to take something?” Will inquired, in an obvious change of subject.
“Off him? Certainly not. I told you once: I’m very careful about what I put into my body. That man was plainly in withdrawal from something, likely opioids.” Hannibal maneuvered the hand truck on board and set about securing the wine. “I do regret not getting a bigger piece of the Dragon.”
Will started hanging their new clothes in the closets. “I did a background check, once there was finally a background to check. Dolarhyde’s entire military service record was sealed, and I mean slit-your-own-throat-before-reading sealed. I’m almost certain he shot a couple in their necks, years ago, in an unsolved murder I used as a case study for my classes.”
“He was a formidable opponent." Hannibal couldn't imagine a more fitting sacrifice to the Becoming of his wrathful Lamb, but wasn't sure Will would appreciate the observation, and so kept it to himself.
After the cottage, after that first time sharing a bed, they simply never stopped. Will had a tendency to snuggle in his sleep, and initially Hannibal made a point of waking early and disentangling them, to spare Will embarrassment. He just looked so small and cold, though, curled in the bed alone, and gradually Hannibal let himself stay closer and closer while Will drifted awake, greedily drinking in the transition from peace to alertness. Will’s face was objectively most beautiful in sleep, but Hannibal liked it best animated by Will’s incredible mind.
Then came the morning when Hannibal woke up, and knew Will had awoken first. He knew because Will still had his head pillowed on Hannibal’s chest, and turned enough to see Hannibal’s face when he felt the change in Hannibal’s breathing.
“We were like this when I woke up,” Will said, a scratchy early-morning murmur. “Do I do this often?”
“Yes.” Hannibal felt like his throat was full of gravel. He was acutely aware of his morning erection, pressing into Will’s thigh where it was thrown over his waist, and Will’s against his hip.
“Does it bother you? I know you... want me.”
Hannibal chuckled. “Bother me! No.” Awe him, humble him, pierce him with longing and fulfillment all at once, make him wonder what dread God he pleased to earn such riches, yes. Bother him, no.
“I suppose I already knew you were capable of impressive restraint.”
“I am nearly fifty. And, Will...” he carded his fingers through the riot of black curls, “I have no - expectation, in this. What you want to do is what I want to do.”
“Even if I want to do nothing?”
“Even then. Though… I hope you know that if you do want to do anything, I am likely to be up for it.”
“Up for anything, huh.” Will drummed his fingers in time with the slow beat of Hannibal’s heart. “I’ll have to think about that.”
The day Will’s stitches came out, he wasted no time stripping down and diving off the side of the ship with a whoop. It was his last human noise for several hours. Hannibal furled the sails and let the ship drift as Will splashed exuberantly around it, a small grey shape gliding and darting with the same startling speed that saved Hannibal’s life. He gobbled a few fish, and tossed a few more up on deck, but mostly he seemed interested in leaping into and out of the waves.
At last he hauled-out and lay in the sun on the deck, rolling obligingly onto a succession of towels Hannibal put down. He fell asleep on the last one, fur drying in the sun to a frosty silver. There were spots on his scarred belly. Furtive Googling informed Hannibal Will was roughly half the size of an adult male harbour seal. He may have been grasping at straws of rationality in the face of the impossible, but he was nonetheless mollified to know that at least the law of conservation of mass was being respected.
Will ‘turned back’ after a short nap. It was shatteringly beautiful to watch. When it was over, Hannibal rasped, “What does it feel like? To change?”
Will blinked thoughtfully and rolled onto his stomach. “It feels like… putting on or taking off a very tight t-shirt, and also like cracking my knuckles, but all over. It feels good.”
“Your choice of tableau for Randall Tier seems more meaningful than ever.”
“Oh, that reminds me. I think you’ll like this.” Will told him how he transformed the body of the tenant after Chiyoh killed him. Hannibal did like it.
“If anything could convince me to go back, it would be that.”
“But you won’t.”
“I don’t have to. I have your description. I see it as it was in that moment. Tell me, did the living fireflies gather around your face as you looked at him?”
“Yes. They were strangely friendly.”
“They always were, especially to Mischa.” Will wisely did not continue the conversation after Hannibal fell silent, just sunned himself on the towel. Close by, warm and breathing.
As it turned out, Will knew more Spanish than Hannibal to begin with. Hannibal also stumbled over the similarities to Italian, which he learned at his mother's knee. On the other hand, Hannibal was fluent in four languages and could get by in another two, whereas Will had only his cop's vocabulary in Creole French.
"I can arrest somebody; take a statement; ask for a coffee, a beer, and the bathroom; politely decline sex, firmly decline sex, emphatically decline sex -"
"I imagine you cut quite a swathe through the inebriated citizens of New Orleans." Hannibal could just picture him: young, clean-shaven, uniformed. It was... compelling. Will must have forged his trademark surliness in that environment, just to avoid being eaten alive.
"You know, that was something I liked instantly about you," said Will, "you never once looked at me like that. Like I was a piece of meat." He shook his head. "How's that for irony?"
They practiced their Spanish with each other as they sailed south and east. When they were capable of understanding Hispanic radio broadcasts, they set themselves the challenge of speaking only Spanish while they put in at San Juan.
Will was in his element provisioning the boat, inventorying supplies with the same eye for detail he brought to his work. Between his pronunciation (he did in fact have a soft Creole accent, which Hannibal wanted to bottle and rub all over himself) and the speed at which the local residents spoke, he and the salespeople had to repeat themselves back and forth frequently, but if he felt frustrated he didn’t show it. They earned a fair amount of goodwill by not resorting to English, and Hannibal obtained a very promising recommendation for dinner.
It was a beautiful open-air restaurant, and the food was superb, but Hannibal found it difficult to look away from Will. He was cultivating a tidy beard and mustache which, along with the scar and the tan, changed his face dramatically. His hair was the longest Hannibal had ever seen it - longer even than it was when he was released from the BSHCI and held a gun on Hannibal in his kitchen. In a short-sleeved shirt, and pink shorts that he picked up as a joke but ended up wearing constantly, Will bore almost no resemblance to the pale, bundled-up man Hannibal knew in Baltimore.
"What are you thinking?"
"That warm weather agrees with you."
"It does," Will said, leaning back in his chair and stretching out his legs. "I grew up in the South, as much as anywhere."
"You left the heat behind for your work as a professor."
"I didn't mind, at the time. I was leaving police work behind with it." He took a sip of wine.
"A sacrifice in a bid for peace, made meaningless when Jack Crawford drew you back into his world." A stroke of luck indeed, for one bored Baltimore psychiatrist.
"If all I wanted was peace I would have been a boat mechanic. I lingered on the edges of that world, and let myself be drawn back in." Will met Hannibal's eyes as he quoted, "I got here on my own, but I appreciate the company."
Hannibal broke eye contact first, his chest fit to burst with warmth.
They walked on the beach after dinner. The sunset was made more brilliant by the polluted air.
As they walked in the deepening dark, they came across a party gathered around a campfire on a large sandbar. They had a pig roasting on a spit, and everyone standing had liquor in their hands. There were many couples and a few trios nuzzling on blankets, in the shadows outside the reach of the firelight.
Will stiffened as he watched a shoving match between two male partygoers. "That's not a party," he said quietly, "it's a rookery. Don't look; just keep walking." Hannibal was wildly curious, but he followed Will's lead.
They were nearly past when a lone man ambled up to them. He was mountainous: half a head taller than Hannibal, rippling with muscle and fat, his hand dwarfing the beer bottle clutching it. He was also startingly beautiful, with enormous dark eyes, and blue-black hair falling in waves halfway down his back. He sidestepped into their path, and bumped chests with Hannibal. His breath was so alcoholic Hannibal's eyes watered.
"Hey, half-breed," he sneered, "what's a sweet little piece like that doing with an old-timer like you? Think you'd better step off so he can come with me."
Hannibal raised an eyebrow. "Rude." He stomped on the man's instep just as Will leaped onto the man's back and put him in a vicious chokehold.
"You're all turned around, my nose-blind amigo," Will spat as the man wheezed and scrabbled at Will's arm, "I'm the half-breed, you should have stepped off, and now you won't be coming with anyone." The man's eyes rolled back in his head and he slumped to the sand. Will shoved him into the recovery position and then kicked him hard in the groin. "Ass. I should go find his pelt and stuff it in a crab burrow."
"Or we could leave before we draw a crowd," Hannibal forced himself to say, instead of dropping to his knees and offering to suck Will's cock right then and there. Will looked at him, nostrils flaring. "Back to the boat," Will gritted out. He grabbed Hannibal's hand as they passed the campfire, and kept his possessive hold after they were out of sight.
"Well, that answers one question."
"Whether you get on any better with your mother's people."
Will barked a laugh. "No! God, no. They're like that all the time. Feeding, fighting, fucking - with regular seals as often as not. It's - it's the opposite of maddeningly polite: maddeningly base. The women have to leave if they want a baby they can keep for more than a month."
"In fairy tales, a selkie wife is caught." It was the first time Hannibal said the word aloud.
"She chooses a man, and lets him think he caught her. When the child is old enough to find her pelt, she leaves." They didn't speak again until they were back on their boat.
Will shut the door behind them. "Hannibal." His face was a dim outline in the light through the windows. "A selkie is an animal that can sometimes be a person."
"Whereas you are a person who can sometimes be an animal." Hannibal laid a hand on Will's shoulder. "I knew that already."
Will nodded and pulled Hannibal into a kiss, sliding his hands up Hannibal's chest and around his neck. It was less frantic than the last time, more purposeful, and Hannibal bent helplessly to it, down, around, encircling his small, deadly, precious love.
Will jumped when Hannibal cupped his ass in one hand, and then rocked forward and ground into Hannibal, sliding his tongue into Hannibal's mouth. Hannibal's growl reverberated deep in his chest, and he palmed the back of Will's head, clenching his fingers in Will's hair as he stroked and sucked Will's tongue, dizzy with the taste of Will's mouth. Will moaned back, and finally broke away to gasp for air.
"Hannibal," he panted, as Hannibal buried his face in the crook of his neck, "I've been thinking. I know what I want."
"Anything, Will." Hannibal smelled where Will's jaw met his ear, then licked the spot. Amazing.
"I want you to ask me for something."
Hannibal didn't even hesitate. "Let me suck you."
Will shuddered. "Good choice." He spun them and walked backwards until he sat down on the bed. Hannibal crashed to his knees and rucked up Will's shirt to rub his face against Will's stomach. He unbuttoned the pink shorts and yanked them off, Will assisting by balancing on his hands and lifting his hips. Will's briefs went with them, and the humid waft of Will's scent made Hannibal groan, aching with want. He gripped Will's thighs and nuzzled at his cock, then licked it lavishly from base to tip before taking it into his mouth.
Will gasped as the head of his cock was engulfed, and let out a soft cry when Hannibal tongued his slit. The thick, salty flavour of his precome was like a punch to the gut. Hannibal swallowed Will's cock to the base in a single convulsive slide, wanting the choking stretch of it in his throat bringing tears to his eyes, Will's pubic hairs with their wonderful smells crinkling under his nose. He backed off for a breath and then took Will deep again, stroking him with his tongue.
Will leaned back on his hands, breath coming faster and faster as Hannibal slid his mouth up and down Will’s cock rapidly, fucking himself. Will's head tipped back. The column of his throat and the rise and fall of his abdomen was an image that seared itself into Hannibal’s brain. He made a strangled, graceless sound around Will’s cock, and Will whimpered as his hips began to buck of their own accord.
“I’m-” Will tried to warn Hannibal, but he’d already read the tension in Will’s muscles and positioned himself where he wanted to be, lifted just far enough off Will’s cock to taste it when he came. Will jackknifed up with the force of his orgasm, curling around Hannibal’s head and filling his mouth before he collapsed back onto his elbows.
Hannibal’s hands on Will’s thighs were shaking, and at first he thought it was Will, vibrating the way he sometimes did when covered in blood, but then he realized it was himself. Will looked down his body at him, tugged feebly on Hannibal's shirt until he clambered up onto the bed. He reached for Hannibal's pants and fumbled them open, and Hannibal rutted into the groove of Will's slender hip. He was trembling so hard he could barely support his weight on his arms.
"Look at you," Will murmured. "How do you give an incredible blowjob and end up being the one looking wrecked?"
Hannibal choked out, "I never expected this. You." Overwhelmed, he buried his face in Will's neck.
"But you wanted it."
"So much, Will," he gasped, licking a long stripe up Will's throat, grinding against his hip, drinking in the feel and taste and smell of him like he was dying for it.
"Hey, hey, shh, it's okay. C'mere." Will touched the side of his face, as Hannibal did so often to Will, and guided him up for another kiss. Hannibal keened into Will's mouth as he came, his face wet with tears.
He crumbled in the aftermath, his foundations detonated. It took Will's small, "Oof," for him to roll onto his back, hugging Will to him as he went. Will laid on him, rubbed his shoulders and sides in long, soothing strokes, nuzzled into Hannibal's chest every time Hannibal pressed a kiss into his hair.
After Hannibal had recovered a few pieces of his shattered calm, Will whispered, "Okay?" Hannibal squeezed him wordlessly. Entwined in the soft, warm dark, rocking on the water, he felt that he could survive this happening to him: this destruction of his solitary integrity, and reformation into one half of a whole. It had been happening for years already, quite possibly since the moment they met.
There was a certain symmetry to it. Will had his rebirth into dark radiance. It was only fitting that Hannibal be reborn into adoration.
Hannibal took Will’s measurements, and directed Will in taking his, and put in a large online order with a well-regarded tailor in Fortaleza. It was past time for another upgrade in their wardrobes.
Will balked, of course. “What we have is fine!”
“For at sea, certainly, but not for appearing in public in Buenos Aires. Being underdressed can lead one to stand out as badly as being overdressed.”
Will glowered. “Says the man who wore plaid three-piece suits, with paisley ties and pocket squares, every day, for years.”
“And it worked, didn’t it?” Hannibal said patiently. “I only became visible when I was tempted out from behind my display.”
Will cocked his head. "Is that why you've been so supportive of the whole-" he waved at his own face, "Inigo Montoya look?"
"Who is Inigo Montoya?"
Will gaped. "I will wear whatever you pick up today, without complaint, if you watch a movie with me tonight,” he promised.
Which is how they wound up sitting on their bed, wearing tailored linen suits, watching The Princess Bride on Hannibal’s tablet.
“I take it back,” Will said, “Inigo Montoya didn’t have a sweet beard.”
“If you like this,” said Hannibal, “you’ll like opera.”
By the end of the movie, they were making out like teenagers. Will slipped his hands into Hannibal’s pants and whispered charmingly dirty things in his ear, and Hannibal shivered and said, “As you wish.” The results were very satisfactory.
In Rio de Janeiro, Will found the remains of what he called a ‘bait dog’. It had clearly been restrained and torn apart by other dogs over many sessions until it finally died. Hannibal was generally indifferent to animals, but the pathetic little corpse told a story of banal and stupid cruelty, ugliness the world would be better off without.
Will was in a towering rage. Hannibal had not seen him so furious since Hannibal set the Great Red Dragon on his wife and stepson.
They went hunting. They had to keep a low profile, and neither of them spoke a word of Portuguese, and Will insisted on delivering every dog they stole to local law enforcement.
It was worth all the sneaking, loitering, bribes, and dog hair, to be in the arena when Will lured the leader of the dogfighting ring there. Hannibal slammed and locked the door, listening to the man blunder about in the dark, screaming for Will to show himself.
His screaming took on quite a different pitch when Will threw the switch on the spotlights, illuminating the stacked cages that used to hold dogs, and now held the dogs' owners and various lieutenants of the ring. Their bodies were broken to fit inside the cages, and their entrails were wrapped around their necks, the same way the dogs had been wrapped in chains to increase their strength.
(Hannibal would rather die than admit it out loud, but the amount of heavy lifting in Will's design left him with the worst backache he'd had since moving Sheldon Isley woven into the tree.)
The leader was a brute, used to wrestling enraged pit bulls into submission and beating debtors and rivals to death. He was not prepared to be stalked by two predators in their own right. They circled him behind the cages, letting him see and lunge at one while the other darted in behind for a slash or a stab. It was the same technique they used on Dolarhyde, and it worked even better the second time around. Hannibal's heart was singing even before they closed in for the kill, Will sinking his knife into the man's chest while Hannibal opened his ribs from behind to make a blood eagle.
The body folded onto its knees and then its face, the lungs trailing from Hannibal's hands, forgotten as he looked at Will. Will, who was looking back at Hannibal, eyes shining. He dropped his knife in the dirt and reached for Hannibal with bloody hands.
They kissed urgently, falling to their knees atop the back of their victim. Hannibal felt the knees of his trousers growing wet with blood.
"You know," Hannibal complained between kisses, "I used to do most of my work in a lovely plastic suit." He bit and sucked at Will's trapezius muscle. "Not a speck on my clothes."
Will gasped out a laugh. "What, a six-foot condom?" He scrabbled at Hannibal's fly and took him in a tacky, filthy grip. "Wall yourself off, even in your most- oh, God!- most private moments?" His hips rolled in a most gratifying manner as Hannibal groped him in return.
"It kept me safe." Hannibal freed Will's erection and began stroking in time with Will's hand on him, swaying with Will in a crude dance.
"Sterile," Will argued, "un- unseen. No wonder you fell for the guy who's a fucking mess and sees everything. Shit!" He pressed his chest to Hannibal's when Hannibal twisted his wrist just so, and bit Hannibal's earlobe. "Like a goddamn ton of bricks," he breathed hotly into Hannibal's ear.
"And you fell with me," Hannibal retorted, pulling Will flush to him until they were enfolded together in their hands, hips working faster now as they approached the crest. "You let me see you, the truth of you."
"You're the - the only one," Will moaned, his voice high, tight, "the only one who's ever seen."
Hannibal bent to Will's ear and whispered, "I know." The sight of Will's face as he came tipped Hannibal over his own edge.
They sagged together, the only noise in the sudden quiet their slowing breaths.
"Do you want a piece of this one?" Will asked eventually. "I'd love to eat a piece of this one with you."
"Loin," Hannibal said immediately, "I felt some really good flesh in his lower back."
Will looked down. Their knees were firmly planted in that exact spot. "Pre-tenderized," he remarked, and Hannibal just had to kiss him again.
The rest of the ringleader they tore apart as wild dogs would, scattered in the blood-mud of the arena, sparing not even the palms of his hands. When it was done they changed into the clean clothes they'd brought with them, taking the dirty ones away in the same bag, with the cuts of meat stowed in a little lunch cooler. They looked like honeymooners returning to the docks from a picnic.
They sailed out of Rio de Janeiro that evening and spent the night anchored in a little cove. When Hannibal woke up the next morning, Will was sitting on the side of the bed, holding something folded in his lap. There was a quivering tension to his posture that Hannibal had not seen in a long time.
"Will, what's wrong?"
Will turned toward him, wide-eyed, mouth tight. He held up his hands, and the bundle spilled onto the bed: folds and folds of lustrous silver fur, with a familiar pattern of spots and scars.
"I went for a swim this morning," Will said, hushed and nervous, "and when I turned back it was there. It doesn't make any sense, I'm a half-breed, I shouldn't be able to make one. I never have before."
Hannibal reached out in wonder and caressed the pelt, feeling the skin and hairs shift under his fingers, more like a living animal than a dead hide. Will jerked in surprise and rolled his shoulders.
"I felt that," he told Hannibal. Hannibal took his hand away and would have apologized, but Will added, "It felt good. Strange, but good." He rolled the pelt up into a loose bundle again, and held it out to Hannibal.
"Traditionally, now you hide it, to make me stay."
Hannibal sat up, took the pelt from Will's hands, and set it carefully on the bed. He took Will's face in his hands and kissed him. "I would sooner cage myself again."
Will tackled him down into the pillows. The onslaught of his affection left Hannibal reeling, but it didn't take long for his sluggish, sleepy body to catch up and return Will's kisses and touches with equal fervor. Impulsively he rolled them to lie on top of Will, and in the process his leg brushed the pelt.
Will gave a very interesting full-body shudder and said, "Do that again."
Hannibal looked at Will, looked at the pelt, and then very gently laid the pelt out belly-up on the bedspread. He put one hand on the belly of the pelt and his other hand on Will's stomach, and stroked them both at once.
Will bowed right off the bed, breaking instantly into a fine sweat. "Holy shit," he gasped.
"It occurs to me," said Hannibal, "that those selkies in San Juan weren't lying on blankets at all."
"Probably not, kinky fucks, oh Christ do that again," Will babbled as Hannibal performed a long, exploratory stroke from neck to groin on both his skins at once. Hannibal obliged him, even though he was looking for something in particular. He found it on the the lower half of the pelt, just below the umbilicus.
"Did you know, Will, that horses and rats are the only placental mammals without male nipples?"
"Oh, God," Will moaned weakly, as Hannibal splayed his fingers across his chest. He rubbed both of Will's nipples at once, and then did the same on the pelt. Will writhed.
"I quite like this," said Hannibal. "This is much better than eating your brain would have been. It feels like I'm touching your soul."
Will paused in tossing his head from side to side to squint at him. "You're way too composed," he panted, "I think I need to fuck you now." He gulped and said, more seriously, "Please let me fuck you."
Hannibal held his eyes. "Yes."
They shuffled positions until Hannibal was lying on his stomach, pressed against the back of the pelt, while Will nuzzled the back of Hannibal's neck and slowly worked him open.
Will said, "I can feel your chest and face against my back, but not your weight. It's so strange."
Hannibal rubbed his open mouth against the fur and bent his knees, canting his hips towards Will. "Oh, Will. Will."
"You like that, huh?"
Hannibal exhaled harshly and nodded. He'd suspected Will would be good at this: observant Will with his clever fingers, coring him exquisitely. They twisted and stretched, fluttered over his prostate and then, when Hannibal whined, stroked more firmly. "Do you want me to beg?"
"I think you already are." Will reached over Hannibal for another pump of lubricant. There was the sound of Will slicking himself up, and then he was spreading Hannibal with one hand and guiding himself in with the other. He draped himself over Hannibal, working deeper with every short thrust.
"Oh, wow," said Will. He sounded reverent.
When Will finally bottomed out Hannibal couldn't hold back a sob. Will was all around him, the pelt against his front and Will's chest against his back. Will was inside his ass and kissing the back of his neck, working his arms under Hannibal's armpits for leverage as he started to pick up speed. Hannibal covered Will's hands with his own and ground his forehead into them. Will's movements were fluid and powerful, quickly learning exactly what angle made Hannibal cry out the loudest and push back to meet him.
"That's it," Will said, "that's good. You- oh!" He freed one hand to stroke Hannibal's cock, already so hard and wet it scarcely needed the help. "Lemme feel you," he hissed, and mouthed the back of Hannibal's neck again, then gave him a deep, sucking bite.
Hannibal buried his face in the pelt and muffled his shout as he came. Will's groan was deep and pleased, and he grunted with effort as he slammed home a few more times before coming himself.
Will was sleepily affectionate after, wanting to be the one doing the holding for once. This suited Hannibal just fine.
"Seriously, though," Will muttered, "if this thing doesn't disappear, we need to find a safe place to store it. Only take it out for swimming and sex." Hannibal stroked the bits of the pelt still visible under them both, and Will sighed and dropped off.
But it did disappear as Will slept. On the whole, Hannibal was relieved; the sexual opportunities were not worth the alarming practical liabilities. They had enough risks to manage as it was.
The realtor was waiting at the ship's leased berth in Buenos Aires. She had Hannibal and Will - or rather, their aliases - sign some final documents, and handed over car and house keys.
It was strange to walk away from the vessel that had been their home for so many months, knowing they would not return at the end of the day. It was strange to get into a car that was not a stolen van, or a single day's rental piled high with provisions.
They passed through the outskirts of the city, onto lonely highways and then gravel roads. Will looked around curiously, blinking behind his new glasses - more stylish than his old pair, with silver accents on the temples, and rims heavier on the top than on the bottom. Hannibal had been surprised to learn the lenses were prescription, having guessed Will used them mainly to avoid eye contact. Which was true, but he was also nearsighted enough to genuinely need them for driving.
"You know," said Will, "it was so much work getting here, we never really talked about what our lives are going to be now that we are here."
"The basic structure is in place. We can add to it as we like."
They came to a gate, which Hannibal had to get out to unlock. They drove slowly, taking in the sights. Hannibal as much as Will; it had been years since he purchased the property, and then based on photographs alone.
"This is - you bought a vineyard."
"Argentine wines are among the best in the world." The grapes were growing wild, but it was nothing some vigorous pruning would not put right.
"My God," said Will faintly, "I'm going to get to see you in rubber boots after all."
"Certainly not! There is a wine press."
They pulled up to the house and got out. Hannibal had been assured by the realtor that the interior was fully furnished and stocked to his specifications.
Will took off his glasses and peered down the hill to the small beach. "You say you bought this before we met?"
"Waterfront property is desirable to many people," Hannibal pointed out, "not just - avid fishermen and swimmers."
Will had a speculative look on his face. "I bet I could put a dock there," he said, half to himself, "or there. It's windy - probably need a little boathouse too. I'll have to fence off the vineyard first, though." He glanced at Hannibal and said defensively, "grapes are toxic to dogs."
Hannibal held up his hands, palms-out. "I have already accepted the inevitable. There are beds and dishes inside."
Will's smile was wide and white in his nut-brown face, a little uneven due to his scar, and completely beautiful. He stepped into another breath-stealing hug; Hannibal was beginning to think his heart would always skip a beat when Will reached for him. He rode the feeling like a wave into their new life together.