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Quotient of Two Zeros

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Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter sit across from each other in Hannibal's office, as they have so many times before. But things have changed.

It is the beginning of Will's second therapy session following his release from the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. He's been cleared of the crimes that he now knows beyond a doubt Hannibal not only committed, but framed him for. His preference is to have these facts in the open now that they have resumed therapy.

Now Hannibal knows he knows. All of it.

Their new dynamic is fresh, uncomfortable, needs some breaking in. It constricts the muscles in Will's shoulders and back like the ghost of his hospital straitjacket. He's on edge. He knows, in the way he knows things about Hannibal, that today's session will feature the testing of boundaries.

He stares into Hannibal's eyes and Hannibal stares back coolly, waiting for him to move first. Will does not know how to begin.

"How did he do it?" he asks finally. "Or try to do it. Brown."

"Your admirer?" Hannibal puts a little mockery in the word, just a touch. All great murderers have obsessive followers; Will will have more, soon. When Hannibal's finished with him. "You didn't specify?"

"No."

"He called me a Judas, but did me like Christ: he strapped me to a cross, hung me by the neck, and put an unsteady bucket beneath my feet."

Will tries to see it. "Where? They wouldn't tell me."

"Too stimulating for a psychopath, I suppose." Hannibal examines his nails. "I was swimming laps late at night, alone. He strung me up above the wet tiles." His voice is impassive.

Swimming...

He would have been nearly nude.

Enhances the crucifixion imagery nicely. The reversal pleases Will: he came far too close to dying for Hannibal's sins.

"Picturing it?"

"Yes."

Hannibal closes his eyes.

"It was after hours. Members only. The pool room was deserted, other than myself and your man Brown. From below the water, white spotlights threw constantly shifting shadows and reflections in the dark, like visual echoes."

Hannibal leaves it at that, as far as words. Neatly and deliberately he takes off his jacket and undoes his cuffs, rolls up the sleeves as if to get blood drawn. He turns his wrists outward toward Will. There zigzag stitches lash the flesh together, holding his life in.

Will is cold and hot at the same time.

In his mind's eye, in the dim diffused glow of the pool room, Hannibal's body hangs unsupported, suspended, twisting slowly, striped with bright moving bands of water-filtered light. From him drips blood and chlorinated water. Arms out, chest out—tongue out, swollen and black.

Will is not a murderer yet, but he already feels like one. Soon he intends to become one, once over, no more.

He says, honest and unthinking in the way he does, "I wish I could have seen it."

Hannibal is unruffled. He knows.

"Like the finest craftsmen of our trade, you have a taste for the theatrical, the ironic. I would be very surprised if you came for me next time with merely a gun."

"'Our trade,'" Will repeats, with disgust.

He climbs out of the chair and yanks the curtain aside to look at nothing. Fury burns in him. He does not like being grouped in with practitioners of Hannibal Lecter's "craft."

Hannibal's measured footsteps on the rug; his presence close behind.

"You want to have your cake and eat it too, Will? End my life but keep your hands clean?"

No reply.

"You should have pulled the trigger in my kitchen, then. You lack the courage of your convictions."

Will holds his tongue. He does not turn around.

Hannibal is baiting him deliberately—Will's never seen him this confrontational. He does not want to bite, particularly because he doesn't know what reaction Hannibal is hoping to get. For now, no reaction is the only winning move.

"You are a hypocrite."

Will stiffens, blood pounding at his eardrums.

Don't take the bait. Don't do it. Don't take it.

"And," Hannibal says, very quietly, "a coward."

It happens so quickly that even though Hannibal is ready and waiting, he doesn't quite make it out of the way: the point of Will's elbow collides with his jaw, snapping his teeth together and knocking his head back. Will is nearly his match in speed. He hadn't planned for being hit—Will is able to hit him again, this time with a fist, and Hannibal falls backwards over the chair.

They struggle, each grappling for a hold, Hannibal finding his feet, Will backing him across the room. Briefly Hannibal has him; Will sinks his teeth into Hannibal's forearm, popping stitches and tasting blood, until he lets go just for an instant. It's all Will needs to wrap an arm around his neck and grab a wrist to twist up behind his back. He crushes Hannibal over the desk, shifts his grip so he's flattening Hannibal's face against the blotter with one palm.

Will straightens up slightly, winded, and hawks bloody saliva on Hannibal's rug, just for good measure.

Hmm. Never mind that for now. Too subtly for Will to see, Hannibal tests his range of movement: he judges that he could probably break Will's grip with an untelegraphed effort at the right moment.

Instead he stays put, catches his breath, takes stock of each aspect of his current position, waits to see what Will will do. First: in front of his face, his right arm lies immobile, palm down, on the surface of the desk, a pool of blood creeping slowly outward from his reopened wound. Second point: the other set of stitches is strained painfully by the way Will twists his arm. The slits in his wrists may be a significant disadvantage. What else?

Something firm is jabbing the back of his thigh, just below the curve of his ass.

Interesting.

"Do I have your blood up, Will?" he asks softly.

Will realizes.

"Fuck."

For at least a full minute neither of them speak or move. A minute and a half. Two minutes of just heavy breathing.

Will takes his hand off the back of Hannibal's head, and Hannibal rolls his cramped neck with relief. A belt buckle clinks, and then Will's hand is fumbling at Hannibal's own belt, unzipping his fly, exposing him.

Hannibal is still pinned to the desk by Will's full weight on his left arm. He closes his eyes. His cock is tingling, heavy.

He waits, waits, hoping. This was one of many possible outcomes he foresaw when he goaded Will, and it's the one he most hoped for. He is pleased he was able to correctly calculate the proportion of lust and obsession in Will's loathing. There's always some. Hatred is among man's most all-consuming emotions; it runs through the body like current from a frayed wire, and it must find its outlet somewhere...in violence, or sex.

Will's breathing behind him has not slowed since the fight ended.

His cock pressing against Hannibal.

Hannibal draws a harsh breath. Will stops.

Hannibal senses uncertainty, indecision. He concentrates, directing his body to relax, muscles growing slack as he exhales, not shaking, calm. He wants to be the calm one here.

Still Will is hesitating.

He feels that Hannibal is relaxing himself in wordless invitation. Hannibal would let him do this, if he wants to. Now he has to decide.

"Do it," Hannibal whispers.

Will grits his teeth, torn. He hates Hannibal with every atom in his body, for framing him, for throwing his life into chaos, for Abigail, Beverly...Alana.

He hates Hannibal's occupation of every square inch of his mental real estate.

He hates that Hannibal's hands make him shiver and he hates that the low tones in Hannibal's voice reverberate in his cock.

He hates that when he jerks off he thinks about this very situation.

Hannibal has utterly destroyed his life, soaked into every fiber of it like a bloodstain, and he wants to ruin him for it, body and soul.

With holes in your memory, it gets hard to remember who you are. Will doesn't know anymore if he's a person who might do something like this.

For all these reasons and more, he does.

He shifts his body weight into the balls of his feet, letting it sink him into Hannibal, half an inch, an inch, so slowly he's barely moving, barely breathing, holding his breath.

In contrast to his own, Hannibal's breath comes quiet and smooth and deep. If Will is hurting him, Hannibal doesn't show it.

It angers Will. He wants Hannibal to twist away, fight back, call him a faggot. It disgusts him to want these things, but it's better than this...this acceptance, this allowing, this encouraging.

Will is nauseous and keyed up and horny. His hand trembles on the base of his cock where he's guiding himself into Hannibal.

Three inches. Four inches. Hannibal breathes a little faster. He's tight and hot around Will's cock and Will swallows, and swallows again, his mouth is dry and his heart is pounding and he doesn't know what he's doing or why.

He keeps going until his cock is completely buried in Hannibal, and then there's nothing to do but pull back, and push in, and pull back, still so slowly, so slow he can barely stand it but he can't seem to go any faster and anyway he's afraid he's going to come right away if he does and who needs his mortal enemy thinking of him as a two-pump chump? Will restrains an absurd urge to giggle.

Oh, Jesus. Oh, God help me. What am I doing. What am I doing.

Still Hannibal barely makes a sound, just pants and presses his cheek against the blotter, the hand against his back clenching and unclenching.

Guess I finally figured out how to shut him up. Stop it, stop it, this is not fucking funny, this is a nightmare. A fucking wet nightmare.

Gradually he picks up the pace, not so much on purpose but because his body is starting to need more and faster. Hannibal feels so fucking good, completely different from pussy, squeezing Will's cock, stretching taut around him.

But he's still soaking in his hatred. He wants to express it somehow, exorcise it. He wants to force Hannibal to make some fucking noise. He wants to force him to cum.

He gathers himself, breathes, leans into and over him, fucks him harder.

Finally Hannibal moans "ahh..." and something tenses near to breaking inside Will. He squeezes his eyes shut. Hannibal moans again, and it's tearing Will up, he pulls back nearly all the way—he has to hear it again, he wants to overcome Hannibal, defeat him.

To that end—he buries himself in one stroke, Hannibal cries out, shoves back against him.

"Will..." he moans, "Will..."

Oh God, oh Christ...

Hearing Hannibal moaning his name fills him with rage, a painfully acute pulse of tainted pleasure.

I hate you. I hate you, God in heaven I fucking hate you.

Will fucks him harder, deeper, so good, so good, so good...

"Is it good?" Will asks him in a near-growl, barely knowing what he's saying, so close, his breath hitching, "Do you actually like me fucking you, you evil fucking son of a bitch?"

"Will...yes...yes..." Hannibal moans, incensing him further.

"I'm going to make you come," Will promises him, out of breath, "I'm going to fuck you until you fucking come."

And God willing...it'll be soon...

Will's eyes keep floating up and back in his head, at some point he released Hannibal's arm to brace himself on the desk with both hands, now Hannibal's back is to Will's chest and their faces are nearly side-by-side, not much time...

Under the lip of the desk Will has somehow acquired a tight grip on Hannibal's cock. He's big, thick, uncut, and Will can imagine tasting him, he can imagine Hannibal inside him. He groans, not wanting himself to want it as much as he does, fucking Hannibal all the harder for how bad he wants it.

"Will..."

It seems to be all Hannibal can say.

He's grinding against Will, desperate, and Will's mind is buzzing wordlessly, he pushes all the way in and stays there pressed against him, jerking Hannibal's cock faster and faster until Hannibal moans "yes, Christ, Will, please..." and his hot cum runs down Will's fingers.

Frantically Will grabs Hannibal's hips with sticky hands, pounding into him, the unbearable tension breaks and he comes so hard it knocks the wind out of him.

"God Almighty," he gasps, nearly chokes, bending deep over Hannibal's back, his nails digging into the flesh of his hips, "Jesus Christ Almighty..." He can't stop until he's completely emptied himself into Hannibal and the last pulse dies away, it's incredible, and beautiful, and he hates it so, so, so much but it feels like heaven, it feels divine and good.

Will pulls out and unsteadily walks over to drop into his chair, putting his face in his hands. Bad idea. The scent of Hannibal's skin and sweat and cum lingers on him and it turns his stomach.

My God, what have I done.

He hears nothing for a few minutes until Hannibal's zipper being done up, some flaps that sound like his suit being dusted off and readjusted. The idiosyncratic Hannibal-ness of the sounds seems to mock him.

Will senses Hannibal settling into his own chair across from him, a bit gingerly, and in fact he takes his time about it and Will feels a little hysterical again, for a second.

"It doesn't have to have happened this way," Hannibal says from outside the dark behind Will's palms. "We don't have to accept every choice we make."

"I don't know what that means, Hannibal," Will answers despondently, not in the mood for hypotheticals.

"Do you have...feelings for me, Will?"

Will takes his hands from his face and stares open-mouthed.

"I have them. For you." Hannibal pretends to examine something on his desk across the room. "But I would rather not. I would rather kill you, or you me."

Will closes his mouth, very overwhelmed.

"You needed to do that, Will. And I needed you to do it. But we don't have to be slaves to our bodies, or our emotions. We can still stay the course."

"I'm lost."

Hannibal looks a tiny bit less casual. "If we start on this path, it will end in both our deaths. Our combined volatility is too great. We will destroy each other. If we erase this, remain enemies, one of us lives. The better man survives. But only if."

"I mean, yes, I...suppose that makes sense, Hannibal, but...erase it? I may have a mind like a sieve, but I'm not sure I'm going to be able to just pretend that...didn't happen," he says, swallowing awkwardly.

"And you don't want to," Hannibal points out.

Will thinks about it. "No, I don't."

"I love you, Will."

Will stares at him and Hannibal stares back, for a very long time.

"I love you," Will says, finally drawing a breath. "God help me...I do. But I don't want..."

He closes his eyes. Talking about his emotions makes it hard to keep his words straight.

"You want to give one of us the chance to make it out alive. What I want...is for us both to die."

Hannibal's expression does not change.

"Why?"

"Because we deserve it. Because my life is already in shambles and it wasn't much to begin with. And because...I do love you. I want to experience it. I don't want to avoid it, even if it means one of us might live. We may both die either way, Hannibal."

The set of Hannibal's jaw shifts a bit.

"This thing between us, whatever it is, it has to give. Even if we could somehow go back to not knowing we...feel the same way, there would still be a significant chance we'd kill each other."

Hannibal had expected Will to agree immediately with the sense of settling this nice and simple, with blood. It hadn't occurred to him at all that Will might want to deal with this, now that it's out. He's recalculating in his head and doesn't reply.

"I want to love you, Hannibal," Will says. He's choking up; Hannibal is deeply unsettled. "If we're going to die, if I could die either way and probably will, honestly..." He blinks and looks away. "I want to experience this before I die."

Still for a long time Hannibal says nothing.

He's shocked at himself for not considering that Will might...want to love him, without being forced. For the first time in his life he has absolutely nothing prepared.

And now he's thinking about it, playing out the possibility of real, requited love with Will, real love, with the only person who ever saw him and didn't flinch, and...he's finding he wants it too. Even more shocking.

Hannibal had thought he knew himself totally, but Will is so unpredictable that it actually forces him to think on his feet faster than he's ever needed to before. He wants more of it. He wants to live the rest of his life on this new plane of existence. He wants to see what this could be, pushed to its limits. For all his dire predictions of mutual destruction, he knows he and Will are in their purest forms in each other's presence. It may be that they could be something together the world has never seen. Something unstoppable. The thought excites him.

That alone would be enough, but he's quietly curious about something else, too.

Will is in love with him. Many people have been in love with Hannibal, none of whom he ever cared about beyond their increased potential for servitude and manipulation. The idea fascinates him...he wants to know what it would be like, to love someone who is in love with you. He wants to fill that gap in his experience. He would very much like to see what would happen.

And apparently Will feels the same way.

Something occurs to him. Hannibal is not prepared for this contingency, but he had prepared for a different one.

"There's a third way."

Will's eyes look a little wet.

"What is it?"

"Propranolol. And hypnosis, perhaps."

"Literally erase it, Hannibal? Is that what you meant?" Will asks, aghast.

Hannibal raises his eyebrows. "It was. But I think now that flexibility is called for."

"How so?"

He smiles.

"It's simple, really. But it would require you to trust me."

Will does not look receptive.

"We both get what we want, in the end."

"Just tell me."

"I administer intravenously a large dose of propranolol, helped along with hypnosis, if necessary. You forget what happened or assume the memory is of a dream when I act no differently towards you tomorrow. Things play out as they must. At a more convenient time, assuming one arises, I will...bring the question up to you, knowing in advance that you will receive it positively."

Will seems to be about to say something but Hannibal continues anyway.

"We can fake our deaths, if you truly have so little attachment to your life. I will have had enough time to adequately prepare an alternate venue. I will make a place for us. Somewhere with less distractions. There we can have it out without interruption, and if we kill each other...we kill each other. If we don't..." He is silent. "If we don't, neither will the FBI. We will have time to...explore...whatever this might be."

Will asks, "What if I don't say yes?"

Hannibal looks at him.

"How do you know, if you make it so I think what we...did just now was a dream, that I'll agree to go with you when the right moment comes to ask?"

"If I asked you right now, would you say yes?"

A pause. "Yes."

"But you do not trust yourself to answer in the same way later."

"My feelings could...change. Because of whatever happens between now and then."

Hannibal thinks. "Then so be it. It wasn't meant to be."

Will is a bit agitated by that. "But then I won't get to experience it. Neither of us will. Maybe this is the right time, Hannibal. If we explore this now instead..." He leans forward—Hannibal is drawn in too.

"If we don't wait, then we'll know, at least, what...it's like." He looks down at Hannibal's lips.

They haven't kissed yet.

Will moves forward until their lips touch, Hannibal stays still, closes his eyes, Will kisses him softly on the mouth, it's warm and just a little wet and Hannibal is very tempted by Will's proposition. Very tempted.

He decides to debate it later.

On the floor, taking their time undressing each other, hesitant, Hannibal's never usually hesitant, the feeling is new not the act, he feels like a born-again virgin. Will is the first, like this. Was the first, the first time this happened, but it seems to be about to happen again, he realizes dimly that he's still losing blood from his wrists but it's just not enough blood to distract him right now...

They can't keep their hands off each other and Will is taking the time to actually unbutton his shirt, Hannibal's chest is aching, presumably from knowing that Will wants him this badly and it feels so odd, he's trying to undo Will's clothes while kissing him constantly and neither of them are getting anywhere.

Will stops, runs a hand over his hair, starts laughing. Hannibal can't help but smile too.

I do want this.

He pushes Will's hands away and begins to take Will's shirt off slowly, lovingly, leaving streaks of blood on his chest, and Will moans quietly. Hannibal presses him to his back and kisses him against the floor, insinuating himself between Will's inner thighs, feeling the smooth skin of them there brushing against his sides.

"Mm..." He rolls Will's hips forward and Will gasps against his mouth as he starts to thrust against him, not hard yet, just warming him up.

"Wait, wait, isn't there something to, I don't know, make that easier? Lube?"

"I didn't get lube."

"Well! I wasn't exactly planning to fuck you!"

Hannibal rolls his eyes but he finds lube somewhere. Will doesn't want to think about why he keeps lube in his office.

"Ahh..." he gasps when Hannibal starts to enter him this time, "ah, Hannibal..."

"It will get better." Hannibal leans in to kiss his chest as Will continues to wince in pain. "Try to relax, Will. You saw what you did to me...I was...very...satisfied..."

Will moans more at the memory than the feeling, Hannibal coming down his fist in spurts.

"All I could think about was how much I hated you..."

Hannibal chuckles against his chest, Will's arms extended up across the carpet, his fists clenching as he bites his lip, he hadn't thought much about this part exactly but it is starting...to feel pretty good...it's so different than being in Hannibal but the same too...

"Ahhh...Hannibal...oh, my God..."

"So you're a talker, Will. It's endearing."

"Don't say stuff like that! It's not like...oh..."

He loses track of it for a moment, Hannibal is deep now, he feels full in a way he's never experienced before in his life, it's so...good so...satisfying...

Distractedly he murmurs, "You're not my..."

"Boyfriend?"

Will squirms at the word and the feeling. "It's too weird ahh—"

"Mmmm..."

Hannibal fucks him faster now that he's had time to adjust, sucking his nipples, running fingers through his hair, taking this part makes Will feel...an oddly pleasurable sense of being the main attraction, the center of attention, the important half of the equation. Something Hannibal wants.

"Yes...Hannibal...I want this...please...I want you..."

"I want you too," he whispers, voice thick. "I want you, Will, I..."

He shudders, muscles tensing, and for the first time Will experiences that.

"Yes, Will..." Hannibal breathes, exhausted.

Will holds him, panting, already feeling like this is a dream. This is not at all what he had anticipated happening when he left the house today—

"Ah!" Hannibal's mouth is on him and for a moment he panics, then relaxes all over, moans, Hannibal isn't wasting time, he sucks hard and deep and Will's eyes really roll back this time, he makes some kind of sound and clutches at Hannibal's hair, it's everything he secretly dreamed it would be, of all the shameful fantasies about Hannibal in his head that he only acknowledged with his cock in his hand this was always the best one, the one that made him come the hardest, Hannibal's sweet beautiful mouth on him, those serene heavy-lidded eyes, his hot tongue sliding over him...Will moans helplessly, then Hannibal slips a finger inside him to touch him in just the right place and he comes, groaning, and collapses to the carpet, he didn't even realize he was half straining up off the floor on his elbows.

Hannibal is laughing at him again. Will doesn't see anything funny.

"Maybe you're right, Will," he says, with an awful note of melancholy in his voice. Will hates how much it tugs at his heart.

"Then let's try."

 

They get dressed again and clean up Hannibal's wrists, drive to Wolf Trap, separate cars. It seems like a better place to start things. Baltimore is too cold—they need trees. They want isolation with each other.

In the living room they stand after they close the door and Hannibal locks it. Neither of them knows what to say. They begin by looking anywhere but each other's faces, then become unable to look anywhere but each other's eyes.

Will closes the distance and kisses Hannibal against the door. Hannibal's hand still rests on the doorknob, gripping it tight. Eventually, the other comes up to rest lightly on the back of Will's neck. Will left the dogs in the outdoor kennels and their barking and whining forms the aural backdrop of their long, tentatively deepening kisses. Even having already fucked twice hasn't made them less afraid of each other yet.

Eventually they move away, deciding on the bed over the couch. Hannibal takes off his jacket and tie, undoes his vest but leaves it on, as if he wants a little bit separating them, but not much. Will is in his undershirt and boxers for what are probably similar reasons.

They don't know what to do—fucking again doesn't seem right yet, but they want to be near each other, physically close, intimate, so they just lay there half-dressed, under the covers, and talk, quietly, as if to avoid being overheard, although they're miles from the closest human being. They tell each other about it, the mysterious thing, compare notes on this magnetism between them that doesn't seem to come from either of them, but from outside, almost. Neither of them really understands it, but it's another thing they share only with each other out of all the people on Earth, the conversation is broken by long, sweet interludes of touching and heavy breathing and kissing, sooner than Will was going to, less hesitantly than he thought he would be, letting Hannibal take his bottom lip between his teeth, those teeth that have ended so many lives, to barely graze him with their points.

They stay there all afternoon and evening, kissing and whispering and being silent together, eventually in the total darkness of the bedroom after sunset they make love again, the grounding pressure and heat of Hannibal against Will's back, his fingers intertwining with Will's, Will's breathing fast but quiet, whispering to him, "oh, yes, baby...oh, Hannibal...I love it..." Hannibal lets himself go, lets himself enjoy Will and not think, just this once, clutching Will's hand tight when he comes inside him, biting and kissing his back and neck and ear.

"I'm afraid of this," Will says, softly, into the dark after.

"I know, Will."

"Are you?"

Silence. "I can't say. I'm not particularly familiar with fear either."

"I am. But...I love you. We can at least try."

"I love you too," very softly.

Will moves in close against him.

"You're experiencing it," Hannibal says, "the thing you wished to experience. Do you stand by your decision?"

"I do. I'm happy, Hannibal. It's already so good."

Hannibal's throat tightens.

 

Will falls asleep soon after that, facing Hannibal, arms locked around a pillow. Hannibal watches him sleep for a long time after the moon rises enough to let him see his lover's face. His eyelashes, the spots of color in his cheeks.

Eventually Hannibal gets up and gets dressed. He hadn't brought much with him, but in the pocket of his coat is an unopened sterile syringe and a little bottle. He loads the syringe using the light in the bathroom instead of disturbing Will, holds it up, flicks it a few times to get rid of the bubbles. Then he keeps holding it there in the air, looking at it.

Will had had a little to drink over the course of the night, and he's sleeping like a log. Hannibal gets into bed behind him, strokes a hand down his side, fingers one of his curls, kisses the back of his neck gently. Will says hmm and moves a little against him.

He bends Will's hand back towards him as if to put it against his lips, and instead uses a small vein on the back of Will's hand to empty the syringe, very quickly, Will makes another sound and starts to stir but passes out. Hannibal holds him tightly, waiting. High doses of propranolol sometimes cause seizures, and Will is already predisposed.

Nothing. He just breathes quietly, as if he is asleep and not unconscious.

Hannibal stays there about ten minutes more holding him. Maybe fifteen. Then he drives back to Baltimore.

 

Sitting by his fireplace, Hannibal swirls his half-glass of wine and looks at the fresh syringe lying on the little coffee table by the bottle of propranolol.

He finishes that half-glass, then two more, over the course of about an hour, not doing much else.

Around midnight he sets everything right that needs putting away, getting ready for bed. Last of all, he replaces the sterile syringe in his doctor's bag, goes to the coatrack to retrieve from his pocket the one he used on Will earlier, and injects himself with a large dose of propranolol.