“What do you really look like behind your... person suit?”
Will smiled slightly as he said it, brows rising over his eyes when Hannibal paused in the process of pouring him a glass of wine.
“Different,” Hannibal said, his own small smile echoing Will’s. “May I ask, why now?”
“Why now,” Will sighed, taking the glass and swirling the contents, less interested in their session than he was in his court-assigned therapist. “I’m indulging my curiosity.”
“You’ve been curious for months,” Hannibal remarked, settling in the chair opposite him and smoothing the crease of his pants, as if even the idea of it being less than knife-edge sharp was abhorrent to him. “Yet tonight you feel brave enough to ask.”
“I’m tired of talking about me, about... it,” Will said, frowning and taking a sip to distract himself. “I’ve never seen one of your people outside of your disguise, not really. Just pictures...”
“Images in textbooks can inform you, but are hardly educational,” Hannibal said, picking up his hesitance. “Is it important for you to see me as I am?”
“Yes,” Will said, placing the wineglass down with care and settling forward, elbows on knees and hands clasped. “As important as it is for you to see me as I am.”
Hannibal smiled. It curved his lips on his sculpted face, but only truly showed in his sparkling amber eyes.
“I’m not stupid,” Will said.
“I know,” Hannibal murmured.
“You picked me, like a suspect out of a lineup,” Will said, all amusement set aside for the meat of the issue. “We’ve been waltzing around this for months, Hannibal. You were very accommodating when Jack put out word that I needed a therapist to get back to the field, almost as if you were waiting for your chance. I wondered why... it made me curious about... other things.”
“Like my appearance beneath my person suit?” Hannibal asked, his smile widening to bare his sharp, almost lupine teeth.
“And what you’d want with a jittery Alpha,” Will said, sitting back in his seat and cocking his head with a wry smirk. “You’re no Omega, are you, Dr. Lecter?”
“My people have no such distinctions,” Hannibal said, abandoning his own glass and leaning back with elegance, an effortless grace that Will envied. “You said you were curious, you must have read how we reproduce.”
“I got the quick and dirty version,” Will said. “Informative, but not educational. Which leaves me wondering why you were so eager to get your hands on me.”
Hannibal blinked, his inhuman stillness betraying the fact that he wasn’t human.
“My kind always searches for the best, the strongest with which to reproduce,” Hannibal said. “I have never found anyone remotely strong enough to consider gifting my offspring with.”
Will’s gaze softened. His voice was thoughtful when he said, “Until you saw me shoot an Alpha ten times in the chest after he murdered his wife and tried murdering his daughter?”
Hannibal’s eye twitched, but he said, “Yes. That protective instinct, it is... attractive.”
Will contemplated him, contemplated the possibilities and his own curiosity.
“I want to see you,” he said. “Just you.”
Hannibal wet his lower lip with his tongue and murmured, “Very well. Come with me.”
There was a large pool, of course, full of bath-warm water and dimly lit. Coleoids lived in the water when they weren’t wearing their person suits and using their telepathic abilities in the human world to make the planet a little more safe from mindless violence.
“When I was a kid and learned about when your people first came, I thought it was weird that you lived in water,” Will said, sipping his wine as he searched the pool, expecting to be nervous but finding that he wasn’t. He glanced up and found his gaze snagged on Hannibal as he undressed, peeling away the layers of his bespoke suit to reveal the man beneath. “I didn’t know there was any water out there to be found...”
Hannibal straightened, nude as a grape and undeniably male, though from what Will understood, Coleoids didn’t have specific genders, not like the Alphas, Omegas, and betas of Earth.
“It can be unsettling for humans to see us out of our disguises,” Hannibal said, pausing in front of Will to confirm.
“Isn’t that kind of necessary?” Will asked, smirking slightly. “Considering what you want from me?”
Hannibal’s wide smile returned. There was a wicked gleam in his amber eyes that Will wasn’t altogether surprised by. Without further warning, Hannibal turned and dove into the pool in one swift, fluid motion.
Will stared, watching as he unfurled in the water, the familiar human form losing shape below his waist to become long coils of muscular arms that put him in mind of an octopus. They bunched and flexed and Hannibal shot through the water at blinding speed, sliding gracefully around the edge of the pool to move back towards Will. He shimmered there beneath the surface, tawny-gold flecked with a leopard stippling of blood red marks down his back. He reared out of the water, humanoid but not human, and still undeniably Hannibal.
Will crouched, his wine forgotten, and reached out to touch Hannibal’s forehead, feeling how slippery-smooth his skin was. The same amber eyes blinked at him, set above the stark cheekbones that seemed even more pronounced. The same jawline, same elegant throat and broad shoulders. It was only at his navel that things began to turn... questionable.
“What do you think?” Hannibal asked, baring his teeth in a smile. Those were different, sharper, intimidating, even.
“No hair,” Will said, drawing back when Hannibal shook his head, his hood spreading. Will smirked and said, “You look half a cobra, Hannibal.”
“As I said, we can be... unsettling,” Hannibal said, and his muscular limbs pushed him away from the edge of the pool, giving Will a better look at him. “How do you feel?”
“Vulnerable,” Will said, knowing Hannibal couldn’t read him like he read most others, out of respect or a lack of connection, Will had never been able to tell.
Hannibal cocked his head, his hood curling back, leaving his face exposed in all its startling beauty. “An interesting emotion, considering I am the one who is naked.”
“Touche,” Will said, and tipped his glass before draining it. “Hope you don’t mind dog hair in your house.”
“The pool cycles continuously,” Hannibal said, sinking lower into the water, a skirt of sucker-lined limbs rising up behind him to swirl the water. Playing, Will realized. Hannibal was in his element, where he was most comfortable.
And Will was going to join him.
He undressed without undue fuss, as was his habit, folding things carefully and placing them on a small changing couch Hannibal had there in the humid room with him. Tasteful, elegant, all the things Hannibal seemed drawn to.
Such a strange thing, when Will was neither tasteful nor elegant, at least not in his own opinion.
“I never asked where this falls on the scale of ethics,” he said, putting his glasses off last before moving to the stairs that dipped into the pool.
“Between psychiatrist and patient?” Hannibal asked, not stirring any nearer. “Or between Coleoid and human?”
Will huffed a soft bark of laughter and suggested, “You choose.”
“Very unethical for a psychiatrist,” Hannibal said, and seemed suddenly quite a bit larger, his arms spread wide but his lower half billowing, stretching languorously in the water as if luxuriating in it. Considering how much time he spent in his person suit, Will figured this was a rare treat for him.
“For a Coleoid and human, who knows?” Hannibal said, the water lapping up against Will’s waist when he moved. “We tend to be very private; personal relationships, especially involving humans, are never spoken of, though the fact that there are hybrids is undeniable evidence of success.”
“So, I’ll be your secret, Doctor?” Will asked, goosebumps rising on his arms as he sank into the warm water up to his chin. The bottom fell out and he caught himself before going under, surprised to feel the brush of a touch against his thigh. “Jesus!”
“Not quite,” Hannibal said, and they both chuckled.
“Sorry, I didn’t expect that,” Will said, giving up trying to hold himself up when two of Hannibal’s limbs coiled around his waist.
“What did you expect?” Hannibal asked, surging closer. He had quite a bit of reach, Will noted.
“Nothing,” he said, feeling the soft, fleshy suckers against his skin, a light pressure that wasn’t unpleasant. “I just... abandoned expectations.”
“That is to our mutual advantage,” Hannibal said, and pulled Will closer to him, closer to the far wall. “Is your curiosity satisfied?”
Will laughed again. It was a little more nervous than he meant it to be, and the slight narrowing of Hannibal’s eyes in response matched a flickering of pale pink through his tawny skin, the leopard spots darkening to a purplish color.
The strong limbs coiled around him tightened as Hannibal shifted him, depositing him at the edge of the pool to hang on before drawing away entirely.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Hannibal said, disappointment rippling over him in another change of color, muting the vibrant golden sheen of his skin.
“Well, don’t,” Will said, hanging onto the edge, his feet paddling gently. “Because it isn’t.”
“It isn’t?” The colors brightened a little.
“No,” Will said, grinning at the way Hannibal’s colors brightened to vibrant fullness. “Coleoids are terrible liars, aren’t they?”
“We do tend to... react to our circumstances,” Hannibal said, his smile wry.
Will turned, shoulders pressed to the pool wall, and let himself sink, expecting that Hannibal would bear him up.
He did, the soft touch of his slick, warm limbs raising another wash of gooseflesh on Will’s skin as Hannibal gripped him under his arms and at his waist. He kept his eyes closed for a moment, feeling the arms loosen, cradling him just at the surface of the water and bearing him back to the center.
“Comforting, isn’t it?” Hannibal asked, his voice as deep and vibrant in his Coleoid form as it was in his person suit. “Weightlessness?”
“Yes,” Will said, eyes slitting open. He tipped his head up, his lower body sinking, Hannibal’s limbs sliding to form a seat for him. He could feel the wisping, teasing trail of tips brushing over his legs, as if Hannibal couldn’t resist touching him. He felt one brush his wrist and caught it in his hand. It wriggled and relaxed, warm and thick, turning against his palm. Will’s eyes widened when he felt the sucker gently latch onto his hand.
“It feels like... a cat’s tongue,” he whispered, lifting his hand out of the water to look at it. The very tip of it coiled around his spread fingers and stroked them, mobile and flexible all the way through. Will looked up at Hannibal when he was pulled closer and asked, “Can you taste me?”
“In a manner of speaking,” Hannibal said, turning the limb in question. It snaked up to touch his face, the tip tracing the shape of his mouth, feather light and tickling. He watched Will intently, a deep rosy color blooming across his skin that Will could only interpret as arousal.
Will closed his eyes again, mouth parting for the questing tip, feeling the touch on his tongue and the light kiss of a tiny sucker tug. He sucked in return, eyes opening in surprise when Hannibal purred.
Will loosened his suction and pushed the tip out, wet his lips, and said, “You should show me what I’m getting into.”
“That all depends on what you’re willing to do,” Hannibal said, tugging Will close enough that he could have taken his chances with those dangerous, predatory teeth and kissed him.
“Tell me what you’d like,” Will offered, feeling another limb wind around his thigh and squeeze, the tip caressing the crease of his groin. “And I’ll tell you if I’m willing to give it.”
Hannibal watched him, the rosy color changing his tawny skin to a ruddy red that reached halfway up his wide chest and bloomed again on his high cheekbones, waking the faintest patterning of leopard-like spots across around his expressive eyes that were otherwise invisible.
“Coleoids usually court before mating,” he said, sinking lower and taking Will with him, until the water lapped at his lower lip. “I have had to adapt my methods, all things considered, but the rest can be managed easily. Our methods are very similar to yours, but we carry the advantage of being able to choose whether to carry our young.”
“That’s quite an advantage,” Will admitted, distracted by the arrival of several more limbs against his legs and back, coiling even around his toes. He twitched his foot in a catlike flick and fought reflexive laughter at the sensation of suckers where he was most ticklish. “How do you manage that?”
“There’s a protocol,” Hannibal said, amused by his attempts to dislodge the limbs wrapping his legs. “The one who fertilizes the eggs is the one who carries them.”
Will’s brows rose, the surprise of that statement chasing the laughter away. He felt a limb slither up his torso in a gliding caress, the tip barely brushing one nipple. It might have been accidental except it lingered, circling and seeking.
“H-how is that accomplished, exactly?” he asked, clearing his throat to firm his voice.
“Enthusiastically, in most cases,” Hannibal purred. “It is considered bad manners to fertilize eggs and not take responsibility.”
“And after the... the birth?” Will asked.
“The children return to the egg donor,” Hannibal said.
“Coleoids fertilize hundreds of eggs,” Hannibal told him, larger limbs lifting out of the water to unfurl behind him and vanish back beneath the water. Will felt them at his back, firmly stroking him in a massage that nearly pulled a moan out of him. “No more than three survive.”
“That’s sobering,” Will managed head falling back a little, muscles loosening and relaxing when more pressure squeezed his calves and thighs, finding sore places he never knew existed.
“We are cannibalistic before we are self-aware,” Hannibal said. “It is why we are so fertile; it ensures at least one is born.”
After a long moment luxuriating in the impromptu massage, Will breathlessly asked, “And that’s something humans have done? Something I could do?”
“Could? Yes,” Hannibal said, the massage becoming a caress, one powerful limb cradling Will from his pelvic bone up his spine to his skull, the tip swirling gently in his hair, urging him to lay back against the support it offered. “Coleoids only have a single vent. Our method of incubation works the same for a human body as it would for our own.”
“Butt babies,” Will said, and snorted softly, slitting his eyes open when Hannibal chuckled.
“An unfortunate, if accurate term...”
“You said you haven’t donated?” Will asked, arms falling away from his sides to float next to him, several limbs taking advantage of his pose to work on his biceps, light, feathery touches stroking down his ribs.
“No,” Hannibal told him, the touches growing bolder, the suction against Will’s skin strengthening, tasting him in a way that they both could survive. “I’ve carried younglings for others, perhaps fifty times in my lifetime, but I am nearly four hundred years old.”
“Only?” Will asked, sighing when two frond-tipped tentacles branched off from the thick limb around his waist to tease up his chest, tightening his skin with anticipation. “You were, what, second generation, then?”
“First,” Hannibal corrected, looming over him, his hood unfurling to frame his face and his piercing amber eyes glowing in the semi-darkness. “I am highly sought after.”
“Should I ask for references?” Will asked, a lazy grin on his lips. “So... you’ve never allowed anyone to fertilize you, then?”
“No,” Hannibal purred. “I have the luxury of being choosy.”
“And yet you wound up with me,” Will said, shifting to sit up, Hannibal moving to accommodate him.
“You’re unique among your kind,” Hannibal said, tugging him up tight, so close that Will couldn’t resist the impulse to touch the stretched expanse of his hood, feeling the heated membrane pulse beneath his touch. Color chased his fingertips, responsive and bright.
“How about a practice run, Doctor?” he murmured, trailing the touch down over Hannibal’s high cheekbone to his mouth.
Hannibal blinked, his pupils dilating to bottomless black ringed in gold.
“It takes up to fourteen days for full fertilization to occur,” Hannibal said, tilting his head as if contemplating kissing him. “After that, there is a small window of opportunity to transfer the eggs before they begin to develop.”
“So... I’d have thirteen days to decide whether to carry them or not?” Will asked.
“Yes,” Hannibal said, drifting backwards and pulling Will with him, sinking beneath the surface, easily holding him just above the water, stretched out over the top of him.
There was something strangely compelling about him, drifting there beneath the water, human arms grasping Will’s shoulders, human face holding a slight smile, but the rest of him a gently-swaying web of thick limbs and questing tentacles, smaller and finer around where a man’s groin would be, forming a feathery, thick layer that opened like a flower, only the faintest suggestion of a crevice seen.
The ruddy color deepened there, rich and inviting, and despite himself Will responded, finding such a coy offering strangely enticing.
The small tentacles closed together, followed by larger ones, shielding it from view as Hannibal shifted up, breaking the surface of the water.
“May I connect with you, Will?” he purred, pressing his hand to Will’s temple. “In our way?
Will nodded, an uncertain movement that gained strength with his surety. “Yes, Hannibal.”
He smiled, pleased, and leaned in to breathe against Will’s mouth, “A Coleoids kiss is an aphrodisiac.”
“I never read about that in a textbook,” Will said, his eyes locking with Hannibal’s.
“It’s imperative that I have your consent,” Hannibal said, lips whispering over Will’s.
“Trust me,” Will said. “You’ll know if I change my mind.”
Hannibal grinned, and the brush became pressure as he deepened the touch to a kiss.