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Mise en Place

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Possibly, Will should not have had a red pen in his hand at the moment. He drew a vicious red circle around the entire first paragraph, which offered nothing even resembling a competent thesis statement and made Will think many uncharitable thoughts about the kind of overachieving meatheads the Academy was admitting these days.

“Well, that doesn’t seem an auspicious start,” Hannibal said mildly. He’d fetched a small side table from somewhere, apparently purely for the purpose of putting a glass of wine at Will’s elbow. It hadn’t been Will’s idea to sit in the armchair in the corner of Hannibal’s kitchen; then again, it hadn’t been Will’s idea to come to Hannibal’s house at all. Pre-heat left him short-tempered and irritable, even worse than usual, but Hannibal had lingered in his office doorway and said, “Come along, Will. No reason to grade on an empty stomach.”

Will went, grumbling under his breath, and now he had a pile of papers on some kind of antique-looking lap desk, a very generous glass of wine, and Hannibal approaching with a small plate of what looked to be fruit and cheese and charcuterie.

He had the gall to hold a piece of sausage out to Will’s mouth.

Will said flatly, “Are you serious?”

“The therapeutic effect of hand-feeding on omegas is well-documented--”

“I will bite your fingers off if you even try it,” Will said.

“That would certainly be one way to address your body’s demand for iron,” Hannibal said mildly.

He was still holding the damn sausage in his hand, and Will scowled at the paper on the lapdesk -- still no thesis to be seen, and a cavalier approach to citation -- before he leaned forward and snatched the sausage from Hannibal’s fingers with his teeth.

“I don’t feel better,” he told Hannibal after he’d chewed roughly and swallowed. It wasn’t true -- he did feel a little better, and he was furious about it.

“Drink your wine,” Hannibal advised. “Would you like some cheese next?”

“I’m serious about the finger-biting.”

“Promises, promises,” Hannibal said archly.

***

“There have been studies done on the psychological effects of the color of ink on graded papers,” Hannibal said while he was doing something that smelled an awful lot like frying chicken, except Will doubted he was that lucky. His usual preheat routine was to ravage a Popeye’s, then go home and gorge himself on chicken and biscuits while grading finals. He timed his heat for the winter and summer breaks, when he wouldn’t be expected to head into the Academy, and could sit around his house in his underwear, undisturbed, until his heat actually kicked in.

Will drew his pen through an entire sentence and then wrote NO in the margin. “I think red ink is the least of these students’ worries.”

“At this juncture, certainly,” Hannibal allowed. “Still, it would be interesting to start the term grading in perhaps green.”

“You’d need a control group,” Will said, and gnawed on the end of his pen. He didn’t usually, but he was hungry, his body clamoring for him to feed himself and store energy for the upcoming days. He just wanted to keep putting things in his mouth.

Hannibal mercifully chose that moment to come over with another plate of food.

“If you really made me fried chicken, I’ll let you feed me and I won’t even complain,” Will said, eyes fixed on the plate. There was a nice garnish, because of course there was. Hannibal was allergic to lackluster presentation.

Hannibal’s lips puckered slightly. “It’s karaage, with ginger and lemon,” he said stiffly.

“Well, in that case,” Will said, and reached for the plate.

Hannibal held it out of reach, and then perched on the arm of the chair. It made Will feel a little like Hannibal was surrounding him, and he wasn’t entirely sure how he felt about that, but he let Hannibal bring a piece of chicken to his lips. It was crispy and the meat was tender, and the garlic and ginger were perfect and not overwhelming.

“This is so good,” Will said, and all he really wanted was to eat the rest immediately. When Hannibal didn’t offer another piece immediately, he reached for one on his own.

Hannibal permitted it with a frown. “Your current circumstances will not be improved by indigestion,” he chided.

“I’m hungry,” Will said tightly.

“And I’ll feed you until you’re full,” Hannibal said, and stroked his thumb at the corner of Will’s mouth. “Everything I have is for you, Will. Do you imagine that I would leave you unsatisfied?”

Will looked up at Hannibal, and he looked perfectly serious. Will didn’t think they were only talking about chicken, but it didn’t change the answer.

“No,” he said finally. “You wouldn’t do that.”

Hannibal’s lips curved into the suggestion of a smile, and he fed Will another bite.

***

“I warned them,” Will said darkly. “I specifically warned them.”

Hannibal made a noise of polite curiosity while shoving a piece of kimbap in Will’s mouth.

Will chewed, irritation temporarily soothed until he swallowed. “I told them I didn’t want to see any iteration of, ‘Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it’ anywhere in their essays.”

“You disagree with the premise?”

“I disagree with students implying that events can be divorced from their context. It’s trite and lazy and reductionist and--”

Hannibal took the opportunity to stuff another piece of kimbap in his mouth. Will had expected the hand-feeding to feel awkward -- the last person to hand-feed Will had been his grad school roommate, a beta who had determined that it was the only way to keep Will from setting his laptop on fire during finals.

But with Hannibal, it felt--

“Aren’t you going to eat any?” Will asked. “I mean. You don’t have to cook all this stuff just for me.” He darted a glance over at kitchen island, where Hannibal had something with potatoes and onions cooling in a colander.

“Will,” Hannibal said, and something in his tone made Will meet his eyes. “There’s no question of obligation. You’re my very dear friend, and I consider it a privilege to spend this time with you.”

Will wanted to look away. He’d spent this time alone for years and years. Even the times he’d spent heat with someone, he was accustomed to seeing to himself during the lead-up.

And the worst part was, he had been very nearly used to it.

Hannibal stroked his thumb over Will’s lip. “Let me,” he said, and he sounded almost tender, as if this truly were his privilege. Will looked at him, really looked at him, and saw someone who was very nearly used to being alone, too.

Will let his lips part, and Hannibal fed him another bite.

***

The armchair was very comfortable, but Will’s back had ached even before he’d been sitting in it for awhile. He abandoned his stack of ungraded papers in favor of stretching and going over to watch Hannibal poke at the potato thing on the stove.

“More wine?” Hannibal inquired.

“My students will probably appreciate it,” Will said, and accepted the glass of red that Hannibal poured. “What are you making?” It looked a little like a potato omelette.

Tortilla española,” Hannibal said, and then, in one swift move, inverted the skillet over a plate before sliding the tortilla back into the pan, miraculously still in one piece.

“If I had done that, it would have ended up on the floor,” Will said.

“Like so many things, it benefits from confidence. Seize the day, as it were.”

Will pondered that while the tortilla continued to cook. “Is that what you’re doing?” he asked suddenly. Had Hannibal been waiting for this opportunity, to peacock and prove he could provide?

Hannibal inverted the skillet again, this time onto a serving platter. Will stared at his hands -- confident, capable surgeon’s hands that had fed him all afternoon.

“Perhaps a better question is, what would you like me to do?” Hannibal said. He sliced the tortilla like a pie.

“I want you to feed me that,” Will said finally, because that answer seemed safe. “Not sure I can eat the whole thing, though, even today.”

“The leftovers keep well,” Hannibal said. “I intended to send them home with you, depending.”

“Depending on what?” Will said, eyeing the platter and wondering if Hannibal was going to bother with a fork for this round.

“On whether you would like to be seized.”

Will felt a dull stab of disappointment. “If that’s all you wanted, you could have just asked. You didn’t have to -- do all this.”

“As I said, there’s no question of obligation,” Hannibal said. “But my wants are not so limited.”

Hannibal took a step closer, and Will kept his eyes fixed on the knot of Hannibal’s tie, but he could feel the weight of Hannibal’s gaze. “You prefer, I think, to permit alphas close only when your wonderful mind is so fogged with heat that you have only to contend with your own needs. But when your heat runs its course, you run them off.”

Will’s hand tightened around the stem of his wine glass. “I don’t,” he said shortly. “They leave. I don’t expect them to stay.”

“You give them no opportunity,” Hannibal said, and he sounded admiring. “They’re inferior, unproven, not worthy of even so much as the small taste you give them.”

“And what makes you think you’d be any different?” Will snapped, looking up at him.

Peeking around the edges of Hannibal’s usually still expression was something that felt dark and dangerous and hungry, and it made a shiver run down Will’s spine.

“Oh, my dear Will,” Hannibal said. “I am not so easily chased away.”

***

Hannibal fed him two slices of the tortilla while they stood at the counter, until Will surprised himself by saying, “I want something else.”

Hannibal arched an eyebrow.

“And no, it’s not dick,” Will said waspishly. “Not yet, anyway.” Preheat still itched under his skin, and likely would for another two days or so.

“Are you sure?” Hannibal said, the picture of a polite host. “I might have some bull’s penis in the pantry.”

“First of all,” Will said, “why do you -- no. I don’t even want to know.” He closed his eyes briefly. “I want steak,” he told Hannibal. “Do you have that?”

“How do you like it cooked?”

“Bloody,” Will said decisively, and retreated back to the armchair to resume grading.

***

He managed to work his way through the last of the papers, albeit with no less red ink spilled, while Hannibal took steaks out of the fridge, seasoned them, and then cooked them. It occurred to Will to wonder just how much food was in Hannibal’s fridge.

Then it occurred to him to wonder whether Hannibal had stocked up just for him, whether Hannibal had known Will’s heat was approaching and prepared accordingly. The thought made him squirm in his seat.

“I’ll serve this next course in the dining room,” Hannibal said as he let the cooked steaks rest.

Will blinked. “Oh,” he said, and looked at the clock. It was actually a normal time for dinner, not that that really meant anything to him right now -- an entire afternoon of elaborate snacks, and he was still ravenous, and would be until his heat kicked in. He belatedly remembered his manners. “Can I help?”

Hannibal shook his head. “I’ll be just a moment -- please, go ahead.”

Will stacked the graded finals on the side table, then went to wash up. It was probably unnecessary, since Hannibal had hand-fed him all afternoon and Will didn’t think he was about to stop now.

The dining table had one place setting, with a wide chair. Will frowned at it, and then frowned at Hannibal when he came in. “Are you serious?” he asked. “What is this, high school?”

Hannibal set down a plate with steak already cut into small pieces, and a full glass of red wine. “Were you in the habit of sitting in teenage alphas’ laps?” he asked.

Will rolled his eyes. “No, because it’s awkward and not all that comfortable.”

Hannibal sat down, and looked at Will expectantly.

“Your legs are going to fall asleep,” Will warned him, and then gingerly lowered himself onto Hannibal’s lap.

It was as awkward as expected for the ten seconds it took to wiggle into a somewhat comfortable position and to get a lungful of Hannibal’s scent. And then he thought, oh fuck.

One of Hannibal’s arms was tight around Will’s waist. With his free hand, he picked up a piece of steak off the plate, and Will opened his lips without prompting.

It was perfect, tender and well-seasoned and everything he had been craving. He moaned in appreciation and Hannibal fed him a second piece, and then a third, and trailed a finger down Will’s throat as he swallowed.

“This is what you wanted, isn’t it,” Hannibal said softly.

“It’s not an unusual craving,” Will said, because it wasn’t. Hannibal held up another piece, and Will devoured it. It took on a dreamy, hazy quality, and before half the plate was gone, Will found himself seizing Hannibal’s hand and licking the juice from the steak from his fingers. He distantly thought he should maybe be embarrassed, but Hannibal didn’t object -- he just fed Will more, and though Will tried to avert his gaze, he knew that Hannibal hadn’t taken his eyes off him.

Then Hannibal inhaled deep, his nose tucked behind Will’s ear, and said, “You’ve cut it quite close this time.”

“No I haven’t,” Will said. He intended for it to come out more crabby than it did. “Same as always.”

“You’re not the same, though,” Hannibal said. “Stress commonly contributes to early onset of heat.”

Will frowned at that. “I’ve been stressed before,” he said.

“Not like this. Nor do I think your work for the FBI is the only contributor.”

“What, then?”

Hannibal’s lips grazed his throat, just where a bonding bite would be placed, if Will hadn’t long since given up on the idea of any such future for himself. “There’s a more common explanation for an early heat.”

“Sure, if you ascribe to the nonsense peddled by a host of industries,” Will said.

“You don’t believe that some alphas and omegas are more compatible than others?” Hannibal asked.

Will squeezes his eyes shut briefly. “Of course some are more compatible,” he said impatiently. “But the idea that one potential mate is so perfect as to suddenly bring on heat is just--”

Hannibal’s eyes were dark and fixed on Will, like he was the only thing in the world. He’d invited Will into his home -- his den, Will’s brain supplied -- and he’d provided for Will all afternoon, and Will had allowed it, he’d permitted Hannibal to audition--

“I’d kill for you,” Hannibal said.

Will stared at him. He thought he should probably be shocked, or disturbed.

Hannibal pressed his thumb to the corner of Will’s mouth, his hand cradling Will’s jaw. “I’d hunt down and kill any beast you pleased, and serve you their heart on a plate.”

Will’s breath caught. “You don’t have to promise me all of that just to get in my pants.”

“And if I should desire more?” Hannibal asked, his fingertips tracing over Will’s neck.

“You might be getting a little ahead of yourself. Traditional wisdom says I ought to take you for a spin before I buy,” Will said.

“By all means,” Hannibal said, and pulled Will into a kiss.

***

“I meant some time today,” Will snapped, reaching for Hannibal’s tie. He was already naked and lying on the bed, and Hannibal was wasting time by staring at Will like he was a precious treasure to be hoarded instead of an omega who needed to be knotted right this second, so help him.

Hannibal grabbed Will’s wrists and pinned them to the bed in a way that made Will writhe in anticipation -- the situation would only be improved if Hannibal would stop dawdling and get his dick in him.

He said as much, and rather than being offended, Hannibal’s expression was one of fondness, even adoration. “Like a good meal, this is not to be rushed.” He let Will go and resumed carefully stripping off his clothes, and it wasn’t that Will didn’t appreciate the view, but he was done waiting.

“If you don’t hurry up, I’ll find someone else,” Will threatened, which was unwise, but he felt hot and he was aching for it, and he knew soon that it would go from wanting to needing, and he was maybe approaching that edge sooner than expected. “Put your cock in me and knot me or I’ll go find someone who will--”

Hannibal moved swiftly and flipped Will onto his stomach, and Will got his knees under him so he was presented, and smiled into the pillow as Hannibal leaned over him and murmured in his ear, “That won’t be necessary.”

Will wiggled his ass and felt the hard length of Hannibal’s cock sliding between his cheeks. He was so wet already, and he needed it. “Hannibal, please.”

He got Hannibal’s fingers instead, and he groaned in frustration. “I don’t need it,” he said. “I need--”

“I know what you need,” Hannibal said soothingly, and proceeded to fuck him calmly with three fingers like that was anything like what Will wanted.

“You’d better have one hell of a knot,” Will said in half a snarl. “You’d better fuck like a dream, I swear to god--”

“I’ve never had any complaints,” Hannibal said, and then removed his fingers and slowly pushed his cock in, and it was so fucking good -- it stretched him wide and got him deep and Hannibal was inexorable, filling him up so good that Will didn’t think he’d ever want anything else. Except, maybe--

“Come on,” Will said. “Are you going to fuck me or are you all talk?”

“I meant what I said earlier,” Hannibal said, his hands gripping Will’s hips a little tighter. “I won’t leave you unsatisfied.”

Will was about to voice his opinion of that when Hannibal pulled back, and then fucked in like he meant it, and Will let his eyes slide shut and settled in for the ride. It was all heat and the feel of Hannibal’s skin against his, his cock dripping on the sheets below him, and his body wanted more, he wanted--

Hannibal kissed the juncture of Will’s shoulder and neck, the place he’d been touching earlier. He slowed to a grind, and Will felt gloriously stuffed full of cock as Hannibal got a hand on him, jerking him off so fucking sweetly. “Let me give you what you need,” Hannibal said, his voice hushed, and Will whined and pushed back against him, and oh god yes, that was Hannibal’s knot.

“Come, Will,” Hannibal said, “I’ll fill you full. Come now.”

Will gasped and shuddered, and as Hannibal eased his knot in and thumbed the head of Will’s cock, it was too much and too good and his mouth dropped open as he came hard, all over the sheets below. His hole clenched around Hannibal’s knot, and he panted out, “Ah, oh fuck, fuck--” as Hannibal shoved in as deep as he could get, his teeth grazing Will’s neck but not biting down as he flooded Will with come, and Will was finally, finally sated.

At least for the moment, anyway. Hannibal continued to kiss his neck -- mapping out a bonding mark, Will’s brain hazily supplied. He thought for a moment about what it would be like if he really allowed Hannibal to seize the day, to seize him, before he dozed off.

***

If this was Hannibal’s audition to be Will’s mate, he was basically nailing it. Will heard him call and arrange for someone to take care of his dogs for the weekend. He made sure Will drank water and even got him to eat some food, which was a rarity for Will during heat.

At some point, he brought Will’s work bag into the bedroom, along with his stack of graded papers. It was sitting on the bedside table, and Will stared at it blearily for a few moments before he said, “Shit, I have to enter grades.”

Hannibal was plastered up against his back as if they were still knotted, and kissing that spot on his neck; Will was probably so scent-marked at this point that no one would have any doubt that an alpha had some serious intentions for Will Graham. Still, Hannibal paused and said, “I alphabetized the papers by last name. I can read the grades to you while you enter them, if that would be helpful.”

“Let’s do this,” Will said grimly, and tugged his laptop out of the bag. Hannibal handed him his glasses and made as if to roll away, and Will caught him by the wrist. It took a few tries, and he couldn’t turn to look Hannibal in the eye, but finally he said, “Could you -- stay. Right here.”

“I would like nothing better,” Hannibal said, low and so sincere. He coaxed Will onto his stomach and slotted one leg between his. Will heard the rustle of papers as Hannibal took them out of the bag, and he logged into his grading center after propping himself up on a pillow.

Hannibal read him the first grade, then the next, then the one after that, and then Will stopped him and said, “I can’t fail all of them.”

“It might invite unwanted scrutiny,” Hannibal said.

“I guess I better curve it. I might not have been in the best mood while grading,” Will allowed.

“And now?” Hannibal asked.

Will fought a smile. “Are you asking if I need to curve your grade?”

Hannibal kissed his neck again. “Perhaps you’d allow me the opportunity to earn extra credit. I’d be happy to bring you breakfast in bed.”

“You don’t need any extra credit.”

“No?” Hannibal said.

“Help me finish entering grades,” Will said. “And then I’ll let you feed me. I could really go for some sausage, if you have that. Some kind of breakfast meat.”

“Dear Will,” Hannibal said. “I have just the thing.”