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I Taste Myself in Your Marrow

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“The killer left the body parts suspended from this tree,” Will stated, staring out at the faces of his class. He watched them take in the girsly mess that resembled some sort of sick Christmas tree of carnage, and almost laughed at the idea. “So far, there has been no arrest. No suspect. We were left nothing to go on.”

He walked around his desk, standing behind it, staring out at a sea of faces and lying to them with such ease he wondered if this was a dream. He wondered that about his life a lot- especially as of late.

Once his students had filed out and his things were packed up, Will made the drive to the lab, knowing Jack expected him there, unhappy with him at the lack of results for this case. No matter how Will argued he had nothing to go with, Jack didn’t seem to believe him. It made Will clench his hands so painfully it hurt.

“You look tense.” He looked up from the table he was sitting at, watched as Beverly walked in and pulled a chair up next to him, flipping it around so when she sat she could rest her arms on the back.

“Just the case,” Will said, taking his glasses off and pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Jack’s really relentless on you about this one,” she mused, pushing one of the photos around. “Maybe for your sake we should hope for a new psychopath to pop up so you can drop this one.” Will laughed at that, despite himself, shooting her a quick glance before his eyes flicked away from hers. Beverly just smiled, reaching out to gently shove him.

“When you’re done musing pointlessly,” she said, “How about a beer? I could use one today.”

“Can’t,” Will said, checking his watch with a sigh. “I’ve got dinner plans.”

Beverly just smiled, thinking she knew exactly what he meant.

*

Will let himself in the front door, locking it behind him. He removed it coat and hung it up, thinking it still felt weird to just be allowed to walk into a home that wasn’t his like this. He could smell the food cooking all the way at the door, and his stomach grumbled, reminding him he had skipped lunch. He made his way down the hallway, the flooring new- he knew now- and through the dinning room, into the kitchen.

Hannibal had that oddly serene, yet concentrated look he wore every time he was cooking. His bangs were drifting delicately over his forehead, and Will stood with his arms folded, watching for a moment as the man moved, the muscles in his exposed forearms working as he lifted the pan and jostled the food about expertly. The special agent could have, for a brief moment, believed Hannibal was so deep in thought he had not heard him come in, but he knew the man too well to hold onto that thought.

“How long are you going to let me watch?” He asked, smirking a little as a smile crept into the corners of Hannibal’s mouth, though he did not look up.

“Until you had had your fill.” Will felt a different hunger rising in him, and he walked around the counter, running his hand along Hannibal’s back as he worked.

“We’d be standing here an awfully long time.” He laughed, leaning in and kissing Hannibal’s cheek, lingering for a moment to take in the mix of his cologne and the spices he was cooking with. “Want me to keep you company?”

“It will only be a moment,” he said, secretly smiling as the feeling of Will’s stubble brushing his cheek- unaware, for once, that Will caught the smile. “Please, go have a seat.”

Will listened, leaving the kitchen and walking back to the dining room. Hannibal had left a bottle of wine out, along with two glasses, and Will poured into each of them, taking a sip from his own as he sat down and tried to let the day’s stress seep out of him. At the back of his mind was that clawing question he had every night he ate dinner at Hannibal’s- really, whenever there was food and the man present together- and he tried to swallow it down, as he did every time.

He must have had that detached look of concentration when Hannibal came out, apron shed and his jacket back on, carrying their plates. He set one down in front of Will, leaning down and whispering into his ear, “It’s Lamb.”

Will sighed, and Hannibal chuckled- the dark laugh reserved for those moments when Will saw the man that lurked inside his lover, the monster who had strung body parts up from a tree and called it beauty.

*

Will shifted on the couch slightly, laying along Hannibal’s body as the man read. It was becoming an after dinner routine, if Will was able to stay for some time. They’d recline together, Hannibal reading what Will never tried to understand, His hand resting on Will’s chest or belly until he needed to turn a page. Sometimes Will would do it for him. They didn’t need to talk, Will just enjoyed his company- the reminder that he was there- as always, the reminder that this was real.

It had been terrifying for Will, returning when Hannibal from the lab the afternoon he had so openly showed his affection for the special investigator in front of Alana. He’d been terrified what Hannibal would feed him, horrified with himself for staying despite the fact that this man was a killer. A man eater. A cannibal.

Will could have dropped down to his knees and cried when Hannibal had assured him it was not human flesh he was about to eat. Will knew there was always the chance the man had lied- but since that clarifying night, he swore he could see through the film over Hannibal’s eyes. He could see the truth.

“Jack is really adamant about this case,” he said, breaking the silence. Hannibal’s hand, which had been idly rubbing along his abdomen stopped, and Will was upset he had said anything. “He wants answers.”

“Jack Crawford will grow bored and move on,” he said, and Will sighed, shifting a bit, trying to get Hannibal’s hand to move again.

“Yeah, when another body drops.” He felt Hannibal shift a little and bit his lips, regretting saying that. “That’s not a...please don’t.” He closed his eyes, reaching up to run his hands over his face, sighing. They had a nearly silent agreement about the mess that was their sordid love affair- Hannibal didn’t divulge to Will, unless necessary. And Will attempted to pretend it wasn’t there-

Even though late at night his gut clawed at him, begging to remember.

But he didn’t tell Hannibal that.

The psychiatrist didn’t say anything, simply lifted his hand away from Will and turned the page of his book. When his hand returned, it stroked along Will’s belly again, and the younger man relaxed.

“Do not worry about Jack,” Hannibal whispered, his hand dipping a little lower, fingertips brushing the hem of Will’s jeans. His voice had a hint of possession- as if he couldn’t tolerate another man to take up residency in Will’s mind. Will let his breath escape when those fingers skimmed the button on his jeans, before returning higher, resuming their comforting gesture. For the moment he closed his eyes and went back to simply enjoying Hannibal’s presence.

*

The dogs barking the next morning were what woke him. He rolled onto his back, an arm flopped over his face, groaning, thinking they may have seen a squirrel or something. It was only when there was a knock at his door that he pulled himself from his bed, padding sleepily downstairs in his t-shirt and boxer briefs, wondering who was knocking early on a Saturday morning. When he opened it and saw Alana waiting patiently, he instantly regretted now putting proper clothing on.

“Alana,” he nearly gawked, “What are you doing here?”

“I had an ungodly early meeting,” she said, “And thought instead of simply heading home after, I’d see if you might like to get some breakfast?” She smiled at him so sweetly that Will nodded without thinking.

“Yeah uh...just give me a minute.” He stepped aside so she could walk in, tsking at the dogs that looked about to ambush her. She crouched down and greeted them anyway, laughing, and Will disappeared, hoping maybe she would have just missed his state of undress.

She hadn’t.

*

Will felt oddly self conscious across from Alana, alone with just her. They had been so rarely alone, and the few times had been nothing but a cluster of confusion and her rather sweet lips.

He could always admit, Alana was very kissable.

“So...how are you and Hannibal?” She was holding her mug of coffee between both hands, stealing its warmth, and Will looked down at his, trying to figure out how best to answer the question. He never knew how to answer anything about he and Hannibal- regardless of what he knew now, he still didn’t know what to say.

“Good,” he managed, because they were, weren’t they? He had dinner with him a few nights a week, at least one of them they spent that precious time in odd relaxation together.

“Do you still see him for sessions?” Will looked up, giving Alana a confused look.

“...Yes,” he admitted, though he thought she should know that. He hadn’t stopped when this ordeal began, and he had still been seeing Hannibal for a scheduled appointment once a week when Alana first found out about the relationship. It had barely been two weeks since then. “Why?”

“I just worry about you,” she admitted, “You should be able to see someone who you don’t have some sort of tie to.”

“It’s not therapy,” Will countered, feeling oddly defensive, “It’s...we talk about cases. It’s always been like that, it never felt like therapy.” He took a sip of his coffee- stale tasting- and swallowed it anyway.

“Like I said Will, I just worry.” She reached out, placed her hand over his. “He’s...good to you, right?”

Will thought on it for a minute. Hannibal was never not good to him- although he looked at everything the man did differently now. Tried to pick up on the hints that maybe the man had another motive. It left him feeling guarded when all he wanted was to be wall-less.

“Yeah,” Will said, and the word felt a little odd on his tongue. Alana left it at that, but Will saw she didn’t believe him. He wondered why she was so interested.

*

Hannibal sketched delicately, careful to keep the pencil from smudging. His home was quite around him, light streaming in from the window and giving it a warm feel. A part of him had considered calling Will and asking him to join him, but he had held off. He couldn’t help but think it would simply not have been the afternoon he desired. Will had been different, as the days passed. His affection was there, but it was as if it may need coaxing.

He set his drawing down, leaning back to think on it. A change in Will was to be expected considering what he knew of the truth- even if it was not the entirety of the story and only a small fragment- but he hadn’t been prepared for his dislike of it. Will was walled in now, guarded, and Hannibal had not prepared himself to need to chisel through them a second time.

A mistake, in hind sight.

He tapped his fingers, before getting up and putting his drawing away, deciding it was time to pull Will back in again.

*

The second time the dogs went into a universal barking chorus, Will wondered if there was a conspiracy against him for the day. He shushed them, getting up from the lure he was working on, and opening the door before anyone had a chance to knock. When he saw Hannibal getting out of his car, his heart gave an extra few beats against his ribs and he walked onto the porch, folding his arms to keep warm as the man approached.

“I wasn’t expecting you,” he admitted, and Hannibal smiled at him. It wasn’t a fully real smile, but it wasn’t hiding anything, either, so Will let it pass.

“I apologize for not calling,” he said as he stopped by the first step, “I thought it may be a nice surprise.” The smile he gave Will now was genuine, and the brunette rolled his eyes, stepping down and leaning in, pecking Hannibal’s lips.

“I think I can forgive you,” he teased, his hand running up along his chest, “Would you like to come inside?”

“Actually,” Hannibal began, “It’s a rather lovely day. Would you care to go for a walk?” Will raised an eyebrow, it seemed a very un-Hannibal like thing to ask, but shrugged a shoulder.

“Sure. I could use form fresh air. Let me grab my jacket...and some shoes.” He looked down at his socked feed and laughed, turning and hurrying inside. Hannibal watched him go, feeling a fondness spreading from his chest to his stomach, and settling in his bones. Will could be both soothing and exciting, depending on the situation- more so than anything Hannibal had ever known.

Anything. And that was still unsettling.

Will returned moments later, tugging his jacket on and bounding down the stairs. Hannibal gestured with his hand for Will to lead the way, and Will reached for him, clasping his fingers as they set out over the property. There weren’t too many places they could go- Will wasn’t about to have Hannibal traipsing through the woods in his expensive shoes- but there was open space and fresh air and it was nice to just have Hannibal there.

“Alana came by this morning,” Will said as they walked.

“And how was Dr. Bloom?”

“Concerned about me.” They stopped, Will leaning into Hannibal, who slipped his hand free and wrapped his arm around his shoulders. “She asked if you were good to me.”

Hannibal was quiet for a moment. He turned, leaning into Will’s curls and kissing him, smelling the harsh scent of his shampoo and that scent distinctly him. “And am I?”

“You’re not bad,” Will said with a laugh, feeling better in Hannibal’s company about it. If Alana had asked him the question again in this moment, he’d say without a doubt the man was. “I could go for seeing you a little more though.” He looked up at him, before dropping his head and leaning into his chest, smelling his cologne and feeling the heat radiating off him. Part of him wanted to claw through the layers and get to his bare chest, to see him so exposed again.

Will was reminded that, in the past two weeks, they hadn’t been intimate. A kiss here and there, but that was it. The last time they’d had sex it had been bloody and on Hannibal’s carpet, laced heavily with a dose of aching reality. There simply hadn’t been time, with Jack calling Will in at all hours to stare at the same tree, where Will had to lie and say he had no idea who could be guilty- with Hannibal busy with patients, it just had barely worked. And the hour drive between them never helped.

“She wants me to get a psychiatrist,” Will finally continued, tugging his mind out of its inner sanctum. “She thinks I should have someone to talk to who isn’t...tied to me.” He choked on his sharp laugh. “Makes me sound like an unpleasant, rusty anchor.”

“Which you are not,” Hannibal assured him, “Though perhaps Alana does have a point.” Will pulled back, looking puzzled.

“Wait. You want me to see a psychiatrist too?”

“I did not say that,” Hannibal corrected, “Just that she may have a valid point. I don’t want to see you separate from reality, Will. I don’t want to see you break.”

Will stepped back, laughing, raking a hand through his curls. “Unbelievable. What about you? Aren’t you supposed to keep me from doing that?”

“My judgement concerning you is...clouded,” Hannibal admitted, and Will could see the twitch in the corner of his mouth. He didn’t like that fact.

“And what am I going to tell a psychiatrist? They’re all going to look at me like I’m an oddity. The freak who thinks like a killer. Oh, and hey, I’m dating one, to top it off.” The words were harsh, bitter, far more so than Will had meant. Hannibal’s eyes narrowed, flashed- and suddenly, it didn’t feel like his Hannibal standing in front of him.

“Exposing me would mean losing me, William.” His voice was equally cold, and Will flexed his fists. He felt a charge running through his muscles, he was wound up and needed to let loose. “Would you feel compelled to tell someone this?”

Will rotated his jaw, then relaxed his hands. “No,” he admitted, sighing, reaching up to pinch the bridge of his nose. “No, I wouldn’t. I would’ve called Jack and your ass locked up by now if I did.” He stepped back towards Hannibal, looking up into eyes that had gone cold. “I should have called Jack. But you got in my head.” He moved closer, until they were chest to chest, and reached his arms up, wrapping them around Hannibal’s neck. He leaned in, kissed him, done with words-

Afraid if he continued, he’d admit that dark, creeping feeling he’d uttered only once. The smell of blood and Hannibal’s cologne made him feel at home.

*

Will tapped his foot, standing in the waiting room, hands in his pockets. He was too uneasy to sit, looking around instead at the art on the walls, in cool color schemes, rich in blues. He was examining one when the door opened and a man asked, “Are you a fan of art, Mr. Graham?”

Will turned, met the blue gaze of the well dressed man waiting in the doorway, and shook his head.

“No. Well...not particularly. I just...” He flushed, sighed, and the man chuckled, stepping back and gesturing for him to come in. Will stepped inside, looking around the office. It lacked the warm feeling he got in Hannibal’s- didn’t have the upper loft lined with books. It had that same cool blue Will had seen in the paintings, with sheer blue curtains over the large windows, the light still creeping through.

“Have a seat,” the man said, gesturing to one of two chairs as he sat in one. Will hesitated, would have rather stood, then gave in and settled into the chair, trying to keep his leg from shaking. “I’m Dr. Matthew Barker, Mr. Graham.”

“You can call me Will,” he said, feeling awkward with the formalities. He was used to Hannibal insisting they were beyond him calling him Dr. Lecter- even before the relationship had been forged.

“Well, Will, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Since this is our first session together, why don’t you tell me about yourself a bit? Let me get to know you?” He smiled, a very white smile. He was young, Will realized, looking at the short black hair that paired with those very blue eyes. Younger than Hannibal.

“Don’t you have a file on me?” Will knew it was rude, and Hannibal would have scolded him like a child, but he wasn’t interested in playing along with this. He hadn’t wanted to see a psychiatrist. He would have preferred to spend his Monday evenings with Hannibal. That had usually been a day they could at least have dinner together. Now he would be spending it with a stranger.

The man smiled, reaching for a folder on a small table next to him and opening it. “I do, Will. You’ve got quite the history here. I’m sure you have a lot to talk about.” Not with you. “Your job must be very...taxing. To spend so much time with those bodies. Even in your teaching. Do you take your work home with you, Will?”

“Yes.” He flexed his hands. “Keeps me and my dogs company.”

“How many dogs do you have, Will?”

“Seven.” Dr. Barker raised an eyebrow, and Will watched as he clicked his pen open and jotted a note down in his file.

“That’s a lot, Will.” Will shrugged a shoulder. “Why so many?”

“Because they needed someone.” He drummed his fingers on the arm rests, feeling increasingly uncomfortable under that blue gaze. He missed Hannibal.

“So, you enjoy saving things, then?” Will clicked his tongue, knowing this was not going anywhere he’d want it to.

“Yes.”

“Is that why you do the work that you do? Is that why you allow yourself to slip into the horrifying worlds created by these crime scenes?” Will was quiet, refusing to respond, and Dr. Barker only smiled. “Would you rather we start somewhere lighter, Will?” He nodded, and the man sifted through his papers, though Will could see in his eyes he wasn’t looking for anything. “Are you in a relationship, Will?”

“You should know the answer to that,” Will said, “I’m sure it came with Alana’s referral.” He chuckled.

“You’ve caught me. Yes, Dr. Bloom told me you needed a new psychiatrist because you had formed an intimate relationship with your current one.”

“He wasn’t my psychiatrist.” That round pen tapped, and Will found it irritating.

“Then what was he, Mr. Graham?” A sly smile, and Will knew the man had reverted back to formalities to make him slip, to make him divulge so he would return to being casual. Nothing about this felt casual to Will, though.

“My friend,” he said, and Dr. Barker was writing something down again. “I was never officially Hannibal’s patient.”

“It is still rather...unprofessional.” Will gritted his teeth, not liking the sound of that word on the man’s lips. True, Hannibal was unorthodox, but he wouldn’t call him unprofessional. Will had never been his patient.

“Only unorthodox,” Will finally corrected, feeling a strong need to defend the man who was not present to defend himself. “And we both agreed, I was not a patient. He asked me many times. He didn’t even start this.” Will thought that might be a lie, though- but he had kissed Hannibal first, no matter what the man may have plotted around him. And he would never share that with this stranger, or anyone else for that matter.

“So you initiated the relationship?”

“Yes. Sort of.” Will sighed, looked at his watch. “I don’t want to talk about Hannibal and I.” The man nodded.

“Very well, we don’t have to today. Tell me more about your job, Mr. Graham.”

Will groaned inwardly and wondered how he was supposed to survive an hour of this every week.

Chapter Text

His lecture felt like it as dragging. He took a look at his watch and gave up with a sigh, dismissing the student early. He wanted to get to the lab and get the usual barrage of questions over with. Jack’s disapproving gaze- more so now that the rumors were openly circulating about Will and Hannibal. Even if Alana and Beverly knew for certain, Will still didn’t advertise it to everyone he knew. But the rumors flowed easily when Hannibal would show up from time to time on nights they were supposed to have dinner- would keep an arm around his waist. He’d kissed his cheek once right in front of a lab tech, and Will was sure the woman ran off to tell everyone she knew.

He drove to the lab and was just getting out of his car when he saw Jack, followed by Beverly, storming out. The man stopped when he saw Will. “Good, you’re here. Saves me the trip.”

“What trip?”

“Pulling you from class. We need you.” He motioned for Will to follow, and the special investigator fell into step with them, climbing into Jack’s car.

*

The drive to Woodbine took longer than it should have, easily over forty minutes, and the whole time Will was drumming his fingers on his thigh, wondering what mess he was getting into. It had to be a scene, there was no other explanation. But as always, he was kept in the dark, to keep his mind fresh. He was starting to hate that- it’d be nice to be able to brace himself now and then.

Jack pulled the car over where the other police cars where parked, and they got out, slipping over the guard rail and walking along the unkempt grass. He gave Will a nod as he slowed his pace, Will seeing his focus just in the distance. He advanced alone, heard the swinging of a pendulum in his ears- the sound of his heart beating, suspended by fishing wire, ungrounding him from reality.

“She was beautiful,” he said, unmoving, standing isolated. “But she did not realize it. She did not see the beauty inside her bones.” A girl was standing in front of him, smiling with a head of thick, blonde curls and honeyed brown eyes. “The killing is not painful, I do not want this one to suffer.” The girl turned, leaned back against him, warm and soft and small in his arms, compared to the feeling of Hannibal, and he sank his hands into her hair, twisting her head until he heard the snap of her neck, and she fell limp. “I cannot risk dirtying my canvas.”

He crouched down, rolled her over, began undressing her with ease. Her skin was so soft beneath his fingertips, smelled like honey and flowers, and as he lifted her shirt he inhaled along her neck and hair, sighing. “She is not my first work, but she will be the first I display. A canvas so expertly crafted deserves to be seen.”

Once she is naked, he takes a knife and gently pushes it into her belly, opening her up to her pubic bone. He slice along to her hips, and then up her chest and along her collar bone, so she can be properly opened up wide. “I do not have the power to crack her ribs, and that is my shame, my fault. I will remember this for my next work. I will perfect my art.” He peels her skin and muscle back, leaving her an open book, and reaches inside, begins cutting free her organs. They’re warm and slick in his hands, and the blood in the air makes him dizzy.

He’s brought a polish stake with him- it would have worked had he been unable to snap her neck. “I had a second plan,” he whispers as he secures it inside her and begins impaling her organs onto it, building them up with her heart perched at the top, like a star on a Christmas tree. “But my first has worked perfectly, and I want the world to see my art, my design.”

Will snapped to, blinking, realizing he was kneeling next to the corpse- though he had not actually touched her. He exhaled, the air still, smelling faintly of stale blood now, and not the intoxicating mixture of a fresh kill. He stood up, looking down at the body of the girl, and thought the color of her liver, her heart, was so rich he could paint with it.

*

“This is someone new,” he said, though Jack stared at him, a little unbelieving.

“It could be the killer you couldn’t catch.” He didn’t need to elaborate, Will knew- Jack seemed to hold him responsible for the missing decorative killer. It was absurd to most, but Will could only swallow the lump in his throat because it was his fault that killer was still running around.

“No,” Will said, “No this is different. I think this is his first time killing, openly, at least. But I do think he’ll do it again- he executed it so perfectly, it will encourage him.”

“There’s nothing perfect about this,” Jack muttered, turning away, and Will opened his mouth to argue, then promptly closed it- realizing it was a crazy, sordid sort of argument. Instead he waited off to the side while the team did their work. He thought about calling Hannibal- he had yet to get to tell the man about his first session with his new psychiatrist, but his phone was dead, and he cursed how horrible he was at remembering to charge the damn thing.

*

It was dark by the time they pulled back to the lab. Will had his head leaning against the window, but jolted upright when he recognized a car parked directly next to his.

He didn’t know anyone else with a Bentley.

He had to door open before Jack had even killed the engine, and went sprinting inside, wondering where Hannibal was hiding. He felt like he was going into withdrawal, needed to at least hear the man’s voice, and made a beeline for Jack’s office, Beverly yelling behind him to slow down, confused. He ignored her, ran all the way to Jack’s office, opening the door to find, as he had hoped, Hannibal sitting in one of the chairs. The psychiatrist watched Will curiously as he stood up and the younger man hurried over to him.

“I tried to call you,” Hannibal said, and Will shrugged a shoulder.

“My phone died. Sorry, we were at a scene.” He wrapped his arms around Hannibal, forgetting briefly about the open office door, and played with the ends of his hair. “Please tell me you came to get me out of here. If not, Jack and I may end up with two more bodies for the team to deal with.”

“And which bodies would those be?”

“Each others.” Hannibal laughed, slipping his arms around Will’s waist and kissing him gently. Will smiled against his lips- despite that he was still angry with Hannibal for taking Alana’s side about a new psychiatrist, he was such a welcome sight compared to Jack, who was not interested in listening to Will at all today, that he could forget. Will tightened his hold on Hannibal, kissing him back, falling into the rhythm of his lips easily, until he heard a voice speaking to them from the doorway.

“Might wanna put that on hold,” Beverly said, “Jack’s about thirty seconds at most behind me, and I don’t think he’d like you two making out in his office.”

Will jerked back, turning around and blushing, but Beverly only laughed, grinning when she saw Hannibal was smiling over all of it. She moved when Jack approached, eyeing the two men in his office.

“Dr. Lecter,” he said, “To what do we owe this pleasure?”

“I had a cancellation, and simply came to take Will from you,” he said, looking at the man with a smile.

“We’re going to have a late night tonight,” Jack said, walking to his desk. “You might want to head home, Doctor.”

“You can have a late night,” Will said, “But since you’ve got no interest in listening to me, Jack, I’m leaving.” He took Hannibal’s hand, as if to drag the man into supporting his argument. “Maybe after some sleep you’ll be up to a conversation.”

He pulled Hannibal behind him as he stormed from the office, not giving his lover a chance to give his opinion, or even ask about the situation. It wasn’t until they were outside and nearing their cars that Will’s grip even lessened. “Would you mind driving?” he asked, and Hannibal simply gestured to his car, watching Will climb in and fold his arms, sulking.

“So tell me what Jack has done this time,” Hannibal asked as he drove.

“He simply won’t accept anything I say. This new killer...” he trailed off for a second, looking out the window at the lively, lit streets of Baltimore. “This new killer new. He hasn’t killed before- at least not openly like this. I’m sure of it, and I’m sure he’ll kill again.”

“And Jack does not believe this?”

“Jack thinks it’s our mystery killer.” Will clicked his tongue in annoyance, “And won’t believe me when I try to tell him otherwise.” He was relieved when they pulled up to Hannibal’s and the engine slept, nearly jumping out of the car and welcoming the fresh air. “And I would know if they were the same killer.” He looked at Hannibal, who stared at him with cool, collected eyes.

“Are you asking me a question, Will?”

Will walked past him, up to the front door and letting himself inside. He waited until Hannibal had the door closed and locked behind them before he finally said, “I guess I am.”

“I can assure you, I’ve had no part in whatever murder you are investigating.” He held his hand sup, giving Will a playful smile, laced with something dark. It made Will shiver. “This is not my handiwork- although, I am intrigued to hear about it.” Will sighed, shedding his jacket, Hannibal taking it from him to hang up.

“Maybe later,” he said, “I don’t want to think about the case, or Jack.”

“I thought you enjoyed discussing cases with me, Will. I recall something about you enjoying my mind.” Will laughed, a sharp, quick sound, and even when he spoke the sound still echoed through his voice. “I enjoy a lot of things about you, Hannibal- your mind is just one.”

This time when Hannibal smiled, it was all warm, the darkness gone for the moment.

*

Will hadn’t been particularly hungry, and was grateful when Hannibal simply warmed up leftovers in his oven. He had laughed at the idea, having never seen the man not cook, but figured even he was too tired at times. He was more interested in after dinner, when he led Hannibal out to their spot- Will couldn’t but think of it as their’s- and when Hannibal laid, on his side, accepting Will pressed up against him, no book, no distraction, just his hand tracing patterns into Will’s hip and his heat soaking into Will.

“You haven’t asked how my therapy went,” Will said as he shifted further back into Hannibal, part of him wondering how much Beverly would laugh at the idea of Hannibal spooning Will so casually.

“Would you like me to?”

“Are you even curious?” Will traced his finger along the couch, felt Hannibal rest his chin in his curls. “I mean, someone that wasn’t you was poking around my brain.” He felt Hannibal tense, and grinned because he could play this game too- even if he was still learning.

“Tell me,” he whispered, kissing the top of his head.

“He’s an arrogant prick.” Will paused, and Hannibal laughed behind him, his arm slipping over his waist to grip him tightly. “I don’t like him. I don’t like the angles he wanted to work from. I don’t like being psychoanalyzed.”

“What did he say that troubled you so much?”

“He tried to insinuate that I have too many dogs.” There was a pause, and then Hannibal laughed behind him, burying his face in Will’s curls to try and control himself, but Will could feel him shaking with each breath, and frowned. “What’s so funny?”

“You do have a lot of dogs, Will. It is not an unknown fact.”

“There’s nothing wrong with having pets,” Will countered, “And it’s not too many. You know, maybe you’d like to go to my next session, maybe you two would get along.” He tried to pull away, but Hannibal pulled him closer, digging his body tightly into Will’s, making the younger man lose his breath for a minute. “He asked about you and I too. I don’t think he approved of this.” Will gestured at them with his hand before letting his arm flop back down to his side. “Said it was unprofessional.” Hannibal didn’t respond, but Will knew he was listening. He closed his eyes. “I don’t like his office, either. I don’t feel at home, like I do in yours.”

“Do you feel at home because of some aspect of my office, or simply because it is mine?” Will bit his lip, sighing because he knew what Hannibal was getting at- and that the man was, of course, right.

“Shut up,” Will sighed, gripping Hannibal’s hand and keeping his arm tight around him, “And hold me.” Hannibal chuckled and dipped his head down, kissing Will’s neck gently and obliging him.

*

Will’s hands were slick, hot. He stared at them, at the scarlet that clung to his skin like a liquid glove, as it rolled down to his elbows, seeped into his shirt sleeves that had been rolled up. He was kneeling on the floor, the blood from the body already staining his pants. He inhaled deeply, smelled the metallic tang to the air, let it settle over his tongue in a heavy film as he breathed, before reaching inside the body, twisting his hands through intestines and pulling them out through the huge, unsteady slash in the woman’s gut.

Behind him, he heard the floor creak, but didn’t look. He felt someone kneel down behind him, a body press to his so sweetly as arms tangled around him, gripping at his shirt. Hannibal’s cologne mixed into the air and his breath shuttered as he pulled back, leave half the woman’s intestines pooling around her. He tipped his head back as one bloody hand ran over his throat, smearing it red, and up his chin, along his lips.

“Will,” Hannibal murmured into his ear, and Will could feel every inch of his hard body, every twitch of muscle and intake of breath. His fingers pressed against Will’s mouth until he opened for the older man, sucked on the two digits that were pressed inside, his tongue swirling over them, his tasted buds on fire with the heavy taste of iron. “This is beauty.”

Will gasped, eyes opening, staring into the dark of his room. He gasped for breath, disoriented, for a moment, unsure where he was. He curled up on himself, raking a hand over his face and into his hair, his shirt sticking to him uncomfortably. A few more breaths, and he knew he was in his bed, alone. That there was no body, no blood on his hands, no Hannibal pressed behind him in that alluring way that made him want to rock against him until they were tearing at each other.

He sifted, giving a sick, sad groan when his erection dug into his mattress. He buried his face in his pillow, his stomach rolling at the throb between his legs, at the desire for his lips to be wrapped around Hannibal’s fingers, for the man to shove him down and take him right next to that body.

Will shoved himself up, stumbling out of his room and barely making it to the bathroom. He collapsed down and gripped the toilet bowl, vomiting. He coughed, gagged, and heaved again, his arms shaking from gripping the porcelain so tightly. He was gasping for breath, sweat dripping from his curls, when he was finally done. He fell back, reaching out blindly to flush the toilet, and slumping against his tub, working to swallow the sick taste of shame on his tongue.

*

Will shuffled into the lab after his classes, avoiding eye contact more so than usual. He made a beeline for Beverly, who was in the morgue with the body, waiting. It was routine, now- she’d give him the information he needed, and he’d give her some new piece of a puzzle.

“Her name was Julie,” she said, looking rather fondly at the deceased’s face and blonde curls, “twenty-two, worked at a hair salon. We’ve put a call in to her parents already, Jack wants us to go meet them.” Will nodded, staring at her too, the oddly perfect shade of blonde of her hair. “She was beautiful,” Beverly admitted, as if reading Will’s mind.

“That’s why he chose her, for his canvas. She was already beautiful, she couldn’t bring any imperfections to his art.”

“So is he targeting Baltimore’s most beautiful?” Will sucked his lip into his mouth, thought on it.

“Not necessarily. This first one, she had to be perfect so he could see if his art was...up to par. Now that is it, his canvases may vary. He may look for a...challenge.” Will reached up, rubbing his temples, a headache forming. “Do you have an aspirin?”

“There you are,” Jack said as Beverly tugged her gloves off, tossed them, and excused herself to track some down for Will. “We need to get going- or are you going to prance off for an eagerly dinner with Dr. Lecter instead?” Will gritted his teeth, glaring at Jack, but not responding. He followed him from the room, his head pounding so much so he could hear the blood swelling under his skin.

*

It was a short drive to the Cobb household, which looked like any average home, so much so that it bothered Will that a girl so pretty had been surrounded by something so bland. Bothered him enough to make him think the killer had seen this, had needed to remove her, elevate her to something better. He gripped at his pants, chasing the thoughts away as quickly as they came.

The woman that opened the door resembled Julie- she had the same curls, must have had the same shade of blonde before the grey had set in. She didn’t smile, but invited them in, escorting them to the kitchen table where her, Will assumed, husband was sitting.

“Can I get you some coffee?” Her voice was bland, lacked feeling, and all three politely declined, settling down. Will let Jack start the conversation, ask the general questions, his eyes flicking around the kitchen. It was well kept, organized, but bland. Yellow, it should have had yellow, to go with her hair-

“Can I see her room?” Will asked, looking at Jack and not the Cobb family. They hesitated, then Julie’s mother stood up, offering to lead the way. Neiyther Jack nor Beverly stood, so Will followed alone, up the stairs and down a white hallway, adorned with family pictures- the three of them, no other children. No other canvases. The door was cracked open for him, and Mrs. Cobb thankfully left, as if seeing the room was too much for her to bare.

It probably was.

Will slipped inside, leaving the door barely cracked open. The walls had been painted a light pink, ans thought it was not a vibrant color, it stood out drastically against the white of her door, the white of the hallway- too much white, too much untouched canvas. The floor was a light wood, with a deep purple rug under her neatly made bed. Will walked over to it, ran his hand along the blanket, soft, soft like she had been, a darker pink. The color scheme would have worked well with her, but he couldn’t help but think yellow, sunflowers, show her she is made of gold.

“Will?”

He turned, saw the door was open and Beverly was leaning in the doorway, watching him. “Sorry, were you doing your thing? I can leave-“

“No,” Will said, pulling his glasses off with a sigh, “No, it’s fine.” Beverly stepped in, looking around the room. “What do you see?”

“Well kept, like the rest of the house. Was she this clean or is mom or dad controlling, I wonder.” She walked around, looking at the white bookshelf. “Very ordinary stuff.”

“The colors are different.” Beverly quirked an eyebrow, and he gestured to the walls. “Everything is white and bland in the house. Her room has color. Makes me think she didn’t agree with some of what mommy and daddy were pushing on her. You said she was twenty two?” Beverly nodded. “And working?”

“Yeah, just got the job about two months ago, when she finished up her cosmetology course.”

Will nodded, walking to her bedside table and running his fingers along it. “Maybe she was ready to leave the nest.”

“Move out?” Will nodded. “Okay...but what does that have to do with this? Do you think one of her parents had something to do with this?”

“No, no no no.” Will was shaking his head. “No, but I think someone she knows did. Someone knew her and saw this color and wanted to paint her...” He trailed off, staring at the colors on the wall, and Beverly took a tentative step towards him.

“Will, are you alright? You don’t look so good.” She reached out, then thought better of it and let her hand drop to her side. He only nodded, putting his glasses back on.

“Get a list of her friends from her parents. All of them. If she has a computer, get it. A diary, cell phone, anything. There’s a clue here somewhere.” Beverly nodded, gave him one last look, and then left to discuss it with Jack, leaving Will alone in the room again.

When he closed his eyes he saw the masterpiece Julie had become, and felt Hannibal’s arms around him tightly.

Chapter Text

The next afternoon, everything Will had requested had been gathered. Julie’s cell phone, laptop, and a diary that had been found in a box under her bed, tucked away safely. The whole box had been delivered, cataloged, and then put back together. Jack was shockingly absent, which left Will alone in the room while Beverly went to get them some coffee.

The phone had already been checked, but he scrolled through it regardless. Nothing of remote interest, her parents, a few friends, some clients. He assumed she didn’t have a boyfriend, from the look of it- would have been an easy suspect, he knew. He set it aside and wondered how in depth they had gone through her laptop. It had been the victims’ internet history that had tied them together and eventually to Richard, and Will hoped for another connection here.

Her bookmarks were nearly all beauty related. Will felt odd clicking on them and staring at the products, until he pictured her fingers tapping away, looking at ways to add color to a canvas- how to paint others and herself into something different-

“Anything good?” Will snapped back, looked at Beverly, then shook his head, accepting the coffee she offered him. “No, this is all...” He shrugged a shoulder, and Beverly looked at the screen, laughing and punching his shoulder as she settled into her chair.

“Gonna straighten those curls of yours for Hannibal now, Will?” She continued to laugh and Will closed the window, clicking on her history. He paused there, and knew Beverly was looking too. “It’s clean.”

“Someone wiped it the day she disappeared,” Will said, drumming his fingers on the table. “That could mean the killer knew Julie well enough to have access to her computer, or Julie was doing it herself- either because she knew something was wrong, or because there was something she didn’t want people to see.” He pushed the computer away. “We’ll have to make sure that gets looked into.” He reached for the box, rummaging through it. A few old photos, what must have been her journal- “What’s this?”

Will lifted an envelope out, unlabeled but definitely weighted down by a few items inside. He opened it carefully, dumping the papers onto the table for Beverly to see as well. They slid out, photographs, and Will heard Beverly’s intake of breath as she stared.

Julie. They were all Julie, in states of almost all to complete undress, covered in paint splatters. Will looked away, feeling awkward at first. “Maybe you should look at these.”

“I don’t have your mind,” Beverly reasoned, “You’re going to have to help me here.” Will sighed, looking back down, his fingers tap tap tapping on the table to show his discomfort.

“We need to know who took these,” Will said, “Whoever did probably...painted her.”

“Are you thinking they might have taken it to the next level?”

“Exactly.” Will lifted one up, noticed smears of pink and yellow along her shoulders and breasts, pooling on her belly and she was laughing-

The door opened and Will looked up, felt more than saw Jack’s hard gaze as he entered the room. Will was about to tell him they might have found a small break through, when he noticed someone else walking in with him.

“Will, Agent Katz,” Jack said, stuffing his hands in his pockets, “This is Alyssa Poole. She’s going to be joining our team.” The girl smiled a half smile- polite but not inviting- and Beverly waved. Will said nothing. He set the photo down, looked away, not wanting to catch her eyes. “Like I told you, Alyssa, he’s not interested in eye contact.”

“That’s alright,” she said, “I’ve heard a lot about you, Mr. Graham. Looking forward to working with you. Jack has been bringing me up to speed on this case-“

“We need her computer thoroughly checked,” Will cut in, looking at Jack. “Her internet history was cleared around the time of her disappearance. Either the killer is close enough to do that, or she was hiding something.” Jack nodded, glancing at the photos on the table. Alyssa followed his eyes, and Will was suddenly embarrassed to have the strewn out in front of them. He shoved them together, quickly tucking them back in the envelope. “We found these in the box. Whoever took them probably did painted her, and there’s a good probability they killed her.”

“We should contact her parents again, ask them about all this.” Alyssa tried to reach for the envelope, but Will slid it towards Beverly.

“You can, but they won’t know anything. They probably won’t believe you without seeing them. I met them, and they’re too...bland, too ordinary, like someone cut them with a detail-less cookie cutter.” Alyssa raised her eyebrows, and Beverly broke in,

“They’re too vanilla for this stuff,” she said, “But ask to be safe. I’m sure Jack would take you, they met him before. And then you could see what Will was talking about. Jack’s going to have all the information on this case in his head anyway, he can finish catching you up.” Beverly smiled, and Jack bought it, guiding Alyssa out.

“You laid that on a little thick,” Will said, reaching for the envelope and taking it.

“Have to with Jack. I just wanted to make sure he got her out of here, you didn’t seem to like her company.”

“I don’t like most company.” Will grabbed for Julie’s diary, flipping through it. “Present company excluded.”

“I’m flattered,” Beverly said, “So you’ve got me, Alana, and Hannibal? We’re like a special sort of club.” Will didn’t say anything, skimming over the page, lips moving slightly as he read. “Is there initiation for this club? Do I need to sit through a fancy dinner or something with you and Hannibal?” When Will didn’t respond, she frowned. “Or do I just get to watch you two go at it like rabbits and I’m in.”
Will snapped his head up, staring at her as she laughed. “What? Don’t look at me like that, I’ve already admitted I’m curious. And you just don’t share enough.”

“There’s nothing to share,” Will said, adjusting his glasses as his nerves tensed. “Hannibal and I haven’t...I mean, not that it’s your business- but it’s been a while.” He ignored her gawk and looked back at the journal.

“What? Seriously? You guys can’t slow down already, you just started! Will, are you listening to me? Put that down for a second, you need a lesson in healthy sexual activity.”

He wasn’t listening. In fact, Will hadn’t heard anything she had said after he spoke. The words in the journal seemed to be shaking as he read them, as if they could leak off the page any minute. “I didn’t realize I was pretty, until now. I was blank before- but the color on my skin, it’s a whole world of life taking place on me.”

“What?” Will looked at her, nodding to the journal.

“I was nervous, at first, to get naked. The paint was cold, and I thought it was stupid, until I looked down and saw pink where there had been boring skin. I saw yellow where there had been no brightness- and I got it. I wanted more.” He looked at Beverly. “Sounds like she was doing some self discovery.”

“Poor girl, she didn’t even realize someone else was too.” Will sighed, looking down at the book. Something inside him didn’t agree- but he couldn’t explain why.

*

Will left only a lamp on in his living room, settling down into the couch with a tired sigh, taking a swig from the beer he was holding. One of the dogs padded over and rested her head on his leg, and he scratched behind her ear before she moved on to curl up. He reached for the little faded book he had brought home with him, flipping through the pages, further in.

I think about it when I shouldn’t now. I stare at mom and dad over dinner and I can feel something cold running down my spine and I feel pretty. I get dye on my arms on purpose in the salon now- I’m told even that is pretty. I think I believe. He took another drink, tapping the bottle against his chin, before skimming a few pages again.

He had just fallen into the rhythm of her words when he heard it, someone bumping into a chair in his kitchen. His head jerked up, and he shot a glance at the closed, locked front door. He set the book down and shifted his hold on the empty bottle, gripping the neck as he walked carefully towards the kitchen. He rounded the corner, arm tense, but froze when a honeyed gaze stared at him.

Her eyes were tracing along his hand, arm, the bottle, but she wasn’t frowning, nor smiling. Julie wore an expressionless look, not unpretty. Will relaxed under it, and she walked toward him, her bare feet nearly silent. She reached for the bottle, took it, set it aside.

“I was worried you wouldn’t come,” she spoke, as if she knew him, as if there was a perfectly acceptable reason that she was naked in his kitchen. Will felt like he couldn’t care to question it. “That scared me.” She took his hand, placed it against her flat belly, and his fingers flexed against the soft heat. “I can’t look at myself without thinking I’m blank now. You did this to me.” She reached out, touched his cheek, affectionately, running her thumb along the stubble of his cheek. “But I’m not mad.”

She walked away, and he watched the curve of her spine, its perfection. His fingers itched to touch the bone. She stopped at the table, running her hands along something there. She looked back at him, her eyes beckoned kindly, and he walked over, eyeing the knife on the table she had been caressing.

“You always said red would look pretty on me.” She sucked her lower lip into her mouth, “And I’m finally ready. Make my something that can be remembered.”

Will lifted the knife, ran his fingers along the flat of it, before he pressed it under her throat, the tip pressing into, but not parting, flesh. She smiled, her hands fluttering alonf his chest, down towards the hem of his t-shirt to slip underneath, feel his warm skin. It was oddly nonsexual- as if all she wanted to was know for certain it was him standing in front of her.

He dragged it down her then, slicing her open. She didn’t make a sound, she didn’t flinch, she just let him cut her down to her pubic bone. The knife clattered to the floor and Will fell to his knees, running his hands up the wound and smearing blood all over her skin. She watched with quizzical eyes, and Will saw the colors explode against her skin, to perfect. He wanted to nail her to his wall, to revel in something so scarlet as her blood, fall into the perfect shapes the smears left behind-

Will’s eyes snapped open when he heard a buzzing. He frowned, confused, and for a moment his only thought was why is the room so bland? He sat up, rubbed his face, knocking his glasses away, and reached for his phone, buzzing on the floor next to the empty bottle.

“Hello?” he whispered, slowly waking and realizing with a sinking feeling in his stomach he had been dreaming.

“Hello Will.” He sighed, relaxing into Hannibal’s voice. “Did I wake you?”

“I dozed off on the couch,” Will said, “But it’s okay.”

“I was worried, I had not heard from you and you did not pick up my first call.” Will smiled, curling up on himself and for a minute forgetting everything he’d seen behind his eyelids.

“Sorry, the case, I brought some of it home to work on. I must have lost track of time.” He traced a pointless pattern into the couch, wishing Hannibal was sitting with him.

“Are you alright?” A simple question- Will wasn’t sure what triggered it. Perhaps it was simply Hannibal, inside his head, able to feel out every thought before Will could form it.

“Yeah,” he lied, closing his eyes and see a bloody, painted picture on a dead girl. “I’m fine.”

*

Will let himself into Hannibal’s home Saturday evening, closing the door behind him and stopping to adjust his tie. Had anyone else thought of taking him out to the theater, he would have turned them down without a thought. For Hannibal, he’d sit through anything. Besides, it was that rare chance where the man was his, completely, for the next twenty-four hours easily. Maybe more, if Will could convince him.

He made his way through the house and upstairs, heading towards Hannibal’s room. He hadn’t heard movement at all downstairs, and made the assumption he was still getting dressed. Will smiled for a moment to himself when he was proven right as he stopped at Hannibal’s open door and watched him as he lifted a shirt off his bed, examining it for a moment.

“I think you’re good as is.” The psychiatrist turned to Will, naked from the waist up, and smiled at him. Will leaned against the door frame and watched, jealous of the way the fabric got to ghost over Hannibal’s skin. Maybe Beverly had been right, and he needed a lesson on healthy sexual activity. He was beginning to feel...pent up. He wondered if Hannibal felt the same.

Once Hannibal was dressed he walked over to Will, kissing his cheek, and allowing him to take his arm as they walked.

*

Hannibal rather enjoyed having Will out of his element. There was something about the nervous twitch to his fingers, his eyes, that he loved. The energy that crackled and coursed under thin skin, so close to release. It was nearly intoxicating. And having that bundle of nerves seated so close to him in the dark of the theater, it was impossible to not let their legs brush, let their fingers tangle. Will’s skin had gotten to him, he craved it, loved the way it fit so nicely over muscle over bone.

He lifted Will’s hand and kissed it at one point, and the younger man tried to move even closer to him. Hannibal would have welcomed Will melting into his lap, though knew this was not the place. It was getting increasingly more difficult to be around the man and not touch, taste, try to own him. It was getting harder to not think about stripping him down completely to his flesh and worshiping him.

Hannibal took a breath, swallowed the thoughts. As much as he desired Will, he was still taking this slow for the man. One false move, and he could push him away, push him towards Jack and then Hannibal would have to make some unpleasant decisions. As much as he wanted Will to think of all the life has hands had taken when he touched them, the man was not ready for that.

Hannibal could not risk breaking him- the idea was exceptionally appalling. Still, he couldn’t resist his hand falling to Will’s thigh, to squeeze gently, reassuringly that he had not been abandoned in an element not his own.

A moment passed, and then Will leaned over, and Hannibal moved closer, allowing him access to his ear. “You’re making it hard to concentrate,” Will breathed, his hand resting over Hannibal’s and pushing it up his thigh. Hannibal felt his own heart jump against his ribs, a strong heat rising in his stomach. Will stopped just before the juncture of his thighs, and Hannibal had the urge to grasp him, to tease him right there, feel him squirm and hear those delicious little breaths he let escape-

For a moment, he had to once again consider that Will had gotten a little too deep under his own skin.

“Were you concentrating?” he asked in a teasing tone, squeezing Will’s flesh gently.

“On you.”

Hannibal had to fight the urge to grab the man there, regardless of his reservations.

*

Will didn’t make the car ride back to Hannibal’s easy, either. The looks he was giving the man were different, intent, almost dark, and Hannibal loved it. Will himself was buzzing, sure that with this much time alone, they could finally get down to nothing but skin on skin contact again. He’d be lying if he said he didn’t want it- if he didn’t need it, something to help keep down the nightmares he seemed to have when he closed his eyes.

He’d rather fill that void with Hannibal.

Will literally ran up the stairs and into the house, leaving Hannibal laughing as he followed at a quick pace. He closed the door behind him, wroking the lock without turning around, and Will was on him before he was done, sinking his hands into his neatly slicked back hair, mouth attacking his with a passion that must have been stewing under his skin for quite some time.

Hannibal entertained the idea that perhaps he had been wrong in attempting to keep things slow with Will.

Will nipped at his lower lip, pressing to him so tightly Hannibal almost couldn’t breath. He was gently sliding his body along the psychiatrist’s, mewling into his mouth and testing the sharpness of Hannibal’s teeth with his tongue.

“Upstairs,” Hannibal managed to mouth around Will’s tongue and lips, and Will pulled away, grabbing the man’s hand and nearly dragging him through the house. Once up stairs he turned and backed up to the bed, falling onto it and pulling Hannibal down on top of him, laughing even as he pulled the man down for another kiss. Hannibal was smiling into it, one hand slipping between them to work on the buttons of Will’s shirt, untucking it and getting the first few bottom ones open.

His fingers teased Will’s skin, the trail of dark hair that ran from his navel to the juncture of his thighs, and Will gasped, arching back. Hannibal pulled away only to untie his tie, and fully open Will’s short, forcing it open so reveal inch upon inch of the skin he had so craved. Will was breathless as his mouth found his neck, kissed and savored the taste, as one hand wrapped around his waist and the other pressed fingertips into the skin above his pants with such force he might bruise.

Will was so delirious with need already the room was spinning. He thought he might have said something to Hannibal, something about needing him, but he couldn’t be sure. He felt teeth puncture the skin on his neck, knew there was blood and there would be bruises and it would be a reminder of who he belonged to.

I’m your’s. He could hear himself gasping it, bloodied and with Hannibal so far inside him he was sure they were one person, with the word murderer on his tongue and tasting like fine wine and the spice of Hannibal’s mouth. He was throbbing remembering, if it was a memory at all- his mind could almost believe it was happening again.

Will found Hannibal’s mouth waiting and kissed him, licking the metallic salt from his lips and tongue, pushing his hips up against him-

There was a sudden vibration in Will’s pocket and the brunette cried out, pulling away from Hannibal’s mouth and squirming, both surprised and oddly excited as it pulsed through his thigh and groin. He mewled as it happened again, and Hannibal, though highly amused, reached into Will’s pocket and fished out his cell phone.

“Hello?” He kept a serious face, even as Will was reaching for him, silently asking him to throw the damn thing away and return his attention to him. “Ah, just a moment.” He handed the phone out to Will, who gave him an are you fucking serious look, but took it.

“H-hello?” He tried to keep his breathing under control, but it was hard with Hannibal still right there, with his neck and cock throbbing.

“Will,” Jack’s voice was annoyed, tense, “I need you. There’s another body.”

Will groaned. Of course there was, of course it would be tonight, it would be when Hannibal was touching him so deliciously and he had finally had enough courage to drop a few not-to-subtle hints.

Will wasn’t good with hints.

“Where?” he forced out, and Jack read off the address. Will didn’t bother to respond, simply hung up, dropping the phone unceremoniously onto the bed. Hannibal slipped from between his legs to lay be his side, stroking his fingers along his exposed belly, teasing the hair that he rather liked, even if he never admitted it. He liked the idea of a trail leading right to where he could make Will scream. “I have to go,” Will said, even though he pushed up into the touch, “There was a body, and Jack needs me.”

“Allow me to come with you,” Hannibal said, gently kissing the tender spot he had left on Will’s neck. “And don’t worry Will- there will be plenty of time.” His hand skimmed down, palmed him gently, and Will gasped, reaching to push Hannibal away and only pulling him closer.

“I should kill you,” he said with a breathy laugh, and Hannibal removed his hand, kissing Will quickly, wondering what it would be like if the man were to try.

*

It was about thirty minutes to the scene, and Will took the time to attempt to calm himself. He had fixed his shirt and tie, but, having no brought any other clothing with him, had no choice but to wear the suit. He wondered what sort of comments he’d get. He reached up to idly touch his neck, the red and purple showing just over the collar of his shirt. He’d have to have a talk with Hannibal about placement.

They pulled up to the apartment complex and Will nodded to the officers that directed him to the third floor. Hannibal followed him up, into the door that had an officer stationed outside, almost directly into Jack, who was pacing.

“There you are,” he grumbled, looking at Will, then noticing Hannibal. “And Dr. Lecter... what a surprise.” Hannibal gave him a nod, and Jack gestured towards a small bathroom. “It’s all you, Will.”

Will nodded, walking into the small room, not noticing Hannibal following, only to stop at the doorway and watch with inquisitive eyes. Will stared at the tub, everything quivering, and suddenly the man was in front of him, naked, staring down with dark, hungry eyes.

Will returned the gaze, hand running along his own thigh. “He believes he has the upper hand,” he said, “Because I am smaller. He wants me, mistakes my intrigue for desire. I take my knife,” he pulls it from his pocket, flicking it open, “and drag it along his neck without so much as a twitch of my mouth.” He did as he said, opening up the man’s neck o the blood became a water fall down his chest. Will kicked him back, so the man stumbled, falling into the tub, where he hopped in, crouching over the body. “He’s bleeding out and I let him. His canvas isn’t as nice as her’s was, so the color must hide the imperfections. But his bone structure.” Will runs his hands along the slick collar bone and shoulders, feeling the bone beneath. “It’s beauty, it should be exposed.”

He stabbed his knife in deep, dragging it down and began pulling and skin and muscle, cutting it away and leaving it in bloody hunks in the tub. “I’ll remove everything I don’t like, until he is perfect. I will show them I don’t have to work with perfection to create it.” He removed the flesh and muscles of both biceps, leaving slickened bone, and stabbed into his belly neck, digging in and pulling out his intestines, wrapping them around the man’s neck loosely, letting them hang as if they were a scarf. Finally, when done, he took his knife to the man’s eyes, popping them out, severing them, and enclosing them in his fists.

“His best qualities,” he whispered, almost lovingly, “His true beauty. That is my design.”

“Will.”

The voice snapped Will back into focus, and he blinked, felt Hannibal’s hands on his waist, trying to guide him back. He looked around, confused, realized his legs were pressed against the tub.

“I was worried you were going to climb in,” Hannibal whispered, and Will allowed him to be guided back out of the room. Jack was waiting, tapping his foot, arms folded.

“What did you see?”

Will pulled his glasses off, folding them and putting them in his pocket so he could pinch the bridge of his nose. His head was beginning to hurt. “He underestimated our killer, that’s how he got away with it. Must have thought he was getting laid or something.” He sighed. “But it’s the same killer. He’s moved on to a less perfect canvas- but now that he knows for sure he can still make art on that, he’ll kill again. And again...and soon.”

“We’ll have to act fast,” Jack said, “But you’re wrong on one thing, Will. He can’t make art. All I saw in there was slaughter.”

Will looked away, and Hannibal cataloged the look. Interesting.

“We need an ID on him and a list of his where abouts the past few days-“ Will was cut off when more people entered the small apartment, Beverly, and the new girl whose name he couldn’t recall and didn’t care to.

“Ah, agent Poole,” Jack said, “The body is in there. Beverly, you two do your examination, Will just finished.” Beverly nodded, shooting Will a look as the blonde pushed past her and made her way into the bathroom.

“Anyway,” Will said, trying to regain his train of thought, “He met the killer somewhere, recently. The killer knew Julie Cobb well before her death, but his victims now will be strangers.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“I just am.” Will turned away, muttering something about taking another look, and left Jack. Hannibal, still simply observing, stayed in the doorway. Will walked over to Beverly, who was snapping a photo. “He’s going to get bolder.”

“I don’t doubt it.” She tapped her fingers on the porcelain of the tub. “He’s not leaving you much to work with, is he?”

“He met this man recently,” Will said, and noticed Alyssa was watching out of the corner of her eye. “We need his ID, to figure out where he was. It might have even been tonight. My bet is a bar. He thought this was going to end far better for him.”

“Who is he?” Will looked up, followed Alyssa’s gaze to Hannibal, leaning in the doorway. “Civilians shouldn’t be in here at all.” Beverly opened her mouth to correct the girl, but Will held his hand up.

“This is Dr. Hannibal Lecter,” he said, standing up. Hannibal gave his charming smile and a slight nod of his head. “He has consulted with us on cases before. He’s a psychiatrist.”

“Then why isn’t he weighing in at all?” Will tightened his jaw, and looked at Hannibal, who approached.

“I was simply here t accompany Will,” he said, “Though, if you are interested in my opinion, I would agree, this man will become bolder. He sees his own talent and skill, and he will want someone to take notice.”

“He’ll get sloppy.”

“I disagree...” Hannibal trailed off and the girl folded her arms.

“Alyssa Poole.”

“I disagree, Ms. Poole. I don’t believe he will be any less careful.” He looked at the body, and Will watched those eyes, the way the irises expanded just a little. He wondered what Hannibal really saw, behind the film, in that brain of his. He wanted to prod, but this was quite obviously not the place. He was sure once he was away from the smell of blood his common sense would return and he wouldn’t want to know.

“So you agree with Graham?”

“I do.” Hannibal smiled, slipping an arm around Will’s waist, and Alyssa was frowning more. Beverly stood up, feeling the tension in the room.

“You two look nice,” she pointed out, “Did you have plans?”

“Will accompanied me to the theater,” Hannibal said with a genuine smile, one which Beverly returned. “It was a shame Jack had to call, it’s so rare we get a night to ourselves.” Will flushed at that, and Beverly caught the quick glance Hannibal gave him- the way his eyes slipped down him as if no one else was in the room. She bit back her laugh and turned away waving them off, sure she and the new girl could handle this.

Will nearly dragged Hannibal from the bathroom.

“What are you thinking?” he asked in a hushed, exasperated whisper.

“Is Agent Katz not your friend? I thought perhaps you’d find some amusement in someone else knowing about Jack’s poor timing.” Will sighed, raking a hand through his hair. He wanted nothing more than to lie down for a minute, his head going from a dull ache to a pound. Hannibal frowned after a moment and pulled him closer, keeping one arm around him and allowing Will to rest under his chin. Will would have thought to pull away, but if Hannibal was initiating it, he must not mind the public display, and gave in, closing his eyes and breathing in deep, sighing as Hannibal’s warm sent washed over him, erasing the scent of blood and open flesh.

Will felt Hannibal tense a little and peeked out, saw Jack was watching them, frowning. Will slipped a hand under Hannibal’s jacket, clutching at his shirt in their loose embrace, allowing himself to be held for another moment before he broke away and walked over to Jack.

*

By the time they were finally able to leave, Will was exhausted. He watched Hannibal as they descended the stairs, and though he looked about the same, he could see it around his eyes as well. They walked out onto the dark sidewalk, passing by an officer, and Will shoved his hands in his pockets.

“Please tell me you’re going to let me sleep in tomorrow,” Will said, smiling.

“Are you spending the night with Dr. Lecter, Mr. Graham?” Will froze, recognizing that voice, and gritted his teeth before turning. Freddie Lounds stood against the police tape, giving him her calculated smile. “Is it really that long of a drive to return home?”

“None of your business,” Will said, “It’s a little late for the rats to be out, you know.” He felt Hannibal grab his arm, squeeze him gently where Freddie couldn’t see- a silent reminder to not lose his temper.

“Is this the same killer the struck just recently and killed that sweet young girl?”

“Yes,” Will said, “And that’s all you’re getting out of me. Wait for Jack for all I care.” He waved his hand at her and turned, lacing his hand in Hannibal’s for the sake of making sure he didn’t turn around and threaten the woman. He had been blessed to have no heard from her in some time- he was hoping she may have dropped off the face of planet.

“You mustn’t lose your temper with Ms. Lounds,” Hannibal reminded him as they climbed into his car. “Remember what happened the last time you did that?”

“Yeah, she ran an article that made me look like a serial killer. Nothing new there.” He let his head fall back as Hannibal drove off, his body feeling as if it was being weighed painfully down. “So much for our night. I’m sorry.”

“No apology necessary,” Hannibal said, “You have a job to do- sadly we are simply at the beck and call of Jack Crawford.” He reached over, gently patted Will’s thigh. “There will be another time. Unless you feel up to it now.”

Will didn’t even open his eyes. “I have a headache,” he said, and then began laughing. Hannibal laughed as well, and Will felt a little better about the night as he grabbed Hannibal’s hand, had his own squeezed reassuringly.

Chapter Text

Will heard the sound of a door opening and shifted, mumbling something as he rolled onto his belly and stretched out, reaching out to Hannibal’s side of the bed and finding it empty.

“What time is it?” he muttered into the pillow. He felt the bed dip, knew Hannibal had sat down next to him, and heard the sound of glass being settled on the bedside table.

“Well after nine o’clock.” The blanket had pooled down around Will’s hips, and Hannibal stroked a warm hand along his spine. Will gave him a little pleased sound, shifting closer to him until he could feel him sitting there.

“And Sunday,” Will reminded him, “So how about coming back to bed?” He rolled over, onto his back, naked except for his underwear, and gave Hannibal a lazy smile. “I’m still in a cuddling mood.”

Hannibal laughed at that, taking a sip of the coffee he was holding. “You are tempting, Will, but sadly I have to decline.” He leaned down, kissing the man along his collar bone, catching a glimpse of the man’s eyelids fluttering shut. “Also, you have a visitor waiting downstairs.”

“What?” Will’s eyes opened and he sat up, just as Hannibal stood up. “Dammit, who is it?” He stood up, looked down, and frowned. He couldn’t go anywhere in just his underwear.

Hannibal had disappeared into his large, walk in closet, and appeared a moment later, a robe draped over his arm, similar to his own but in a dark, emerald green instead. Will raised an eyebrow, as if asking if Hannibal really wanted Will to wear anything of his.

“If you’d rather go as you are,” Hannibal offered, and Will took it before he could finish. “Drink your coffee, it will help you wake up.” He was chuckling softly as he left, and Will wanted to smack him for it.

He made his way down the stairs a minute later, coffee in one hand- half gone already- sans glasses, and realizing the moment he saw Beverly waiting and her eyes go large, he probably painted an inaccurate picture.

“I hope I’m not interrupting,” she said, but the smile on her face told Will she hoped she’d at least caught the tail end of something.

“Only my beauty sleep,” Will said, shoving a hand into the pocket of the robe. “So, care to tell me why you’re hunting me down on a Sunday morning?” He leaned against the banister, his hair tussled and a lazy smile on his face- simply because Beverly was hard to frown at- the robe giving a decent v-cut against his chest.

Beverly ignored his question, raising her eyebrows. “This is a good look for you, Will.”

“Why?”

“Because- and I can’t believe I’m going to say this,” she pointed out, folding her arms, “But you’re kind of sexy.”

Will gawked at her, convinced he hadn’t heard her correctly, and heard Hannibal chuckling as he reentered the room. He handed Beverly a cup of coffee which she accepted graciously.

“Will, I can’t have you seducing everyone that walks into my home,” he teased, leaning up to peck his lips. Will smiled, shot a glance at Beverly, before leaning into the kiss, extending it a bit longer than Hannibal had planned. When he did break away, he took a sip of his coffee and didn’t even need to look at Beverly’s face, just let a smug little smile cross his own as Hannibal turned to Beverly, asking, “So, Agent Katz, what brings you to my home this morning? I fear it may have been terribly rude of me, I hope the matter isn’t urgent.”

“Jack wants Will in the lab,” she said, looking a little sad. “Sorry to come and ruin your day off, Will, but it’s urgent.”

“He made you drive all the way out here for that? He could have called.” Will was frowning, his mood suddenly soured.

“He said he did,” Beverly offered with a shrug, “You didn’t answer.”

Will hesitated, then turned, heading back up the stairs. Hannibal gave Beverly a pleasant smile and a casual shrug, sipping his own coffee as they heard Will rummaging around, cursing to himself rather loudly.

“He’s not a morning person, is he?” Beverly asked, and Hannibal laughed.

“Very perceptive of you, Agent Katz.” Will reappeared a minute later, looking at his phone, his cheeks flushed ever so lightly.

“I must’ve slept through it,” he muttered. “But still, he didn’t need to make you drive all the way out here.”

“We’ve got footage from the bar the victim was at before his murder,” she said, looking grim, “And Jack wants it analyzed now. He doesn’t want it to wait.”

Will sighed, shaking his head, and felt Hannibal’s hand press to his lower back. “It’s alright Will,” he said, and Will couldn’t argue.

*

Will made Beverly agree to one condition- she’d detour and stop at his house on the long drive, so he could change. She conceded and called Jack after Will had redressed in his clothes from the other day, and stood in the doorway, giving Hannibal a far more passionate good-bye kiss than she would have expected.

“I feel like Jack ruined what would have been a really good day for you,” she said, and Will folded his arms.

“You have no idea.” She wanted to laugh, but didn’t, instead simply changed the subject,

“So you don’t have clothes at Hannibal’s house?”

“No,” Will said, raising an eyebrow. “Why? Should I?”

“Well...yeah, probably.” Beverly shot him a quick glance. “I mean that’s pretty normal for couples, especially if you’re crashing at his place.”

“I don’t normally,” Will responded, reaching up to rub his jaw, “We just finally had the chance to spend some time together. And I...forgot to bring anything. I was too distracted trying to make sure I looked...decent.”

“Must suck, not seeing him that much.” She glanced at Will, who slumped into the seat, muttering you have no idea under his breath.

*

When they finally made it back to the lab, Will was freshly dressed, and still silently seething at Jack- even if he was just as eager to catch this serial killer. He didn’t like stepping into his head space- it was sinking too far under his skin, but he didn’t know how to stop it.

Will sat with Beverly as she took over from Jack, oddly irritated that Alyssa had already been sitting with him, going through the footage. She had irked him the other night, and he had not forgotten.

“Here,” she said, pointing as their victim walked into the bar. “His name is Josh Logan.”

“Is this the only angle we’ve got?” Will asked, looking at Beverly and not the blonde.

“Yeah,” Beverly said, “The bar’s not a big place, but it’s pretty popular. They can only afford one- and lucky for us, they haven’t had it long. We could’ve been shit out of luck.” She pointed as Josh stopped at the bar, got a drink, and started chatting with a gentleman. She paused the footage to take a screenshot and have it printed, before allowing it to play again.

“We’ll need a shot of every person he speaks with,” Jack said, and Beverly only nodded. Will watched in silence, trying to memorize the little twitches, the movements, to see if they changed for anyone. Nothing seemed very distinct, though- and that was frustrating.

“The Cobbs should look at these,” Will said as Beverly gathered up the images.

“Yes, good,” Jack agreed, “Alyssa, take Will and go drive out and see the family. I’ll call ahead for you. Beverly, let’s go take a look at the body again.” Jack went to walk away and Will stood up, following him into the hallway.

“Let Beverly go with me,” he said, and Jack stopped, turning on his heel to look at him.

“Did I stutter Will? Beverly is coming with me, you’ve got company for this trip.”

“Yeah well, company I don’t want.” He folded his arms, fighting the urge to back away from Jack’s split-second rageful gaze.

“Too bad,” he retorted, “You’re taking Alyssa. Frankly, she’s not so fond of you, either. So maybe it will be a good exercise for the two of you.”

“You ruined my fucking weekend,” Will said, angry as well, pointing at Jack now, “The least you could do is give me a little say in how I’m forced to spend the tattered remains of it.”

“If you want to run back to Dr. Lecter than do it!” Jack was yelling now, his voice booming through the halls. “But if you want to do something useful with yourself, you’ll man up and do as I just said.”

“You don’t approve, do you?” Will asked, clicking his jaw in aggravation. “Oh Hannibal and I. You enjoy pulling me away from him.”

“I don’t want to see you getting sloppy,” he retorted, “And Dr. Lecter seemed to keep you focused as your psychiatrist- but as this,” he waved his hand almost violently, “I’m not so sure. I can’t afford you to mess up Will.”

“Um, are we going?” Will turned around, saw Agent Poole twirling her keys around her finger, waiting expectantly, holding a file under her other arm. Will shot one more angry glance at Jack, then turned and followed her, making a mental note to have a serious discussion with Jack about this. Soon.

Will held the file in his lap while Alyssa drove, and had thought there might be some silence for the long ride. However, after about twenty minutes, she sighed. “So want to tell me why you don’t like me?”

“Perhaps you should go first.”

“You’re unstable,” she said, not even bothering to look at him, “I heard the rumors but I thought people had to be exaggerating. I guess they weren’t. You’ve got no right on crime scenes- let alone being armed. It’s a little scary.” Will tilted his head a little, not completely disagreeing with her. “And so far, I don’t know how much your method really works.”

“You will,” he whispered, looking out the window.

“Now you- what did I do to piss you off?”

“I just don’t need new faces,” Will said, “Or Jack no longer having faith in me.”

“He doesn’t like that you didn’t catch the last one.” Will nodded, though it wasn’t a question. Everyone knew- or thought they knew. “He wants me to look over it, and take it on actively once this case is closed.”

Will kept from fidgeting, and told himself that it wouldn’t matter who had the case, no one would ever know it was Hannibal, because the man had been flawless. He’d left not a clue, only Will’s subconscious had given him any chance of deciphering the truth.

“You can have it,” Will said, “But I wasn’t done. I didn’t care for you before, but I didn’t dislike you. You were just.” Will hesitated, folded his hands because he needed something to do and this was far more conversation than he was ready for, let alone wanted. “You were just another person that I might potentially have to socialize with.” Alyssa gave him a small shrug.

“You’re really that bad with people?”

Will wasn’t looking at her when he muttered, “Do you need to ask?” He paused a moment, staring out the window. “What made me dislike you was your treatment of Hannibal. He’s not a man you should be rude to.”

Alyssa was quiet for a moment, and Will wondered if his voice had betrayed his thoughts for a moment- of Hannibal carving the girl up with that deliciously dark smile only Will got to see. His stomach tightened uncomfortably, and he wasn’t sure if he was feeling sick or oddly hot.

“I didn’t know he had worked with the FBI before,” she reasoned, “And he was just watching you.”

“He does that,” Will admitted, “And I’m glad for it.”

“So you’re...together? Neither of you seem the type.” Will tapped his fingers against his thigh, had no explanation for his attraction to Hannibal other than it was there, that he loved his mind- even if there was plenty of blacken territory he had yet to truly experience, he was sure- loved everything about him-

Though he’d never actually admitted it.

*

The Cobbs answered the door and asked them inside, offering coffee again. Will declined, but Alyssa accepted, smiling warmly as the mug was handed to her.

“We’re sorry to bother you,” she said, taking the file from Will, “But we need your help with something. We believe the man that murdered your daughter killed a man just last night, and we need you to look at a few photographs and tell us if you recognize any of these men.” They nodded as Alyssa opened the folder and left it in front of them to thumb through the images. “Even if he may not have known your daughter well, any recognition will help.”

Will watched their faces as they looked over the grainy photos thoroughly. He could see in their eyes that they wanted to recognize someone, but there simple was no knowledge. He drummed his fingers on his thigh as they set the last photo down, shaking their heads.

“We’re sorry,” Mrs. Cobb whispered, “But we don’t recognize any of these men. Julie didn’t have many friends, she was a very quiet girl. Perhaps one of them was a client. The girls at her salon might know.”

Will pulled the folder back, nodding his quiet thanks. “Thank you,” Alyssa said, standing up, “We’ll check there next.”

“Please find him,” Mr. Cobb said, looking up with tired, sad eyes. “Find the man that ruined my little girl.”

He dind’t ruin her- he made her even more beautiful. Will looked away and bit his tongue until he tasted blood. It barely sounded like his own voice inside his head- and he didn’t like that.

*

The trip across the town to the salon Julie had worked at proved futile as well. They were no closer than they had been when they made the long drive over. Frustrated, they sat in silence for the trip- a silence Will didn’t dislike, but one that was born of the pain of having nothing to show for their work.

Will had Alyssa detour and drop him off home- he had no reason to return to the lab now. The footage would wait, he could look at it on his own. He needed to be away from that place- from Jack.

He was greeted by his pack at the door, and held it open for them to come bursting out of the house to romp around the yard. He sat down on the porch, watching them, falling back into his thoughts- more pleasant, light thoughts, for once.

He wondered if Beverly had had a point, that it was weird he didn’t keep anything at Hannibal’s. Truth be told, if it wasn’t for his dogs, he’d probably spend even more time there. It would be nice to have a change of clothes there, at least, in case there ever was an impromptu stay-

Will was jerked back to reality by a vibration in his pocket. He pulled his cell phone out, saw Hannibal’s name, and smiled the kind of smile he had only for the older man. “Hello?” he said, leaning back and almost laughing as two of the dogs picked up a giant stick and started running with it.

“Are you still at the lab?”

“No, Jack sent me with the new girl back to see the first victim’s parents. It was a dead end, so I had her just leave me at the house. I can’t deal with Jack anymore today.” He ran his fingers along the wood of the porch, wondering where Hannibal was in his house at that moment. He liked trying to imagine where he wa,s how he was sitting, without the man telling him- liked to think that maybe he was inside his head a little too.

“You may want to check Tattle Crimes,” he said, sounding almost pained, “Ms. Lounds has written a rather...peculiar article.” Will didn’t move for a minute, feeling the energy drain out of him. With a sigh and a series of small groans he pushed himself up, holding the phone away and giving a sharp whistle. The dogs came running as Will held the door open, and Hannibal could hear their paws and the clink of their tags.

Will opened his laptop and flopped onto the couch, holding his phone back up and typing with one hand. “How angry am I going to be, Hannibal?”

“That depends,” the man said, oddly cautiously. Will thought it strange- and not a good sign. He opened the site, gritting his teeth out of habit, and read the headline to himself, before nearly dropping his phone.

“She fucking didn’t.” He stared at the headline, A Breach of Professionalism, before scrolling down. Freddie had made his relationship with Hannibal the star of the article, filled with comments about how unorthodox it was for Hannibal to breach the lines of doctor-patient relationship, and how unprofessional for the FBI to allow someone as unstable as Will Graham to not only indulge in such a relationship, but to bring his lover to fresh crime scenes. “I could kill her,” Will gritted out, balling up a fist, and Hannibal contemplated how true those words were. Truer than Will would like to admit, he was sure.

Will leaned back, raking a hand over his face. Hannibal was quiet, but he had no doubt the other man was there, waiting. Honestly, Will wasn’t sure he cared all that much what it said about himself- at this point, the world’s views of him were so skewed this could barely do any more damage- but he cared about Hannibal, about what this said of him. He didn’t want him to acquire a bad reputation. “I’m so sorry,” he finally said, “We can deny the whole thing. I know there are rumors around the lab- oh god, we really don’t help put them to rest- but we can still deny it. Say she’s just reaching for strings-“

“Will.” Hannibal’s voice broke through his own, and Will snapped his mouth shut quickly. “We can’t run from this.”

“We can-“

“Perhaps I do not want to.” Will turned away from his laptop and curled up on himself. “Are you...ashamed of our relationship, Will?”

Will could tell Hannibal had rolled the word ashamed over in his head a few times. “No,” Will whispered, shaking his head even thought Hannibal couldn’t see the action. “No, I’m not. But I’m worried about what people will say about you-“

“I am quite capable of handling rumors myself, Will.” There was something dark to his voice, something that made Will curl up tighter and picture Ms. Lound’s hair a darker shade of red, matted with blood.

“Hannibal,” he pleaded, “Promise me...” He trailed off. Promise him what? That he’d be a good little serial killer and keep his hands to himself? Will wasn’t honestly sure he wanted to ask that of him- and that scared him, made his head begin to throb. He pushed himself up and padded to the kitchen on a hunt for aspirin.

“It will be no trouble to explain to anyone curious enough to ask that you were never truly my patient. You were simply...my friend.” Will leaned against the counter, rolled the aspirin bottle he had found in his hand. He liked the sound of that word rolling off Hannibal’s tongue.

“I’m still your friend,” Will pointed out, thinking that sometimes this was just some twisted sort of obsessive friendship- until Hannibal brushed his thigh a certain way, or he caught a glimpse of something burning in those eyes.

Hannibal chuckled, and Will shivered. “I believe the term lover is more appropriate.” Will liked the sound of that word on his tongue even more. He didn’t respond, managed to get the top off the bottle and popped a few aspirins into his mouth, turning on the tap and tilting his head to get a mouthful. “Are your headaches returning, Will?”

“Yes,” he admitted. “Stress...right?” Hannibal was quiet, and Will sucked his lower lip into his mouth. “...Could I be sick again, Hannibal?” He sounded suddenly broken, and Will heard in the slight rush of Hannibal’s response that he had definitely noticed.

“Have you lost time?” Will shook his head.

“No.”

“Hallucinated?” Will thought on it.

“No,” but he answered tentative. “Only dreams. Sometimes when I wake up I’m a bit disoriented, but I remember I was dreaming within a few minutes.”

“Perhaps you need to discuss these dreams,” Hannibal offered, and when he didn’t continue to the actual question, Will’s stomach dropped.

“Not with that idiot,” he said, louder than he meant, and Hannibal offered no immediate response.

*

“So how is your case, Mr. Graham?” Dr. Barker leaned back, his expensive, blue suit bringing out those haunting eyes that Will hated. They stared into him too much, like they might peel a layer of flesh away. He only liked that when it was Hannibal’s eyes that undressed him to the bone.

“Not well,” he admitted. In the back of his mind he wondered what it would be like to tell this man that he dreamed of gutting this girl and that it was beautiful. He wondered if the man would be disturbed enough ot pass him off to someone else- and maybe Will could end this madness. He missed his Friday evening sessions with Hannibal. Sure, there was always that undertone that they knew he wasn’t there was a patient, or even just a friend at this point- but he could pick at Hannibal’s beautiful mind for the answers his own stumbled over and couldn’t see in the dark of his skull.

But he wasn’t sure he could tell Hannibal these dreams, either. He wasn’t sure he could tell anyone and feel sane. As much as part of him wanted to imagine being entangled with his lover- that word felt foreign but beautiful in his mind- while he mouthed the dark fantasies into his skin, while Hannibal tangled skilled fingers in his hair and encouraged him, made promises that involved blood on his tongue and that dark creature Will had seen once leaping from his skin and sucking Will into it’s maelstrom.

“I read the article about you and Hannibal.” Will snapped back to reality, stared at the man. “That Freddie Lounds wrote.”

“Didn’t take you for a Tattle Crime fan.” Dr. Barker chuckled.

“I’m not, but I make it a point to read up on things that may involve my patients- and I know she is often at your scenes. How did it make you feel?”

“Like my privacy had been completely fucked over.” Will stood up, needing to pace. “Like I’d dragged Hannibal into a disaster.”

“How so?”

“Now he has to try to explain...everything to people. That I wasn’t his patient, and whatever...this is.”

“It’s a relationship, isn’t it, Will?” Will hesitated, because that word was too simple for everything Hannibal was to him. He could feel that man’s fingers in his brain, prodding, spreading and folding and he wondered if that monster had gotten inside him. Will nodded, walked along the far wall with his hands in his pockets. “What scares you most about this, Will?”

“That Hannibal will lose his patients,” Will offered, and knew it was a lie. Dr. Barker didn’t seem to believe it either, and tapped his pen, watching Will expectantly. Will sighed. “That Hannibal will decide I’m more trouble than I’m worth.” He returned to his chair, slumped down. Dr. Barker wrote a note to himself, before looking at Will, attempting eye contact.

“How often are you and Hannibal intimate?” Will snapped his head up.

“Uh...why does that-“

“Just a simple question,” he offered, but Will didn’t like it.

“We’re...not,” he admitted, thinking back to Hannibal sliding along his body, so close but pulled away at the last moment. “We’re really busy. It just doesn’t happen.”

“Have you ever been?”

“Yes.” There was blood behind Will’s skull, and his face pressed into the carpet, and a monster fucking him nearly senseless- his breath caught and he fought to not show it.

“Perhaps your fear comes from your lack of intimacy,” he pointed out, and Will could see his point in that. He relaxed a little before the psychiatrist continued. “Do you feel pent up, Will?”

The relaxation was gone. Will tensed. “Why?”

“Simple question,” he offered again, as if that could be a valid reasoning for anything. Will didn’t want to talk about it.

“...Yes,” he said hesitantly, “But I don’t want to discuss it.” Dr. Barker gave him a nod, making another note, and Will missed the flick of his blue eyes over him quickly. All he was conscious to was that the discussion had reminded him just how badly he missed the feeling of Hannibal’s skin, his mouth and hands and that at that moment, whether it was the man or the monster, Will would have accepted either.

Chapter Text

Will tossed in his bed that evening, staring at the clock. It was nearing midnight, he’d been laying there for a good twenty minutes, ignoring the odd burning under his skin, the feeling he couldn’t shake once he left his session, with images of Hannibal in his glory behind his eyelids. He thought hearing his voice might have helped, but he remembered he had patients late that evening, and had been oddly scared to call him, afraid maybe he’d sound desperate, frantic.

Which he was.

He reached for his phone on his nightstand, next to his glasses, and grasped it, tugging it closer. He found Hannibal’s name and called him, curling up on himself and knowing he’d never sleep unless he at least spoke to him for a few minutes.

The phone rang three times, and for a moment Will thought he wouldn’t answer- maybe he was sleeping, maybe he didn’t feel like speaking to Will this late. On the fourth ring though, he heard Hannibal say in his ever smooth voice, “Hello Will.”

“Hi,” Will said, tentatively, before asking, “Did I wake you?”

“Not at all.” Will waited for a moment, curious if Hannibal would offer up what he had been doing. “What is on your mind?” No, he wouldn’t.

“I missed you,” Will admitted, stretching out on his stomach, “I was reminded of that during my...session.”

“How is Dr. Barker?” Will scowled.

“Can we talk about you and not him?” Hannibal chuckled, and Will wished he could see the what it lit his face up, feel the way it rumbled in his chest.

“And what of me, dear Will?” Will shivered, squirming against his mattress, realizing just hearing Hannibal’s voice was making him start to ache.

“I want to see you,” Will admitted, hoping his voice might hint to Hannibal just what he really wanted. Hannibal was quiet for a moment, and Will kept going because he felt like his tongue couldn’t stop. “We have things to make up for.”

“Oh?” Hannibal sounded amused, “And what things are those, Will?” His voice was light, playful, and Will realized every time Hannibal said his name his cock throbbed. Fuck. His cheeks were flushed as he wondered if he could for his tongue to actually admit to them, if Hannibal would actually want to hear it. He squirmed again, effectively grinding into his mattress, and must have sucked in a breath because Hannibal suddenly asked, “What are you doing, Will?”

“N-nothing,” Will stammered out, forcing himself to roll on his back. “Just trying to get comfortable.” He laid his free hand on his belly, against the bare flesh where his t-shirt had been shoved up. He wished it was Hannibal’s hand. He tapped his fingers, trying to remember to breathe normally.

“You never answered my question, Will,” he pointed out, and Will’s hand went flat, slipped lower, teasing the trail of hair that disappeared into his underwear. His finger tips slipped under the waistband, hesitated.

“I need you,” Will whimpered, his hand pushing further down, brushing along his hardened cock. “Fuck, Hannibal, we need to make up for what Jack interrupted.” He grasped himself, stroked once, body arching as his breath came out a low groan. Will stroked again, feeling delirious, until Hannibal’s voice broke through to him.

“Will,” he said, sounding far too calm, and Will stopped, thought it hurt. “Self control is a virtue.” Will could hear the laugh in his voice, and he frowned, hating him for it.

“Fine,” he said, though his body screamed at him that it was not fine. “You’re killing me, I hope you know.”

“Sleep will help you, Will.” The younger man groaned.

“I can’t sleep,” he nearly whimpered, “Will you at least talk to me, Hannibal? About anything, I don’t even care. You could read the back of your shampoo bottle, and I’d be happy.”

Will was worried the man would hang up, but then he spoke, rather softly, about the book he had been reading, and Will relaxed.

*

Will smelled it before anything, that warm, rich scent that clung to Hannibal’s skin like Will wished he could. He smelled it and was sure he was dreaming and buried his face deeper into his pillow, his phone having fallen off the bed as he had drifted into sleep, with Hannibal’s voice the backdrop. When the bed dipped a little he thought it was in his head, until he felt familiar lips press to the back of his neck. Will made a little sound and turned his head, caught the dark shadow of Hannibal leaning over him.

“Hannibal?” he asked, still half asleep- mentally, still sure he was completely asleep. “What...am I dreaming?” He felt that mouth on his neck, then his teeth nibbling on his ear lobe. He managed to roll over, staring up, starting to think he was awake. Hannibal was sitting on the edge of his bed- still in his coat, looking entirely perfect and himself. Will looked at the clock, saw it was two AM, and sat up. “Did you drive out here in the middle of the night?”

Hannibal didn’t respond, just reached for Will, pulling him into his arms and kissing him. Will melted instantly, clutching at his coat as the fire that Hannibal’s soothing voice earlier had calmed came back, and he wanted to strip right out of his skin. Hannibal was kissing him with all teeth and tongue and dominating lips, and it was making his stomach tighten, fluttery, his fingers twitching to find skin. He pushed at the coat until Hannibal had it off and, rather unlike himself, tossed it away to the floor. He grabbed Will’s t-shirt and nearly tore it up over his head, throwing it aside as well and finding the skin of his collarbone, kissing and sucking while Will writhed around, crying out in frustration because there were no buttons for him to access, Hannibal’s shirt locked away under his sweater, under his jacket.

“Too much...clothing,” Will managed out as Hannibal reached between his thighs and grasped him through his underwear, finding the erection Will had suppressed earlier back with a fervor. Will tossed his head back, thrusting his hips at Hannibal, whining and so sure he might cum if Hannibal kept this up. He reached for his arms and grasped onto them, shaking his head, unable to speak, and Hannibal pulled away, long enough to toss his jacket off and tug his sweater over his head. Will squirmed, nearly throwing himself on him as he attacked the buttons of his shirt, popping one off when he couldn’t work it fast enough.

His brain had stopped thinking, stopped doing everything except telling him that Hannibal had to be naked, that they had to be skin to skin or Will simply might die. When his shirt was open Will went for his chest, kissing and licking every bit of skin he could get- his brain telling him through the haze that he needed Hannibal was absolutely broken as he was. Hannibal ran a hand through his hair, tightening and tugging so much Will cried out and was jerked back, his cock twitching.

Hannibal rolled him over so he was on his belly and grabbed his underwear, yanking them down and off his legs. Will arched up, pushing himself up on his elbows as Hannibal grabbed his ass. “Hannibal, wha-“ he started, and felt Hannibal parting the flesh, and his breath on his entrance for a split second, before his hot tongue was pressing against it, tracing the tight ring of muscles. Will cried out loudly, almost jerking away, but Hannibal’s bruising grip on his ass and hips kept him in place. Will worried his lower lip, tossing his head, not sure what he was feeling and if he liked it or not. “Han-Hannibal,” he gasped, dropping his head down as that tongue pushed into him, and making his decision that he definitely liked it.

His forehead pressed to the mattress as he gasped for breath, crying out when Hannibal’s tongue left him, but pleased when he heard the man get up for a split second, heard his nightstand being opened. He lifted his head, grinning to himself without realizing it, and closed his eyes as one slick finger breached his body. He felt Hannibal’s other hand on his lower back, firm and warm, a tender touch that stood out against the desperate caresses they’d had thus far. Will arched up, silently ready for more, and Hannibal seemed to be inside his mind, pushing his second finger inside him and opening him up. Will made soft, pleased sounds with each stretch, gasping when Hannibal’s fingers just brushed that sweet spot inside him.

Another night, and Will was sure he would have liked to go slow, to let Hannibal torment him, make him cum simply with those fingers. But he’d waited too long, wanted too much, and he couldn’t handle it. He pulled away, turning around and leaning into Hannibal’s lap, opening his pants before the older man could even speak, and taking him into his mouth. Will swallowed him down as far as he could, felt Hannibal simultaneously pushing up into his mouth and leaning over slightly, pulling him closer, pushing his fingers back into him. The angle felt a bit awkward, but it was better than the void of having nothing inside him, and Will moaned around Hannibal’s cock, loving the weight of the hard, heavy organ against his tongue, the taste it left in the back of his throat.

Hannibal’s other hand was in his hair, stroking and teasing- loving despite the fact that Will could feel something in his fingertips, a sort of twitch, an energy- a need to tug and bruise and take. That monster under his skin.

“Will.” Will moaned at the sound of his name, pulling back because that was what Hannibal wanted. The untangled and Will flopped back onto the mattress, watching as Hannibal stood to strip of the last of his clothing, before he stroked himself a few times over with the lube- a sight Will watched hungrily, something he suddenly craved to see that hadn’t crossed his mind before- and then he was between Will’s thighs, one hand on Will’s waist, the other steadying himself as he eased in. Will tipped his head back, eyes rolling as he was stretched so sweetly, as Hannibal finally filled the void he’d left after their last fuck.

He grasped as the sheets with Hannibal’s first real thrust, his toes curling as both the man’s hands went to his waist, held him steady. Head still tipped back, he shouldn’t see, but he could hear Hannibal breathing, hear the low grunts he was letting escape. He pulled his head back up, took in the way his bangs were falling over his forehead, the look in those dark eyes, and lifted his legs, wrapping them around his waist, exactly how he’d wanted to their first night together, when his injury hadn’t healed.

The movement pulled Hannibal in deeper and Will cried out, grabbing one of his arms and pulling him down violently on top of him. Hannibal caught himself, but lay chest to chest, taking advantage of the situation and seeking out Will’s mouth, kissing him sweetly. Will wrapped his arms around Hannibal’s neck, accepting the kiss as he tightened his hold with his legs. Each thrust found Will’s sweet spot expertly, and he was delirious and so far gone already that the friction of his cock pressed between their bodies was more than enough.

“-Close,” he managed to make audible against Hannibal’s lips, and his lover pulled back, thrusting faster. Will clutched onto his arms, seeing stars with each thrust, each impact, and heard Hannibal speaking to him.

“-name,” he caught, and looked up at him, dizzy. “Say my name,” he repeated, seeing the lost, euphoric look in Will’s eyes, and the brunette smiled.

“Hannibal,” he gasped, arching up so his cock would brush Hannibal’s body. He let go of one of Hannibal’s arms, reaching down to touch himself, stroking in time with each thrust. He kept whispering it, over and over again, Hannibal, louder and louder until Hannibal pushed inside and gasped his name, and Will felt the heat of his orgasm. He cried out, letting himself go then, his own orgasm overtaking his lover’s and drawing it out as his belly and chest were splashed in hot streams of white.

Will didn’t unwrap his legs from Hannibal, but kept a firm hold so the man couldn’t escape and was forced down against the contours of his body, pressing against and fitting into Will so sweetly. Will wrapped his arms around him again, kissing at his jaw, realized he was shaking and wondered if Hannibal noticed.

The kiss he got when the man turned his head told him he did. It was deep, yet slow, delving, but not searching, simply a movement of lips that told Will Hannibal knew him well enough to bring him down safely from his orgasmic high. Hannibal leaned his forehead against Will’s, smiling, and Will grinned back, slowly unwrapping his legs so Hannibal close slip to the bed next to him. Will slopped back completely, staring up at the ceiling for a minute, before he finally found the strength to make his tongue for words.

“You never answered me,” he said, “Did you drive out here in the middle of the night, or was that simply the best dream of my life?” Hannibal laughed, tossing an arm over Will possessively, but tenderly.

“You are awake,” he said, nuzzling his shoulder. Will nodded, sighing happily.

“So you drove over an hour in the dead of night just to surprise me with mind blowing sex?” He grinned. “You’ve out done yourself baby.” The words tumbled out of his mouth before he could stop himself, and he blushed, wondering if Hannibal would scold him for sounding like he was some love struck child. But the arm around him tightened and he felt Hannibal’s mouth on his shoulder, his lips pulled into a smile.

Will thought that one smile might have been the best part of the night.

*

Fuck!” he cried, shoving his hips back toughly against Hannibal, pupils blown as he gasped for breath from the vicious assault. Hannibal’s thrusts were violent, but filling, and Will craved each and every one.

His hand slipped on the wood floor he was kneeling on, sending him down into the wet mess on the floor and angling his hips up higher. Hs smeared the sticky, red liquid along his jaw and cheek, gasping and getting some in his mouth. It was metallic, salty-

And still warm.

Will reached out, clawed at the open cavity of a body in front of him, hands sinking into tissue, warm and slick and lovely. Hannibal leaned over him, sank a hand into his hair and jerked him up to whisper in his ear, “Beauty,” and Will was moaning, so close to orgasm, and Hannibal’s tongue was lapping at the blood on his jawline, and Will knew his hands were just as bloody-

Will’s eyes opened with a start and he gasped. He looked at his clock- it was a few minutes to seven, and he reached to hit the alarm to keep it from going off. He tilted his head back, telling himself it was just a dream-

And then Hannibal was pulling him over against his chest, and he was reminded that part of the night hadn’t been. He squirmed a little, aware that, as per usual with his nightmares, he had a decent film of sweat clinging to him- along with the remnants of their early morning activities- and was sure Hannibal wouldn’t want any of that. But the psychiatrist held him firm, kissing at the back of his neck and mumbling something in his half sleeping state, before he was fully roused by the delicious feeling of Will’s naked body curls back up against his.

“Did you have a nightmare?” he asked, running a hand along Will’s side, and Will nodded. “Tell me about it.”

“Isn’t it too early for that?” Will asked, “And how do you wake up and suddenly just become Dr. Lecter.”

“Who would you have me be, Will?” Will shrugged.

“A handsome, naked, half asleep man who might be interested in jumping in the shower with me?” Hannibal chuckled into his skin, and Will found his hand, entwining their fingers.

*

The shower took longer than Will had planned on- and while his will was weak, he wasn’t to blame when Hannibal had wrapped an arm around his waist and stroked him into an earth shattering orgasm that had his knees nearly buckling. He was behind schedule, fixing his glasses as he opened the front door and let the dogs out. He made his way out as well, to Hannibal’s care, and opened the front door, grabbing the small over night bag that had been left there. He walked back inside, trusting the dogs to behave, and made his way upstairs to his room, where he found Hannibal- gods be damned, absolutely naked- drying his hair.

“At least you thought ahead,” Will said, leaning against the door frame to openly stare. “But tell me- the door was locked still this morning. How the hell did you get in?”

Hannibal smiled- his playful smile, and walked over, taking the back from Will and kissing the corner of his mouth.

“Would I be any fun without my secrets, dear Will?” Will sighed.

“You’d make my life so much easier,” he admitted, watching Hannibal walked to bed and unpack his clothing. “I mean, the only option would be the windows-“ He stopped, Hannibal ignoring him, but he didn’t need him to acknowledge it. “You climbed through a window, didn’t you?” The psychiatrist chuckled, and Will waited until he’d finished fastening his pants before he walked over and slipped his arms around his waist. “God, remind me to stay on your good side. You’re too sly for me to handle otherwise.”

*

Hannibal watched as Will made sure each dog was accounted for, fed, and made coffee, all seemingly at the same, chaotic time. While the coffee- Will assured him- was going to taste awful compared to what he drank, Hannibal was in no mind to turn it down. He felt rather alive in that moment, Wills cries fresh in his ears, and there was something so lovely about watching Will bustle about in his morning routine- but he knew he would be feeling the fatigue come the afternoon, when his patients filtered in. When he would need some burst to keep him awake. Anything he could take now that would help, he was alright with.

He was turning Will’s words over in his head when the man handed him a mug, slipping past him to gather up a few papers he had left all over his couch. His mind seemed to be in three places at once, and Hannibal would have liked to know each and every corner of those places.

“Tell me about your nightmare,” he asked again, sipping at the coffee. It could have been worse, but he would definitely need to get the taste out of his mouth.

“Some other time,” Will tried to reason, but Hannibal shook his head. Will sighed. “It was just a dream,” he offered, before starting, and the early excuse only peeked Hannibal’s interest more. “You...We...” He sighed, flustered, and Hannibal saw the first phase of a war in his beautifully stormy eyes. “You were fucking me.” He settled on the bluntest statement he could, and something about it made Hannibal want to change the were to an are. “And there was blood...everywhere. I slipped in it, it was all over my arms and face and...and there was a body, completely opened wide in front of me. Your hands were bloody too.” He looked into his coffee. “I woke up right as I was about to...you know.” He waved his hand, both embarrassed and sickened, and Hannibal wondered if the man’s stomach was flipping from fear and nausea, or some kind excitement he wasn’t ready to understand.

“Have you had dreams like this before?” Will sighed.

“Not...exactly.” He didn’t know how to tell Hannibal about Julie, about turning her into something beautiful in his kitchen, and Hannibal accepted his silence for the moment on that.

“How did you feel?”

“Disgusted.” The psychiatrist’s eyebrows rose slightly, and Will walked over, slipping into his free arm and inhaling as he nestled into him- all sweet cologne and heat. Underneath it all, Will wondered if he could smell the blood in his veins.

“Don’t lie to me,” Hannibal whispered into his curls, allowing his voice to drop low- a warning. Will tensed a moment, before he stroked along his arm and relaxed.

“I felt...euphoric,” he worried on his lower lip, “The blood got in my mouth and it...it was exciting. I loved how it felt on my skin, I loved knowing you had...had...” He didn’t finished the statement, but Hannibal could fill it in for him- had killed. “But that’s sick,” Will added, “It was just a dream. Not how I feel now. I’m just stressed- I’ve seen too many bodies lately.” He pulled away, running a hand through his drying hair. “I’ve gotta run soon, I have a class to teach.”

Hannibal only nodded, eyes shining with this new knowledge.

*

He exhaled, pleased, as the knife dug into the man’s chest, carving perfectly. It felt good to have muscle and flesh give, to open a body up. The exhaustion he had felt during the middle of the afternoon was long gone, and the night had given him a rush. The air smelled like blood, he could taste it on his tongue- but more so, he imagined tasting it on Will’s tongue, and that was far better.

Hannibal knew what he was after, and cut with a precision only his hand knew. He wanted to be prepared, part of him wanted to take everything, but he could not. He had to make this look plausible- but not perfect. No, he wanted Will to see the differences, the negative space.

He took the heart and the liver, and used his knife to expertly slice at the man’s face, pulling on the skin and separating it from the structure, until only glistening muscle stared back. He tucked the hunk of skin into the chest, pushed up above the lungs, and worked to arrange the body quickly.

By the time he walked into his home and towards his kitchen, needing to get his prizes into the refrigerator, it was nearing eleven. Once everything was secure, he made his way upstairs, stifling a yawn as he reached the master bedroom and pulled his jacket off, taking care to hang it up nicely. It was only when he reached for his phone within his pocket that he realized it was ringing. He was more tired than he’d anticipated.

“Hello?”

“Hi.” Will, on the other hand, did not sound tired at all. He sounded rather wide awake. “Sorry, is it too late?”

“No apology necessary,” Hannibal said, loosening his tie, “I was just about to have a shower and then get so much needed sleep.” Will laughed.

“So no midnight drive to see me tonight?” Hannibal laughed at that, a rich, honest laugh, maneuvering out of his vest. It was if he had split the world in two, and he’d stepped out of his private, after hours life, into the almost normal one he could attempt with Will if he chose. “Shame, I’d like to see you climb through a window and somehow keep that perfect look of yours.”

Hannibal was still laughing as he walked into the bathroom. His mouth was beginning to hurt from his smile- it was an odd sort of pain, one he hadn’t known before Will. Especially before the man began to open up.

“Call me in the morning?” Will asked when he heard Hannibal turn the water on.

“I would hate to wake you.” Will sighed, and Hannibal relented. “Of course.” He pulled his tie completely off, began unbuttoning his shirt with one hand. “Oh, Will, before you go.”

“Hmmm?”

“Have dinner with me tomorrow night.” It wasn’t a question, wasn’t even really an invitation. It was a statement, and Will smiled and agreed, never seeing that black flash along Hannibal’s burgundy eyes, or the way his smile changed into something more akin to the monster Will had met once before.

Chapter Text

Will hadn’t expected to be ambushed before he even got to his class that morning. He hadn’t expected to see Jack, looking grin, waiting for him by his desk. He didn’t need to ask, the look was enough.

“Alana said she would cover your absence,” Jack said, and Will simply nodded. He followed Jack out of the classroom, not bothering to ask for details. He knew, as always, he would get none.

The drive began in silence, and Will was at first willing to enjoy that. He stared out the window, until the highway became familiar. “Where are we going?” he finally asked, and Jack hesitated for a moment.

“Baltimore.” Will tensed. “It looks like the same killer, just moving shop a bit. The team should be there by now.” Will bit his lower lip, suddenly worried. As if sensing it, Jack frowned. “I’m sure your...boyfriend is fine. We’ve dealt with plenty of psychopaths in the city and he’s always managed to come out rather unscratched.”

Will nodded, although he wouldn’t admit that was the cause of his concern. Something else was gnawing inside him- something he hoped to god was wrong.

*

The body had been discovered in the man’s apartment. While it was not a public display like Julie’s body had been, it matched the second victim in that respect. Will was left alone in the bedroom, where the body was propped up on the bed, staring out of a skinless face. He could feel the skin being sliced away in his hands, as he pulled on it to remove it, expose the muscle beneath. “A mask,” he whispered, holding it in his hands, “Not one you wear, but one I need. To hide the differences.” He reached into the body, placing the skin where the hear had been, feeling the smooth, precise cut. Too precise.

“You are not art,” he whispered, “Although I want someone to see your beauty. No, you are just a body. You served a better purpose sliced open than kept whole.” He slid along the body, smelling skin and blood and the lingering hints of fear. And even though Hannibal’s cologne wasn’t there, he smelled it anyway. “You are not my design. You are here to bring me into someone else’s.”

He blinked, realized he was leaning over the bed, dangerously close to the body. He took a step back, swallowing the lump in his throat, and the bedroom door was pushed open. He jumped when he saw Alyssa sneak in, heard Beverly cursing from the doorway that you didn’t just walk in when Will was working. Concentration broken, Will sighed and waved his hand, and Beverly came in, leading the team into the cramped space.

“What have you got?” Jack asked, and Will looked at the body, his brain taking a moment to roll everything over.

“Just another body,” he said flatly, shrugging a shoulder, “Another imperfect canvas. Killer hasn’t changed much, though I think we’re going to see public displays again, and soon, if we don’t find him.” He folded his arms. “His face is in his chest cavity.”

Beverly scrunched her face up, snapping her gloves on, and slipped between Will and the body, very carefully extracting the hunk of flesh. “His heart is missing,” Beverly pointed out, and Will felt a cold sweat on his spine.

“That’s not like the last one,” Alyssa said, shifting her weight to one hip.

“Liver is gone too.”

“He’s taking trophies now,” Will said, stuffing his hands into his pockets. “Not a lot, he leaves enough that he can create art from what is left. He might use them in future...pieces.” Jack seemed about to say something, when his phone rang, and he excused himself Beverly pulled away from the body, giving Alyssa a chance to examine.

“The cuts are precise,” she said, “Where they this good before?”

“Can’t be sure since he didn’t remove organs before,” Will pointed out, and she shrugged a shoulder

“Maybe it’s not the same guy.” Will suppressed a shiver.

“It is.” Alyssa frowned, and Will could see she disagreed with him, which made the corner of his mouth twitch. He turned and walked out of the room, into the small kitchen, and found Jack on his phone. He distinctly heard the name Hobbs, before Jack hung up.

“Was that about...Abigail?” he asked, her name feeling foreign on his tongue He hadn’t thought of her lately- which had been nice and, he realized, somewhat painful. But she had yet to come up in the past few weeks, and he had hoped that meant she was long gone, starting over somehow and leaving the horrors of her life behind.

“I’m still trying to find her,” Jack admitted, “I get a call every few days from Minnesota, just an update No one has seen her in weeks.” Will knew Jack only wanted to find her because he didn’t trust her out there, and he hoped he never did find her. He stuffed his hands deeper into his pockets and nodded.

“Since we’ve got this guy’s apartment, how about we get the owner and figure out who this guy is?” Jack nodded, and Will was relieved he didn’t call for Alyssa to go with Will- though he wasn’t the happiest about having to accompany him.

The apartment’s superintendent lived on the first floor, and when Jack and Will knocked on his door, he already had a file in hand, offering it out. “All our information on Simon,” he said, “I knew you guys would ask.”

Jack took it and passed it to Will, who flipped it open. A photocopy of his licence, a few contracts, a log as to when his rent was paid, and if he complained or had anyone complain about him. It was shockingly organized and detailed.

“Quiet guy,” the superintendent said. “He worked in a butcher shop, never caused any trouble...well, usually. He liked to drink, but kept to himself when he did so. Only had issues maybe twice in the two years he’s lived here.” Jack nodded and Will closed the file, looking at him.

“Start at his job?” Will asked, and Jack nodded solemnly.

*

Will sat in the back of Jack’s car as they pulled up to the shop. In front, Alyssa was watching the streets with an alert eye, making Will feel uneasy. He didn’t like that she had actually opposed his idea that this victim could belong to anyone else other than the Artist.

He hated that he’d given the man a name in his head.

They went inside as a group. It was a very clean, well kept shop. Expensive, Will knew. He could tell, it looked like it was from Hannibal’s world and not his own. He let Jack question the young man behind the counter, who disappeared into the back for the owner. When the man came out he was wiping his hands with a towel, and Will saw blood and suddenly he could smell it, feel it all over his hands and forearms, in his mouth, staining Hannibal’s hands as they grasped his waist-

“Simon was a good guy,” the man said, and Will was brought back to the present. He realized he was nearly panting and he tried to concentrate on his breathing, remaining a few steps back from everyone else “God, I don’t know who’d want to do the kid any harm.”

“So he didn’t have any enemies that you knew of?” The man shook his head. “Did he talk about his family? There wasn’t much in his file.”

“His parents live in Pennsylvania,” the man said, “That’s all I know. He didn’t talk about them much, though I don’t think there’s bad blood there. Just don’t think he was very open.”

“How long had he been working here?”

“Oh, a few months maybe. Not long, but I liked him well enough.” Jack nodded, asked if he could take a look at some of the man’s records, just to see if any names matched anything they had, and the man quickly led them back into a small, cramped office. It was the only thing about the place that didn’t scream out of your league to Will’s face as he followed, still a few steps behind. Jack left he and Alyssa in the office and left to speak with the other young man that had been up front.

Alyssa flipped through what looked like an order log, and Will found a book that had lists of names. “Customers?” Alyssa asked, and Will nodded.

“Must be. This place seems...high end. I’m sure he gets repeats and people requesting special orders. Probably likes to keep a list of that.” Will scanned over one page, stopping near the bottom, a new, colder sweat breaking out along the entirety of his spine.

Hannibal Lecter.

He went to close the book but Alyssa swiped it from him, taking her own look. He knew when she read his name because she stopped, her face twisting. “Your boyfriend?”

Will thought the term still sounded odd, inaccurate. Too...normal.

“Hannibal has expensive taste,” Will offered, and Alyssa closed the book, holding it to her chest.

“We should call him and ask him if he ever met our victim.” Will rubbed along his jawline, trying to hide the way his hands wanted to shake.

“He’s with a patient, I believe,” Will offered, “Pretty sure they’re all day and early evening appointments today. I’m going to see him for dinner, I’ll ask him then.” Alyssa seemed to accept the answer, much to Will’s relief. He shoved his hands into his pockets, allowing them to twitch.

*

It was early evening when they were finally done with the scene. Will convinced Jack not to force him back to the lab, and to simply drop him at Hannibal’s, so he wouldn’t have to cancel dinner. Part of Will, however, was dreading the idea of what he’d have to ask the man, and that left the feeling of a lead ball in his gut.

Will found the door unlocked, which meant Hannibal was home- had he bothered to look at anything except the door, he’d have seen his car- which was a relief. Even if he was allowed to just come in, he didn’t have a key, and the sky was clouding over and darkening very quickly- more so than to just signify the coming of night. Will didn’t feel like standing out in the rain. Once inside, he could smell where Hannibal was, in the kitchen, and his throat tightened. He hung his coat up, locked the door- out of habit- and walked towards what would be a delicious scent in the air- but Will had too many questions for it to be anything too good.

He stood in the kitchen, watching Hannibal for a moment- as he had done before. The man looked so intent, yet so pleased when he cooked, so perfect with his sleeves rolled up so Will could watch the muscles in his forearms flex. He licked his lips without realizing it. Hannibal looked up just as his tongue darted back into his mouth, and smiled. “Oh, hello Will. I hadn’t heard you come in.”

Will thought about walking around the counter and kissing him, it was very tempting- Hannibal was very kissable, and it made him want to laugh that he’d used that phrase to describe Alana once, because Hannibal’s mouth drew him in in a way her’s could never hope to- but Will stayed in place. “Can we talk?” he asked, and Hannibal cocked his head a little, before returning to his work.

“Of course,” he said, walking over to the oven and, towel in hand, opening it and pulling a dish towards him to examine. He pushed it back and closed the oven, wiped his hands off, and reached for his half empty wine glass on the counter, taking a drink. Will knew there would be silence until he broke it- Hannibal could be patient for far longer than Will ever hoped.

“There was a body this morning,” he said, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, “Jack grabbed me before my class even started. It was here.”

“In Baltimore?” Will nodded. “I hadn’t even heard.”

“I’m sure you will if you turn the news on now. Hell, Freddie Lounds probably got to the guy’s apartment shortly after I left, I’m sure she’d even got something on it.” He realized he was off topic, and Will shut his mouth for a second. Hannibal smiled at him- oddly sweet- and walked around, wine glass in one hand, and took Will in his free arm. The brunette flushed a bit, but didn’t fight off the heavy kiss he was given, returning it despite the fears inching up his spine.

“Do you want to wait until after dinner to discuss this?” he asked, but Will was shaking his head.

“No...No, it has to be now.” Hannibal released him, giving him a playful nuzzle into his curls and a quick kiss to his jawline, before returning to the food. “The guy worked in a butcher shop in the city.”

“Did he?” Hannibal asked, and Will thought he seemed maybe half interested. That made his skin tingle- Hannibal was always interested in his cases.

“Yeah. We were there today, talking to the owner. Got a look at his books, his list of repeat customers.” Will pulled his glasses off, shoving them into his pocket and then leaning against the counter. “Your name was there, Hannibal.”

“Ah, then I know the shop.” He took another sip of wine, then carefully pushed the glass across the counter. Will wrapped his fingers around the neck of the glass but didn’t lift it. “What was his name?”

“Simon.” Hannibal seemed to think as he shut off the stove, moving the pan to a cold burner.

“The name sounds familiar.” Will frowned. He didn’t buy that answer.

“You’re lying,” he said, rather flatly, and Hannibal looked at him and chuckled- a dark rumble from his chest that made the hair on the back of Will’s neck stand up. He lifted the wine glass, turning it so his lips touched the glass exactly where Hannibal’s had, as if the wine would taste better that way. He watched as Hannibal walked around the counter again, taking the glass, and seeking his mouth for another kiss. This one had more far teeth than Will had been ready for, and as those sharp points dug into Will’s lower lip his stomach began to tighten painfully.

“Go have a seat,” Hannibal whispered, “Dinner is about done.”

Will accepted the offer to flee and slipped out of the kitchen, rubbing a hand over his face and feeling his heart racing in his chest.

He settled himself at the table, filling the empty wine glass Hannibal had left at his seat and taking a long drink. He needed it to steel his nerves. The minutes felt like years, but finally Hannibal appeared- properly dressed now, bearing two plates. He placed one in front of Will, kissing his temple softly, before setting his own down and returning to the kitchen to retrieve his wine glass. Will stared at the food, his throat tight, wondering what it was and almost too afraid to ask.

Will became aware, through the silence of the room, of the sound of the rain outside, melting onto the house and pushing against the glass. Hannibal was looking at him, expectantly, and Will returned the gaze, confused.

“Is something wrong?” he asked, cutting into his food, and Will continued to stare. “You’re not eating.” He took a delicate bite, and Will’s breath escaped his lips. Suddenly, he didn’t need to ask, he knew exactly what this was, and he knew the answers to all the silent questions that had been asphyxiating his brain.

“What is it?” he asked despite it, with the hope that he was wrong. Hannibal lifted his wine glass, took a slow sip, before smiling- the kind of smile that made Will’s skin curl in on itself, made his bones ache, made his stomach turn in an excited sort of fear.

“Heart.” Will watched his mouth form the word, the sly pull at the corners of his mouth where he fought off the smile, the dark flash in his eyes as they dissolved into a beautiful almost-black.

Will realized he was nearly panting, but he couldn’t stop. His lungs hurt trying to take in the oxygen his terrified body needed. “It was you.” He didn’t elaborate, and Hannibal didn’t seem ready to make him. He took another sip of his wine, before he stood up, grabbing Will’s chin as he turned to face him and bending down, kissing him. His mouth had a heavy, rich flavor- wine and the few bites of the heart he’d had, and Will’s stomach turned. Hannibal sank a hand into his hair, tugging, and Will gasped, opening his mouth for Hannibal’s tongue.

Will, for a split second, considered biting it, to force the muscle back into Hannibal’s mouth, make it take the contamination with it- but he sucked on it, pressed against it with his own, reached for Hannibal’s shirt and clung to him as his other arm reached down to loosely hold Will. “You,” Will started, and then Hannibal was sucking on his lower lip and he couldn’t speak. He whimpered when the man bit it gently, before his mouth was finally released. “You killed him,” Will whispered, and Hannibal smirked, a single chuckle escaping his throat.

“I knew you would see the differences, my dear Will.” Will shivered, loving and hating that voice.

Why?” Hannibal turned for a moment, grabbed his hair and pulled it next to Will, sitting down and taking his hands in his own.

“Because you needed me to.” Will scrunched his face up, shaking his hair so his curls bounced.

“What? You’re talking nonsense Hannibal.” Hannibal stroked his knuckles, and Will thought he should feel far more disturbed than he did. The fear in him was dulling.

“You wanted me to,” Hannibal said, leaning in and finding Will’s neck, his pulse. “You’ve wanted me to since you knew it was me.” He spoke into his pulse and Will’s heart responded, thudding loudly. This was crazy, Hannibal must be out of his mind, Will didn’t-

His mind spun, told him that Hannibal’s hands felt good bloody- they must, that he would look so calm and intent cutting a body wide open. That his skin would taste perfect speckled with the blood of life-

Will gasped when Hannibal bit his neck, pushing towards him as the man released his hands, gripped his thigh with one hand. “Don’t fight me, Will,” Hannibal breathed against his damaged skin, lifting up to look him in his stormy eyes. “You’ve wanted this the whole time.”

Will swallowed the lump in his throat, felt like he couldn’t move. Hannibal’s smile was paralyzing him, the accent to his voice controlling the beats of his heart. The man turned briefly, and Will exhaled, free of those burning eyes- but when Hannibal turned again, he was holding Will’s fork carefully in one hand. Will started shaking his head, knowing what he wanted, and Hannibal grabbed his jaw, forcing his mouth open. The small morsel was shoved onto his tongue, and Hannibal pulled back, allowing his mouth to close.

Will’s mouth exploded with flavor, the meat melting onto his tongue. His fingers twitched as he stared at Hannibal, who was watching, waiting. When Will swallowed, slowly, he grinned and kissed him again, pulling his hair painfully and leaving the brunette completely breathless.

Will felt like his reality had begun to crack. It was easy to forget, forget about the beast inside Hannibal, hidden under perfectly tanned skin and controlled eyes. It was so simple to think Hannibal was nothing more than he seemed, and for the past few weeks, Will had had no reason to think that he wasn’t, except for that aching knowledge inside his brain that he’d killed all those people- all those copy cat victims. He could almost hope that maybe it would stop.

He knew he was wrong, as he swallowed Hannibal’s kiss, as the man whispered something that wasn’t in a language Will spoke into his mouth. He was so wrong.

*

Will couldn’t be sure when Hannibal moved his chair back to the head of the table, when he suddenly appeared almost normal again, in all his pristine and unfractured glory. If forcing Will to eat that- Will wouldn’t bring himself to think of the human heart in any less vague terms- has affected him in any real way, it was buried already. He simply ate in silence, watching Will, who followed his lead and screamed with eveyr bite that this was once a living, breathing human being.

Will couldn’t even be sure how he managed to ever leave the table, to end up sprawled on Hannibal’s couch the the man tracing fingers under his shirt, along his belly, nuzzling his hair affectionately. He felt oddly numb to it all.

“Tell me why,” he asked, and his voice sounded like a stranger. He felt like he was fading, receding into himself, and he wanted to clutch at Hannibal, to beg him to not let him fall- even though he knew he was the man pushing him, lifitng him up and threatening to throw him into the chasm.

“He was very rude,” Hannibal said without much emotion, tracing a finger to the hem of Will’s pants.

“You’ll have to be more specific.” Will shifted, rolling onto his side and burrowing against Hannibal’s chest, letting the man wrap an arm around him. He felt oddly peaceful with the numbness, as if he could sleep with a full belly and a silenced mind. He inhaled Hannibal’s cologne and the word home ran rampant through his fatigued brain.

“He was a rather...intolerable man,” Hannibal said, stroking Will’s back. “I had not noticed until recently. Ms. Lounds’s article brought it to my attention.” Will sighed, eerily content, and thought he could hear Hannibal’s heart within his chest. “He made a rather unsavory comment about you and I’s relationship.”

Will closed his eyes and tried to picture Hannibal standing in that tidy little shop, dressed so perfectly, with the kid sneering at him and calling him a fag. Will saw the man through burgundy eyes and a hiddenly tight mouth.

“Pretty low, goin’ for a patient doc,” the kid said as he wrapped the parcel up and weighed it carefully. His eyes were dark and cruel, and Will had never noticed before. “I mean, really. So who takes it? Not sure I can see you bending over for anyone.”

His eyes were cruel, and had Will been anybody else, it almost might have hurt. But he stayed so calm he could hear the echo of his breaths inside his ribs, and he simply made his purchase and left, a hunger rising in his belly-

Will snapped his eyes open, grasping onto Hannibal, heart racing. The psychiatrist was silent, stroking his back still, and Will wondered how long he hadn’t been present, before it hit him-

He’d seen that through Hannibal’s eyes. He’d been inside his head, something he had otherwise avoided doing- except at crime scenes. And even then it didn’t always feel like being Hannibal.

“I’ll need something to tell Jack,” Will said, pulling away from Hannibal and sitting up, raking a hand over his face. “Alyssa saw you’re name. She wanted to call you and question you, but I told her I’d ask you myself.”

“I’d be more than willing to entertain Jack,” Hannibal said, “In fact, perhaps now would be the best time.”

Will looked at him, his stomach feeling sick suddenly. He thought of staring Jack in the eyes knowing he’d let Hannibal push someone’s heart between his lips and an odd thrill went through his body, followed by a wave of nausea.

Will got up quickly and nearly ran away, down the hall to one of the small bathrooms. He closed the door and fell to his knees, gripping the toilet bowl and vomiting, his insides squeezing so tight he felt tears coming to his eyes. He coughed, trying to regain his breath, and heard Hannibal’s footsteps- slow but sure. Part of him hoped he wouldn’t come in.

His stomach rolled again, but whatever remained stayed down, and Will wiped the sweat from his forehead on his sleeve, standing up and flushing the toilet. He turned the sink on and dipped his head down, cupping his hands and filling his mouth to rinse the awful taste away. When he felt calm enough, he opened the door, found Hannibal waiting against the wall, watching him with a knowing curiosity.

“I should go,” Will whispered, feeling oddly embarrassed, and Hannibal shifted, reached for him and slipped one arm around his waist.

“Perhaps Jack will still be at the lab,” Hannibal reasoned, “And I’ll have my chance to entertain him.”

Will felt sick all over again.

*

Will kept silent most of the long drive, slouched down in his seat. The rain was coming down rather hard, but Hannibal seemed unphased as he drove. It lulled Will, oddly, to the point that he could forget where he was and why.

He drifted back to Hannibal’s, back to his sitting room. He’d found his spot on the carpet that had given him an odd sense of calm once, only now he wasn’t along, but draped along Hannibal’s lap, one of the man’s arms around his waist, holding him up in the dark. The rainy moonlight filtered in, but Will didn’t need it. He had Hannibal’s face memorized and he could feel those eyes and that was all that mattered.

He had something in his mouth. Something seasoned perfectly with a strong taste that was enjoyable. He knew Hannibal watched him swallow, the way the muscles in his throat moved in the faded light, and Will accepted the next piece placed between his lips, his tongue pulling it off the fork. He heard the clink of the silverware on the plate, watched Hannibal lift his wine glass and take a drink, never once taking his eyes off him. When he set it aside and pulled Will in for a kiss, the taste that formed from their mingling tongues made Will feel positively high, and he wrapped his arms around his lover, trying to melt into him, knowing exactly whose heart left that heady taste in his mouth-

It may have physically belonged to someone once, but it was Hannibal’s now, because he was worthy-

“Will.”

Will’s eyes snapped open and he realized the car had stopped moving. He sat up, stretching, and looked at Hannibal quickly, before looking down the work on his sea tbelt. He noticed as he got out of the car that they’d driven out of the rain, but it was dark and the air had a chill to it that had Will hugging himself against it. He was looking forward to passing out curled up in his bed with the dogs invading his space.

Will expected Hannibal to simply walk him to his car, but he headed towards the building, and Will realized with a sinking feeling he was actually going to look for Jack. Will knew it was late, and hoped the man had gone home as he chased after Hannibal.

*

Jack was not in his office, which Will was thankful for- but he hadn’t been ready for who was.

“Will, didn’t expect to see you back.” Alyssa was cleaning up a pile of photographs and papers off of Jack’s desk, and looked at Hannibal. “And Dr. Lecter, perfect. I assume Will spoke with you about the case already?”

“He did, and he said you were interested in speak with me yourself, Agent Poole.” She tucked some of her hair behind her ear, nodding.

“Yeah. Do you have a few minutes? I know it’s late.” She was being oddly polite, Will noticed. He didn’t like it.

Hannibal sat in one of the chairs in front of the desk, and she settled on the desk’s corner, speaking in a low voice, smiling. Will watched from a few steps back, detached, seeing her mouth move but not hearing what she said. It wouldn’t matter, because whatever Hannibal said were lies. Well constructed, believable lies, like his smile and those dark eyes. Like everything.

Not everything. He loves you. Will shook the thought off, bit back the bitter laugh that threatened in his throat. Hannibal had never once said he loved him- and while Will had not either, he had to wonder if the man could. He had to feel something for Will to let him so close, but the brunette wasn’t sure there was a name for it.

The closest to love you’re going to get.

Will stuffed his hands in his pockets and wondered if he’d ever get the taste of meat and wine off the back of his tongue.

Chapter Text

Will didn’t ask Hannibal what he told Alyssa. He simply accepted the chaste kiss goodnight as the man got in his car to begin the long drive back to Baltimore, and Will departed for home himself.

He let the dogs out, took a shot of whiskey in the hopes of dreamless sleep, and curled up as thunder began to rumble outside once again.

*

His hands were slick up to his elbows, stained red and warm and perfect. He dug into the woman’s chest cavity, could feel a scalpel in one of his hands, slicing around the organ he so desired. He felt the air against his exposed skin- he was naked except his underwear, a thin film of sweat clinging to him in a way that told him he’d been moving, cutting and prying and playing- and an ache between his thighs that told him someone has been playing back.

He felt teeth digging into his shoulder, and cried out, trying to shift back as much as possible against the body that was naked and aroused behind him. He finished the last cut and wrapped both hands around the organ, pulling the heart free and letting the blood run down his forearms. He felt one of Hannibal’s hands on his stomach, laying flat, pressing gently, his breath rushing against his neck, his ear.

“It’s life,” he murmured, “You put the life in your belly and you live.”

Will lifted the heart to his lips, dug his teeth into the slickened, thick muscle, and let his nerves explode behind his eyes, within his skull.

*

Will gasped, eyes wide, his body arching as if he was reaching for someone, someone high above him. He fell back to the bed, shaking, running his hands over his face and into his hair, tugging, making low, groaning noises.

There was something wrong with him.

*

“Dr. Lecter said he’d met the victim once,” Alyssa said, walking into his lecture hall as his students were leaving. They shot glances at her, then at Will- and he was sure most, if not all of them, had heard the rumors, had read Freddie’s article. He gritted his teeth and nodded, hoping Alyssa would talk him through Hannibal’s answers to her questions. He couldn’t risk creating any discrepancies. “Said he was rather...rude.”

“Hannibal always notices that,” Will admitted, shoving some papers into his bag.

“Yeah well, considering everyone else has claimed he’s rather pleasant, at least we’re getting to see the other side of him. Maybe this was personal, and it wasn’t just to prove a point- that this Artist can turn into any canvas into their sick idea of beauty.” Will didn’t look up as he closed his bag, not liking where this was going. “Honestly, part of me doesn’t even think it’s the same killer.”

“Why not?” Will asked as they began their walk out of the lecture hall. She shrugged a shoulder.

“Maybe just intuition. But it doesn’t feel right. The removal of the organs, it’s new.”

“Serial killers do evolve.” Alyssa nodded.

“I know that Will. But just...think about it. Didn’t it feel weird to you?” She stopped walking, looked up at him, and Will realized she had pretty eyes. He looked at them for only a second, to take in how the blue seemed to quake for recognition that she wasn’t alone.

That she wasn’t crazy.

“I think we’re dealing with your mystery killer here,” she admitted, stuffing one hand into her pocket. “The one that left you that decorated tree. Same guy. Maybe even tied to the other copycat killings you guys were dealing with. Hell, maybe all of it’s the Chesapeake Ripper.” Will twitched, his chest closing in, and he knew he sounded nervous when he spoke.

“Don’t let Jack hear you say that,” he whispered, staring down at her shoes. “He’s got an unhealthy obsession for the Ripper.”

So do you. Even if you never said it, never put the name to him- you knew Hannibal was responsible for those deaths as well. Will shushed his inner voice, unwilling to face that knowledge this very moment.

Alyssa said nothing, just nodded and began walking away, and Will followed, wondering what he was going to do about her.

*

Will spent a few hours looking over the case files, the details- but he was coming up with nothing. He knew this last kill wasn’t form the man they were looking for, that he couldn’t use anything there to track down his killer. All he could do was try to bend the details so it looked like the same killer, so that there was no way a finger could be pointed at Hannibal.

He settled his forehead into his palm and sighed, realizing just how deep he was willing to go to keep Hannibal safe. And it made him wonder- was that what Hannibal saw in him? A buffer between his maliciously dark acts and the law?

“Hello Will.” Will looked up, saw a smiling face leaning against the door frame. Alana waited until he was sitting up again and walked over, taking the seat next to him. He gave her a half smile, and it registered in his mind he hadn’t seen her in what felt like quite some time. It was nice to see her smile. “You look...”

“Like shit,” Will filled in with a laugh. “Not sleeping well.” She looked at the photos on the table and sighed.

“I can see why.” She reached out, touched his arm in her gentle way. “How are you doing with Dr. Barker?” Will rotated his jaw, deciding whether he should be honest with her, or give her the answer she wanted to hear.

“He’s not Hannibal,” he settled on, a vague honesty, and Alana rubbed his arm gently.

“No, he’s not,” she agreed, “But you should have someone to talk to that you don’t need to hide things from.”

“I don’t need to hide anything from Hannibal.” Alana smiled, but it was one that told Will she didn’t believe him.

“We all have something to hide from the people we love.” She looked about to continue, but was interrupted when Beverly entered the room, smiling at them.

“There are you,” she said, talking to Will, “I’m heading out, want to grab a drink?” Will nodded, even if he was sure ti was a bad idea- the last time he’d allowed himself a drink with Beverly, he’d had an epiphany at the crime scene, and realized his lover was in fact a cannibalistic murderer.

You could go for an epiphany. Beverly looked at Alana, keeping her overly enthusiastic smile. “Care to join us?”

*

“No really,” Beverly said, “This sicko thinks this shit is art. It’s sick.” She took a long drink from her beer, having taken over the conversation to pull Alana up to date. Will was content to sit and watch the two converse, noticing the way Beverly seemed to lean in closer when speaking to Alana than if she was speaking to him. “Tell her, Will.”

Will wrapped both his hands around his beer which he hadn’t actually touched yet, looking from Alana to Beverly, and back again. “She’s right,” he said, “He thinks of humans as canvases. The first victim, Julie- she was perfect. She was his prize, and what he’s doing now is proving that he can take imperfection and make it perfect.” Will shifted the bottle around in his hands. “Julie knew him. Somehow. She...she was compliant-“

“Compliant?” Alana had a horrified look in her eyes, hid it on her lips by taking a quick drink. Beverly was watching Will carefully.

“We don’t know that,” she said, “Will just...has a hunch. We found pictures of her, splattered in paint. And her journal. Will was reading it.” She looked at him. “He hasn’t shared much of it, though.”

Will didn’t say anything, and watched as Alana snapped her mouth shut, about to speak, when Beverly’s phone began to vibrate on the table. She looked at the number, then frowned- and Will knew.

*

He drove, because he was the only one that hadn’t actually touched his drink. Beverly was on and off the phone, sitting in the back, while Alana sat next to him, and he could feel her eyes on him as he sped down the highway.

The crime scene was in Baltimore, and Will couldn’t be sure if the sinking in his stomach was simply fear of a knowing dread. The house they pulled up to was nice, except for the flashing lights and huddle of cops. They made the scene ugly. Will didn’t like it.

Jack greeted them once they were inside, adding a “Dr. Bloom,” to the end with a curious look in his eyes. “Didn’t expect you.”

“I was with them when you called, Jack,” she said, folding her arms, and Jack didn’t comment.

“Dinning room,” he said to Will, “We’ll be here.” Will nodded, and as he walked by Alana she reached out, touched his back. Had they been anywhere else, it might have been soothing- but in a house where he knew he was walking towards a dead body, it only made his skin crawl. He made his way through the well kept living room, into the dinning room, and stopped.

He’d been prepared for one body. He hadn’t expected two.

Breath coming a bit rapidly, Will let his hands clench and unclench at his sides as he tried to center himself, let the room waver at the corners of his eyes, hear the echo of his heart swinging, like a pendulum, through his ribs. They bodied untangled, lay in a heap on the table. Their throats had been cut, Will felt the spray of blood drying on his shirt, the blade in his hand. He looked over them, blood pooling onto the table in such a sweet color, and smiled.

“This is a challenge,” he said, taking the blade and digging it into the man’s chest, under his collar bone. “To create one cohesive piece of art with two such different bodies.” He cut and pulled skin and muscle. “I came prepared this time- I won’t let me art falter because of my lack of tools again.” He cracked the ribs open, before turning to the woman, repeating the process until she, too, was an open book. “I have to connect them,” he said, pilling out their innards, lacing them together in a slick, hot rope that held the two together. He took his knife up again, reaching inside and cutting at their hearts, pulling the organs that felt so familiar out into his waiting hands.

Will opened his eyes, stared at the bodies that had been tied together, back to back, with a rope made of their braided intestines, their body cavities open and gaping. Their hearts lay in the woman’s lap, in her hands, while their eyes had been plucked out and left in the man’s. Will circled the table, tilting his head slightly. “This isn’t just a challenge,” he corrected himself, “This is a message. This is my design.”

“A message,” Alyssa mused, when the team had been allowed back into the room.

“Yes he...he wants someone’s attention. This isn’t just for him. He did this for someone.”

“Like Tobias Budge was serenading his friend?” Beverly asked, and Will stuffed a hand into his pocket, fidgeting. Like Tobias had been serenading Hannibal. He knew that, looking back. He didn’t like it. “What’s that?” Beverly slipped closer to the table, pulling a piece of paper out from under the woman’s thigh. It was folded, had a blood stain along part of it, and as she unfolded it Will’s stomach grew cold. She took a quick glance at it, then passed it towards Will, who took it between shaking gloved fingers. “This is for you,” she said, rather grim, and Will pushed his glasses up with his other hand.

This is for you, Will Graham- because you can see the beauty.

Will passed it back to Beverly quickly, who handed it off to Jack, whose frown deepened as he read it over, Alyssa peeking over his arm.

“See the beauty?” Alyssa asked, “What does he mean?”

“Must be Will’s...gift,” Beverly offered, the final word having a twinge of pain to it. Will swallowed the lump in his throat and nodded, but knew that wasn’t what it really meant. Not to him, anyway.

He could see the beauty, because it was there, in the bodies and his dreams, had been since he was sure Hannibal’s ghost had whispered it into his ear. He saw the final masterpiece and understood why it had been done.

Will realized they were all looking at him, and he looked back at the floor, not wanting to see their eyes. “He’s been watching Will,” Beverly said, being careful to not engage him, allow him to watch from the sidelines. Silently, he was thankful for it.

“Maybe not,” Alyssa offered, “Could just be he knows about him. He was all over Tattle Crime again.” Will’s head jerked up at that, and he tugged his gloves off, leaving them on the table and turning. “Where are you going?”

“To Hannibal,” Will said, sounding oddly nervous. “Hannibal was on there too.”

No one tried to stop him.

*

Will had to wrack his brain to try and envision Hannibal’s schedule. He thought he had patients late. He tried to call him, but he did not pick up, which made Will’s heart beat faster. His knuckles were beyond white by the time he got to his office, running into the building and not knocking, but shoving the door open wide, eyes frantically scanning the room.

Hannibal, seated at his desk, looked up, pencil still in hand. “Will,” he said, “I wasn’t expecting you.” He took a moment to flick his burgundy eyes along the man, the frantic breaths that were wracking his chest. “What is the matter?”

Will walked in, letting the door slam, and crossed the room, made his way around Hannibal’s desk. He leaned down, grasping Hannibal’s tie and untucking it from his vest, pulling him in for a kiss that was all desperation tinged with fear. Hannibal let him control the kiss, began to respond slowly just as Will pulled away. Hannibal gave him a smile- the playful kind, as he reached up and carefully tucked his tie back into his vest. “You did not drive all the way here at this hour, and risk interrupting a session with one of my patients for that.” He chuckled, reaching up to trace his own lower lip in a movement that made Will hungry. “Not that I do not appreciate the gesture.”

“I...” Will started, stopped, and was thankful when Hannibal carefully pushed his drawing aside. He settled onto the corner of the desk, welcomed Hannibal’s hand on his thigh. “There was a crime scene. At first I thought, when Jack told us Baltimore...”

“You thought perhaps I had been guilty.”

“Yes,” Will whispered, nodding. “But then...it wasn’t. There was a note.” That peeked Hannibal’s interest, and his hand tightened on Will’s thigh. “Dedicated the crime scene to me. Because I could...could see the beauty.” Will raked a hand up into his hair. “I was worried that maybe...”

“I had come to some harm?” Will nodded, and Hannibal stood up, slipping between Will’s thighs- a movement that seemed so natural to Will it was as if Hannibal always belonged there- and cupping his face, thumbs stroking his jawline. “I assure you, dear Will, I am unharmed.” Will nodded, closed his eyes at the touch. He leaned in, kissed Will’s eyelids in a way that made the brunette’s stomach flutter.

“There were two bodies this time,” Will whispered, “Tied together by their intestines. Woman was holding both their hearts, the man their eyes.”

“A couple,” Hannibal said, and Will nodded. “It seems your Artist is courting you, Will.” Will leaned back, absent mindedly hooking one of his legs behind Hannibal’s knees, keeping him close.

“It seems I have a type then,” he responded, “Psychopaths.” Hannibal didn’t laugh, but he got that dark smile that made Will shiver.

“I will be sure to be the only one you accept,” Hannibal assured him, running his thumb along Will’s lower lip. “You are mine, Will.” He leaned in, nuzzled his curls, breathing into his ear, “Do not forget.”

“Are you jealous?” Will whispered a Hannibal wrapped his arms around him, lips finding his neck and biting, softer than usual, but still one of his favorite things to do to Will’s body. When he didn’t respond, Will tried to pull away, pushing on Hannibal’s chest. “You are, aren’t you? This is such a sick mess- AH!” His voice cracked when Hannibal bit, hard, hard enough to break skin and draw blood and to make it stop feeling good. Will pulled back completely, unhooking his leg and holding his hand up to the wound. “Fuck,” he hissed, glaring at Hannibal, “A little more foreplay would’ve been nice.”

He looked at Hannibal’s lips, smeared just slightly with his blood, and felt a sick sense of joy that turned to nausea. He inched closer to the edge of the desk, pushing himself up and licking along Hannibal’s lower lip, removing the stain and hearing the man groan, just slightly.

“The killer is not interested in your empathy,” Hannibal whispered, “He is interested in the rest of you, Will.”

“Don’t try to tell me some serial killer thinks I’m hot,” he said, but he was smiling- he hated that he could smile so easily when a moment ago part of him was outraged at the psychiatrist for biting him so badly. His neck was throbbing as a reminder.

“Not your body,” Hannibal said, “Your mind. Your true mind.” Will’s smile disappeared at that. “The part of your mind you will not embrace.”

“I’m not like you,” Will said, holding eye contact. “I’ve told you-“

“And yet, you dream of being like me.” Will pulled away, sliding completely off the desk and walking around it, needing to pace. “You even admitted to it, Will.”

“No no no, those are nightmares, not dreams,” Will said. “I wake up feeling sick.”

“You feel ill because a part of your mind feels it should be repulsed by your desires.” Hannibal walked around the desk, watched as Will paced towards the far wall. “You desire to take a life.”

“I did that,” Will said, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Look at what Hobbs did to me for it.”

“Hobbs was not ideal. You want it to be beauty when the deed is done.” Will froze, throat closing at that word. “You want there to be pleasure. The sort you need me for.”

“Are you saying this is sexual?” He turned and stared at Hannibal.

“Is that the only pleasure you get from me?”

“No,” Will started, shaking his head.

“Then it is not purely sexual.” Will frowned. “Though that is part of it. You desire it because of the control you feel, Will. You so lack control otherwise.” Will gritted his teeth. “You desire it because it you see how beautiful these otherwise graceless beings can be.”

“Stop,” Will said, pulling his glasses off and tucking them away. “Stop talking?”

“Why? Because I speak the truth.”

“Stop. Talking!” He spun and glared at Hannibal, narrowing his eyes. “I’m not interested in being psychoanalyzed by the goddamn Chesapeake Ripper!”

Hannibal tilted his head, stuffing his hands into his pockets. “I was wondering if you would ever call me that, dear Will.”

“I tried to believe it wasn’t you. But it’s always you.” Will took a step towards Hannibal. “It’s always you because you seem to control everything Hannibal. Tell me, what else do you control?” Will stopped a few steps back, and Hannibal kept an almost emotionless look on his face.

“I controlled Abigail Hobbs’ death.” Will stopped breathing for a second.

“But...she’s alive,” he whispered, and Hannibal smirked.

“No,” he admitted, “Jack may think she is alive, but she is not. Abigail has not been alive in quite some time.” Will licked his lips, trying to form a question that didn’t need to be asked.

“How do you know?”

“Because I killed her.” Will’s world spun, and suddenly he felt cold, as if his skin was freezing over his muscle, sinking all the way down to his bone.

“But...she’s been seen. You even told me.” Hannibal took a step closer, and Will fought to keep from stepping back.

“A gentle lie for your mind, Will. You had to be sure you had not caused her harm. Not what I had intended, originally, but this plan has worked far better.” Plan? Hannibal continued, despite Will not asking. He didn’t need to ask. “There was always a plan for you, dear Will. However, slight changes had to be made.” He stepped closer, until there was no gap and he could reach up, cup Will’s cheek. “You could have taken the fall for Abigail’s death. It was perfect. But a far better opportunity arose.”

Will’s heart was hammering so loudly it was a backdrop to Hannibal’s speech, music. His chest ached with each thud. “Saving you appeared a far better way to draw you in then to leave you to find your way in the dark.”

Will finally pulled away, smacking Hannibal’s hand aside. “You were going to set me up.” Hannibal’s eyes told him that was a yes. “You...this...this was all planned.” Will was shaking and he wasn’t sure he knew how to breathe. “This is just some sick sort of plan you hatched. You never...cared.”

“Will,” Hannibal said, and his tone was soothing and Will could almost fall into the sweetness his accent gave his name. Almost.

“No, don’t,” he pleaded, feeling his chest clenching so tightly that something was splintering. “You don’t get to speak. What the fuck were you going to do with me once you had me...trained?” Hannibal reached for him again, pulled him into his arms even as Will struggled.

“I was not training you,” he said, “Merely...exposing you. The decisions and thoughts are yours, I am merely here to help you see that they exist.” He leaned down, pressed his lips to the wound on Will’s neck- it should have, could have been tender- but Will shoved him away, hard this time, so that Hannibal stumbled back a step.

“Liar,” he said, “You’re lying. I’m a toy Hannibal. That’s it, that’s all I am to you. I’m a fucking toy, and honestly- I wonder what you’ll do when you get bored of me.” He stormed past Hannibal, towards the door, but stopped before opening it. “I wonder what you’ll do when I walk away,” Will admitted quietly, feeling Hannibal’s eyes on his back. He didn’t- wouldn’t look. “We’re done, Hannibal. This- this is all done. I won’t be your toy, your puppy. I won’t be a part of some sick plan.” He opened the door, but before stepping out, finished, “I won’t be your design.”

He slammed the door behind him, leaving Hannibal to watch the space that Will had inhabited moments before, feeling oddly empty- able to hear the echo of his heart within his ribs, down his belly and through his legs, as if there was nothing inside of him- as if everything had just walked out that door.

Chapter Text

Will closed himself in his home for two days. He opened the door to let the dogs out, but that was it. He ignored his phone, the countless calls Jack made, the few made from Beverly, Alana. Not once did Hannibal’s number appear.

He thought, the first night, that Hannibal might have followed him home, broke down the door with the power hidden inside his lean body and come in to gut him, to pull his heart and lungs and liver from his body and eat them slowly. Maybe even share them, invite Alana for dinner and let her taste all of Will he had stolen from her.

But he didn’t. And Will was utterly alone except for the dogs, until finally, one morning, there was a loud knocking on his door. He pulled himself from his bed, padding towards it slowly, tensed because it could be him and Will wasn’t going to go without a fight.

When he opened the door all he found was Alana, looking tired and worried. He stared at her for a moment, before she reached for the door to keep him from closing, stepping over the threshold into his house. He backed up, feeling cornered, and the door swung shut behind her as she kept her eyes firmly on him. “Where have you been?” she exclaimed, and Will stammered.

“Here,” he admitted, and she held her arms out, as if she needed to move.

“But why? Why haven’t you answered your phone. God Will, we were all terrified. Beverly told me about the note- we thought, I thought...”

“I was dead?” Alana nodded. “I feel it,” he admitted before he could stop himself, and reached up, rubbing his jawline. “Would you like some coffee?” She nodded, biting her tongue, and Will thought about excusing himself to get properly dressed, then decided it didn’t matter anymore, and led her into the kitchen.

She sat down while he put the coffee on, reaching down to scratch Winston behind his ear when he came up to her. “Jack’s furious, you know.”

“He didn’t think I was dead,” Will said flatly, and Alana nodded.

“Said we would have found a body. He wants you back, says he needs you on the case.” Will nodded, hunting for two mugs and pouring the steaming coffee into them. He handed one off to Alana, who didn’t ask for anything added to it, and drank it black with him. He was in the sort of mood where he wanted it bitter. “Do you want to tell me what’s going on?”

“Are you directly asking?” She smiled, her warm smile that made him almost want to smile back.

“No,” she admitted, “I’m not. If you don’t want to talk about it, we don’t have to. But it would be nice. We really were worried about you, Will.” Will sighed, eyes focusing down on his coffee. “I even tried to call Hannibal, but he didn’t answer. Or call me back- which is odd for him.”

Will cringed, and she must have seen it, because her face dropped. “Will...does this have to do with Hannibal?” He was quiet for a moment, before he nodded- slowly. He knew there was no way to explain this, not without exposing everything- and that, he couldn’t bring himself to do. Part of him still felt compelled to protect the monster who had used him for some sick sordid game.

“Hannibal and I are through,” Will finally said. “It was a mistake to begin with.” He felt like he was admitting he was wrong, like Alana had warned him and told him this wasn’t smart. He wondered if he’d get an I told you so speech.

When he looked up, all he saw was a set of sorry eyes. She reached out, grabbed his hands and held them with hers, stroking her thumbs over them. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, “I’m sure it’s not easy to deal with.”

When Will didn’t speak, she stood up, walked around the table, and pulled him into her arms, letting his head rest just above her chest. For a moment he felt secure. He was quivering, he realized, and wondered if Alana noticed.

By the way she stroked along his back, he was sure she did.

“You can’t stay locked up forever,” she whispered, “It won’t help.” Will opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again. The world outside made him think of Hannibal. He didn’t want to think of him, but he wanted to drown in him at the same time. He wanted something he couldn’t have- a normal life with the man-

And for Hannibal to love him.

“Where would you have me go?” Will asked, still in Alana’s arms and unwilling to leave them. “Back to Jack, to drown in a crime scene.”

“If that helps,” she whispered, “But no. I was thinking to start we could get breakfast. Beverly would be very happy to see you.”

Will hesitated, then nodded, allowing Alana to squeeze him tightly one last time.

*

Beverly gave Will a hard punch to his shoulder and a frown, before she threw her arms around his shoulders and hugged him tightly. “I could kill you,” she muttered, taking a seat next to Alana so they could order breakfast. “What the hell were you doing?”

“Grieving,” Will said, because the word fit, and he waited until they had ordered to tell Beverly, simply as he had Alana, that he and Hannibal were through. She stared at him with unbelieving eyes, and he got lost in the whites of them for a moment.

“No,” she finally said, “No way. How? You guys seemed so...perfect all the time.”

“It just wasn’t going to work,” Will said, “We were after...different things.” I wanted love and he wanted a puppet, a shiny new plaything. It wasn’t a lie, just such a generalization it could be perceived as one. Beverly didn’t respond, just lifted her coffee and took a sip.

*

Will returned to work the next day. He lectured, he looked over crime scene photos, notes, pieced together a killer that still had no face or name or real motive other than beauty. He went home and did two shots of whiskey before bed, stared at his phone for a good few minutes, wondering if he should call- and then would go to sleep, praying for dreamless nights.

Every night was a new body, a new massacre with Hannibal’s hands all over him, sometimes the two connected in such intimate ways that Will would wake up aching for it and stroke himself until he was almost crying from release.

He hated himself more every time it happened.

This all played through his mind as he sat across from Dr. Barker, who, upon hearing of the end of the relationship had asked Will about his feelings. He had yet to respond. “You should talk about it, Will,” he said, his eyes sharp.

“Maybe I don’t want to,” Will said, and Dr. Barker tapped his pen, before closing his notebook and setting his things aside. He stood up and crossed the small gap, holding his hand out to Will. When Will hesitated he smiled- and Will still didn’t like it- but he took it and stood up, promptly taking his hand back. He walked towards the walls of his office, guiding Will to follow him, looking idly at the painting, all washed in cool colors still.

“You should,” Dr. Barker finally said. “You need to discuss it. You told me Hannibal and you hadn’t be intimate in quite some time. Tell me about it, did that have to do with your break up?”

“No,” Will said, shoving his hands in his pockets, trying not to remember what it was like to wake up to Hannibal appearing in his room like a phantom, that warm feeling in his chest that this man had driven over an hour in the middle of the night to see him. “It wasn’t that. We wanted... different things.” He stared at the painting of a mermaid, bare chested and breaking free from the too blue ocean.

Dr. Barker reached over, clasped a hand on his shoulder. Will wanted to shake him off, but didn’t. “Such as?”

“I wanted affection,” Will admitted, “I don’t think Hannibal was interested in that. Not long term, anyway. I was just some fleeting thought he paused long enough to entertain.” Will reached up and rubbed his jaw, his chest aching pitifully.

“You need to show yourself that you do not need him,” Dr. Barker said, eyes leaving the painting to look at Will. “Perhaps something more casual, to remind yourself that life can move on from here, that you can enjoy life with no strings attached.”

“It’s not the sex,” Will pointed out again, stuffing his hands into his pockets. Because it truly wasn’t- as much as Will had loved it- hadn’t expected to, but god he couldn’t deny it- it wasn’t what he needed from Hannibal. He needed stability, affection, he needed his anchor to hold him down to reality and whisper that it was okay, life was real because Hannibal was real. Will felt lost without that, so much so that he almost regretted what he’d done- almost wished Hannibal had never admitted anything to him at all, so he could have his rock to hold onto.

“It was smart to end things,” Dr. Barker said, breaking Will’s thoughts. “Though I still think you would benefit from some physical rediscovery. But you don’t have to look at this as a loss, Will. Think of it as a learning experience.”

Will swallowed the lump in his throat and wondered what he was supposed to learn.

*

He got the call as he was leaving Dr. Barker’s office- another body. He knew. And this time, it was close to home.

It was less than twenty miles from his house. He pulled his car off the road by the other cop cars and got out, making his way past the cops, to Jack, who was waiting. He expected and found Beverly, but Alana’s presence was a surprise. She was huddling against the cool air in her coat, her cheeks rosy- too pink to just be from the chill. She’d had a drink or two, he thought.

“Move out,” Jack said, motioning to everyone. “You tell us when you’re done.” Will nodded, waited until he was blissfully, yet painfully, alone, and looked up at the body hanging from the tree. He closed his eyes, heart and pendulum molding into one echoing sound as the world reversed around him, as he took a step back, felt the air shift as the body was lowered, then stood before him, alive and looking at him with deep brown, doe eyes. Pretty eyes he realized when his own snapped open.

He reached out to her, cupped her jaw with one hand and stroked her cheek with his thumb. She was pretty, very pretty- not as aesthetically pleasing as Julie, but similar. She smiled at him, the movement accentuating the freckles along her face. “I’m ready,” she whispered, reaching for him and placing her hands on his chest. Intimate, but not sexual. Will didn’t feel aroused in the slightest, he simply felt calm.

He had a knife strapped to his belt, but when he moved it did not go for that, but the lump in his pocket. He produced a ball gag, rolling it in his hand, the front larger, cut into the shape of a heart.

“He’ll be pleased,” Will whispered, and the woman allowed him to gag her, her eyes smiling, shining, anticipating. She was a willing canvas.

This time, he went for the knife, and plunged it between her breasts. She made a strangled sound, and her body seemed to turn to liquid, slumping against him. He lowered them to the ground, rolling her onto her back so her dark hair fanned out, and cut deep into her, collar bone to pubic bone- it was his signature, to open them up like a book. See the beauty inside.

“She’s convulsing as I open her up,” he whispered, speckles of blood dotting his cheek. “When she stills I know her part is over, and I’m proud that she did so well. I will remember her as one of my best.” He reached up, stroked a bloody hand over some of her hair, before turning back his work. “I want to expose the curves of her ribs,” he whispered, cutting at the flesh of her breasts, the skin along her ribs. “They are perfectly curved- they shouldn’t be hidden.”

It takes time, but finally her ribs are exposed, front and back, and her lungs removed. He left her heart in tact, and cut her intestines free from the mass of flesh and tissue at his side. He uses it to painstakingly raise her up and secure her to the tree, her arms pulled up over her head, secured at the wrist, and tied to a high branch. He does the same with her ankles, securing them around the trunk. He leaves the mound of unused flesh as the base of a tree, a red and pink heap of shavings to be discarded. Before he leaves, he stared up at her, and smiles. “She is my design,” he whispered, and then the world quivered around him, and the body had been hanging there for some time, and Will was cold.

He wrapped his arms around him, calling “Jack!” and the man appeared, team following. Alana stopped by Will and wrapped an arm around him, and he welcomed it. “She was willing.”

“What do you mean, willing?”

“I mean she was alive and let this happen to her. She wanted it.” He felt every set of eyes staring into him, and he shifted, inadvertently pressing closer to Alana, whose hand was running along his side in a soothing way.

“Who in their right mind would want someone to mutilate them?” Beverly asked, watching as Alyssa snapped a photo of the body.

“She might not have been in her right mind,” he said, “Drugged or otherwise mentally ill. Figure out who she is, you’ll get the answers.”

“Poole, get us an identification, top priority,” Jack said, and Alyssa nodded. “Get a good shot once she’s back at the lab and take it to every hospital and shelter in the state if you have to.” Jack scratched the back of his neck, turning back to Will. “Anything else?”

“This one is special,” he said, “Like Julie. He might revisit the scene. Or where he found her first- looking for another similar canvas. We might start to see a pattern, so long as they are available. I don’t think the killings will stop if he can’t, though. But there might be a delay.”

Jack nodded, and Will watched as the body was cut down, laid into a bag. As she was handled, something began to loosen form within her ribs, and Will pulled away from Alana, taking a pair of gloves from one of the men and snapping them on as he crouched by her body. It was a piece of paper, and Will was fairly sure he didn’t need to actually read it, but unfolded it anyway.

You are darling, Will. This is a far better tribute than the last. I’ll be seeing you soon.

He handed the paper off to Jack, and the man’s brows furrowed.

“We should have someone watch your house,” Jack said, but Will was shaking his head.

“No, it’s fine. I don’t need it. He won’t kill me- he’d rather have me alive.”

“He might kill you if you tell him he’s sick and not talented.” Will pressed his lips shut, wondering if he’d actually say that- because, honestly, in his gut, he thought this man was talented.

*

Alana walked him to his car, holding his arm, asking him over and over again if he was sure he was safe. He nodded, didn’t want to tell her the monster he was most afraid of wasn’t this psychopath, but the one he’d let himself fall for.

And even that was a lie to himself. The one he was most afraid of was himself.

“You could come home with me,” Alana reasoned, and Will smiled, a sad but thankful smile.

“No, but thank you, Alana. That wouldn’t be good...for either of us.” She nodded, reached for his hand and took it.

“It doesn’t have to be like that. Just so that you don’t feel alone. I’m not...” She sighed, looked up at him. “I’m okay with how we are, Will. Things are resolved. You not being with Hannibal doesn’t change that. I’m your friend, I want to be here for you.” She leaned up, kissed his cheek very softly. “Call me, for anything.”

He nodded and watched her walk away into the night.

*

Will curled up in his bed once he was home, leaving a lamp on and opening the little journal he had neglected for too long. He shouldn’t have ever put it down, he knew. There was something in Julie’s diary that would send him in the right direction, he just had to find it. But he had let his desire for Hannibal take up his time, and there were bodies piling up because of it. He couldn’t shake the sense of guilt in his stomach.

He flipped further from where he left off, towards the end of her writing and the collection of blank pages at the end. He noticed her writing appeared hurried now, the soft, curving strokes turning almost sketchy.

It gets harder to wait, now. I look in the mirror and I’m dull. I keep saying I’m ready, I’m ready- I don’t know how many more times I can be denied. Will paused, adjusting his glasses, turning the page.

Soon. Always soon. Never now.

Going crazy. Feels like I’m fading, like the world is grey and I’m grey along with all of it. Red is such a pretty color.

Did it myself. Got in trouble because that’s not how this works- I won’t do it again.

Will frowned, trying to remember if they had found any cuts on Julie that might have been self inflicted. He couldn’t recall.

I’m ready. I got the okay. This is the last night I have to be grey, transparent. Tomorrow, I’ll be a work of art.

That was the last thing listed. Will closed the book and took his glasses off, rubbing his hands up over his face with a sigh. She definitely had been willing, even if no one seemed to believe it possible. If Will was going to find this psychopath, he knew his answers were with Julie. But to get to those, he needed some from the latest victim.

*

“Her was Annie Harold,” Beverly said as he walked into the morgue, seeing her body laid out but covered with a sheet. “She was staying in a home for the mentally...unsound, about a half hour from where we found her. Parents checked her in a few months ago when she got to be too much for them to handle. She was only seventeen.” Beverly’s voice wavered at the last bit, and Will bit his tongue. The youngest victim yet- a child, really. “She went missing three days ago.”

“We need to pay this place a visit.”

*

They went, sans Jack, who was deposed in court, just the two of them. Will was thankful for that.

“So do you wanna talk about it?”

“Talk about what?” Will asked, shifting the folder of papers on his lap. “The case?” Beverly frowned.

“No, Will. You know what I mean.” He sighed, pushing at his glasses nervously.

“There’s nothing to talk about.”

“How is he taking the break up?” Will shrugged, mumbling, “I don’t know,” and Beverly frowned. “What do you mean you don’t know?”

“I haven’t heard from him.” She looked a thim for a few seconds too many for his comfort, before looking back at the road.

“Seriously? He hasn’t called?” Will shook his head. “And you haven’t called him? Stopped by? Anything?” Another shake. “You two should try to talk it over.”

“I don’t want to.” Will swallowed the lump building in his throat, told himself that wad the truth, it had to be the truth. Beverly frowned.

“I’m gonna be honest with you, Will,” she said, shooting him a quick look, “I don’t believe that. Not for a second.” Will said nothing, and Beverly did not bring it up agian.

*

“Annie was a troubled girl,” the director said as she settled behind her desk, Will and Beverly sitting across form her. She was older, her deep brown hair leaned in grey and pulled back tightly. “Her parents sent her to us because they were out of options. She was always on quite the cocktail of medications. They’d work for a time, then she’d have a set of outbursts and we’d have to change them again.”

“Had she been acting different lately?” Beverly asked, and the woman frowned.

“Different should have been the girl’s name. You’ll have to be more specific.” Will folded his hands, leaning closer.

“Was she antsy, excited for anything?” The woman tapped her pencil on the table, frowning.

“Yes, actually,” she said, “We took a trip out to Baltimore about a week back, to the University to take a quick tour, and get a look at some of the arts programs. Art is typically good therapy for our girls. We had talked about a return trip, and she had mentioned multiple times how she wanted to go back.” Will looked at Beverly, who was already taking up his point.

“Can you tell us what staff members she may have come into contact with during your trip?” The woman nodded, picking up a pen and began writing names down on the paper.

Within twenty minutes, they were back in the car, with Beverly flooring it in the direction of Baltimore.

*

Will was anxious by the time they were in the city. He didn’t like being this close to Hannibal- well, most of him didn’t. Part of him reveled in knowing he was close. Part of him wanted to be next to him, melting into his arms and beginning the man to take him back. Will silently cursed that part and kept it locked away.

The list they had was relatively small. There was one woman from the administrative department that had taken them to the studio on campus, and then two professors they had met- one specializing in painting, one in sculpture. Both male, one in his sixties, one in his forties.

The woman at the administrative building had been friendly, if shocked. Beverly asked the questions and Will observed, and thought she was telling the truth. No nervous twitches, no fidgeting, such shocked eyes and a disturbed frown. They would check on her alibi regardless, but he didn’t think she could be who they were looking for.

Will walked around the studio while Beverly questioned the younger of the two professors. The other was not on the campus that day, and they would have to make a separate trip to see him. A class had been going on, and the professor has excused himself to the far end of the studio to speak with Beverly, leaving the class to sculpt on their own.

“You’re too symmetrical. Noting is ever that perfect.” Will watched, head cocked slightly, as a young woman pushed at the clay the student had piled in front of him. “The slight imperfections make the work all the better.” She patted his shoulder and straightened up, turning slightly to catch Will’s eye. Will looked away, caught a glance of her walking over, stuffing her hands into the pockets of her skinny black jeans. “Hey there.”

“Hello,” he offered, looking down at her feet. She had a tattoo he could see, peeking out from one of her wedges. It looked like someone had dropped watercolor on her skin.

“Your partner is off with the professor, shouldn’t you be too?”

“No, she can handle it.” He still didn’t look at her, caught her leaning against one of the large, sturdy easels.

“You the nervous type?” She smiled at him, and he looked up to her red painted mouth, her teeth distractedly white. “Or maybe you’re not quite on the same place on the spectrum as all of us.” He flicked up to her eyes, then away, and she gave a casual laugh. “I’ve got a little cousin whose way further down the spectrum than you, you can relax. I’m Cat,” she offered, extending a hand. Will took it, felt the delicate bones beneath and the feeling of her many rings.

“Will,” he offered, and she nodded.

“Well, Will, if you don’t mind my asking, what did our good old professor do? He’s got to be one of the mildest men I know.”

“We’re just checking in on some things,” he said, “A girl disappeared and we’re looking for clues as to where she may have gone to.” Cat nodded, reaching up to push her long black hair behind one ear. Will thought the lie was close enough to the truth to pass. “She was here about a week ago, with some other girls from a home in Virginia for-“

“Young women with mental troubles,” she filled in, “I remember, I was here. I’m the professor’s assistant, I’m here everyday he is. And some he isn’t. Figure if I work my ass off maybe he’ll give me a good recommendation and I’ll get my own class someday.” Will fished into his pocket, pulling out a picture of Annie the shelter had given him, and passing it to Cat.

“Do you recognize this girl?”

She scrunched her face up, thinking, then nodded slowly. “Yeah, I think so. She was one of them- really interested in some of the abstract sculptures the students were working on. She sat down and just watched one of them work for a few minutes. I offered to let her work on her own, but the woman who was chaperoning them pulled her away and told her another visit. She seemed pretty nice.” Will nodded, tucking the picture back away. “I hope you find her.”

Will heard Beverly moving and looked back, saw she and the professor walking over. “Thanks for the help,” he said, and she smiled, holding up her hand and turning for a second, stooping down to whisper something to one of her students. A moment later she was scribbling onto a piece of paper, then turning and holding it out to Will.

“Here, my number.” She laughed almost nervously. “Just if you need anymore help and all, I swear. She seemed sweet, I’d like to help you guys find her.”

Will tucked it away, nodding his thanks and turning to join Beverly to depart. He was more than ready to start the drive to Virginia and leave Baltimore behind him.

*

Hannibal leaned back in his chair at his chest, studying the screen in front of him. Tattle Crimes sat open on his tablet, scrolled down to the end of the article on the latest victim of this Artist. Hannibal tapped his fingers on his desk, feeling uneasy that it was so close to Will’s home. He told himself he was uneasy because someone was closing in on Will- someone else was willing to mark him, brand him, take him.

Something underneath all that told him he was worried because Will could come to harm, and he didn’t want that.

He looked away from the tablet, towards the wall and studied the nothingness. He had not heard from Will since the man had stormed out of his office- since he had finally given Will the truth of everything. Yet, it didn’t feel like the truth. Will leaving believing that he was just a toy was not right, and Hannibal knew it. He had no intention of tiring of the man, nor did he want to control his choices. Influence them, yes, but that was because he saw that dark seed in Will that he wanted to bloom. It would be beautiful.

He sighed and stood up, rubbing his jaw and fighting down the urge to reach out to Will. Just to check on him. He told himself Will had to come back on his own, to prove just badly he needed Hannibal in his life.

Hannibal was beginning to wonder, in the deep recesses of his mind, if Will would come back.

Chapter Text

“We need to question Julie’s parents again,” Will mumbled softly into his coffee cup, sitting at a table with Beverly and Alyssa. Jack was standing, hands in his pockets, having been waiting impatiently for Will’s class to end. “Perhaps they know one of the professors from Baltimore University. Maybe Julie went there for a semester.”

“She’s got no record there,” Beverly pointed out, “I checked. No reason to be on campus.”

“A boyfriend?” Alyssa offered, and Will frowned.

“Not that her parents knew of.” He rubbed his jaw, his brain turning almost painfully.

“Julie is our key,” Will said, “She was the first, she was the one that mattered most. Whatever she has in common with Annie Harold will tell us exactly who the killer is.”

“Then we go back and we go over every bit of her case again,” Jack said. “Start from the very top, look over everything. We’ll drive back out to Woodbine tomorrow morning. Cancel your class Will, I want you there.” Will nodded as Jack walked out of the room, the women following a moment later, leaving him alone with the files.

*

Will was glad Jack hadn’t asked him to go that night. He’d woken up that morning swearing he could taste Hannibal’s mouth on his, feel his breath against his eyelids and his arms circling around him tightly, perfectly, sweetly. He’d cried out when he realized it wasn’t real and nearly thrown himself from the bed, storming out into the cool night in his underwear to scream out his frustration. The noise had only woken the dogs, and they howled their response to his agony.

He’d made a call after his class, one he hadn’t wanted to but thought he should, and here he stood in Dr. Barker’s waiting room, for a session he didn’t want but knew would be good for him. There had to be some truth that he needed to talk about this- at least what he could talk about.

The door opened and the man smiled at him. “Come on in, Will,” he said, stepping aside, and Will entered the office, listening to the close of the door.

“Thanks for seeing me on such short notice,” Will said quietly, standing by his seat and taping his fingers on the arm. Dr. Barker settled into his seat, his young eyes ever alert, even after a full day, and picked up his pen and notebook.

“Anytime, Will. I want to see you make progress. So, tell me what is on your mind.”

“Hannibal,” Will admitted, and walked around the back of the chair, tracing it.

“Good start,” the psychiatrist said, leaning back, “What about Hannibal?”

“Everything. That I hate him and that I miss him. That I want to punch his teeth in and then kiss him.” He stuffed his hands into his pockets, feeling better with the chair between them. “I don’t know what I’m thinking anymore.”

“Have you spoken with him lately?” Will shook his head. “Not at all?” A nod. “Well then, you’re doing a good job at keeping your distance Will. Which is very important, in order for you to fully give up this ideal version of Hannibal you have.”

“Ideal version?” Dr. Barker nodded.

“Yes. The Hannibal you’re after is not the one you were in an intimate relationship with, but a construct. You’ve created exactly what you want in him, and that idea, that possibility is what you miss. Your subconscious is at least aware enough of this to keep you from running back to him.” Will sucked his lower lip into his mouth, worried it slightly. “You’re doing the right thing, breaking contact with him Will.”

“I have to see him eventually,” he sighed, “It’s bound to happen. We have some of the same colleagues.”

“Yes, that will inevitably happen.” He crossed his legs casually, tapping his pen. “But not yet, Will. You have time. You have to continue to tell yourself you miss an ideal and not the man. You have to remind yourself that Hannibal is not good for you. He will only hurt you. I’m here to help you through that.”

Will hated the way that sounded, hated the way it made his gut harden into a ball of lead. “There were good times.” His voice was broken, and he wasn’t sure is he was trying to convince the psychiatrist or himself.

“They seemed like good times, I am sure.” With a sigh Dr. Barker stood up, walking around the chair and standing close to Will. “Perhaps some of them were. But you have to admit that they have passed, Will.” He reached out, clamped a hand on his shoulder. “There are better times to come.”

*

When Will left unsure if he was feeling better, worse, even anything at all, there was a woman in the waiting room, wringing her hands together nervously. He gave her a little nod and she looked away, as if she was terrified. Will hesitated as Dr. Barker greeted her, holding the door open for her, and peeked back to watch her scuttle inside and the door click shut. He shivered, feeling oddly uneasy, and hurried his steps to his car.

He looked forward to the peace of his home, to the dogs. He’d curl up with them and Julie’s file and go over every bit of her case until he fell asleep, so he would be ready come morning to think critically on it again. To face her parents and figure out the connection between her and Annie Harold.

As Will pulled up to his house, those thoughts died in his head. He recognized the shape of a car before his lights illuminated it, and noticed a light on in his home. Killing the engine, he sat there for a moment, considering starting the car again and driving away. Driving to Alana’s and telling her he needed her couch for the night, driving anywhere at all except his house.

He got out of the car slowly, keys pressed between his fingers, and made his way up to the door. He found it unlocked, and opened it despite not wanting to see what was waiting within.

Sitting on his couch, Hannibal was waiting, as if this were any ordinary visit and Will had simply stepped outside for a minute. Next to him, Winston was stretched out, head in Hannibal’s lap, tailing wagging slowly. All Will could think for a moment was traitor.

“Hello Will.”

Will slammed the door shut, tossing his keys aside, deciding he wouldn’t need to sink them into his former lover’s skin just yet. Hannibal seemed very far from attack mode, as if the monster was sleeping soundly under that perfect skin.

“What,” he nearly spat, taking another step into the room, “are you doing here?”

“I thought it best to check on you,” he said, tilting his head slightly. “I read about your killer’s latest victim- close to home. I wanted to make sure you had come to no harm.”

“Like you really care.” Will shrugged his jacket off, tossing it aside. “How the hell did you get in?”

“You have a spare key hidden on your porch.” Will sighed.

“Better that then the window, I guess.” Hannibal gave him a smile, and Will for a moment wanted to return it. “So, what did you really come for? Gonna turn me into breakfast or something?” He folded his arms, and Hannibal’s smile faltered.

“You’re being rude, Will.”

“And you broke into my house, without my permission, when you should know you’re the last person I want to see.” Will balled his hands into fists. “So don’t lecture me on being rude, Dr. Lecter.” Hannibal’s mouth dropped into a frown at the formality, and he stood up, Winston whining for a moment before he placed his head down in the spot Hannibal’s body had warmed. The psychiatrist walked towards Will, stopping a step away from him and catching his eyes. “If you have something you need to say,” Will finally exhaled, “then say it, and get out.”

There was silence for a moment, and all Will could hear was the hammering of his heart into his ribs. He tried to look calm, but he wondered if Hannibal could see through it- he was so good at seeing into Will, and he had to worry that maybe the psychiatrist would see all the things Will didn’t want him to- to see the things Will himself didn’t want to see.

Hannibal moved too quickly, closing the gap and grabbing Will by his biceps, pulling him in so their chests crashed and seeking out his mouth. Will didn’t move- couldn’t, really- didn’t even breathe as Hannibal kissed him. There was something different to it, something almost desperate in the way his mouth tried to coax Will’s into a rhythm, the way he tilted his head so that Will wouldn’t have to. The way he was giving, and not taking.

Will realized he was shaking, and he balled his hands into fists, flexing his arms so that Hannibal released him. He placed his hands on his chest, ready to push him away, but found his fingers gripping at his shirt and vest, trying to claw him closer- his mouth moving when he desperately didn’t want it to. Hannibal’s arms went around him, holding him firmly in place, possessively, almost protectively, and Will felt like there was nothing but liquid under his own skin.

“Hannibal,” he breathed against his mouth, a plethora of desire and frustration laced into the his name. Hannibal placed his forehead against Will’s, and the brunette could feel to rise and fall of his chest against his own. “I can’t do this.”

“Can’t, or won’t, dear Will?” His voice lacked the controlling smoothness Will was used to- there was something raw there, something exposed.

“Yes,” Will whispered, “is the answer to that.” He pulled away, untangling himself, and Hannibal didn’t stop him. “You can’t give me what I need, Hannibal. And what you did to me...” He wrapped his arms around himself, feeling so exposed suddenly under that gaze. “How am I supposed to just forget that.”

“You don’t.” Hannibal pursed his lips, obviously rolling his words over in his head. “I would not want you to, Will. But what I did-“

“So you’ll admit you toyed with me?” Will held his breath as Hannibal slipped a hand into his pocket.

“I pushed you in the direction I wanted you to go,” he admitted, “I will admit that. I pushed you to the point that you needed me. But you would have found your way to that point on your own, Will. Slowly.” The younger man fought down a shiver, looking away, over at the couch and Winston’s dark eyes watching him, calmly, at the waiting faces of the pack. They were so relaxed around Hannibal it was startling. “But you...consider yourself too small in the larger picture of this.” Will looked back, furrowed his brow, and tried to read Hannibal’s eyes, tried to slip into his head.

He’s let me make all the choices, come to him when I deem I’m ready. He pushed, but he never took. He shouldn’t be here. He should be waiting... Will swallowed, took a tentative step towards Hannibal. “You coming here,” he whispered, his voice hoarse, “it’s desperate. It’s not like you.” He watched as Hannibal’s eyes flicked away, and Will knew he hit a nerve. He wanted to push it. “Up until now, you still had control, didn’t you? Enough that you didn’t worry too much, at least. Enough that you felt like I’d still get sucked back into the void you’d created just- for- me.” He stopped, within reach of Hannibal, his heart fluttering so wildly in his chest he could barely hear his own voice. “You were afraid I wouldn’t come back.”

Will saw the change in those eyes- they way they darkened, as if Hannibal was trying to recede behind them- as if he was going to hide. Will reached out, grabbed his arm, pulling him closer. “Don’t,” he hissed, “You owe me this, Hannibal. You owe me the truth. You were afraid you’d really lose me.”

Hannibal reached up, traced his fingers gently along Will’s cheek, and the special agent nearly choked on his breath. His palm pressed to his jawline, and Will loosened his hold on his arm. He felt like he was loosening his grip on his resolve, as well.

“I feared you may not come back, yes,” he whispered, his thumb finding Will’s lower lip and tracing it. “And I did not want to see that happen.”

Will reached up, wrapped his arms around Hannibal’s neck, leaning into him and finding his mouth. He kissed him as if the world was ending, crumbling right around him- as if he might not ever kiss him again. Will pressed so tightly to him that he remembered her fit every contour of the man’s body as if he had been sculpted just for him, felt the warmth exploding under his lips and seeping back into his brain, leaving him feverish, unable to reason. Hannibal clutched at the back of Will’s shirt, and when teeth found his lower lip the smaller man gasped, a soft, pleased cry escaping.

Pull yourself together Graham. Don’t do this.

“Hannibal,” he whimpered, “Hannibal stop.”

Will was shocked at how quickly the man pulled away, loosened his hold- that he listened at all. Will fought back the growing delirium in his head, realizing it was beginning to ache, and let his hands trace down from behind Hannibal’s neck to his chest. “You need to go,” he whispered, “Before I do something I regret.” His hands fell away, and Hannibal released Will completely, gave him the little bit of space he craved to regain his footing. “Please,” he added, and much to his surprise, the psychiatrist bowed his head and slipped past him.

Will didn’t turn when the door opened, nor when it closed. He didn’t move until the engine of Hannibal’s Bentley was purring as he drove away. When Will looked outside all he saw was black, an emptiness that seemed to mirror itself under his skin.

*

Will let Beverly drive, rubbing his jaw as he stared down at his travel mug. In the back, Alyssa had a stack of files next to her, flipping through one idly.

“You look like shit,” Beverly said to Will, who fiddled with his glasses for a moment.

“Feel it too,” he responded, and then after a brief hesitation, added, “Hannibal was at my house last night.” Beverly shot a glance at him, and he heard Alyssa hiss from the back for her to watch the road.

“What happened?” she breathed, and Will thought perhaps he should have kept his mouth shut by how excited she sounded.

“Nothing...really. A few things were said, and he left when I asked him to.” Will lifted his travel mug, took a sip of the hot coffee, lightly sweetened, and let it scald his throat.

“Are you patching things up?” Will rolled her question around in his head, asked it for the countless time of himself. He had fallen asleep with the same unknown idea in his head- was he forgiving Hannibal? Did he have a reason to? He couldn’t deny that Hannibal had acted out of his usual self by showing up at Will’s house- by not waiting for him to make the required move. Will had tasted his desperation, and he wondered if maybe Hannibal did care in some way- if he could at all.

“I don’t know,” Will finally admitted. “Honestly. I don’t.” Beverly didn’t like the answer, but she nodded and reached over, giving his leg a reassuring pat.

*

“I don’t recognize either of those men,” Mrs. Cobb said with a shake of her head, “Julie had no reason to be in Baltimore, let alone at the University. There’s no way she could have met them.” Beverly said, taking the photos back, and Will was shuffling through a folder, his stomach tightening at what he had to do.

“I have some photos I need you two to look at,” he said, passing them into their hands. “These were found in a box under Julie’s bed, along with a diary. Did you know she was doing this sort of...modeling?” Will couldn’t think of a better term for it, and winced inwardly at the sharp intake of breath as Mrs. Cobbs shuffled hurriedly through the pictures of her daughter, so exposed and covered in bright splotches of paint.

“I had,” she started, before passing them to her husband, unable to look at them, “We had no idea. This isn’t like Julie at all- she was so sweet, she never had any interest in something perverse.”

“It’s not perverse,” Will said, and felt Beverly elbow him in the side, shooing him a glance that said now is not the time to argue that. He clamped his mouth shut for a second and accepted the pictures back, stuffing them into the folder.

“She was a good girl,” her mother cried, before burying his face in her hands and sobbing softly. Her husband wrapped an arm around her shoulders, squeezing gently.

“We had no idea,” he repeated, echoing his wife’s words. “Julie was soft spoken and simple. She never expressed interest in much art, in anything other than finding a quiet, stable life. I don’t even know if I believe that’s my daughter.” Will quickly shuffled the folder to Alyssa, who frowned at him, and pulled the small diary from the inner pocket of his jacket.

“Can you take a look at this,” he asked, “And tell me if this is Julie’s handwriting?” He passed the diary over and Mr. Cobb flipped through it, frowning.

“Yes, it is,” he said, and passed it back. Will nodded.

“She wrote about these sessions. She was excited about them, said they made her feel beautiful.” He stuffed the diary away. “So, you’re absolutely positive you knew nothing, that you don’t recognize either of these men, that Julie had never been to Baltimore University?”

“Positive,” Mr. Cobb said, and his eyes told Will all he needed to know. He was telling the truth.

*

“Now what?” Alyssa asked, slipping into the back seat with a frown. “That didn’t help us at all. They didn’t know anything.”

“It just means Julie was careful to keep her parents from knowing,” Will said, turning to Beverly. “Let’s stop at the salon she worked at again. Maybe someone will recognize one of the men, at the very least.” Beverly nodded, catching Will out of the corner of her eye popping a few aspirins into his mouth.

“Headaches again?” she asked, and he shifted.

“Stress,” he said, and knew Alyssa had perked up, even if he couldn’t see. “Just stress.”

“Sure you’re not sick again?” Her voice grated him, and for a moment Will would have liked to have cut her tongue out. The sudden rage left him breathless.

“Shut the hell up,” Beverly said, glaring back, “Or I’ll make you walk back to Virginia.”

*

Will allowed Beverly and Alyssa to do the talking in the salon. He hung back behind them, eyes scanning the walls and tiles and quick movements of hands around him. He stuffed his hands into his pockets and once again saw himself cutting Alyssa’s tongue from her mouth, to blood cascading like a waterfall down her neck and chest. It eased the ache in his skull, but sent a wave of nausea crashing over him.

He was jerked back to reality when he felt someone gently brush his arm. He turned his head, met the gaze of a stranger, a middle aged woman. “Excuse me,” she said, “I don’t want ti interrupt, but are you talking about Julie?”

“You knew her?” Will asked, and Beverly stopped mid sentence to turn. She nodded.

“Yes. I was one of her clients before...before the tragedy.” She wrung her hands together. “I heard you mention Baltimore University, and I thought I might be able to help.” Will felt an excited sweat break out on his spine, and he nodded, gesturing towards a chair the salon manager had graciously pushed out for the woman. She sat down, crossing her ankles delicately, and folded her hands in her lap. “Julie was very quiet when she worked with most of us. She liked to let us talk and just chime in here and there. But I do remember maybe a month ago that she had been oddly...giddy. Talkative. I didn’t think much of it- but she said something about the University. She said she had taken a trip there with a few friends and thought she had found a passion for art.”

Will nodded, silently coaxing her to continue with a rather charming, though slightly awkward, smile. “I thought it was sweet- oh, she was such a nice girl. It was good to see life in her. She started talking about it here and there, mentioning that she had stopped taking later appointments so she could make the trip there. I don’t think she wanted her parents to know.”

“They didn’t,” Alyssa said, “We asked them, they said that Alyssa had never been to the University, nor did she have any reason to.” The woman nodded.

“She spoke about her parents occasionally. They seemed...bland, I guess is the best word. Loving but stifling. Before she disappeared, she seemed almost angry at them for something. It was shocking, but I thought maybe she was finally about to make that big leap away from home and into her own life.” Will motioned for the pictures, held them out to the woman.

“Did you ever see either of these men?” he asked, and she scrunched her face, before shaking her head.

“No, no I’m sorry. I wish I could help you more-“

“You’ve helped plenty,” Will said, “Trust me.”

*

Will wasn’t sure how he felt about being in Baltimore again, but he tried to focus on the fact that, for the first time, they may have had a true lead. They each took a picture of Julie from her file- Beverly heading with Alyssa to the administrations building to ask them first, and then make the rounds asking passing students if any of the knew her. Will went directly to the studios.

He slipped inside, the air cool in the basement studio, and made a sweeping, mental head count of each of the students working on their sculptures. He took a few steps in, searching for the instructor-

“Hey stranger.” He jumped, spinning around, found a pair of deeply lined blue eyes and a red smile. “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you.”

Will raked a hand through his hair, recognized the young woman from his first visit. “It’s fine,” he said, “Where’s the professor?”

“Home with his sick daughter,” she said, folding her arms, “The class is mine today. What’s up?” Will reached into his jacket, pulling out the picture of Julie, holding it out. Cat hesitated, then took it gently between her long nails, looking down at it.

“Do you recognize her?” he asked. “She may have come to the campus with friends, or alone. She wasn’t a student.”

“No, she was just passionate.” She passed the picture back. “I saw her a handful of times.” Will’s heart began to race.

“Where, exactly?”

“Here.” She held her arms out, shrugging. “After hours. Never during a class. I figured she must have been friends with one of the students, or known one of the professors and was doing some modeling or something. Sometimes the students get together with their own hand picked models and practice. Pretty sure it would have been someone studying painting, not sculpture. I saw open cans of paint a few times.”

“Did you ever see anyone with her?” Cat shook her head.

“No, just her. Always just her.”

Will nodded. “Thank you. You might help us find her-“

“She’s dead.” Will raised his eyes, and Cat was folding her arms, shuffling from one foot to the other. “I saw her on the news, too you know. You don’t have to lie. You’re looking for that killer that’s been leaving those bodies mutilated, aren’t you?” Will nodded. “Sick, isn’t it?”

“You could say that,” he said, reaching up to adjust his glasses. “There’s a...balance to it. An artistic eye that can’t be denied.” Will pressed his lips together when he realized what he said, cheeks flushing slightly. “Thank you again for the help.”

“Anytime. Remember, I’m a phone call away. You didn’t lose my number, did you?” She reached out, patted the chest pocket of his jacket lightly, smiling, and Will laughed, shaking his head. “Maybe we could get a drink sometime. I remember things better after a beer.”

She laughed, taking her hand back, just as Will heard someone saying his name. He turned, and Alyssa was waiting, arms folded, tapping her foot. “If you’re done,” she said, “Beverly sent me. Administration doesn’t want us poking around and disturbing their students without an order.”

“We might not need to,” he said, before looking back at Cat, nodding his thanks, and turning to walk out. Alyssa followed, quite until they had gotten to the stairwell to head up to the main floor of the building.

“What the hell was that?” She asked, and Will looked back at her.

“What are you talking about?”

“That, back there? You’re not here to get laid Graham, you’re here to do your damn job.” Will frowned, stopping at the top of the stairs and turning, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring at Alyssa. “Don’t give me that look, I know flirting when I see it.” She climbed up to the second to last step, glaring up at him.

“I wasn’t,” he stated, which was the truth. He wasn’t.” If she was, that was her business.” She wasn’t. Will didn’t know how he knew, but he did. He just did.

“Pfft, please. You gave her puppy dog eyes. This is our only chance at a lead, don’t go fucking it up.” Will’s hands tightened their hold on his own arms, his teeth grinding together. She smirked. “Maybe you should just run back to your boytoy. Probably could go for a good fuck, right?”

Will growled, a feral, rough sound, and reached out, grabbed her by the collar of her shirt and yanked her up the last few steps, slamming her into the wall. She cried out, and he reached up, slamming his hand over her mouth, pressing so tightly that he could feel her breath rushing in and out of her nose in panic.

“I should cut you open,” he muttered, leaning closer, “For being so rude.” He snarled, bearing his teeth, could smell the fear on her, sweet and intoxicating-

“Will?”

Will blinked, eyelids fluttering wildly, realized he was still standing at the head of the steps, Alyssa looking up at him. “Shit, are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” he muttered, reaching up to press his palm to his forehead, for a moment unsure exactly where he was- what had she last said? “You were saying...”

“That even if it was just her flirting, you still have to be careful. She might get the wrong idea.” She climbed the rest of the stairs, standing next to Will and placing her hand on his shoulder. “You’ve got enough going on in the insane head of yours, don’t add breaking a girl’s heart to the mess. Now c’mon, you look like shit. Let’s get out of here.”

Will followed her, his head spinning. He didn’t remember when he slipped past reality and into fantasy. It didn’t even feel like he had- he could feel Alyssa’s terrified pants against his hand, see her wide eyes, smell the fear in the air. He reached up to rake a hand through his hair, his head pounding, and Will wondered very seriously for the first time if he was indeed ill again.

Chapter Text

Will swallowed down another handful of aspirin as Beverly pulled up to the lab that evening. He was the first out of the car, needing to stretch his legs, feeling tight and cramped. Beverly walked around the front, twirling her keys and giving him a playful punch to the arm.

“Up for a drink?” she asked, even looking over at Alyssa, extending the invitation. The young woman shook her head.

“I’ve got a date,” she nearly laughed, “with a stack of case files.” Beverly rolled her eyes, waving her off, and looked back at Will. He was shaking his head, and she frowned.

“C’mon Will,” she begged, “Just a beer. That’s all, I swear. It’ll be good for you.” Will sighed, tried to frown at Beverly, but ended up giving her a half smile and a shrug of his shoulder.

*

Will would have preferred a less crowded bar, but Beverly seemed to be drinking down the energy- on her second beer already and he had barely touched his first. She was laughing, leaning towards him as she spoke loudly over the commotion. “I’m telling you,” she said, lifting the bottle and waving it slightly, “You need to patch things up with good old Dr. Lecter. You had some life in you when you were with him, Will. You seemed happy.”

“I was,” Will admitted, taking a drink, and Beverly’s frown deepened.

“Then what the hell happened?” She finished her beer, setting it on the bar. “Did he cheat on you or something?”

“No,” Will said, laughing, which felt oddly good. He couldn’t imagine Hannibal even really looking at someone else- and the realization made him stop, press the mouth of the bottle to his lips but not drink. Despite everything that had happened, Hannibal had been devoted in his own way. He’d made Will feel as if he could be the center of something, whether it was his world or simply his thoughts, it had been different- not something Will was used to.

He finally took his drink, setting the bottle on the bar and tapping his fingers against the glass. Hannibal must want you in some way if he actually came after you. He shook away the thoughts. He didn’t want to have them now. He wanted to finish his drink, give Beverly that feeling that he was alright, and then go home and sleep on them.

In the morning, he’d call Hannibal. He’d make coffee and possibly wake him up, and ask to talk. After his class, before Jack got him. Or that evening. It didn’t matter. Will wasn’t sure what he woulsdsay, what he wanted to hear even, but he knew, in the pit of his stomach, it had to be done.

“Will?”

Will turned at the sound of his name, met a pair of steely eyes and raised his eyebrows. “Dr. Barker,” he said, a little shocked, and the man laughed. He’d traded his usual cool blue suit for jeans at least, but his blazer still had that blue simmer that made Will think of his office- made him feel cold, like he was submerged in ice water.

“Please, it’s Matthew after hours,” he said, looking at Beverly and giving her a nod of his head. “It’s good to see you out.”

“I was getting ready to leave,” Will admitted, and Beverly reached out, grabbed his arm, whining his name and her playful way and he rolled his eyes.

“At least let me get you one more drink,” Matthew said, “I’ll be right back.” He turned and walked off before Will could say anything, and Beverly leaned over, picking up her third beer.

“Who’s he?”

“My psychiatrist,” Will admitted, and Beverly gave him a nudge.

“Maybe I should get some mental issues,” she mused, “If it means I get an attractive man to probe around in my brain a bit.” She laughed and Will rolled his eyes.

“He’s really not,” Will admitted, thinking he and Beverly didn’t quite share the same taste. Then again, Will wasn’t sure what his taste was- aside of Hannibal. Maybe he didn’t have much of one.

Matthew reappeared, holding out a small shot glass to Will. In his other hand he held two, and offered one to Beverly, who took it with a bow of her head. Will looked at it for a moment, then shrugged a shoulder and swallowed the whiskey down, letting it burn his throat in a familiar way. He set the small glass down, the clink as it touched the bar filling his ears, seeming to echo inside his skull, to rattle around his brain and touch places that felt ignored.

Beverly was saying something to Matthew, small, polite conversation- and Will realized she acted as a buffer to the public eye when he had no one else. He smiled at that, a silent thanks to the woman who had become a friend- albeit, a rather nosy friend who seemed far too interested in his personal love life.

Will thought he could excuse that.

He grabbed his beer and finished it off, tracing it in a small circle around the bar, feeling a little odd. As if he was light, the matter in his body disappearing slowly and turning him into a puff of air. He tried to laugh to himself at the idea, but the movement made him slightly nauseous. He swallowed the lump in his throat, reaching up to rub at his head.

“Beverly,” he said, and when she didn’t respond he repeated it, louder, “Beverly.” She looked at him, her smile fading. “I think I need to go.”

“Will,” she said, reaching out and taking his arm, “Shit, you okay? What’s wrong?”

“Just not feeling so great,” he mumbled.

“I’ll call a cab-“

“Don’t trouble yourself,” Matthew said, reaching out to grab Will by his arm and steady him. “I haven’t had much, I can take him home.”

“You sure?” Beverly asked, and Matthew nodded, giving her a dazzling smile. She gave him a tentative one in return, and then looked at Will, concerned.

“-fine,” Will was mumbling, waving her off. He just wanted to lay down, it felt like the room was heavy and thick, swallowing him up, as if he was wading through the dredges, chest deep in muck. He slipped off the stool and let Matthew guide him, leaning against the man was they made their way into the chilled night air.

*

Will didn’t remember getting in the car. The only thing he knew was that they were moving, he could see the stars in the sky changing slightly. He rolled his head a little, felt a hand on his thigh, squeezing. “You’ll be alright, Will,” the man was saying, “You had a long day, I’m sure. Stress and alcohol may not be the best combination. We’ll get you home and rested, I promise.” He squeezed Will’s thigh again, and Will let his heavy eyes close.

*

Will came to when the car had stopped, and his door was being opened. He realized he was home and for a moment had no idea how, until Matthew was leaning in, wrapping arms around him and helping him out of the car, holding him as they stumbled. Will felt almost numb, his stomach queasy as they walked very slowly towards his dark house. Will felt a hand delve into his pocket, feeling around for his keys, slipping dangerously close towards his inner thigh. He tried to pull away but his body didn’t respond. A moment later Matthew’s hand was pulling out, holding his keys and unlocking the door. Will was guided inside, heard the rustling of the dogs rousing, standing to investigate.

“So you really do have that many dogs,” Matthew mused, settling Will down on the couch. Will’s head rolled back, his neck aching, and heard Matthew moving around, making some sort of noise. The sound of the dog’s claws on the floor echoed inside his head as they followed, before there was a loud thud as a door was slammed shut- a moment later, barking and howling.

Will tried to push himself up, ended up falling to his side on the couch with a strangled groan. A moment later he heard footsteps, watched as Matthew crouched down, tilting his head and looked into Will’s hazy eyes. “Just relax,” he said, stroking along Will’s arm. “You’ll be okay soon Will. You’ll see.”

Matthew stooped over him and grabbed him by his biceps, tugging him up so he lay along the couch, not quite numb but feeling as if he was dead. Matthew’s hand was rubbing down his chest, fingers fiddling with the buttons on his flannel shirt. Will made a little noise and the man hushed him. “This goes better if you’re quiet, Will,” he whispered, reaching up to stroke his cheek. “It always goes better when they’re quiet.”

He jerked his hand away and tore Will’s shirt the rest of the way, exposing his chest and stomach. His hand ran along it, approving of the enjoyable skin and the trail of hair he was following down to the hem of Will’s pants. Will squeezed his eyes shut, told himself this was one of his nightmares, that it wasn’t happening, and felt his stomach roll as that hand palmed him through his pants. Matthew tried to tease him, but his touch was all wrong- harsh where it shouldn’t be- beyond the fact that Will didn’t want this.

Matthew tore his hand away after a few more touches, frowning. “Must be the drugs,” he said, hands working to open Will’s pants. “Otherwise you’d be begging for it, Will. I can just tell with you.” Will’s head managed to roll away from him, staring into the cushion of the couch as his limp body was stripped, the air grating his skin in a way that made it seem to burn, until he was completely naked and Matthew was standing back, arms folded, admiring him.

“Not bad,” he murmured, “I can see why that first doctor of yours decided to have a little taste. You know, I don’t normally do this with men,” He leaned over Will, rolling him over so he was on his stomach, and sank a hand into his hair, pulling his head up violently, craning his neck so it ached. “But I’m making an exception with you. Something about you just screams to me- you’ll be easy to tame.”

Will’s head was released and he managed to turn his head to stare out at the room, heard the sound of Matthew’s belt coming undone and his zipper being tugged down. “Don’t worry,” he said, placing a hand on Will’s lower back, and by the sound of flesh being stroked, touching himself with the other, “I’ll be gentle for our first time. Won’t even take it all the way.” He chuckled, hand running down from Will’s lower back to his ass, smacking one cheek violently before grasping it. Will felt his cock slip between them, not pressing into him but nestling between the flesh, as Matthew leaned over him, rocking at an erratic, awkward rhythm.

Will could barely breathe, Matthew pressing down into him so his lungs felt crushed. He made another strangled, broken noise- would have been the word stop if his tongue wasn’t so heavy and dead in his mouth. “I’m glad- you’re- awake,” Matthew huffed, grabbing onto the couch with one hand. “It’s depressing when- they always- black out.” He groaned, his cock twitching- Will felt it- and tried so hard to forget where he was, who was doing this to him.

His eyes rolled, and he managed to close his lids, seeing black that burst into a white tear, a beautiful body appeared, nailed to the wall for him, a large rectangular, ornate frame around her body. Julie’s head was bowed, as if she slept peacefully, but her body had been opened. Will reached out, pressing his hand into the large gash, into the slick warmth and feeling back to her spine, wrapping his hand around it. He held the bone so tightly, felt that it was sturdy, needed something like that in his own body.

“That’s not what you want, Will.” It was whispered in his ear, but there was no one in the blackness with him. The way the name rolled off that tongue, accented and almost passionate, Will shivered and whimpered, knowing it was Hannibal even if he couldn’t feel him. He released her spine, reaching up into her ribs, grasping her heart but not tugging it from her chest. He squeezed it, felt it’s weight, felt Hannibal’s breath against the shell of his ear but not his body. “You don’t want stability,” he murmured, and Will was shaking his head.

“No,” he whimpered, squeezing, “No, I want love.” He released it, pulled his arm back, slick and red, and hugged himself, smearing it over his naked chest. “I don’t care what it takes, what it does to me. I want you, Hannibal.” He was shaking, realized his cheeks were wet and fell to his knees, huddling, trying to hide in the nothingness. He rocked gently, whispering “Hannibal,” over and over again, a broken, pleading mantra into the void that seemed to be opening inside his mind.

A hand pressed into his hair and shoved his face deeper into the couch, crashing him back to reality and cutting off his breath for a minute. “Don’t see his name,” Matthew hissed, jerking Will’s head up and moving sporadically, grunting, close. Will’s lower lip quivered, and with a final burning tug of his hair, Matthew’s hips jerked, then stilled, and Will could feel the heavy wetness along his spine- the evidence that he wasn’t, in fact, dreaming.

Matthew got off of him, adjusting his clothing, and then crouched down, lifting Will’s head again. “You’ll feel more yourself in an hour, maybe two,” he said, turning Will’s face to rest on his cheek, so he could stroke the other. “And you’ll be better for this- just wait and see. My patients always are. You’ll come back to me, unsure if this really happened, wanting answers, and before you know it you’ll realize I’m giving you something you just need.”

He stood up, leaving Will as he was, naked and on his stomach, unable to move, and made his way to the door, whistling as if nothing had happened. When the door slammed shut, Will felt like his lungs could finally work for the first time, but the rush of oxygen made his head heavy, full of static and white noise, until he couldn’t see the room-

And then there was simply nothing.

*

Will heard heels, the gentle click, and thought he was dreaming. He groaned, squeezed his eyes shut, heard a rap and couldn’t be sure if it came from above, below, or all around him. He mumbled something, feeling cold, and tried to push himself off his stomach, but his arms flopped almost lifelessly, one falling over the side of the couch. The noise again, and then the sound of the door clicking open, and suddenly the heels were running.

“Will!” He opened his eyes, pupils blown, and saw in the dark Alana kneeling down, reaching for him, one hand between his shoulder blades. Her eyes were wide, horrified. “Will! Oh my god, what happened? Can you answer me?” He tried to move his mouth, but only a groan came out, and Alana reached up to smooth his hair, her eyes looking wet. “Oh god, you’re okay. You’re going to be alright Will. I promise.”

She leaned back, stood up, looked at him with a terrified glance, then disappeared. Will heard her rummaging around, before the backdrop noise of the dogs- Will had forgotten, they had disappeared in the static of his head- stopped and a door was opened. Alana made quick tssting noises at them, and the sounds stopped. She hurried back from the closet, holding a towel, and draping it over Will’s waist, covering him respectfully. Will tried to move his mouth, but nothing came still.

“It’s okay,” she said, one hand stroking his shoulders, the other struggling into her purse. “Shhh, you’re okay Will. Do you want me to try to move you?” He managed a slight movement of his head, a shake, and Alana only nodded respectfully, finally managing to get her phone. She stood up, whispering, “I swear Will, I will be right back.” He watched her slowly disappear from his vision, and closed his eyes to the blackness again.

*

Hannibal stared up at the dark ceiling, his body feeling so far from sleep it was a wonder he had even managed to lie down. It seemed, as of late, sleep was harder and harder to come by. He missed the feeling of Will curled up beside him- preciously rare as it had been. It had been oddly...soothing.

He rolled onto his side, staring at the shadow that he knew was a book shelf in the dark of the room. He could read, but he wouldn’t take in a single word on the page. He had compromised everything by going to see Will. The logical part of his mind told him this, now Will wouldn’t come back in the necessary way- he’d be restless, he wouldn’t be controlable.

Hannibal closed his eyes and sighed. He didn’t care. He had a dull ache inside his chest and belly, an empty feeling without Will. Unpleasant did not even begin to describe it- it felt as if it was driving him mad. He couldn’t focus on his patients, his reading- even in the kitchen he felt listless. He had considered a bit of fun to get his blood pumping- but even the idea of parting flesh and examining all the intricacies inside the human body seemed worthless, if Will was not there to be impressed by it. If it wasn’t going to be used to seduce the man’s mind, he had no use for it.

He reached up, squeezing the bridge of his nose. Somewhere along the lines Will had definitely gotten under his skin- and Hannibal was sure it had been far sooner than he’d ever truly realize. Whatever plans he had crafted, salvaged from the ruin he had first planned for Will, had been discarded as well. He could tell the man there was point to everything he did, a calculated move, but honestly, that had stopped so long ago. Nothing had as much thought as it should.

Perhaps it was because his every thought felt like it had wrapped itself around Will and cared not for the rest of the world.

Hannibal rolled onto his back with an audible sigh. He was tempted to make the drive to Will again. To sneak his way into his home in the hopes that Will might understand all that he couldn’t seem to explain. He was rolling the idea over and over again in his head, when he noticed the buzzing of his cell phone, cast off on his bedside table. He reached for it, saw Alana’s name, and answered the call, saying in a voice that hadn’t been used in hours, “Hello Alana.”

“Hannibal.” She sounded frantic, and he could picture her eyes darting to and from, seeing nothing around her. “Hannibal, please. Please, it’s Will.”

He was out of bed before she could say anything else, his mind now made up for him.

*

Will was aware someone else entered the house. He didn’t know what time it was, but he heard the hurried footsteps- the click of the heels was less severe, this wasn’t Alana. Hush voices, and then a hand on his shoulder, firmer than Alana’s, not as gentle. Never as gentle. He cracked his eyes open and managed to see Beverly, and slowly, carefully, he lifted his head a little.

“He couldn’t do that before,” Alana whispered. “He didn’t want me to move him...” She looked away, folding her arms, and Beverly stood up, just in time for Alana to unfold and slap her right across the face. Beverly stumbled back, stunned, reaching up and holding her face. “You told me he was just feeling a little sick!”

“He was!” she yelled, balling her other hand into a fist. “Like the beer just didn’t sit with him right.”

“Why didn’t you bring him home?” she screamed, “This wouldn’t have happened if you were here!”

“Don’t blame this on me,” Beverly screamed back, “I trusted the doctor you recommended to get him home safely.” Alana was shaking, her muscles tense, but she didn’t respond, and a moment later Beverly was crossing the room, pulling her into an awkward embrace for a moment. “Figure out the blame later. We need to get Will medical care. We can’t leave him like this, who knows what the hell is in his system.”

Will was shaking his head, the most movement he could manage. His tongue still felt dead, his throat raw and dry, but he managed to pull his arm back up onto the couch, to flex his toes. Alana saw and reached up, covering her mouth to hold in her choked sob. “He doesn’t want us to, Beverly.” The FBI agent sighed, crouching down and looking at Will with sad, guilty eyes.

“Then what do we do? Wait for him to get his motor skills back? Just sit here?”

“That’s all we can do,” Alana whispered, and Beverly walked out of the room in a huff. Alana sat on the arm of the couch, near Will but not touching. Just wanting him to know she was there. She had asked, after making her calls, again if he wanted to be moved. He’d managed his negative groan. She assumed it was because of his state of undress, but perhaps he simply didn’t want to be touched. She could see the reasoning behind both. As it stood, she had draped another towel over his legs and left the lights off, trying to give him some dignity. It hurt her to have to see him like that, limp and lifeless.

Will could sense this on her, the way she looked at the floor, her shoes. He let his head rest on the cushion, managing to shift his weight just a little to relieve the aches growing in his muscles as they regained mobility. He licked his lips, and simply wanted to sleep for the next hundred years.

He heard the car pull up, but his mind couldn’t put together who it could be. For a moment he thought Beverly had called this in- and he was terrified, because he couldn’t be so broken and let the world see. But Alana was getting up and the door was opening and the footsteps were rushed, desperate.

The hand on his shoulders was warm, didn’t make his skin twitch. He opened his eyes, saw Hannibal looking at him through wild burgundy eyes, and his tongue found a hint of life.

“Hannibal,” he whispered, his voice a croak, and the man looked away for a moment, as if he couldn’t stand to see Will as he was. Will’s chest began to ache- he wondered if he was too broken even for him, now. Too used and abused, too filthy.

“Alana,” Hannibal whispered, “Could you give us a moment?” She nodded, looking at Will one more time and then disappearing. Hannibal reached carefully for Will’s face, slipping a hand between him and the couch to find his cheek as Will lifted his face. Will stared at him, in his eyes, and saw there was nothing there- no layer of deception, no control- just a maelstrom fo things Will had no name for. “Can you move at all, Will?”

Will tried, felt his leg twitch as his knee bent and he began to curl up. Hannibal reached down, pressing against his thigh gently to stop him. “Good.” He stroked Will’s cheek with his thumb again, tender in a way that made Will’s eyes ache, as if they were fighting off the urge to drown. Hannibal stood up, surveying his body, and frowned, reaching for the edge of the towel and gently dragging it along Will’s spine- finally clearing away the evidence that had grown cold, gone unseen by Alana and Beverly in the dark. “Can I try to move you, Will?”

“Yes,” Will forced out, and Hannibal gently wrapped his arms around him, maneuvering him carefully- as if he was, indeed, that fine China Hannibal had once said Jack thought of him as- until Will was sitting up. Hannibal left the towel in a heap on the floor- unlike him, Will managed to notice- and took his jacket off, draping it over Will’s lap.

“We can get you cleaned up,” Hannibal said was he leaned over him, brushed some of his curls back. “I want you to adjust to moving again, first. Can you straighten your legs for me, Will?” Will swallowed, slowly straightening one leg, before letting it go limp and doing the same with the other. “Good,” Hannibal murmured, “Now, can you lift your arms?”

Will started, slowly, got his hand as far as his cheek before his arm fell limp again. Hannibal nodded, his hand slipping down to Will’s shoulder and squeezing. He turned a moment later, walking away, leaving Will to let his head lean back and close his eyes, trying to collect his thoughts, everything rolling into one single bundle of color, with no story, no narrative or alignment.

When Hannibal returned, he had Beverly and Alana following, Alana moving right to the couch and finding Will’s hand, taking it. “Will,” she whispered, trying to sound calm, “Do you want us to call the police?” Will was shaking his head before he knew what he was doing, and Alana closed her eyes for a moment and nodded. “Do you want us to stay? Or...are you more comfortable with just Hannibal?”

Will forced his head up again, looked at the man who, in that moment, seemed completely undone, so unlike himself. His hair was free, bangs brushing his forehead, and without his jacket he was left in just his button down- he had left his vest and tie at home. What stood out the most, though, were his eyes. Will could see right into them in a way he wasn’t sure he ever had.

“Hannibal,” he whispered, then took a deep breath. “I’m fine...with...” His voice cut out on him, and Alana nodded, understanding. She squeezed his hand.

“We are a phone call away,” she said, looking at Will, but including Hannibal, he was sure. “For anything. If we don’t hear anything...we’ll be here in the morning.”

She straightened, turned to look at Hannibal, giving him the sort of stare that included a lacing of barbed wire along the edges, and Will could almost smile at her. Beverly followed her out, her head down, and then there was blissfully darkness and only Hannibal.

“Let’s have a bath,” he said, leaning over Will and stroking from of his curls back, “That will relax you, Will.”

Will was nodding. His skin felt like it was covered in a thin film of grim, tingling along his spine and making him want to claw at it. He knew there was a reason, but he was going in and out of even remembering where he was, let alone why he seemed to be naked, why everyone seemed so utterly undone. Hannibal smiled and left him there, making his way to the bathroom to run the water. Will closed his eyes, listening to the faint sound of it in the distance, taking a deep breath and swearing he could feel the oxygen rushing out to his legs. Carefully, he flexed the muscles, curling his toes and lifting them slowly. They still felt heavy, but no longer unbearable.

“Good,” Hannibal whispered, returning and seeing Will moving slowly, coming over to his side and crouching down, gingerly taking a hold of one of Will’s legs and rubbing his aching calf. Will sighed, his touch chasing away the dull ache, and whimpered when Hannibal stopped, stood up. He opened his eyes, and Hannibal was carefully moving his jacket away, slipping his arms carefully underneath Will’s body. “Can you take a hold of me?” he asked, and Will lifted his arms slowly, wrapping them around Hannibal’s neck. The man smiled. “Good.” He lifted Will, slowly, and Will felt an odd thrill coursing through him, clung tighter to Hannibal and nestled against his own arm and the crook of the man’s neck, eyes closing.

Hannibal was gentle when setting him in the tub. The water was warm, soaking heat in through Will’s skin and to his muscles, relaxing them. He smiled tipping his head back, breathing in the heat, as Hannibal rolled the sleeves of his shirt up. Will expected him to walk out of the room then, but he knelt down, carefully guiding handfuls of water up along Will’s chest and shoulders, letting it trickle down his back.

“I can,” Will started, having to stop to give his tongue a moment to adjust, “do it,” he finished, reaching up and grabbing Hannibal’s hand. The psychiatrist’s fingers flexed against Will’s skin, and suddenly he was leaning over the tub, wrapping his arms around Will and pulling him into a tight embrace. Will’s first thought was that Hannibal’s shirt would get wet, and tried to squirm away, but those arms only tightened around him. Hannibal pressed his face to Will’s curls, murmuring something inaudible into his hair, and Will relaxed, accepting the embrace in his uneasy daze.

When Hannibal released him, Will didn’t say another word about the matter, and let Hannibal’s hands carefully remove the layer of grit that felt as if it was invading his pores, threatening to sink down into his bones and infect the very marrow at their cores.

*

Once clean, Hannibal dried Will with enough care that he could have been tending a wounded animal, getting him into bed and carefully slipping him into a pair of his underwear. Being inside clothing made Will feel strangely secure, but when Hannibal offered a shirt he was shaking his head. He wanted to curl in on himself and sleep, he didn’t want to try to maneuver to get the article on properly. Hannibal tucked it back away, walking out of the room without another word. Will closed his eyes, heard Hannibal’s voice, calling out some inaudible greeting, and then the flurry of the dogs, their whines and claws tapping on the floor.

Will heard the front door open, and realized, in the still somewhat conscious sliver of his mind, that Hannibal was letting the dogs out. Hannibal was taking care of them, without a thought, without a word from Will, just slipping into the his routine as if Hannibal had always been a part of it. Will started smiling, feeling warmth spreading out towards his fingertips and toes, and nestled into his pillow. He heard Hannibal re-enter the house with the dogs, the sounds of the flopping around, settling in, water splashing because he was making sure they had everything they needed, and then the sounds of Hannibal making his way back to Will.

Will didn’t open his eyes, didn’t need to see Hannibal stop and watch him for a moment, didn’t need to see his unguarded eyes again. He knew they were there.

Hannibal walked over, sitting on the edge of the bed and reaching out, stroking Will’s side. The man made a little pleased sound, reaching up to find Hannibal’s hand and tangle their fingers together. Will couldn’t remember that he hadn’t wanted to see this man twenty-four hours prior- couldn’t remember or even dream of anything that would make him want there to be even breath space between he and Hannibal. Hannibal squeezed his fingers, then stood up, and Will was shaking his head.

“Don’t go,” Will whimpered, trying to tug Hannibal closer.

“You should rest,” Hannibal said, though he did not try to pull further away. “I will be here.”

“All night?” Will had opened his eyes, watched as Hannibal smiled.

“All night.” The brunette sucked his lower lip into his mouth, worrying it.

“Stay,” Will whispered, “Here.” He sat up, very carefully, and Hannibal tensed, ready to help him, but Will managed on his own. He pulled Hannibal closer, wrapped his arms around his waist and pressed his face into his abdomen, inhaling the scent that clung to him and the warmth of the fire beneath his skin. Hannibal stroked a hand through his hair, soothing, did not try to pry Will away or hurry the embrace. He let Will decide how long he needed to hold onto him, and when Will pulled away, he let him. Will settled back onto the bed, and watched as Hannibal began to unbutton his shirt, stripping down in a fluid of motions until he was clad just as Will- all flesh with just his underwear, exactly as Will liked- and was climbing into the bed, over Will’s legs so lay behind him.

Hannibal slipped the blanket up Will’s legs and waist, and the younger man tangled their legs together as he leaned back against Hannibal’s chest, the solid body anchoring him down to the bed, telling him that even if it felt as if he was swimming through a reality he couldn’t be sure was real, that he was in fact, alive, had a beating heart and air in his lungs. One of Hannibal’s arms slipped around his waist, holding him, and Will felt his lips in his curls, kissing, murmuring, and the very sound of his voice was what finally gave Will’s mind the peace it needed to shut down into the blackness he had been craving.

Chapter Text

Will became aware of the light streaming in through his window before he opened his eyes. He shifted, nestling further into his pillow, one arm slipping beneath it to hold it close, and sighed. It smelled sweet, familiar-

Hannibal.

Will opened his eyes, looking out at his room, for a moment completely unsure why his pillow smelled like Hannibal still. He yawned, stretched out, legs sprawling to take up more of the bed, and then, slowly, stills came back to their frames in his mind- as if he were watching a movie, but there were pieces missing, and it was choppy, taped together poorly. He closed his eyes, rubbing his temples with his other hand, the calm of first awaking ebbing away and being replaced with a sick feeling in his stomach, Hannibal’s scent replaced with that of sweat and shame.

He made another little sound, never hearing Hannibal walking quietly into the room. The man watched Will for a moment, before he walked closer, settling on the edge of the bed. He reached out, placed a hand on his side, finding warm skin, and Hannibal’s fingers flexed. Will let him, opening his eyes and looking up at him, licking his lips before speaking, slowly.

“Tell me I had a nightmare,” he whispered, and Hannibal said nothing. “That’s what I thought.” He sat up, slowly, running his hands over his face, back into his hair. “What time is it?”

“Seven thirty.” Will nodded.

“I need to let the dogs out-“

“I already have.” Another nod.

“Feed them-“

“Taken care of.” Will sighed, resting his arms against his legs. “You don’t need to do anything, Will, except get some rest.” Will rotated his jaw, unsure how he should be feeling in that moment- unsure if he even did feel much of anything.

“I need a shower,” he decided, to which Hannibal said nothing, lifting his hand as if he meant to place it on Will’s. A moment passed, and he thought better of it, instead getting up and nodding, leaving the room. Will waited only a moment, before getting up, stretching again, his muscles feeling as if they had been locked up for hours, and making his way to the bathroom.

He had faint memories of being washed once, but the images flashing through his mind told him it wasn’t enough. Will waited until the water was scalding, then slipped out of his underwear and under the stream, pushing it back through his curls, letting it splash his face. It brought life to his nerves, left the feeling of burning on his skin that he needed.

Will let himself connect the pictures, the broken memories, behind his closed eyes, wincing when he remembered that feeling of helplessness, of being limp and rolled onto his stomach, having been stripped like a fucking whore. He growled and found the soap, scrubbing it into his body with bruising force, not stopping until his skin was raw, an angry red, until he felt he could scrub the monster’s fingerprints from his skin.

*

Will didn’t find Hannibal in his room, as he had thought he might. He dressed and made his way downstairs, found the house empty. Will walked over to the front door, opened it just enough to slip out, found Hannibal sitting on the steps, watching the dogs idly as they romped around, glad for the extra dose of fresh air. Will hesitated, standing by the door for a moment, before he crossed the porch and settled down next to Hannibal, staring out at the dogs as well. He didn’t touch the man next to him, but he could feel regardless- feel his heat and smell his cologne and hear the clicks inside his brain, the slide of his eyes as they moved across the yard.

Will glanced out of the corner of his eyes, saw Hannibal was shifting his cell phone from one hand to the other, unable to sit still. Will looked back at the yard, at one of the smaller dogs chasing Winston playfully. “Alana called,” Hannibal finally said, “She and Beverly are on their way to check on you.” Will nodded, wasn’t sure what he could say- if there was anything. Suddenly, the past week felt heavy on his shoulders, the mixture of hate and loneliness and all the truths that had threatened to bury Will alive. He leaned forward a bit, part of him wanting to lean into Hannibal, slip under one of his arms and feel the safety of his embrace.

“Thank you,” he finally said, “For...coming. I don’t know how you guys ended up here last night but...thank you.” Will clasped his hands, wringing them together, and after a moment didn’t expect a reaction from Hannibal. But then the sound of his phone dropping hit Will’s ears, and a hand was reaching out, untangling his and taking one, squeezing it. Will look at Hannibal, who kept his gaze straight ahead, and Will slid just a little slower so their thighs brushed.

“Did you think I would not come for you?” Hannibal finally asked, and Will sucked his lower lip into his mouth as he thought.

“I don’t know,” he finally admitted, “I don’t really know anything at this point, Hannibal. I know you were the most amazing thing I had for the briefest amount of time. I know I hated you for the mind games you played.”

“And now?”

“And now,” Will started, trying to think through the disaster that his thoughts and emotions were, “Now I’m just happy you’re here.” He settled with that, because despite everything else, it was true. He leaned over against Hannibal, resting his head on his shoulder, and the other man leaned his cheek into Will’s curls as they sat, quietly, until a car finally pulled up.

Will straightened up when the dogs tried to rush the car, excited, and whistled. He untangled his hand from Hannibal and called to them, and they rushed over, Will managing to turn and get to the door by the time they got to him. He opened the door and watched them all trot in, frowning when he was one short. He turned, found Winston standing on one of the steps, head on Hannibal’s leg, looking up at him and wagging his tail. Will called to him and the dog finally came, slipping inside.

Hannibal was standing when he turned around again, Alana and Beverly walking up quickly, Alana heading right to him and pulling him into a hug. Will hesitated before wrapping his arms loosely around her. “How are you feeling?” she asked softly, pulling back, and Will shrugged a shoulder.

“Alive.” That was as far as he could decipher anything at that moment.

*

They entered the house, Beverly settling on the couch, not saying a word. Her silence was unnerving. They had brought coffee, and Will was rather amused to see even Hannibal was drinking it- but then again, Will wasn’t sure how much the man had slept, if he had slept, and his eyes screamed exhaustion. He didn’t sit though, he stood, his eyes shifting to Will every so often, as if he needed to see him, to know where he was. Will didn’t mind.

“I have to get going,” he pointed out, “I’ve got a class-“

Alana held her hand up, staring at him, confused. “Will...I hate to ask but do you...remember anything?” She seemed pained by the question, and Will shoved his hands in his pockets, nodding. He remembered- he’d just prefer not to. “Then why do you think you’re going to be teaching your class?”

“Because the Earth didn’t stop,” Will pointed out, and Alana sighed.

“It’s taken care of already, I made sure. Take the day off. Beverly even called Jack, told him you’d gotten yourself really sick. She’ll field any calls from him. Today is just for you to...”

Cope?” Will asked, a little bitter, and Alana nodded, slowly. “Do I need a support group for that?” She flinched away, and Will sighed, reaching up to rub his temples. “Sorry,” he muttered, walking past her and collapsing onto the couch.

“We can leave, if you want,” Alana said, “We just wanted to check on you.” She shifted, looking over at Hannibal. “I wanted to make sure you were taken care of.”

“Just fill in some gaps for me,” Will said, “How did you...find me?” Alana folded her arms.

“Beverly called me and wanted me to come have a drink with her, and mentioned you had been there but left sick. I told her I wanted to check in on you first.” She fidgeted, obviously uneasy. “When I found you...I panicked a bit. I couldn’t think of anyone else to call.” She looked at Hannibal, but he looked past her, watching Will. “After I called Hannibal, I called Beverly. That’s how we all ended up here.”

“Was I alone?” Alana nodded.

“You didn’t want us to call the police,” she offered, cringing a bit. “We didn’t, out of respect.” He nodded.

“Thank you,” Will whispered.

“I hate to ask this too,” Alana said, “But do you...know who did this to you?” Will swallowed the lump in his throat. “Because Beverly and I...Will, we need to know if-“

“You can’t blame yourselves,” he muttered, meaning it, and out of the corner of his eye he saw Beverly curl up. Alana looked away, tapping her foot, and Will swore he heard her mutter I’ll kill that son of a bitch.

“We have to report it,” Alana finally said, but Will shook his head firmly. He looked in her direction, and she was fooled into thinking his eyes were on her, when they slipped past her, found Hannibal’s.

“No,” he spoke, very carefully, “I don’t want them involved. This will be resolved.” Hannibal tilted his head slightly, regarding Will, before the brunette broke the stare and got up, walking over to Alana and pulling her into his arms. “Please, don’t blame yourself.”

“I sent you to him!” She cried, clinging to Will desperately. “I’d heard such good things, I thought- I thought he’d help you. I should’ve just left you in Hannibal’s hands.” Will stroked her hair, the gesture oddly just as soothing to him as it was to her. He heard Beverly move off the couch finally, and felt her arms slip around his waist, hugging him from behind- the gesture so unlike her that Will tensed for a moment.

“I shouldn’t have let him take you,” she whispered, and Will almost laughed because he wasn’t sure he could comfort both of them at once- and, truthfully, he felt rather silly between the two of them. He looked at Hannibal, and despite that he should have been somber, smiled at the man who had been his lover, his destroyer, and now had no name, no title, only a set of tired eyes and an honest half smile in return.

*

Despite being able to work up a lie for Will, Beverly had to get to the lab, and excused herself out to Alana’s car first, head bowed. Will saw the blame in her eyes, and wished he could take it from her. He didn’t blame her- or Alana- at all. Not for this. The only blame lay on the man who had defiled him.

The three were standing on the porch, Alana speaking softly to Hannibal. Will leaned against the railing, watching them idly, listening carefully.

“I will stay with Will,” Hannibal said without hesitation to Alana’s concerns about Will being alone.

“You have patients,” Will pointed out, and the two looked over at him.

“I will cancel my appointments,” Hannibal said calmly, and Will shook his head.

“On such short notice? That’s rather rude.” Will grinned, and Alana seemed shocked- but Hannibal returned the smile, stifling a chuckle. “I’ll be fine on my own, I swear it. He’s not going to come after me.”

“How do you know?” Alana asked, and Will’s face darkened when he responded,

“Because I can get inside his head, and I know that’s not how he works.” Alana clamped her mouth shut, looking away, and Will felt Hannibal’s eyes on him, intrigued.

“If you will not permit me to clear my schedule,” Hannibal said, “Perhaps you would come back to Baltimore with me, at least for the day? I’m sure that would put Alana at some ease.” She was nodding, and Will shifted.

“I don’t know. The dogs-“

“I’ll stop by,” Alana promised, “Please Will? Spend a night away from this house. Besides, we’d all feel better.” Will rubbed his jaw.

“One night,” he agreed, “But that’s it. And I’m giving my lecture tomorrow.” Alana nodded her consent, pleased for the small victory, and excused herself with a quick thanks to Hannibal and a brief hug for Will to leave. They watched her climb into the car with Beverly, who wouldn’t look at her, and drive away.

*

Conversation was sparse for the drive. Will didn’t mind, over an hour of near silence with just Hannibal’s presence was soothing, he couldn’t deny. He stared out the window as the day rolled by before his eyes, watching the cars as the cities awoke to start their days, as everything continued as it always had.

“Alana is most concerned about you,” Hannibal said, thirty minutes in, the first words that either had spoken since they climbed into the car together. “She feels she is to blame for what happened.”

“She isn’t,” Will replied simply, folding his arms.

“Agent Katz holds the blame on herself, as well.”

“It wasn’t Beverly’s fault, either.” Will looked over at Hannibal, watching him drive. He seemed put together, despite that he had yet to shower or shave, the top few buttons of his shirt were undone, and his jacket hastily thrown on over it. His eyes were the only clue that he wasn’t. “And it wasn’t your’s.”

Hannibal looked over at him briefly, before returning his gaze to the road. “I do not hold myself responsible for what happened to you, Will.”

Will laughed, a harsh bark that cut clean through the air. “Try that again, only be honest this time.”

“I’m honest.” Will frowned, turning away from Hannibal to look out the window again.

“Not with yourself,” he muttered, curling in on himself a bit as if to create a shield that the psychiatrist could not penetrate. Hannibal noticed the small movement out of the corner of his eye, and something seized painfully in his chest.

*

Will felt out of place in Hannibal’s home- and that very fact made him achingly sad. He remembered when it had felt as if it was just an extension of his own home. He settled on the couch while Hannibal rushed off to make himself presentable, pulling Julie’s small diary from his bag. He’d have a few hours of solitude, and if he wasn’t allowed to teach, or to go to the lab, he’d work with what he had and actually do something meaningful with his time. His only other options were to lament in the discomfort he felt in his own skin now, or attempt to put an order to the disarray of thoughts and feelings he had welling up inside him concerning his former lover.

Will didn’t like feeling sorry for himself, he had no interest in pursuing his first option. And the second...the second was terrifying, because he wasn’t sure what outcome he’d end up with, nor was he sure what conclusion he wanted.

He was flipping through the pages of the diary when Hannibal appeared, and he glanced up at him over the top of the book. He was clean shaven, perfectly dressed, with his hair slicked back- the usual personification of perfect control. But Will saw the cracks, and he had the urge to reach out and press his fingers into them, until the man before he shattered into dust in his hands.

“Are you sure you do not wish me to cancel my appointments?” Will nodded, avoiding Hannibal’s eyes and watching his mouth. He licked his lips absent mindedly, remembering how they felt against his own. “Then I will return in a few hours. Please, make yourself at home.”

Will nodded, returned his gaze to the book because Hannibal’s mouth was just as dangerous to stare at as his eyes were. He missed the way Hannibal watched him for a moment longer, the twitch in his body to close the gap, to touch Will in some way, a reminder that he was here, alive- bent but yet unbroken, that he had not slipped through Hannibal’s fingers yet.

Hannibal left without the contact, swallowing the desire and allowing it to settle in his stomach like lead.

*

In his mind, Will was in his office- that cool blue color scheme faded to black, the lights out. The moon streamed all the light he needed in through the open window. It bathed the man he had bond on the floor in such a beautiful pale light that Will had to smile.

Will circled him, examining the intricate way the rope was twisted around his hands, bound at the base of his back, the way the crept from his ankles up to his thighs. It was artistic in such a way that Will wished the world could see it.

Matthew squirmed, ever so slightly, his eyes dilated, mouth gagged with a piece of cloth tied around his jaw. Will planted his foot just above his bound hands, pressing his weight into him, and the man made a strangled sound and stopped moving.

“I said no squirming,” Will whispered, his voice heavy and dark, penetrating down to the man’s bones. “If you squirm, my hand might slip. Wouldn’t that be a shame?” He crouched down, pulling a large hunting knife from it’s case on his belt, and cut open the back of the man’s shirt, tearing it open and admiring the curve of his spine. “You probably feel more than I did,” Will pointed out, “I didn’t drug you nearly as much. Not really fair, is it? Messing the mind in such a way.” He tapped the tip of the blade against the man’s spine, before shifting it to the side and digging it into the flesh, dragging it down to where his hands were bound. The man cried out around his gag, jerking his head up, and Will grinned, dragging it blade back up, until his back was slit to his shoulder blades.

“I’m being careful,” Will pointed out, stabbing his blade into the other side of the man’s spine, “To not touch your spine. I want you to think you can move, but realize just how pointless it is.” He dragged the blade down, blood splashing up onto his shirt. He stood up, grinning almost madly, watching the man thrash and make choked, agonized cries around the gag.

Will felt eyes on him, and his grin turned sly. He slide his hand down off the handle of the blade and gripped it gently by the blade, turning to the darkness and holding it out, so the handle was accessible. He watched as Hannibal stepped from the shadows, in all his perfection, dark suit with bits of brilliant color in his tie, and took the knife gently in his hand. Will’s smile broadened almost impossibly and he kept his hand extended, kicking at Matthew’s body until he managed to roll over onto his back.

Hannibal slid up behind him, wrapping his free arm around Will’s waist and holding him back against his body. Will tilted his head, allowed Hannibal’s mouth access to his neck, where teeth and tongue worried and tormented flesh so exquisitely Will let a soft moan escape his lips. “You picked the wrong victim,” Will whispered, seeking and finding Matthew’s wide, terrified eyes- so light they seemed to be pure white around his blown pupils. “I’ve already got one psychopath’s claws in me- and I don’t think he likes competition.”

Will reached up as Hannibal lifted his head from Will’s neck, ran his fingers along the man’s cheek and into his hair, turning and seeking out his mouth, kissing Hannibal as deeply as the almost painful tilt of his head and neck allowed. Hannibal’s arm tightened around him, before Will released him suddenly and broke free, walking away and settling onto a chair very close to Matthew’s body, leaning back in a liquid like relaxation.

“Dr. Barker,” he said, calmly, “Meet the other half of me- the Chesapeake Ripper. And Hannibal-“ he looked over at him, sought out and find brilliant eyes that made the blood in his body begin to pool in his groin. “Meet the man who thought he could take what is your’s.”

Will grinned as Hannibal’s eyes flicked down to Matthew, and then he was on him, quick and precise, that blade opening up his chest and belly, through his shirt. There was a muffled scream, and Hannibal tore shirt and flesh aside, exposing the man’s insides like an open book. Will licked his lips, shifting and reaching down to palm himself through his pants, groaning low in his throat as the way Hannibal brought such agonized sounds from the man’s mouth, the way he worked open the body as if he was god, simply turning a page on this man’s life.

The sound drew Hannibal’s attention, and he looked over at Will, giving him a dark, devious half smile, and Will pressed harder, nearly grinding into his hand through his clothing. He watched as Hannibal set the knife down, working his jacket off and tossing it aside, rolling up his sleeves before delving his hands into the body, skimming along the slick masses of organs and tissue, caressing. Will could feel those hands in his mind, wanted them under his skin, in his belly, touching and learning and worshiping.

He made another sound, a louder moan, and Hannibal was up, off the body, only the kneel before Will, leaning in and batting his hand away, his own blood slicked hand replacing it to tease Will. The brunette pushed against him, Nuzzling into Hannibal’s other bloody hand as it found his cheek, stroked a thumb along his jawline, before sinking back into his hair. The psychiatrist crawled up his body, his hand still firmly between Will’s thighs, seeking out his mouth and kissing him firmly.

Will was the one to trace his tongue along Hannibal’s lips, to push into his mouth and taste and tease, gripping onto his shirt as he forced Hannibal’s head to tilt the way he wanted it to, as he took the control inside this man and owned it, until Hannibal was making sounds just like Will, and Will was grinning into his mouth.

“Right here,” he breathed, tearing at the buttons of Hannibal’s shirt, “I need you now.”

Hannibal broke away from Will’s mouth and kissed along his jawline, breathing into Will’s ear, “He’s still alive.”

Will looked past Hannibal, found the glossy eyes of Dr. Barker- seeing but half dead, nearing the final ledge, the inevitable plunge into that sweet blackness that Will didn’t think he deserved. “Good,” he whispered, clutching into Hannibal. “I want him to watch.”

Hannibal shivered and tore at Will’s clothing, smearing red stains along his skin in his haste, all the while Will kept his eyes locked with Matthew’s, smirking wickedly at the way he could pull all these strings so easily.

Will’s eyes opened slowly as he felt something being draped over him. He blinked away his sleep, caught Hannibal just as he was turning to walk away. “What time is it?” he whispered, and the psychiatrist turned.

“Just after five.” Will nodded, stretched his body out, but did not move or tug off the blanket. His cock was throbbing inside his jeans, but he was oddly calm as to the reason why.

“Sorry, I must have fallen asleep,” he whispered, shifting his arm to rest his cheek on it. “Was I trashing at all?”

“You were perfectly calm,” Hannibal answered, and Will deemed it the truth. He still was not unnerved. If anything, the image of a bloody, wide opened Matthew had made him feel placid- Hannibal’s frantic touch reminding him he had survived. “Should you have been?”

“Probably,” Will admitted, though he wasn’t sure he dared to venture into the topic of the dream. He’d kept so many of them locked away from Hannibal, glossing over them only once, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to hear the man’s theories on them. Will carefully pushed himself up, keeping the thin blanket around his waist and legs, hiding the evidence of his excitement.

“Would you like to share?” Will sighed, leaning back, raking his hands over his face.

“I’m not sure,” he admitted, and Hannibal nodded, settling onto the couch next to him. “I was mutilating Dr. Barker,” he whispered, aware that Hannibal had situated himself just far enough that their thighs weren’t even brushing.

“It’s an understandable fantasy, considering what he did to you.” Will licked his lips, then decided to hell with it and kept going.

“You were there.” Hannibal perked up, whispering, “oh?” and looking directly at Will, who nodded. “You opened him up as if he was a book.” Will sucked his lower lip into his mouth for a second, before adding, “And I watched.” Will felt Hannibal studying him, and dared to look into his eyes. The corners of the older man’s mouth twitched.

“Now you are the one not being honest, Will,” he whispered, “What else?” Will sucked in his breath, still feeling the dull ache between his legs.

“I was jealous of how you could explore him so intimately. I wanted to be the one you could touch like that. And I was...touching myself while you cut him open.” Will shivered as Hannibal’s gaze never once faltered. “You left him laying there, half dead, and I...I told you I wanted you, right there. That I wanted him to watch.”

Will felt his muscles twitching, waiting on bated breath for Hannibal’s reaction. He dared to look into those eyes again, and his breath was lost. They were dark, almost black, hungry and trying to devour him without touching him. Will could almost smell the arousal as Hannibal turned, leaning over and stroking his fingers along Will’s stubled jaw.

“You appear rather calm, considering this, Will.”

“I liked it,” he whispered, eyelids fluttering at the tender touch. “I don’t feel sick. Just...calm.” Hannibal’s thumb traced along his lower lip, and Will dared to open his mouth, let his tongue flick against the digit. Hannibal’s eyes flashed to something well beyond the point of danger- a madness that only Will seemed capable of bringing out in him.

Will was waiting for Hannibal to make a move, to grab him, to crash their bodies together, pin him to the couch and devour him. He was waiting, and he was accepting of the idea. Regardless of where the two were in this sordid mess of a relationship, he couldn’t deny that Hannibal felt good, that there was something so exquisitely perfect about how their bodies fit together. It was terrifying, maddening- it was a reality Will could sink his fingers into.

Hannibal sank his fingers back into Will’s hair, jerked him so close he could feel the psychiatrist’s breath on his lips, but did not close the gap, still otherwise did not touch him. Will wondered if Hannibal was waiting for Will to make the move- and he would not be drawn out. Will waited, stared with his stormy gaze, finding Hannibal’s eyes and locking. He remember how it felt to tell Hannibal what he wanted and have it done, in the dream that had felt like simply slipping into another plane of existence. The thought of having power over this man, instead of him calculating Will’s every move, made him dizzy.

Will’s lip twitched into a small smile, and Hannibal’s followed. The power game was acknowledged, and just like that, Will was pulling back, and Hannibal allowed him to. Part of Will was sure he wasn’t ready to have a full on power struggle with Hannibal yet, despite the desire for it. Allowing for that meant allowing the man in closer, and Will needed more from Hannibal than just a painstakingly high levle of arousal for that.

Hannibal got up from the couch without a word, and Will watched him walk away, making his way to the kitchen. Will settled back, taking a deep breath and closing his eyes, finally allowing himself to slip into the mess of thoughts and desires he had for Hannibal, shifting through them, delving in and drowning on them as the house began to smell deliciously of cooking meat.

If Will was going to allow Hannibal back inside, the rules would have to change. He could survive with the man’s claws inside him, but Hannibal ahd to be willing to let Will under his skin just as deep, to let the man settle into the marrow of his bones and tear from him the same desires and madness he found inside Will. And yes, Will knew, as the darkness in his mind ebbed gently, that this would only work if Hannibal could find something in his chest that could beat for Will just as Will’s heart hammered for him.

If there was love- whatever sick form in came in- Will thought there was a chance. But what that said about Will’s future, he wasn’t sure. But, perhaps, it was time to find out.

Chapter Text

Will sat with Hannibal at the table and ate as if nothing had happened- as if he hadn’t admitted to his dream, as if they two hadn’t stared into each other and had that silent power struggle, ending with neither willing to give an inch. The wine made Will feel placid, calm, the dark thoughts ebbing away. His mood must have affected Hannibal, because he flashed genuine smiles at Will, and they talked lightly of nothing that seemed to really matter.

It was after dinner that concerned Will the most. While he had come prepared to stay the night- to appease Alana- he had the option of asking Hannibal to take him home. He knew the man wouldn’t deny him, would offer little resistance. And Will was sure that it might be the best course of action for part of his mind, the rational part that saw any attempt at intimacy with Hannibal doomed-

For once, Will was more than willing to accept the irrational, unstable portion of his mind. He took his glass of wine and followed Hannibal into the living room, content to pace around it slowly, finishing off the glass as he stared out the window. Hannibal had settled on the couch with a book, and Will saw the silent invitation for intimacy- for a glimpse back into what had been normal for them, during their brief relationship. He set his glass down, sitting on the couch next to Hannibal, and saw his burgundy eyes flash up from his book.

Will shifted, moving an inch closer, and fumbled around in his bag, which lay on the floor, for the copies of the case files he had. He flipped through them, all the while listening to every movement Hannibal made- not really seeing the photographs of the mutilated bodies, but seeing Hannibal’s every movement in his mind. He tapped his fingers on the folder, and when he heard the book close his heart jumped up into his throat.

“You have never discussed this case much with me, Will,” Hannibal mused, leaning over and examining the photo sitting on the top of the file. Will felt his breath on his cheek and shivered openly.

“Which is a shame,” Will whispered, leaning over and back against him, and Hannibal’s arm found its way around his shoulders. “I could use that lovely mind of yours.” Hannibal chuckled, dared to nudge Will’s curls gently, and Will relaxed into him so easily, it was as if nothing had ever happened to break the once intimate bond. “Would you care to be brought up to speed?”

“I would be delight,” Hannibal said, turning his attention to the papers in Will’s lap as the brunette started from the very beginning- with Julie’s lovely corpse, and her hidden array of photos and diary.

*

Will wasn’t sure how long he talked, how long Hannibal listened. He wasn’t aware exactly when the man shifted even closer, the arm dropping from his shoulders to wrap around his waist, or when they adjusted their angel so Will was leaning into his chest, having pulled his legs up onto the couch. All he knew was that it was late, and he had gone over every bit of the case, every body, every intricate detail of their mutilation, every important encounter he could think of. That, and that he felt perfectly secure against Hannibal, in a way that did not seem like it should happen. Not after what had just transpired.

Will yawned, stretching, accidentally knocking the file from his lap, spilling the contents onto the floor. He cursed, felt Hannibal’s hand slip down from his waist to flatten on his belly, and he was filled with a warmth he hadn’t realized he’d missed so badly. He squirmed a little, and Hannibal’s hand moved gently, running along his abdomen. “I missed this,” Will admitted, and Hannibal’s other arm wound around his chest, holding him tightly.

Will tilted his head, trying to look up at Hannibal, but the man settled his chin into Will’s curls so he couldn’t see him. Will heard, distinctly though, a very soft, “As did I,” and knew in that moment he had no desire to have Hannibal drive him through the night to his lonely house. “Perhaps we should get some sleep,” Hannibal whispered, still softly, into Will’s curls, and the samller man untangled himself and stood up- though he was sure, down in his bones, he could have stayed like that forever. He stooped down and began collecting all the papers that had fallen from his lap. When he stood, Hannibal was holding the folder, and when he passed it to Will their fingers brushed, sending warm tingles through Will’s nerves. He sucked his lower lip into his mouth and looked away, stuffing everything into the folder and grabbing his bag as Hannibal made his way for the stairs.

Hannibal stopped at the door to the guest room Will had made his own times before, and something inside Will curled up and ached, reaching its fingers down into his stomach and tugging. “If you would be more comfortable,” Hannibal said, not even opening the door, “You are still welcome in my bed.”

Will’s knees felt weak, and he managed a nod, following Hannibal down to the master bedroom. Hannibal never turned the light on, and Will set his bag down as he walked in, watching as Hannibal loosened his tie carefully.

“You’re sure you don’t mind?” Will asked, and Hannibal smiled.

“I’m sure. We have been over what is open to friends, Will.” Will popped the top two buttons on his shirt, then paused.

“So your bedroom is open to friends now too?” He gave a playful smile, but what he saw in the dark from Hannibal was simply a serious look as the man said, very plainly,

“My bed is open to you, Will.” Will stared at him, his heart thumping loudly against his ribs, begging for freedom, and swallowed his pulse down as he reached up to continue unbuttoning his shirt. Once it was open he tossed it on top of his bag, looked back and saw Hannibal had removed his jacket and vest, and had his shirt open, standing by his armoire. “How will you be most comfortable, Will?”

Will knew the answer he wanted to give, and the answer he should give. They were completely different, one kept Hannibal fully dressed and securely in his own space- the other left him almost completely exposed, entangled with Will so their skin was flush and Will could feel his heartbeat.

“How I always am,” Will managed, unable to ask Hannibal for it, cheeks flushing as he turned away and made quick work of his own clothing. He slipped over to the bed, set his glasses on the bedside table, and crawled beneath the blanket on the side that had, very briefly, been thought of as his inside his mind. He squeezed his eyes shut, turned on his side, refusing to let himself look, to see bits of flesh in the dark, that frame that he had loved so much.

Love so much he corrected. He couldn’t deny that much to himself.

He felt the bed move, the blanket shifting, and then Hannibal’s arm slipped over his waist, pulling him back gently against his chest. Skin met skin, and Will bit his lip to keep from gasping, both hating and thankful for the scarce bits of fabric that still covered each of them. Hannibal’s hand flattened on his stomach, and it was warm and soothing and despite himself Will relaxed a little. Hannibal kissed his curls, and Will vaguely remembered Hannibal holding him like this last night. Parts of that had been a blur to him.

“Did you stay with me all night?” he asked, and Hannibal nodded, slowly.

“Yes. You asked me to.”

“Like...this.”

“Precisely like this.” He pressed his forehead into Will’s curls. “I admit, I did not sleep.”

“Did I keep you up?” Will felt silly the moment the words left his mouth, and shook his head, but Hannibal managed to pull him even closer, fitting into every curve and groove of his body in such a way that Will stretched out a little, so their skin could glide together.

“No,” Hannibal admitted, “I kept myself up.” Will nodded.

“Why did you come, when Alana called?” He reached down, ran his fingers over Hannibal’s hand very lightly, tracing finger bones over his knuckles and up to his wrist. He waited for an answer, instead felt Hannibal’s hand retract, the man moving quickly, precisely, rolling Will onto his back and bracing his hands on either sides of the man’s shoulders, staring down at him in the dark. Will stared up, wide eyed, transfixed by those dark eyes.

“Why wouldn’t I, Will?” he asked, his voice not harsh, but complete with a sharp edge. “Do you think I would have simply left you to fend for yourself? Do you think I have no feelings regarding you?” Will opened his mouth, then clamped it back shut, unsure what to say. “Do you think I do not care about you?”

Will lost it at the way those eyes seemed to melt, open up into an ocean of deep near red, and he was reaching up, wrapping his arms around Hannibal’s neck, pulling him down and slipping the fingers of one hand into his hair. When their mouths met Will saw stars behind his eyelids, pushed his heated mouth against Hannibal’s in such a way that he felt he was sucking the life from the man above him- but that it didn’t matter because Hannibal was willing to give it. Will opened his mouth to Hannibal’s tongue and whimpered, barely able to breath and a heat rising under his skin that surpassed any arousal he had felt earlier- for this fire had something soft to it, something light that settled in his belly and spread heated fingers through his veins.

“Hannibal,” Will was whispering into the man’s mouth, over and over again, without realizing it, clutching onto him as the kiss broke and their foreheads pressed together. “I miss you,” Will whimpered, and then he was rolling them over, pressing Hannibal into the mattress and laying on top of him, one hand buried in his hair as he rocked their hips together, finding his mouth again and sucking his lower lip into his mouth, feeling Hannibal’s breath rush out of him as he pushed up against him, one hand finding his lower back and pressing into skin and muscle.

The hold kept Will from moving his hips away- not that he wanted to- and his cock was hardening so fast it made him dizzy. Hannibal felt it- he knew by the bit to his lower lip, the small growl into his mouth- by the way the man’s body was responding exactly the same way.

“Tell me, Will,” Hannibal breathed, fingers digging in with bruising force, “If you would like to stop.”

“No,” Will gasped, accentuating it with a grind of his hips that made him choke. “God no.” He tilted his head back, exposed his neck for Hannibal, who took the hint and peppered kisses along his throat, tender caresses of his mouth that had Will’s heart thumping loudly in his ears.

Will needed this- he was done ignoring it, denying it. He needed Hannibal, needed the dark monster inside his body, needed the man who maybe he had misjudged, even if only in the slightest. There had to be some sort of affection inside him, something that drew him to Will when the man needed him most. In that moment, Will was willing to take whatever he could get from Hannibal, and that sliver of tender desire was enough.

He needed Hannibal to reclaim him, to rub away the last layer of disgusting grime that still felt it clung to Will’s skin. Needed to be reborn with Hannibal inside him, with his name on those prefect lips.

Hannibal was slipping his hand between their bodies, teasing Will through the thin fabric of his underwear. Will pushed himself up, leaning back and hooking his thumbs under his waistband, tugging them low on his hips in one fluid, teasing movement. Hannibal’s eyes lit up, flicked from the freshly exposed skin, up to Will’s face, his eyes, and back again. Will laughed at the attention, the raw anticipation- couldn’t help himself, and Hannibal gods be good smiled and grabbed his hips, rolling them over again and tearing at Will’s underwear, pulling them down his legs and tossing them into the dark.

Will arched his back as Hannibal’s arms encircled his waist, clung to him as his mouth worked along the sensitive skin of his stomach, tracing his tongue from Will’s navel to the base of his cock. Will gasped as Hannibal’s cheek brushed his aching sex, before the man’s breath was ghosting over it and he was sucking him into his mouth, making Will’s eyes roll back into his head and his hands clutch desperately at the sheets. He bucked up, pushing deeper into Hannibal’s throat before he could stop himself, crying out because Hannibal let him.

Will was almost happy that Hannibal did not torment him long- he didn’t want this to end, not yet, not when he had an ache deep inside him to have Hannibal embedded in his body. When Hannibal released him- an oddly satisfying pop as the suction released- and crawled over his body to reach for his bedside table, Will took advantage and wrapped his arms around him, teasing every bit of skin he could find with teeth and lips and tongue. He found Hannibal’s collarbone and kissed along the curves as Hannibal was leaning back, dipping his head lower and wrapping his lips around one of Hannibal’s nipples.

He worried it with his head as Hannibal’s head tipped back, mouth parting in a way that made Will’s cock throb, and he soothed the ache he’d caused with his tongue, before Hannibal was trying to pull away, to get his hand between Will’s thighs. Will kept a hold of him, leaning up to find his mouth and kissing him as a slick finger pressed into his body, the second following almost instantly and making him cry into Hannibal’s mouth. The psychiatrist smiled against his lips and drank down the sounds, managing to thrust his fingers in and out of Will’s body, despite the awkward angle, the way Will clung to him as if he may disappear into the blackness of the room.

Will pulled one of his arms from the tangle he had around Hannibal’s body, squirmed it between them and found Hannibal’s cock, grasping it and stroking as the man pushed deeper into his body. His fingertips brushed Will’s prostate and he was seeing stars, crying out and tearing his mouth away, for a moment sure he was going to be thrown over the edge from the single touch.

“Need you,” he whimpered, “now,” and it didn’t matter that Hannibal hadn’t finished thoroughly preparing and teasing Will, he was pulling out and ready to push right between his thighs when Will started to shake his head. “Won’t last,” he whispered, brokenly, and grasped Hannibal behind his neck, pulling him in for a kiss and guiding him down onto his back. He crawled over him, and the older man reached up, guided Will’s hip as he steadied himself, his other hand bracing his own cock as Will sank down on it, slowly, body stretching almost painfully- but he welcomed that, that feeling of slight discomfort, the knowledge that he needed it or he would be undone in that very moment, knowing Hannibal was once again inside him-

He was almost undone regardless by those eyes, the way they watched, pupils large, took in every detail of him, down to the way every bit of skin stretched over muscle and bone, moved as Will sucked his lower lip into his mouth and worried it until he couldn’t get Hannibal any deeper. He stayed just as he was, his body adjusting to the invasion, enjoying the way Hannibal clutched his hip, his other hand running along the curve of his ass to his lower back.

When Will did move, he leaned forward, bracing one hand on Hannibal’s chest, letting his lover help guide his hips. His breath rushed out with each thrust into his body, Hannibal’s hand tightening when Will began to push back faster, when he looked up through heavy lashes and thick curls and locked eyes with him, gazing with such heavy desire that Hannibal lost his breath despite himself. Will rolled his hips, pushing himself up and smiling an infectiously sweet smile, reaching down and finding Hannibal’s hands on his hips, gripping them.

The look in Hannibal’s eyes changed at the touch- softened, and Will’s sweet smile melted into something far more affectionate, before he tipped his head back, sighing as they rocked together perfectly. He was teetering on the edge, with way Hannibal’s cock rubbed up against his sweet spot enough to make him lose his mind- but those eyes made his heart pound the fastest, those hands made him twitch and whimper with how they gently held him, warm and secure. He pulled them away from his hips only so he could tangle their fingers together, pulling one up and kissing Hannibal’s knuckles as he sank down deeper onto his cock.

Hannibal tried to lean up, seemed ready to pull free of Will’s hands and gather him into his arms, but he was shaking his head, settling those hands back on his hips. “Don’t touch me,” he whispered, not threatening, just a quiet plea, despite that he body was screaming for just that. “Keep your hands,” he whispered, pressing them against the tops of his hips, “right here.” He squeezed Hannibal’s hands before sliding his own down along Hannibal’s arms, and the psychiatrist obeyed, clutching at Will and helping to guide his movements.

Will worried his lips, fighting to keep his eyes from rolling back, searching along Hannibal’s collar bone, his throat, up to those parted lips where his breath was coming, heavy and almost ragged, and Will knew he was holding on for his sake. He rocked harder, choking on his breathes, wanting something and completely unsure what it was.

When he heard Hannibal’s voice, he knew.

Will wasn’t sure when it started, but Hannibal was whispering his name, over and over again, a liquid mixture of Will and words he couldn’t understand, but mostly his name, and yes, yes that was it, Will was tipping his head back and crying out, stilling as his muscles clenched and released rhythmically and his orgasm tore through his body, the evidence sticking to his belly and chest as he slumped down, still clenching Hannibal inside him tightly. When Hannibal’s hands left his waist he didn’t protest- high on his post orgasmic delirium, he was seeing stars in the black of the room. Hannibal managed to sit up, reaching up for Will as he still rocked into his body, clutching his face tenderly in his hands and holding him steady for a series of desperate kisses that left Will completely breathless and near the point of passing out.

He could barely tell was was real, everything felt like thousands of fires burning inside his nerves, as if his orgasm had never really ceased, as Hannibal pushed up into him, holding him steady as he kissed and teased his lips, murmured against them in his velvety voice that made Will clutch at his arms and tremble, at the point of sensory overload. He must have spoken, he felt the air leave his lips, brush against Hannibal’s that were so close, felt his tongue move- and then he felt Hannibal still inside him, heard his euphoric moan and felt his fingers twitch against his cheeks, before he closed the gap for one more lengthy kiss.

The two collapsed to the bed, Will whimpering when Hannibal was pulled free from his body. He curled up into Hannibal’s side, nestling the crook of his neck and breathing in the sweet scent of his skin, mingling with the unavoidable smell of sex that made Will’s heart refuse to cease racing. Hannibal slipped an arm around him, the other flexing against the bed as he too tried to come down off his high.

“I think we made up,” Will mused, lightheartedly, teasing, and pushed himself up to see the soft smile spread across Hannibal’s face. Will couldn’t help but return the smile, feeling fluttery yet content inside his belly- this was a step in the right direction. Besides, he couldn’t handle knowing Hannibal wasn’t his, he couldn’t handle not having the man wrapped around him so tightly that their flesh seemed to fuse. He needed Hannibal, and if the time came when Hannibal misused his affection again, Will would handle it then. But for now, he was content to pretend they were normal.

“Let’s have a quick shower,” Hannibal said, sitting up and forcing Will to do the same. Will frowned, because he was tired and wanted nothing more than to curl up with Hannibal and drift into sleep, but the air was chilling the harsh reminder of his orgasm and making him uncomfortable. He nodded, waited while Hannibal got up first, drinking down his naked body in the dark of the room, the perfect contours that made Will want to reach out and touch. “It’s rude to stare, Will,” he chastised, but with a smile, and Will smirked, crawling off the bed.

“Yeah well, it’s hard when you’re are enticing as you are,” he pointed out, taking one last long look, feeling a small surge of power at being the one with the predatory gaze for once. “Besides, I have a lot of staring to make up for.”

Hannibal smiled and walked away, giving Will the excuse to watch.

*

Will’s fatigue disappeared under the hot water, as Hannibal rubbed sweetly perfumed soap over his skin, pressing slick from the soapy mixture against his back and dipping down to nibble at his neck. Will shifted, loving the feeling of their bodies sliding together so easily, as Hannibal’s hand slipped low against his stomach.

“Careful,” Will breathed, and in response Hannibal let his hand complete its journey, wrapping around Will’s cock and stroking him tenderly, slowly bringing him back to life. Will tipped his head back against Hannibal’s shoulder, sighing blissfully as he hardened far quicker than he thought possible, as Hannibal drew out each of his breaths with his euphoric touch. Will closed his eyes and reveled in the feeling of the heated water streaming over him, in Hannibal’s warmth, the solid mass of his body pressed up against him so sweetly real. He moaned, loudly, one hand reaching back slightly and gripping at Hannibal’s thigh, making no attempt to hide how undone he already was.

He was quivering, and Hannibal was ruthless yet tender, finding his neck and kissing the wet, sweet smelling skin, lapping water droplets off his flesh until Will was shuddering and crying out, melting in his arms so that Hannibal had to wrap both around him to make sure he didn’t fall.

“You’ll be the death of me,” Will breathed, the words ending in a laugh, and Hannibal smiled against the skin of his neck, only faltering when Will turned in his arms, kissing him quickly before slipping down to his knees, staring up at Hannibal as he opened his mouth wide and took him in, just as capable as the psychiatrist in causing that Earth shattering bliss that sent warm chills and tingles from the belly and spine to his fingers and toes.

*

Will felt the first tendrils of sleep lifting, and without opening his eyes stretched his muscles out, relaxing into the softness of the bed just as arms wrapped around him and Hannibal nestled, still asleep, into his shoulder. Will opened his eyes, looked over at him, then grinned, looking back up at the ceiling and letting out a long sigh, feeling pleased- content. There was something oddly charming about the psychiatrist when he slept, the way he seemed to melt from a being of complete control to one with an awfully sweet face, one that gave off the slightest hint of some inner peace.

Will wasn’t sure if he’d ever woken up before Hannibal, but made a silent vow to let it happen more often. He considered trying to shift so he could get his arms around the man, but Hannibal was stirring, opening his eyes and taking Will in.

“Good morning,” he said, sitting up, and Will wished he hadn’t. He would hav liked to slip his arms around the man for a few minutes.

“Morning,” Will responded, stretching out again. “What time is it?”

Hannibal looked over Will, at the clock on his bedside table, “Nearly nine o’clock.” Will sat up in a flash, eyes wide.

“Shit,” he muttered, tangling a hand in his hair and pulling gently. “I have a lecture to give today.” He flew from the bed, making a beeline for the shower, and Hannibal smiled to himself, sinking back down to the mattress and laying in the space heated by Will’s body for a few precious moments.

*

When Hannibal had climbed into the shower with Will a few minutes later, it had been so tempting to fall into the rhythm they had found earlier, but Will was determined to get to his lecture, to find that little bit of normalcy in his life, and had been glad when Hannibal did not tempt him further.

He flipped through his case file as Hannibal drove, trying to switch the frequency of his brain from Hannibal to business as usual. It seemed nearly impossible.

“Your killer is an interesting one,” Hannibal mused, “To take such care to recreate the human form into a work of art.” Will clicked his tongue.

“Are you calling it art?” Hannibal gave him a quick glance, then looked back at the road.

“I am.” Will sighed, closed the folder, reaching up to fidget with his glasses.

“I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that,” he mused, “And continue to pretend that we’re just a normal couple for the day, okay with you?” Hannibal chuckled, and Will was smiling despite the horror of what was going on. “And in order for me to live out this fantasy, you’ve got to behave, okay?”

“Oh?” Hannibal raised an eyebrow, but kept his eyes on the road. “And why would I agree to this?”

“Maybe I’ll punish you if you don’t.” Will thought that had sounded a bit more normal and bland in his head, but when he spoke his voice seemed to drop, and he saw Hannibal’s lips twitch into a smile.

“I would very much like to see you try, dear Will.”

*

Will made it to his class, just in time, having given Hannibal a longer than intended kiss in the car, and regretting it as he realized his cheeks were still flushed when he walked into his lecture hall, already filling with students. Still, he pushed it to the back of his mind and attempt to focus on the task at hand.

Jack gave him what felt like a proper scolding for being too sick to work on the case. No one was too sick when there was a serial killer on the loose. Will simply took the abuse silently, hands in his pockets, mind rather bored and hoping Jack would simply shut his mouth and let him think.

He took up the files in his lecture hall, spreading the photographs out over his desk, pacing around them, looking for similarities, anything that might give him a new clue. Included was Hannibal’s crime scene, and Will used it as his negative, looking for what was different, as he had seen when Cassie Boyle had been displayed so perfectly for him. He was holding an image of the body Hannibal and cut into so expertly when he heard soft footsteps coming up behind him. He looked over his shoulder, saw Beverly a few feet back, arms folded casually, watching him.

“Hi,” she whispered, a sound so unlike her, and the corner of Will’s mouth twitched into a half smile.

“Hi.” She fidgeted, then walked closer, stepping up next to him and looking at the photographs on the desk.

“Are you ready for this?” She gestured to the mess, and Will simply nodded. “Even...after...”

“He has nothing to do with this,” Will said, “And this has nothing to do with him. I’m ready to find this psychopath and have them behind bars. I’m ready for the free fall of bodies to stop.” He set the picture down, noticed that Beverly wasn’t looking at him.

“I’m sorry, Will,” she finally admitted, “About this...mess. I wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t coerced you into coming out for a drink with me. Or if I’d just been the one to go home with you.” Will reached out, touched her shoulder, gave her a sad but honesty half smile.

“I don’t blame you,” he said, “And you shouldn’t blame yourself, either.” He stuffed his other hand into his pocket, went to take his hand back but she reached up, took it firmly. He let her, thought it felt odd to have any real tenderly affectionate touch from Beverly- it wasn’t like her.

“I wish you’d report him,” she admitted, “I want to see him rot in jail.” Will finally pulled his hand back. “He could be doing this to other people.”

“I’ll find out,” Will promised, looking back at the crime scene photos. “And he’ll pay his debt, Beverly. That, I can promise.”

She said nothing, leaned against his desk, watching as he rifled through the photos, her eyes watching the way his flicked along the contours of bone, the way the pupils expanded as he delved into that place only Will’s mind seemed capable of finding- and for a brief moment, she saw something treacherous.

Chapter Text

Beverly had been kind enough to drive him home, Will being without his car since Hannibal had driven him. He had considered calling Hannibal, asking him to make the lengthy drive to get him, but knew he needed to sleep in his own bed, alone. Even if the thought had a tinge of terror to it. Besides, he needed to be ready to devote himself fully to the case. He’d let this drag on long enough.

“Alana would appreciate it if you called her,” Beverly said once they lab was less than a speck behind them. “She’s worried about you. Maybe in the morning?”

“She tells you this?” Beverly shrugged a shoulder.

“Over drinks.”

“You have drinks with Alana?” A brief nod, but Beverly didn’t look at him.

“Sometimes. Now and then.” Will folded his arms, leaning against the door but turned so he could look at her.

“She said you called her when I left the bar,” he remembered, narrowing his eyes, “Why would you call her?”

“Because you two are close?” She fidgeted, and Will caught it, the nervous flcik of her eyes, the fight to keep her mouth a straight line. He smiled, leaning over, feeling as if, finally, the tables had turned with the two.

“How close are you two?” he asked, raising his eyebrows, and Beverly scoffed, only making him laugh. “You can deny it, Beverly, and I can play your part for the rest of the drive- or, you can tell me. You do owe me, considering all the harassment you’ve given me about Hannibal.”

“We’re fairly close,” she retorted, before grinning, “Speaking of Hannibal, you came back in one piece. Does that mean you two are making up?” Will slouched back, not completely surprised that she had managed to take control of the conversation and its direction.

“We did,” Will admitted, because it was easier than running around the truth with Beverly for the rest of the drive. “And it was wonderful.” He raised shi eyebrows with his smile, and she glanced at him, before laughing, forcing herself to look back at the road.

“Don’t put those images in my head,” she warned, “I’ll ask to watch.” She laughed, and Will had to laugh with her, cheeks flushing with a sweet mixture of embarrassment and joy at having someone come as close as Beverly had. It was nice to have a friend.

*

He was happy to see the dogs. Despite that it was dark he let them out, ran around the yard with them until he was panting and collapsing into the cool grass to be smoothing with prying noses and wagging tails. He wrapped his arms around one of the bigger ones, laughing as one of his smaller dogs climbed right onto his belly and stood there, trying to squeeze in. While Hannibal had been a large fraction of his therapy, attempting to regain his regular rhythm in life another, this was the final portion. The unquestioning, unconditional love of the family he’d built over the years.

Will fell asleep with the dogs sprawled around him, and for one night in his life, he enjoyed blissful blackness behind his eyes and dreamless sleep.

*

He had intended to call Alana once he reached the lab, but found her there, waiting, holding two cups of coffee and a smile. He took one and returned her smile. “Have you been waiting out here for me?”

“Not very long,” she admitted, “Better than waiting inside. Jack is in one of his...moods.” Will took a sip of the coffee.

“Was there another body?”

“No, thank god,” Alana whispered, “He’s just...he wants this case closed. He’s...doubting you, Will. That you haven’t caught this guy yet.” She fidgeted. “I just didn’t want him to ambush you, Will. I still have faith in you. Beverly does, too.” Will took another sip, feeling rather numb to the idea of Jack’s temper and waning faith. As if he was separated from that part of reality.

“You and Beverly seem rather...close, Alana,” he offered, focusing in on that and giving her a wicked smile- without realizing it, the kind he’d use on Hannibal. Her cheeks tinged, and he heard her exhale, as if seeing even a hint of wickedness on him had dragged something out of her. “She was quick to defer my questions about it last night- would rather discuss Hannibal and myself.”

“How are you and Hannibal, Will?” Will chuckled, saw Alana playing the same game.

“Picking up the pieces,” he admitted, “And stitching everything back together.” She nodded.

“How do you feel about that?”

“Relieved.” He took a deep breath. “There’s something that isn’t right about reality without Hannibal.” Alana raised an eyebrow, but Will cut her off before she could attempt to deconstruct what he’d said. “Someday I’m going to get some answers from you or Beverly.” He gave her a teasing smile, raised his coffee cup to her, and turned, heading inside to leave Alana alone with his words.

Jack was, indeed, in one of his moods. Will had barely gotten into the building when he came around the corner, demanded to see Will in his office, and stormed off. Will followed, sipping his coffee, pleasantly detached.

Once the door was closed, Jack turned and glared into him. “Where has your head been, Will?”

“Right here,” he said, reaching up and tapping it, “attached to my neck, where it’s always been. Where’s yours, Jack?” The man gritted his teeth.

“This case has been dragging on long enough. We’re overdue for a body to drop- and when it does, it’s on you.” Will frowned.

“I don’t see you coming up with any ideas about this case, Jack. And you’re the head of the behavioral department, here.” Will shook his head, curls bouncing lightly. “Instead you just push it all to me and expect a miracle. I’ve got my own life I’m dealing with, Jack.”

“Deal with you and Dr. Lecter’s shit some other time.” Will laughed, a sharp, barking noise that seemed to make Jack tense.

“Careful,” Will whispered, “Don’t drag Hannibal into this. You won’t like me when I’m defending him.” Jack’s frowned intensified, but before he could speak Will was continuing. “I’ve been working on this in my own time. I’m at the point where I can tell you every word of Julie’s diary. I can see every body behind my eyelids. I can almost feel the killer breathing down my neck. I’m going to find him.”

With that, Will turned and left, unwilling to give Jack another moment to speak his venom.

*

True to his word, Will revisited the autopsies on the bodies, closed his eyes and envisioned them as they had been when found, walked through each step of their murders like a dance, until they were the completed masterpieces he remembered. He ran through the personal history work ups that had been created, made calls to family and friends, and by the end of the day, was considering revisiting the crime scenes before he turned in, when Alyssa walked into his lecture hall, the first and only person to break his concentration since he’d left Jack.

“Am I interrupting?” she asked, almost too sweetly, and Will shook his head.

“No, I was just about to leave.” He pushed the files together. “Thinking about revisiting the crime scenes.” He debated his next question, then decided to ask, “Would you care to come with me?” She wasn’t the ideal company, he knew, but she was young and he excused her rude behavior because of her age. He, after all, wasn’t Hannibal. Besides, it was nice to have someone to bounce his thoughts off of.

“I was actually going to ask a favor,” she admitted, “For something I’m working on. I was wondering if you’d mind revisiting a crime scene with me?”

“One of the Artist’s?” She shook her head.

“No, it’s something else. But I could really use your mind on it.” Will furrowed his brow, then gave her a relaxed smile, inadvertently being rather charming for once. His reconciliation with Hannibal had left him still with a pleasant buzz of detachment from anything remotely unsatisfying in nature.

“Alright, but then you make the rounds with me. I hope you’re ready for a long night.” She smiled at him, nodding vigorously.

*

Will hadn’t asked where they were going, but as she drove them off into the dark, further and further, he began to feel uncomfortable. They made as if traveling to Baltimore, veering off instead and making their way away from the city, and Will was transported back to a different car ride, to a time when he’d attempted to make himself painful sober alongside Beverly, the two set with grim expressions as they were ferried off to the crime scene that would change Will’s very existence.

Alyssa killed the engine, and the two sat in the car, staring at the large tree clawing its way up towards the sky. “I would have told you,” she whispered, “but I was afraid you would say no. I know this crime scene didn’t...sit well with you.”

“Did Jack tell you that?” There was a bitterness to Will’s voice, a hard edge that made the girl cringe slightly. She nodded.

“He did, when he asked me to work on this case. The killer you gave up on, he said. Told me you had to leave the scene.”

“I wasn’t exactly sober,” Will admitted. “So what do you want with me here?”

“I want you to walk me through it. Do what only you can do- but take me along with you on the trip.” Will frowned, but said nothing as he got out of the car and walked towards the tree, sopping a few yards back to stuff his hands in his pockets and stare up at it. Alyssa stopped by his side, eyes flicking from the tree to him, then back again. He didn’t need pictures to place the hunks of meat back up on the tree. Didn’t need anything to recreate a faceless victim- one he had never inquired about, one he didn’t want to know. He’d wanted to remove himself so far from this case that he forgot it existed.

“Cause of death was never determined,” he admitted, “The body was too mutilated, even once pieced together. The way he died didn’t matter, just that his shame was displayed.”

“Shame?” Will nodded.

“The killer was reprimanding him. Scolding him for some transgression.” Truthfully, Will still didn’t know. He never broached the topic with Hannibal- he didn’t want to know these details. At least, not yet. “This was shaming, pure and simple.”

“But why?” Will shrugged a shoulder.

“I don’t know. I don’t even know who he was. But he was cut apart so we could see straight through him, into his most intimate places- inside his bones. He had lost the privilege of privacy.”

“The body was missing the heart and liver.” Will swallowed the lump in his throat, remembered Hannibal’s constant small smile at his dinner party. The man took pleasure in watching everyone so unknowingly devour his victims. He took open pleasure in stuffing the flesh and muscle down Will’s throat. Will tasted the heavy flavor of cooked heart in his mouth, but the nausea he expected never came. Instead his stomach tightened on itself, hungry.

“Trophies,” Will said, but Alyssa was shaking her head.

“Not trophies. He’s using them for something. You’re going to think I’m crazy, Will, but I need you to listen to something. I think this killer is the same person who killed Simon.”

“You think this was the artist?” Will shook his head. “No, no no no. His first public victim was Julie. He may have killed before, but not publicly. Not like this.”

“No.” Alyssa folded her arms. “Will, the Artist didn’t kill Simon. I’m sure of it. You can’t deny that crime scene was...different. It didn’t seem right. Like it was a negative, like we could use it to compare to the others.”

Will felt a cold chill run down his spine, recognized his own words coming from this girl’s mouth. Suddenly, he was reevaluating her, and the mind hidden inside her skull. “Why was it s o different?”

“The Artist doesn’t take trophies,” she said, “And this killer did. He was rubbing our noses in that- by putting Simon’s face in his chest. He was imitating art, but his differences were allowing us to highlight the other consistencies in the killings. This killer has intimate knowledge of what we’re doing, Will. It’s someone close.” The chills turned to a cold sweat, and Will fought for the ability to speak. “I looked into our victim,” she said, motioning towards the tree. “His name was Jeremy Lane. He was reporter- and not the kind you’d want to meet.”

“Like Freddie Lounds,” Will mused, and Alyssa nodded.

“Except not crime scenes. Tabloids, mostly. Looking for scandals where there weren’t any. He liked to target the...classier side of Baltimore, dare I say. Here, I need to show you something.” He turned, headed back towards her car, and Will followed, his hands flexing. She opened the back passenger door, pulled a cramped notebook out of her bag, and passed it to him. “He had a lot of notebooks he kept on his projects. He was a little eccentric, probably why he was getting desperate. They were overlooked during the investigation as just rubbish but...Look towards the end.”

Will flipped through the pages, the frantic scribblings, until there were only a few pages left. His writing ranged from scratching, sprawling letters to something so tiny Will had to raise the notebook closer to his face. Most of it seemed useless, he was watching a member of the symphony, looking for something he could use for a story-

Will stopped, his heart freezing in his chest as he read the neatly written name, half way down the page. Hannibal Lecter.

“I’ve read the whole thing,” Alyssa whispered, “He read about you in Freddie Lounds’ articles, and decided that Dr. Lecter might give him some sort of story if he took on cases as bizarre as yours. It crossed the line to stalking,” she admitted, as Will scrolled down the page with his eyes. The man had watched Hannibal’s office, had even hidden outside his home.

Graham at Lecter’s house again. The two are discretely intimate, those not looking would miss the signs. It’s too late for a normal visit, and this doesn’t seem planned. Someone else is here, and I’m not sure if the two know.

“Do you remember that night?” Will sucked his lip into his mouth for a moment.

“That was the night Richard Blake attacked us. The night Hannibal...killed him.” The words felt like a betrayal, as if he was admitting to far more for Hannibal. “God this freak was watching?”

“He has a lot of notes about how...inappropriate the two of you were. I think he was going to compile it into a story on Dr. Lecter and publish it in one of the tabloids. It would have been a horrible blow to his reputation.” Will nodded, flipped to the last page of the notebook, saw scrawled on the bottom of the page, Meeting with Lecter at seven. Going to see if he will comment on this breach of doctor-patient professional lines. “That was the night the body was found.”

Will heard his heart hammering in his chest, and looked up at Alyssa. She had a nervous look, her mouth turned down. “Will...please, I need your input on this. I wanted to show this to you before I brought it up to Jack. Is there anyway that Dr. Lecter could...be involved? He knew Simon as well.” Will tensed his jaw, didn’t speak. “I know it’s got to be hard to take in, considering...the circumstances. And I’m sure to you he seems completely normal- hell, he does to everyone. I never would have thought if I hadn’t found these, hadn’t poked around the guy’s apartment. But...Will, I think Dr. Lecter killed Simon. And Jeremy. I think he’s taking their organs for something.”

“Like what?” Will barely trusted himself to speak, saw a look of disgust cross her face.

“I think he’s eating them.” She fidgeted, took the notebook back and tossed it into her car. “Think about it, Will. The organs are valuable ones- they’re all ones that could easily be used when cooking. And we all know Dr. Lecter has a passion for the culinary arts.” She shook her head, her blonde hair moving ungodly slowly to Will, as if time had slowed down. “I’m so sorry Will. I wish this wasn’t what I found. I know we don’t always see eye to eye but...well, this is seriously sick shit that no one deserves to be exposed to. I have to tell Jack, but I want you there when I do. I actually want to be wrong, Will, but I don’t think I am.”

Will’s mind was racing, trying to come up with lies, excuses, anything to fill in the voids. All he saw was black. “If we hurry, we can get him while he’s still at the lab. The sooner we get this started, the...sooner it’s over.” She reached out, touched his arm, ran her delicate hand along it. “Please tell me you’ll come with me?”

“Of course,” Will forced out, swallowing, and she gave him a sad, sorry smile, mouthing her apology. She turned to close the door, and in that moment everything around Will froze, and there was a voice whispering in his ear, sounds and breaths and a silent admission of what he knew he had to do.

Will reached out, grabbing Alyssa by a handful of her blonde hair, and jerking her back. She let out a little cry as he jerked her around, reached for her throat and grabbed it in a sloppy movement. She flailed, bringing her knee up and jabbing it into his stomach. Will stumbled, let go of her, breath rushing out, and she stared at him with wild, unbelieving eyes.

You knew,” she breathed, terror rich in her whisper, and Will lunged at her one arm hooking around her waist, the other grabbing for her throat as they tumbled to the ground. She rolled them over, landed on top of him and grabbed him by his hair, smashing the back of his head back into the ground. Will saw stars for a moment, heard his skull echoing, and his grip on her throat loosened. She tore his hand away, pulling on his hair painfully before releasing and fumbling in her pocket, Will presumed for her phone. He snarled and reached up, wrapping both hands around her neck and squeezing as tightly as he could. She gave a muffled, nearly silent gasp-cry, reached up to grab onto his wrists and try to pull him off.

He stared up, into her eyes, before throwing her off him. She fell back, near the car, coughing, and he pushed himself up, stalking towards her. She stared up at him with wide eyes, the whites so vibrant they took his breath away.

“Will,” she said in her hoarse, broken voice, and he fell on her, hands on her throat, pinning her legs down with his weight. He squeezed, watching the color change in her face, her eyes so wide, her mouth open and gasping, felt her shaking and quivering until the movements were inside his bones, making the marrow rattle.

And then she went limp, and he was still squeezing, squeezing until his hands hurt, his lip twitching, teeth glistening as they were exposed, his breath rushing in and out of him as the adrenaline coursed through his body.

Then, suddenly, he released her, leaned back, staring down with wide eyes as the reality of the situation sank in. He looked at his hands, so clean and harmless, then back at her body, at the lifeless stare left on her slack face. He stood up, shaking, feeling himself beginning to unravel, and stooped down, collecting her light body and shoving her into the backseat to get her out of view. He closed the door, climbed into his place in the passenger seat, and began to hyperventilate.

His thoughts were a jumble. A mix of no no no and what have I done and a sweet tune he did not know that tried to calm him. He closed his eyes, leaned his head back, let the wordless music overtake him and sink into his muscles until he was oddly calm. He rolled his to the side, looked back and saw Alyssa’s legs tangled together, then looked forward again. He took a deep breath, reached into his pocket, pulled his phone out and called the only name his mind could formulate.

The phone rang twice, before that sweet, accented voice said softly, “Hello Will.”

“Hannibal.” His voice sounded almost detached, and Will idly wondered when he had gone so numb. Hannibal must have heard the detachment in his voice, because his tone changed, grew deeper, laced with something Will couldn’t place.

“Will. What has happened?” Will tilted his head back, closing his eyes, a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth.

“She’s dead,” he said, flatly, “Alyssa’s dead, Hannibal. I killed her.” His hand flexed against his thigh, and he took a deep breath, listening to Hannibal’s silence. He knew he was still there. “I need you, Hannibal.”

His voice broke at that, a hint of fear and confusion pulling through, and the feelings began to seep through the cracks, and Will felt the numbness ebbing, the terror rising. He swallowed it down. “I need you now Hannibal. I can’t...keep it together.”

“Where are you?”

“Where you showed me beauty.” Will’s voice slipped into something deep, dark, silky, and Hannibal lost his breath, his heart jerking faster as a mix of arousal and curiosity raged through him. Will didn’t need to elaborate- he knew.

The line went dead before Hannibal could respond, and Will shoved his phone into his pocket, turning fully in his seat to look back at Alyssa’s body, reaching back to push her blonde hair from her neck, wishing the bruises would form already. He wanted to see the lilac blossoms against her skin.

Chapter Text

Hannibal parked his car directly behind Alyssa’s, getting out and slipping between the two and walking to the passenger side door. He waited a moment, then opened it, found Will sitting there, staring out the windshield. He turned his head slowly, eyed Hannibal, and when the psychiatrist reached his hand out, Will reached up and took it carefully.

“Will,” he whispered, “Show me.”

He helped Will out of the car, pressed a hand to his lower back as the smaller man opened one of the back doors, and peered over Will’s shoulder. The girl lay limp and on her side, her hair falling over her neck and face. Gently, he guided Will to the side so he could slip next to him, reached out and placed a hand on her calf. He looked at Will, who had a very detached look, his eyes glossy. Hannibal lifted his hand, turned, grabbed Will by the bicep and turned him as well.

“Will,” he said, sternly, and the man’s eyes focused on him. “Come back to me, dear Will.” He leaned forward, dangerously close to his lips, so his breath ghosted over Will’s mouth as he whispered, “Will,” again. This time, the brunette’s eyes focused, and he inhaled sharply.

“I had to,” he breathed, “Hannibal I had to-“

“Hush, dear boy,” Hannibal whispered, wrapping his arms around Will and pulling him in tightly. “Take a deep breath, Will, to calm yourself.” Will inhaled, pressed his face into the crook of Hannibal’s neck, smelled his cologne and for a moment wasn’t sure if there should be a body hanging from the tree behind him. He squeezed his eyes shut, pressed his mouth to Hannibal’s jawline, tasted the salt of his skin and made his way to his mouth, seeking and finding and needing. Hannibal let Will guide the kiss, let him take what he needed from it, let him press his tongue into his mouth, test the sharpness of Hannibal’s teeth.

Will’s head had been spinning, but something about Hannibal’s scent grounded him- the kiss pulled him back down to reality, made him shiver and clutch onto Hannibal. When he broke away with a small gasp, one of Hannibal’s hands was dangerously low on his back. “Listen to me, Will,” he whispered, his other hand reaching up, finding his cheek and stroking his jawline with his thumb. “And listen to me carefully. I’m going to take care of this for you.”

Will nodded, finding Hannibal’s eyes and holding the gaze. “You are going to get back in the car,” Hannibal began, “And you are going to drive for a short distance, following me. There is a park, not far. Once we are there, I will tell you what to do next.”

Will nodded again, and Hannibal sank his hand into his curls, pulling him closer and pressing his lips to his forehead, closing his eyes for a moment and inhaling. He expected fear, that sharp scent, but all he got was a calm, warm smell- and realized Will may have been handling this far better than he anticipated.

That brought a smile to his face.

Will made his way around the car, and Hannibal leaned in over Alyssa’s body, sifting through her pockets until he found her keys. He pulled them out, closed the door, and walked around the car, leaning in and pressing them into Will’s palm. He kissed the corner of his mouth, then turned and left him, climbing back into his own car.

*

Will did just as he was told. He followed Hannibal, gripping the steering wheel tightly, his eyes only daring to glance back at the body from time to time. It only took a few minutes, and once the car was parked in the security of thick darkness, he leaned his head back and took a deep breath, and waited.

Hannibal opened his door a few minutes later, and Will noticed he was wearing clear plastic over his suit- almost like a rain coat, except thicker, more fitted. Will shuddered and could only wonder how many times Hannibal had done something like this.

Hannibal reached out a gloved hand, and Will took it, felt the material crinkling and bunching and hated it. He stepped out, watched Hannibal open the back door. “Can you lift her?” he asked, and Will nodded. “Good. Take her into the trees over there,” he pointed into the blackness, and Will couldn’t even be sure there were trees. “I will join you shortly.”

Hannibal walked away, and Will sucked his lower lip into his mouth, worried it for a moment, before reaching into the car and pulling on her body. She seemed heavier now, but he managed to get her over his shoulders and walked, albeit slowly, into the dark. Pavement turned to grass, and every twig he stepped on sent a jolt of fear through his chest. He only walked past the first few, then settled her down against the trunk, crouching down to look at her face. He brushed the hair from her cheeks, and even in the low light could make out the subtle curve of her lips. He had just run his thumb along them when he heard another twig snap and jerked his head back, saw Hannibal approaching.

“What are you going to do with her?” he asked, and Hannibal dropped a length of rope at his feet.

“We’re going to give Jack something to talk about,” he whispered, the we unmissable, and Will grabbed the coil of rope and stood up, nodding. Hannibal smiled at him- his dark smile, the monster inside showing himself, but Will wasn’t afraid. He was, to his shock, calm, content. “We don’t need that yet,” he said, taking it from Will and letting it fall back to the ground. “But go to my trunk, there are a few things we will need.”

Hannibal crouched down, laying Alyssa out on her back, and Will turned, moving quickly off in the dark. Hannibal had left his trunk just open a crack, and he lifted it, staring down at the variety of larger, sharpened posts. He went to lift one, then thought better of it, and tore his jacket off, wrapping it around them so he wouldn’t get his prints on them, and carrying them in a heap back to Hannibal. He was still on the ground, but he had carefully cut Alyssa’s clothing, exposing the smooth, soft skin of her abdomen. Will averted his eyes.

“There are a few things in the back seat as well,” Hannibal said nonchalantly, not looking up, and Will turned, leaving him once again. He wondered if every murder was so organized. He filed the idea away- something he would ask Hannibal. He was sure, after tonight, there would be a lot of questions he finally needed to ask.

He opened the back seat, found the a box of gloves, and hastily put his own on, grabbing the only other thing within the backseat- a small cooler.

Will returned, just in time to see Hannibal dragged his scalpel down along Alyssa’s torso. Her shirt and bra had been discarded in the dark, and Will stared as her skin parted in a brilliant red seam, even in the dark. Hannibal looked up, caught Will staring, and then smiled.

“Come here.” Will dropped down to his knees, setting the cooler aside, and Hannibal took his hand, guiding it to the cut he had made. He pressed Will’s fingers to it, tenderly, and Will slipped them inside the heat of her stomach, his breath rushing out in the smallest of noises. Hannibal guided his hand inside, pressing past tissue and forcing Will’s hand down around her liver. Will looked down, wide eyed, at his hand, then up, into Hannibal’s eyes. The man gave him a soft but dark smiled, before pulling her body open more and slipping the scalple inside. Will pulled his bloody hand out as Hannibal worked, pulling her liver free in a few precise cuts.

When he passed it to Will, the brunette should have felt disgusted. He should have felt bile rising in his throat, his stomach clenching and rolling-

But all he felt was calm. He could smell Hannibal’s cologne mingling with the blood, and once agian he felt at home. He took the liver and held it for a moment, before opening the cooler and carefully wrapping it up, placing it inside.

“Jack will think this was the Ripper’s work,” Hannibal whispered, lifting one of the metal posts and inserting it with an ungodly force into her body. “I need you to go call Alana, Will.”

“Why?” He stared at Hannibal, realized he had been watching with fascination as he had pierced the woman’s body.

“Call her and let her know I have surprised you with dinner plans, and taken you to Baltimore. Ask her if she would be so kind as to stop by your house and check on the dogs, as I will not have you home until late.” Hannibal shoved another object into her body, twisting it slightly to make sure it stayed put. “You will have an alibi, then, as will I. Did anyone see you leave with Alyssa?”

“No,” Will said, “And I don’t think she told anyone I was going with her.” Hannibal nodded.

“Good. Then go call Alana, and I will finish this.” Will hesitated, watched as Hannibal once against pierce flesh and muscle, before looking up and catching Will’s eye. He leaned over the body, quickly, pressing his mouth to Will’s, who was all too eager for the kiss, craning his neck to give Hannibal the perfect angle to invade his mouth, to trace his tongue and the contours of his teeth. “There will be another,” Hannibal breathed into him, “There will be time dear Will. Now go.”

Will wasn’t sure he knew what Hannibal was talking about, but he didn’t question him. He pulled the gloves of, turning them inside out and slipping them into his jacket pocket, fumbling for his phone with the other. He walked a few feet away, still able to see Hannibal’s outline in the blackness, but to muffle any sounds that might be made.

As Alana’s phone rang, a cold sweat broke out along his spine, and when she answered he felt his heart lurch. “Hey Alana.”

“Oh, hi Will!”

“Can I ask you a favor?”

“Sure.”

Will swallowed. “Hannibal surprised me at the lab and took me to his place for dinner. Do you think you could pop in and let the dogs out and feed them? I apologize for the short notice, we got a bit...distracted once we reached Baltimore.” He smiled, realized it was reflecting in his voice, realized it felt normal. Alana laughed.

“No problem,” she was still laughing, “so long as you let me inform Beverly.”

“Is she there with you?” There was a pause.

“Yes,” Alana admitted, and Will’s smile turned to a smirk.

“Maybe we should get coffee tomorrow,” he offered, stuffing a hand into his pocket, “I think we’ve got a lot to talk about.”

“I’ll call you.” Will chuckled, thanked her again, and stuffed his phone into his pocket. He walked back over to Hannibal, who had made short work of Alyssa, had her wrists tied and had thrown the rope over one of the branches, hoisting her up. Will closed the gap and clutched onto his arms- careful to not touch the rope because he’d removed his gloves, and pulled with him until her feet were dangling about a foot off the ground.

“It would have been far better to have her higher up,” Hannibal admitted, “But we shall have to make do. Help me secure this.” Will nodded and followed him, securing the rope to hold her body. Hannibal had stripped the rest of her clothing off, and Will paused to look up at her. He couldn’t help but think she would have looked better fully ripped open, tongue cut out and held in one hand, pretty little eyes in the other.

Will licked his lips, felt Hannibal breathing against his neck suddenly, from behind, had no idea when the man had gotten there. There was a brush of lips to skin, and then Hannibal was beckoning him away. He was packing everything into his car, as if every little piece had a place- the cooler, his removed plastic shell, his gloves. Not a speck of blood out of place, and Will smiled and almost laughed because Hannibal somehow managed to be the most tidy killer he’d ever encountered.

Hannibal turned to him, saw the large grin on his face, and pulled Will over by an arm thrown around his waist, kissing the grin away. It was meant to be a playful, teasing innocence, Will knew, but then he was pushing Hannibal against the open trunk of his car forcefully and devouring his mouth in a way he wasn’t sure he ever truly had before. Hannibal’s other hand reached up, sank into his hair and tugged and that only drove Will harder.

“Not here,” Hannibal warned against his mouth, biting his lower lip for good measure. Will pulled away, nodding, his blood pumping hot and hard through his veins, a new wave of feelings rushing over him. Excitement.

*

After they had taken care of moving Alyssa’s car, and once finally secure within Hannibal’s home, Will was almost annoyed that Hannibal told him to go take a shower, to calm himself. He had hoped at least that perhaps the psychiatrist would join him, but Hannibal ushered Will into the guest bathroom, and left for his own shower in the master bathroom.

Will spent long, agonizing minutes under the scalding water, trying to piece together the night, everything that had happened. As the thrill he’d felt when finding Hannibal’s mouth faded, he braced himself for the waves of nausea, the sickening grief and shame.

They never came. He only silently mused that he would have liked to display her differently.

When Will was dressed again, he made his way downstairs, to the sounds and smells coming from the kitchen. In the back of his mind, he had known this was coming, he had known this would be one of the outcomes when he called Hannibal. It was different to step into the kitchen and face the reality- to know that the hunks of meat Hannibal was cooking so tenderly had come straight from Alyssa’s body-

And he had been the cause of their harvest.

Will walked around the counter, to stand next to Hannibal and watch him work. It was a treat to watch the man cook, it always had been, and yet somehow now it seemed even more so. He still didn’t feel ill, and that didn’t even phase Will. Yet he did not feel numb, only...accepting.

He lifted Hannibal’s wine glass, spinning it around to find the slightest smudge from his lips and sipping from the same spot, feeling Hannibal’s eyes watching him. “I don’t know if I can eat,” Will admitted, wanting to be honest. He wasn’t sure if the calm could stretch that far.

Hannibal leaned over, lips pressing to his temple as Will took another drink. “Sit down,” he said softly, “And we will find out.”

Will nodded, setting the wine glass down and leaving the kitchen to settle at the table and wait.

*

When Hannibal left the kitchen, carrying his wine glass in one hand, one plate in the other, and one artfully balance just above his wrist, Will was sitting like a good boy at the table, twisting a glass of wine that, from the slight tinge to his cheeks, he had emptied once already. Hannibal set his own glass down, before placing a plate in front of Will, and then his own down. The man looked down at it, and Hannibal watched his throat work as he swallowed.

“How are you feeling, Will?” he asked, sitting down, and Will shifted.

“Calm,” he whispered, not looking up right away, and Hannibal studied the way his curls seemed slightly wilder, the way the brushed his skin.

“Detached?” he inquired, and Will shook his head.

“No. I feel...grounded. I know what happened. I killed Alyssa Poole.” He finally looked up, and Hannibal reached for his wine.

“Tell me about it, William,” he pressed, lifting the glass close to his lips, “Walk me through the events.” He took a drink, let the taste settle over his tongue while Will’s mind worked over his words.

“She asked me to go to a crime scene with her. Didn’t tell me where, just said she wanted my help. She was rather...kind about it. Unlike her.” His eyes flicked to Hannibal, who took one more drink, then set his wine down, reaching for his fork and knife. “I agreed, and she drove me out to Woodbine, where you left me a rather gruesome Christmas tree once.”

“It was not Christmas,” Hannibal pointed out, cutting into a piece of meat,knowing Will’s eyes were watching the slight movements. He pierced the morsel with his fork, lifted it to his mouth and caught Will’s eyes just as he placed it against his tongue. Those stormy eyes did not stray, did not flick away, seemed rather hungry, and Hannibal’s lips curved as he chewed, letting the taste mingle with that of the wine and settle onto his tongue.

“Looked like it,” Will offered, “But it doesn’t matter. Jack had her looking into the case, because he’s pissed off that I couldn’t solve it, that I wouldn’t take part in it. Well, she found the one thing everyone else overlooked. Jeremy’s journals. Did you know his name?”

“I knew more about him than I needed to,” Hannibal admitted, cutting another piece of meat.

“You knew about his journals?” Hannibal nodded.

“Yes, I removed any that were incriminating.”

“Well you missed one.” Will reached for his wine glass, took a large, unsophisticated sip, emptying the glass. “And it had you written all over, Hannibal.” Hannibal ceased moving, looking at Will with sharp eyes, and the brunette held his gaze in a way so unlike himself. “And she had it. She put it together, Hannibal. You and the body, you and Simon’s body. She was convinced you had something to do with all of it. And she took me out there so I could see the evidence, isolated, and think on it. She wanted to go back to the lab and tell Jack right then and there. She wanted to have you brought in so we could get this cleared up- she hoped you were innocent, I think for my sake, but she truly believed in your guilt.”

Will reached for the wine bottle, filling his glass, taking a sip, his eyes taking on a wild static that made Hannibal stare, that drew him in, made him feel almost...overpowered.

“So you killed her?”

“So I killed her.” Another long sip. “I got her on the ground and wrapped my hands around her neck, and I squeezed and stared into her eyes until she couldn’t see me, and then I kept squeezing.” Will let go of his grip on the glass, turning and staring at Hannibal, reaching out for the man’s hand and finding it, clasping it, as visions of another blonde woman danced through Hannibal’s head- a girl whose eyes he didn’t get to stare into, who went limp with her back to his chest. “I killed her for you, Hannibal.” He squeezed Hannibal’s hand, and the psychiatrist stared at him for a brief second, before Miriam disappeared from his mind- so there was nothing but Will- before pushing his chair back and standing, grabbing Will and pulling him up as well. He crashed their lips together so suddenly he felt Will choke for breath, wrapped an arm around his waist and pulled him in, tightly. Desperately. His other hand reached into Will’s hair, his mouth seeking so frantically to open Will’s up, for Hannibal to lose himself in the kiss.

“I. Couldn’t.” Will’s words were cut off as Hannibal’s tongue pressed against his own, and Will whimpered. “Risk. Losing you.” He clawed at Hannibal, biting his lower lip and taking control of the kiss as he rocked their hips together without even realizing it. He managed to get both hands into Hannibal’s hair, tugging on it so Hannibal’s head was jerked back, and Will went for his throat, biting and sucking as if they had switched roles, and Hannibal mewled, a small, needy and broken sound that should have come from Will’s lips. “You’re mine, Hannibal,” he murmured into the wounded skin, “She couldn’t take you from me.”

He released his hold on Hannibal’s hair, and the man looked down at him, his heart pounding inside his temples like it never had. Will’s eyes were dark, but his smile was genuine, laced with hints of the monster Hannibal held inside his own chest. “No one can take you from me.”

“Would you do it again?” Hannibal asked, his hand clutching at Will’s shirt against his lower back without his realization.

“To protect you, without a thought.” He leaned in, and this time the kiss was sweet, Will swallowing down his demons. “You woke something up in me, Doctor. And I think I like it.” He licked at Hannibal’s lower lip. “You’re in my bones, Hannibal. What you did to me, it’s in my head, my veins. It’s everywhere.” He kissed him, traced the seam of his mouth. “And I like it.”

Hannibal turned him, pressed him against the table so tightly that Will’s lower back ached and he hissed. Hannibal tore at his mouth with teeth and tongue, tasted blood and desire and something so like himself that his heart was fluttering.

“I taste myself,” he whispered, licking the blood from Will’s wound lip, realizing he may have bit harder than anticipated, but his lover didn’t seem to mind, “in your marrow, in your blood, dear Will.”

“I think we’re the same person now,” Will offered, licking his own lip and smiling. Hannibal pressed his forehead to Will’s, returning his smile. He felt oddly warm, as if there was a fire within his body, leaving him almost drowsy with fever. It was unlike anything he had experienced before, and had he been in the presence of anyone else, Hannibal was sure he would detest it bitterly. But with Will, it felt simply divine.

He lifted his head and kissed the bridge of Will’s nose, affectionately, before stepping back and allowing him to slip back into his seat. As Hannibal sat back down, he watched Will pick up his fork and knife, and slip a piece of meat into his mouth, smiling just as sweetly as ever.

*

Will didn’t go home that night. He nestled into Hannibal’s skin and slept entangled with him. The two woke earlier enough to make to lengthy drive back to Will’s home, after a shower and morning coffee, enjoyed on the couch with Will’s legs draped over Hannibal’s lap.

They didn’t discuss the prior night’s events, not even as they drove. Will talked instead about how he was convinced there was something going on between Alana and Beverly, and Hannibal teased him that he was very much like Ms. Katz with his curiosity. Will laughed and leaned over, kissing Hannibal’s cheek as he drove, feeling perfectly normal.

Hannibal sat with the dogs while Will changed, and when he returned they were all surrounding the man, tails wagging and pawing at him for attention. It left Will laughing. He was still laughing when he pulled his vibrating cell phone from his pocket and answered Jack’s call.

“Will.” His voice was tired, sounding almost lost. Will stopped laughing, and looked at Hannibal with serious eyes. “Will, I need you. There’s a scene...there’s a body. It’s.” There was a pause, a long breath. “It’s Alyssa.”

Will got the address, although he didn’t need it, and hung up. Hannibal stood up, walking over and kissing his temple. “Let’s let the dogs out for a minute,” he offered, “before we join Jack.” Will nodded his agreement, taking Hannibal’s hand and squeezing it as they opened the door and he whistled for the dogs.

*

Will let Hannibal drive, thought it would be smarter. He was worried he wouldn’t be able to keep calm, but the closer they got to the scene, the more placid he felt. When Hannibal parked his car, Will got out on sturdy legs, and walked with Hannibal just behind him towards Jack. The man was pacing, looking rather forlorn, and when he saw Will he only shook his head and pointed towards the trees. Hannibal placed his hand on Will’s lower back for a moment, reassuring, before he left him and moved closer to Jack, acting the perfect gentlemen to aid a grieving colleague.

Will walked past them, towards where Alyssa’s naked body hung suspended by her wrists, impaled over and over again- missing only one organ. He licked his lips, didn’t need to close his eyes to replay her death, but allowed the feeling to wash over him, anyway, to change the narrative to what it needed to be.

He wrapped his hands around her throat, under this tree, in the dark, and stared into her pretty eyes until the light went out of them, leaned close and breathed in that last strangled escape of air from her collapsing throat, before he ran his hands down her sides, pushing her shirt up to feel soft skin. “I’ll cut into you,” he whispered, pressing his knife into her abdomen, “I’ll take one thing, because you redeemed yourself in the end.”

He plunged a hand into her belly, tore at her liver until he pulled it free, lifting it to his mouth and sinking his teeth into the raw organ, the blood dripping down his chin, onto his shirt, He swallowed the chunk, let it fall from his hands, grinned a smile with red stained teeth, and the hands that tore at her clothing and impaled her were not his own, but Hannibal’s. Yet attached to his body- no, no Hannibal’s body, Hannibal’s eyes, everything was Hannibal but Will was inside him, he was Hannibal.

“What do you see?” Will’s eyes fluttered open and he looked behind him, saw Beverly standing there, wringing her gloved hands together. Jack was wlaking up as well, Hannibal behind- Hannibal with his dark, fiery eyes, with his mouth that hinted at a smile only Will could see. Hannibal with the truth, with the glorious, bloody truth.

“What anyone can see,” he offered, looking at Jack. “This is the Ripper’s work.”

Jack frowned, looking uncomfortable. “But why her?” Will shoved his hands into his pockets, looking back at her body. In the light, it was a fantastic sight- Will tasted her in his mouth, cooked to perfection and washed down with wine and Hannibal’s tongue. He licked his lips.

“She found something,” he offered, “that she wasn’t supposed to. Her body...it reminds me of our unsolved case.”

“She was working on that,” Jack offered, and Will nodded.

“It was the Chesapeake Ripper, that killing. He may have changed his style, but he’s reverting back to it here. He’s showing us he can adapt.” He turned, looking past Jack, into Hannibal’s eyes. “He’s showing us just how capable he is.”

Jack sighed, squeezing the bridge of his nose. “Then we’ll have another body on our hands soon.” Will saw a flash in Hannibal’s eyes, a beautiful fire, and he fought down a shiver.

“Sooner rather than later,” Will agreed. He looked away, afraid his face might give something away, and turned to Beverly, who was shaking her head.

“Great, we’ve got one serial killer still on the loose, and the Ripper now joining.” She folded her arms. “Just don’t tell me they’re going to team up.” Will laughed, shaking his head.

“From what we’ve seen, I think it’s safe to say the Ripper works alone.” Beverly nodded, and as Jack called for the body to be cut down, Will walked over to Hannibal, accepting the arm the man placed around his waist, and the kiss to his forehead.

“You’re perfection,” Hannibal whispered into his temple, and Will smiled, a dark little smile, breathing in deeply his scent as it mingled with the grass and the cool wind and the excitement in his blood. In that moment, Hannibal was the sweetness he desired and the monster he was so intrigued by, and Will thought that this, this was true perfection.

“Will you take me to the lab?” Will asked as they walked towards Hannibal’s Bentley. “Jack will want me working on the Artist case.”

“Will he not consult you concerning the Ripper?” Hannibal stopped, opening his door, and Will’s eyes darted around, then, content no one was paying them any mind, leaned in, pressing up tightly against Hannibal and pinning him to the car in a way that brought a devious smirk to the psychiatrist’s face.

“Jack will keep to himself about the Ripper for a while,” Will mused, “A day or two. Then we’ll be on a mad hunt for him.”

“I do hope you catch him.” Will chuckled, leaning in and murmuring against Hannibal’s neck,

“I already have, darling.”

Chapter Text

Will smiled at Alana, across the table from him, as he sipped the last of his beer. She was laughing, and it was a good sound. The past few days had felt like torture. Will felt as if he had been sleeping at the lab, barely getting home with enough time to feed the dogs and let them out, grab a few hours of sleep, just to turn around and return. Jack had been ruthless, waiting on edge for the next Ripper victim, only now loosening his hold because of his own exhaustion.

“It’s good to see you outside with the living,” Alana commented, “I understand that Jack is...determined, but running you ragged won’t catch him the Ripper.”

“Nothing will catch him the Ripper,” Will remarked, raising his hand to the bartender and ordering he and Alana another round.

“Are you saying you don’t think you can do it?” Will thanked the bartender, passing Alana who fresh beer, and she nodded her thanks.

“I’m saying I won’t guarantee I can do it.” He took a drink, felt not even a twinge on his face. Suddenly, it was easy to lie. Alana shrugged a shoulder.

“That’s fair,” she admitted, “After all, he’s a...mastermind, I guess would be the best term. What he did with Alyssa.” She shuddered. “That rope was so tight around her neck is lacerated the skin. No way to get prints. He probably wore gloves, anyway, but still. He’s good.” Will nodded, taking a drink to hide his smile. When he’d learned the small details about Alyssa presentation, the fact that the rope had been so tight it lacerated her neck to a point that prints were impossible, that the rope had been frayed so much that there were no prints, that it would have snapped in another twelve hours from when they found her, or if there had been a strong wind- he’d been impressed. Hannibal had covered the small details Will had never thought of. He’d made everything flawless. “Jack’s not taking it well.”

“He shouldn’t,” Will said, “All things considered.” Alana nodded, about to speak, but stopped and raised her hand, waving. Will looked behind him, saw Beverly walking in, and signaled to the bartender for another beer. He handed it to her the moment she reached them and she gladly took it, taking a long drink with a sigh.

“I think I love you, Will,” she said, smiling, “If you can always greet me like this.” He smiled at her, and he and Alana got up, walking with Beverly to a table so they could all sit. “Did I interrupt your conversation?”

“Just commenting on how Jack is taking...Alyssa’s death,” Alana said, and Beverly nodded.

“Like shit.” She took another long drink. “But hey, no one’s really taking it all that great on the team. Except maybe Will.” She smiled at him, tipping her bottle towards him. “Not gonna lie, I expected you to be a bit of a wreck and all. I mean, losing someone on the team, it’s rough. Makes you wonder what you could’ve done to stop it.”

Will took a drink, felt Alyssa’s pale neck between his hands for a second, swallowed down the memories with the beer. “I think we have Hannibal to thank for Will’s stability,” Alana pointed out, and Will looked at her, raising his eyebrows. She shrugged a shoulder casually. “He’s done a lot of good for you, Will. Honestly.” Beverly smiled, finishing off her beer already and making her way to the bar to retrieve a fresh one.

“Never thought I’d hear you call me stable,” Will admitted, hands on the table, and Alana reached over, taking them in her own.

“I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to call you stable,” she said with a sigh, “I’m glad I can do. And all things considered...I’m happy for you.” She squeezed, and her eyes were only slightly sad. Will could admit she was still kissable, even in that moment. He returned her small smile, then took his hands back as Beverly returned.

“So I agree with Alana,” Beverly said, picking up the conversation where it had been when she left. “Dr. Lecter really has done some good for you, Will.”

“Hannibal grounds me,” Will admitted, smiling to himself. “I feel...safe with him.” He took a drink before finishing, “When I’m with Hannibal, I know what’s real.”

Alana smiled sweetly, and Beverly laughed, waving past Will, saying loudly, “Speak of the devil himself.” Will turned, smiled at Hannibal, who looked so completely out of place it made him chuckle. The psychiatrist seemed relieved to see him and hurried over, taking a seat next to Will and greeting Beverly and Alana politely.

“That was fast,” Will mused, looking at his watch. “I called you, what, forty-five minutes ago?”

“I may have already been in route,” Hannibal offered, and Beverly cooed something before taking a drink. Will’s smile broadened and he slipped his hand off the table, finding Hannibal’s and guiding to his thigh, squeezing.

“Have a drink with us Doc,” Beverly offered, and Hannibal chuckled, shaking his head. Will watched his bangs slowly slipping from their hold- the sign of the end of a long day.

“Thank you, Agent Katz,” he said, “but I shall have to pass. I do believe I will be the one driving Will home.” He leaned over, kissing at Will’s temple very gently, and Will let his eyelids flutter at the tenderness. Beverly opened her mouth to say something, and Will caught Alana elbowing her, shooting her a glance that simply screamed shut your mouth. Will bit back his laughter and squeezed Hannibal’s hand again.

*

There was something so pleasantly perfect about Hannibal driving along the back roads to Will’s secluded home, the opening the door with him and being greeted by his happy pack of dogs- Will swore they seemed just as eager to see Hannibal as to see him- to sit on the porch while the dogs romped around in the dark, starlit night. It was the sort of life Will wanted, the kind of reality he wanted to preside over all the others he harbored in his single life.

He let Hannibal slip an arm around him and leaned into him, smiling, and felt completely at peace.

Fitting into Will’s bed was always a bit more of a challenge than fitting into Hannibal’s, but Will welcomed the excuse to be pressed up tightly against Hannibal- Hannibal who knew just how much Will liked to feel skin on skin and now, without what seemed like even a thought, stripped down to nothing and curled around Will in such a perfect way that Will truly thought they were one being. He even laughed when Winston put his paws on the mattress and seemed ready to try and join in their cuddling and Will had to shoo him away.

It was rare to have Hannibal in his home, and Will wasn’t sure he wanted to sleep, didn’t want the night to have a dawn on the other side. He ran his foot along the curve of Hannibal’s calf, reaching down and tracing the hand that lay casually against his belly.

“Remember,” Hannibal whispered into his mess of curls, “You must ask Alana tomorrow to check on the dogs for the evening. Make sure she knows you will be engaged with me for the night, that I have dinner planned and had thought it best that you not be driving back in the early hours.”

Will sighed, closing his eyes for a second and taking Hannibal’s hand. “I don’t want to talk about this right now. Can it wait until morning?” Hannibal hesitated.

“It has to be done, Will.” Will tipped his head back as Hannibal pushed himself up slightly, catching a glimpse of his chin, that mouth.

“I know.” He untangled from Hannibal, rolled onto his back to try and keep him in view. “I’m not...I’m not backing out, Hannibal. I just...I like when we’re normal. Like maybe I can forget what the hell I’ve fallen into with you for a night and we can just be two people.”

“Are you not attracted to this other part of me?” Hannibal was looking down at him, and Will didn’t see a trace of anger, resentment- he saw a slip of possible fear, the possibility of rejection, and it was so honest and so unlike his well put together Hannibal that he sat up instantly, reaching for him and cupping his face with one hand, his thumb tracing his jawline.

“No,” he breathed, “No Hannibal, that part of you...” He looked away, whispering into the dark rather brokenly, “I like it.” The words might have hurt once, might had stung down to his gut, turned his stomach, but now they felt relieving, washing over him in a cool wave of acceptance- allowing him to love the man in front of him, fully.

Love.

Hannibal pulled Will closer, whose hand dropped down his neck, allowing his arm to encircle him as Hannibal sought out his mouth and kissed him slowly, a lazy, liquid movement of mouths that could have lasted a lifetime. Will’s chest constricted at the sweetness of Hannibal’s movements, the way his hand found his waist and fingertips teased along the skin, walking their way to his back to trace his spine. “I fear, dear Will,” he admitted, stopping to drag another kiss from Will’s mouth, “That regarding this, I am not so equally split as you wish to believe.”

Will pulled back, watching Hannibal as the man’s other hand stroked his curls back. “Every part of me wants to see this man thoroughly disgraced for what he has done.”

“Because I’m yours?” Will said it without the twinge of darkness it should have had, said it without must force- asked it as a quite question he wanted reassurance to. He wanted to belong to Hannibal, knowing that in being owned so fully, he would hold Hannibal like no one else ever had. It was a two way street, and Hannibal would be equally his.

A slight nod. “Because I care for you, Will,” he whispered, the softness of Will’s curls like the softness of his lips. “Because he hurt you, and he must hurt for that.” He leaned in, pressed his forehead to Will’s, and the brunette could hear him thinking, felt like he was inside his skull, suffocating with all the thoughts Hannibal was sifting through, deciding which to be spoken and which to be tucked away. He wished he could force them all to tumble out of the psychiatrist’s mouth.

He tried to, kissing Hannibal again, winding his arms so tightly around him and pressing their bodies together. He was rewarded with whispers into the kiss, words Will did not know, a language foreign against his tongue, but the sweetness, the tenderness laced in his voice, stringing to words together, tasted divine and made Will’s heart hammer. He wasn’t sure he’d ever need to know exactly what was being said.

“I love you,” Will whispered before he could stop himself, the word biting into the air, stopping Hannibal’s sweet mantra, and Will tried to kiss him again, afraid suddenly, afraid perhaps he had imagined what he thought was love in those words. Hannibal indulged the kiss for a moment, before he took Will’s face in his hands and held him still, searching his stormy eyes, the grays and hazel that mixed together unlike anything he had ever seen, and smiled, tenderly.

“I love you too, dear Will.”

Will lost his breath and grinned, couldn’t help it, almost laughed. He was sure he looked ridiculous, like a child, but he simply didn’t care and when Hannibal kissed him gently, they were both smiling. Will leaned his forehead against the psychiatrist’s, his nose brushing his, and just stayed there in his arms, because nothing else mattered. Nothing else ever would.

*

He tipped his head back, taking a deep breath of the night air, a moment to still himself. They had moved in shadow, looked so completely ordinary that it was almost sickening. Will still heard Alana’s well wishes in his head, happy to check in on the dogs- asking if he minded if Beverly was with her- her playful smile when she told him to make sure he got a little sleep.

There would be no sleep, Will knew. This would take him the rest of the night.

He stepped inside first, Hannibal following. The bag Hannibal had resting over his shoulder seemed harmless, could have been stuffed with patient files if anyone had seen them and dared to ask. One colleague to another, comparing notes. Harmless.

Once inside the waiting room, silent, empty, Hannibal opened it, handing a pair of gloves to Will, who slipped them on and watched as Hannibal put on his monstrous skin- plastic that zipped like a glove over his suit, plastic that made Will’s heart hammer and his tongue dry. His eyes burned into his lover in a way that the man couldn’t ignore, and he gave Will a smile, the dark but loving kind that only Hannibal could manage for him.

Will took a deep breath, then walked to the door to the office, knowing behind it there was only one man, no appointments, and turned the knob, opening it into the dim light that came only from the window and a small lamp on the man’s desk. He stepped inside, alone, and Matthew looked up from his book, a smirk toying at his lips.

“Ah, Will.” He closed the book. “I was wondering how long it would take for you to come to me. Rather long, I have to say. I was almost concerned you wouldn’t.” He stood up, slipping his jacket off and leaving it on his desk. “But, then again, I know you, I know your type. You always come back. Like a broken puppy.”

He walked around the desk and Will stood, casually, hands in his pockets. He seemed completely himself, waiting, and Matthew’s smirk completely showed itself. “I can fix you, Will. I promise.”

Will heard movement behind him, and Matthew’s eyes flicked from him to Hannibal, who stood, looming now, blocking the door. His smirk disappeared into a frown. “Who the fuck else is here?” In the dim light, he must have not recognized him- but then, Will wasn’t sure he had ever truly met Hannibal, so perhaps he didn’t know his face. None of that truly mattered.

“You shouldn’t have touched me,” Will said, licking his lips and taking a step towards the psychiatrist. “You shouldn’t take something that belongs to someone else without asking first.”

Hannibal moved from behind him, quickly, grabbing Barker by the arm and spinning him around, pinning his arms behind him. The man thrashed, but Will realized he was small, smaller than he remembered- his body lacked the solid strength hidden inside Hannibal’s. No wonder he’d needed the drug Will, otherwise the brunette would have over thrown him in a few precise movements.

Will turned, took one step back and grabbed the bag Hannibal had left on the floor, slinging it over his shoulder and walking over, fishing around inside it before his hand wrapped around the gag and brought it out.

“I don’t want to hear you,” Will said, and Matthew opened his mouth to scream so perfectly that the gag fit just right, muffling him. He tried to thrash his head and the pull on his arms tightened so much fire shot up to his shoulders, and he stilled just long enough for Will to get the gag secured. He stepped back, smiling. “Perfect.” Will gave a nod and Hannibal turned, throwing the man to the floor and settling on his lower back, holding his wrists together so Will could secure them, leaving the bag on the ground, within Hannibal’s reach.

“His feet as well, darling,” Hannibal said, the affectionate term making Will shiver. He slipped behind Hannibal and bound his ankles. He was rather unhappy the knotting wasn’t intricate like his dream, but this would have to do. He stood back, and Hannibal looked up at him, waiting, and Will remembered his words on the drive over.

I will be your hands, Will. You tell me how I should best move.

Hannibal had moved slightly, lifted a heavy knife from the bag, and cut down the back of the man’s shirt and vest. “I cut down past muscle to find his spine,” Will whispered, and a moment later the strangled cry came from Matthew’s mouth as Hannibal plunged the knife into his back, dragging it down one side, then repeating without hesitation. “Peel back the skin to see the bone. It’s his weakest feature- I need to show that I can make it beautiful.”

He has no spine Will thought with venom, and more of Hannibal’s words were rushing into his mind, You have to step outside yourself, William. You cannot be Will Graham tonight, nor can you be the Chesapeake Ripper. You must be another killer so completely that you forget who you are.

Tonight, Will would have Matthew carved into a masterpiece. Oh, originally he’d wanted Hannibal to tear him to pieces, turn him into a victim of the Ripper, but Hannibal had advised against it, as much as his eyes said he wanted very little more. Beverly and Alana knew of the incident, they knew of the tie between Will and Matthew, and Hannibal did not want them to associate the Ripper with that. It was too risky, should one of them fit the pieces together.

But, there was still another killer with a sweet spot for Will, one who might attack the man not for unknown crimes, but because he had any sort of tie to Will. The Artist’s infatuation with Will was their key, and Will simply had to test himself, to see how fully he could become someone else for the act.

Hannibal had carved skin and muscle away, and Matthew’s spine was gleaming in the low, pale honey-gold light. Will smiled, his heart beat intensifying as red stains seeped into the carpet. “I roll him over,” he breathed, and Hannibal stood, kicking the body until he rolled over with an anguished gurgle, and was on him again, “Exposed his chest and stomach.”

Hannibal cut at his shirt, pulling tattered strips of fabric away. Matthew’s eyes were wide but glossy, blood loss and pain sinking in already. Will frowned for a moment- he hoped the man could hold on. He wanted him alive as long as possible.

“I open him like a book,” Will whispered, and Hannibal jabbed his knife into the man’s gut, cutting with an almost ease that made Will shiver, falter for a second because in his belly he wanted Hannibal, like he had in his dream. He took a deep breath to calm himself. “A cheap paperback, but a book, none the less.”

Hannibal peeled skin and tissue aside, and Will, looking over his shoulder, could see his glistening innards. At this point Matthew’s head had lolled back, and Will was sure he was too weak to fight. He stooped down, untying his ankles. “Strip him,” he commanded, and Hannibal moved without question, working the rest of his clothing off until he was naked. Will would have liked to have told Hannibal to hollow his groin out, but that did not fit the mind Will was slipping into- that was not the Artist’s macabre tactics, but Will’s own dementia that he couldn’t embrace.

Not tonight.

“I sit him up, in his chair.” Hannibal stood, lifting the body carefully, keeping his inside from spilling out just yet. He cut the binds on his wrists, settling his hands onto the arms of his chair. “I pull his intestines from his body- they will serve as the perfect frame.” Hannibal reaches in, pulling tangles of the slick organ out, tossing a loop over Matthew’s head casually and then walking around him, widening it as much as he could around the small chair. Had they cut it from his body, it would have fit perfectly, but Will wanted them left attached.

“He looks as he should, when sitting across from the victims he only furthers in their plight. He is gutless, weak. His spine is frail and when exposed seems to shrink into nothingness.” Will stepped in closer, reaching out and grabbing Matthew by his hair, lifting his head up and forcing him to stare at him with half dead eyes. Will bared his teeth, letting his hold on this other persona go and allowing him to become himself.

“You picked the wrong sort of crazy to mess with,” Will whispered, “I wonder if you would have come anywhere near me if you knew the Chesapeake Ripper was embedded in my bones.” Hannibal stepped up behind him, and Will looked up, tilting his head back, accepting the sweet kiss Hannibal offered. He let go of Matthew’s head, stepping back so Hannibal could slip in. “Cut his tongue out,” he whispered, and Hannibal did without hesitation, and Will lost his breath. “And his eyes.”

“Will,” Hannibal breathed, but Will was nodding.

“It’s okay, it’s okay. Do it.” And Hannibal listened, popping them out. Matthew had stopped moving, and Will wasn’t sure if he was still alive or dead, and he didn’t care. True, he would have liked him alive until the very end, but it wouldn’t matter to the final outcome. He’d be something rather beautiful at the end regardless. “Turn his hands up,” Will whispered, “So I can place his tongue in one hand, his eyes in the other. They both lie, he has to offer them to us now in penance.”

Hannibal did as instructed, and then Will leaned against his back, breathing in his ear, “Cut out his heart.”

He could feel the static energy emanating off Hannibal’s body, the heat in his own responding, and Hannibal pressed his hands up through the cavity he’d created in his body, cutting until the organ was free. Without Will instructing him, he placed it directly between the man’s thighs, nestled into naked flesh, and Will pressed his face into Hannibal’s hair, breathed in deeply, whispering through his teeth, “You are my design.”

Hannibal shuddered, tilting his head back, his eyelids fluttering, and Will went for the skin he could get at, his jaw, the very beginnings of his throat, nipped and licked and claimed and loved. He couldn’t live out his dream, it wouldn’t be smart to get so distracted here, but he gave himself those few precious moments to taste the excitement in the salt of Hannibal’s skin, before he backed off, let the man straighten up, and look at the body with him, the way he was so open, so completely exposed.

Matthew looked like something so much more than himself, something borderline beautiful. Will smiled, knew no one could ever suspect this wasn’t the Artist, that this was truly his design- the body’s arrangement, every movement of Hannibal’s skilled hands- he was part of it, Hannibal, part of the design. The most important part.

*

Will knew the call was coming in the morning, as he dressed after his shower, chuckling as Hannibal kept unbutton the top buttons of his shirt to kiss his neck from behind. “I’ll never get dressed at this rate,” he teased, answering the phone so whoever was on the line could clearly hear, before saying, “Hello?”

“Sorry to interrupt Will, but...” It was Beverly, and she cleared her throat. “But you should really...there’s a scene. It’s your...psychiatrist.” She paused. “He’s dead Will. The Artist. Can you get to his office ASAP? I just got here, and Jack left instructions to have your lecture canceled.”

“I’ll be right there,” Will said, hanging up the phone and leaning his head back, exposing his throat to Hannibal’s eager mouth. The show could be delayed for a few precious moments longer.

*

Will stepped into the office, past the guard, hands in his pockets. Hannibal followed behind him, and when Jack looked over and saw him, he said, “I shouldn’t be surprised to see you here, Dr. Lecter.”

Hannibal gave him a charming smile. “It seems where Will goes I happen to follow.” He placed a hand on the man’s lower back, softly, “But I will not linger long. I have appointments that must be kept. I thought it best to be here for good Will.” He pulled his hand back, staying back with Jack, and Will circled around the body, making a show of looking away, eyes seeming disgusted. He rotated his jaw, noticing as everyone seemed to step back- not leaving the office, but retreating a distance so he had his space.

Will didn’t need to imagine what happened, but he closed his eyes and mentally played through it, speeding up to his favorite parts and then slowing down time to focus in on the memories of terrified, half dead eyes- until they were plucked out and placed in one of Matthew’s hands. When his eyes flicked open and he gasped, it was in that excited joy that he expertly masked as fear. He took a stumbling step back from the body, another, legs shaking, and Hannibal rushed over, bracing him against his solid body. Will exhaled sharply through his nose, nostrils flaring, and the room closed in, Jack stepping close, waiting. Beverly slipped to the other side of Will, avoiding looking at the body.

“You know it was the Artist,” Will pointed out, “You don’t need me to tell you that.”

“But why him?” Jack as direct, and Will looked away, making a show of fidgeting, seeming guilty, but truly not.

“Because of me.” Will swallowed the lump in his throat. “Because he was close to me. He’s closing in...he’s going to pick off those who he thinks might get in his way of getting to me.” Jack nodded, rubbing his jaw. He signaled with his hand and people began moving the body, slowly, and Will covered his mouth.

“I need to leave,” he said, sounding ill, looking pale, and Hannibal had to fight down his small, proud smile. He guided Will away from the body, leading him out of the office, the waiting area, and outside into the cool morning air. Will took a deep breath, Hannibal rubbing between his shoulder blades.

“Will!” Beverly bounded down the stairs, skidding to a stop by him, looking at him with sorry eyes. “Are you alright?” Will nodded. “You can’t blame yourself for what happened.” She reached out, touched his shoulder. “Besides,” she said, her voice sounding bitter, “Bastard had something like this coming to him.”

Will looked up at her, let his shock show through his eyes, and she looked away. “I mean, what he did to you. What he probably did to more people. Fucker had it coming.” She squeezed his shoulder. “So don’t feel guilty.”

Will nodded, leaning back into Hannibal, who kissed his curls gently before stepping away, about to take his leave, when he noticed Alana walking up in hurried steps. He paused, too curious where this would go to leave just yet. By her nervous eyes, he could tell she was already aware of the situation, and silently, he mused that perhaps Beverly had called her. For Will’s comfort or her own, he was not yet sure.

“Alana,” he said, and she gave Hannibal a nod in greeting.

“I got here as quickly as I could,” she said, “Are you alright, Will?” Hannibal watched as Will nodded, as Alana reached out and took his hand, and for a moment a sharp pang welled up his chest. He looked away, pursing his lips, jaw tensing, regaining himself. There was always that hint of tension when someone else touched Will. Alana more so than Beverly, but Hannibal kept himself in check. Alana served too much good for him to grow emotionally weak and do something regrettable. He was sure Will would not approve. “I’m worried about you,” she was saying, “I mean, this guy is targeting you specifically, Will.”

“Not me,” Will said, taking his hand back, “Just those who he’s seeing as an interference.” Alana looked over at Hannibal, worried. It was a fetching emotion on her face he decided.

“Maybe we should look into some protection for Hannibal,” she offered, “I would think you’d be high on this psychopath’s list.”

“I’m honored by your concern,” Hannibal said, “But I do not fear for my life just yet.”

“Besides,” Will broke in, looking up with a small smile, “I can protect Hannibal from anything.” The two glanced at each other for a brief second, and Hannibal could picture Will strangling the life out of Alyssa, lip twitching to show teeth as he did it- as he embraced the black maw inside him to protect Hannibal. The psychiatrist closed the gap, kissing Will’s temple, suddenly overwhelmed, and wrapped his arms around him, not caring about Beverly or Alana’s stares.

There was something completely soothing about the idea of Will trying to protect him.

Chapter Text

Will leaned back in his chair, studying the photograph on the table, and not the man sitting across from him. It was a pleasant surprise to find Hannibal slipping into his empty lecture hall, bearing lunch, but his mind had been elsewhere, and he seemed unable to fully bring it to the present. Julie’s body decorated the page, magnificently carved, and idly he tapped his fingers on the table as he tried to memorize the curves of her bones.

“You are preoccupied, Will,” Hannibal pointed out casually, lifting his coffee and taking a sip, “And you have not touched your food.” Will looked up, blinking to try and focus on Hannibal.

“Sorry,” he said, removing his glasses and setting them on his desk. He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Just...thinking.”

“About your killer?” Will nodded. “Dare I become jealous, dear Will?” The brunette cracked a smile at that, reaching across the desk and managing to snag Hannibal’s hand, squeezing it for a moment, before letting go and leaning back.

“You’re the only psychopath for me,” he teased, voice very quiet. He felt secure in his lecture hall with the doors closed, but there were still things he didn’t dare speak louder than a whisper. His humor wasn’t lost on Hannibal, who chuckled, taking a careful bite of his food. Food, he had assured Will with a soft kiss, would be acceptable to eat surrounded by FBI agents. He leaned back into his chair, rotating his neck. “I just need to catch this guy. This has gone on far too long.”

“I would argue preciously long enough,” Hannibal pointed out, fingers trailing over a picture of Matthew’s body. Will watched the movement, smiling fondly and wishing the desk wasn’t in the way of his legs, he’d like to reach out and trace Hannibal’s calf, to attempt to irritate the man with his fondness. It was one of the things that told him he was getting obscenely comfortable with Hannibal. “What was it like, Will?”

“What was what like?” Will leaned forward,d finally picking up his fork and shoving a forkful of food into his mouth.

“Pretending to be someone you are not.” The slight smile at the corners of his mouth filled in the gaps. Or perhaps Will just understood the way his mind worked enough to fill them in himself. He wasn’t sure.

“Enjoyable,” Will admitted, abandoning his fork in favor of the coffee that was always an explosion of perfect flavor on his tongue. “I could see his body for what it was- each curve of bone, each pull of muscle. I saw all the ways I could make him look better.”

“Explain them to me.” Hannibal leaned his arms on the desk, having pushed the small dish that had held his lunch away. He clasped his hands together and had that professional curiosity to his eyes. Will knew he couldn’t help it- and, this time, didn’t begrudge him it. Part of him wanted to talk about it, wanted someone else to know.

“His spine,” Will started, wrapping his hands around the small coffee cup, “Was weak. He had no backbone- wouldn’t have drugged me if he did.” The words were bitter, and Will broke them by taking another sip of his coffee. “But pulled out of his shell, it was divine. Each contour, each edge...” Will closed his eyes, inhaled, felt unlike himself. He reached for Hannibal’s hands and was glad when they wrapped around his own, steadying him, pulling him back into himself. “The bone was beautiful. He would have seen that, too.”

“Why have me gut him?”

“Opening him like a book, so he has no secrets. His body should be enjoyed from the inside out- he shouldn’t be judged simply by the dust jacket he wears.” Will’s fingers wiggled within Hannibal’s hands. “He shouldn’t been seen the canvas he started as, only the creation I left him.”

Hannibal’s lips twitched, the ghost of a smile, and Will wanted to flush out the whole thing. “And he needed a frame,” Will pointed out.

“And you deemed his intestines the most suitable?” Will nodded. “What is the reasoning behind that?”

“Unless you had cut every inch of skin off him, there was nothing else that would fit. An artist must work with the tools he is given. When a masterpiece comes from scraps and broken tools, you know you have a true genius.” Another twitch, a cruve of lips, but Will wanted more. “Keep asking me.”

“His tongue and eyes?”

“Vicious, weapons. Weapons belong in your hands. And they drew too much attention to his face. The face doesn’t always need to be the center piece, it can fall to the backdrop just as easily as it can sit center stage.”

“And his heart, good Will?” Will smirked.

“Between his legs. I should have had you empty his skull and settle his brains in his lap.”

That got Will a full grin, even a chuckle, and Hannibal was pulling Will’s hand to his mouth, kissing his fingers.

“I cannot wait to see what you create with your own mind, Will,” Hannibal whispered against the pads of his finger tips, before he finally released his hand, leaning back and watching as Will emptied his coffee into his mouth. He was quick to refill it before Will could move, and his lover gave him a small nod in thanks. It should have been peculiar, how easily they spoke of the life they had jointly taken, over lunch and coffee, as if it was a casual affair they could chat about. But it simply felt normal, like this would become a rhythm of everyday life. “Has Matthew’s death allowed you to understand your killer more extensively, Will?”

“Yes,” Will said with a nod, taking another sip of the coffee, letting the caffine work into his veins. “I felt...tender, about Matthew. Not as a person, but as a creation. Like he was something I had worked so hard to cultivate, something I wanted the world to appreciate.”

“Tender?” Hannibal questioned, and Will nodded, leaning his elbows on the desk. Hannibal was quiet for a moment, and Will could see he was thinking- studied his Burgundy eyes and the brain ticking away behind them. “Are you quite sure, Will, that your killer is in fact a man?”

“What are you saying?” Will asked, raising an eyebrow. “Don’t tell me a child. Not this.”

“No, no this is most certainly the work of an adult,” Hannibal agreed, “But...perhaps your killer is a woman.”

“Why do you think that?” Will was curious as to Hannibal’s reasoning, watched the man lick his lips and almost got distracting by the small movement.

“Your description of being tender,” he whispered, “It feels feminine.”

“You’re tender towards me,” Will pointed out, “And I wouldn’t say you’re feminine, Doctor.” His formality was a push, this conversation had gone past the boundaries of Will speaking with his lover- they could have been back in Hannibal’s office, long months ago, before this fall into this sordid waltz. This was the beautiful mind Will wanted to wring dry.

“But you cannot deny, even if the concept is not valid that the idea of tenderness is typically named feminine.” Will nodded. “What is stopping you from considering a woman for this role?”

Will licked his lips. “Nothing,” he admitted- it simply hadn’t occurred to him. The crimes were sexless, there was nothing to say it had to be a man, but gendering the crimes had come to easily without evidence. She folded his hands together, fidgeting, recalculating. “I like this angle,” he admitted, before he pushed up from his desk, quickly pushing photographs together and cramming them into his bag.

“Where are you of to?” Hannibal asked, not moving.

“Woodbine,” Will said, “We asked Julie’s family about men, but we never asked about women.”

“A simple call would suffice.” Will shook his head.

“No. No, this has to be done in person. Just...trust me.” Hannibal finally stood up, clearing off Will’s desk and placing the objects he’d imposed on the surface securely into his bag.

“Shall I inform Jack of your departure?” Will thought on it, then shook his head.

“No, let Jack wonder. He’s distracted anyway, holed up in his office looking over Ripper cases.” Will flashed a devious smile for a moment. “But I wouldn’t mind some company.”

“I would be honored,” Hannibal said with a smile, following Will from the lecture hall, his turn now to marvel at the turning of the gears inside Will’s skull.

*

Will drove this time, speeding over the long highway span form the lab to Woodbine. He should have called ahead, he was sure, the Cobb family had to be sick of surprise visits, imposing questions- wanted to get on with their lives. But they were the starting point, Julie was the pinnacle, the true masterpiece. The link was there, he knew it.

It was late afternoon when he finally parked the car, slipping out, happy to stretch his legs. He looked at his watch, nearly four o’clock, and hadn’t realized how late of a lunch he and Hannibal had shared, how long they had spoken in hushed voices over his desk. The psychiatrist followed Will as he walked up the door, ringing the bell, staying slightly back, a new, strange face to a family who had seen enough oddity for a few generations.

Mrs. Cobb answered the door, looking not exactly shocked, but mildly surprised. “Mr. Graham,” she said, and Will realized they had paid far too many visits if she actually remember his name. “What brings you here?”

“Just a few...questions,” he admitted, and she swallowed hard, nodding.

“Would you care to come in?” Her husband made his way up behind her, placing a hand on her shoulder.

“Thank you, no,” Will said, “It’s just a few quick questions.” He looked back at Hannibal, and the psychiatrist was pleased to see Will remembering his manners. “This is Dr. Lecter,” he offered, “My...partner.”

The word had so many meanings, most of which lost on the couple as they greeted him with a nod, none of which lost on Hannibal as he gave a smooth, accented, “Hello.” Casually, kept from view, he placed his hand on the small of Will’s back.

“I know we asked before, but did she notice anyone strange that Julie had been hanging around with? People you didn’t know?”

“She didn’t really hang out with anyone,” her mother said, “She went to the salon, she came home. She put a lot of time in there. We never really met her clients. She had a few friends from high school that she might have called occasionally, but she never showed an interest in visiting them or spending time together.”

“How much time did she really spend at the salon?”

“Too much,” her father broke in. “But she was a dedicated girl. Up and unlocking that place as early as she could get clients, staying well into the night. She bent over backwards to try and get her footing.” Will nodded, wondering if the man was purposely covering something, or if he really believed his daughter spent that much time there. Will felt in his bones she didn’t- felt it in the pictures of her naked, painted body, felt it in the spiraling words of her diary.

Will, for a moment, thought this was simply another dead end, as the family had always been, but her father continued. “I can’t even remember the last time we saw one of her friends,” he admitted, rubbing his wife’s arm. “But...come to think of it, one of Julie’s clients brought her home a few weeks ago, before this...mess.”

That piqued Will’s interest. He managed to hold Mr. Cobb’s glance for a moment, before drifting to his nose. Hannibal’s hand pressed deeper into his back, but his lover was painfully silent, a ghost, simply spectating. “Can you tell me about this person?”

“Only saw her from the car,” Mr. Cobb admitted, “we asked Julie who she was- you know, we didn’t want her just meeting strangers, but she told us she was a client. Her car had been having some work done, and she had stayed later tat the salon than the other girls, and when this girl offered her a ride home she thought it was better than disturbing us.”

“What did she look like?”

Mr. Cobb made a muffled sound and rubbed his jaw, stubble from the past few days thickening. “Hmmm. Maybe a few years older than Julie. Dark hair. Couldn’t really see her besides that. She was gone pretty fast.” He paused. “Please don’t tell me there’s been another victim. I’d hate to think thie girl lost her life because I didn’t think her bringing Julie home was important.”

Will swallowed, trying to contain himself, but his skin felt too tight, like there were too many vibrations in his veins, too much static in his lungs. “No, no other body,” he forced out. “Thank you for your time.”

“Of course,” Mrs. Cobb offered, bidding them a good evening as Will turned and Hannibal followed, neither speaking until they were inside the car and the engine roared to life.

“Did you find this helpful, Will?” Hannibal asked as Will hastily pulled away from the curb, eyes glued on the road. He didn’t say anything, his mind racing, and absentmindedly he reached into the pocket of his jacket with one hand and felt a crumpled piece of paper he hadn’t thought twice about.

*

Will hadn’t explained to Hannibal where they were going, hadn’t even really thought too, so stuck inside his own skull that he barely remembered navigating the car. He parked it in the fading light, walking in brisk, long strides, and Hannibal hurried to catch up, but never once questioned Will. He was content again to be the observer. He was sure he’d never tire of watching Will.

They made their way to the basement of a building, and Will pushed open a set of doors, stepping into the chilled basement studio with Hannibal in tow. It was deserted, except for one warm body, leaning over one of the tables and collecting sculpting tools that had been carelessly left out. Her eyes flicked up, and Cat smiled at him. “Mr. Graham. You know, I was beginning to think I wouldn’t see you again.” She straightened up, tools pressed between one folded arm and her chest. “What can I do for you?”

Hannibal noted her casual stance, but the attentiveness of her eyes- her familiarity with Will, and his lip twitched ever so slightly, the muscle between lip and nose tugging up in one quick, unseeable movement. He had the urge to wrap an arm around Will, to pull him into Hannibal’s small space, show his possessiveness. He let his fingers flex and resisted.

“You told me once,” Will said, swallowing, “that you saw Julie.” Cat hesitated, as if she was recalling.

“The blonde girl? Yeah, I said she was here one night.”

“You failed to mention you were at her house.” Cat paused, eyed Will, then turned, setting the tools down on the counter and speaking without looking.

“Not sure I know what you’re talking about, Mr. Graham.”

“You drove her home once,” he said, taking a step towards her, “She lied about it, told her father you were a client of her’s. But that’s not the case, is it? In fact, you never just saw her, you knew her, and well.” Will licked his lips, tasting his words before letting them breathe. “She came here to see you, didn’t she?”

Cat turned around, raising her hands up in mock surrender. “You caught me, Mr. Graham. I knew the pretty girl.” She took a step towards him, a casual roll in her hips. Hannibal saw it, Will did not- and the psychiatrist was glad.

“You didn’t just know her,” Will said, “You killed her.”

Cat tensed visibly, before her arms lowered and she shifted her weight to one hip, her smile changing to something closer to a smirk. “I knew you’d figure it out eventually. I just had to wait for the when.” She leaned back against the counter, watching him with attentive eyes that suddenly seemed to take in too much detail. “You don’t disappoint, Will.”

The switch to his first name had Hannibal moving, slipping closer to his side but still not touching. Her eyes shifted to him, sized him up, a quick trip from feet to the top of his head, and then she was focused on Will again. “Your mind’s a glorious thing, the way you slip into someone else’s head. That’s art.” She tapped her fingers under the lip of the counter, looking at Hannibal again. “Part of me wants to open up your skull and take a peek.”

Hannibal reached out, hand on the small of Will’s back, looming then, another twitch passing over his lips. Cat noticed, tilted her head so her hair fell away and the splatter of color on her neck was visible, as if someone had painted her like a watercolor with a needle. “I won’t,” she said, “I like Will alive. He’s brilliant.” She looked back to Will. “I admire you, Will Graham. You’re a true artist, slipping into someone’s mind and skin. I wish I could do that.” She straightened up. “But, sadly, I’ve had my masterpiece. Everything began and ended with Julie.”

“Why her?” Will didn’t need to ask, he was sure he knew, but he wanted to her it from her mouth, wanted to know just how deep in her mind he had gotten.

“Because she was perfect.” Cat folded her arms. “Not a flaw too her. And she had been so closed in at home, so stunted, she was more than happy to explore a little freedom.” She rubbed her arms. “I was a little sad to see her go, simply because I knew I’d never create anything like her again. With a canvas that flawless, the art has to be stunning. Although I like to think my follow up works could hold their own.” She sighed. “She was the most willing, too. I think that left a little glow to her. She wanted it. Wanted a way out, to become more than plain.”

Will nodded. Everything she was saying, he knew. And from her look, she knew he knew. But she let him indulge. “So, are you arresting me? Is that what tall man there is for?” She looked at Hannibal again, right into his eyes, and recoiled, her own widening briefly at the glimpses he allowed her to see, the monster inside bearing his teeth.

“No,” Will said, and Hannibal dared to slid his eyes to him. He hadn’t asked Will what his plan was, he simply intended to enjoy the ride his lover took him for. But that had not been the answer he expected.

“Then why are you here?”

“To warn you,” Will said, “That I know. And I’ll be informing the FBI. I’m giving you an hour head start.” He moved away from Hannibal’s touch, walking towards the girl, until he had her nearly pinned against the counter. Hannibal felt that twitch in his lip again, his hands tightening into fists, but yet he did not move- as badly as he wanted to. As badly as he wanted to grab Will and yank him back against his body, remind him that no one else was allowed that close.

The hammering of his heart against his ribs was uncomfortable, and Hannibal fought to stand still. He felt so unlike himself.

“Why not just arrest me?” Cat asked, staring up at Will, pressing further back into the counter so it dug into her back, avoiding touching him, as if he was a fire and she would burst into flame.

“Because I like what you do,” Will said, voice weakening, through his teeth. “Because I like what you do with them.” He reached up, ran his fingers along some of her hair, and she froze, watching with eyes that betrayed a hint of fear, as if she saw the dark, gaping maw inside him that Will had stopped suturing shut. “I see the beauty in your art. I’m not ready to see it end permanently.”

He pulled his hand back, taking one step back, and she inhaled deeply, visibly happy to have her space back. She flicked her eyes from Will to Hannibal, back to Will, licked her lips and spoke very carefully. “Not that I don’t...appreciate it, and not that this change isn’t...welcome. But what made you see the truth, Will? Something drastic had to change.”

“Love does things to you,” Will remarked casually, finally looking back at Hannibal and flashing him a smile- the true kind that he reserved solely for the psychiatrist. Hannibal’s own mouth twitched, a small, half smile returned. He looked back at Cat, who had pushed herself off the counter, staring at Hannibal again.

“I should know you,” she remarked to him, but didn’t elaborate. She turned back to Will instead. “You know, two killings are being attributed to me that I can’t seem to remember.” She smiled. “Wouldn’t know anything about them? It had to be someone with quite the...understanding of me, with maybe a bit of experienced help.”

“Not a thing,” Will lied, poorly, and Hannibal knew it was on purpose. Cat nodded again, hesitating, and Hannibal, unable to stand still in the backdrop any longer, moved back to Will, this time fully slipping an arm around his waist, turning into his curls and breathing, kissing softly. He needed her to see- this was his. This would always be his.

Will turned, caught the corner of Hannibal’s mouth for a brief second, then looked back at Cat.

“One hour,” he reminded her, and she nodded.

“It was a pleasure, Mr. Graham,” she offered, “I look forward to running into your work next time. Perhaps you two will give me a little show. Good team work is hard to come by.” She gave Hannibal one last, assessing look, then was gone, disappearing at a brisk walk out the doors. Hannibal’s grip tightened instead of loosening on Will, and he forcibly turned him, seeking out his mouth for a vicious kiss that was all heavy lips and tongue and teeth, the force of it threatening to know the air from Will’s lungs and the steadiness from his legs.

“Hannibal,” Will mouthed against his lips, squirming in his arms but deciding on pulling himself closer. “Someone is jealous,” he breathed when he finally broke completely away, looking at Hannibal with a huge grin. The psychiatrist frowned.

“You seem exceptionally amused by this, William.” He was frowning, and Will leaned in, nudging his nose along Hannibal’s chin and forcing him to tilt his head back so he could press a kiss to his pulse point.

“I am,” Will admitted. “Did you feel threatened by her?”

“No,” Hannibal said, and Will thought it might be a lie. Not that he thought Hannibal felt physically threatened by her- he could break her his bare hands, and the idea made Will shiver- but that other threat, that nameless one that Will was sure he himself would have felt if Hannibal had pressed so close.

Will hadn’t been able to help it. She saw something in him, and her eyes reflected terror and awe, a delicious mix he wanted just a taste of. He’d never get terror from Hannibal’s eyes. “Good,” Will whispered, deciding to play along with the lie. “You didn’t need to be, anyway. She wouldn’t have jumped me or anything.”

“You under estimate your attraction, Will,” Hannibal said under his breath, and Will laughed.

“No,” he said, “I don’t. And you forget, I was in her head. I know her mind now. This was never physical- not with me, or any of her works. I don’t think there’s anything sexual about her, honestly.” He took Hannibal’s arm, wrapping his own tightly around it and leaning into him. “Besides, would I really go anywhere when I have you to tempt me back home?” He leaned up, kissed Hannibal’s cheek, and Hannibal sighed, smiling because Will was infectious. “Now c’mon, let’s go back to the car. We’ve got an hour to kill.”

Hannibal was pleased that Will kept a hold of his arm until they got to the door, and then released, instead favoring his hand as they made their way out of the basement studio. He was rather shocked with himself, though, as they walked, for the flurry of carnal ideas he came up with that they could indulge in to pass the time. Yes, Will was definitely infectious.

*

Will stood in Cat’s apartment that evening, while the FBI sweeped through it, taking everything. He wasn’t too concerned, he knew she was long gone- he didn’t doubt she was smart enough to get herself out of the country. She was smart enough to keep him chasing her for so long- would have kept alluding him if Hannibal hadn’t broached the idea that maybe she had been a woman.

Will was sure he’d never gender a killer again until he knew for certain. It had cost so many lives- and there was a part of him, somewhere, that still cared, still cringed. But it had allowed him to indulge, to sink his finger tips into Hannibal’s nerves and command him like a marionette. That was worth all those lives- and then some.

Will was poking around her bedroom. He was sure he didn’t even need to be here. He’d told Jack all he needed to know, the final connection. He was sure they could find evidence of it on their own. Still, he traced his gloved finger along the seam where mattress met bed frame, before gripping it and lifting it, staring down at a mess of photographs and sketches.

“Hey,” he called back, keeping his hold on the mattress steady. Beverly came into the room, followed his eyes, and was quick to snap a photo of the mess, before gathering them all into her arms so Will could let the mattress fall.

“Gonna flex for me now?” she teased, and Will pushed his arm up playfully against hers, knocking her half a step over as she laughed. Oddly cheery, he noted, but didn’t mention. He didn’t dislike it, it just seemed a bit out of place.

Beverly sorted through the pictures, her smile fading to a frown, and she handed them off one by one to Will. He recognized them- Julie, naked and painted, alive. Then Julie, dead and displayed. Annie too- Will knew this girl had been partially willing, at least- though not stable. The others were not featured, and Will wondered if Cat didn’t deem them worthy, or if she simply left highlights of her best work. He didn’t doubt she had her own souvenirs.

“Sick,” Beverly muttered, “But no doubt our killer.” Will nodded. “At least we can identify her. I’d sleep better if we had her in custody.”

“You’re in no danger,” Will offered, smiling at her- charming, resembling Hannibal’s in a way Beverly couldn’t put her finger on.

“Oh? Are you going to protect me now?” She punched him, grinning, and Will reached for her, pulling her into a tight hold playfully. She trashed, laughing, tugging at his shirt, and might have actually shoved him to the floor if Jack hadn’t stepped into the room and hollered at them that this was a scene and that they were not children. Will released Beverly, who straightened, shaking her hair out, the two continuing their walk through the living room.

The sound of Jack’s booming voice had lured Hannibal into the apartment. He had respectfully been waiting outside in the hallway- bored out of his pretty mind, Will was sure. He looked at the two, perplexed, and Beverly grinned.

“Your boyfriend was just telling me how he’s going to protect me,” she said, rolling her eyes, and Hannibal chuckled.

“I do believe, Agent Katz, it would serve us all better if you protected him.” Beverly grinned at that, obvious pleased, and Will rolled his eyes, forgetting about the stack of gruesome images in his arms. They didn’t matter in that moment, that oddly normal moment, with an abnormal backdrop.

*

Will leaned his head back into his seat for a moment, the dark of the car confining but not uncomfortable. Next to him, Hannibal sat in silence.

“What time is it?” Will asked, eyes closed. He heard Hannibal shifting, knew he was checking his watch.

“Half past eight.” Will nodded. “Would you like to retire to my home, Will? I believe you are too exhausted for the drive back.”

“Your car is at the lab,” Will mumbled, eyes still closed.

“And there it can remain until morning.” Will finally opened his eyes, pulling his glasses off to rub them.

“The dogs,” he pointed out, “I can call Alana, but I feel bad, asking so much of her. I’m starting to think she sees them more than I do.” Will sighed, not looking at Hannibal, but could hear him thinking.

“Perhaps,” Hannibal offered, “We may have to devise a solution for this problem.”

“What problem?” Will asked, starting his car and pulling away from the crime scene. “Me always being stuck out late when I’m exhausted?” He laughed. “Not that it’s that late. My brain just needs a fucking break.”

“No,” Hannibal said, as Will pulled into traffic. “No, I was commenting on lengthy distance between your home and my own.” Will snorted in sarcastic laughter.

“I’m exhausted, baby,” He said, reaching over to placing his hand on Hannibal’s thigh, not even realizing the small term of endearment had snuck into his speech, “Straight forward please.”

“Perhaps we should contemplate the idea of living together.”

Will stiffened, his brain snapping from it’s lulling, tired state, to one of almost hyper awareness. “W-what?” he stammered, and Hannibal’s hand covered his own on his thigh, squeezing it gently.

“It is just a thought,” he reminded Will, who swallowed the lump in his throat and wasn’t sure if the fluttering in his stomach was excitement or fear. He was rather found of his home, his little sliver of solitude. It was perfect for the dogs, it was perfect-

No, no it had been perfect, before Hannibal. Now it was rather lonely, except for the occasional night Will could convince his lover to stay. Then it was divine all over agian.

“There’s a lot to consider there,” Will offered, turning his hand over so his palm faced up and they could entangle their fingers. “I’m not...saying no. Just-“

“No need to be defensive, dear Will,” Hannibal said, smiling, “It is an idea for another night. Although it may be beneficial for you to have a few of your things in my home, at the very least.”

Will laughed at that. Yes, that he could agree to.

*

Alana had been more than happy to check on the dogs, wished Will and Hannibal a good evening, congratulated him on putting a face to his elusive killer. Will could only think Beverly had called Alana- and he was again curious just what their little relationship entailed, when it had come around without his knowledge. Perhaps it had bloomed opposite his love for Hannibal.

Dinner had been light. Will couldn’t explain why he was so drained, but Hannibal seemed to be just as fatigued. All the brunette wanted was to curl up, and was openly happy when they turned in early, stripping down and entangling under the sheets in that comforting way.

“At least this ordeal is over,” Will muttered, “I won’t have to chase her anymore.”

“You are so sure she won’t return?” Will nodded.

“Yeah. Not for a long time, anyway. Too risky.” He yawned, pushing back into Hannibal who tightened his arm around him. “Maybe Jack will leave me be for a bit now.”

“You haven’t caught him the Ripper yet.” Will laughed at that, reaching blindly behind him to smack Hannibal in the arm.

“Hush, or I’ll deliver you straight to him in handcuffs.” Hannibal chuckled, pressing his mouth to Will’s neck.

“I feel you would enjoy that,” Hannibal mused, “Perhaps we’ll have to try it sometime.” Will pulled away, rolling over so he was facing Hannibal, kissing him with a sleepy grin on his face.

“Don’t get kinky on me when all I wanna do it sleep,” Will scolded, nestling down into Hannibal’s chest. Hannibal stroked along his spine.

“He will be expecting another victim.” Will huffed

“I don’t wanna discuss that either,” he pointed out. He could wrap his mind around Hannibal choosing a final victim in the morning, over coffee. He wanted to be a part of that conversation, but in that moment his body felt like liquid, and he was sure Hannibal could have pressed his divine mouth between his legs and Will would still only be concerned with sleep.

“Is there anything you would like to discuss before I lose you to your mistress?” Will chuckled, coherent enough to get the joke.

“I’m not cheating on you with sleep,” he muttered, looking up. “But there is one thing.”

“And what is that, dear Will?” Will paused for a moment, licked his lips.

“Thank you,” he finally said, “For...I don’t know.” Will sighed, leaning up, pressing his lips to Hannibal’s chin, moving up towards the corner of his mouth. “For...everything. For helping me.”

“How have I helped you?” Hannibal wrapped his arms tight around Will, pulling him in, and Will knew he simply wanted to hear him say it all.

“For grounding me. For keeping me as stable as I can be. For...for understanding the...the urges.” Will didn’t know what else to call the thoughts, the desires, the once sickening joy of slipping into the mind of a killer and not wanting to leave. The sordid pleasure of taking life bit by bit, following every detail of his design. “And for...Alyssa. For covering my mistakes.”

Her name didn’t leave a foul taste in Will’s mouth. In fact, it tasted irony, spiced perfectly, if anything.

Hannibal kissed Will’s forehead, the bridge of his nose, even his eyelids, the brunette sighing, content.

“Will,” he murmured into his skin, “I have not helped you. You have helped yourself.”

Will tilted his face up, opening his eyes for a moment to find Hannibal’s mouth, then closing them again and tasting the words on his tongue, letting the truth of them seep into his own. True, Hannibal’s guidance, his pushing, had laid the path out in front of Will-

But he’d chosen to walk it himself, to take it step by bloody, unforgettable step, until he could see those burgundy eyes and that dark, loving smile at the end. Until he saw the monster-man-god he was ready to worship.

Chapter Text

Will smiled across the table as Beverly laughed, flashing bright teeth and her eyes nearly shutting. Alana was chuckling next to her, listing her tall, crystal glass to her mouth and sipping at the beer inside. Beverly’s own glass was half empty already, but Will knew that had no real affect on her mood. Not yet.

“I fear I am missing all of the amusement,” Hannibal said, appearing from his kitchen and stopping at the head of the table, lifting his wine glass for a sip.

“I promise we’ll save you some,” Beverly said, and he gave her his charming smile.

“Please do.” He set his glass down and Will stood up, touching his arm and giving him the easy smile that silently said let me help. He followed Hannibal into the kitchen, leaving the two ladies to continue the conversation, and watched as Hannibal finished plating the last few pieces of dinner. Once that was complete, Will picked two of them up, following Hannibal back to the dining room. Hannibal placed one plate in front of Alana, one in front of Beverly, telling him in his smooth voice what he had prepared, words that Will was sure he’d forever fumble over.

He set a plate down in front of Hannibal’s seat, then in front of his own, and sat again. Beverly was looking at the food, astonished, then over at Hannibal.

“This smells amazing,” she said, “Alana, you weren’t lying when you said he was an amazing cook. And I haven’t even tasted it yet!” Hannibal smiled, raising his glass slightly to her, taking a drink as he watched the two women cut into their food. Will knew the smile the glass hid, that private pleasure Hannibal got from feeding the world, and could admit he had a giddy sort of pleasure humming through him as well.

Will cut into the meat, taking a bite.

“It is a shame Jack did not join us this evening,” Hannibal said, and Beverly scoffed.

“It’s be a bore with him here,” she pointed out, “He’d talk nothing but shop.”

“Well, I imagine he must have quite the thoughts currently, with your Artist having slipped from his fingers and the third Ripper victim turning up.” Hannibal took a careful bite, and Will swirled the wine around in his glass.

“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean we have to discuss it over dinner,” Beverly pointed out. “I’m perfectly alright discussing something a little more...bland.”

“Such as, Ms. Katz?” She took a sip of her beer.

“Anything from the weather to what you and Will do between the sheets is fair game to me.” Will’s face tinged scarlet, and he was tempted to try and kick Beverly under the table, shooting a glance at Hannibal, horrified he might see that twitch in his lip, the lines in his eyes that said she had been horribly rude.

But Hannibal was laughing, setting his wine glass down. “You are terribly naughty, Ms. Katz.”

“Please, Beverly,” she pointed out, grinning. “And what can I say, I’m sure Will had divulged the questions I put him through.”

“Endlessly,” Will muttered, looking at Alana for back up against the two, but she was smiling into her beer, seeming to enjoy herself. “Am I the only one that enjoys a little privacy here?”

“Will, I did not say I would indulge Beverly’s curiosity- simply that I am amused by it.” He reached over, patting Will’s hand gently, and Will turned it palm up so their fingers could lace together briefly. Hannibal gave him an honest smile, and Will felt that tugging in his chest he could never avoid. Beverly rolled her eyes, taking a long drink.

“You two are so precious it makes me ill,” she pointed out, cutting a piece of meat and chewing on it thoughtfully. Alana smiled affectionately.

“I think what she’s saying is that you two work very well together.” She reached over, patting Beverly’s leg, taking her hand back quickly- but Will still raised an eyebrow at her. She shook her head, an ever silent not now, and for the moment he agreed. There would be time, there would always be time.

“I do believe I agree, Alana,” Hannibal said with a smile, taking his hand back and casually lifting his wine, taking a sip. “And, on the risk of sounding very selfish, I would not mind pulling him away from his work for a time. Jack has managed to always keep him so busy.”

“Jack keeps us all busy,” Beverly pointed out, “We could all use a vacation.”

“I tried to use that reasoning with Will,” Hannibal said, “Has he mentioned my asking him to visit Europe with me?”

Beverly coughed, swallowing down her food and reaching for her beer. Hannibal assumed by her reaction, and Alana’s widened eyes, that he had not.

“No,” Alana said, “No he...didn’t.” She looked at Will, who shrugged a shoulder.

“I’m pretty content where I am,” Will pointed out- more comfortable with the idea of a week locked up with his dogs, days spent fishing.

“He seems to think I would be taking him away permanently,” Hannibal said with a chuckle. “I was simply thinking it would be nice for him to...travel, briefly. And I would not dismiss the time spent with him.” He continued eating, leaving Beverly and Alana to turn to Will and stumble over their rather passionate feelings on the matter- namely, that he should go.

Will listened without entirely listening. Hannibal had asked him a few nights ago, while Will had been folding away the clothing he’d brought from his house and settling it into Hannibal’s bedroom- their bedroom Hannibal had called it, and Will had shivered and liked the idea, kissed him and even told him so. The feeling of Hannibal chuckling into the kiss still tingled on his lips. Will hadn’t known what to say about a little get away, he’d only laughed, but Hannibal reasoned he deserved it for being such a good boy.

Will would be lying if that hadn’t had him pressing Hannibal down to the bed in three seconds flat.

Will looked over at Hannibal, who shot him one quick glance, taking a slow bite of his dinner. Will felt a shiver run down his spine, taking a discrete deep breath. “I think I’d rather talk shop than this,” he pointed out, and Beverly frowned.

“Rather talk about the last mutilated Ripper victim and all her missing pieces?” She rolled her eyes. “You’ve got some commitment issues, Will. Seriously.” She took another bite, and Will felt a spasm in his belly- a tightening and heat and he licked his lips and went for his wine again. “And what’s the say about the Ripper? He did in his three, we won’t hear from him for a while.” She sighed. “Except from Jack. Jack won’t let us have a moment of peace- which is exactly why Hannibal’s plan is so wonderful!”

Will sighed heavily, sensing a pattern for the rest of the dinner.

*

“That was lovely,” Hannibal mused after Alana and Beverly had left, hands submerged in the soapy sink water. Will was drying a plate, heaving a heavy sigh.

“Could have been better.”

“How so, dear Will?” He shrugged a shoulder, setting the plate down and accepting the wet one Hannibal passed him.

“Conversation could have gone...smoother.” He rotated his jaw.

“Are you really so uncomfortable with the idea of escaping your current situation for a time?” Hannibal passed him another plate.

“No,” Will said, “No, I’m not. Just...a lot of shit has happened, Hannibal. Recently. I need a little...time.” He set the dish towel down, Hannibal picking it up to dry his hands and forearms. “I have to adjust.”

Hannibal gave him a smile nod, reaching out and sinking his fingers into Will’s curls, kissing the bridge. “I apologize,” he whispered, “I did not mean for you to be uncomfortable Will. I was just trying-“

“To be romantic?” Will finished, and Hannibal smiled, this time kissing the tip of his nose and making the man laugh a breathy giggle. “I know. And I appreciate it. But how about we take this one step at a time- preferably, smaller steps? Like dinner parties.” His smile was a little devious, and Hannibal couldn’t keep from kissing his mouth. “I shouldn’t have enjoyed that so much. I guess I understand why you always liked feeding me.”

Hannibal smirked, sinking his other hand into Will’s curls and stroking at the scalp beneath- leaving Will to make content little noises. The thought of Will enjoying the sick, secret little show of feeding the very parts of their Ripper victim they were missing, should have filled him with that crackling, raw, heated energy that would need to be released, preferably into Will as he was a screaming mess.

Instead, it made Hannibal rather warm- like his sordid love for the dark maw he saw inside Will could mingle with the tender affection he held for the man. He was almost proud.

He kissed him, softly, felt Will’s hands trace lazily up his chest. There was no urgency here, just a comfortable knowledge of what it could lead to, if they wanted. Or it could break off with a breath, and they could settle into comfortable silence, even soft murmured conversation, it wouldn’t matter. All of it had the almost sickening feeling of comfort, and Hannibal was more then ready to welcome it into his home.