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With a Crown of Stars

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Will wakes from a dream where he’s drowning in his bed to the sound of his dogs barking.

He scrubs at his eyes—the dawn light is filtering through the windows, and the dogs are all clustered around his front door, still barking away. Winston, in fact, comes to the bedside and barks at Will, and he sighs and levers himself out of bed. He feels shaky and he’s sweated through his shirt again. But if there’s an animal out front, the dogs aren’t going to quiet down until he deals with it.

He opens the door to see a baby in the proverbial basket on his porch, blinks, and shuts the door again.

But the dogs keep barking, so Will eases the door back open. The baby is still there. Its eyes are closed, and Will knows they won’t open until he touches it. He opens the screen door, and the dogs spill out onto the porch, surrounding the basket. Will hopes it hasn’t been too long since the basket floated down to the porch. He avoids touching the baby but moves the blankets aside to look at the parent nameplate. The baby could be meant for someone else. It has to be a mistake. Will is on suppressants—he shouldn’t be able to wish bird shit out of the sky, much less a baby.

But the nameplate says William Graham in clear script, and Will takes a deep breath before he scrambles into the house for his phone.

He dials Dr. Lecter’s number right away. When the call connects, Will says, “I know what kind of crazy I am, but I’m not this kind of crazy.”

“Will?” Dr. Lecter says.

“Yes, hi, sorry,” Will says. “It’s me. There’s a baby on my porch.”

“How did it come to be there?”

“The old-fashioned way,” Will says tightly. “I wished it out of the sky. Unless I’m having one incredibly vivid hallucination, but I really don’t think I am.”

“You’re certain you wished for it?” Dr. Lecter asks.

“I’m on the nameplate, so apparently my suppressants are for shit,” Will says, even though he’s had the same prescription for years with no problems.

“You’ve been unwell,” Dr. Lecter says, tone clinical. “Some illnesses can render suppressants less effective.”

“Fuck,” Will says, and rubs his forehead. “I don’t—what am I going to do. How did I wish a baby out of the sky by myself?”

“Did you?”

Will frowns, and kneels down next to the basket. He pushes the blanket further out of the way, and sure enough, there’s a second name.

“I think,” Will says, and then swallows. “I think you’d better come here. As fast as you can.”

“Will, whoever it is, we will handle this situation,” Dr. Lecter says. Will can hear the clink of keys being grabbed from the dish in Dr. Lecter’s front hallway.

“It’s you,” Will croaks out. “We—Dr. Lecter, we—”

The other end of the line is silent for a moment, and Will winces, because this really must be some kind of mistake, Dr. Lecter couldn’t have wished for this with Will, of all people. There’s an unsteady inhale, maybe the most vulnerable sound Will has ever heard from the implacable Dr. Lecter, and then he says, “I’ll be there as soon as I can. Don’t touch the baby until I get there.”

“Right,” Will says, and hangs up. The dogs snuffle around the basket, and Will sits down, leaning against his screen door, and waits.

***

Dr. Lecter pulls up much sooner than Will expected, which means traffic was good or he sped a lot or both. He strides quickly from the car and makes his way up to the porch.

“I’m really not hallucinating, am I?” Will asks.

Dr. Lecter nudges the dogs aside. He pushes the blankets out of the way with an efficient tug that speaks of long practice—and, right, Dr. Lecter had worked in a hospital, and has probably seen his share of babies arriving in their baskets.

“You are not,” Dr. Lecter says, taking in the nameplate. It’s there, clear as day: William Graham, Hannibal Lecter.

“Not to be rude, but how did this happen?” Will asks. “Like, okay, maybe my suppressants failed, but what about yours?”

“I’m not on any,” Dr. Lecter says, his expression strangely blank. “It’s never been an issue.”

Will wants to touch this baby and wake them up so badly, but he knows they need to settle this first. “What changed?” he asks, but his brain fits it together in an instant. “Abigail. You said—we’re her fathers now. And then we—”

“Evidently,” Dr. Lecter says. His expression melts into something that might be amazement. He reaches out and traces one fingertip down the baby’s cheek.

The baby’s eyes blink open, and that’s it—the baby is theirs, this is real, and Will has no idea what the fuck they’re going to do about it.

***

Dr. Lecter brings the basket inside and puts it on Will’s kitchen table.

“Girl or boy?” Will asks, carefully stroking the baby’s head with his fingers.

Dr. Lecter unwraps the baby enough to say, “A girl.” He looks at her intently, and then picks her up and gently places her in Will’s arms.

Will’s mostly terrified of doing this wrong, or dropping her, or something else definitively not good, but instead their baby looks at him, and Will realizes how hard he must have been wishing for this, and knows in that moment that he’d do anything for her.

“You’re perfect,” Will murmurs, and he feels Dr. Lecter at his shoulder, his warm solid presence a reminder that he’d promised to be Will’s paddle.

“She is,” Dr. Lecter says, and when Will looks at him, his eyes are actually damp.

“Okay,” Will says. “Okay. Um—we need to go to the store, we need—well, everything.”

“She’ll be hungry any moment now,” Dr. Lecter agrees.

Will carefully puts her back in her basket, and the enormity of the situation starts to hit him. He tries to breathe through it, but his head is really hurting, and he feels like he’s sweating again and the room is starting to melt.

“Doctor—” he manages to say, and that’s the last thing he remembers.

***

He wakes to the sound of machines beeping, and a strange sucking noise.

He’s in a hospital bed, and in the chair next to the bed is Dr. Lecter. He has their daughter in his arms, and he’s feeding her a bottle with enviable ease.

“So I’m still not hallucinating, right?” Will asks, his voice rough.

Dr. Lecter looks up. “Will,” he says, and he sounds so relieved. It’s been a long time since Will let anyone give enough of a damn about him to do anything like sit by his sickbed.

At least, he assumes it’s his sickbed. “What happened?”

“You had a seizure,” Dr. Lecter says, and Will takes in how tired he looks. There are dark circles under his eyes that Will isn’t accustomed to seeing. “I called an ambulance, and you were taken to Reston. Once you were diagnosed, they transferred you here.”

Will tries to ask where here is, but his throat is so dry. Dr. Lecter puts the bottle down for a moment, and hands Will a cup of water from the overbed table. Will takes a few pulls of water through the straw, his eyes fixed on their baby, who takes the pause in feeding with less fuss than Will might have imagined. “Where are we? What—what do I—”

“You have encephalitis,” Dr. Lecter says. “An inflammation of the brain, and perfectly treatable, though your presentation was quite unusual. You were transferred to Johns Hopkins yesterday; it’s been three days since our daughter arrived.”

Will tries to digest that, but ultimately decides it’s a problem for later. “Can I hold her?” he asks.

Dr. Lecter raises the head of Will’s bed so that he’s mostly sitting up, then gently places her in Will’s arms. “Perhaps she will finish the bottle for you,” he says, and hands it to Will.

It takes Will a second to get everything situated, and he’s still a little afraid this is a dream after all, but the baby’s mouth closes around the rubber nipple and she drinks contentedly until the bottle is nearly empty. Dr. Lecter shows him how to hold her close and rub her back until she burps and also spits up a little formula onto his hospital gown.

She’s so tiny and warm and Will already loves her so much.

“Sorry,” Will says eventually. “It must have been really hard, taking care of her alone.”

“You worried me,” Dr. Lecter says simply, and reaches for Will’s free hand.

“Sorry,” Will says again helplessly, clutching at both their baby and his hand.

Dr. Lecter shakes his head. “There’s no need for apologies. All you need do now is get well and come home to us.”

The nurse comes in then, but Will wishes she hadn’t; he wants to stay, just like this, for a while longer yet.

***

They settle on naming the baby Madeleine—Will suggests the name, and Dr. Lecter agrees, with the stipulation of the French spelling.

“People are going to misspell it constantly,” Will warns him.

“Perhaps,” Dr. Lecter says, though he kind of makes it sound like anyone who does it will regret it.

“What are we doing about the last name?” Will asks. “I think it sounds good either way. Or—should we hyphenate?”

“We should get married,” Dr. Lecter says.

Will stares at him.

“I’m amenable to hyphenation,” he adds. “For our whole family.”

“I think I’m supposed to be the crazy one,” Will says faintly.

Dr. Lecter sits back in his chair as though they’re having one of their conversations in his office. “You know as well as I the legal protections that marriage provides families in this country. You weren’t conscious for this, but I can assure you that I would prefer never to repeat the navigation of your transfer from one hospital to another while you are not legally my spouse.”

Will winces. “That bad, huh.”

“Atrocious,” Dr. Lecter says. “While I should like to hope the situation will never arise again, I think it exemplifies the difficulties we would face.”

“But—” Will begins, and then stops, and tries to marshal enough brain power to make some kind of argument. “We’re not—we’re not even a thing.” He waves vaguely between them.

“Are we not?” Dr. Lecter says, and tilts his head toward Madeleine, who is sleeping soundly in what Dr. Lecter assures him is an excellently-rated carrier.

“Well,” Will says, because that’s a good point.

“We’ve bound our lives together—perhaps not the traditional way, but we are bound, nonetheless,” Dr. Lecter says. “The proof of it is right here with us.”

Will looks at Madeleine again. She’s only a week old—he and Dr. Lecter are in this for another eighteen years, at least. And no one can wish a baby out of the sky by themselves, which means Dr. Lecter wanted this as much as Will did.

“You must know I hold you in the highest regard,” Dr. Lecter says, terribly sincere. “I enjoy your company very much and would count myself fortunate to be your husband.”

“I—” Will swallows. “Me too. If this is what you really want.”

“It’s what I want, for both of us.”

Will takes in a deep breath, and lets it out slowly. “Then I guess I could see my way toward calling you Dr. Graham-Lecter, except I should probably get used to calling you Hannibal.”

Dr. Lecter—Hannibal—smiles at him. “Indeed you should, dear Will.”

***

When Will is discharged at the end of the week, Hannibal takes him home to his house in Baltimore. They have a lot of decisions to make on how they’re going to fit their lives together, but for now, living at Hannibal’s house makes sense—Will needs outpatient therapy for another six weeks at least, and he can’t ask Hannibal to juggle that and Madeleine from Wolf Trap, not to mention his patients.

For now, he’s just happy to put Madeleine down in the crib in Hannibal’s bedroom. The crib is solid with clean lines, and looks like the kind of thing Will might have liked to try making himself, had he in any way prepared for this.

“We can convert the bedroom down the hall into a nursery,” Hannibal says in a low voice as Will eases the door shut. “I confess I haven’t had the time yet to get started.”

“Slacker,” Will accuses him, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “How are you even on your feet? She eats every three hours, right?”

“More or less,” Hannibal says. “And I learned to sleep when I could during my residency; this degree of sleep deprivation isn’t altogether unfamiliar.”

“But it can’t be fun,” Will says. “Why don’t you take a nap? I’ll get her next bottle.”

“You’re still recovering,” Hannibal says, but he looks sorely tempted.

“Let me do what I can,” Will coaxes. “We’re going to be up a creek if you fall over on us.”

Hannibal hesitates, but when Will puts a hand on his shoulder and gently pushes him in the direction of the future nursery, Hannibal goes. He stops in the doorway and says, “You ought to sleep, too, while you can.”

“Okay, fine, I’ll snooze on your bed for a little bit, how’s that?” Will says.

“Sleep well,” Hannibal says, and disappears into the room.

Will lets himself back into Hannibal’s bedroom and creeps quietly to the bed. The crib is near what must be Hannibal’s side of the bed—there’s a book in what looks like Italian on the bedside table, and anyway, it only makes sense. If Hannibal was getting up every three hours, he’d logically want Madeleine as close as possible. Probably Will should sleep on the other side of the bed, except that it’s basically in another zip code.

He doesn’t entirely trust himself to wake up when Madeleine begins to fuss, so he sets an alarm on his phone and holds on to it, so that the vibration will wake him up in two and a half hours. The pillow smells of Hannibal’s aftershave—subtle, layered, safe. Will watches Madeleine sleep until his eyes slide shut.

***

Their wedding is delayed by a few days.

“You don’t have anything to wear,” Hannibal says, while poaching eggs with what Will assumes is some kind of dark magic.

“I have some suits back at my house,” Will says.

“As I said: you don’t have anything to wear,” Hannibal says primly, and Will rolls his eyes but lets Hannibal make an emergency appointment with his tailor.

“Is there anyone you wish to invite?” Hannibal asks later as they sit together on the sofa in the study.

Will finally succeeds in getting Maddie to burp, and then shrugs. “No family to invite,” he says. “What about you?”

Hannibal looks pensive. “None that could attend on such short notice.”

“We could wait,” Will offers. And then, even though it sounds like not his idea of a good time, he says, “We could wait, and—you know, do the whole nine yards. If you want.”

“You would not,” Hannibal says, and it hits Will all over again just how well Hannibal knows him. Hannibal leans over to press a kiss to Madeleine’s head. “For her sake, the sooner we are married, the better.”

Will nods, and they sit in companionable silence for a few minutes before he asks, “Do we have a cute dress she can wear?”

“We have several,” Hannibal says with satisfaction. “You may help us pick.”

***

They sleep together in Hannibal’s bed, because Hannibal wants Will close in case of any complications during his recovery, and because Will successfully argued for the two AM feeding—he doesn’t care what Hannibal says, the man needs more than three hours of sleep at a time. Also, Will’s current prednisone dosage means he isn’t sleeping easily or deeply, anyway.

If anyone had asked Will even two weeks ago if he expected to be brushing his teeth side by side with his psychiatrist before bed, Will would have laughed in their faces. But here he is, and Hannibal uses some kind of toothpaste that he orders online that isn’t a paste at all, but more of a gel. Will googled the name and the science seems sound, and that’s good enough for him.

“I’ll be honest, I pictured you as a full pajama set kind of guy,” Will says after Hannibal comes out of his closet with just pajama bottoms on.

It earns him a wry smile from Hannibal. “And two weeks ago, you would have been correct. But Madeleine’s propensity for spit up persuaded me otherwise.”

“Easier clean up, for sure,” Will agrees. He himself is wearing a white t-shirt that seems impossibly soft, and a pair of boxers. One good thing about treatment is that he hasn’t been sweating through his clothes every night, but he’s still wary of overheating. Both had come from a drawer in Hannibal’s massive closet that contained a small selection of clothes; Will thought initially they were culled from Hannibal’s wardrobe, but they were all Will’s size and some of them still had the tags on. It was thoughtful, in the way that Will is coming to expect from Hannibal, and also unnecessary, because Will could have happily made do with castoffs until they had a chance to run to Wolf Trap for some of his clothes.

Will changes Madeleine’s diaper while Hannibal goes downstairs to get a bottle ready, and settles into the chair next to her crib with her tucked against his chest. She has big blue eyes, and he wonders what she sees when she looks up at him. He wonders what other people see when they look at her—his eyes, and maybe Hannibal’s mouth? He’s not convinced, but it doesn’t really matter.

“We wished for you, and here you are,” he murmurs to her. It’s exactly the kind of miracle everyone said it was, but Will had no idea how it would feel. It’s something more than himself, a love that makes every other probably insane thing about this situation—i.e. marrying his psychiatrist—seem reasonable.

She smacks her lips, and Hannibal comes in with the bottle and hands it to Will. He settles into bed and opens his book, but when Will looks up, Hannibal isn’t reading. He’s watching them both, his gaze steady and focused entirely on them.

When she’s done eating, Will carefully eases her down to sleep, and she’s already mostly there. Will hopes that by the time he’s settled into his side of the bed, she’ll be down for the count, and he won’t be too long to follow. He sighs as he lay his head down on his pillow, and prays that his nightmare-free streak will continue, because he really doesn’t want to wake all of them up with his yelling.

Hannibal settles down as well, and turns his head to face Will. Will thinks he’ll say something, but instead, Hannibal just stares at his face, as though he’s memorizing it, before he says, “Good night, Will,” and turns off the bedside lamp.

***

In the morning, Hannibal takes Will for his outpatient plasmapheresis, which makes Will feel cold and and tired and generally not that happy, but if the alternative is brain fire, he’ll deal with it. He has a suit fitting afterward, which he is also not that happy about, but they’re getting married tomorrow and Hannibal’s tailor is definitely doing them a solid by getting this done so quick, so Will tries not to be actively an asshole during the fitting.

To be honest, he’s a little preoccupied by Hannibal’s staring. He understands Hannibal looking at Will while he’s holding their daughter, but she’s sleeping in the carrier at his side right now, and Will is standing on the raised platform in the room while the tailor does arcane things with the seat of Will’s trousers.

“It will be delivered this evening,” the tailor tells Hannibal, who thanks him politely. They go home for lunch, and Will thought his appetite was non-existent, but whatever Hannibal is cooking up starts changing his mind. Will feeds Maddie in the armchair in the kitchen and watches Hannibal in his element.

“Are you making two meals at once?” Will asks eventually, because he doesn’t want to backseat cook, but he has questions.

Hannibal’s mouth curves into a smile. “The bolognese is for dinner. It will continue to cook throughout the afternoon.”

“What’s the liver for?”

“It gives the bolognese greater depth of flavor,” Hannibal says, continuing to mince it very finely. “Typically, chicken livers are used, but I have beef liver on hand.”

“It smells really good,” Will says. His stomach is actually actively interested, which is a change since he was hospitalized.

“And I hope it will smell even better tonight, and perhaps tempt you into a second serving,” Hannibal says, giving Will a critical once over. “You’ve lost weight—I’ve no desire to see you lose any more.”

“Do your worst—or your best, I suppose,” Will says.

“So I shall. Would you like to set the table? Lunch is nearly ready.”

Will eases himself up and puts Madeleine in her little bouncer in the dining room, and finds cutlery and glasses and linen napkins. When Hannibal comes out with lunch—a salad with crispy duck and asparagus—Will thinks that maybe he could really get used to this.

***

The next morning, Will gets dressed in his new suit—which came with a tie, and socks, and dress shoes—and presents himself for Hannibal’s approval. “Well?” he asks. “Will I do?”

Hannibal take a quick circuit around him, then stops to fuss with his tie. “More than,” he says warmly, and when Will looks him in the eye, a little shiver runs down his spine.

Then he looks at his jacket sleeve against Hannibal’s, and says, “Did you aggressively pattern match our wedding suits?” Will’s navy pinstripe looks positively demure against Hannibal’s frankly insane windowpane. It all kind of works together, which is both astonishing and alarming.

“One must think of the wedding photos,” Hannibal says blandly.

There are three baby dresses on the bed. Will looks at them, looks at their suits, then looks at Hannibal. “You want the yellow one, don’t you,” he says.

“It will look very nice.”

“I can’t believe you’re using our baby to accessorize,” Will says, but he totally can. He does a quick diaper check on Maddie, before extracting her from her little sleeper. This one has little bear ears and Will has taken many terrible pictures of her in it already. He somehow gets her into the little tights, and then the dress. “All right, Maddie,” he says softly, and picks her up.

Hannibal emerges from his closet with something both lacy and plaid. Will has a moment of thinking it’s a garter, and then wondering which of them Hannibal intends to wear it. It turns out to be some kind of headband for Maddie, and Hannibal looks extremely serious as he gets it on her head.

“Are we good?” Will asks, thinking there can’t possibly be anything else. He’s wrong, of course—Hannibal retrieves white rose boutonnieres from the fridge in the kitchen, and then there’s mysteriously a new winter overcoat for Will in the front hall closet that Will didn’t see delivered the night before.

“Hannibal,” Will protests, as Hannibal does up the buttons of Will’s new coat.

“Now we’re ready,” Hannibal says with satisfaction.

They got their marriage license two days ago, and instructions for the day of their wedding. They’re not even late for their appointment, which probably speaks to Hannibal’s intense time management skills. They sit in the waiting room, which is empty except for them. Tuesday mornings aren’t in big demand for weddings, apparently. Something about sitting there together, Maddie in her carrier at their feet, makes Will suddenly a little nervous, a little shy.

Holy shit, he’s getting married.

He feels like he should probably make conversation, but he’s spared by the arrival of their witnesses.

“I really thought you were joking,” Beverly says, her eyes wide.

Beside her is a diminutive older woman, dark hair in a neat bob, and she looks both amused and slightly astonished. “Oh Hannibal, who would have believed it?” she says, and sweeps forward, Beverly following in her wake.

“Will, this is Mrs. Irene Komeda, an old friend. Irene, this is Will Graham, and our daughter, Madeleine.”

“Nice to meet you,” Will says, before Beverly takes him aside.

“I thought you were on medical leave,” Beverly hisses to Will.

“I am, we just also—you know,” Will says under his breath.

Beverly gives him one very skeptical look, but then she’s leaning down toward the carrier. “She’s so little—can I hold her?”

Will distantly remembers that she has a lot of nieces and nephews, so she’s probably better at this than he is. “Go for it,” he says, and then Beverly is picking Maddie up and cooing incomprehensible things to her.

“And here we thought you might well be the last of your line,” Mrs. Komeda says teasingly to Hannibal.

It prompts a snort from Beverly. “You make it sound like he’s royalty.”

“Only a Count, I’m afraid,” Hannibal says, and Will stares at him. Hannibal had somehow neglected to mention that during what must have been a very abbreviated discussion of finances.

Their names are called then, which prevents Will from asking any pointed follow up questions. Hannibal holds out his hand for Will.

Will swallows once, then takes it, and they’re in front of the judge. The ceremony flies by, short and sweet. The judge asks if they have rings, and Will looks at Hannibal in panic, but Hannibal reaches into his pocket and produces two gold bands. Hannibal slides one onto Will’s finger, and says, “With this ring, I thee wed.”

Will repeats the same a moment later, Hannibal’s hand warm in his, the ring sliding into place.

“By the power vested in me, I pronounce you married. You may kiss.”

Will looks at Hannibal to see what he’s thinking—they’re getting married because of Maddie, but Mrs. Komeda and Beverly don’t know that. Hannibal looks expectant, and Will figures a peck is in the spirit of the occasion. He leans forward and places a soft kiss on Hannibal’s lips; he means for it to be brief, but Hannibal’s arms are around him, and it feels so good to be close to someone that he lets his lips linger.

Mrs. Komeda holds Maddie while Beverly takes pictures—Will knows her mostly for her crime scene work, but she showed him some pictures she’d taken of a trip to Budapest, and that was enough to decide him.

“Congratulations,” Mrs. Komeda says, after handing Maddie to Hannibal for a few family pictures. Maddie starts to fuss a little, and Hannibal croons something to her in French, low and sweet, and Will’s heart stutters for a moment.

“Thanks for coming,” Will says to both women.

“It’s not every day your friend becomes a countess,” Beverly says, and the shiteating smile on her face promises that she is never, ever going to let this go.

“Shall we be off to lunch?” Hannibal asks after buckling Maddie back in her carrier. He takes Will’s hand in his, his finger rubbing Will’s wedding ring, and they make their way out of the courthouse.

***

Hannibal opens the door to the house, and then leans in and sets Maddie’s carrier just inside.

“What are you—” Will starts, confused.

Hannibal looks at him, then at the threshold, and holds out his arms. “I believe it’s traditional.”

“I believe you’re going to throw your back out.”

“I’m well-versed in lifting with my knees,” Hannibal assures him.

Will scowls at him. “Why don’t I carry you?”

Hannibal looks him up and down, and then coughs delicately. “Your form is aesthetically pleasing, but I fear not up to the task.”

“Did you just tell me I need to work out more?” Will asks incredulously.

“Will, darling,” Hannibal says. “As they say—while we’re young.”

Will gives him a dirty look, but puts his arms around Hannibal’s neck, and then Hannibal sweeps him up and carries him over the threshold with no apparent difficulty. He’s seen the muscle that Hannibal is hiding under those suits—it’s one thing to know that Hannibal is stronger than he appears, and apparently yet another thing to experience Hannibal using that strength so effortlessly.

Hannibal lets Will’s legs slide to the ground, arm still tight around Will’s back, and for one long moment, Will looks into Hannibal’s eyes.

There are no burst veins, only a kind of pleased satisfaction that startles Will. He’s not used to anyone looking at him like that, for any reason, but Hannibal married him today and he’s happy about it.

Hannibal presses a kiss to Will’s forehead, his lips warm and soft, and then he lets Will go so that he can unbuckle Maddie from her carrier, and ask her very seriously in French if she needs a diaper change.

Will watches Hannibal carry her up the stairs, and starts to wonder just what he’s gotten himself into.

Chapter Text



As far as wedding nights go, theirs is fairly sedate; they take turns in the bathroom, and Will goes downstairs to get Maddie’s bottle ready. She’s past ready for it when Will gets back, making fussy noises in Hannibal’s arms that are basically two seconds from crying. When Hannibal sits down in the chair to feed her, Will’s surprised all over again by the glint of his wedding ring on the hand holding the bottle.

Hannibal folds burp cloths like he folds his dishtowels, meticulously and symmetrically, which Will finds weirdly endearing and also useless, because they go in the hamper anyway. He joins Will in bed after Maddie is settled.

“Ready to go back to work tomorrow?” Will asks quietly.

Hannibal sighs. “Most of my patients were willing to skip a session and come at their normal appointment time. I had a few phone appointments, but I’m afraid my schedule for tomorrow is all those who could not wait.”

“So what I’m hearing is, it’s going to suck.”

Hannibal gives him a faintly reproving look that somehow also manages to acknowledge that Will is right. “I’m not eager to leave you both alone.”

“We’ll be okay,” Will says. “You won’t be missing much, just our exciting competitive napping schedule.”

“Everyone’s a winner,” Hannibal says wryly.

It makes Will huff out a laugh. “Participation trophies for all. Most improved. Best drool.”

“It would reassure me if you were the former,” Hannibal says. He reaches out and puts a hand to Will’s forehead, even though Will hasn’t had a temperature since before he was released from the hospital. “You need plenty of rest.”

“I’m on it,” Will says, and snuggles down into his pillow with a small yawn.

Hannibal goes to turn off the light, and then pauses. “Do you have any regrets?” he asks.

“Aside from no time to go on a killer honeymoon?”

“We can go on one later, if you like,” Hannibal says, looking genuinely concerned.

“Relax,” Will says. “I know this marriage isn’t—traditional. I don’t expect traditional things.”

“You can have them,” Hannibal says. His eyes look dark and deep in the pale light of the lamp. “However we came to this, you should have what you want.”

Will squints at him, because this sounds pretty serious. “I’ve got everything I need,” he says. “No regrets. You?”

Hannibal looks at him for a long moment, then turns his head in Maddie’s direction. “I have never imagined having this much,” he says, and his voice sounds a little hoarse.

Will reaches out for Hannibal’s hand, and squeezes it once. He lets go when Hannibal turns off the light and settles down in bed.

He’s nearly asleep when he feels the brush of Hannibal’s fingers against his own, and the warmth of Hannibal’s hand wrapped around his.

***

Apparently, while Will was in the hospital, Hannibal went a little nuts on ordering baby stuff. It’s all in the guest room that is destined to become a nursery, and Will looks through it carefully. He can’t drive until he has the doctor’s okay, and he’s been warned that he might not get it until he’s been seizure-free for a year. It’s disheartening, but there’s nothing he can do about it. In the meantime, it means that if he needs anything, he either needs to order it or get a ride to the store, and he prefers not to duplicate any of Hannibal’s efforts.

The baby wrap thing is an unexpected find that turns out to be awesome—he watches a few videos on how to use it, and then he and Maddie are pretty much golden. He gets to have his hands free, and Maddie gets to be all snuggled up to his chest. Win-win.

He wasn’t really joking about the competitive napping thing, either—when he puts Maddie down for a nap, he tries to nap, too. Sometimes he just ends up reading, but he’s resting, which he figures is following the spirit of Hannibal’s guidelines for recovery.

He misses his dogs and thought he might be lonesome without them, but an infant is constant company, and so is Hannibal, based on the frequency of his texts and calls.

“What are you eating?” Hannibal asks one day when he calls over his lunch hour.

“I survived for many years before you came along,” Will says, from where he is definitely eating a sandwich over the sink. What Hannibal doesn’t know won’t hurt him. “I ate the last of your fancy dill pickles, though.”

“You may eat anything you like,” Hannibal says.

“What if I eat something you were going to make for dinner?”

Hannibal sniffs. “A cook who cannot improvise is not much of a cook.”

“Well, I’m not anywhere on your level, but I’m more than willing to pitch in. I’m good for more than baby formula, you know.”

“I know,” Hannibal says, and something in his tone is nearly tender, and it makes Will press his ear even closer to his phone to hear more. “You also make dog food.”

It surprises a laugh out of Will, and he says, “Just for that, I might have dinner on the table when you get home.”

“I look forward to it,” Hannibal says sincerely.

***

Will recognizes that he needs out of the house—it’s still winter, and while he’s used to roaming his fields with his dogs in all weather, he’s not about to do that with an infant. Hannibal has a prosaic solution to this: they need to pick out paint for the nursery, and they also need groceries.

“I'm more than happy to pay someone to paint the room for us,” Hannibal says as they look over paint swatches. Will is idly looking over some buttery yellows, but Hannibal is clearly angling for some shade of pale green.

“What’s the fun in that?” Will asks. “Anyway, it’ll be good for me to have something to do.”

“Beyond caring for our daughter and yourself?” Hannibal holds his eyes for a long, serious moment. “These are not small tasks, Will.”

Will makes a noncommittal noise, echoed by a small sigh from Maddie where she’s strapped to his chest in the wrap carrier. He likes having her there, cuddled in close and warm against him.

He likes Hannibal’s hand on the small of his back, too.

“You want to get a sample of—” Will checks the name and nearly snorts— “Mint Condition? See how it looks on the walls?”

“I can visualize it,” Hannibal says. “I’m confident it will be very soothing.”

Will kisses Maddie’s little bald head. She’ll hopefully have hair at some point beyond a few wisps of blonde, but not yet. “Calm paint, calm baby?”

“Our environment influences us,” Hannibal says. “What we choose to surround ourselves with can have dramatic impact.”

“Big talk from someone with samurai armor in his bedroom,” Will says, because all of Hannibal’s decor is nuts but seriously.

“And yet you sleep well in my bed,” Hannibal says, and it sounds like a casual observation, but there’s an unexpected undercurrent of possessiveness.

“Is that due to environment or the plasmapheresis?” Will asks, wetting his lips.

“Both, I hope,” Hannibal says, and the way Hannibal stares at him should be uncomfortable, but something about the intensity of Hannibal’s regard makes Will feel seen, and oddly safe.

They acquire cans of paint, brushes, and drop cloths, before heading off to a high-end grocery store, where Hannibal makes like his namesake and conquers.

“Do you even have a list?” Will asks. He shamelessly gets another sample of sausage from the nice guy handing them out in front of the meat counter.

Hannibal is scrutinizing the cuts of meat on offer. “I prefer to start with the best proteins, and plan meals from there.” He asks the woman behind the counter a few questions regarding animal origin and diet, and then a number of wrapped packages go in their cart.

“I’m a little surprised that we’re not going to a fancy butcher,” Will says.

Hannibal strokes a gentle finger over the top of Maddie’s head. “A compromise in the interest of time,” he says. “Perhaps in a few months, we can go to the farmer’s market. The selection will be better then, in any case.”

Will is not entirely sure that sounds like his idea of a good time, but he can picture walking with Hannibal among stalls, with Maddie in a stroller, the trees in bloom around them. Before Maddie, Will thought nothing would change, that his life would continue as it was, immutable. And now he’s daydreaming about the future as Hannibal ruthlessly inspects produce, and that future seems like it might actually be something to look forward to.

***

Alana texts and asks if she can bring Winston for a visit. Will misses his dogs; he’d like to see all of them, make sure everyone is okay, but he also doesn’t want to put Alana to the trouble of loading them all up in her car. He’s not sure all seven would even fit—he actually doesn’t know anything about how Alana got the dogs from Wolf Trap to her house. He wonders if she volunteered, or if Hannibal asked.

He wonders how awkward this is going to be. Will was melting down when they kissed, and now he has a baby and he married Hannibal. Answer: probably pretty fucking awkward.

And yet, when Alana kindly texts instead of ringing the doorbell and waking up Maddie, none of that seems to matter. He invites her in, and Winston pulls hard at his leash to get to Will. Will abandons dignity and kneels and lets Winston lick his face and pant happily.

“Thank you,” he tells Alana seriously.

She’s got a look on her face, and it’s a little bemused, but mostly it’s curious. “I’ve never known Hannibal to allow an animal into his home.”

“I’m mostly house-trained,” Will says, straight-faced.

That earns him a genuine smile. “There’s a first time for everything, I suppose. You’ve had a lot of firsts lately.”

Will blows out a breath. “Yeah. I have. Do you want some coffee?”

Alana looks down at Winston. “Are we allowed in the kitchen?”

“Hannibal can deal,” Will says. Whether Hannibal will deal with it gracefully or throw a fit remains to be seen; Hannibal is obviously very particular, but he’s dealt with spit up and dirty diapers and baby stuff everywhere without batting an eye. Surely, a dog can’t be that much worse.

Will figured out Hannibal’s fancy coffee setup within a few days of living in his house—Hannibal made some noises about limiting caffeine intake while Will is recuperating, which Will continues to disregard because he doesn’t know how he would function without it. He gets Hannibal’s fancy cups and saucers out, and fishes the tiny coffee spoons out of the silverware drawer, then gets the fucking fancy cream out of the fridge (unpasteurized—jesus christ, Hannibal) and puts it all on a tray with the bowl of sugar cubes.

Alana looks at him, wide-eyed. “Who are you and what have you done with Will Graham?”

Will looks down at the tray, which is almost like one that Hannibal has put together on a number of occasions and brought up to the bedroom. It’s missing something—a flower, he thinks critically, and then nearly rolls his eyes at himself. “Hannibal might be rubbing off on me,” he says.

The corner of her mouth quirks, but she doesn’t take the opportunity to make a cheap joke. “Understandable, in a situation like this,” she says.

“Want to take this in the study?” Will asks.

“Lead the way,” she says, and Winston follows closely at Will’s side. The carpet in the study is probably a heinously expensive antique, but Hannibal’s closet with all his cleaning supplies is kind of insane and can take anything a dog could throw at it.

Alana takes her coffee black with a single cube of sugar stirred in, while Will takes his with the annoyingly good cream.

“You’re looking better,” she says, after taking her first sip. “I saw you once in the hospital, but you weren’t awake.”

He’d wondered; when Hannibal mentioned that she was taking care of his dogs, he thought she might visit, but nothing.

“The doctors say the treatment is going well,” he offers.

“Including the one you married?” Her tone is even, but there’s something sharp about the set of her mouth.

“I don’t think he’d be sitting by if he thought it wasn’t,” Will says, and fidgets with his saucer.

“No one could accuse Hannibal of sitting by while you were in the hospital. He made sure you had the best care and plenty of—uninterrupted rest.” She takes a careful sip of her coffee.

“He turned Jack away,” Will translates after a pause.

“Jack wanted you for a consult. I don’t think he was ready for Hannibal guarding your hospital room, baby in arms.” She gives him a long, considering look. “You really do look better, and I don’t think it’s just the treatment.”

“You think it’s the time away from fieldwork,” Will says, and sighs. “Well, I’m on medical leave for the next month at least, and I’m taking parental leave after that.”

“I’d recommend that you give some thought to what it would mean to be doing fieldwork with a change in your life situation,” she says. “And talk about it with a therapist. One you’re not married to.”

“Alana, it’s not—” Will trails off, because he’s not exactly sure how to finish the sentence. “We didn’t plan for this.”

Her expression softens just a touch. “That’s what Hannibal said. But people don’t wish babies out of the sky by themselves, Will. He won’t lose his license over this, but there will be an inquiry. At minimum, he can’t continue to treat you.”

“He was never—they were just conversations.”

“And now you just have a baby and a shotgun marriage,” she says, gently but firmly. “It doesn’t look good, Will.”

Will opens up his mouth to protest the shotgun description—nobody made Hannibal marry him, after all—when his phone buzzes. He pulls it out of his pocket to see the notification that Maddie is making some noise, but when he watches the camera feed for a few seconds, she appears to quiet down.

“Big change from when we were kids,” Alana says, looking at his phone.

“Welcome to the future,” Will mutters. “But we need it—the soundproofing between floors here is almost too good. Someone could be screaming bloody murder in the basement and you’d never hear them.”

“I’ve never been down in the basement. What’s there, besides wine?”

“A big freezer I’m going to throw fish in the second I get a chance,” Will says. It’s got a fair amount of things in it already—he strongly suspects Hannibal has some kind of meat CSA—but there’s definitely room for some fish, whenever that’s a thing he has time for again.

Whatever Alana is about to say is cut off by the sound of the front door opening.

Will’s on his feet immediately. “Hannibal?” he calls. Hannibal hadn’t mentioned coming home for lunch, although he’s done it on a few occasions.

“Yes, it’s me,” Hannibal calls back, and Will flashes a quick, flat smile at Alana before he strides out into the hallway, her footsteps not far behind his.

“I wasn’t expecting you for lunch,” Will says. Hannibal is hanging up his coat, and Will doesn’t know why, exactly, but he drifts in close. Something seems off. “Is everything okay?”

“My one o’clock cancelled,” Hannibal says, and then he cups Will’s cheek in one hand and kisses him, like they’ve done it a million times before. It shouldn’t make Will’s knees go weak; it surprises a small, vulnerable noise out of him that makes Hannibal still for a millisecond, and then he kisses Will a little more, a little harder.

Alana coughs.

Hannibal pulls away, and he says, “Ah, Alana, I didn’t see you there.”

And that is bullshit—Alana had been hot on his heels, and her car is parked out front. Hannibal must have been expecting her and almost certainly saw her.

Will’s phone vibrates then, and both he and Hannibal pull out their phones at the same time to see the same alert. Hannibal looks a little rueful. “Will, if you get Madeleine, I’ll get started on lunch. You’ll stay, won’t you, Alana?”

“I wouldn’t want to impose,” she says.

Hannibal’s hand is resting on Will’s lower back. “Not at all,” he says pleasantly. “We’re very happy to have you here.”

Will flees upstairs and spends a few relatively peaceful minutes changing Maddie’s diaper before bringing her down to whatever covert war zone is currently masquerading as Hannibal’s kitchen. Hannibal hands Will a bottle as soon as he comes in the kitchen, and presses a kiss to Maddie’s forehead—that’s normal, but something about all of this strikes Will as a very territorial display. Look, Hannibal seems to be saying: look at our baby, look at my husband, look at how I take care of them both, look at how good we are together.

“I’m surprised Winston didn’t follow you upstairs,” Hannibal murmurs.

“He knows better than that,” Will says. “And anyway, he was probably hoping you were going to feed him more sausage.” He settles into the armchair and starts to feed Maddie. He can feel Alana’s eyes on them both, and when he risks a peek up, she looks a little wistful.

Behind her, Hannibal wears an expression that might pass for innocent, were it not for the ferocious satisfaction in his eyes. Will is really starting to wonder what kind of fight they had over his unconscious body that Hannibal is so eager to parade his victory in front of Alana.

Hannibal doesn’t go so far as to ask Will what he’d like for lunch—evidently, that’s a bridge too far in his performance of doting husband—but he does make a frisee salad with crisp lardons and poached eggs, so he’s at least taking some of Will’s favorites into consideration. All the while, he keeps up a genial conversation with Alana, which is mostly about a journal article they read recently. Will listens with half an ear, but mostly he just watches Maddie drink her bottle.

Hannibal’s domestic magic is on full display, because lunch is ready almost as soon as Will is burping Maddie. Winston follows them into the dining room, and while Will expects him to take up his usual spot near his chair (where he does not beg for scraps, but instead waits for opportune events), Winston instead settles himself between Maddie’s bouncer and the dining room door.

It doesn’t escape Hannibal’s notice, though he says nothing about it until lunch is nearly over. “Will, do you feel up to keeping Winston?”

Will looks up from his plate in surprise. “Uh. Probably? But—” he waves a hand at the house. “Not sure it’s practical.”

“I have no objections,” Hannibal says firmly, holding Will’s gaze with his own.

“You don’t?” Will says, a little flabbergasted and slightly suspicious.

“Beyond adding more responsibility than you currently feel comfortable managing, not in the slightest,” Hannibal says, and reaches out to take Will’s hand in his.

“You don’t have to,” Alana protests. “Really, Will, I can keep taking care of the dogs for as long as you need.”

Will looks at Hannibal, and then looks at Winston, who still parked right next to Maddie and looking very attentive, and it’s so close to everything he’s ever wanted that it makes his heart ache. “Can we?” he asks Hannibal quietly.

Hannibal squeezes his hand. “Of course,” he says, like it’s just that easy.

Alana’s eyebrows are raised, but she hands Will the leash at the front door. Hannibal is carrying Maddie as they see her out. “Wonderful to see you as always,” he says, and Will might suspect that of being a dig, but Hannibal appears to be entirely sincere.

“Thanks for lunch,” Alana says, and turns to Will. “Let me know if you need anything, okay?”

“Will do,” Will says. When he shuts the door behind her, Hannibal hands Maddie off to him.

“I’m afraid I do need to get back to the office for my next appointment,” Hannibal says, and opens the closet to retrieve his coat. “But perhaps I should see about rearranging my schedule so that I can be home for lunch more often.”

“That would be nice,” Will says, and he means it. As Hannibal fusses with his scarf, Will says, “You know, you don’t need to kiss me to prove a point.”

Hannibal stops, and looks at Will intently. And then he steps in close, and leans in to kiss Will, heated and tender and heartstoppingly good. “Don’t I?” he murmurs against Will’s lips. And then he drops a kiss on the crown of Maddie’s head, and says, “Try to get some rest this afternoon. I’ll be home by six.”

“Bye,” Will says belatedly, and Hannibal smiles at them on his way out the door.

Will stands in the foyer for a long moment, wondering what the hell just happened, before he decides that Hannibal’s advice is pretty good—he and Maddie both need a nap, and he can figure everything out after that.

But first, he lets Winston out into the backyard to pee. It’s not a huge yard, but with some modifications, it might work out okay. If they get rid of the koi pond, they’d have room for a swingset.

***

Hannibal comes home with a really nice dog bed, which settles the question of just where he thinks Winston is going to sleep. Which is an alcove in the upstairs hallway, just opposite the master bedroom. It’s currently displaying a statue of Shiva inset into the wall, because of course it is.

“Do you like dogs?” Will asks curiously later that night, as Hannibal gives Maddie her last bottle before bed. “Or did you just have some sort of episode this afternoon when you saw how cute Winston and Maddie are together.”

Hannibal gives him a look. “I appreciate their instincts,” he says. “Bred for purpose and singular in their devotion.”

“I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that seven is a bit more than you’re prepared to appreciate.”

“I think seven dogs and an infant are more than we are currently capable of fielding, yes,” Hannibal says. “But I confess that I like the idea of added security for you and Madeleine when I am not at home.”

“Your hi-tech security system not doing it for you?” Will asks.

“Not all fears are rational,” Hannibal says quietly, gaze fixed on Maddie. “And I have infinitely more to lose now than I have had in a very long time.”

It hits a chord in Will, a very uncomfortable one. “I have a shotgun in my house,” he says eventually. “I don’t want—I don’t want any guns in our home. But—”

“You long for the sense of safety it gave you.”

Will swallows, and nods.

“May I suggest, then, Winston and another of your dogs, one suited to children and capable of defending you both.”

“Hannibal,” Will says in disbelief. “This is one safe neighborhood. I looked up the stats—nothing happens here.”

“I don’t suggest otherwise. I merely point out that it may help us both sleep better at night.”

Will sighs. “I’ll think about it. Some of the dogs get nervous around kids. I could have adopted them out before now, but.” I was lonely, he doesn’t say, but he knows Hannibal hears it all the same. “Can I bargain you up to three? Two dogs to scare off the monsters in our heads, one who’s just cute?”

“Terrible negotiating tactics,” Hannibal tuts. “You ought to have demanded all seven and then made me give ground.”

“I can’t give all seven the attention they need, not with Maddie,” Will says. It hurts to admit it, but he knows it’s true. “My life—our lives—they’ve changed.”

“That they have,” Hannibal says. Maddie finishes up her bottle, and Hannibal puts her down in her crib, where she’s asleep not long after.

When Hannibal turns out the bedside lamp, Will curls on his side, facing Hannibal and Maddie. He’s tired, and he really need every last bit of sleep he can get, and yet.

He shifts closer to the middle of the bed, and then closer again. Finally, Hannibal sighs and reaches out for him, and Will—he just goes. It feels good to wrap his arms around Hannibal, and be held in turn, and they should probably talk about today’s surprise kisses, but he doesn’t want to right now. He just wants to lie in the comforting circle of Hannibal’s arms and hold on to him with everything he has.

“Will,” Hannibal murmurs in his ear. “Every knife in my kitchen is yours, should you need it.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” Will whispers back.

“Does it?”

Will considers it, but not for long. “Yeah,” he admits, and snuggles harder into Hannibal’s side before he finally drifts off to sleep.

***

Will honestly likes the two AM feedings. When Maddie wakes up hungry, he’s up and out of bed as soon as he can manage, and scoops her out of her crib and takes her down to the kitchen. He knows Hannibal still wakes up, but he assures Will that it’s only briefly. The difference in their routine tonight is that Winston follows them downstairs to the kitchen, nails clicking across the floor.

Will makes up the bottle with one hand, and holds Maddie with the other. Somewhere in the first few nights, he figured out that she likes hearing his voice. So he talks to her a lot during the day, but at night, when it’s just the two of them in the armchair in the kitchen, Will sings to her.

“There’s a starman waiting in the sky,” he sings softly. He sings this one a lot—Maddie likes Bowie, so at least she’s getting some of her good taste from Will. Her eyelids droop as she drinks, and he hums the song a second time to ease her back to sleep when she’s finished with her bottle and he’s gotten her to burp. Winston has plonked himself right in front of them, half lying on Will’s foot.

“Keeping an eye on us, huh?” he murmurs to Winston. When he takes Maddie back upstairs, Winston follows. He nearly follows them into the bedroom, but Will points at the dog bed, and Winston curls up obediently. He puts Maddie down in her crib, and she goes easily, her eyes closed and her sweet face lax in sleep.

He climbs into bed as carefully as he can. Hannibal seems to be asleep—his chest rises and falls deeply and slowly. It wasn’t too long ago that when Will woke in the middle of the night, he woke alone. To have two people is an embarrassment of riches, something that even a month ago, he’d told himself he could do without. And if they counted Abigail, too, as part of their family—

Will thinks about what he would do to keep it, and thinks about the knives in Hannibal’s kitchen.

***

Will is feeling better now that his brain isn’t actively trying to melt down, but he still has some not so good days with accompanying headaches. It’s nothing like before, but both Hannibal and his neurologist caution him to rest and stay hydrated and forbid him from popping aspirin like candy. Mostly, he’s handling it okay.

The first day he has a raging migraine and Maddie won’t stop crying, though, he kind of freaks out.

Hannibal is at his office, and Will knows he has a full afternoon of appointments. This isn’t an emergency, Will tells himself, while Maddie sobs and he feels close to vomiting. He can handle this.

He can’t handle this. It’s not just his own well-being at stake anymore—he can’t roll the dice on this. He hesitates over the pediatrician’s phone number, then makes an abrupt decision. He texts Hannibal SOS and calls him on his work phone.

Hannibal picks up right away. “Will?”

Maddie’s crying probably speaks for itself, but Will musters the courage to say, “Could you—could you come home.”

“Are you alright?” Hannibal asks, and there’s something immensely comforting in his calm, authoritative tone. Hannibal will know what to do.

“My head hurts, and I don’t—I tried everything, but she won’t stop crying,” Will says desperately.

“I’ll be right there,” Hannibal says, and hangs up.

Will feels guilty and relieved all at once, but also still mostly horrible, because Maddie is still wailing in his ear and he is only barely keeping his shit together. He does end up going to the downstairs powder room to puke, which unfortunately doesn’t make him feel better. Hannibal finds him in the bathroom, sitting on the floor against the wall, Maddie red-faced and hiccupping into his shoulder.

Will has never felt less qualified to take care of another human being. He dreads looking up to see judgement in Hannibal’s eyes—he has to be having second thoughts about shacking up with Will.

But Hannibal just kneels, and says quietly, “Did you take her temperature?”

“An hour ago,” Will says, still not looking Hannibal in the eye. “It was normal, but I took it under the arm, so.” It is less accurate, Will knows, but not everyone in this marriage has gone to med school and is completely blasé about taking temperatures rectally.

“And your own?” Hannibal lays a cool hand against Will’s forehead, and Will lets his eyes close.

“Normal. It’s just a headache.” He feels better with Hannibal near, and Maddie has quieted as well.

Hannibal strokes careful fingertips through Will’s hair. “You vomited. That’s inconsistent with your previous symptoms.”

“Not a brain-on-fire headache,” Will says. “Just a garden-variety maybe-a-migraine.”

“Maybe-a-migraine,” Hannibal repeats, and huffs. “You ought to have seen a specialist years ago.”

“I don’t get them very often,” Will says, like that’s going to appease Hannibal.

It does not. Hannibal sighs, and Will opens his eyes to see Hannibal’s.

Hannibal doesn’t look judgmental, or like he regrets anything. He looks concerned, but underneath that, he looks at Will like nobody ever has, and it makes his breath catch.

“Does the light hurt your eyes?” Hannibal asks.

Will nods slightly. Hannibal covers his eyes with one hand, and Will lets himself have that moment, that care that still feels so unexpected.

“Let’s get you both upstairs,” Hannibal says, and take his hand away. Will transfers Maddie over, and they make their way up to the bedroom.

He’s just finished rinsing his mouth and brushing his teeth when Hannibal pokes his head into the bathroom.

“No fever,” he says quietly. “It may be colic.”

Will nods. Hannibal gives him two pills to swallow and then takes him by the hand and leads him into the darkened bedroom. He can make out Maddie, swaddled and lying quietly on her back in the crib, but Hannibal has turned off the nightlight they have so that Will doesn’t trip over anything for the middle of the night feeding. With the curtains drawn, it feels like a cocoon.

Hannibal urges Will to lie down, but weirdly, on Hannibal’s side of the bed. There’s something comforting in lying on Hannibal’s pillow, something grounding in his scent. Hannibal leaves briefly and returns with a cool, damp washcloth, which he places over Will’s eyes.

“Rest,” he murmurs, and kisses Will so softly on the lips before lifting Maddie out of her crib and sliding out the door, closing it nearly soundlessly behind him.

***

The world outside feels very far removed. Hannibal’s house is like a fortress, insulating Will from winter and from any of Jack’s demands to look.

It makes it all the more shocking to turn on Hannibal’s tablet and see the Tattle Crime page come up. It’s not Will’s first choice of reading material, but the top article is one written by Freddie Lounds when Dr. Abel Gideon, newly escaped from custody, had kidnapped Frederick Chilton for some non-elective surgery.

He’ll give Freddie this—for someone being forced by a psychopath to assist in removing someone’s organs as a kind of gift basket to entice the Ripper out, she’s got a real way of wringing every last bit of sensationalism out of the situation. The page hits have to be insane.

There’s been no response from the Ripper, or at least not one Freddie has written about. It’s somewhat surprising; while the Ripper has gone quiet for long stretches before, Gideon has provoked responses from him in the past. He supposes this could just be more evidence of the Ripper’s self-control, but something feels off about it.

“Nothing to say, now?” Will asks quietly. “Not going to point me in the right direction?”

It feels like a conversation cut short; he’s waiting for a reply he should not desire, and yet.

Chapter Text



The doorbell rings, and Will thinks he really should tape a sign to the door: if you wake our colicky baby up, I’m going to murder you. By some miracle, Madeleine stirs in her crib but doesn’t wake up—after being up most of the night, she’s exhausted, and so is Will.

Abigail is on the doorstep, looking very uncertain of her welcome.

“I can’t imagine Dr. Bloom is going to be happy about you sneaking out,” he says.

“Hannibal said I could,” she says defensively. “He said I could come over at any time.”

Will narrows his eyes. It’s entirely possible that Hannibal did say that, but if he did, he probably said it before Will and Maddie were living in his house. In any case, it’s fucking cold out, and Abigail’s coat can’t be warm enough. “Well, come in,” he says.

Abigail hangs her coat in the closet and takes off her boots. Winston comes to investigate, and Abigail offers her hand for him to sniff, then pets him gently. “Why are you here?” she asks. “And how come Hannibal let you bring your dog?”

“He let me bring three, because we wished for a baby and then we got hitched,” Will says.

“You’re joking,” she says.

“Nope,” Will says. He holds up his left hand and waggles his ring finger.

“Holy shit,” she says, eyes wide. “Where’s your baby?”

As if on cue, the baby monitor app on his phone goes off. “Upstairs, and ready for her bottle, I bet,” he says. He jogs up the stairs, and after a second’s hesitation, Abigail is hot on his heels.

“How did this even happen?” Abigail says as he lifts Maddie out of the crib, and does a quick diaper check.

“Well,” Will says dryly, “when two people want to make a baby and it's not happening biologically, if they wish very, very hard—”

“Oh my god, I know where babies come from!” Abigail says, horrified. She’s quiet while Will changes Maddie’s diaper, and then she blurts out, “Aren’t you not supposed to bone your psychiatrist? I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to do that.”

“He’s not my psychiatrist, officially,” Will says, because the state of his sex life is really none of her business, and then thinks about how that might be interpreted. “You shouldn’t have sex with your therapist,” he says firmly.

“Unbelievable,” Abigail says, rolling her eyes elaborately.

“And you don’t need to be having sex with someone to wish for a baby, so always use protection,” Will continues relentlessly.

“Please stop,” she groans.

Will does, but mostly because Maddie is getting really impatient to be fed, so he heads downstairs to the kitchen to make up a bottle. He’s just settled into the armchair with Maddie when the dogs all pick their heads up. He decided to keep Teddy, the German Shepherd with non-traditional fur coloring who had come from a family with a lot of kids, and Zoe, whose underbite meant she would never be adopted by anyone, even though she was patient and sweet. The shelter he worked with found good homes for the rest, although Alana surprised him by asking to keep Buster, who was a good dog but all kinds of trouble. Alana said she enjoyed a challenge; Will was happy to see him to go to a good home and still have a chance to see him now and again.

The back door opens, and the dogs disappear to meet Hannibal in the mudroom—there’s no jumping or barking, because they’re very well trained, and also because somebody is terrible and rewards them with homemade sausage when they’ve been good and waited. Hannibal pauses for a second when he enters the kitchen and sees Abigail—Will doesn’t think anyone else would have noticed the hesitation, but he’s spent a lot of time in the past month up close and personal with Hannibal. “What a pleasant surprise, Abigail,” he says.

“Hi,” she says, then tucks her hair behind one ear. “Sorry I didn’t call ahead.”

“You’re fortunate my domestic circumstances are much changed and that Will was home to let you in,” Hannibal says, and makes his way over to the corner of the kitchen. Will, who is not above stirring shit, lifts his face for a kiss, which Hannibal gives him without hesitation before kissing Maddie’s forehead.

“Yeah,” Abigail says, and she sounds her age just then, uncertain and vulnerable, and when Hannibal opens his arms, she goes readily for a hug. Then Hannibal hands her an apron before donning his own, and they get down to the serious business of making lunch.

“How was she this morning?” Hannibal asks Will.

“She finally took a nap,” Will says. His eyes feel like sand—he was hoping to nap, too, but then Abigail showed up. “How was your ten o’clock?” Hannibal doesn’t name names, but he does give enough detail for Will to know that Mr. Ten O’Clock on Tuesdays is obnoxious.

“The same,” Hannibal says, with a wry smile. “And how was your morning, Abigail?”

She looks surprised to be included, but she says, “I had group.” And it sucked was unspoken but clear. “And then I met Maddie.”

Hannibal looks every inch the proud papa. “I would have arranged an introduction earlier, but it’s been a very busy month,” he says.

“She looks like Will,” she says, and then she grins. “Especially when she’s grumpy.”

“Excuse you,” Will says, feeling an echoing smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

They eat in the dining room, Maddie in her bouncer between Hannibal and Will. The conversation is light, and Will actually manages to eat most of his lunch before Maddie gets fussy and Will scoops her up in his arms and holds her against his shoulder, where he thinks she’d prefer to be every hour of the day if possible.

Abigail says suddenly, “You didn’t tell me about Maddie because you were worried about the book Freddie wants to write.”

Hannibal lays down his silverware. “The safety of our family is of the utmost importance,” he says. “That is not Ms. Lounds’ priority.”

Will hopes he’s correctly picking up what Hannibal is laying down, because otherwise they’re about to have their first married fight. “Our family could include you, Abigail,” he says quietly.

He’s not entirely surprised when she bursts into tears, but he is a little taken aback when she says, “You don’t want me. You wouldn’t want me, if you knew.”

Will goes still, and in that moment, he knows. It rends his heart, but he knows. “You were the lure.”

Abigail stands, as if to go, and Hannibal rises swiftly and pulls her into his arms. She’s crying harder and Will’s mind is moving a million miles a minute, and he can see the terrible choice Abigail had been faced with. It had been those girls or her, and he can taste the terror she’d lived with; she sobs in Hannibal’s arms that she’s a monster, and Hannibal looks over her head at Will and says, “No, Abigail. We know what monsters are.”

Will holds Maddie just a little bit tighter, and eventually Abigail’s tears stop. Hannibal coaxes them all into what he’s dubbed the sitting room, and Will sits next to Abigail on the sofa while Hannibal goes to make tea.

Abigail blows her nose loudly, and Maddie blinks at the noise. “Can I—can I hold her?” she asks, her voice nasal from crying. She bites her lip. “Unless you don’t want me to.”

“You can hold her,” Will says. “You know how?”

“I had to watch all the little kids at neighborhood parties after I turned fourteen,” she says, and Will shifts Maddie over into her arms. Maddie yawns, but mostly watches Abigail’s face. She also gets a grip on Abigail’s hair. “Ow,” Abigail says, smiling, and gently extricates her hair from Maddie’s grip.

Hannibal comes back with a tea tray, and he stops in the doorway. He’s staring at them, at Will and Abigail and Maddie, like he’s trying to memorize this moment. Will wonders if he’ll draw it, later—there are a lot of sketches of Will with Maddie cuddled up to his bare chest. Will felt the back of his neck heat when he found them on Hannibal’s desk, even though some of them were clearly based on famous artworks and not exactly salacious. In his opinion, Will makes a shitty Virgin Mary.

Abigail ignores her tea in favor of Maddie while Hannibal calls for a car to take her back to the treatment facility. “Can I come back?” she asks.

“Of course,” Hannibal says. “Once you tell Ms. Lounds your deal is off.”

She nods, then her expression turns a little wily. “Do I have to ask Dr. Bloom’s permission before I come over?”

Will trades a glance with Hannibal, who says, “Don’t get caught.”

“And text me before you come over, and don’t ring the doorbell,” Will adds.

Abigail hands Maddie over to Hannibal when the taxi arrives. “Thank you,” she says, and gives Hannibal a sideways hug, rubbing Maddie’s back gently. And then she pulls back, and she and Will look at each other awkwardly before Will steps forward and wraps her in a careful hug. He tries to imagine Maddie at her age, and it seems impossible, and yet. “Come back soon,” he whispers.

“I will,” she says, and puts on her coat and lingers on the doorstep for a moment, looking back at them, before she’s gone.

Hannibal puts on his own coat. “I have to get back to the office,” he says apologetically.

Will nods, and then says, “You know, we probably should talk about how big a family we want. At the rate we’re going—”

Hannibal kisses him, slow and soft. “Dear Will,” he says, voice husky.

Will licks his lips. “You really should give me a hard limit—I mean, you know what my dog situation was like.”

“The next one won’t be a surprise,” Hannibal says, and steals another kiss on his way out the door.

***

It’s a shockingly mild day, the kind that makes people break out into shorts and flip flops, even though winter is not through with them yet and they’ll be back to heavy coats in a day or two. Will takes advantage of the opportunity to put Maddie in her stroller and go to a nearby park, dogs in tow. It’s a nice little park, and it seems like everyone else had the same idea. Still, there’s one unoccupied bench away from the others, and Will lowers himself with a sigh. It wasn’t a long walk from the house, but it took more out of him than he expected. He just had treatment a day before, though, so probably he should cut himself some slack.

He lets the dogs off-leash, which the park sign says he’s not supposed to do, but they’re well-trained, and nobody else’s dogs are looking nervous. He keeps the shade of Maddie’s carrier down so that she’s protected from the sun, but tries to soak up every bit of it he can.

“May I sit here?” someone asks, and Will is deciding whether to say no or just look inhospitable when he realizes it’s Dr. Abel Gideon.

He looks at Gideon for a moment—for a man who only recently escaped custody, he doesn’t look too bad.

“Please don’t raise a fuss,” Gideon says, sounding perfectly calm. “I just want to—pick your brain a little.”

“Like you picked at Dr. Chilton’s kidney?” Will asks. His voice comes out calm and even acerbic, but his heart is going a million miles a minute. Maddie’s stroller is next to him, beside the bench. He could try to release the carrier clamps and run, but he wouldn’t be fast enough.

“No, no,” Gideon says, still amiable. “You see, Mr. Graham, I’ve heard from Freddie Lounds that you’re the closest thing we have to a Chesapeake Ripper whisperer.”

“You do know, right, that Freddie is usually talking out of her ass.”

“Don’t be so modest,” Gideon says. “Case closed, case closed, case closed, since you came on the scene. And then suddenly you weren’t, and now the Ripper doesn’t want to come out and play.” He smiles at Will, as though inviting a confidence.

Will rolls his eyes. “I’m not the Ripper, either. You really shouldn’t listen to Freddie.”

“I don’t think you are at all,” Gideon says. “But I think you can help me find him. I think he misses you.”

“Misses me,” Will repeats, heavy with skepticism.

“We all want to be understood, Mr. Graham. Even him. Maybe especially him. And here you are, with your marvelous brain that has been of so much professional interest.” Gideon pauses. “I hope you won’t mind my saying so, but you’re not exactly hard on the eyes, either.”

Will levels a glare at him. “And you think that I can somehow help you find him? If I knew who he was or where he was, you wouldn’t be my first phone call, sorry to say.”

Gideon waves a hand, as if Will has apologized for the most minor of discourtesies. “Of course. But I do think you can help me find him. The Ripper wasn’t interested in my gift basket, but I think he would be quite interested in you.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you,” Will says sharply, and whistles for his dogs.

“That won’t be necessary,” Gideon says, and then stabs Will in the stomach.

***

Will wishes it were the first time he’s called 911 while applying pressure to a wound, but it’s really not. By the time the ambulance comes, he’s got a crowd of people around him, which is good because one of them turns out to be a neighbor, who assures Will she’ll take his dogs home. He’s also got someone else helping him apply pressure, and yet another person who takes his phone and calls Hannibal and holds the phone to his ear.

“Will?” Hannibal says. “What’s wrong?”

“I'm okay, Maddie’s okay,” Will says. “I got a little stabbed at the park, they’re about to put me in an ambulance.”

There’s silence on the other end of the phone.

“Hannibal?” Will says.

“I will meet you at the hospital,” he says, words clipped. “Please give the phone to one of the paramedics.”

“Yeah, okay.” Will frowns at the phone; he’s never heard Hannibal sound that pissed before. He asks the person holding the phone to give it to one of the approaching paramedics. They swarm him, and he has just enough presence of mind to tell them that the baby is his, she’s coming with them, he doesn’t care how they make it work. Also that his brain has recently been on fire and he’s tapering down on prednisone, but he’s honestly not sure how much sense he’s making at that point. He hopes Hannibal told them everything they need to know.

“You’re going to be fine, Will,” one of the paramedics says soothingly as they start an IV.

He hears Maddie starting to cry, and he tries to stretch out an arm for her, but it’s too far. “She needs—let me —” he pleads with the paramedics.

“We’ve got it, everything is okay, she’s going to be fine,” someone else says, and the siren and Maddie’s wailing mix together and Will weeps.

***

It’s much less fuss than the last time Will got stabbed. He gets a local anesthetic, and the ER doctor flushes the wound, pokes around a little, pronounces Will lucky, and gives him a neat line of stitches. Before he knows it, the nurse is asking him if he’d like his family to join him.

“Yes,” Will says quickly. “Yes, please.”

He’s so relieved to see Maddie safely in her carrier that it takes him a moment to parse Hannibal’s expression. He looks furious and relieved and also like he might—cry? Will blinks, because this is a lot when he’s on painkillers. “Hi,” he says cautiously.

Hannibal puts Maddie’s carrier down and then seizes Will’s face in his hands and kisses him. “Never again,” he says, and his voice trembles.

“It’s only five stitches,” Will argues, unwisely.

“Five too many,” Hannibal says, leaning his forehead against Will’s. “Tell me what happened.”

“Abel Gideon happened,” Will says.

Hannibal goes still, and he pulls back. “Abel Gideon did this?”

Will nods. “Said he wanted me to help him draw out the Ripper. I need to talk to Jack.”

“It is precisely Jack Crawford who is responsible for this,” Hannibal says sharply. “He exposes you to dangerous individuals, and expects you to absorb the consequences.”

Will doesn’t have the energy to argue with him, or even the desire. But the talk of consequences makes him think of one thing. “Maddie—can I see her? I need to—”

Hannibal’s expression softens. “She’s unharmed. Perfectly safe.” He lifts the carrier up to show him Maddie sound asleep in it. It’s been several hours, and they’ve had a horrendous afternoon.

“I was so scared,” Will confesses, voice barely above a whisper.

“For Madeleine?”

Will nods, then says, “I would have—I would have done anything to keep her safe. If he even touched her, I—”

“I know,” Hannibal says, and takes Will’s hand in his and sits down in the chair next to the bed.

They wait in silence for Will to be discharged, and it’s only after Hannibal has a conversation with the doctor that sounds more like an oral final exam that the doctor is in danger of failing, that Will says, “Gideon said the Ripper missed me.”

“You sound doubtful.”

“I don’t think he thinks about me,” Will says. “I don’t think he finds me that interesting.”

“He does,” Hannibal says.

***

Will checks the peephole and closes his eyes when he catches sight of red hair. He has no desire to deal with any normal visitors the morning after getting stabbed by a serial killer, and even less to deal with Freddie Lounds. She can freeze her ass off on the doorstep, for all he cares.

“Who was at the door?” Hannibal inquires when Will walks normally into the kitchen instead of stomping as he would like to do, on account of Maddie wrapped against his chest.

“A trash collector,” Will says, and helps himself to coffee before stealing a piece of the fruit that Hannibal has already plated. Will has a feeling anyone else would have been swatted away, but Hannibal allows it with only a mild pursing of his lips.

The doorbell rings again, which sets off the dogs barking and makes Will grind his teeth. “Can’t I just disconnect it?” he asks, and bounces Maddie a little. She’s just about as grumpy as he is this morning, which is not a great combo.

Hannibal give him a look that is remarkably indulgent, before tilting his head in the direction of the hallway. “Would you please?”

Will heaves a sigh and goes to fling the door open. “Why, Will Graham-Lecter, what a surprise to find you here instead of the hospital,” Freddie says, and scoots inside without waiting to be invited, which Will wasn’t inclined to do, anyway.

“You found the marriage certificate?” he asks.

She looks at him, all wide-eyed insincerity. “There was a wedding announcement in the paper. Very tasteful.”

Will has no memory of this, but he’s not surprised. Hannibal made him give his opinions of their wedding photos—Will should have guessed he was going to do something with them, other than put one on the mantle and, rather touchingly, a smaller one of Maddie and Will in his wallet.

“No baby announcement, though—do I smell a scandal?” She bats her eyes obnoxiously.

“That’s a dirty diaper, or maybe you,” Will says.

“Ms. Lounds, what a surprise,” Hannibal says, preempting Freddie’s rejoinder. “Would you care to join us for breakfast?”

Will attempts to communicate via his eyebrows that the only thing he’s interested in serving Freddie is a dropkick out the door, but Hannibal ignores him and ushers Freddie into the dining room. “We’ll be just a moment,” Hannibal assures her, and draws Will into the kitchen.

“Hannibal, what the actual fuck,” Will says in a low voice.

“Language,” Hannibal says, nodding at Maddie. “And I believe Ms. Lounds’ visit this morning is no coincidence.”

“You think Gideon tipped her off.”

“She posted an article late last night with a degree of information that I find suspect, yes,” Hannibal says. “She’s nothing if not opportunistic—I believe she may give us what we want if we give her what she wants.”

Will stares at him suspiciously, because he’s pretty sure he knows where this is going and he doesn’t like it, not one bit.

“Do you trust me to do what is best for our family?” Hannibal asks.

Will frowns at him, then sighs and nods his head curtly.

“Then if you would bring in the coffee, darling, I won’t be far behind,” Hannibal says, and presses a kiss to Will’s temple.

Will sighs again, but obediently takes the carafe of coffee and squares his shoulders before walking into the dining room.

***

It’s the brunch from hell, and Will is not precisely glad that Maddie is having such a bad morning that he has an excuse to wander from the table in an attempt to soothe her, but it’s a silver lining. He’d thought at first that Hannibal would frown on mealtime disruptions, but when he mentioned it, Hannibal said prosaically that it was to be expected, and that she wouldn’t be an infant forever.

“Come on, Maddie,” Will murmurs, walking her into the kitchen. “Are you hungry again? Is that it?” He doesn’t hold out much hope that it is, but maybe she’s having another one of her tiny angry baby growth spurts. He makes up a bottle and sits down in the armchair, and wonder of wonders—she does want it, and calms down as she drinks. He exhales in relief and only spares a second to mourn that his breakfast will be stone cold by the time he gets back to it.

He can hear the low sounds of Freddie and Hannibal talking, and he lets his eyes shut for a few breaths. Everything seems relatively peaceful until he feels his phone vibrate in his pocket.

For the first time since Will’s seizure, Jack is calling him. “Hi,” Will says cautiously, turning it on speaker since he doesn’t have a hand free. Now that he thinks about it, Hannibal must have handled calling the BAU when he was hospitalized. The only thing Will did was follow up with HR. There were flowers, Will thinks, but he can’t exactly remember.

“Will,” Jack says. There’s a gentleness to his tone, like Will is indeed the special china used for guests, and he’s lying in pieces on the floor. “How’s the baby?”

“Good,” Will says, looking down at her. She’s only sucking occasionally now, and Will thinks she’s probably less hungry at this point and more interested in falling asleep while cuddled against Will. He sets the bottle aside and shifts her so he can burp her. “Kind of cranky, but good.”

“I think I can guess who she gets that from,” Jack says with good-natured humor.

“Hopefully that’s all she gets. I wouldn’t wish my—imagination on anyone.”

Jack clears his throat. “Speaking of your imagination—Dr. Lecter said you didn’t know where Abel Gideon went after he attacked you yesterday.”

“No.” Will doesn’t mention the conversation happening in the dining room. “He wants attention. He wants the Ripper’s attention.”

“He stabbed you.”

“He stabbed me very precisely. He wants a conversation with the Ripper, not his fury,” Will says.

“You think the Ripper would be furious if Gideon had killed you?”

“I think that’s what Gideon thinks,” Will says tiredly.

Jack is quiet. Then he says, “Will, I know you’re on medical leave—”

“No,” Will says, and he’s surprised how quickly it’s out of his mouth.

“Hear me out,” Jack says. “We have to assume Gideon will return for you if he doesn’t get the response he wants from the Ripper.”

“Are you hoping he does?” Will asks, and then smiles humorlessly. “No, you’re hoping for something bigger than that. You’re hoping Gideon is right—you’re hoping the Ripper gives a damn about me.”

“Will—”

“You think one minor stab wound is going to push the Ripper into being sloppy? You’re hanging a lot on the judgment of a man declared legally insane.”

“It’s the only lead we have,” Jack says, and Will hears the desperation in his voice that he’s trying to hide.

“If the Ripper is really offended, you’re not going to catch him by having surveillance on our house. He’ll take Gideon, and he’ll take his time, and you’ll only find what he wants you to.” Will looks up and is startled to see Hannibal standing in the kitchen doorway. His expression is still, his eyes locked on Will.

“I have to go,” Will says, unable to take his eyes off Hannibal. He hangs up over Jack’s protestations. “How much of that did you overhear?”

“Enough,” Hannibal says. He walks forward at a measured pace, and reaches out a hand to gently stroke Will’s cheek. “He wanted to draw you back in, and you refused.”

Will turns his head slightly into Hannibal’s hand. “It’s not just me, anymore.”

Hannibal lets out a slight sigh, and parks a hip on the wide arm of the chair. “It is not,” he agrees. He draws his fingers through Will’s curls, his eyes still fixed on Will’s.

Eventually, it occurs to Will to ask, “Are you just letting Freddie cool her heels out there for the next course, or what?”

“I’m afraid I had to insist that Ms. Lounds leave our home immediately.”

Will raises his eyebrows. “What happened to let’s keep our cool for more information?”

“I really can’t abide rudeness,” Hannibal says. “Especially toward you.”

“You don’t have to defend my honor like that,” Will says. “She’s already dragged my name through the mud—there can’t be much worse for her to say, at this point.”

“She insinuated that you were too unstable to care for Madeleine,” Hannibal says evenly enough, but the muscles in his jaw are tight. He’s livid, Will realizes.

“Do you think I’m still unstable?” Will asks.

“How do you feel?”

“Right,” Will says finally, and knows that it’s true. “I feel right, with you.”

Hannibal leans down and kisses him, and that feels right, too, and much too good to stop. When Hannibal goes to pull back, Will reels him back in by his tie. “Hey,” Will says softly, because they’re alive and together and he’s so damn glad. “You want to maybe—”

“Yes,” Hannibal says without hesitation. “Whatever you want, yes.”

Chapter Text



They ease Maddie down into her crib to continue her nap, and hold their breath when she stirs slightly. She stays asleep, though, and they quietly sneak out of the bedroom. Hannibal is rather surprisingly light on his feet.

In the hallway, it abruptly feels a little awkward—they’ve been married over a month and kissed only a handful of times, and he’d like to get back to the easy intimacy of the kitchen. The awkwardness melts away when he meets Hannibal’s eyes—he looks at Will like he wants to devour him whole.

Will’s inclined to let him. He steps in and kisses Hannibal again, and then it’s easy and after that, it feels like it’s rapidly out of his control, and he doesn’t care. Hannibal is warm against him, his arms secure around Will, and his mouth is so hungry, like he’s been starving for Will all this time.

“We’ll go slow,” Hannibal murmurs in between nibbling on Will’s ear.

“What happened to whatever I want?” Will wonders, but tilts his head so that Hannibal can suck a line of kisses down his neck.

“You were just stabbed,” Hannibal reminds him, while backing him up to the door to the blue guest bedroom. Will’s only been in it once or twice—it has some nice Japanese woodblock prints of the sea but also a lot of freaky butterflies pinned and mounted in glass.

“Only a little,” Will says, opening the door knob behind him. “Also, we have probably like ten minutes before Miss M decides to wake up and be unhappy with the world, so less talking.”

“Surely at least thirty,” Hannibal says, but he follows Will’s lead and strips off his clothes as neatly and quickly as possible.

“You want to bet on that?” Will asks, yanking the bedspread down and easing himself onto the mattress. He does actually know he needs to take it easy—the wound is tender and it aches, but there’s no reason they can’t have what they want if they’re reasonably careful.

He doesn’t get as much time to look at Hannibal as he would like, but he’s not mad about Hannibal on top of him, his body warm against Will’s. He can feel the hard line of Hannibal’s dick against his stomach, and when Hannibal gathers both of their cocks in one hand, he groans.

“I fear the lubricant is in our bedroom,” Hannibal says.

“No time to get it,” Will says. “And anyway, we don’t need it.” He’d be embarrassed about how much precome he’s leaking, except it’s kind of coming in handy, and also, it’s not like Hannibal doesn’t know he’s had a substantial dry spell.

Hannibal gathers up the precome and spreads it over their cocks. “Messy boy,” he says, voice low and appreciative.

Will huffs out a laugh. “Wait till I blow you—then you’ll see messy.” He pushes into Hannibal’s grip, and moans, because Hannibal’s cock is slick and hard against his, and it’s been such a long goddamn time, and even then—

He can’t remember the last time sex felt like this. Hannibal is looking at him like he really sees all of him, and the pleasure of being known is so keen that it almost overrides the filthy shit Hannibal is murmuring to him. Almost.

“Next time,” Hannibal is saying. “Next time, darling boy, I’m going to drink you down, then turn you over and make such a mess of you.”

“Oh fuck,” Will says breathlessly, clutching tighter at Hannibal’s shoulders. “Don’t stop, don’t—”

“Anything,” Hannibal says, breathing hard. “Anything, Will—”

Will’s toes curl and he comes so hard his mind goes blissfully, beautifully blank.

Hannibal isn’t far behind, and he slides to Will’s side as they both catch their breath. Will’s brain may have shorted out, but he’s still aware that Hannibal is dragging his fingers through their combined come on Will’s stomach, rubbing it into Will’s skin, but taking care to avoid the dressing covering his stitches.

The afterglow comes to an abrupt end when Maddie splits the difference a little after the twenty-minute mark. “We meet in the middle, huh?” Will says, silencing the notification on his phone.

Hannibal looks thoughtful. “Yes, I suppose we do,” he says, and then kisses Will’s wedding ring before slipping out of bed.

***

Freddie Lounds posts another article, which Will at first resolves not to read but Hannibal hands over the tablet in bed and says, “It’s probably best that you see it.”

Will does, and it’s Lounds’ usual tasteless garbage, with added intrusive commentary on their personal lives. It’s when he gets to the part where she discusses the inquiry into Hannibal’s professional conduct that he really starts to clench his teeth.

“I’m going to kill her,” Will says evenly.

“I’d be happy to assist, but we’ll have to find a babysitter, first.”

Will’s surprised by a yawn. He hands the tablet back to Hannibal before scooting down in bed. “We should probably do that anyway,” he says, although he’s not exactly wild about a stranger watching Maddie. “When was the last time we were out of the house and not at the grocery store or outpatient care?”

“As I recall, you were in a public park and getting stabbed.”

Will side-eyes him. “You’re never going to let that go, are you?”

Hannibal turns out the light and settles down for sleep, and it still feels new and daring to just scoot in close to cuddle up, but Hannibal hasn’t protested yet or made Will feel like he’s unwanted. Just the opposite, in fact, by the way he wraps Will in his arms.

“Will,” Hannibal whispers in his ear.

“Hmm?”

“Are you very tired?”

Truthfully, Will has been tired for months before Maddie arrived, and adding her to the mix hasn’t really helped. But still. “Depends on whether you want to do all the work.”

“It would be my genuine pleasure,” Hannibal assures him, and pushes the covers out of the way before he slides down the bed.

***

Will wakes from a disquieting dream to the sound of Maddie starting to fuss. He wouldn’t call it a nightmare, exactly—he dreamed that the stag man sat in the chair next to the crib, holding Maddie in its arms. His antlers grew and grew and surrounded them both, a protective barrier. The ravenstag lay stretched out on the floor like one of his dogs. In his dream, Maddie was undisturbed by any of this, and Will —

He felt safe.

He gets out of bed and puts his feet in his slippers before snagging Maddie out of her crib. They make a quick detour to the as-yet-unfinished nursery to make use of the changing table in there before heading down to the kitchen. Winston and Teddy trail them downstairs, while Zoe sleeps on.

“Didn’t know what time it was, and the lights were low,” he croons to her as he makes up her bottle. His voice cracks slightly on the chorus, but Maddie’s not much of a music critic. He finds himself checking the windows in the kitchen, but all he can see is his and Maddie’s reflections. It should be reassuring.

It’s not.

“I might have to really talk to someone,” he confesses to Maddie as she starts to drink her bottle.

Teddy and Winston both have their ears perked, as if they’re hearing something he’s not. He hopes it’s just a raccoon wandering around the garbage bins again.

He’s glad when Maddie finishes her bottle—he burps her and goes upstairs as quickly as he can safely manage. He knows it’s ridiculous, but he locks the bedroom door behind him, and after he puts Maddie down, he crawls into bed and puts one arm around Hannibal tight.

“Will?” Hannibal says, probably only half-awake.

“Shhh,” Will says. “Go back to sleep. Everything’s fine.”

“You’re shaking,” Hannibal says, and he sounds disconcertingly more alert than he did even a second ago.

“Weird dream,” Will says. Hannibal clutches him close, and it helps, but the fear clings closer to him still. “I might need actual therapy,” Will whispers.

“In the morning,” Hannibal promises.

***

Will doesn’t especially like the sense that he’s being managed, but Hannibal is probably right in assuming that coffee and bacon will go a long way toward making him even remotely disposed to talking about last night.

“You were frightened last night,” Hannibal says eventually. His sharp eyes are fixed on Will. “You still are.”

Will sighs, and takes a sip of coffee to gather his thoughts. “I believe what I told Jack—I don’t think Gideon is coming back to finish what he started.”

“But the possibility that he might lingers in your mind.”

“It might be different if Gideon were in custody,” he says, and then shrugs. “But then again, it might not.”

“If you would like to speak to someone, of course I can research some options for your consideration,” Hannibal says.

Will nods reluctantly. “Thanks,” he says. “I’m a little sorry it can’t be you, anymore.”

“I will listen to you whenever you wish, but as your husband, not your therapist. I can hardly be objective now,” Hannibal says. “I’m glad you sought me out last night—you should never hesitate, when you’re in need.”

“Of course I came to you,” Will says. “Who else would I—you know I—”

“You what?”

Will swallows. “I trust you,” he says, mostly to his plate. When he risks a look up, Hannibal looks—not touched, exactly, but passionate in his devotion.

“Trust me, then, that our family is safe, until your head and your heart concur,” Hannibal says.

Will reaches out for his hand, then, and lets himself be comforted.

***

Hannibal gives Will a short list for consideration the next day. “You needn’t pick anyone from this list. But I believe they have something to offer you, and I would recommend any of them without hesitation.”

Will takes the list—handwritten, of course, in Hannibal’s beautiful script—and looks up the names later. It’s a diverse group, but he finds the common thread very quickly.

They all specialize in dealing with trauma.

Despite marrying one, he’s still not fond of psychiatrists as a group, and he’s really not eager to let anyone other than Hannibal start poking around in his head. But on the other hand—he knows Hannibal knows this. Hannibal wouldn’t have recommended anyone who wanted to paw around his psyche for fame and money.

He reads up on all five, before he decides to call Dr. Nadia Amrani for an appointment.

He expects to get an administrative assistant, but she answers the phone herself. “Dr. Amrani speaking.”

Will fidgets and almost breaks out into a nervous sweat. “Uh. Hi. I’m Will Graham—Graham-Lecter. I wanted to make an appointment? If you’re taking new patients. I didn’t check.” He makes himself stop talking, but it’s a struggle.

“I’m pleased you called,” she says, and her tone is warm, and that’s when Will realizes that of course Hannibal vetted them all carefully and told them he might call. They schedule an appointment in short order—she has a cancellation for tomorrow morning, when Hannibal has no appointments and can stay home with Maddie.

“She sounded nice on the phone,” Will says hesitantly over dinner later that night. It’s more than he can say for most psychiatrists he’s talked to.

“Did I sound nice, when you met me?”

Will raises his eyebrows. “You sounded like an asshole, and I ended up marrying you. In this case, I’m reserving judgement.”

“Prudent,” Hannibal says, his smile all in his eyes.

***

“Why are you here, Will?” Dr. Amrani asks.

He fidgets. He wants to walk around her office, which is awash in sunlight. There’s a big bay window with plants everywhere, green and vibrant. He’s not convinced this will work—before Hannibal, he maintained that therapy didn’t work on him, and he’s not sure anything has changed, exactly. Hannibal broke the curve in more ways than one.

Still, though, might as well give it a go, since he’s here. “I got stabbed by a serial killer. I had my daughter with me, and I’m having—trouble. Dealing with it.”

She doesn’t look remotely fazed. Her expression is open, and kind. “Let’s start there,” she says, and Will finds himself nodding his head.

***

Abigail joins them for dinner on a Saturday night. It’s a dry run, Hannibal explains—Abigail will take care of Maddie while they’re still in the house, to make sure everyone is comfortable before Will and Hannibal leave them alone.

“She’s just a kid,” Will says doubtfully, chopping vegetables under Hannibal’s supervision. “Should we really be leaving her alone with our baby?”

“She’s experienced in childcare, and it will give her some purpose and direction,” Hannibal says calmly, touching Will’s back as he moves past him with a hot pan.

Will remembers girls in high school doing babysitting and nobody batting an eye. There was one town where Will watched a few kids next door after school until their mom got home from work, which was some steady money when he wasn’t old enough yet to get a real job. Will made sure they had an after-school snack and then mostly just did his homework and kept an eye on them while they ran around outside.

“We’re going to pay her, right?” Will says. “Not just give her twenty bucks for pizza?”

“We will negotiate a fair and appropriate wage,” Hannibal says, expression slightly reminiscent of a wet cat. “And of course I will provide dinner.”

His phone chimes with a text, and Will abandons his cutting board to go let Abigail in. She’ll need a key, he thinks, and mentally notes it down to mention to Hannibal. “Hey,” he says. “Hope you’re hungry.”

“I’m always hungry,” Abigail says, pulling a face. “The food at the hospital is garbage.”

Will resolves to slip her a twenty for pizza next time anyway—she’s a teenager, she can probably put away Hannibal’s insane dinner and still have room for a few slices.

Abigail gives Maddie a bottle while they finish up dinner, and Will tries not to keep too obvious an eye on them both. Abigail does just fine, and Maddie doesn’t seem particularly disturbed to be fed by someone else. Hannibal pointedly sends him down to the wine cellar to fetch a particular bottle of white, and Will goes readily enough. It takes him a few minutes to find the right bottle, and he realizes he can hear Abigail’s voice—not clearly, but there must be a vent or something by the armchair in the kitchen that carries sound downstairs.

When dinner is ready and Hannibal shoos them into the dining room, Will is well and truly hungry, and Abigail looks like she is, too. Will can’t say he’s ever had sweetbreads before, and wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but Hannibal pan-fried them and serves them with handmade pasta and a cream sauce with lemon and capers, and they all but melt on his tongue. “This is so good,” he tells Hannibal fervently. “Please tell me there are some leftovers for lunch tomorrow.”

Hannibal looks so pleased. “Perhaps,” he says, which is as good as yes—things that Will has seconds of or particularly exclaims over tend to find their way into a glass storage container on the second drawer of the fridge with a post-it that has Will’s name written in Hannibal’s beautiful script.

“I had lamb sweetbreads once,” Abigail says. The memory doesn’t look like a pleasant one. “They didn’t taste like this.”

“These are veal,” Hannibal says. “I find soaking them in milk beforehand makes a considerable difference.”

Will cleans his plate in short order and kind of wants seconds, but he knows there’s panna cotta in the fridge, and that Hannibal will make a sad face if he doesn’t have room.

After dinner, they settle in the study—Will sits next to Hannibal on the sofa, and Hannibal holds a book in one hand and puts his arm around Will. Will reads a few articles on Hannibal’s tablet—he really should get his own—and basks in the warmth the fireplace is putting out, as well as Hannibal’s body where it’s pressed against his. The dogs are in front of the fireplace, and Abigail scrolls through something on her phone while periodically poking at the mobile hanging from the top of the bouncer for Maddie’s amusement.

It’s everything Will has ever wanted.

He shuts his eyes at one point and lets his head rest on Hannibal’s shoulder. He swears it will only be for a minute or two, and then Hannibal says his name and Will realizes he dozed off.

“Let’s show Abigail our nighttime routine with Madeleine,” Hannibal says softly.

Will yawns and stretches and leads the way upstairs, Hannibal splitting off to take the dogs out. “Dogs sleep here,” he tells Abigail, pointing at the alcove. “You’ll want to let them out before you settle in for the night.”

“Got it,” she says.

“We usually give Maddie a bath, a bottle, and then read her a story before we put her to bed,” Will says. He leads the way into the nursery, which is finally done. When they moved Maddie’s crib in there earlier this week, he thought she’d be unsettled—but with the same bedtime routine, she was out like a light. He doesn’t exactly want to admit that Hannibal is right about his whole sleep hygiene thing, but he can appreciate the results.

Abigail is gentle and careful with Maddie during her bath, and after she’s got a clean diaper and she’s in her sleeper, Will shows Abigail the bottle warmer and gets them both settled in the rocking chair next to the crib.

He steps out for a minute to find Hannibal walking out of the bedroom Abigail will sleep in—Hannibal officially bought way too much house for one person—and asks quietly, “Everything okay?”

“I left her with the handheld monitor just in case,” Hannibal says.

“I watched her download the app onto her phone,” Will says, and smiles a little. “Plus she’s right next door to the nursery—if Maddie wakes up, Abigail’s going to know.”

Hannibal’s mouth twitches but he concedes the point with a nod of his head.

It still feels weird not to have Maddie in their bedroom. It feels weirder still when Hannibal talks him into turning off the baby monitor notifications on his phone. “We have to show Abigail we trust her,” Hannibal says.

“I know,” Will says, and flops down in bed. “Stop being so reasonable.”

“If all goes well, you may get at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep,” Hannibal says, turning off the light.

Will makes an indecent noise. “Eight hours,” he says dreamily, and snuggles into his pillow.

Hannibal spoons him rather aggressively and kisses the back of his neck in a way that is probably trying to start something, but exhaustion hits Will like a rock. The nightcap Hannibal talked him into probably didn’t help.

“Raincheck, babe?” he murmurs. He might be slurring his words.

“Of course,” Hannibal says. Just before Will slides off into sleep, he thinks he hears Hannibal say, “Sleep very well, my darling.”

***

Will wakes up feeling the best he’s felt in maybe six months. He stretches a little in bed, still not entirely willing to open his eyes. He can feel the sun warm on his face and Hannibal’s hand in his hair.

“What time is it?” he asks, his voice husky.

“Half past eight,” Hannibal says. “How did you sleep?”

“Best I’ve had in months,” Will says. He blinks open his eyes to see Hannibal looking at him from where he’s sitting against the headboard, and he looks so fond, so honestly happy that Will can’t help but smile at him. Hannibal is wearing his robe over his pajamas, which means he’s already been downstairs. “Did Maddie wake you up?”

Hannibal shakes his head. “I woke at my usual time, so I gave her the first bottle of the day.”

“What’s the point of a babysitter if you’re still going to do the work?” Will asks, tone teasing.

“The point, dear Will, is that you promised me a raincheck, and I intend to collect. Thoroughly.”

Will swallows. Since they started having sex, it’s been mostly hurried exchanges of handjobs and a few blowjobs, but to be honest, Will is usually just too damn tired. His doctors say the fatigue will decrease as his recovery continues, but it’s a little hard to tell the difference between encephalitis-fatigue and infant-fatigue at the moment.

This morning, though—Will is rested and feeling ambitious. “What did you have in mind?” he asks. It comes out pretty flirty.

“Perhaps you’d like to join me in the shower,” Hannibal suggests, and gives Will a very heated look.

Will brushes his teeth and uses the toilet while Hannibal starts the shower. It’s a pretty fancy shower; Will initially rolled his eyes at the two showerheads and the jets, but after a few months, he’s conceded that fancy might be good in select circumstances.

What is definitely good is Hannibal already in the shower, a cloud of steam beginning to rise. He’s showered with Hannibal before, but it wasn’t really sexy showering—it was Will sitting on the bench in the shower while Hannibal washed his hair because he was worn out from plasmapheresis.

This is—very different. Because Hannibal is naked and wet and staring at Will like he’s going to cash that raincheck very, very hard.

Will steps out of his boxers and into the shower and Hannibal’s arms, and kissing him is so good. If there’s one thing they’ve had practice at so far, it’s that—Hannibal is a big proponent of kissing for the sake of kissing, and Will still isn’t over the idea that he’s welcome, that Hannibal wants him, apparently unreservedly so.

When they break for breath, Hannibal takes his shampoo with its delicate, herbal scent, and says, “May I?”

Will nods, because Hannibal isn’t easy to read, but he plainly enjoys doing this for Will, and Will—he’s like one of his strays, he knows, too long without touch to be anything but greedy for it now. He tilts his head back and closes his eyes as Hannibal’s fingers work through his hair, massaging his scalp, and when he’s finished, Will does him the same favor. Hannibal, however, doesn’t close his eyes until he’s ready to rinse.

Soaping each other up is a lot more handsy, and it isn’t long before Hannibal helps himself to a double handful of Will’s ass to press their hard cocks together, and Will is all on board with rubbing off against each other in the shower, except that Hannibal’s fingers are flirting with the cleft of his ass and he asks Will again, “May I?”

It’s been a long time since college, and Will can rarely be bothered to finger himself when he’s jerking off, even though he likes it. “Go slow,” he says, and Hannibal takes him at his word, rubbing his hole gently. He’s forgotten how good it feels to have someone else do this to him, and even with Hannibal’s careful, insistent touch, Will clutches at his shoulders for balance and his gasps echo off the bathroom tile. “More,” he pleads.

Hannibal turns off the shower instead, and they make some attempt at drying off before falling back into bed, and Hannibal snags the lube out of his nightstand before putting a pillow under Will’s ass.

“I can turn over,” Will offers.

“You’ll do nothing of the sort,” Hannibal says. “I want to see your face.”

Will would much rather hide his face in the pillows, which must be clear from his expression, because Hannibal kisses him and kisses him some more. The lube is warmed up when he finally touches Will’s ass, which is considerate and so Hannibal that Will sighs and relaxes.

“There you go,” Hannibal says, rubbing Will’s hole before pressing one finger in. He pulls back to look at Will’s face, like he can’t stand to miss any shift in Will’s expression, like he’s memorizing this, like he intends to draw Will with a crown of stars, exalted.

“Another,” Will says, and Hannibal obliges, and his fingers feel long and deep and good, just brushing where Will wants them, and he takes his time working Will open, until Will is ready and aching for it.

He pushes his cock into Will slowly, giving him time to adjust, and when he’s bottomed out, he starts to fuck Will with slow thrusts, and Will sighs and takes it, takes everything Hannibal wants to give him. It’s been a long time since he trusted someone enough for this, to be laid bare before them, fingers interlaced and eyes drinking each other in.

It’s almost unbearably intimate, and Will can’t look away. Hannibal changes his angle a little, and it gets Will so good. He tries to smother the noises he’s making with his hands, but Hannibal says, “Make whatever noise you like, it’s only for my ears.”

Will lets himself moan, then, when Hannibal presses Will’s knees closer to his chest and gets that much closer, that much deeper. Hannibal’s gaze is devouring, consuming, and the sunlight streaming in the room should make Will feel like there’s nowhere to hide, but he’s not even sure he wants to.

“You’re only for me,” Hannibal breathes, and kisses him, hard.

Will pushes at his shoulder and Hannibal goes, rolling them over so that Will is astride him.

“Don’t you think that goes both ways?” Will asks, and seats himself on Hannibal’s cock. He’s done with gentle; he rides Hannibal hard, shifting his hips until it’s perfect, until he’s chasing his pleasure and the look of it on Hannibal’s face. Hannibal is so perfectly in the moment that Will can’t help but be, too—everything is Hannibal’s cock stretching him wide, the burn in Will’s thighs as he lifts up so he can grind down hard, Will’s soft susurration of “Oh god, fuck, ah,” and Hannibal’s hands gripping his hips tight.

It’s over nearly the second Hannibal wraps his hand around Will’s cock—he grinds down hard, and cries out as he comes hard all over Hannibal’s stomach. He feels Hannibal’s hips twitch in abortive thrusts, cock still hard inside him. “Come on,” Will says. “You can still—”

Hannibal rolls them so Will is beneath him again, and he’s done being gentle, too—he thrusts into Will hard, nearly snarling, and for a split second, Will sees Hannibal wreathed in antlers, and then Hannibal shudders hard and groans as he comes, and Will feels surrounded, marked, prized.

He must doze off in the afterglow; he comes back to himself when Hannibal’s fingers linger around his hole. Will is lying half on top of Hannibal, and clearly no clean up has happened yet, because he’s still a mess of Hannibal’s come.

It’s clearly a thing, Will decides. He doesn’t particularly mind the dark undercurrent of possessiveness he sees in Hannibal; he’s more worried about how much he likes it, how much he wants Hannibal to hold him close and never, ever let him go.

His stomach chooses that moment to growl, and Hannibal twitches—of the things that provoke a visible reaction from him, nothing gets him going faster than the suggestion that Will might be hungry in any way, shape, or form.

But whatever he’s about to say is forestalled by Will’s phone ringing.

“Will?” Jack says when he picks up. “There’s something you need to see.”

Chapter Text


“Hey,” Beverly says when she sees him. Only her gloves prevent her from squeezing Will’s arm, he thinks. “You’re looking better.”

Will looks at Hannibal, just a half step behind. Hannibal insisted on driving him instead of letting an agent pick him up, and Will is glad, because whatever he’s about to see, he’s pretty sure he doesn’t want to see it alone.

“Clean living,” Will says eventually.

“Where’s the baby?” she asks. “Don’t think you can pawn me off with pictures forever.”

Will makes a face. “I’m not bringing our baby to a crime scene. We got a sitter.”

“You should make Jack reimburse you for that,” she says.

He looks at her.

“What? You’re still on leave, so this is definitely above and beyond,” she says. He’s a little taken aback by how protective she sounds—he’s used to it from Hannibal, but it feels unexpected and even alien coming from anybody else. His new therapist is probably going to have a lot to say about that.

“Will!” Jack calls.

“Later,” Will says to Beverly quietly, and trudges forward to where Jack is waiting.

Jack looks tired—more tired than when Will saw him last, and that was already plenty tired. “Will, Dr. Lecter.”

“It’s Graham-Lecter, now,” Hannibal corrects mildly.

Jack purses his lips. “Thank you for coming,” he says, more respectfully than Will expected. “I wouldn’t have called you if it wasn’t important.”

“You think it’s the Ripper,” Will says, tired of all of this already. “Just show me.”

From behind, it just looks like a man sitting on a park bench. When Will rounds the bench, however, he can see that it’s Abel Gideon’s corpse, and his lower torso is covered in a riot of pink blossoms with darker centers, interspersed with white flowering stalks. His hands have been removed, as have his eyes.

“I’d put time of death in the last twelve hours,” Zeller says. “His abdomen is covered in stab wounds. Looks like the flowers were planted in him post-mortem.”

“What can you tell me about the flowers?” Will asks Price.

“Calluna vulgaris and Dianthus barbatus,” he says. Will waves an impatient hand, because he can google this for himself but doesn’t see the point if Price has already looked it up. “Heather, specifically white heather, symbolizes protection. Sweet William—” he pauses to take in an unsteady breath— “symbolizes gallantry.”

His very own white knight, the Chesapeake Ripper. Will scrubs his hand over his face.

“Is it the Ripper?” Jack demands, and Will instinctively tenses up.

“Give me some space,” he says, and Jack clears the immediate area. “Not you,” he says to Hannibal, who didn’t look particularly inclined to step away, anyway. “Unless you want to.”

“Never,” Hannibal says solemnly.

Will closes his eyes, and lets the pendulum swing. When he opens them again, he feels Hannibal at his shoulder, just behind him.

“What do you see?” Hannibal asks quietly, his breath across Will’s ear making him shiver slightly.

“He was in a hurry. He should have made such an example of him, this—interloper, this plagiarist. That is, if this were his usual public humiliation.” Will regards the corpse in front of him. “Something’s changed.”

Hannibal says nothing, and waits.

“Something’s changed for me,” Will says meditatively, slipping further into the Ripper’s mindset. “I exact my vision to suit myself, my aesthetic, my timetable. But this—this is a gift. I have no peers, consider no one’s needs but my own, and yet I find myself moved to send this message as swiftly as possible. It’s vital that he know.”

He hears the slightest indrawn breath from Hannibal. “Know what?”

Will tilts his head, considers. “He did not come to harm by my hand, and I will not allow the trespass on my name to go unpunished. I remove the possibility of it ever happening again. I do not want it to. This is a reassurance, a pledge of safety—an acknowledgement. The recipient of my gift—he matters to me. I need him to accept it in the spirit it was given.”

“Which is?”

“He has no need to look over his shoulder in fear,” Will says simply. “The only one there is me. This is my design.”

Hannibal’s arms go around him tight. “Will,” he says, and his voice nearly cracks.

“I’m putting a protection detail on you right now,” Jack says grimly.

Will almost jumps—he’d forgotten Jack was there. Hannibal is still holding him tight and shows no signs of letting go.

“We could leave the country,” Hannibal says, mostly in Will’s ear.

Will honestly hasn’t considered it. “Take Maddie and run?” he says cautiously.

“We have yet to honeymoon,” Hannibal says.

“It’s not a bad idea,” Jack says, and Will turns his head to frown at him.

“This isn’t a threat,” Will says, gesturing vaguely at Gideon.

“You’ll pardon me for thinking that the Ripper saying he’s the only monster in your life isn’t that reassuring, either,” Jack snaps at him.

Will keeps his mouth shut. “We can go if you want,” he says to Hannibal, turning his head so that he can rest his temple against Hannibal’s cheek. “I can’t tell you how safe to feel.”

“Let’s discuss it at home,” Hannibal says.

Will nods, and allows Hannibal to usher him from the crime scene, a protective hand on the small of his back.

***

“When did you even apply for a passport for Maddie?” Will asks. She’s tiny and red-faced in the picture—Hannibal must have gotten it taken while Will was still in the hospital. It seems both so long ago and also yesterday.

“During your first outpatient therapy,” Hannibal says. “I had all the necessary documentation at that point, and I’d hoped we might travel when you were well enough.” He pauses, and gives Will a very critical look. “How are you feeling?”

“Less like I need a nap every five minutes,” Will says. “And if Maddie can keep the streak alive, I bet I’ll feel even better.” He hates to even mention it, because he’s still in disbelief that she’s sleeping through the night, or at least until Hannibal wakes up at five, which is close enough for government work. “Not sure how optimistic we should be for an international flight.”

“Plenty,” Hannibal says, and Will smiles, because that’s Hannibal: plan for things to go well, have eight billion backups in case they don’t.

“We’re going to need to go to Wolf Trap to get my passport,” Will says. “We could pick it up on our way to Dulles?”

Hannibal nods. “All that remains is to choose our destination.” He steps in close and pulls Will into his arms. “We can go anywhere,” he says. “Anywhere you like, anywhere at all.”

“I’ve only been out of the country for work,” Will says. “Conferences, mostly.”

Hannibal makes a displeased noise. “A terrible way to see a place.”

It’s probably also terrible to go see a place because a serial killer has taken too much interest in you. “Where do you want to go?”

Hannibal nips his ear. “I asked you first.”

Will stares blankly over Hannibal’s shoulder. It’s not that he’s never idly imagined going somewhere, but he feels like there’s a right answer to honeymoon destination and he’s equally sure that he’s no one’s idea of an ideal travel companion. Better to pick somewhere Hannibal will like—at least one of them should have a good time. “Paris?” he ventures. Paris seems like a good bet.

“In a heartbeat, my dear, if I thought you meant it.”

Will sighs. The mantle is in his line of sight, and his gaze sharpens on their wedding photos. And then he thinks about Beverly’s pictures of Budapest, the ones that made him think of asking her to be a witness in the first place.

“What do you think about Budapest?” Will asks diffidently.

“I’ll buy the tickets immediately,” Hannibal says, and kisses him soundly.

***

Hannibal dispatches him to pack for Maddie while he’s on the phone with a travel agent, but promptly repacks everything the second he gets upstairs, so Will elects to get out of his way when it comes to packing for the two of them. Before he knows it, they’re on the road to Wolf Trap.

Pulling up in his driveway is strange; it’s his house, but he hasn’t been there since Maddie arrived. He unlocks the door, and the feeling of strangeness follows him—no dogs to greet him, just a layer of dust and dog hair.

He retrieves his passport from his desk and figures he might as well use the bathroom before they get to the airport.

He stops in his tracks when he sees that his bathroom mirror has been smashed. He takes a deep breath and leaves the house as quickly as he can, locking up behind him, although what is the fucking point, someone has been in his house—

“Will?” Hannibal asks, concerned, when he gets in the car.

“Drive, please,” Will says tightly. As Hannibal pulls back out onto the road, he calls Jack. “We’re on our way to the airport, but someone’s been in my house in Wolf Trap. Smashed up my bathroom mirror, and who knows what else.”

“Keep going to the airport, and get on your flight,” Jack says. “We’ll check it out. And Will?”

“Yeah?”

“Make that honeymoon a long one,” Jack says grimly, and hangs up.

Will looks over his shoulder to where Maddie is safely in her carrier in the backseat, her favorite plush little lamb toy in her mouth.

When Hannibal holds out his hand, Will laces their fingers together and holds on tight.

***

Hannibal’s optimism is not unfounded—Maddie drinks a bottle during takeoff, Hannibal reads her a story, and she conks right the hell out.

To say Will is stunned is putting it mildly. There’s a bassinet that attaches to the plane wall, and she’s still small enough to fit in it.

“Champagne?” asks the flight attendant when they come by.

“Well,” Will says, and flicks a glance at Hannibal, who arches his eyebrows in the mildest of goads. “Why not.”

They clink glasses. Will’s not much for champagne, but this seems alright. “I don’t know what to do with myself,” Will says, baffled. “Usually I have papers to grade or files to read.”

“Do you miss it?”

Will tilts his head to look at Hannibal. “I mean, I didn’t exactly imagine myself as a stay-at-home parent,” he says slowly.

“You needn’t be, once you’re fully recovered.”

Will takes a thoughtful sip of his champagne. “I don’t know,” he says eventually. “I need to think.”

“We have time,” Hannibal assures him. “You don’t have to make any decisions right now. For now, your health is the main priority.”

“I’d like to stop falling asleep on you,” Will says with a sigh.

“I’ve no objections, but I prefer the cause to be having thoroughly worn you out, rather than illness.” Hannibal gives Will a look over his champagne glass like he’d like to be wearing Will out right this second.

Will has honestly never had any interest in joining the mile high club, and he still doesn’t, but there’s no reason in the world that he shouldn’t kiss Hannibal right then, the taste of champagne bright on his tongue. “Behave yourself,” Will whispers, “and maybe I’ll let you put your hands under the blanket later.”

“How scandalous,” Hannibal purrs, and kisses Will once more.

***

Maddie is less confused about what time it is than Will is, but she’s not any happier about it. They have a layover in Munich, and then a short flight to Budapest, where she fusses in Hannibal’s arms for the duration of the flight. When they finally disembark and collect their luggage, even Hannibal looks a little travel-worn. It’s evening, and the sun has set by the time their taxi drops them off in the heart of the city.

Hannibal booked a long-term apartment instead of a hotel room, and Will sees why when they open the door—it comes complete with a full kitchen.

But it’s the view of the Danube from the living room window that stops him in his tracks. The water reflects the lights from the bridges that span it, and when he opens the window, the cool wind carries the scent of river water, one that Will knows to his bones.

“Does it meet with your satisfaction?” Hannibal asks, coming up behind him and settling his hands on Will’s hips.

Will breathes in deep, and feels something in himself go still and pliant. “Yeah,” he says. “You did good.”

Hannibal kisses his neck. “Imagine how you’ll feel when you have dinner in you.”

“That’s not all I want in me,” Will says, which is actually more aspirational than likely at the moment, but what the hell, it is their honeymoon.

“I’ll see what I can—fit in our busy schedule when I return with dinner.”

Will groans, but can’t stop himself from smiling. “That was terrible. Get out, go get food.”

Hannibal gooses him once, and heads back out into the cool night.

***

The jet lag is real, but so is the espresso at the cafe around the corner. Hannibal has Maddie in her wrap carrier, and she’s babbling and smiling and patting his sweater and his face.

“No solids for you yet, darling,” Hannibal says, as she grabs a flake of croissant that made its way onto Hannibal’s sweater.

Will wrests it out of her tiny fist before she can put it in her mouth, and gives her her lamb toy instead. Her expression is so intensely Hannibal’s “not-amused” look that Will bursts out into laughter.

“What?” Hannibal asks, looking curious.

“Her face,” Will says, still smiling. “She made a face just like you do.”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Hannibal says, but despite his haughty tone, his eyes are crinkled with amusement.

“What should we do today?” Will asks. Hannibal bought return tickets a month from now, which seems ludicrous and like he won’t have a practice to return to if he keeps this up.

“Whatever we like,” he says simply. “Though I would like to purchase groceries, so perhaps we should start there.”

“Drugstore, too,” Will says, because they packed diapers, but not enough for a month.

“Shall we explore?” Hannibal asks Maddie. She gurgles in reply, and Hannibal smiles at her so sweetly that it makes Will’s breath catch.

***

When the apartment is stocked, Will and Maddie have a nap—Maddie in her popup travel crib in one bedroom, and Will in the master bedroom. He nearly falls asleep on Hannibal in the living area, but Hannibal shoos him off to sleep in a real bed.

“Shouldn’t I be trying to stay awake to reset my internal clock?” Will mutters.

“You’re recovering from a serious illness,” Hannibal reminds him placidly. He’s sketching the view of the river and the Buda side of the city from their window. “I’ll wake you.”

“Don’t let me sleep forever,” Will says grumpily, and that more than anything suggests that a nap is definitely in order.

Hannibal, of course, does not wake him up. Will surfaces from sleep to the smell of dinner cooking. When he stumbles blearily out into the great room, he’s all ready to be annoyed and maybe pick a little fight, but Hannibal has Maddie on his lap and is giving her a bottle, and he looks so peaceful and content that all the fight drains out of Will in an instant. He shuffles over to the sofa and sits next to Hannibal, leaning against him.

“Did you sleep well?” Hannibal asks quietly.

“Yeah,” Will admits. “I might have needed that. Thought you had plans for this afternoon, though.”

Hannibal turns his head to press a soft kiss to Will’s cheek. “We’re in no hurry. The Basilica will still be there tomorrow.”

“Is this what you imagined?” Will asks. “For our honeymoon, I mean.” He feels a little bad—Hannibal is doing a lot of caretaking. Will is exhausted just trying to keep up with Maddie; he doesn’t know how Hannibal is handling the both of them.

“I imagined taking you to Florence,” Hannibal says, tone meditative. “I spent time there as a young man. I think you would like it.”

Will frowns. “You should have said. We could have gone there instead.”

“We’ll go at some point. Perhaps when Madeleine is older and better able to appreciate all the city has to offer.”

Will imagines Maddie at six or seven years old, imagines Hannibal with a little more silver in his hair. He imagines her holding their hands, dwarfed by sprawling Renaissance canvases.

“What do you want for her?” Will asks. They didn’t exactly get a chance to compare parenting philosophies before Maddie arrived on his doorstep.

“Freedom,” Hannibal says. “Freedom to discover, to appreciate beauty where she finds it.”

Will can’t help himself. “What if she finds beauty in, I don’t know, soccer.”

The corner of Hannibal’s mouth twitches. “A healthy body, a healthy mind,” he says. “But I would like for her to have music lessons, regardless.”

“Going to start her on harpsichord young?”

“If she likes,” Hannibal says. “It is our responsibility and privilege as parents to guide her.” Maddie finishes her bottle, and Hannibal shifts her to his shoulder to burp her. “What kind of father will you be?”

“A good one,” Will says, and he wants it so much that his throat goes tight. “I want to be the best I can be for her.”

“You will be,” Hannibal says. “Of that, I have no doubt.”

Will lets his head rest on Hannibal’s shoulder. “What about you?”

Hannibal is quiet for a moment, his hand rubbing Maddie’s back gently. “I never imagined having children,” he says. “It seemed neither desirable nor prudent.”

“You weren’t on suppressants,” Will says, remembering that phone call on his porch, a seeming lifetime ago.

“No one can wish a child from the sky alone,” Hannibal says. “I had no need of suppressants, or so I thought.”

“And then Abigail happened?”

“You happened,” Hannibal says, and Will picks his head off his shoulder to look him in the eye. “And I did not understand the degree to which I desired you with me, never to be parted, entwined at the most elemental level.”

Will’s mouth parts in astonishment. He doesn’t know what to say to that, because it makes it sound as though Hannibal has—that all along, he’s—

“Do you love me?” Will asks, full of hope and fear and a yearning so fierce he can hardly stand it.

“Don’t you know?” Hannibal says, so terribly gently. “Dear Will, can’t you see?”

“Oh,” Will says, his voice trembling, because he can see it, the shape recognizable but overwhelming and all-encompassing, grand and terrifying on a scale he can barely imagine. And he knows, then, what no evidence could prove but feels truer than anything. “You’re the love of my life,” he says, and he doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the realization.

Hannibal chooses tears, welling in his eyes but not spilling over until he kisses Will desperately, as if he’ll never have another chance.

***

They stay close through dinner, both of them feeling a little emotionally frayed and not eager to leave each other’s sides.

“This is a little more well done than I intended,” Hannibal says ruefully after he rescues dinner from the oven.

“I don’t care,” Will says. “You know I’d be eating bologna sandwiches without you, right?”

Hannibal looks pained. “Please, do not remind me. Perhaps we should also have a discussion about pediatric nutrition.”

Will holds up his hands in surrender. “You want to feed her so she grows up strong and healthy. I’m on board with that.”

“I want her never to go hungry,” Hannibal says, and there’s a depth of emotion there that strikes too resonant a chord with Will, and he settles for nodding in sharp agreement.

They go for a walk after dinner through a park on the Danube. The nearby Chain Bridge glitters with lights; the boats sailing down the river cast a halo of light on the dark water around them. It’s chilly, but Will is wrapped up in a warm jacket, and Maddie is in her little bear sleeper. Hannibal pushes the stroller at a sedate pace that Will can handle, and when he stops and takes Will’s hand in his, his thumb stroking Will’s wedding ring, Will thinks he can’t imagine being happier than this.

***

They make repeated trips to the National Gallery in Buda Castle, once Will is up to walking across the bridge. They take the funicular up, because he can walk up to the castle or through it, but he can’t do both. There’s some truly appalling medieval art—Hannibal sits down in front of one to sketch, and when it becomes clear that Will is going to end up in the Virgin Mary’s place again, Will says, “Our baby is way cuter than that Jesus, who is probably going to give me nightmares. Take a lot of artistic license, okay.”

Will sometimes stays with Hannibal while he sketches, and sometimes walks around with Maddie. He spends some time just looking at a large painting called Women of Eger. The battlements smoke and snarl in the brushstrokes; he can’t take his eyes off the woman brandishing a sword against the fortress’s attackers. He’d overheard a tour guide talking about this painting—it was painted almost three centuries after the siege is depicts and it’s unlikely to be a historically accurate presentation, but when he looks at that woman with the sword, he thinks:

She slew her enemies for hearth and home, and lived.

***

They take leisurely boat rides up and down the Danube. Will loves the cool wind on his face, the sound of the rushing water, the bridges that arc overhead. He thinks about what he’d like to teach Maddie when she’s old enough—he wonders if she’ll have any interest in the intricacies of fly-tying, if someday he’ll hold her on his lap and let her look through the magnifying glass as he winds thread and feathers and bone.

He thinks about how clear-headed he feels now, how right it feels to have Maddie in his arms and Hannibal at his side. Garrett Jacob Hobbs no longer haunts him. He’s not nightmare free, but he never was.

He feels like he could be whole.

“What if we don’t go back?” he says to Hannibal, almost too quietly to be heard over the wind and the breaking of the water.

Hannibal curls an arm around his waist, and leans his head against Will’s. “We’d sell the houses, send for your dogs, and find an agreeable location to raise Madeleine.”

“Just like that?” Will says, wonderingly.

“Just like that.”

What would it be like to always feel this safe, to no longer bed down with killers?

He asks Dr. Amrani that in their next Skype appointment. She looks thoughtful.

“What would it be like?” she asks him.

He stares out at the Danube, over the tablet screen. “Good,” he says finally. “I think it would be good.”

“Let’s say you return to Baltimore, and everything is the way it was before you left. Would you still feel the way you do now?”

Will sighs and rubs one temple. “Not without some serious changes,” he says.

“What might those look like?”

Four months ago, he wasn’t prepared to think about that question seriously. Now, he lets the possibilities unspool between them, and it feels reckless and frightening to let them even pass his lips, but also:

He feels light, relieved, hopeful.

***

By the end of their month in Budapest, Maddie has progressed to doing a little baby push up when they put her on the floor for tummy time.

“She’s going to be mobile before we know it,” Will says, from where he is also on his stomach on the floor, making the lamb toy dance for Maddie’s amusement.

Hannibal’s expression is one of open adoration. “She’s very advanced,” he says, like he’s going to burst with fatherly pride.

“We’re going to have so much baby-proofing to do when we get home,” Will warns him.

Hannibal doesn’t look up from washing the breakfast dishes. “Then you do wish to return to Baltimore.”

“Yeah,” Will says. “At least, for now.” He lets Maddie capture the lamb and put it in her mouth. He thinks it’s mostly baby drool by weight, at this point. He takes in a deep breath and lets it out slowly. “I’m not so sure about the BAU.”

He can practically hear Hannibal biting his tongue. Eventually, Hannibal says, “You need not do what you have always done,” which is pretty fucking restrained for him; Will knows Hannibal wants him nowhere near Quantico. It would have been a fight a month ago, but Will has had some time to think, and several Skype appointments with Dr. Amrani on the subject.

“GWU has asked me a few times about teaching some classes,” he says carefully. “I always said no because it would have been a headache to juggle that and the Academy.” He eases himself up off the floor to join Hannibal at the kitchen sink. “And I’ve been thinking a little bit about getting my doctorate. They have a new program, mostly online. We’d still need some daycare for Maddie, and it’s not like I’d be raking in cash on an adjunct’s salary—”

Hannibal seizes him in his arms, wet hands clutching Will close. “I don’t care,” he says fiercely. “If you never brought a penny into our household, it would be fine. I want you to be happy—let me help you do this.”

“Hannibal—”

Please,” Hannibal says, mostly into Will’s neck.

Will lets his eyes close, and he holds Hannibal just as tightly as he’s being held. “I haven’t even applied yet, you know.”

Hannibal makes a dismissive noise, like no admissions committee would dare stand in Will’s way.

“And I’m not sure yet. But I wanted you to know what I was thinking about.” Will pulls back to look him in the eye. “Because it’s not just me anymore. We’re in this together, right?”

Hannibal holds his gaze for a long moment. “Always, dear Will.”

Chapter Text



Baltimore in May is lovely. It would be lovelier if there weren’t an agent in an unmarked car outside their house, but Jack apparently doesn’t feel the same way. Will appreciated the protection detail for the house while Abigail was dogsitting; he appreciates it less now that they’re home.

“What about my house in Wolf Trap?” he asks Jack.

Jack shakes his head. His eyes keep wandering to Maddie, who is on her tummy on a blanket on the floor, with Winston and Teddy lying just on the edges of the blanket and looking very attentive. “We had a team go over it, but nothing came up aside from the vandalism.”

Breaking all the mirrors is a specific kind of vandalism, but by itself, it’s not much to go on. Still, there’s something there in Jack’s expression that makes Will pause. “What aren’t you telling me?”

Jack sighs, and he sounds bone-tired. He rubs one hand over his face. “Will,” he says, and then stops. He’s looking at Maddie again, and there’s such an aching regret in his eyes that it makes Will’s throat tight, but Will knows what Jack will do. What he will always do.

Will decides to make it easy on him. “Leave the case files with me, and I’ll take a look.”

“What makes you think there’s a case?”

“The better question is, what’s making you worry about the connection between it and the break-in at my house?”

Jack pulls several files out of his briefcase. “Hannibal doesn’t know I gave you these.”

“He will, because I’m going to ask him his opinion. It’s your lucky day: two consultants for the price of one.”

“It’s your marriage,” Jack says, holding up his hands in surrender.

“It is,” Will says, just a hint of warning in his voice. “Will you stay for dinner?”

“Well—”

“You can give Maddie her bottle while I get the meat marinating,” Will says.

Jack acquiesces with a nod, and there’s a softness to his eyes when he looks at Maddie that Will has rarely seen before. “What’s for dinner?”

“Pork loin something or other,” Will says. “I don’t know, I just follow the recipe card he leaves out for me.”

***

Will doesn’t bring out the case file until Jack is gone and Maddie has been put to bed. He and Hannibal are sitting on the sofa in the study, and the dogs are sitting in front of the small fire.

“I said I’d look at it,” Will says. He takes a sip of the brandy Hannibal poured for them. “I’d rather look at it with you.”

“I’m not opposed. Provided, of course, that you feel comfortable reviewing the case at all.”

Will actually texted Dr. Amrani, who gave him the go-ahead, with the understanding that they’d talk about it in their next session. “I’m good,” he says. He opens the file and starts to read. He hands each page to Hannibal when he’s done reading. He doesn’t like to make notes when he first starts—he likes to take it all in, let it settle, and then start again from the beginning. Hannibal makes notes while he reads, all in the beautiful script he writes in as easily as breathing.

When they’ve been at it for nearly an hour, Will says, “Jack’s worried that the same person who broke into my house killed these two couples.”

“What do you think?”

Will lets his eyes close, and tilts his head to rest on the back of the couch. “Both sets of murders were committed by the same person. Mirrors broken in all three locations—that could be a coincidence.”

“You don’t think it is,” Hannibal says.

“No,” Will says. “I don’t. But these murders—they’re not what our killer is after. These are warmups. He’s after something else, something he hasn’t gotten yet.” He turns the file pages again in his memory, looks at the pictures of the shattered mirrors.

“What does he want?” Hannibal asks. The fascination in his voice sends a shiver down Will’s spine. He’s not fascinated by the killer—or at least, only marginally. He’s fascinated by Will, like he’d just as soon pin him and mount him for display, and that should not be turning Will on, but he knows how Hannibal would look at him, knows his eyes would be full of the passionate fervor of his regard, and Will—

He’s fascinated right back.

He opens his eyes to see that Hannibal is indeed staring at him with interest. “Let’s leave this for tomorrow,” Will says. He licks his lips. “Would it be weird if we—”

“I like watching your mind work,” Hannibal says, sliding one hand up Will’s thigh.

“Pervert,” Will accuses with a huff of laughter.

Parenthood has taught them both to seize their moments when they find them, so in relatively short order, they’re naked in bed, Will on his knees and holding the headboard. “Fuck, that’s deep,” he groans out. They don’t fuck in this position very often, because Hannibal has a whole thing about looking at Will’s face, and Will has a whole thing about letting him look all he wants. Right now, though, Will thinks Hannibal can live without staring deep into his eyes—well, until Will comes, anyway, which could be alarmingly soon. “Oh god,” he says. “Fuck, I need—”

Hannibal braces his hands down beside Will’s shoulders, their skin hot and slick where it touches. He feels surrounded by Hannibal, hollowed out by him, so that he’s filled up by the sound of Hannibal’s breathing in his ear, the sting of Hannibal’s teeth against his neck, the feel of his cock spreading him wide and getting him so fucking good. Will braces himself on the headboard and pushes back to meet him, and Hannibal growls and fucks him even harder.

Will feels half out of his mind, and when he turns his head back to try and catch Hannibal’s lips, he wonders suddenly if this is what the Ripper wants—does he want Will like this? Does he want Will spread out beneath him? Does he want—

“You’re on suppressants?” Hannibal asks suddenly.

“You watched me take them this morning,” Will says, a little bewildered.

Hannibal slows his pace, grinding in. “If I could,” he says, nipping at Will’s ear, “I’d put a baby in you.”

This is exactly the kind of talk that gets people in trouble, or so Will assumes. Too bad his hindbrain doesn’t give a shit. “Well, come on, daddy,” Will says. “Put your back into it.”

Hannibal does, and how.

When they’re lazing around in the afterglow—well, Will is lazing, Hannibal is very industriously fingering come back into Will’s ass—Will says, “That was just heat of the moment, right? I was kind of thinking we’d wait until Maddie was two.”

“Sensible,” Hannibal allows.

***

They’re at their second farmer’s market of the morning, and while it would be a stretch to say that Will doesn’t mind, he hadn’t quite realized how convenient it would be to have a baby to draw all the attention away from him. Turns out, he can answer the same five questions from strangers about Maddie, and no one asks him anything about himself, or thinks it’s weird that he looks at Maddie instead of looking at them. Strangers and little kids ask if they can pet the dogs, which Will readily agrees to; all other questions are fielded by Hannibal, who fills up canvas bags with their purchases and places them in the bottom of the stroller.

Will, Maddie, and the dogs wait outside Hannibal’s preferred butcher shop, and Will watches Hannibal have an animated conversation with the woman at the counter. Her hair is buzzed short, and her arms are well-muscled. Even if the card in the window didn’t proclaim the store to be woman-owned, Will would have guessed that she was the butcher. In short order, Hannibal has a number of paper-wrapped packages that go in the cooler bag. She follows him out, and holds out a bag to Will. “Something for your dogs,” she says, with a brisk warmth that Will thinks is aimed mostly at his dogs, but a little bit at him, too. Hannibal is clearly a favorite customer.

“Thanks,” he says. He peeks in the bag to see several large bones. He can give them to Winston and Teddy; Zoe’s too small and her jaw is the wrong shape, but he’ll give her another treat she can eat safely.

“We’ll see you next week,” Hannibal says, and they do; Saturday morning grocery shopping turns into a routine, and if it takes longer than Will hitting up the local supermarket, it’s pleasant to spend time outside, and Hannibal always enjoys himself.

Sometimes the meat goes in the basement freezer—Will accuses Hannibal of being a meat hoarder, but Hannibal just says that some cuts are too good to pass up.

***

“Are you sure?” Will asks for the fifth time.

“I believe we can do without you for one morning,” Hannibal says with patient amusement.

“It just seems kind of not right, to go do something I want to do and leave you at home with Maddie,” Will says, wincing. “I mean—it’s not like either of us have had much free time. There’s got to be something you want to do.”

“As it happens, yes,” Hannibal says. “There’s a production of Norma next weekend; I would be very pleased if you would accompany me.”

“I walked right into that,” Will says ruefully, but he agrees to it, because it really isn’t fair for him to go fishing and not give Hannibal the chance for a night out.

“Date night is important,” Beverly tells him when she picks him up for their fishing adventure. She’s never been fishing, but when Will asked her if she wanted to go, she accepted immediately.

“Date night?” Will says. He hadn’t exactly thought of it that way.

“Countess Will is going to be in the society pages,” she sing-songs to him.

“Please stop,” he begs. She does, but only because she get a nibble on her line.

Hannibal certainly does not stop—he presents Will with a custom tuxedo, a pair of cufflinks, and new shoes. Will submits to all of it up until Hannibal is about to put product in Will’s hair.

“I can do my own hair,” he grouses, and Hannibal looks almost hurt. And Will sighs, because Hannibal is clearly having such a good time getting Will gussied up, and, well—it is date night.

“Do you want me to shave, too?” he asks, only half-sarcastically. He ties the towel around his waist a little more securely.

Hannibal looks like he’s torn between an emphatic yes, and bending Will over the bathroom counter and missing the opera altogether.

“Go get our outfits ready and let me shave in peace,” Will says. “Otherwise we’re never getting out of here.”

They nearly don’t get out of there anyway, but that’s because Hannibal hands Will a scrap of lace that aspires to be underwear, and then sucks him off in his enormous walk-in closet when the sight of it barely containing Will is too much for the both of them.

On their way out the door, Will and Hannibal both kiss Maddie goodbye. “Be good for Abigail,” Hannibal tells her. To Abigail, he says, “Your dinner is in the fridge—”

“You told me already,” she says, with good-natured exasperation. “You’re going to be late.”

The second Hannibal’s back is turned, Will hands her two twenties and mouths pizza and then follows him out to the car.

***

Hannibal is having the time of his life.

“Hannibal, darling,” Mrs. Komeda says, swooping in and neatly displacing whatever goddamn lawyer was trying to one up Hannibal on his knowledge of how difficult the role of the titular Norma is and whether the soprano cast in the role is up to it. Hannibal clearly thinks that she is, and that the lawyer is a moron.

Mrs. Komeda and Hannibal trade air kisses, and then she does the same to Will. He does not air kiss back, but hopes that maintaining his ground with minimal flinching will do well enough.

Evidently, it does. “How lovely to see you two again,” Mrs. Komeda says. “You’re looking a little more rested then you were at your wedding.” It’s pitched just loud enough that the people around them can hear, and Will can practically see that start to disseminate throughout the crowd.

“We had a lovely honeymoon in Budapest,” Hannibal says. He keeps Will’s hand tucked in the crook of his elbow.

“I would have guessed Paris or Milan, but trust you to choose somewhere a little more unusual,” she says.

Hannibal looks at Will with an expression so adoring that Will’s sure it can be seen from space. “It was Will’s choice.”

“Oh?” she says. “Why, you have hidden depths, Will. And how is darling Madeleine?”

Will surprises all three of them by saying, “Good.” And then, slightly awkwardly, “Would you like to see a picture?”

“Yes, absolutely,” she says warmly.

Will takes his phone out of his pocket and shows her a picture of all three of them on their second to last day in Budapest—Hannibal took approximately one million selfies of them, and this is the one that made the cut. To be fair, the picture is a good one—Maddie’s expression is one of burbling joy, Hannibal is smiling gently, eyes crinkled, and Will looks relaxed and just—blindingly happy.

He was. He still is.

“They get big so quickly,” Mrs. Komeda says. “Hard to believe some days that my two have families of their own.”

Whatever she’s about to say next is forestalled by someone else elbowing in. “Dr. Lecter—”

“Graham-Lecter,” she corrects coolly, taking his measure.

“Beg pardon,” the stranger says. He’s very tall, and there’s a distinctive scar from surgery to remove a harelip.

“No harm done,” Hannibal says easily. “I don’t believe we’ve been introduced. Dr. Hannibal Graham-Lecter.” They shake hands, and then Hannibal says, “This is my husband, Will.”

“Paul Crane,” the man says, eyes fixed on Will’s face—and Will knows instantly that the name is a false one. When he shakes Will’s hand, it’s as if he simultaneously can’t bear it and wants it too much. “Very nice to meet you.”

The lobby lights dim briefly. “Perhaps we might resume our conversation during intermission,” Hannibal says politely, but from the way his fingers tighten on Will’s hip, Will thinks there’s no fucking chance of that.

“Enjoy the show,” Crane says, and Will feels a shiver run down his spine as Hannibal steers them away.

***

Opera is not precisely Will’s thing, but he can admire the technical difficulty of the performance, and the music is pretty good. The story itself is kind of ancient tabloid-esque—Druid priestess Norma and enemy Roman dude secretly wish for two children from the sky together, except he’s a dick and even though she broke her vows for him, he’s been hooking up with a younger priestess, who of course has no idea about part where he’s cheating on Norma.

Hannibal is riveted, and he clearly finds it far more emotionally affecting that Will does, which is an odd reversal of their usual positions. He grabs Will’s hand during Norma and Adalgisa’s duet and doesn’t let go until the end of the first act, when he applauds fervently.

Intermission is in some kind of fancy lounge, presumably for people who donate to the opera. All Will cares about is that there are fewer people around, although they all seem to want to talk to Hannibal. It’s a weird kind of invisibility—Will is introduced, hands are shaken, and then he’s mostly ignored while he drinks whiskey more expensive than he usually indulges in. Hannibal drinks champagne and leaves one arm curled very possessively around Will’s waist while he holds court with a blur of people.

Will wonders briefly about the man from the lobby, but he’s nowhere to be seen.

***

Somehow, he did not expect Hannibal to comprehensively lose his shit when Norma offers herself up as a sacrifice and then her Roman dirtbag boyfriend jumps onto the pyre with her, but he does. Hannibal weeps, and Will instinctively reaches for the diaper bag they do not have with them, which is ridiculous, because of course Hannibal is carrying an actual handkerchief.

“Are we heading home?” Will asks when they’ve managed to escape outside and the valet brings the Bentley around.

“We could,” Hannibal says, and gives Will a close look. Will might chafe from that kind of scrutiny from anyone else, but he knows Hannibal just wants to make sure he’s not overwhelmed or tired or otherwise in need of a retreat.

“Or,” Will says, “we could—get a drink.”

“We could,” Hannibal says, voice lowered and a little raspy in a way that makes Will hot under the collar.

“I’m told some people do that,” Will says. “You know, on dates.”

Hannibal drives them to some place that doesn’t have a sign over the door and is apparently some kind of modern hipster speakeasy, which makes Will want to roll his eyes. But they get a cozy little table in a corner with a curved velvet bench that means they’re sitting right next to each other, and Hannibal’s eyes shine in the dim lighting, and fine, maybe it is a little romantic.

The cocktail menu is full of some unbelievable bullshit, but Hannibal orders an Old Fashioned, and Will follows his lead. While waiting for their drinks, Will takes a look around. They’re maybe the most formally dressed, but they don’t look out of place. For a moment, he imagines an alternate reality, one where he and Hannibal went on scores of dates just like this one, before they got married and wished a baby out of the sky.

“What are you thinking of?” Hannibal asks. They’re sitting so closely that Hannibal doesn’t need to speak about a murmur for Will to hear.

Will is granted a temporary reprieve by the arrival of their drinks. He raises his glass and Hannibal does the same, clinking his glass against Will’s before settling his arm along the edge of the booth behind Will’s back. Hannibal, because he is fundamentally evil, takes advantage of the position to put his mouth nearly at Will’s ear. “Will,” he says coaxingly.

Will shivers a little—Hannibal is distressingly familiar with Will’s ear thing, and clearly not above using it to his advantage. “I was just thinking of—what if we’d done this, you know, the normal way. Gone on dates first. Necked in public.”

“Is that a request?” Hannibal breathes, and bites gently at Will’s earlobe.

Will gasps, and then takes an unsteady sip of his drink. “Just a hypothetical.”

Hannibal is silent for a moment. “We’re neither of us normal.”

“You sure know how to sweet talk a guy.”

“I wouldn’t change anything,” Hannibal says, and it stops Will in his tracks.

“Really?” he says. “Encephalitis, surprise baby, various psychopaths—none of it?”

“Not a thing,” Hannibal says, soft but resolute. “I want you just as you are.”

“Oh,” Will says faintly. “I— Hannibal—”

“Finish your drink,” Hannibal says. “Let me take you home.”

Will pulls back just enough to look him in the eye. “We don’t have to go back just yet. I’m not tired or anything.”

“Let me rephrase: I would very much like to take you home.”

“Oh,” Will says, and looks up through his eyelashes. “Well. I guess that depends on what date this is. I wouldn’t want you to get the wrong idea about me.”

Hannibal practically smolders at him. “I’ll be a perfect gentleman.”

“And here I was hoping you were going to take off these panties with your teeth.”

“Not that perfect,” Hannibal amends swiftly, and leaves more money than their check could possibly be on the table before taking Will by the hand and leading him out into the night.

***

The panties are a casualty, but Will suspects more will appear in his underwear drawer soon. Give him an inch, and Hannibal will take a mile, where a mile is probably even sluttier panties and a matching garter belt.

Will sleeps the sleep of the very well-fucked, and when he first wakes up, Hannibal shushes him and tells him to go back to sleep. When he wakes again, he’s alone in bed. He heads downstairs to find Hannibal putting the finishing touches on an impressive spread, and kisses him good morning. They have a leisurely brunch with Abigail, and Will says nothing at all about how well she’s hidden the pizza box in the recycling.

It’s a very peaceful Sunday.

***

Tuesday is a shitshow.

Will has therapy in the morning, which in and of itself is not bad. Dr. Amrani seems like she is trying very hard to understand why Will doesn’t feel threatened by Chesapeake Ripper.

“You believe he killed Abel Gideon for you,” she says slowly.

Will gives her a short, impatient nod.

“How did that make you feel?”

Will makes himself look her in the eye. She’s a good person, a kind person. He’s told her some fucked up shit already. He doesn’t trust her as much as he trusts Hannibal, but maybe that’s not a fair comparison.

He takes in a deep breath. “It made me feel—safe.”

“Why?”

“The Ripper thinks of his victims as little better than pigs. If he thought of me like that, he wouldn’t have gifted me with Gideon’s death.”

“Was it a gift? What did he get out of it?”

That part is a little more uncomfortable. “I don’t know that he feels the way normal people do. I’m not sure he’s capable of it. But he got my attention, that’s for sure. Beyond that—he took organs, as usual—”

“What does he do with them?”

Will thinks about what did he get out of it and sounders of three or four and then he closes his eyes in sudden realization. “He’s eating them,” he says with bone-dead certainty. “I’m sorry—I have to call Jack right away—”

She looks slightly shaken, but covers for it well and waves him in the direction of her waiting room.

Jack picks up right away. “Will, tell me your butt is in that car I sent and you’re on your way.”

“What car?” Will asks. “Jack, the Chesapeake Ripper is a cannibal, that’s what he’s doing with the organs—”

“Then you can ask him all about it as soon as you get here. We found Miriam Lass alive early this morning, and she knows who the Ripper is.”

“Who?” Will asks, flabbergasted.

“Dr. Frederick Chilton.”

“You have to be fucking kidding me,” Will hisses, and hangs up to call Hannibal to let him know he won’t be able to come home to watch Maddie during Hannibal’s afternoon appointments.

***

Alana is questioning Chilton when Will gets there. He joins Jack and Miriam Lass, who are watching on the other side of the glass.

“This is completely absurd!” Chilton protests.

“A missing FBI trainee escaped from your basement, Frederick,” Alana says, her tone measured.

He rolls his eyes extravagantly. “You can’t seriously think I kept someone in my basement for two years—I can’t even keep houseplants alive for a week!”

“That’s him?” Will asks quietly. It’s not—it can’t be. It feels completely wrong.

“Beverly is running analysis on evidence found in his basement,” Jack says. He’s laser-focused on the interaction unfolding in the interview room.

Miriam is wound tight. There’s no way she should be in this room right now. Jack must have done it over Alana’s objections.

“Miriam,” Will says, as gently as he would to a wounded animal. “Are you sure?”

She’s trembling. Her voice is rusty with disuse but firm as she says, “It’s him. He’s the Ripper.”

It’s ludicrous. After two years of keeping her captive, the Ripper just—allows her to escape? It can’t have been an accident.

“Can I ask you some questions?” Will asks her. Jack frowns at him from behind Miriam’s back, but Will just tilts his head toward the door and says, “The cafeteria still makes terrible coffee.”

She nods slowly. They make their way to the cafeteria, and he follows her as she makes a beeline for the coffee.

“I think I ate food,” she says quietly. “Not a feeding tube. I’d look worse if it had been that.”

“Do you want to try some?” he asks.

She settles on oatmeal, which is probably the safest choice, all things considered. The coffee is safe for no one, but he’s not going to stand in her way.

She takes one sip of coffee and makes a face. “It feels like no time has passed at all. It’s—hard to believe it’s been two years.”

“What do you remember?”

She closes her eyes. “I never saw his face. Just a bright light. He told me I was in a safe place. And I think I remember some other things, but I don’t know if they’re real, or—” she trails off.

They both know what trauma can do to memory.

“What things seem like they weren’t real?”

“I heard a baby crying,” she says, bewildered. “And I heard someone singing, but I don’t think it was him. It went like—” she hums a little bit, and it takes Will a moment to realize it’s Bowie’s Starman.

“What else?” Will makes himself ask.

“A song my music box used to play when I was a kid,” she says, with a deprecating smile. “Kind of doubt the Ripper has a baby and my music box with its dancing ballerina inside.”

“That definitely wasn’t in my profile,” he says.

And then he thinks: god fucking dammit, Hannibal.

Chapter Text



Probably Jack intends for him to stay, but Will grabs a junior agent who was in his class two years ago—he struggled in class, but actually made an effort to come to office hours to do better, which was the kind of thing Will remembered—and asked him to drive him home to Baltimore.

Will is so furious he’s nearly numb with it.

He knows that a normal person would walk in the door, grab the baby, and run. A normal person would be terrified. A normal person might vomit from the knowledge that his husband has been killing people and almost definitely feeding him their organs.

Will is not and never has been normal.

By the time he walks in the front door, he’s spoiling for the most apocalyptic first married fight in the history of humanity. It takes some of the wind out of his sails to find Hannibal giving Maddie a bottle in the kitchen.

“Hi,” Will says. “Did you find someone to watch Maddie this afternoon?”

Hannibal shakes his head. “I did several of my appointments over the phone. Not ideal, but workable in an emergency.”

An emergency of his own damn making. Unfuckingbelievable.

“We need to talk,” Will says tightly.

Hannibal’s eyebrows go up. God only knows what he’s imagining this is about. Childcare. Backyard renovations. How fucking cold his feet are when he tangles his legs up with Will’s in bed. “Of course,” he says. “I’ll put Madeleine down for her nap, and join you in the sitting room?”

Will nods shortly and stalks off to the room to wait. When Hannibal comes back downstairs, he sits on the sofa and aims an attentive look at Will. “What would you like to discuss?”

Will sits down in a chair, then immediately springs back up. He’s full of a nervous, angry energy, and he can’t be still right now. He strides over the fireplace. Their wedding pictures on the mantel look back at him, and he lets his eyes slide shut for just a moment.

“This is our house, right. Yours and mine, together,” Will says.

He turns to look at Hannibal, who nods cautiously. “I had you added to the deed for this house and the rest of my properties. You signed the paperwork.”

Will barely remembers that, but it’s not the point. “This is our home,” he says. “We’ve built a life here—you and me and Maddie, and Abigail and the dogs. Tell me you understand that.”

Hannibal nods again. “Yes, Will.”

“Then I should get a say over any houseguests,” Will bites out. “You tell me right now, Hannibal—is there anyone else in our basement?”

Hannibal’s expression goes disturbingly blank. “Will—”

“Shut up,” Will hisses. “You just shut up and listen. This isn’t just you, anymore—and I can’t believe I have to specify this, but here is what I am not okay with: you keeping hostages and murdering serial killers in our basement. As in, in the same house with our daughter, who is going to be crawling and then walking before we know it. How fucking dare you take that kind of risk?”

Hannibal has the gall to look both offended and a little hurt. “I assure you, I took every precaution.”

“That’s really not good enough for me,” Will says. “You got lucky. The soundproofing isn’t as good as you think it is, because Miriam Lass heard me singing to our baby, and now we have to hope that your stupid fucking brainwashing holds and that Jack doesn’t get curious, or I’m going to be single parenting and you’re going to be—you’re going to be—” he stops, because taking in a breath is surprisingly hard just then, and his eyes prick with tears. “Tell me something— can you stop?”

“I did stop,” Hannibal says.

“Okay first of all—you didn’t stop, you made murder art out of Gideon and wrapped it in a bow for me, and second of all—you haven’t stopped because you wanted to. You stopped because you, what, didn’t have time for all your hobbies?”

“Childrearing and marriage on top of a full practice is quite time-consuming,” Hannibal admits.

Will gives him a flat stare, and stalks over to where Hannibal is sitting and looks down at him. “This stops. Right now. You don’t bring anyone into the house without running it past me. That’s some basic common courtesy. Promise me that.”

Hannibal tilts his head up to look at him. “You don’t wish to forbid it altogether?”

“I’d have to regret you killing Gideon,” Will says. He puts his hands on Hannibal’s shoulders and leans down. “I don’t.”

Hannibal’s eyes are wide as he gazes up at Will, as if he were the most extraordinary thing under the sun. “You liked my gift, then.”

“I liked it, except for the part where you recklessly endangered our family. If we’re in this together, I get veto power.”

“Would that be enough for you? Would you be content to have my leash?”

“It’s going to be a short fucking leash to start with,” Will says, and it sends a thrill down his spine, which he is aware is fucked up, but this is all fucked up and he wants Hannibal all the same. “Promise me.”

“I promise,” Hannibal says, with all the solemnity of his wedding vows.

All the fight goes out of Will then. He kneels on the couch, straddling Hannibal’s lap, and tucks his face against Hannibal’s shoulder. “I should make you sleep on the couch for like, a year,” he mutters.

Hannibal’s arms encircle him carefully, as if uncertain of his welcome.

“And you’re going to clean out the freezer, you cocky asshole. I can’t believe no one’s figured it out before now.”

“Only you,” Hannibal says. “Clever boy, it could only have been you.” He strokes Will’s nape unsteadily.

Will feels shaky, himself. He clings to Hannibal and Hannibal clings right back. “Are we—okay?” Will asks.

“We compromised to resolve a conflict,” Hannibal says. “I think we’re doing rather well.”

Will takes in a steadying breath and lets it out slowly. “So, what. Is it time for makeup sex?”

“If we’re quick,” Hannibal says, and then Will kisses him and they frantically undo each other’s belts.

***

The next morning, Jack calls while Will is feeding Maddie and Hannibal is making breakfast.

“Will, that case I had you look at—he killed an entire family last night. I have an agent on the way to pick you up—”

“Jack,” Will interrupts. He looks at Hannibal—anyone else might be afraid of a killer on the loose, but Will holds the leash of the Chesapeake Ripper and it makes him feel safer than any security system. It makes him feel powerful, and he finds the strength to do what he needs to do to keep his family safe in turn.

“Jack, I quit.”

***

GWU falls all over itself to admit Will to its brand new forensic psychology PhD program, and snaps him up to teach an intro course for the fall semester.

“You could look maybe a little surprised,” Will grouses when he gives Hannibal the news that night over dinner.

“You’re an alumnus of the program, and you taught at the FBI Academy for several years,” Hannibal says. “I assume they gave you a full fellowship?”

Will narrows his eyes, and then heaves a sigh. “Yes. And they want to put a profile of me on the website.”

Hannibal looks unbearably smug.

“This means we really have to figure out an actual childcare situation, you know.” Will puts another spoonful of pureed sweet potato in Maddie’s mouth. Hannibal makes all the baby food, which is probably just as well, because it turns out their child can identify organic produce and at seven months, already has some very strong opinions about food. He wonders if she’ll ever go through a mac and cheese only phase as a toddler.

“I’ve been meaning to speak with you about that,” Hannibal says, and dabs at his mouth with a napkin. “Abigail has done very well with Madeleine. Perhaps we might negotiate a live-in arrangement.”

Will eats a few bites of his own dinner before getting another spoonful into Maddie. “She needs her own space. A crappy apartment with roommates is part of the college experience.”

Hannibal makes a moue of distaste.

“You’re going to be such a nightmare when Maddie goes to college,” Will says with fond exasperation. “We can talk to Abigail about watching Maddie when I’m on campus, as long as it doesn’t interfere with her class schedule.”

“Of course her education must come first.”

Will manages to eat more of his dinner. It’s gone slightly cold, which he knows drives Hannibal a little wild, but if Hannibal insists on them eating dinner together, it’s the price one of them has to pay. Maddie’s got sweet potato smeared around her mouth, and Hannibal is giving her a besotted look.

Will sighs and relents, just a little. “I know you’re going to pay her rent, and I don’t even mind. Just don’t go overboard on the place.”

“Dear Will,” Hannibal says. “I would never.”

***

He doesn’t, but only because Abigail is shockingly sensible. “I don’t want to get used to this,” Abigail says to Will in a quiet moment. “I need to be able to stand on my own two feet when I graduate.”

Will wraps one arm around her shoulders. “You’re going to be alright,” he says. “And—it’s okay to ask for help if you need it. You’re not going to stop being part of our family when you’re done with school.”

Her mouth quirks up into a smile. “You’re going to have like, five kids by then. That’s a lot of saving for college in your future.”

“Two,” Will insists. “Two kids is plenty.”

“Sure,” she says, with affectionate disbelief.

Predictably, Hannibal redirects his impulses to a new wardrobe for Will for the fall semester. And because Will does, in fact, love him, he lets Hannibal talk him into all sorts of things that are finer and more expensive than he would ever buy for himself.

In any case: it keeps Hannibal occupied, and an occupied Hannibal is one that doesn’t have time to ask Will for any particular permission.

***

Online coursework is basically Will’s dream. He doesn’t have to talk to anyone—the most interaction he has to do is read frankly misguided discussion posts from his small cohort of fellow doctoral students, and since part of his course participation is to respond to said posts, he’s getting points for telling them specifically how wrong they are.

He does his coursework and preps for the class he’s teaching while Madeleine naps, and makes good use of the train ride to and from campus on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

“I miss being able to drive,” he tells Hannibal that night when they’ve settled down in bed. “But I think I’ll keep taking the train to campus even when I’m cleared. It helps me plug through grading.”

“And how are your students, Professor Graham-Lecter?” Hannibal leans in to kiss his neck.

“They exist,” Will says, and tilts his head to give Hannibal more access.

“Any particular teacher’s pets?”

“I changed my workplace, not my personality,” Will says acerbically.

He can feel Hannibal’s smile against his skin before he takes Will’s earlobe between his teeth. Will gasps a little, and then Hannibal kisses down his neck and starts to suck a mark into his skin.

“Quit,” Will says, but it comes out like a breathy plea for more.

“How else will I make certain your bevy of adoring undergrads know you’re spoken for?”

“I have a ring on my finger,” Will points out. Hannibal just sucks another stinging kiss where his neck meets his shoulder. “Let me guess—you think I need a pearl necklace.”

Hannibal sticks a hand down Will’s shorts. “Well, since you suggested it.”

Will laughs a little, but the laugh peters out into a moan as Hannibal wraps his hand around him, and then Hannibal yanks the cover down and pulls Will’s shorts off, and replaces his hand with his mouth. Hannibal’s blowjobs were plenty good when they first started having sex, but now—now Hannibal knows exactly what makes Will tick, and he doesn’t hesitate to get one slick finger in Will to play with his prostate while he mouths at the head of Will’s cock. It makes Will plant his feet into the mattress and push up into Hannibal’s mouth, and push down and ride Hannibal’s finger, and he writhes and pants and swears and then says, “Fuck me already, you know you want to be in me, you know you want—”

Hannibal pulls off, and then he settles between Will’s legs and Hannibal doesn’t even bother with more fingers, just slicks his cock up and pushes in, slow and confident.

“Might as well admit you want to tattoo me,” Will says, digging his heel into Hannibal’s back. “Might as well admit you want to be so deep inside me, no one else can ever touch me.”

Hannibal’s eyes are dark, and Will almost registers the sound of Hannibal smacking his ass before he feels it. “You’re mine.”

“Yours,” Will says, still reverberating with pleasure. “Do that again.”

Hannibal does—again, and again, and again, and Will feels like he’s out of his mind with how good it feels, how much he wants it, wants more, wants Hannibal’s mark on his skin, indelible, permanent—

Hannibal comes with a snarl, and he doesn’t even take a moment to catch his breath before he flips Will over and sticks his tongue in Will’s ass, licking and sucking his come out of his hole, and Will sobs and groans and shakes apart, coming over the sheets underneath.

“If you want to tattoo your name on my ass, we’re getting a professional,” Will warns him sleepily. “I don’t care how much you’ve practiced.”

Hannibal presses a kiss to his hole, long and lingering. “Marriage is a compromise, I suppose.”

***

Hannibal, being an unmitigated asshole, gets him an actual pearl necklace. It seems nice, not that Will knows anything about pearls. He’ll give Hannibal this, though—it does look pretty banging with the ivory lingerie that has its own special drawer in the closet.

***

As an adjunct, Will has what amounts to a closet for an office that he shares with another adjunct who he never sees. Since he only uses the room for office hours and as a receptacle for his campus mail, he doesn’t much mind.

The first letter comes in a campus mail envelope. His name and office number are scribbled on the front, and he assumes it’s yet another flyer for some campus event that someone is hoping he’ll post on his office door.

It’s not. It’s handwritten letter, effusive in its praise and unsettling in its fixation on him.

Professor Graham-Lecter, it begins. I think you’re the only one who can help me Become.

It’s not the first disturbing letter Will has ever received; this one isn’t even particularly threatening. His mailbox at the Academy was stuffed full of letters Will had no desire to read after shooting Garrett Jacob Hobbs.

The letter has a Chinese character at the end in lieu of a signature—it doesn’t take him long to figure out that it’s the character for dragon. Part of him wants to roll his eyes, because this reads like white male, 30-40, and frankly, Will would like this person to take their culturally appropriative crazy somewhere else. He doesn’t think it’s one of his students—he has a whole lecture hall full of fresh-faced undergrads, and very few nontraditional students.

He thinks about trying to get prints off the letter, but he knows there won’t be any. He tucks the letter in his bag, and between teaching and his own coursework, not to mention Maddie getting alarmingly better at crawling, it goes decidedly on the backburner.

***

It’s nearly a month before he receives another letter.

It’s not really a letter at all. It’s a photocopy of a painting in what seems to be an art history textbook. The caption says it’s a painting by Blake—The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed In Sun. The Dragon’s tail is curled around the woman, and below it, his mystery correspondent has written:

You didn’t recognize me when we met. But you will when I Become.

Will sighs, and texts Beverly. She’s waiting for him at the back of his classroom when he wraps up his lecture on criminal insanity.

“Looking pretty sharp,” she says, giving him a once over.

He narrows his eyes at her, but she just grins at him. He leads the way to his office—“Nice closet,” Beverly says—and he shows her both letters.

“I don’t think there will be any evidence,” he says. “But just in case.”

She takes the letters in the plastic bags he’s stored them in. “You didn’t have to wait for a second one to call me,” she says, and her eyes are concerned. “Why did you?”

“They aren’t threats.”

“Okay, but you’re also the person who doesn’t think the Chesapeake Ripper was threatening you, so let’s agree that our definitions of ‘things that should freak you out’ don’t look anything alike.”

It seems like forever ago. He remembers that smiling would be inappropriate. “This person thinks I can help them. If he’s telling the truth, he’s met me before. He could have come to my class—a lot of people came during the add/drop period, and I had to turn them away because the class was full.”

“Sure you don’t want to turn these over to campus police?”

He gives her a look that he hopes adequately conveys his scathing disdain. It earns him a snort of amusement.

“I’ll let you know what I find,” she says. “Come on, let’s go get some lunch.”

Hannibal, of course, packed him a lunch, but Will gamely follows her off to the horror that is the student union in search of cheese fries.

At home that night, he shows Hannibal pictures he took of both letters. Hannibal is intrigued.

“He believes you a source of wisdom, a guide,” he says thoughtfully. “This is a very shy boy, Will. He will not emerge from the shadows until he is driven to do so.”

“By what?”

“By whom,” Hannibal corrects, eyes hooded as he gazes upon the Dragon.

***

“Look,” Will says. “I know this is probably really plebeian, but can we go traditional for Thanksgiving and pass on the turducken this time?”

Hannibal tastes the sauce he’s stirring on the stove and puts the spoon down. Maddie toddles on unsteady feet into his legs and holds up a plastic cup for him to take. “Thank you, my darling,” he says, very sincerely. Maddie looks overjoyed and babbles at him. He hands the cup back to her. “Please take this to daddy,” he says, and Maddie begins the laborious process of making her way back to Will, before collapsing halfway in the middle of the kitchen floor next to a pile of her other plastic kitchen toys, and Winston, who views Maddie as a convenient purveyor of all kinds of snacks.

“I was not planning on a turducken,” Hannibal says, and Will can hear the air quotes.

“Right, you were probably planning on that with a goose in there, too.”

Hannibal’s amused-despite-himself smile is all in his eyes. “And if I was not planning on a goose?”

Will gives him a look. “You fell asleep on me last night,” he reminds him. “New house rule: you’re too tired for sex, you’re too tired for anything else.”

“I assure you, I won’t be too tired tonight,” Hannibal says.

It sends a frisson of heat down Will’s spine. He looks at Hannibal up through his lashes, just a little flirty. “We’ll see.”

Maddie chooses that moment to reign joyful destruction upon her pile of plastic kitchenware, and then tries to put her teething ring back in her mouth.

“I think that’s warm now, baby,” he tells her, when she gums at it unhappily. “Hannibal, can you give her a hand?”

Hannibal obediently pulls a frozen teething toy in the shape of a hand out of the freezer.

“That’s still not funny,” Will tells him.

They look at their child, gnawing on a blue plastic hand. Hannibal arches an eyebrow.

“It’s maybe a little funny,” Will concedes.

***

It’s been ten years since he experienced finals week as a student, and time has dulled his memory of how much work has be done in a short period of time, and now it’s compounded with his teaching duties. He makes up a schedule and tries to stick to it as much as possible.

“This is the worst,” he complains to Hannibal one night.

“I also found myself having to relearn how to be a student when I went back for psychiatry,” Hannibal says. “It was challenging with adult responsibilities I did not have in medical school, and I did not have a family then.”

“That makes me feel a little better,” Will says, and kisses him, because honestly, Hannibal is always pretty great at telling Will what he needs to hear.

He turns in his final papers, and somehow finishes all of his grading and makeup exams, and takes his stack of final exams home to grade. He has until Tuesday to turn the grades in, but he’d like to get through as much as possible before the holiday party Hannibal talked him into letting them host this weekend.

He’s grading in the sitting room when he opens one blue book to find the Dragon’s handwriting.

It’s not enough. I need more—I need your help to find what I need to Become.

Will frowns. The rest of the book is full of more of the same, all of it vague and unhinged and talking about needing to consume power. The last page says: You will See me.

He scrubs his eyes. He’s too tired for this shit, and he has another 75 exams to grade. His phone is charging in the kitchen, so he sighs and levers himself out of his chair. Beverly will want to know right away, and frankly, it’s probably time to let campus police and his department chair know as well.

Hannibal is upstairs giving Maddie her bath and going through her bedtime routine, which is why Will freezes when he hears the floor creak right outside the back door mudroom. He slides a knife out of the block on the counter.

“Who’s there?” he says steadily, a kind of calm coming over him from his years as a beat cop.

He sees a shadow move, and a tall figure comes just enough into the light that Will can see his face. He’s met this man once before—fuck, at the opera, he’s been stalking Will for six months at least—no, more than that, it wasn’t the Tooth Fairy who broke into his house in Wolf Trap, it was —

It was him. This man, the Tooth Fairy, the Great Red Dragon, they’re one and the same.

“Professor,” the Dragon says. “I need your help. I need to find the Chesapeake Ripper.”

Will does the least helpful thing he could do in the moment: he laughs, because of-fucking-course.

***

He has a serial killer in his house who wants to talk to him, and it’s not the one he married. Hannibal is going to come downstairs at any minute, and Will knows the Dragon has been watching them for weeks, and he’ll be prepared to kill them all if he’s startled. He may be planning on it anyway.

“I can’t help you,” Will says.

“But you know,” the Dragon says. “You must know. He killed for you, he must—he must—”

Will adjusts his grip on the knife he’s holding behind his back. “He must what?”

“He gave you power. He clothed you in sun and crowned you with stars. How could he, unless you See him?” He sounds anguished, and in that moment, Will sees not the Dragon, but the man, and this one has loved and fears for the one he loves, so much.

“I can’t help you,” Will repeats softly.

The Dragon twitches. “You won’t help me. You won’t, but you know,” he says heavily. His shoulder shift and his body moves sinuously, restlessly. “I will consume the Ripper’s power, and I will Become, and you will bear witness.”

Will imagines ten ways to incapacitate him, and then the Dragon says, “I will persuade you,” and heads for the door out of the kitchen that leads for the hall and the stairs to the second floor.

And in that moment, Will knows he cannot allow it, that if the Dragon leaves this room, he will rain destruction on his family and his home.

Before he crosses the threshold, Will clenches his hand around the handle of Hannibal’s knife and stabs the Dragon in the back, once, twice, blood spilling over his hands before the Dragon roars and turns on him.

The Dragon has the advantage of both height, reach, and weight. Will has the advantage of having delivered a serious wound and being in his own home, and he is sure as fuck not going to go down here, not when Hannibal and Maddie are depending on him. He keeps the kitchen island between them, but he’s not entirely expecting the Dragon to rush him, vaulting the island to get within reach.

Will grabs the cast iron skillet off the stove, and his first swing is off target—he gets the Dragon in the shoulder, who grunts and falls back a few steps. It’s just the time Will needs to heft the skillet again, and this time, swing it hard into the Dragon’s skull, which drops him like a rock. He’s dazed but still grabs for Will and brings him down to his knees before grabbing for Will’s throat, and the knife handle is slippery with blood but Will hangs on, and stabs the Dragon over and over and over until Hannibal’s voice breaks his trance.

“He’s dead, Will,” he says gently.

There’s blood everywhere, and Will is breathing hard, and in that moment, he’s never felt more victorious, more alive.

“Maddie—is Maddie okay?” he asks, adrenaline thrumming through his veins.

“Madeleine and I are perfectly safe,” Hannibal assures him. He looks at Will with such awe, with such all-consuming love that Will thinks the Dragon was half right. Hannibal gave him power, but it was to have something worth defending at all costs. Will himself slew the Dragon in defense of hearth and home, and he stands over his corpse with no remorse or regret.

Well, maybe one regret. “Sorry about your knife,” Will says. The edge is probably all fucked up. “And your pan.”

“Oh, my love,” Hannibal breathes, and pulls Will into his arms, blood and all. “Didn’t I tell you? Every knife I have is yours. Will, my darling, you’re glorious, you’re perfect—”

Will kisses him, because that’s about enough goopy cannibal lovetalk, and also, he needs in Hannibal’s pants right now.

“Let’s get him down to the basement first,” Hannibal says, stilling Will’s hands at his belt buckle.

“Right,” Will says. He has an almost out of body experience when he looks at the blood-covered floor. “We’re going to have to replace the flooring in here before your party this weekend.”

“Well worth it,” Hannibal says, and kisses him again before going to fetch plastic sheeting.

***

 

Epilogue:

Will didn’t fight Hannibal very hard about Paris for their second wedding anniversary. They go over New Year’s, which is kind of insane and a lot of people, but since they leave Maddie with Alana and her new wife, it’s not as stressful as it would have been with a two-year-old.

Paris is a glittering dream, and Will appreciates the chance to walk along the avenues in the evening, Hannibal’s gloved hand in his. But he’s glad to come home, glad to pick up Maddie from Alana and Margot’s house.

“She was so good,” Margot says. She rests a hand on the rounded curve of her stomach, and she and Alana trade a smile. Maddie is sleepy-eyed and attached to Hannibal’s leg like she’s never going to let go.

“Thanks again,” Will says, and Hannibal hefts Maddie up into his arms and they say their goodbyes and get the dogs and Maddie settled in the car.

When they’re home, Hannibal pulls a container of bolognese out of the freezer, because he’s pathological about clearing out the fridge so nothing spoils when they’re out of town, but also refuses the concept of post-vacation takeout, so this is his version of a compromise.

Will doesn’t mind. It’s delicious, and he doesn’t even give Hannibal any grief over having frozen fresh pasta to go with the meal, too. Maddie should sit in her booster seat, but Hannibal lets her sit in his lap and feeds her off his plate, so evidently, they’re all feeling a little clingy tonight.

“We can go to the grocery store in the morning,” Will says. “How are we doing on freezer space?”

Hannibal purses his lips in thought. “Still quite full.”

Which stands to reason—Will let him kill Mason Verger just before the holidays, which both got Margot and Alana out from under his hideously abusive thumb, and neatly solved the problem of what to get Hannibal for Christmas.

“Try to restrain yourself at the butcher’s, then,” Will says dryly.

“I make no promises,” Hannibal says. He looks a little travel-worn, but there’s a soft happiness to his expression that Will wants to look at forever. “One more bite?” he asks Maddie, who obediently opens her mouth for a little more Verger-free bolognese, because Hannibal takes parenting very seriously and refuses to feed their child any meat that isn’t organic and free-range. Apparently, monstrous pedophiles who have put god knows what in their bodies don’t make the cut.

After they put Maddie to bed, they decide to turn in early.

“My body doesn’t know what time zone we’re in,” Will complains when he slides into bed.

“It’s been 24 hours since your last suppressant,” Hannibal says after a moment.

Will’s brow furrows as he does the math. “Crap,” he says, and sits up to get out of bed to go take it.

Hannibal stops him with a hand on his shoulder. “Will,” he says softly, meaningfully. His entire heart is in his eyes. “What would you say to expanding our family?”

Will leans down and kisses him. “We’ll have to wish very hard, I hear,” he says.

Hannibal pulls him close and then rolls them over. “Tonight?”

“We might not get it on the first try,” Will warns him, because someone around here has to temper expectations, and it’s clearly not going to be Hannibal ‘Overachiever’ Graham-Lecter.

“Not with that kind of attitude,” Hannibal mutters as he sucks a kiss into Will’s neck.

“If I could make a suggestion?”

“By all means.”

Will tries not to smile, and murmurs in Hannibal’s ear, “Fuck me like you’re going to put a baby in me.”

“Darling,” Hannibal breathes, and does his very best, which is very good, indeed.

The next morning, Will wakes up to hear the dogs barking their heads off downstairs, and he smiles.