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To Dance Again

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Breman is the sort of place where no one asks questions besides ‘what are you drinking?’. Sure, all the regulars know each other’s names, but it isn’t exactly Cheers. At least it wasn’t until Johnnie Goodnight nee Derosier showed up and started uncovering everyone’s secrets.

Will doesn’t mind the boy so much, though he often makes him feel unbearably old and jaded. The young man has the complete inability to keep from jumping into any mystery he comes across. Will can’t deny he gains some entertainment from watching him piece together his puzzles, and the other regulars got a real kick watching Johnnie and his bodyguard Bergrin dance around each other. Then, once that drama appeared to be over, Peyton, the owner and bartender, had his long lost love, Hudson show up. (And the emotional baggage radiating off him was enough to give Will a migraine.) Hanging around the bar was better than any soap opera.

Will had found the place not long after he settled in the Derosier territory. It was by no means the first place he’d lived since leaving Virginia (left, not fled, he tried to tell himself). Drawn by the fanciful name, he liked the bar’s quiet atmosphere and no prying policy. It catered to abnormals, so everyone had at least rudimentary mental shields, the type that could hold off a vampire’s glamour. Those don’t do much for Will, but it at least muted the psychic noise to an ignorable buzz. It was a place to go whenever the walls of his shitty apartment started to feel like they were closing in on him.

Sitting in the little dive bar (though it had recently been expanded in some renovations funded by Johnnie) was sometimes the only contact Will got all week with other sentient beings (besides the inadvertent contact he got with everything capable of thought). He stayed at the fringes of the core group, an outsider in a pack of outsiders. Still, he is more at ease at Breman than anywhere else he has been since...well, since Baltimore (and he refuses to think about it in anymore detail than that). It’s part of the reason he has stayed in this town, longer than he really should have. He knows better. Maybe subconsciously, he wants it to happen here. It seems a lot of people’s pasts catch up with them at this place.

So it is not at all a surprise when, on a quiet evening when Will is on his second whiskey, Hannibal walks in the door.

He doesn’t sense him before he enters. He never did. The man shaped being’s person suit is so complete that he simply blends into the mental background noise that is Will’s constant companion. But he would recognize that silhouette anywhere. He observes him out of the corner of his eye. Now that he knows what he is, he can peek between the stitches to catch a flash of antlers. Too bad it is far too late for this knowledge to make any sort of difference.

Hannibal’s entrance peaks the interest of the other patrons, Johnnie especially. The human son of the vampire Derosier is surreptitiously sizing the doctor up. Johnnie probably assumes the newcomer is here for his detecting services anyway. The expensive three piece in plaid with a paisley tie would be enough to catch the aristocratic young man’s attention (being something of a clotheshorse himself).

Will needs to head this off before Johnnie tries to talk to Hannibal. He would eat the boy alive (possibly literally). He catches Bergrin’s gaze. From his usual spot, slumped in the corner, the bodyguard's eyes are sharp beneath the brim of his ballcap. A telling look passed between him and Will. The man rises smoothly, and takes his lover’s elbow where he is standing idly chalking his custom pool cue. Johnnie looks annoyed for a moment, but a moment of quiet whispering in his ear and he allows himself to be led upstairs to his private rooms.

While that is going on, Hannibal seats himself on the stool next to Will, who pointedly ignores him. Peyton comes over.

“What can I get you?”

“What do you recommend?” Oh, that low, rumbling voice. He had tried not to think about it, but it slipped into his dreams more often than not.

Peyton gives him a once over, and discreet sniff. As a lone werewolf,(though less lone since Hudson reentered his life) his nose could tell him more about Hannibal than his eyes ever could.

Whatever he learns, he doesn’t betray it on his face (not that it would keep Will from finding out if he really wanted to know). He rattles off some of the local microbrews and a short description of their flavors. Then he switches over to wines. Hannibal listens intently and orders a rose that Will knows must be hideously expensive. Breman is actually has a pretty top shelf stock. Johnnie wouldn’t have it any other way, being the financial backer for the bar.

Peyton places a long stemmed glass on a cloth coaster in front of Hannibal.

“Let me know if I can get you anything else.”

“Thank you.” Always so fucking polite.

“Top you off, Will?”

He nods. It would be smarter to be sober, but he really doesn’t want to be. Not when dealing with Hannibal after so long. He tosses back his glass and allows the wolf to pour a few more fingers over the half melted ice.

The two drink in silence. Will can feel Hannibal’s eyes on him, drinking the sight of him. Will hates himself that after so many years of running from him, there is still a part of him that aches to do the same. He scowls into his drink.

“Will.”

The grip on his glass tightens, but otherwise he does not acknowledge the soft word.

“Let us not revert to childish avoidance tactics.” The tone is just the right degree of chiding and concerned to grate against Will’s nerves.

“I am subscribing to the ancient philosophy that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” He bites out. He shouldn’t rise to the bait. Seems like he is doing a lot of things he shouldn’t lately.

“You never seemed to mind before.”

The whiskey burns his throat. He doesn’t respond.

“You made yourself rather difficult to find.”

Not difficult enough , hangs in the air unsaid.

“Well, here I am.” He gets up, pulling his wallet out. “And here I go.” He doesn’t look back as he settles his tab. He ignores the questioning eyebrow Peyton raises as he hands the cash over. He zips up his coat and heads out into the cold night air.

Need a thicker coat , he thinks as he hunches his shoulders against the chill. His funds are running a bit low at the moment. Not many people need boat motors fixed during the offseason.

As expected, Hannibal appears silently beside him halfway back to his shitty apartment. They don’t say anything until they reach his door.

It’s unlocked, he doesn’t have anything worth stealing. Will switches a space heater on, then sits down at the formica table in what serves as his kitchen. The apartment is a compact square, a quarter of it walled off as a bathroom, with a washer and dryer in it. It was furnished with a minimal amount of furniture, table with two chairs and a bed. Will had set up a makeshift desk with a board and some cinderblocks. It reminded him of some of the places his father and he had lived when he was growing up. It had been depressingly easy to fall back into the transitory lifestyle.

Hannibal sits across from him, Will remembers the last time he saw him. He was still in the BHCI, Hannibal taunting him with his relationship with Alana (and Will, god help him, felt the jealousy burn like acid in his stomach). He had been anticipatory, Will can see that now. He had already put his next move into motion, allowing Miriam Lass to be found. He wanted Will out so he could continue to play with him, since Will had proven to be a worthy opponent.

Jack had wasted no time coming to Will, meeting him before he had even managed to leave the building. He wanted to take Will to see the Ripper’s workshop, and Will wanted to go. He really did. He had promised Hannibal a reckoning. After everything the man had done to him. But in that moment, he could see his future. He could do it, he could orchestrate Hannibal’s downfall. But he would have to make himself into a monster. He had already started. He had sacrificed Beverly, pulling her into his war. She didn’t deserve that. He’d used Matthew Brown like a pawn, and while he was far from innocent, Will had used his ability to hurt someone else. That was something he had long ago promised himself he would never do.

So he walks away from Jack, the FBI, Baltimore, and most importantly, from Hannibal. For five years, he drifted. He kept to abnormal communities so Jack wouldn’t be able to track him down either. He doesn’t know if Hannibal was aware previously that he was an Abnormal or had Abnormal ties. Probably not. He is fully human and had lived outside the community for quite sometime, and it isn’t like his ability is particularly common. It’s rare enough that he managed to pass off genuine psychic ability as an empathy disorder without ringing any alarm bells. The encephalitis had played hell with his ability. He actually did think he was finally going crazy. He expected to for years. The very few accounts of psychics anywhere close to his caliber all went insane. It is not something the human mind is equipped to handle long term.  

Well, if Hannibal didn’t know before, he certainly knew now. And he would also know that Will was aware of his own Abnormal status. A creature almost as unheard of as Will. Wendigo. Born of a ravenous hunger for blood and vengeance, and transformed through the consumption of the flesh of one’s enemies. They were powerful and relentless. Their hungers could never be sated. That day in Minnesota, even through the haze of his brain fever, when the scales finally fell from Will’s eyes, he could see his true form: the branching antlers, black skin, and gaunt face. A monster hiding in plain sight. Hannibal couldn’t have hurt him more if he had cut him open. The betrayal took his breath away. He would have shot him, even knowing it would likely be useless against the creature.

Now here they are, facing each other down once again. Hannibal speaks first, of course.

“With all my knowledge and intrusion... I could never entirely predict you.”

Will’s lips twist into a mocking facsimile of a smile. “Is that why you tracked me down? Wanted to recover your favorite source of entertainment?”

Hannibal regards him with a peculiar intensity. “You knew I would find you.”

“Yes.” He doesn’t elaborate.

“You promised me a reckoning. Or was Matthew Brown suppose to serve that purpose? You never struck me as the type to give in, Will.”

Even without his ability able to work on Hannibal, he can hear the unasked question. Why did you run from me?

Will felt like laughing. Who, knowing what this man really was, wouldn’t run from him? What made Will crazy is the fact that the entire time, he wanted to go back.

“I didn’t want to play your game any longer. Removing myself from the board seemed like the best option.”

Hannibal’s eyes bore into him. Will stares back. He wonders if he is going to die tonight. Will Hannibal eat him? He wasn’t like the pests he swatted under the guise of the Ripper.

“There are others searching for you.”

Will didn’t doubt Jack was, but Hannibal makes it sound like more than just him. “What did you do?”

“What makes you think I did something?”

How dare he have the gall to ask that. Will glares at him.

“They are not looking for you, specifically, I believe. They are looking for one with your...unique qualifications.”

“You are going to have to be more specific. I have many varied and interesting qualities.” Hannibal’s always been a cryptic bastard, Will is going to make him spell it out this time.

“They have caught wind of a seer.” Hannibal says deliberately.

Will hesitates a fraction of a second too long. “There is no such thing.” But he’s given himself away.

“I believed that myself until I met you.”

A seer. The most powerful of all mental magics. The only thing comparable to their abilities is the bond between demons and their consorts. They can see into anyones minds, practically become them. No shield or charm can keep them out. Will knows exactly how powerful he is, and he knows how dangerous it is for anyone else to find out.

“There will always be people chasing legends. That’s practically the job description of alchemists.”

“You seem remarkably unconcerned.”

“So far only one person has managed to catch me.”

Hannibal’s blank mask doesn’t twitch, but Will catches a gleam of satisfaction in his eye. Will’s hands fist on his thighs.

“Why are you here, Hannibal? What do you want?” They are valid questions, to Will’s mind. He knows what Hannibal wanted in Baltimore, someone to play with. Wind him up and watch him go. I wanted to see what would happen.

How old is Hannibal? How long has he been tinkering with people’s lives for his own amusement? Will knew Hannibal would find him, but he has no idea what will happen now that he has, and they are both laid bare.

So to speak, anyway. He narrows his eyes at the doctor, who is still considering his answer. “You can drop the act, now.”

An eyebrow raises. “I am sorry?”

“This,” Will waves a hand indicating the well-dressed facade, “isn’t you. I want to see your real face.

Hannibal goes absolutely, inhumanly still. Then, eyes never leaving Will’s, there is a...ripple in the air around him, like a stone tossed in a pool. Black blooms across his skin. Willis more interested in the arcing antlers with their wicked looking points. He feels a wild urge to touch one. To prick his finger just to watch the blood roll down the bone-like appendage.

He stares into the black, blank eyes. His features are the same aside from the change in color, but his demeanor is different, the way he holds himself. Person suit completely stripped away, everything about him screams predator.

“There you are.” Without quite meaning to, he is up and rounding the table to get a closer look. It is as if all his fear has been used up. He spent most of his life being afraid, and apparently reached his quota.

“What I want,” The voice is the same. Will watches fascinated at the black lips shaping the words. “Is to see you reach your potential, Will.”

A hand reaches to him. Not clawed, like Will had half expected, but black nailed, perhaps a bit sharper than a human’s. It cups Will’s cheek even as he frowns.

“My potential for what?” Though he has a fairly good idea, knowing Hannibal. And for all the uncertainty of the future, he feels he does know Hannibal. Sometimes he feels like there are no barriers between the two of them.

“To transform. To Become.”

“Is that all you want?” The words come out rough. His heart is beating faster now, but not from fear, oh, no. Hannibal stands, looming over him. Will wants to close his eyes, but can’t. It had been so long, and everything before had been a lie.

There were no lies between them now.

His breath shudders out of his lungs. “My course is set for an uncharted sea.” Ten minutes in the man’s company and he is already quoting Dante. He is so fucked.

“Do not be afraid. Our fate cannot be taken from us. It is a gift.” Their lips meet.

It is the culmination of everything. All those little things he knew he shouldn’t do, paving the way for this. Now he is throwing all caution and good sense to the wind, because he missed this. Oh, God, how he had missed this.

It had started the morning he showed up at Hannibal’s house after sleepwalking down the road. A kiss that was a clutch for balance, and Hannibal had been only too happy to clutch back. Tobias Budge’s attack led to the escalation of their physical relationship. They’d gone to bed together. It had been the most intense sexual experience he’d ever had. He’d come back to Hannibal again and again until the encephalitis rendered him into a broken mental mess. Then the rest of his life fell like dominos until he was left standing in a cage, staring out at his monstrous lover.

And after all that, here he is again, eyes wide open and making the same mistakes. He doesn’t even have a brain infection to blame it on now. He clenches Hannibal’s lapels in his fists. That mouth always kisses like he wants to devour Will. Maybe he does, but Will is just more interesting alive.

The bed is small and lumpy, but neither of them care as they tumble onto it. Hannibal’s deft fingers make short work of their clothing, while Will does his best to distract him. It isn’t at all off putting to be making out with a nightmare creature. Not when it’s Hannibal. The skin under Will’s hands seems thicker. The teeth scraping his neck are sharper. The body pressing him down is unquestionably stronger now that he is no longer hiding his true nature. All these differences just drive Will’s passion to greater heights.

He wraps his legs around Hannibal’s hips. The bed thumps against the wall. Will groans as their sexes come into contact. Hannibal grinds slowly against him. Will clutches his shoulders and pants as his desire begins to peak, then swears as Hannibal moves away. There is the click of a cap opening.

“Did you really bring lube?” He asks, in partial indignation. It’d be too hypocritical of him to get truly angry.

In answer, Hannibal reaches down and presses one slick finger against Will’ hole. His hips buck up as it enters him. There hadn’t been anyone since Hannibal (how could there be?) and he was very tight.

“Beautiful boy,” Hannibal murmurs against his skin as he opens him up. Will stares blankly at the water stained ceiling as his mind fills with pleasure, drowning out all the other intruding voices. There is only Hannibal and what he is doing to him.

Now there are two fingers, scissoring. Will grabs his cock, only to have his hand pushed away by Hannibal. The creature pins both his hands above his head easily with one hand, while the other continues to press and twist inside Will. He pushes up against the restraint, but he might as well try moving a brick wall. His cock jumps against his stomach, leaking pearly drops. Hannibal adds a third finger and Will moans, low and deep as he is stretched. His hips are rising and falling of their own accord.

Then suddenly he is empty and Hannibal is hovering over him. He is kissed almost gently as he feels the nudge of the wendigo's cock against his hole. The penetration is a shining agony of pleasure. Surely he wasn’t this big in his human form? Has it really been that long. Will feels like he has never been so full. Hannibal splits him open. His mouth is open in a silent scream. He can feel bruises forming on his wrists from how hard he strains against Hannibal’s hands.

The creature lowers his head over Will’s, framing him with his horns. His black eyes bore into Will’s as he begins to move his hips, driving in and out of him. Will can do nothing but lie there and take it. He shudders, full body, in climbing pleasure. It is savage, rough mating. A claiming.

It occurs to him just before he tips over the edge. He bites hard into Hannibal’s shoulder to keep from screaming.

When he wakes up the next morning, Hannibal is gone, though the effects from the previous night are quick to make themselves known. He limps to the bathroom and washes off the...residues under a sorry spray of lukewarm water.

There is a covered dish of protein scramble on the stove for him, still hot. No note, but he doesn’t really need one. Hannibal will be back, of that he is certain. He stares at the food for a long time before deciding to eat it. It’s not like Hannibal hadn’t fed it to him before. He heads to Bremen when he has finished. He is going to have to think of something to satisfy Johnnie’s raging curiosity.

It’s quieter than usual in the bar, the majority of the regulars being night people. Johnnie and Bergrin are there, though, discussing plans to put in a stage in the expanded portion of the bar. They leave off when he enters, Peyton realizing he has lost his business partner’s attention. He shoots Will a sort of ‘good luck’ look and heads into the bar’s store room.

Will sits gingerly down at one of the padded booths. He is still pretty sore. Bergrin ambles over and offers him a beer, which he takes with a nod of thanks, as Johnnie slides in across from him. Oh, god, he already has his notebook out.

“You get three questions, and I reserve the right to skip any that I don’t want to answer.” Will says before the young man can open his mouth.

Johnnie sniffs imperiously. He really has haughty down to an art form. “Then what is to stop you from refusing to answer anything?”

“The content of the questions, for starters.”

Bergrin laughs, which he unconvincingly turns into a cough when his lover glares at him.

“Look, Johnnie,” Will sighs, “I don’t have to tell you jack shit, but I can tell you aren’t going to let this go until you get some answers. So, since we’re friendly, I’ll let you ask. But don’t expect me to reveal all my secrets.”

Will picks up on a swirl of guilt coming from Johnnie, though it doesn’t show on his face. Good, the boy could use a dose of humility. Bergrin simply leans back with his own drink, watching Will curiously.

No, he’s watching the area around Will. He knows that demons can see people’s auras, but Bergrin is no demon. He is something else entirely, Will knows. He isn’t exactly sure what the plain looking man sees when he watches people like that. Oh, he could probably find out, but he strongly believes in respecting others privacy as long as they aren’t threatening him. As much as he can, anyway.

“Alright. Three questions. It’s a classic, I suppose. The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs.”

“Not everything is a fairytale, Johnnie.”

“They relate to more than one would think.” He looks considering. “Who is the man who sat next to you last night?”

Well, that was easy enough. “Hannibal Lecter. We were...friends, several years ago.”

Neither of them looked particularly convinced by his oblique terminology.

“What sort of Abnormal is he? I couldn’t tell.”

No, Will doesn’t suppose he could, even with the sheer amount of research under his belt.

“I will have to pass on that one, it isn’t my place to say.”

Johnnie nods, unsurprised. Bergrin asks the next question. “Is his sudden reappearance in your life going to cause trouble?”

Johnnie scowls at his interruption,but his eyes slide back to Will for the answer.

“Undoubtedly,” Will says drily, “but it’s nothing you should worry yourself about.”

Bergrin’s face said that he was going to worry about it,while Johnnie just looked even more curious.

Will runs a hand over his face. “Hannibal gets bored easily and likes to...test people. But I don’t think he’ll bother you.” He gives Johnnie a stern look. “Not unless you give him a reason to.”

The boy’s delicate facial features contrive to look offended. He is very good at offended, but Will knows Johnnie is self aware enough to take the advice.

“Last question?”

Johnnie opens his mouth to ask, but he is cut off by the entrance of a woman in a neat suit entering the bar flanked by obvious hired muscle. One was a goblin, and they could get pretty nasty. The woman makes a beeline for their table. Bergrin tenses, body blocking Johnnie from their line of sight.

“Will Graham?” The woman asks. Will forces himself not to react. He hadn’t used his real last name since leaving the FBI. He plunges into her mind without hesitation. She has a pretty powerful shield charm on her, but it makes no difference to Will. Looks like Hannibal’s information was good. Though he finds their plan pretty far fetched, they are willing to get ugly to get what they want.

“Sorry, I don’t know a Will Graham.” He lies easily. He glances at the other two. “You?”

“Nope.” Bergrin’s face is blank as he sizes up the thugs. Johnnie shakes his head, somehow managing to give the impression the intruders are lower than dirt in his eyes without speaking.

“Really,” The woman’s voice rolls with a hit of malevolent disbelief. “This is not a picture of you, then?”

Its a printed TattleCrime article from his trial, with a picture of him looking grim and distant as he is led by police into the court.

“See this is an example of the type of question you don’t want to ask.” He tells Johnnie. “Why bother asking something you already know?”

“I need you to come with me. My associates would like to speak to you.” She is not the sort who puts up with disobedience. Will had picked that up from her. Too bad he is not the type to go without a fight.

And as far as starting fights go, he is really in the best place for it. Peyton and Hudson have moved silently around the bar. Bergrin is standing up, and even Johnnie has got a firm grip on his sword cane.

Not that Will is without his own defenses, but if he plays this right no one else will have to know about that. He stays relaxed in his seat, and takes an insolent sip of his beer.

“I take from the fact that you didn’t give me your name or the names of your associates that you are some secret group. One that obviously put a lot of time into trying to find me, which you have proven with the photo. I am sure you have a whole file on me. And I can infer from your henchmen here,” he lazily waves his hand at the thugs, “that you are prepared to use force to get me to go wherever it is you want me to go. You may even have other muscle waiting outside in case I get difficult.” They do, three. One is a dragon which might have been a problem if he was in different company.

“So it is with a comprehensive assessment and knowledge of  the current situation and possible consequences that I tell you to kindly fuck off.” Will punctuates the statement with another drink of his beer.

Thug number one moves forward threateningly, but the woman stops him with a raised hand. Her cool gaze is assessing.

“Mr. Graham. We are willing to make it worth your while-”

“No, see,” Will interrupts, “If you wanted to bribe me you should have really led with that. You need me cooperative, otherwise you would have just jumped me somewhere. So let me save you some time. I don’t respond to threats, blackmail, or bribes. Are you honestly so committed to playing the shady character that you couldn’t just ask me nicely?”

She narrows her eyes and snaps her fingers. Bonds spring out of thin air and pin his arms and legs. Another wraps around his throat, choking. His beer bottle falls to the floor in a shatter of glass and foam. Johnnie sneezes.

Peyton lunges, shifting as he does, but an invisible force throws him back. He hits the counter with a whimper. The shield doesn’t work on Bergrin, and he lays out one of the thugs. The woman tightens the loop around Will’s throat, cutting off his air completely. Bergrin stops, and she loosens it so he can gasp.

“That was asking nicely, Mr. Graham,” she says, keeping a wary eye on Bergrin. He’d surprised her by getting through that shield charm. “While, of course, we would prefer for you to come willingly, we have plenty of other ways of securing your cooperation.”

Will would have snarked back at her for being such a cliche bad guy, but the loop around his neck was too tight. Wheezing and giving her a scornful look were the best he could manage. She addressed thug number two, the goblin, without turning her head.

“Grab him, let’s go.” She made reach Will’s arm to transport them somewhere, when a dark shape appears, looming behind her. She doesn’t even have time to turn, when long fingered hands grasp her head and twist with an audible crack. She drops and the ropes binding Will fall.

The goblin turns to face the new threat, but Bergrin gets to him first. He grabs him by the collar of his shirt and brings his face close to his. Whatever the thug sees in his eyes makes him utter a horrible gut-wrenching scream, and he goes limp.

Will is bent over, gasping, hand to his bruised neck. Gentle hands lift his head. Hannibal, back in human form and not a hair out of place, examines him. He helps him back into his seat. Johnnie hurries over to check on Peyton, who has shifted back, and is sitting up.

“I am sorry I could not get here in time to prevent this, Will” Hannibal says to him. “I was dealing with the employers.”

“All dealt with, I assume?” Wow, now Will knows what he would sound like if he hadn’t quit smoking when he was 25.

“Of course.”

Johnnie comes over with a bag of ice wrapped in a dish towel. He hands it Hannibal, who applies it carefully.

“What shall we do about these?” Johnnie nods to the prone bodies.

“This one’s still alive.” Bergrin says, looking over the first thug he had taken down. “Normally, I’d haul him in for attacking a Derosier’s citizen.” He doesn’t articulate the rest of that thought, but casts a meaningful eye over at Will.

He shakes his head, then winces at the pain that causes. Hannibal looks at Bergrin, eyes flicking over him, fitting him into whatever mental files he carries around in his head.

“Thank you for your assistance.” He says. “I shall remove them.” Making sure Will continues to apply the ice, he stacks the prone figures in a casual show of immense strength and vanishes.

Peyton, looking none the worse for wear comes over with a broom and dustpan, and sweeps up the broken bottle. He leans on the broom handle, next to the table. Will looks up at him

“Sorry ‘bout that.”

“Do us all a favor, and don’t try to talk. And this wasn’t the first time the bar’s been invaded, and unfortunately probably won’t be the last. We take care of our own.”

Will is surprised that he is included in ‘our own’, it’s a warming feeling, while at the same time making him feel even more guilty for bringing trouble down on the place. Speaking of, Hannibal reappears.

Without saying anything, Hannibal holds out a hand to him. Will hesitates, looking around the bar that he has spent so many nights. The familiar faces that had rushed to help him. He catches Johnnie’s eye. It’s unintentional, but in his mind, Will hears the acceptance. Johnnie knows he is going to leave.

It’s all right. Will stops himself from jerking. Those words were spoken directly to him. He looks at Johnnie, who smiles very slightly. He is only distantly aware of Hannibal and Bergrin looking back and forth between them.

Johnnie looks at his own lover. I would make the same choice. No one will blame you for going.

How did he find out? Will could rifle through his thoughts and find out, but… Johnnie would keep his secret. He knows that. He looks away and back up at Hannibal, whose hand is still outstretched.

Will takes it.