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Sweeter Bitter

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Dr. Hannibal Lecter was not usually one to work with inquiring students, let alone undergraduates, since leaving John Hopkins. There, he had chosen his mentees with care, and now he was settled in his psychiatry practice with little time between work and extracurriculars. However, this student, Will Graham, had come to him via recommendation from Alana Bloom, and Hannibal's interest had been piqued. The young man's emails had been polite and his work promising. His work also revolved around a few of Hannibal's articles. Not often one to turn down an opportunity to talk about his opinions, Hannibal invited the student to his office.

Mr. Graham was punctual, ringing the bell just around 7:30PM, and Hannibal buzzed him in before standing from his desk to get the door to the waiting room. He was not prepared for the impression the student would make. For a moment, Hannibal wondered if he had made a scheduling error, since the man in his waiting room was painfully young, looking more like a college freshman, if that. His face was cherubic and hairless, and also strikingly beautiful despite the roughness of his appearance, hair overgrown and clothes worn. In fact, he dressed like someone much older, a flannel shirt tucked into ill-fitting chinos. No doubt he was making up for his youthful looks if he was, as Alana said, a junior.

Hannibal recovered quickly, giving the young man a tame smile. "Good evening. You must be Will Graham, please come in."

There was a sharpness to Mr. Graham's gaze, though fleeting, and Hannibal suspected that he had been caught in his surprise. He held open the door for Will. "Thank you for having me, Dr. Lecter," Will said with his eyes downcast, and then entered the office.

Hannibal watched him take in the lavish office with obvious surprise, adjusting the glasses on his nose and clinging to the strap of his messenger bag. Hannibal couldn't get Will to meet his eyes, even after directing him to sit in one of the twin chairs. His blue eyes lingered on the bookshelves and art, minute shifts in his expression telling Hannibal that his gaze wasn't merely wandering; he was taking in his surroundings and analyzing them.

"Alana Bloom speaks highly of your work," Hannibal said, settled in his chair across from the student. "She mentioned that your thesis is on abnormal behaviors."

"That's correct," Will replied. "I was hoping you could answer some questions about your article on social exclusion."

"Right to work then," Hannibal said brightly, as Will went rummaging through his bag.

"Don't want to waste your time," Will said, and Hannibal was struck by the surety in his voice that Will wasn't wanted.

"For at least the next two hours, you have my undivided attention," Hannibal assured him.

Will's grip faltered on his notebook as he drew it out of the bag. "Well, uh, I appreciate it."

The boy's questions were astute and Hannibal found himself captivated by Mr. Graham's intellect, asking him questions back, eager to hear his thoughts. He was likely on the autism spectrum, though he didn't seem to have any trouble picking up on social clues or tone. He took a few notes, but mostly the notebook and pen in his hands were something to fiddle with and look at. He was also aggressive, so Hannibal lobbed him a few flimsy arguments and watched in delight as he eviscerated them.

"Not fond of eye-contact, are you?" Hannibal asked after some time, hoping to catch him off-guard.

Will blushed and fumbled with his glasses. "I'm not fond of psychoanalysis either," he shot back.

Hannibal smiled at his fervor. “Seeing is what we do. I can no more turn of mine that you can yours.”

“Turn off my what?” Will asked, mildly offended.

“Your keen sense of observation.”

Will huffed, shaking his head. “Am I in your chair now?”

Hannibal felt his smile grow, but held it back so as not to pitch the young man into a fury. “Not at all. You don’t have any problems, do you Will?” He was teasing, now. It was difficult to resist.

“Funny. Most therapists are so eager to tell me that I don’t need to have ‘a problem’ to benefit from therapy.” The derision he held for therapy was apparent, and telling.

He was a young man, no doubt had entered college early, and by the wear of his clothes and bag was probably on a full scholarship. It was possible his family could afford therapy and counseling, and if not it must have been recommended by school counselors. Hannibal shuddered to think what Will must have been told by bumbling counselors if he was armchair-diagnosed as autistic.

“If you’ll indulge my curiosity,” Hannibal said, “What do you observe?”

Will sucked in a breath, and bit his bottom lip. It was quite charming. “Most people who ask that don’t actually want to hear what I have to say.”

“I assure you, you won’t offend me,” Hannibal said. “My ego could use a little cutting after so long talking about my work.”

Will grinned, tongue between his teeth. “Alright.” He took off his glasses and closed his eyes, and for a few moments was very, very still. Hannibal watched in fascination as Will’s eyes flickered behind eyelids, as if in REM sleep. When Will opened his eyes, his look was distant but focused. “You’re wealthy, but not from psychiatry,” Will began. “You have two doctorates, so maybe it’s from your previous practice. Surgeon or neurologist. Probably come from money as well. Your office is so ostentatious that you no doubt charge the high end for your sessions, and you have a pick of your clients. You’re a coveted psychiatrist. Baltimore’s elite no doubt would cash out to lie on your chaise.”

Will’s eyes swept to the upper landing. “You’re meticulously organized in everything you do. You take extensive notes on your patients, your more esoteric or offensive thoughts probably written in code. You like hiding things in plain sight, you have no tolerance for boredom, you’re a bachelor by choice, maybe gay. English isn’t your first language, of course, but I don’t think that’s the reason for your speech delay. You... compose your responses, verbal and expressive. It might be difficult for you to react naturally without premeditation. I also think you're sociopathic.”

The chill down Hannibal’s spine must have showed, even though his face was schooled into practiced neutrality. Will glanced at him and blushed again, brows furrowed. “Sorry, I -- I told you you didn’t want to hear.”

“It’s quite alright, Will,” Hannibal assured him. “Your observations are as astute as I suspected they would be. I am curious why you think I am sociopathic though; it’s not something I’ve been identified with before.”

Will grinned sheepishly. “Ah, well. I think us abnormal types are drawn towards study of abnormal behavior. And there’s a quality to your emotions that feels stunted. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with sociopathy,” he added. “So long as you’ve decided not to hurt others. Still, you’ve got the dangerous combination of intelligent and charming.”

Hannibal chuckled, a bare thing under his breath. “No head injuries in my childhood, I assure you.”

Will was still grinning, knuckles by his lips. “So? Am I right?”

“Well, I certainly do not have antisocial personality disorder,” Hannibal replied. “If we take the functional view of sociopathy, I do not display any of the disorderly conduct, though I am narcissistic.”

“How's your moral compass and regard for others?” Will asked playfully.

“My regard for others does not come easily,” was all Hannibal said. “And yourself? You have identified abnormal behavior within yourself.”

Will rubbed his smooth jaw, glancing towards the windows. He had yet to really make eye contact, but at this point in the conversation had eased in his posture, lithe legs spread wide. “Empathy and observations come easily, social integration does not.”

“Always on the outside looking in.”

“I moved a lot as a kid.”

“A little social awkwardness or narcissism does not abnormal behavior make.”

“Tell that to my classmates,” Will said with a grimace.

Hannibal pursed his lips. “Humans have the uncanny ability to recognize others as not belonging in the tribe. What comprises our current social contract are little more than arbitrary rules, rituals, and symbols. What is considered ‘abnormal’ here and now is sanctioned in other cultures and contexts. Rather unfortunately, those who are different but harmless are often excluded.”

“We’ve evolved many tools that are no longer useful.”

“And, socially, we condone certain flavors of violence.”

Will nodded, eyes rising as far as Hannibal’s chin. “Yeah. You can say that again.”

They sat in silence for a few moments, Hannibal wondering how far he dare push the young man. Having avoided it all evening, the contact of his gaze was minorly thrilling, even if it wasn't direct. “Do you think yourself abnormal?” Hannibal finally asked.

“Well, yeah,” Will said quickly. “I would think it's obvious?”

“I don't find you abnormal, Will.”

Will curled in on himself a bit, like a flower wilting under too much sun. “Well, you've only known me for—shit, is it that late?” Flustered, he began to put his notebook away.

“Do you have somewhere to be?” Hannibal asked.

“N-no. It's just, uh…”

“Please, Will. If you were wasting my time, I would have ended the meeting.”

“Right.” Will bit his lip. “But I should get back. It takes a while to bus back to school.”

“Very well,” Hannibal agreed, getting to his feet. "But the point stands, that I have yet to identify your abnormality."

"Maybe that's because you're weird too."

The blunt comment should have been offensive or presumptuous, but Hannibal was delighted. And Will was correct, in his own way. Hannibal knew himself well, and how easy it would be for him to turn into something monstrous. 

Watching Will shrug on his shoulder bag, Hannibal’s farewell shriveled up in his mouth. It had been an excellent conversation, charming and stimulating, the type of intellectual debate unhindered by much of old academia’s pretentiousness. Hannibal hadn't had a discussion like it in a long time. He was loathe to end the night. So, instead of his customary farewell, Hannibal found himself asking, “May I offer you a ride?”

Will froze, just for a moment, his brows drawing together in suspicion, and Hannibal realized that he had misstep. “I don't want to put you out,” Will said, drawing in on himself further.

“It's no trouble,” Hannibal assured him. “But I understand if you're more comfortable parting ways here.”

Will fidgeted where he stood, one foot coming up to scratch the back of his calf. His long hair and glasses hid his eyes, and Hannibal had the sudden urge to tuck his hair behind his ear. “Um, sure,” Will said at last. “If you really don't mind.”

“I truly don't,” Hannibal said. “Just give me a moment.”

Hannibal gathered up his belongings and put on his coat, turning off the lights in the waiting room and then the main office before guiding Will to the exit. “I have quite enjoyed our conversation,” Hannibal told him as he finished locking up. “If you would like to send me your outline, I would be happy to take a look at it.”

“Oh, thanks, that would be great,” Will said. He arched his brow at Hannibal’s car, but said nothing as he slipped inside.

“You can also send me your bibliography, and I can recommend some reading.”

“I would appreciate that.”

Hannibal drove them through Baltimore towards the college, the silence unexpectedly heavy. Will seemed uncomfortable, like he had at the beginning of their meeting. Perhaps the change of locations had caused the shift in mood. Hannibal reflected on himself and admitted that offering a student a ride was somewhat out of his character, but in and of itself not particularly strange. The reason for Will's discomfort... well. Hannibal could only think of one reason, and he did not think any of his behavior that evening had warranted Will's mistrust. At the same time, they had spent a few hours talking about violent behaviors. Will was likely just being cautious. 

“This is fine,” Will said, after deflecting most of Hannibal’s attempts at conversation. Hannibal stopped outside one of the college apartments. Will unbuckled his seatbelt but stayed in the car.

“This is weird,” Will said, shoulders tense. “I made this weird, didn't I?”

Hannibal looked at him for a moment. Something was obviously troubling the boy. “Do you feel weird, or do you believe you should feel weird?”

Will smiled, a strange response. “Uh. I don't know. I feel weird.”

“In a bad way?”

Will made a short, high noise in the back of his throat, and Hannibal could hear the click as he swallowed. “No. Not bad. I don’t usually… get along with people.” Will sighed. “And now I’m making it weird.” Before Hannibal could protest he opened the car door and stepped out, bending down to stare at Hannibal’s tie. “I, uh, it was good to talk to you. And thanks again for the ride.”

“Goodnight, Will,” Hannibal said, raising his hand in farewell.

“Goodnight, Dr. Lecter,” Will responded in kind, ducking his head and shutting the door behind him, but not before Hannibal caught the dark flush of his cheeks.

Chapter Text

The young student occupied more of Hannibal’s thoughts in the coming weeks than he was willing to admit to himself. He was not a man often prone to obsession, but the taste of it was familiar, bright and tempting at the back of his tongue. There were occasionally patients who came his way who fascinated him and tested the limits of his self-control. Manipulation would always be a drug that tempted him. Hannibal was grateful that Will hadn’t come to him as a patient. He would be far too eager to dig around in his brain were that the case.

Slowly and inexorably Will Graham became a fixture in Hannibal’s life, so that eventually he couldn't imagine a reality without knowing the young man, but he could not pinpoint the moment Will slipped past his defenses and took root.

They correspond through email at first, and every time Hannibal saw Will’s student email in his inbox he felt a small thrum of excitement. He sent Will notes and recommendations for research, and, well, if some of the books were more obscure and unlikely to be in the school library, there was no harm in Will coming by Hannibal’s office to borrow his personal copies.

The first time Will did so, he held the book near-reverently and promised to take good care of it. Quite endearing. He was a voracious reader, and returned the books quickly, and then he and Hannibal would spend some time discussing the material and, best of all, debate the finer points. Even Alana, his prized mentee, had taken Hannibal’s word as gospel in the early years, but Will blatantly disagreed with Hannibal at times and questioned his conclusions ruthlessly. It was refreshing. It was also likely stemming from years of the boy needing to prove himself.

Hannibal found himself looking forward to their meetings more and more.

About a month into their acquaintanceship, Hannibal caught Will working on his laptop in the waiting room. “Sorry,” Will said quickly, shutting the laptop and ducking his head, as he often did when embarrassed. “I’m behind on an essay. Hi.”

“Hello, Will. Never apologize for doing your homework.”

Will gave a little snort at that, and glanced up at Hannibal—a fleeting meeting of eyes that Hannibal savored, brief as the looks were. Will entered his office and dropped his bag on the floor by the chaise, sitting on it for a moment to put his laptop away. He launched into a discussion of the reading material he was bringing back, and they were soon swept away in conversation.

“You know, Will,” Hannibal said later. “If you ever want to use my office to study, you may.”

Will froze up, like he had when Hannibal had offered him a ride, glancing at Hannibal’s face to briefly read his expression. “Oh?” was all he managed.

Hannibal gave an elegant shrug. “These books get little use. I’m quite happy that someone besides myself is reading them. If, like now, you have an essay to work on, I can probably tear myself from our riveting discussion to do the paperwork I’m avoiding.”

Will grinned briefly, but it wasn’t enough to dispel his unease. “I mean. I’d like that. It’s just… feels like you’re a professor giving me office hours.”

“You do make me feel a bit professorial,” Hannibal admitted. “Don’t let it go to my head.”

“I’m afraid it's far too late for that, Doctor.”

Hannibal chuckled.

“I don’t know,” Will said, running his hands through his long hair, strands catching on his long fingers. “Feels like I’m likely to overstay my welcome. I keep waiting for you to tire of me.”

“Not at all, Will,” Hannibal said. That was putting it mildly.

 


 

It took a bit of time for Will to become comfortable in his office, but when he was absorbed in his work his self-consciousness slipped away. Soon Will was tossing his bag on the chaise and touching Hannibal’s belongings, behaviors he would find annoying in anyone else but from Will were charming. Hannibal wanted him to feel welcome. And he wasn't going so far as putting his shoes on the furniture.

At first Will was utterly distracting, Hannibal taking the opportunity to observe him while he worked, mostly unobserved. He stole glances when he could, noticing the intensity of Will’s concentration and the wild speed of his typing, or the languid look of boredom and unconscious sighs when the material was dull. He was beautiful and captivating. Hannibal’s notetaking got a little lazy during these hours. He tried to finish his work quickly so he could draw and be available if Will had questions or subjects he wished to discuss.

Hannibal was daydreaming while drawing a view from Florence when Will looked over his shoulder and gave a low hum of appreciation. The young man leaned with one hip cocked on the desk, arms folded over his chest, and peered at the drawing. Hannibal was startled to realize how close Will was, suddenly disregarding the personal space they usually kept between them. They had never touched, not even to shake hands, just the occasional bare touch to Will’s elbow when inviting him inside. Hannibal was momentarily caught up in the soft curves of his profile and the long sweep of his brown hair. “This is good,” Will said as he stared. “Is this from memory?”

“It is,” Hannibal admitted, his gaze lingering for a moment before returning to the drawing. “A view of the Uffizi gallery in Florence, where I spent many hours of my youth.”

“Are you an eidetiker too?” Will’s eyes were on him, and Hannibal felt an inexorable draw to gaze back, slowly, as if luring an animal and afraid it might be startled away. Their eyes met for one beat, then another, and Hannibal felt positively flayed.

“Very nearly,” Hannibal answered when Will blinked away. “I use mnemonic devices to store my memories. What was once a small room to help me study has become a vast memory palace.”

“Mine are all just… there,” Will said, tapping the desk with one finger. “In a jumble.”

“With the amount that you observe, that’s a lot of information to carry with you.”

Will shrugged, retreating around the desk with another look at the drawing. “Yeah. My head’s a mess.”

“What do you do to calm yourself when it all becomes overwhelming?” Hannibal asked curiously.

Will rolled the exacto-blade on Hannibal’s desk, frowning with a lovely pout of his lips. “I used to go out in nature. Somewhere quiet, with water. It’s a little harder now, in the city. Sometimes I go to the aquarium, but it gets busy.”

Hannibal’s first instinct was to offer to take Will, but that wouldn’t be proper at all. He filed away that instinct for later examination.

“Does everything go in your memory palace?” Will asked.

“Not everything,” Hannibal answered. “Anything I find interesting or beautiful, details that could become so, facts and passages of literature.”

Will looked thoughtful, fingers lingering on the handle of the blade. “Is that why your decorating is so… detailed?”

“I like to cultivate.”

“You don't have any photographs.”

“Very few in my home, as well.”

“Any family?”

Hannibal smiled. “You're curious tonight.”

Will grinned. “Deflecting, Doctor?”

“Mm. My only living blood relative is my sister, Mischa, in France, and an aunt by marriage in Japan.”

“I've never felt very connected to the concept of family,” Will offered. “It's always just been my dad and I.”

“Are you close?”

Will shook his head. “He tries. He doesn't really get me and is… reserved. What about you?”

“I'm quite close to my sister, though sometimes we go long stretches without contact. In many ways I was like a parent to her. My aunt raised us, and taught me much. I'm very grateful to the women in my life.”

Will gave him a fleeting smile.

 


 

The times that Will was available to come to Hannibal’s office were unfortunately right around dinner, which was fine for Hannibal who tended to dine later, but not so much for Will and the limited hours of the school’s dining halls. Hannibal admitted to himself that this was a problem the second meeting in a row where he heard Will’s stomach growl. Next time, Hannibal came prepared.

“Would you like something to eat?” Hannibal offered, hearing the tell-tale signs of Will’s hunger. “I brought too much lunch today, and I wouldn’t want it to go to waste.”

Will probably saw through this ploy, but he didn’t turn Hannibal down. How Hannibal loved to feed others, and with Will it was a particular delight. His appreciation was vocal and his appetite strong. Hannibal had noticed that Will was slight and could afford to put on some weight, and, knowing the food available to him, certainly he could afford to eat better. Hannibal began to prepare extra lunch on the days when he knew Will was visiting.

Hannibal had always had a strong nurturing streak, though no interest in rearing children of his own. It had been many years since he had felt so protective of someone, so eager to see them thrive.

It was not entirely appropriate. But Hannibal could not bring himself to stop.

The first time Hannibal had the opportunity to dine with Will was at the cusp of winter. Will gave him a call, as he sometimes did when making plans to use Hannibal’s office.

“Hello, Will.”

“Hi Dr. Lecter.”

“To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“I, uh, I was wondering if I could come to your office on Wednesday. There are no classes so I thought I’d get some more research done.”

“Of course, just give me a moment.” Hannibal flipped through his planner. “My last appointment ends at 3PM, so you’re welcome to come by any time after that.”

“Great.”

Hannibal frowned to himself. “Are you in town this weekend?” It was Thanksgiving weekend, and many of the students left to visit their families, leaving the campus empty and bereft.

“Oh, yeah. I am. I don’t always go home for the holidays.”

“I see.” Hannibal knew that it was difficult for Will to afford to travel, even if he wanted to see his father, which was unclear. “Well, I don’t have any appointments on Thursday and only a few on Friday, so you’re welcome to use my office as much as you like.”

“Really? Do you celebrate Thanksgiving?”

“Only sometimes. I prefer to throw dinner parties when my guests are actually available. This is about the worst weekend of the year to schedule such an event.”

“Right. Well, it’s all colonial B.S. anyway.”

Hannibal chuckled. “Indeed.”

 



Will came over to his office Wednesday afternoon and was soon buried in books. He was still in the process of getting his thesis approved and would actually start drafting it next semester. Hannibal had no doubt that his thesis would be approved once he settled on a specific angle. Will was majoring in Behavioral Biology at John Hopkins. At this point he was torn between two directions in his research—brain dysfunction in psychopathology and the Diathesis-Stress model for violent psychopathologies. Will was obviously drawn to cases of violent behavior as opposed to schizophrenia or autism, though he would get heated whenever the subject turned to the latter. In Hannibal’s opinion, Will had an excess of mirror-neurons as opposed to a deficit, and he took opportunities to slip Will reading that might illuminate his own mind.

Will was tucked in the drawing desk by the fireplace with a stack of books and his laptop, working away. When Hannibal finished his notes from the day’s sessions he stored the notebooks in the upper level. “Will?” he called from across the room. “I have a few errands to run. Will you be fine here yourself?”

Will grunted in acknowledgement, totally absorbed. Hannibal left him, a smile warming his lips.

When he came back a few hours later, Will was reading on the chaise with his shoes off and feet tucked under himself, eyes drooping. The book was balanced on one leg.

“You look like you could use a pick-me-up,” Hannibal said, placing his food travel bag on his desk and beginning to unpack. “Coffee?”

“Please,” Will mumbled. “Mm. Something smells good.”

“I took the liberty of bringing us dinner.” Hannibal cleared his desk, and began to set it—placemats, cloth napkins, utensils, and the ceramic covered dishes that had kept warm during transportation.

Will’s interest was piqued and he sat up, marking his place in the book and wandering over. “What's all this?” he asked with an incredulous chuckle, looking at the miniature feast spread before them.

“Please, bring over a chair.”

Will grabbed the chair from the far desk and sat across from Hannibal, who was pouring Will coffee from a thermos. Will was giving him a faintly scandalized but eager look, brow quirked. “I hope you're hungry,” Hannibal said, lifting the lids of their dishes to reveal the elegantly plated contents. “Quail stuffed with prosciutto-wrapped fig, fingerling potatoes, and a cranberry glaze.” He took his own seat, pulling the napkin into his lap.

“This… looks amazing,” Will said with the faint unease that sometimes accompanied their interactions. “You really shouldn't have.”

“Should I not? I wanted to. Cooking is one of the greatest pleasures in my life—second only to eating.”

Will blushed faintly, putting his own napkin on his lap. “Still. I'm loitering in your office and now you're cooking five star meals for me.”

“Michelin only gives out three stars at maximum.”

“Well. Your cooking gets five.” Still, Will hesitated, sipping his coffee.

Hannibal sighed, using his knife to point at Will’s plate. “Will, if you don't eat I will be terribly insulted."

Will laughed, a bright, startled noise, and hid his grin behind his cup. “Alright, you win.” He picked up his knife and fork and cut into the little bird, marveling at the veiny fig inside. Hannibal watched him take the first bite, how his eyes fluttered shut, long lashes on the thin, pink skin under his eyes, slowly chewing with a low sound in the back of his throat.

“This is amazing,” Will said breathlessly, cutting off another bite. “Oh my god. I knew your cooking was good, but this might be the best thing I've ever tasted!”

Hannibal smiled to himself, and tucked into his own meal. “You don't know how pleased that makes me.”

“Jesus. Is there anything you're not ridiculously good at?”

Hannibal felt a warmth in his cheeks. “I'm a terrible singer.”

“Is that all?”

“Practice and interest is key. There are few things I've set my mind to that have eluded me. Of course, a strong sense of smell lends itself to cooking.”

“Full of surprises, aren't you?” Will was picking up on some of Hannibal’s table manners, eating slowly and gracefully.

“I'm quite sensitive to smell and taste,” Hannibal explained. “It's actually been difficult at certain times in my life. I prefer to prepare all meals myself now, but didn't have the same luxury when I was a surgeon.”

“Well, I've been subsiding on dining hall food and ramen. You really spoil me whenever I come here.” Will dipped a potato in the sauce and bit half of it, smiling as he chewed.

Hannibal couldn't help the flutter of excitement in his chest. “I enjoy spoiling you,” he confessed.

Will raised an eyebrow, eyes lifting momentarily, mischievously, before dropping and affecting a sort of nonchalance. “Yeah. I've gotten that impression.”

“I can't hide anything from you.”

“Nope.”

They ate in silence for a few moments, Will obviously enjoying the food and Hannibal enjoying bearing witness to that much more so than the food itself. “Shouldn't you have someone else to spoil?” Will asked after a moment. “Do you?”

“Your primary assessment was quite accurate,” Hannibal said. “Bachelor by choice. I've never been married, nor do I imagine I ever will.”

“Is it too personal a question to ask why? I mean,” Will cleared his throat. “You're a doctor who can cook like this.”

Hannibal considered the student across the desk from him. “I don't mind venturing into the personal with you,” he said, surprised to find it true. “If that's where you’d like to go.”

Will went a bit pink in the cheeks. “I'm just curious.”

Hannibal tilted his head. “What are you curious about, exactly?”

Will’s blush deepened and he frowned. “Just wondering if you have a habit of taking in strays.”

Hannibal was quiet for a long moment, considering. This felt perilously close to the amorphous boundaries of their relationship that at times raised Will’s hackles. “No,” Hannibal said carefully. “I enjoy socializing, but I have few close friends and consider myself something of a loner. If you're asking me for the reason why that is, that's a complicated question. I suppose it's part of my inherent nature.”

“Are we friends?” Will asked.

“If you’d like to be,” Hannibal said, reading the mingled discomfort and relief in Will’s shifting expressions. “I think you have a hard time accepting kindness. Or that I enjoy your company.”

“Yeah, fair. But I don't think my confusion around this—” Will gestured between them. “—Is just that. When you're not schmoozing with Baltimore’s upper crust you keep to yourself, and I'm an antisocial kid who hangs out in your office and eats your food.”

“Does our class difference or age difference bother you?”

“Both? I'm about to put my foot in my mouth.”

Hannibal shook his head. “I don't want to make you uncomfortable, Will. Please let me know if I do.”

“You're not,” Will said quickly. “I'm the one asking personal questions.”

“I don't mind answering them.”

Will stared at his plate. “I don't have any friends,” he said in a small voice. “Kind of pathetic. Every time I try to be normal it backfires spectacularly.”

“I think it’d be a shame for you to pretend to be someone you're not.”

“Like me just the way I am?” Will joked with his self-deprecating smile.

“Warts and all,” Hannibal agreed.

Chapter Text

A cold snap hit Baltimore, beginning the long winter. When Will entered Hannibal’s office, he did so rubbing and blowing on hands stiff from the cold, shivering slightly in his fall coat. Or at least, Hannibal had assumed that it was a fall coat—the old thing was certainly not up for the winter. And Will wasn't wearing a scarf or gloves.

“Hey, Dr. Lecter,” Will greeted him with a brief smile. “It's awful out.”

“Please come in,” Hannibal said with a pout of concern. “Here, take off your jacket and go sit by the fire.”

Will grumbled in protest.

“You’ll warm up faster that way,” Hannibal insisted, and Will allowed Hannibal to take his jacket and hang it up by the door. Hannibal tutted to himself, and led Will to the roaring fire, a hand on his elbow.

“I'm fine,” Will insisted, and laughed at the frown on Hannibal’s face. Despite what he said, the young man was rubbing his arms and stretching his feet out towards the fire. At least it wasn't snowing yet, because his shoes were certainly not appropriate for that weather.

Hannibal fetched a blanket from a hidden closet and draped it over Will’s lap. “You should dress warmer,” Hannibal said.

“I did dress warm! It's just really fucking cold outside.”

Hannibal gave an exasperated sigh. “Gloves and scarf, at least, Will.” He disappeared into the little kitchenette and made Will a cup of tea with honey. When he came out, Will had tucked his legs up into the chair with the blanket wrapped around him.

“Here, drink this.” Hannibal set the mug of tea on a coaster on the side table.

Will snorted. “You're mothering me.”

Hannibal froze, momentarily shocked. His expression made Will snort again, and grin into the blanket. “Maybe you need some mothering,” Hannibal replied.

“Mm.” Will picked up the mug and put it under his nose, breathing in the warm steam. “I'm not some helpless kid, you know.”

Hannibal just shook his head. Will looked quite young, snuggled up in the chair, and the sight warmed Hannibal. Will scowled. “I can hear you thinking,” he snapped.

“Yes. You're quite adult,” Hannibal teased. “Now please don't freeze to death in my office.”

Will grumbled, but Hannibal caught a smile hidden behind the mug.

He left Will to warm by the fire, sitting at his desk and picking up the drawing he was working on, a Caravaggio study. They settled into silence, the only sounds in the office the fire and the scratch of pencil against paper. Hannibal lost himself in the exercise, bringing figures to life in stark shadows. When he came to a stopping place, Will was still curled up quietly by the gas fire.

Hannibal walked quietly over to him, finding him asleep in the armchair. The firelight played across his soft features, casting shadows and glowing golden in his brown hair much like the painting Hannibal had recreated from memory. He was struck by the image. It was beautiful. Will was beautiful, fully relaxed in sleep and looking for once like his age, the tension gone from his eyes and shoulders, mouth slightly parted.

Hannibal committed the sight to memory. He would draw Will later, in private, touch the contours of his face with pencil on paper as he wouldn't in life, tempted as he was to sweep his fingers through Will’s hair and caress his cheek. For the first time, Hannibal’s fondness for the boy alarmed him, followed swiftly by a piercing longing in his gut. He was utterly infatuated.

Hannibal let Will sleep. He knew Will had enough trouble with insomnia, and between school and student employment he was often exhausted. It was nice to see him getting some rest.

Hannibal sat in one of the twin chairs in the dim light and, as he sometimes needed to, had a conversation with the better and worst devils of his nature.

 

Will stirred sleepily some time later, and Hannibal was still deep in thought. Will padded over to him with the blanket still wrapped around his shoulders, frowning at the dark and sliding his phone from his pocket. “Jesus, it’s late,” he said with faint surprise, squinting at Hannibal. “You look moody.”

Hannibal was delayed in responding, blinking as he brought himself back from deep thoughts. “Pensive,” he corrected, still as a statue in the dark.

Will plopped himself in the chair opposite Hannibal, curling up again in the blanket. “It’s nearly ten. I should head back to school.”

Hannibal sighed and pressed his fingers against his lips. “And now we’ve both missed dinner.”

“You would have let me sleep through the night if I hadn’t woken up.”

Hannibal smiled sadly, a bare shrug of his shoulders.

Will frowned. “What’s wrong?”

Hannibal shook his head. “Nothing for you to concern yourself with. Come, I’ll drive you back.”

Will crossed his arms over his chest and settled deeper in the chair. “I’m not leaving until you start talking.”

Hannibal was taken aback by Will’s persistence. He wasn’t used to this sort of frank offer of emotional support—he made sure that he never caused concern for others. Somehow, Will had seen through him. Hannibal looked towards the window, his jaw working. He felt… vulnerable. It was not a feeling he was used to.

“I used to constantly war with my nature,” Hannibal said with a sigh, speaking softly. “With diligence and awareness, I’ve made a sort of truce with myself. Sometimes my demons sneak up on me.” He gave Will a gentle smile. For once, Will was looking into his eyes, and Hannibal found himself avoiding them. “Nothing is wrong, Will. Just a lonely old man who has read too much philosophy.”

Will sucked in his lower lip, brows furrowed. “You’re familiar with the worst parts of yourself.”

“Intimately,” Hannibal agreed.

“I know that feeling,” Will said.

 

Hannibal drove him back to his dorm. It was an easy silence, this time, Will resting his forehead against the window and watching the snow begin to fall. Hannibal was lost, but he couldn’t think of anywhere else he would rather be.

“Goodnight, Hannibal,” Will said. It was the first time he had called Hannibal by his first name. Hannibal watched him skip off towards the door with his shoulders up to his ears and hands stuffed into his pockets from the cold, and even when he was safely tucked away inside, Hannibal remained watching the building until his heart stopped racing.

 


 

It took a few weeks for Hannibal’s tailor to finish the winter coat, and the cold was unrelenting. It would have been quicker to purchase a coat from one of the retailers he frequented, but Hannibal got caught up in anxiety about the designer labels. He was already fairly sure that Will would rebuff the gift. That wasn’t going to stop him.

When the coat was done, Hannibal had it delivered to Will’s dorm with a pair of fleece-lined leather gloves and a dark blue scarf, and a handwritten note tucked on top.

Stay warm.

-H

He tracked the delivery, and for a few days he heard nothing from Will. It was all he could think of, and he found himself acting more aloof and unconcerned with his patients and colleagues. Nearly a whole week passed before he heard from Will, and his worry mounted, appeased only by thoughts of Will wearing the clothes he had bought him, instead of freezing in this weather.

Will made an appointment by email instead of phone call, and Hannibal told himself he didn’t miss his voice.

It was snowing when Will arrived, and Hannibal couldn’t fully hide his dismay at seeing Will in his old jacket, frost clinging to his shoulders and beanie, and with the garment box tucked awkwardly under his arm. Will also looked miserable and agitated. “We need to talk about this,” Will said sharply, and thrust out the box. “I can’t take this from you.”

Hannibal blinked and swallowed his disappointment. “Would you come in?”

Will frowned, and for a moment Hannibal thought he might refuse. But he shrugged and came inside, setting the box down. The young man started pacing immediately. “I don’t know what you think this is,” he said harshly, “But I’m not taking gifts from you.”

“Why not?” Hannibal asked.

“That’s not—“ Will huffed. “You can’t just buy me a winter coat.”

“I believe I did.”

“Well I can’t accept it. That’s now the Graham way. I’m not your charity case.”

Hannibal was startled by the venom in the young man’s voice. “Not at all—Will, they’re simply gifts.”

“Nothing’s ‘simply a gift’ and nothing’s for free,” Will snapped back. “And I don’t know what you want from this, but you want something, and I’m not giving it.”

“Please, Will,” Hannibal entreated. “If you’d just calm down—”

It was the wrong thing to say. “I’m not going to calm down!” Will nearly shouted. “I’m mad! This pisses me off! You think I like not being able to afford real winter clothes? It’s embarrassing! And it’s embarrassing to receive something like that from someone who doesn’t know what it’s like to go hungry.”

Hannibal’s jaw shut with a click. For a moment, anger swept through him, followed swiftly by detachment. “It was not my intention to upset you,” he said in a flat voice.

“What was your intention?” Will accused, a cruel twist to the last word.

Hannibal made himself relax, and sit down in his chair. He watched Will stalk his office passively. “It was my intention for you to be warm.”

“Why?” Will demanded. “Just out of the selflessness of your heart? Give some of your damn money to the homeless who are freezing to death out there.”

Hannibal felt himself shut down further. He focused on his breathing and stared at his folded hands. He observed from a distance that his heart rate was slightly elevated. “But I don’t care about them,” he said quietly. “I care about you.”

Will stopped his pacing and glared at Hannibal. Hannibal let him look, his own eyes downcast. He was sure Will would storm out. That would be that.

“You can’t buy me things,” Will said again, but more gently this time. “It’s not appropriate. I feel put upon. In a certain way.”

Hannibal took a deep breath, and closed his eyes. He didn’t like feeling this way. But if he didn’t say something, Will would leave.

Better if he does.

“After our parents died, Mischa and I nearly froze to death in the estate,” Hannibal said in a low, hypnotic voice. “We were snowed in. The food ran out. We had to wait for the first thaw.” The memories bit at Hannibal from behind his eyes, from the dark places in his mind, trapped and treacherous. He opened his eyes, barely seeing, only vaguely aware of Will standing in his periphery, like a phantom. “When I saw you shivering in the cold, I just wanted you to be warm. They’re yours. If you don’t want them, donate them. I don’t care.”

The office was quiet. Will cursed under his breath.

It was quiet for so long that Hannibal thought Will might have slipped out. He wasn’t fully aware of his surroundings, feeling only the cold and the swirl of drifting flakes out of the window and in his mind. He had misstepped, obviously. There was nothing for it.

Slowly, Hannibal pulled himself back. Like clawing through the snowbank.

Will hadn’t left. He was sitting on the chaise to Hannibal’s right, hunched over his knees and gripping his hands tight. They seemed to become aware of each other in tandem, a shift of heads and sideways glance.

“You freaked me out,” Will said, by way of an apology. “I’m no good with… interpersonal stuff.”

“I should be the one apologizing,” Hannibal said. “It was not appropriate of me. Only, I won’t apologize. I don’t regret giving you the gift, Will, only that I failed to make my intentions clear.”

Will snorted. “Sorry, not sorry? You’re kind of an asshole, Dr. Lecter.”

Hannibal lifted his gaze, still serious. “I think you deserve to know my intentions.”

Will’s joking smile faded from his lips. “Alright?”

Hannibal gathered his thoughts. Even if it would push the young man away, it was better this way. “I’ve grown fond of you, Will,” he said. “I enjoy your company. It brings me pleasure to provide for you, be it books or food or clothes. I want to see you thrive. You have tremendous potential, and I can think of nothing more ugly in this world than your potential suffering because of something as arbitrary as circumstance and wealth. I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable, or that you owe me anything, because you certainly don’t. If you find my company distasteful, then I won’t bother you more, though let me support your research from afar.”

Will swallowed, a little click in the back of his throat, and looked away. “I don’t know what to say.”

“You don’t owe me a response.”

“Okay.” Will bit his lip. “You said you care about me.”

“I do,” Hannibal admitted. “My interest in you is not strictly academic. I apologize for making you uncomfortable.”

Will rubbed the bridge of his nose with a sigh. “I… need to think about this. I feel kinda confused.”

Hannibal nodded, and stood up. “Of course. I’ll see you out. Please, just… let me know if there’s any way I can remedy the situation.”

Will took his gift with him, which brought a little warmth to Hannibal’s cold thoughts.

Chapter Text

Hannibal gave Will his space, and Will took it. It was December, which meant that Hannibal was busy with extra appointments before his annual week off at the end of the year. His patients were more troubled due to the cold and the dark and the stress of the impending holidays. It was a difficult time of year for many. Hannibal was also busy with preparations for a holiday party, which was swiftly approaching. All and all, there was enough to distract him from the utterly distracting Will Graham.

Will did come back though, a few weeks after the coat incident, and seeing him in his waiting room banished all thoughts of gloomy patients and party planning. Hannibal couldn’t help but smile, especially seeing that Will was wearing the coat and scarf Hannibal had given them. His hair was a mess under his gray beanie, everything dusted with snow, and the young man’s cheeks were pink from the cold. Maybe from more than that, scowling up at Hannibal with a smile of his own pressed into the upturned collar of the pea coat. He looked quite dashing in it.

“Doctor Lecter,” Will said cheekily.

“Will Graham,” Hannibal said right back.

“Don’t get any ideas,” Will warned him, as Hannibal opened the door for him, their usual dance at the entrance to his office. “This doesn’t mean you can go spoiling me whenever the fancy strikes you.”

Hannibal tried to tame his smile. “Of course. May I take your coat?”

Will gave him an incredulous look and nearly rolled his eyes, but allowed Hannibal to take the coat from his shoulders and hang it up. Will wound the scarf from his neck and handed it to Hannibal as well, cheeks still pink. “I’ve thought about your gifts,” Will said, standing his ground. “And your hospitality.”

Hannibal inclined his head. “Would you like to take a seat?”

Will hesitated. “Sure. I can’t stay long,” he explained, headed to the chair. “It’s reading week.”

“How goes your studies?” Hannibal inquired, taking the seat opposite Will.

“Fine! Fine.” Will glanced over him, hand on his jaw. “I’m paying for my course load, but I’ll get it all done. Of course, I’ve decided to resubmit my thesis proposal, so… there’s that.”

“Really?” Hannibal asked, intrigued. “Are you taking a new direction?”

Will nodded. “I, uh, I'm still working with the Diathesis-Stress model, but I’d like to focus on criminal profiling.”

“Hmm,” Hannibal considered this. “Of the violently insane?”

Will grinned against his palm. “Quote un-quote. It’s a little outside the bounds of behavioral biology. Not a lot of biology.”

“You’ve always been most interested in understanding violently criminal acts.”

“Yeah. Anyway.” Will ran a hand through his hair. “I’ll have to wait after the break for them to approve it. Alana says it will most likely go through.”

“I’m confident.”

“So that’s that.” Will looked lazily around the room, avoiding Hannibal entirely. “Then there’s this.”

Hannibal crossed his legs and leaned back in his chair, seemingly relaxed. “Am I right in thinking that you’ve accepted my gifts?” he asked plainly.

“Nah, it’s just really cold.” Will grinned, glancing up mischievously. Just a brief caress of his gaze. “No, um. I have. I don’t know if I want you to give me anything else. At the very least, I want you to ask before buying me things.”

“I can do that,” Hannibal conceded. “What about food?”

Will swallowed, teeth grazing his lip. Hannibal tried not to stare. “You can—I wont turn down any food from you.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

Will’s cheeks went pink, and he crossed his arms over his chest, both self-conscious and pleased.

“I’m curious why you changed your mind,” Hannibal said.

Will adjusted his glasses. “It’s not that I changed my mind,” he explained. “I don’t like the idea of being dependent on another person, for anything. Or owing someone. But… it was… nice.” Will’s voice dropped to nearly a whisper. “To feel taken care of.”

He said it like confessing a grievous sin. And it must be blasphemous, how good those words made Hannibal feel.

 


 

The holiday party was a great success. Hannibal’s trusted caterers had prepared everything to his specifications and allowed him a bit more time out of the kitchen to mingle with his guests. Instead of a sit-down meal, there were circulating hors-devours and plenty to drink, guests socializing in the spacious living room.

After making his rounds, Hannibal found himself drawn into conversation with Alana Bloom, as he often was. He handed her a tall glass of beer, and she gave him a conspiratorial smile.

“You’ve really outdone yourself, Hannibal,” she said, taking a long sip. She considered the flavors thoughtfully.

“I always endeavor to outdo myself,” Hannibal replied.

“I like it,” Alana said, referring to the brew. “I taste nutmeg. And something tart.”

“Cranberry.”

“Very festive.”

Hannibal asked her about her teaching and their conversation turned around to their mutual student, Will Graham.

“I have to say, I’m surprised you get along so well,” Alana said.

“Really? He’s a fascinating young man.”

“Yes,” Alana agreed. “And very prickly. And weary of psychiatrists.”

“I haven’t been so tasteless as to psychoanalize him,” Hannibal assured her. 

“Glad to hear it. I knew you would find him interesting, but…”

“He doesn’t like that kind of attention.”

Alana nodded, finishing her beer. Hannibal handed it to a catered with murmured instructions to fetch another. “Are you trying to get me drunk?” Alana teased.

“Only as drunk as you want to be,” Hannibal assured her.

Alana looked around the room with a faint smile. “I worry about him, you know,” she said.

“Will?”

She nodded. “He doesn’t seem to have anyone,” she explained, “And most interactions seem painful to him. I’m glad he’s focused on his work, without that—Well.”

“Does he not get along with the other students?” Hannibal asked.

Alana laughed. “Not at all. His behavior in class is borderline aggressive. I’ve had to talk to him about it several times.”

Hannibal imagined Will tearing down his classmate’s arguments with vicious rigor, an smiled against the lip of his wine glass. “He strikes me as a self-sufficient young man. Is his antisocial behavior really so concerning?”

“I might be prone to worrying,” Alana admitted. “I just want him to have someone looking out for him.”

 


 

The guests had left, the caterers cleaned, and even Alana had been shepherded into a taxi after plucking drunkenly at his harpsichord. Hannibal sat down at the bench of the instrument himself, pleasantly drunk, and began to play. It was late, but he couldn’t bring himself to turn in quite yet.

Hannibal played a few tunes fresh from his repertoire, and then lapsed into improvisation. He struck on a few phrases that sounded pleasant to his ears, reverberating not just within the chords but with his own emotions—a little spirited, a bit of longing, and circular, coming back round again to a familiar note.

His playing was interrupted by a distant sound, and Hannibal frowned as he recognized it as his phone buzzing on the desk. He swayed to his feet and crossed the marbled floor, reaching around the ibex horns for his phone. It was Will. Hannibal answered immediately, before he registered the late hour.

“Hello Will,” Hannibal said pleasantly, wandering towards the couch.

There was silence on the other line. No, not complete silence—Hannibal detected a hitching breath in the static silence. “Will?”

“S-sorry,” Will said in a creaky voice. “I shouldn’t have called. It’s so late, I don’t know what I was thinking.”

“Not a problem,” Hannibal assured him. “I was still awake. Is everything alright?”

“God.” Will sounded miserable. “Fine, I’m just really drunk. Went to this party. It was miserable. I feel like shit.” His voice broke on the last word.

Hannibal felt himself get sober almost at once. “Are you on campus?”

“I don’t know why I called. I’m sorry for bothering you.”

“Will,” Hannibal said firmly. “You are not bothering me. I am trying to assess whether you are alright. Now, are you back at your room, or out?”

“God, now I’ve worried you.” Will laughed. “I’m just walking around campus, back to my room.”

“Would you mind staying on the line until you arrive?”

Will groaned. “Ah. Yeah, sure. Fuck.”

Hannibal imagined him trudging through the snowy campus, listening to him breathe through the cold. “Why was the party miserable?”

Will grunted. “I don’t want to talk about it. I’m going to say something really stupid. Seriously, I think my filter is gone and everything looks slightly sped up.”

“How much did you have to drink?”

“As much as I could get my hands on.”

Hannibal tutted. “I was hosting a party tonight, coincidentally.”

“Really?”

“My annual holiday party. Sounds like I had a much better night than you did.”

“No doubt. Are you drunk?”

“As much as I ever get, which is not very,” Hannibal replied. “I don’t like to lose my faculties.”

“But you’re a bit drunk.”

“A bit.”

“Think I’m giving up on parties. We don’t get along.”

“That’s a shame,” Hannibal replied. “Before you called I was just thinking how much I’d like to have you at one of mine.”

Will snorted. “I wouldn’t be good company.”

“I disagree.”

“I wouldn’t have a good time.”

“I suppose that’s a better reason.”

Will paused. “Were you really thinking of me?”

Yes, Hannibal thought but didn’t say. Through music, because I can’t get you out of my head. “Truly.”

Will sighed shakily. “I was thinking of you.”

Heat spread through Hannibal’s chest. “And how did you think of me?”

“Y-you shouldn’t ask me that.”

“I want to know.”

“Hah. You… you should ask nicely then.”

The warmth in his chest was spreading up to his cheeks. Everything else in the room had faded away besides the crackling of the fire and Will’s voice in his ear, so close and yet so far away. “Please, Will,” Hannibal said quietly, as if he could close the distance between them with his words. “How did you think of me?”

There was silence. Hannibal imagined he could see Will breathing, breath fogging in the cold around the phone, lips chapped and red. “I thought… I wanted you to come take me away from the party. That you wouldn’t mind, how I was. That you would just… take me away from it all.”

“I would have,” Hannibal said immediately.

Will chucked. “You we’re hosting your own party.”

“Regardless. If you had called me, I would have come. Tell me now, and I’ll come.”

“Jesus. I’m… I’m really drunk. I’m just going to fall asleep as soon as I hit the bed.”

“Do you want me to come?”

“I’m almost at the dorm,” Will protested. “You can’t.”

“I would.”

“Please don’t,” Will said miserably. “Don’t come. I don’t know what I’d do if you did. Something stupid. Vomit on your suit, probably.”

“Will—"

“Please. Hannibal. I wish you were here. Really badly. But don’t come.”

Hannibal let out a long breath. “Alright, Will. I won’t come.”

“I’m at the dorm.”

“Indulge me by staying on the line until you’re in your room?”

“Worried about me?”

“I’d ask you to stay on the phone with me all night if I wasn’t sure you’d fall asleep.”

“Oh boy, Dr. Lecter. You’ve got it bad.”

“Perhaps.”

“Alright. I’m in my room.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

“Can’t believe I called you. Please don’t hold this against me.”

“Not at all, Will. I hope you sleep well.”

“Ok. I’m sorry.”

“No apologies.”

“Goodnight, Hannibal.”

“Goodnight, Will.”

Hannibal sat with his phone cradled to his chest for a long time yet.

Chapter Text

Hannibal only slept a few hours that night. When he couldn’t fall back asleep in the early morning, he busied himself with cleaning up after the party, replaying his phone conversation with Will from the previous night.

There seemed to be a heat in his chest that wouldn’t go away. Normally cold-blooded, this new sensation was uncomfortable. And addicting.

Once it was approaching a reasonable hour, Hannibal drove to his favorite bakery, and then to the upscale coffee shop where he sourced his beans. Around 9:30AM he was parked outside of Will’s dorm with two hot coffees and a bag of pastries.

He called Will. It nearly rang out before Will answered with a bleary and beleaguered, “What?”

“Good morning, Will.”

“Hannibal?”

“Yes. Are you awake?”

Will groaned. “No. Yes. I don’t want to be.”

“I’m parked outside.”

“Huh?”

“Would you come out?”

“What? Uh, fine. Just give me a minute.”

It was no longer snowing, but cold enough still to keep yesterday’s fall. The campus was empty at this hour, everything blanketed in still white. The heat from inside the car quickly fogged the frozen windows. After a few minutes, Hannibal saw a shape approach the car through the frost.

Will opened the car door, bringing in some of the cold, and quickly hopped in. His hair was a mess and his eyes were crusted with sleep, and he wore sweats and a plain t-shirt under the coat. Hannibal smiled at him. “I thought you might need to fortify yourself this morning,” Hannibal explained, handing Will his cup of coffee. “So I brought coffee and pastries.”

Will looked at him wide-eyed as he took the coffee, their fingers brushing. His face was pink from the cold, but it didn’t seem to be fading in the warmth of the car. Will blinked slowly, and then seemed to realize he was holding caffeine, and whined in relief. He took a careful sip, then a longer one. “God bless you,” Will said, slumping back in his seat.

“God has nothing to do with it,” Hannibal said with a chuckle. “How are you feeling?”

“Really hungover.”

“I imagine.”

“Slightly better, now.” Will tried to suppress a smile. “You brought me coffee.”

Hannibal held up the paper bag from the bakery. “Not just coffee.”

Will blinked at him from several moments, obviously not at full operating capacity. He took the bag and peered inside. “Um. Thank you.” He closed the bag and looked back at Hannibal. He had forgotten to put on his glasses, and Hannibal had an unobstructed view of his blue eyes before they ducked away behind dark lashes.

“Please, eat if you’re hungry,” Hannibal said, and sipped his own coffee.

Will’s brows pulled together. “In your fancy car?”

“Yes.”

The windows were completely fogged by now, making the Bentley feel like a cozy oasis from the cold outside. Hannibal watched from his periphery as Will picked a donut from the contents of the bag, biting into the sweetness with a soft moan of delight. Will passed the paper bag back, and Hannibal selected a danish, getting a few flakes on his slacks as he ate. He put a napkin in the cup holder and picked up the flakes one by one as they fell, placing them in the makeshift receptacle.

“You’re ridiculous,” Will said, wiping berry frosting from his lips with the back of his hand.

Hannibal hummed, neither in agreement or disagreement.

“What are you doing here anyway?” Will asked. “Not that I don’t appreciate this. But it’s really out of your way.”

Hannibal looked at him directly. “Do you remember our phone call from last night?”

Will’s cheeks darkened, and he hid behind his coffee. “Yeah. Mostly. I didn’t black out or anything. I remember asking you not to come,” he said pointedly.

“Yes. I think it would have been a poor idea to come over when we were both inebriated. So here I am, at the very least to delivery coffee and food and hopefully aid in your recovery.”

Will was staring at his chin, eyes flicking up and down as if he were trying to make eye contact—or trying not to. “At the very least. And—" His voice caught. “At the most?”

Hannibal reminded himself to say something reasonable. At least, he tried. “If I could I would take you away from all your troubles. At the moment, all I have to offer is my company, and my care, if you wish it.”

“Your company?” Will looked away.

“I’m not speaking euphemistically,” Hannibal said. “Whatever you want, Will, and nothing more.”

Will bit his lip, and just as quickly released it. “This is all fairly euphemistic.”

Hannibal had to pause and gather his thoughts. He tried to speak carefully. “I fear I’ve already imposed on you with my familiarity. I would apologize, but I’m fairly sure I will do it again, so I’ll have to be sparing with my apologies.”

“I’ll tell you if you make me uncomfortable. I have.”

“Yes, and I appreciate that. But you are not solely responsible for preventing me from overstepping.”

“You’re tiptoeing, Doctor. I’m not a piece of china.”

“Should I be more blunt, then?”

Will looked down at the pastry in his lap. “Please.”

Hannibal took a breath, and set his coffee down. He folded his hands in his lap, and stared at the fogged window. “My feelings for you are neither platonic nor sexual. I desire your company in any extent you wish to share it, and abhor the idea of imposing on you or causing you any strife. I find rudeness unspeakably ugly, but had you called me earlier last night, I would have left my guests in a heartbeat to come to you. That should frighten me, but instead I find it thrilling. I doubt there is anything you could ask of me that I could refuse you.”

The warmth in Hannibal’s chest was building and building. He thought it must burst or dissipate, but it stayed, pressing against his ribs. His words hung heavy in the air, but he was also relieved to have said them. It was foolish to keep the fervor of his feelings from Will. Dangerous even.

He turned slowly to Will, gauging his reaction. He was looking back at Hannibal, for once fully making eye contact, stormy blue eyes weary beneath the tense line of his brow. His gaze focused, and Hannibal felt layers peel back from his mind, bearing him completely. Hannibal didn’t speak. If he opened his mouth, the words would pour out unbidden.

With a twitch of his nose and self-conscious smirk, Will glanced away. “Well,” he said, and cleared his throat. “Take me away, then.”

“Where would you like to go?” Hannibal asked breathlessly.

“Your place?” The blush was back in full force. “Um. I’m flying out to Louisiana tomorrow, for Christmas.”

Hannibal turned the ignition, and started the defroster. “How long will you be visiting your father?” he asked lightly.

“Just a little over a week,” Will answered, pulling pieces off the donut and plopping them into his mouth as Hannibal started to drive.

“What airport do you fly out of?”

“You…” Will stopped himself. Took a breath. “Do you want to give me a ride?”

“I do.”

“Alright.” Will burrowed into his coat. “That’s fine with me.”

 


 

 

Will nearly nodded off by the time Hannibal reached his house, the collar of his coat upturned and hiding half of his face. Hannibal parked, and squeezed Will’s arm gently. “We’re here.”

“Mm.” Will grumbled sleepily, and blinked over at Hannibal. He nodded, and Hannibal reluctantly let go of his arm. He couldn’t resist a light touch to Will’s elbow as he guided the hungover boy up the steps to his front door.

“Definitely, terribly hungover,” Will complained, leaning slightly into Hannibal as he unlocked the door.

“Well, let's get some water in you and then you can rest,” Hannibal said.

He lead Will into the house and pulled lightly at the collar of his coat. Will let him slip it off his shoulders after untangling his lanky arms from where they were wrapped protectively around his chest. Sliding his arms out, Hannibal caught a whiff of Will’s scent from the nape of his neck—florid sweat and sticky alcohol. There were small spots of sweat on his grey t-shirt, under his arms and at the center of his back. Hannibal enjoyed seeing him disheveled like this, grumpy from his headache and sleepy.

“A tour, or is it straight to bed with you?” Hannibal asked as he finished hanging Will’s coat and his own. He had dressed down himself in slacks and a red sweater over his button up, no tie.

Will looked at him, eyes warm and slightly dazed. “I don’t feel great. I’d like to lie down.”

“Very well. I’ll show you to the guest room.” Hannibal guided him up the stairs with a hand high on his back. Will had his arms crossed again and was a bit hunched, glancing at his surroundings.

“Is that a suit of samurai armor?” Will sounded incredulous.

“It is.”

Will just shook his head. Hannibal had no doubt that he would voice his opinions on the decorations when he was feeling better.

The guest room was not as ostentatiously decorated as the rest of the house, with only one set of animal horns and tame landscape paintings. The colors were all dark, though, reds and warm browns. “Please make yourself comfortable,” Hannibal said, turning on the lights dimly. “I’ll get you some water, and something for the headache.”

Will nodded, and sat on the edge of the bed to untie his shoes.

Hannibal came back with much more than water and aspirin—he had a fresh towel for Will, a new toothbrush, and a set of extremely soft sleeping clothes. They were his own, and as such wouldn’t fit properly, but it would have to do. Will was already splayed out on the bed on his stomach, shirt discarded, and hugging a pillow to his chest. His back was pale and smooth.

“Thanks,” Will mumbled, not moving.

“Here, drink this,” Hannibal insisted.

Grumbling, Will turned on his side and propped himself up on his elbow to grab the glass of water and the bottle of aspirin. He took two and sipped at the glass of water.

“The bathroom is just down the hall,” Hannibal said. “Feel free to make use of anything you find there, and feel better.”

“Thanks.” Will lay on his back and stared back at Hannibal.

“Is there anything else you need?” Hannibal asked. He was suddenly aware of the distance between them, proper and stagnant. How he wished to look upon Will freely, but for the moment he kept his eyes resolutely on Will’s face.

Will glanced down with a blush, and shook his head. “No, um.” He rubbed his face. “No. Just going to rest.”

Hannibal turned off the lights and closed the door behind him as he left.

 


 

 Some hours later there were soft footsteps upstairs, and then the running of the shower. Hannibal seldom had guests on the second floor, and it was peculiar to sense movement above him, almost as if Will was striding through the halls of his mind. Hannibal focused on the material realm, preparing a lunch for them both—juicing oranges and stuffing sausages. Chopin played lightly over the speakers, though he was distracted by the melody from last night, not as of yet composed.

It was better to translate his mental state into music and food. The abstract nature of those translation pleased him—the swell of cadence and decadence; the slice that bared the red, pulpy flesh of a blood orange, so thin as to be transparent; the aromas of spice and fruit and oil. At the moment he couldn’t address the sensations directly, should not think of pale skin and shifting expressions and the color of the ocean. Should not think how his internal rhythm shifted from Suite no.3 to Will’s footsteps down the stairs.

Hannibal did not turn from his work when Will came into the doorway of the kitchen, watching him for a few silent moments as Hannibal dropped the sausages into the sizzling pan. “How are you feeling?” Hannibal asked after a moment.

“Mm. Better.”

“There’s coffee in the french press” Hannibal offered, glancing over his shoulder. Will was leaning against the doorframe, and the sight of him nearly made the words die in his mouth. Will was freshly showered, hair still damp and flat against his head. He was wearing the loaned sleepwear, which was swallowing him whole—sleeves pushed up but still at his knuckles, the delicate line of his collarbone exposed, soft grey fabric falling against and hiding the lithe lines of his body in the most endearing and tantalizing way. His skin was slightly pink from the heat of the shower.

“Sounds good,” Will said with a shrug, walking over to the island to see what Hannibal was up to. The cloth of the pajamas moved around his legs as he walked, nearly smooth as silk. Hannibal blinked and the image remained imprinted on the inside of his eyelids.

He had possibly made a miscalculation.

Will bypassed him to the other side of the island and poured himself a cup of coffee. “I’m still not 100% but I think I’m functional,” he said. He took a sip of coffee and closed his eyes in pleasure.

“I’m glad to hear it.”

“That smells good.”

“I hope you have an appetite,” Hannibal commented. “I also have leftovers from last night I need your assistance with.”

Will grinned, a brief flash of teeth. “I could eat.”

Hannibal sent him out to the dining room so he could plate their lunch, always one for the dramatic reveal. It was a more simple meal of slow-cooked grits, sausage, and seared greens, but the platter of hors-devours left from last night more than made up for it in extravagance. “You have a garden in here,” Will called from the other room, incredulous.

Hannibal smiled to himself. “A well-maintained garden is a key component to any kitchen.”

Hannibal brought out the plates. Will was standing by the fireplace, looking at the painting. “Doctor Lecter,” Will said in a mock-scandalized voice, looking over his shoulder.

“Leda and the Swan, by Francois Boucher,” Hannibal said without missing a beat, laying the table with their feast.

Will snorted, and turned to the table to take his seat. “Yeah, I gathered. You have an understated yet wicked sense of humor.”

Hannibal took his own seat. “Oh?”

Will flashed him a toothy grin, head cocked to one side. “I bet no one ever comments on it, do they? All your prestigious dinner guests. Tripping over their tongues when they realize what they’re looking at.”

“I consider myself a patron of the arts,” Hannibal said, poker face on.

Will laughed, and picked up his fork. “You love pushing people as far as they’ll go. Seeing what you can get away with.” He dug into the meal, cutting through a sausage with the side of his fork. Hannibal did not stare as he wrapped his lips around the utensil, savoring the first bite. “Wow. This is amazing.”

Hannibal smiled politely, and began to eat as well. “I know fully well what I can get away with.”

“Oh?” Will repeated his own tone back at him, faux innocence.

“Beauty makes the terrible palatable, and weaves meaning in the world," Hannibal said.

Will snorted softly. “Zeus didn’t need to be a pretty bird to get away with that. He had power.”

“Power comes in many forms.”

“What do you get away with?” Will asked, probing.

Hannibal considered. There were all manners of acts he could get away with, that he deliberately did not. The breadth of his alibi was at times all too tempting. “Chiefly, my privacy,” Hannibal answered at last. “Indulgence in my peculiarities.”

"Hmm." Will didn't seem fully pleased with his answer, but let it lie. 

Finished with the main course of their lunch, Hannibal introduced Will to the artful hor-devours from last night, pawning off as many as he could onto the boy’s plate. He explained the ingredients and Will indulged him in trying each, considering the juxtaposed flavors. Will was a delight to watch eat, his expressions all on the surface, rosy lips smiling under the attention.

Will waved Hannibal off when he was stuffed, leaning back in his chair with a hand on the little rise of his belly. Full and warmed by the fire and relaxed. Hannibal placed the last prosciutto wrapped fig in his mouth, sucking the lingering sweetness from his thumb.

Hannibal gave Will a tour of the house and was subjected to open teasing of his decoration. Hannibal couldn’t help but preen. He had received his usual compliments on his tastes the night before, but those compliments never hit home. Hearing Will pick his eccentricities apart with such insight was superior to any praise.

Will guessed at the added decorations for the party, and Hannibal admitted that besides the tree and golden orbs in pine nestled throughout the first floor, his home was, yes, usually this ostentatious.

“You’re morbid,” Will accused.

“I find comfort in reminders of my own mortality,” Hannibal replied.

Will’s ears wiggled with his grin. “Like I said: morbid.” He wandered over to the harpsichord and drew his hand along its flank before sitting down at the bench. “I don’t mind morbid,” Will added, touching the keys but not playing. He liked to fiddle with his surroundings in Hannibal’s office, and his home was no different.

“The darker aspects of human nature are compelling.” Hannibal approached him, and when Will sidled over, he joined him on the bench. The length of their thighs touched, warm even in the heated room. Hannibal began to play, a classic Bach aria. “In the extremes of life and death, joy and suffering, our true potentials are revealed.”

Will watched his fingers. “You can play and hold conversation. Impressive.”

“My mind is always occupied in several places at once,” Hannibal said smoothly, hands dancing up and down the keys as he plucked the sharp tune from the instrument.

“Philosophy and sonatas?”

“Leda and recipes,” Hannibal agreed.

Will scoffed lightly. The negative space between them felt as magnetic as where their hips touched. Hannibal was acutely aware of the shape of air between his moving arms and Will beside him, the gentle lift and fall of breath and beat. Hannibal leaned towards Will to reach the lower notes. He smelled divine—clean, and like home with Hannibal’s own products over his natural scent, the tang of copper, firewood and salt. In the corner of his eye he saw Will lean his head on his shoulder, away, exposing the long line of his neck.

“I’m not sure if the darker extremes are compelling,” Will muttered. “They might just be awful and ugly.”

“Tell me—is it easier for you to distinguish between good and bad, or beauty and ugliness?”

“I don’t spend as much time as you considering beauty.”

“More contemplating morality.” Hannibal closed out the aria, fingers hovering over the keys once the last note had been plucked. Unlike the piano, there was no reverberation except what remained in memory, a silence touched by the last chord in the air. He folded his hands on his lap. He wouldn’t turn to look at Will directly—that would bring them too close together.

“Both are instinctual,” Will said, as if considering the idea. “You know it when you see it.”

“Both can be learned,” Hannibal countered.

Will straightened his head on his shoulders and looked at Hannibal, who glanced at him. “Do you know right and wrong?” Will asked, holding Hannibal with the direct line of his stare.

It seemed that they were speaking euphemistically again. Will had that challenging look in his eyes, like he was pushing Hannibal towards some edge and daring him not to jump. “I have learned,” Hannibal answered. “At least, what is expected of me, which natures are permitted and which condemned.”

“You don’t seem like the kind of man to let social moors rein in your nature,” Will said, shifting his feet wider and putting more pressure where their thighs met. Hannibal imagined he could feel more than warmth through the thin fabric.

Challenge set. Hannibal turned his head to regard the boy fully, and allowed himself to really look—his angelic features, soft and sinfully beautiful; the low dip of the ill-fitted neckline, showing collar and down his pale sternum; the elegant legs spread and revealed in the soft fabric. Hannibal was not a moral man, but he did his best to not directly harm others, as if one slip would have him plummeting. And it was not guilt that kept Hannibal aloft, for there would be no remorse in the wake of his fall from grace, but a promise whispered long ago.

Even now, he could not deny that keeping Will in arms reach but no further was a manipulative ploy. Hannibal would not make a forward move nor engineer Will’s desire for him. If what they danced around was to occur, it would be under Will’s direction. Hannibal could seduce him now and well, and maybe Will would stay for a time until resentment grew heavy in his chest. But if it wasn’t really what Will wanted, or needed, Hannibal would lose him. And he wanted him for more than a tryst to warm his sheets.

So seeing the temptation for what it was, Hannibal placed a hand on Will’s shoulder and pushed him slightly away so they could see each other clearly. Not running like he was caught out in his desire—which he certainly was, Hannibal was no fool. Hannibal spoke softly. “Many times I think to myself, how can something that brings us pleasure be wrong? That which enlivens the senses and brings beauty and meaning to a world so often ugly and senseless.” He smiled soft, and drew his hand down Will’s arm until it fell from his elbow. “But I am not beholden to my desires.”

Will’s eyes were dilated, sucking all the light from the room to burn in the safire rim. To drink in every inch Hannibal showed him. Wanting was there, in his pink cheeks and parted lips, just a reflection perhaps, quickly sobered as Will narrowed his eyes. A grin cracked across the young man’s face and he looked away, shaking his head. “Jesus,” he muttered, striking a low E on the harpsichord. “You hear yourself sometimes?”

Hannibal patted Will on the shoulder, fond and no more, and stood from the bench. “You are temptation incarnate,” Hannibal said, so plainly that Will gave a startled laugh, wrinkling up his nose in the way that Hannibal had come to adore. “But I am a man of my word.”

 

Chapter Text

 The Bentley pulled up smoothly to the BWI airport departures. Before Will could say a hasty goodbye in the car, Hannibal was stepping out, retrieving his small suitcase from the trunk. He would not see Will off without a proper farewell, which turned out to be sweetly timid: Will holding the rolling suitcase in one hand with the other clasped around the strap of his backpack, both hands tensing with the curve of his spine as though he wanted to reach out, lip bitten into a weary smile. “Thanks for the ride,” he said, gaze unsteady. “I’ll see you when I get back?”

The cold wind blew his hair across his face, and after he tucked the locks back behind his ear Hannibal took the wandering hand and held it in his own. One squeeze, not a handshake, but firm and affectionate. The swipe of his thumb across the back of the boy’s hand, turning up the warmth between them. “Yes, you will,” Hannibal said.

 


 

The night before: Hannibal poured Will a little wine with dinner, the bottle chosen to compliment the salt baked fish. Will eyed the glass with that haughty, skeptical look he got when teasing, and said, “You know I’m not of legal drinking age.”

“I’m aware,” Hannibal answered, setting the bottle down and taking his seat. “A little wine at dinner won’t harm you.”

Will took the glass straight away, tilting it a bit to watch the viscous liquid swirl. “And if I want more than a little?” he asked, and then took a sip. His eyes widened at the flavor. It was certainly superior wine to anything he had consumed before, and Hannibal was pleased to see Will enjoy something fine.

“If you want to inebriate yourself, I’d rather you do it here than at a miserable college party,” Hannibal said. “Though I’m surprised you’d want to, considering last night.”

Will frowned. “No, I’m just…”

“Feeling for the boundaries.”

“Yes.”

Hannibal gave a little shrug. “The drinking age is arbitrary. Though I would suggest refraining from excess.”

Will looked thoughtful as he ate, so Hannibal did not immediately draw them into conversation. He was complimentary of the food, but kept looking to the side in contemplation, and Hannibal could only guess as to what he was thinking under the surface. When Will’s glass was empty, Hannibal refilled it, a little more generously this time.

“Can I ask you a personal question?” Will asked at last, holding the wine glass close to himself like a shield.

“You haven’t shied from that before,” Hannibal said.

Will’s lips quirked. He set down the glass and rotated it slowly on the tabletop. He didn’t look at Hannibal when he asked, brows pinched, “Are you gay?”

The question did not particularly surprise him, and Hannibal answered easily. “I have been with women before and enjoyed it, but primarily, yes.”

Will nodded, confirmed in his suspicions. Eyes still to the side. “Just my luck—born with a brain like this, and I can’t bring myself to like girls.”

Hannibal thought it was his luck in fact, but understood what Will meant. Will’s disdain for his lack of normalcy, and his alluded attempts to force himself to be so, bothered Hannibal, but he set those feelings aside. “You were born in a far more forgiving time than I was.”

Will scowled at that. “I’m from Louisiana. It’s still bad.”

“Is Baltimore better?”

Will took his wine glass back, speaking into the liquid. “College is better. Everyone’s chill about it, on the surface. And it’s nice to not feel like I’m the only one. But most of the time I feel like I don’t know the social script.”

Hannibal considered the young man before him. “When I was your age, I was in France. I was the youngest ever to be admitted to the medical college there, and the age difference strained my relationships with my peers. In truth, I spent what little social time I had in the French gay scene, with people far older than myself or my peers. Age was not such a factor with them.”

Hannibal thought of the queers that raised him into his adulthood, so very different from his conservative family. The lesbians he sought refuge with, the lessons he learned from the men. Kindly taught lessons, hard lessons. Oh, the literature. Jean Genet, Monique Wittig, Radclyffe Hall. Smoking and drinking too much wine in their clubs, more often than not studying while someone played with his hair. The protests throughout Paris when they started withering away in droves.

Hannibal was a coquettish, serious boy then, gaunt as a skeleton and too handsome and self-assured for his own good. Will reminded him very much of himself. He wanted that companionship for Will but none of the hard lessons, and he felt a surge of protectiveness that many of his den mothers must have felt when they saw the older men swarm him, the pretty young thing on the scene.

“The age difference is a large factor,” Will said. “My first year I didn’t talk to anyone. And I looked like I was younger still. No one thought I was a student.”

“I imagine you were quick to correct them on that.”

Will grinned, but it was brief. “Oh yes.” He sipped his wine. “I try, you know. To socialize.”

“It’s important to find and preserve connections with others,” Hannibal said. “Especially with those who share experience and perspective.”

Will rubbed the back of his neck. Nervous boy. “I never really talk about this.”

“This?” Hannibal prompted.

“Being gay.” Will looked forlornly down at his plate, and set the wine aside to pick at the remains of his fish. He never struck Hannibal as more lonely than in that moment.

“You may always talk to me about such matters,” Hannibal said.

Will laughed nervously, a sharp intake of breath. “Heterosexuality feels like an ill-fitting skin,” he said, venomously articulating each consonant. “And I see too well how people expect me to wear it. Not so different from how they expect me to be less…” Will made an abortive shake of his head. “Ah. Me .”

“Your sharp sense of observation does you a disservice here,” Hannibal commented. “You see how you are perceived before you have a chance to show how you are.”

Will shrugged. “I thought it would be different… with guys.”

Hannibal tilted his head. “You thought what would be different?”

Will blushed, furrowed his brows. His shame was palpable, sinking his mood like a stone. “I tried to—to hook up with someone. At the party. A guy.” He scowled. “It was still so ill-fitting.”

A cold drop in his stomach. Hannibal schooled his features. “Were you excessively drunk at the time?” he asked.

Will’s face turned bright red and he shot Hannibal a glare. “Are you going to give me the consent lecture?” he snapped.

“Not at all,” Hannibal said patiently. “I am merely suggesting that inebriation is not conducive to a positive sexual encounter with a new partner.”

Will scoffed. “That’s the only way I do it.” He tapped his temple. “Gotta turn this down first.”

Hannibal frowned. The image of Will getting himself drunk and throwing himself at some college boy made his skin itch. “That’s concerning to hear,” he said gently.

Will rolled his eyes. “Look,” he said defensively. “You don’t get it. It’s way worse when I’m sober. Enthusiastic consent is a great premise, but it’s a little difficult to extricate your autonomy when your brain is a house of mirrors bouncing around someone else’s desire. Trust me, it’s fine. I just thought it would fit better than it did.”

Hannibal took a breath. It certainly did not sound fine to him, but Will was retreated behind his fortress. “Like any art, sex takes practice and experimentation. It is something that grows with you.”

“I’m not like swearing off it because of one bad hook up,” Will said. “Like any art. You’re so much, sometimes.”

Hannibal smiled faintly. “You were upset when you called me. You are upset now.”

Will’s face twisted. For a moment he looked like he would deny it, irritated at Hannibal. “If you say ‘it gets better’...”

“What has upset you about your encounter?”

Will groaned. He rubbed his eyes. “I feel stupid for trying to act normal and then getting upset when it wasn’t easy.”

“Any sexual partner who doesn’t want you for yourself, doesn’t deserve you.”

Will smiled. “It’s not that easy.”

Hannibal had to disagree. It seemed the easiest and most natural thing in the world.

 


 

Will became loose and warm with the wine, and they lounged in the study by the fire. Hannibal told him stories of his youth in Paris: the vibrant characters, the dingy and elegant scenes, the stark contrast between sterile days at the college and exuberant, strange nights. Of the two women who owned a bookstore and broadened his tastes from just the classics. How he concerned his aunt and sister by staying out late and with such ‘unsavory types’.

In turn, Will told him of the banal horrors of his schools, dismissive of appalling events—the suicides, the bullying, the boy who was tied up to a tree in the swamps and nearly died of exposure. Few comforts save for solitude and the stoic company of fisherman. Spending all day at the library when he could get there, whether hitchhiking or walking an hour to the bus. The first time Will kissed a boy and thought oh, here it is. Hannibal was nearly distracted by the image of 15 year old Will fumbling with an older boy in the back of a truck.

“Did you always know?” Will asked, using vaugaries and pink-cheeked from more than the wine.

“I always knew I was different,” Hannibal answered. “But I did not always know where my attractions lied. For most of my adolescence I was completely disinterested in sex.”

“Really?” Will said, at first surprised. His brows pinched and eyes wandered as he sought the context for Hannibal’s words, putting puzzle pieces together. It was not typical of Hannibal to speak so openly of his past, but it was worth it to lure Will into speaking of himself, and despite his trepidation Hannibal wanted to share his private experiences with Will.

Contemplative, Will draped himself against the arm of the couch, propping his head on his wrist. Curled and relaxed, as opposed to curled-in protectively. His elegant pink toes peeked out from the too-large hem of his pajamas. “It wouldn't surprise me to hear you were asexual.” For a moment Hannibal thought of komodo dragons and and fungi, before he caught what Will meant by the term. “Except that you’re such an unabashed hedonist,” Will added.

“I’ve never felt that I needed sex,” Hannibal said. “But the body offers many pleasures, and I covet new experiences.”

Will grimaced, something akin to embarrassment. “So. Well. When did you figure it out?”

“I did so over time. My burgeoning attraction to other people was driven more by curiosity than desire.”

Will grinned against his palm. “I know these questions are juvenile.”

“I find it charming. It’s been a long time since anyone asked after my youth.”

Will smiled sheepishly, his free hand trailing down to the empty wine glass on the carpet, tilting it slightly one way then another. “You have lovers occasionally,” Will said, his voice dreamlike and distant, “But not for very long. They’re affairs, not courtships. You find them entertaining, you like the newness they bring into your life for a time, and then…” Will glanced up, suddenly worried. “Should I stop?”

Hannibal was nearly breathless, so focused as he was on Will. “No,” he said cautiously. “You don’t need to stop.”

Will relaxed, and his eyes drooped shut. “After a time you get bored with them, and then you elegantly extract yourself. You are careful not to entertain the wrong impressions about the relationship. I doubt that you have many stilted lovers.” His brow furrowed. “It’s clear now that you don’t want a life partner, but maybe there was a time you tried.” Will opened his eyes to read Hannibal’s face. “It wasn’t that someone slipped past your defenses. You set out with a purpose, found someone to fit in your life. You wondered, ‘Can I do this? I can do anything, surely I can do this’. And you did. For a while.”

Will was eerily astute in his observations. Hannibal never believed in the supernatural, but it almost seemed like Will knew things he had no way of knowing. But he knows me, Hannibal realized. “What was the problem in the relationship?” Hannibal asked curiously.

Will smiled briefly. “You, of course,” he said, but not unkindly. “You were a flawless partner in many ways but couldn’t overcome a deficiency of emotional intimacy. You could fake it well enough, and probably could have stayed in the relationship happily for many more years. But you weren’t satisfied.” Will shrugged. “You wanted more.”

Hannibal nodded, looking towards the fire. He could feel Will watching him. “There was one relationship like that. After I started my psychiatric practice. He was an academic, art history.” Hannibal mused over the flames, gold flickering on the dramatic contours of his face. “It is difficult to overcome the feeling of otherness.”

“I know that,” Will said softly.

Chapter Text

12/23 4:22PM


 

Will: Do you text?

 

Hannibal: Apparently so.

Will: It’s a bit boring at my dad’s. What are you up to?

 

Hannibal: I’m attending the opera tonight. There’s a performance of Orfeo ed Euridice.

Will: Fancy. I know that myth.

 

Hannibal: Indeed. It’s a story that has always bothered me. But this particular opera was influential to the German and French styles that followed, and makes interesting breaks in tradition.

Will: What bothers you about the myth?

 

Hannibal: I can think of no conceivable reason that Orpheus would look back at Eurydice, knowing that she would vanish when he did.

Will: I don’t think it was a rational decision.

 

Hannibal: Orpheus was weak-willed. In this version, doubt plagues both of them. Orpheus is forbidden from speaking while escorting Eurydice from Hades, and so she believes he doesn't love her anymore, and refuses to go on.

Will: The lack of trust bothers you?

 

Hannibal: I find it frustrating. But more so, it disturbs me that the act of seeing results in death and separation.

Will: Sounds like you take personal affront.

 

Hannibal: I would hardly go that far.

Will: It makes a kind of sense, though, doesn’t it? You can’t see death. Not beyond it. Just that something is gone.

 

Hannibal: In myth, rules are inevitably broken.

Will: Maybe Orpheus was curious. Can you really say that you wouldn’t look back?

 

 

12/25 11:30AM


 

 

Hannibal: Merry Christmas, Will.

Will: Merry Christmas, Hannibal.

 

12/27 5:16PM


 

Will: look what I caught!

[Image attached]

 

Hannibal: You make me jealous of the chef who gets to cook that beauty.

Will: Barely going to fit on the grill!

 

12/27 6:55PM

Will: I kept dad from overcooking it. You’d be proud.

 

12/27 8:30PM

 

Hannibal: I'll make a chef of you yet.

 

12/31 8:03PM


 

Will: Doing anything for the new year tonight?

 

Hannibal: I’m attending a soirée. Yourself?

Will: Just drinking and watching the ball drop with dad and his friends. You’ll have to forgive me if I drunk text you.

 

Hannibal: I look forward to it.

Will: Don’t encourage me!

 

12/31 8:53PM

Will: Is this reverse psychology

 

12/31 9:30PM

Will: your probably at your SOIREE

 

12/31 9:41PM

 

 

Hannibal: I apologize for neglecting you, Will.

Will: Would he rude to text at your party.

 

Hannibal: Yes, it is.

Will: But you are.

 

Hannibal: You inspire me to rudeness, I’m afraid.

Will: Ifs just texts.

I’m not even saying anything.

Go back to your party

Sorry SORIEE

*SOIREE

 

Hannibal: You manage to be more entertaining than my acquaintances, even as you are.

Will: I said don’t encourage me!!

 

Hannibal: Do you wish me to ignore you? It seems rather, that you enjoy my attentions.

Will: omg

I might

like the idea of you texting and ignoring everyone else

 

Hannibal: How does it make you feel?

Will: haha

Dont ask me that.

 

Hannibal: But I want to know.

Will: And I’m drunk enough to tell you. AKA don’t ask me that.

 

Hannibal: If I want to know and you want to tell me, what’s the problem?

Will: You know why.

you KNOW

you absolutely incorrigible old man

 

Hannibal: I apologize, Will. I do understand, I believe.

Will: fuck

 

Hannibal: Are you upset?

Will: No!

How does it make YOU feel?

 

Hannibal: Your attention?

Will: yes

 

Hannibal: It makes me feel alive. Very much so.

Will: fuk

fuck

I like it

It feels good Hannibal. Really good. stupidly grood.

 

Hannibal: You have my full attention.

Will: Leave the party.

 

Hannibal: As you say, Will.

Will: really?

 

Hannibal: Yes, Will.

Will: call me whe u get home

 


 

Hannibal called Will as soon as his coat was hung. Will answered quickly, sounding faintly out of breath. “Hey.”

“Hello, Will. I’m home.”

Will cackled. “You really did it. God. Okay, okay—will you do something else for me?”

Anything , Hannibal thought. “Of course.”

“I want you to get drunk. Very drunk.”

Hannibal hummed, and made his way to the bar in his lounge. “Is it important to you that we be on equal footing?”

“Mostly I’m curious. You’re always so controlled. I want to see you loosen up.”

Hannibal pulled out a few bottles. Nothing he had was meant for shots. “What are you drinking?” he asked.

“Beer and whiskey.”

“Do take care of yourself. I’m not there to do so.”

Will laughed again. “Don’t worry so much.”

Hannibal poured himself four fingers of whiskey and held the glass aloft, contemplative. “This is a bad idea,” he said curiously.

“What?” Will teased. “You worried about letting something slip? What’s a mild mannered doc got to fear? We’re just having conversations, after all.”

Hannibal tossed back the whiskey and hissed through his teeth. “You know , Will,” he said, smiling. He poured more in the glass and wandered over to the couch.

“Yeah,” Will said on a long breath. His voice sounded terribly close. “I might know.”

“It will take some time to catch up to me,” Hannibal said, leaning back. He set the glass aside to unbutton his suit jacket. “Truly, I don’t need to be drunk. You have the uncanny ability to uninhibit me.”

“Is that so?” Will’s voice was mocking. He sighed. “Tell me again.”

“What should I tell you?”

Will chuckled. “How does it make you feel, Doctor Lecter?”

“Your attentions,” Hannibal said slowly and clearly, “make me feel alive, dear Will. At times I wonder if you avoid eye contact because you know that your gaze will burn me.”

“Unf.” Will cleared his throat, and let out a bare laugh. “Sounds scary.”

“Intense experiences often mingle fear and pleasure,” Hannibal said. “It feels good, Will.”

Hannibal gulped down his whiskey. He could hear Will’s breath through the phone, open mouthed and elevated. “If you were here…” Will paused. “You know. This doesn’t count. You can’t take what I say too seriously. I’m just—a drunk, affection-starved kid. I’m not special.”

“Do you feel that my attentions are undeserved?”

“Ha—I don’t think you’re that special either.”

“You are important to me, Will. I don’t presume that your feelings are the same as mine. They are your own, and yours to keep to yourself should you wish.”

“No—that’s not what I’m saying. I’m not saying what I’m saying. Are you drunk yet?”

Hannibal chuckled. “I am feeling somewhat out of balance.”

“Well. Play the harpsichord or something.”

Hannibal moved over to the instrument, and turned on speakerphone. “Should I play for you?”

“Yeah.”

Hannibal played a tune, and then another at Will’s request. By the third he was struggling to hit some notes and losing part of the rhythm, the songs coming out too fast no matter how slowly he attempted to play.

“I believe I am drunk, Will,” Hannibal said, turning off speaker phone and holding it by his ear again. Will’s voice felt closer this way.

“Mm. Good.”

“I’m at your mercy.”

There was a pause. “Do you… do you like when I tell you what to do?”

Hannibal took a steadying breath, eyes closing. “Yes, Will.”

“Ah—if you. If you told me something, I don’t think I could refuse you.” Now he really sounded breathless.

Hannibal bit his lip hard. Blood was pounding in his ears, and the alcohol suffused him in warm liquid. Arousal grew slowly between his legs. “I think it’s better if you do the instructing.”

“You don’t wanna… tell me what to do?”

Hannibal took a deep breath. It was becoming difficult to stay true to his course. “That kind of power over you is entirely too tempting.”

“Fuck, Hannibal—”

“Tell me how you feel, Will.”

“Hnn?”

“How do you feel, right now?”

Hannibal did not imagine the little groan from the other end of the line. “Oh god ,” Will said, “I’m fucking turned on, is how I feel.”

Hannibal’s cock twitched. “Oh, Will.”

“Fuck, fuck. God I’m fucked, I’m sorry—”

“Will,” Hannibal said firmly. “Darling boy, it’s alright.”

Will made a choked sound. “Alright? It’s alright?"

"Yes, Will, there's nothing wrong—“

"If you get all clinical on me," Will said harshly. "Just – don't."

"You make it difficult to restrain myself."

"Don't then."

Hannibal swallowed. "Tell me more. Don't hide away from this. Show me, Will, please."

"God, you don’t—fucking know—what you do to me.”

Hannibal clenched his spare hand open and closed, nails biting into his palm.

“If you were here,” Will went on, panting, “I’d be all over you. I’d let you do anything to me.”

“Perhaps it's best that we are not in the same place.”

“What would you do? If you were here. Please – tell me honestly. I need to know.”

Hannibal imagined it—Will in his little bedroom in a ramshackle house, drunk and aroused and timidly palming himself through his ill-fitted pants. “I would hold you close to my chest and breathe in the scent from your neck,” he said, low and intimate as if Will were here with him. “I would tell you how beautiful you are, how precious to me. Are you touching yourself, Will? Darling boy, don’t stop. I want you to feel good. Let me take care of you.”

“Ahn,” Will moaned. “Yes, fuck, Hannibal. Would you touch me?”

“No, Will,” Hannibal said. “Not tonight. Not until you ask me, sober. Until you’re sure.”

“Tsk. Damn you.” Will breathed sweetly in his ear. “Such a – ah – gentleman. God I’m. So hard.” His voice went high. “Are you? Please–”

“I’m aroused,” Hannibal said, though he had yet to touch the bulge in his pants.

“Are you touching yourself?”

“No, and I won’t. That would feel far too much like sex to me.”

“Fuck. Ah, okay. Just – keep talking? Can you keep talking?”

“Yes, Will. Anything for you. My precious boy. How I long to see you like this. How beautiful you sound.”

“Nnn — god.”

"Do you know what you do to me? How thoughts of you plague me daily? How I ache for you now?"

"Oh, fuck."

“It’s alright, Will. It’s okay.” Hannibal tilted his head far back, feeling the stretch in his neck, eyes closed to soak in every sound. “I’m here.”

Will moaned, sweet and high pitched, muffled against something and breaking into short gasps.

“That’s it, Will. Don’t stop. Don’t be afraid. Let me hear you.”

“Mm — it’s intense. Hah — Hannibal.”

Hannibal groaned soft and long. “Will.”

“It's good — you — you feel good.”

“I feel it too, Will. Do you want to know where?”

“Wh-where?”

“Take your hand.”

“Un, fuck.”

“Place your fingers on the side of your neck, under your jaw.” Hannibal raised his fingers to his own artery, his pulse throbbing and elevating. “That’s where I feel you.”

Will made a sharp, surprised noise, which unspooled into a low groan. He muttered incoherently, cursed, the phone held away from his mouth.

Hannibal breathed deep, trembling all over his body. His erection strained against the fabric of his trousers, but he felt no need to touch himself or alter what Will was doing to his body. Their hearts beating insistently, as they had their entire lives, bringing them to this point.

“Fuck…" This curse was different, not one of pleasure but embarrassment. "Tell me—”

“It’s alright,” Hannibal assured him. “Hush, darling boy. Don’t fret.”

“This is so beyond appropriate.” Will laughed dryly. “Shit. I have to go, dad's calling — god damn—” Will laughed again, bright and loud. “Happy fucking new year, Hannibal. I hope you’re as hungover tomorrow as I will be.”

“Happy new year, Will.”

“Oh, one more thing—” Will said, and Hannibal could hear the grin on his lips. “Don’t touch yourself tonight.”

Chapter Text

Hannibal did not sulk often, but when he did, he did so spectacularly. Moody lighting, heady and emotive music, excessive contemplation, and a rapid retreat into himself that would put an armadillo to shame.

He imagined the next conversation with Will over and over, and could not navigate through his imagination to a desirable outcome. The more he thought, the more lost he became. Although he had talked with her on the phone a few days before, he missed his little sister dearly. If she were here, Mischa could guide him.

It was not reasonable, nor particularly sane, for Will to pose such an existential quandary. The young man was a problem of philosophy for Hannibal. His borrowed morality was quite clear — embarking on a sexual relationship with Will was too risky. But, as before, Hannibal had rebuked those morals.

Will had strolled through all of Hannibal’s defenses as though he were the skeleton key. Had Hannibal even tried to defend himself? The young man was already walking the ugly, hungry places in his mind, curious, provocative.

“You’re really beating yourself up about this,” his imagined Will said, peering at the disheveled architecture. “I’m surprised. Why is this such a big deal?”

“You shouldn’t be here,” Hannibal said.

Snow floated down from the ruined roof above. Hannibal shivered, and squared his feet, watching every dark corner and crack in the floor for that black, boiling hunger.

Will looked over at him, unconcerned by the cold that pinched Hannibal’s skin. “You’re afraid,” Will realized, brows pinching together. “Why?”

He was beautiful. Terribly so — creamy skin and long curls, natural beauty and youth cut through with an edge of brilliant dark. Here, he glowed, as of yet unblemished by the poison of this place. “I don’t want to hurt you,” Hannibal said.

He was interrupted from his imaginings by the harsh sound of his phone buzzing against the marble counter. Hannibal came back to himself and the task at hand: cooking a late lunch, though he wasn’t hungry. He took a deep breath and looked at his phone.

 

1/1 1:48PM


 

Will:

fuck

I messed this up, didn’t I?

Hannibal:

You did no such thing. I think perhaps we should have another phone call.

Will:

The last one nearly gave me a heart attack.

Ok.

When?

Hannibal:

I’ll be available in an hour.

 


 

Hannibal abandoned lunch. But Hannibal did not feel better after a long shower and his grooming routine. He did not feel more like a real person after putting on his suit, did not feel the usual sartorial satisfaction with his accessory choices. His reflection seemed to mock him with the disparity between how he looked and how he felt.

Will sounded quite nervous on the phone. “Hey…”

“Hello, Will.”

“Uh. How are you?”

Hannibal was quiet. He squashed the impulse to say he was fine. Words were like pulling out teeth. “I suppose,” he finally said, “that I am feeling anxious.”

Will laughed nervously. “Anxious? Really. I’m surprised.”

“It’s been known to happen. How are you feeling?”

“Hungover. And nervous. But not… bad.”

“You did nothing wrong,” Hannibal tried to assure him.

“I crossed a line.”

Hannibal opened his mouth, and closed it again. He was no longer sure where any line between them lay. “Any discomfort between us is my fault,” Hannibal said. “I have failed to maintain healthy boundaries between us, and have not conducted myself appropriately. Alcohol is no excuse. I apologize, Will.”

“Are… are you uncomfortable?”

“I wasn’t last night. You did not make me uncomfortable.”

“But?”

“I am not proud of my actions.”

“What actions? You didn’t do anything!”

“I helped us walk to this place,” Hannibal said, “I encouraged you.”

“So I did nothing wrong, but my actions are shameful because you encouraged them?” Will sounded incredulous. “I thought you would reassure me,” Will he quietly, and then with more fire, “What happened to ‘it’s alright’?”

“It’s not,” Hannibal said simply.

Will huffed in frustration. “I made you uncomfortable. Don’t try to play this like I don’t have agency here! Just… just tell me you don’t want me.”

“Wanting is not the issue.”

“Then what’s the issue?”

“I don’t trust myself around you.”

Will laughed cruelly. “You think trust you? I can take care of myself, Hannibal. What do you even mean by that?”

“This is difficult for me,” Hannibal said, affect flat. “I am trying to be responsible.”

Will was quiet for a long moment. “You know, this would be a hell of a lot easier if you didn’t care so much about me.” The hurt in his voice was apparent.

“Yes,” Hannibal agreed. “Unfortunately, I cannot change that.”

He could see the gaping maw in the floorboards. The flurries of snow drifting in.

“What are you going to change?” Will asked. “I mean — obviously we don’t have to do anything sexual. You’re not comfortable with that. That’s fine with me, though I might die of embarrassment.”

“Even if we establish that boundary, I will encourage you to cross it.”

There was a shocked silence on the other end. “What?”

“As I said, I do not trust myself with you.”

“And you think I can't resist your manipulations?” Will spat.

“Do you want to?”

Silence. Will cursed. “Well, what?” the boy said. “What do you propose we do?”

“I don’t know,” Hannibal said, honestly. “I’m hoping you’ll come to your senses and leave me behind.”

The silence was painful. Hannibal’s face felt like it was made of plaster.

“I don’t understand what’s going on with you,” Will finally said, his tone dull. “Thanks for making me feel like a goddamn idiot.”

“I’m sorry, Will.”

“No — fuck that. Do you think I’m going to be satisfied with this flimsy argument?”

“I suspect not.”

When it was clear no more was forthcoming, Will sighed. “You sound… I wish I could see your face.”

“There’s nothing to see,” Hannibal replied.

“I’m flying back in two days. Will you pick me up and answer my questions then?”

“To the best of my ability.”

 


 

Hannibal stood outside of arrivals with the other greeters. The coat he had purchased Will was on his arm — it was snowing again, but Will had not taken the coat with him on his holiday trip, instead leaving it in Hannibal’s charge. Will’s father would have asked about the coat and Will wanted to avoid that, and now Hannibal did not know if Will would take it back.

It was just a coat. Nothing more.

Will saw him almost immediately as he emerged from the crowded confines of the terminal. Hannibal supposed he stood out as he did most places — a statuesque figure in a windowpane print. Stiff and frowning, Will walked to him with his rolling bag in tow.

“You parked?” Will asked, and it sounded like an accusation.

“Yes.”

Will looked him up and down. “I don’t get a sign?”

Hannibal’s lips quirked, not quite a smile. “My apologies.” He handed Will the coat. “It’s cold outside.”

Will swapped him the backpack for the coat and pulled it on, a perpetual frown creasing his brow. Will took his backpack and Hannibal insisted on handling the rolling suitcase, leading the way towards the airport garage. He was quite aware that Will was reading his face, but there was not much there to see. Hannibal had fortified himself, so to speak, to the point where interacting with others was stilted and delayed.

“How was your flight?” he asked.

“Fine.”

They didn’t speak again until they were in the car, and that was for Hannibal to ask, “Where to?”

Will looked at him for a long moment. “Your place.”

Maybe Will thought Hannibal might deny him. Maybe Hannibal should. He drove on regardless.

“Are you going to say anything, or are you waiting for me to ask my questions?” Will asked.

“I believe you had a few.”

Will didn’t say anything for a few moments. “How do you feel, right now?”

“Frustrated,” Hannibal answered, though there was no emotion to display.

“How did you feel during our phone call? On New Year’s Eve?”

“Elated. Aroused.”

“Do you regret it? Do you feel guilty?”

“No. Neither of those words capture the source of my hesitation.”

“Can you explain it to me then?”

“The issue is not specific to sexual intimacy. Rather, a sexual component to our relationship seemed like a clear line I could draw for myself. But now that I have crossed it, I know that I am unable to hold myself to any boundary.” Hannibal took a breath. “That does not bother me. I know I am a person who has no regard for the boundaries of others.”

“You’ve respected my boundaries,” Will said.

“I generally respect boundaries that other people are conscious of. I choose to do so.”

“But you want to cross those lines.”

“If it amuses me. And I do push boundaries that people are unconscious of.”

“I haven’t seen you interact with others,” Will said, “but I did suspect you were manipulative.” He didn’t sound particularly upset or accusatory. “Does the lack of control upset you?”

Hannibal’s hands tightened on the wheel, then he relaxed them with purpose. “Partially. Mostly, I am bothered by my self-imposed limitations. Temptation grows with age, when repeatedly exposed to the forbidden.”

Will gave him a confused look. “You’re upset that you resist temptations… so you’re resisting temptation?”

“I know better than to indulge my appetite. But hunger is frustrating.”

“I know you said this wasn’t about sex,” Will said cautiously, “but do you have a paraphilia?”

Hannibal shook his head. “No.”

Will was thoughtful. “You’re not talking about having sex with me.”

“No.”

“Does this even have to do with me?”

“Insomuch as I feel unable to keep any part of myself from you. I am not a good man, Will. I will not be good for you.”

They drove the rest of the way in silence. Hannibal expected Wil to tell him to change course and drive him to the dorm, but when Will did not and Hannibal’s house came in sight, he gave the boy a questioning look. Will had his hand over his mouth, deep in thought. “You know,” Will said slowly, staring at the dashboard. “It’s unfair to tell me all this — that you’re obsessed and think we should stop — but not to stop .” Will looked at him fiercely. “You won’t even tell me to leave. You brought me here.”

Hannibal looked back at him. “I don’t want you to leave.”

Will licked his lower lip and sucked it in. Hannibal’s gaze dropped to his mouth, directly as he hadn’t allowed himself before, taking in the shape of his lips and the way one arch was higher than the other. Will released his lip from teeth, the physicality of Hannibal’s attention — of their mutual attention — growing between them. They registered each subtle movement towards and away, responded to each other, though they hardly moved. Will looked up at him with wide, concerned eyes. I could kiss him now, Hannibal thought, and it wasn't so different from the other temptations that hounded him. I could kill him now. And why not? Why?

Something tightly spun unravelled in Hannibal, easing the mire he was stuck in. All this worry, when ultimately he wanted Will whole and unharmed. His countenance relaxed. “I’m sorry, Will," he said, his voice warmer now. "This trouble is entirely my own, yet now I am burdening you with it — and still speaking in vagaries.”

Will relaxed a bit as well. “You’re trying to disarm yourself for me. You don’t want to hurt me.”

Hannibal nodded softly.

Will smiled, for a moment looking puzzled. “Stop trying to push me away. That’s my thing.”

 

Chapter Text

Will seemed like he was holding his tongue. As they hung their coats in the foyer, Will’s fingers lingered on the sleeve of his pea coat, but he said nothing. Hannibal could not blame him for being unsure of what to do with himself, hands in his pockets as he followed Hannibal into the kitchen. After all, Hannibal had utterly failed to conduct their social interaction with grace.

“Are you hungry?” Hannibal asked. It was past dinner time, and Will had certainly not had a proper meal at the airport.

Will shook his head. “Nah. Just tired from travel.” He looked around the kitchen while Hannibal poured him a glass of water.

“You are welcome to stay the night,” Hannibal said calmly. Will’s eyes were shifty when he accepted the proffered glass; their fingers bumped. “You are always welcome here,” Hannibal added, retreating quickly to put the kettle on for some tea. “And, at any point, if you wish to leave I will drive you back to your dorm.”

Will said nothing. Hannibal prepared a pot of calming tea for them, a dollop more of honey in Will’s mug. He turned on the counter to regard the young man, who was sitting in the chair in the corner.

“I’d like to stay,” Will said, a bit uneasily. “Do you think I could, uh, borrow something to sleep in again?” His cheeks grew pink. “I didn’t get a chance to wash my stuff in Louisiana,” he added quickly.

Hannibal couldn’t help but smile a bit. Will’s embarrassment was quite endearing. “Of course. If you leave your clothes in the hall I will run them through the wash.”

“You don’t—" Will bit his lip. “I don’t know why you’re doing any of this for me.”

The kettle began to whistle. Hannibal turned his back on Will to pour the water into the pot. “I thought I had made it abundantly clear.”

“Well,” Will huffed, “I don’t know why you feel like that about me.”

Hannibal looked at him for a long moment. “Self deprecation is often a defense mechanism. Tell yourself you are not deserving of regard or affection, and it softens the blow of disappointment.”

Will frowned at him. “I’m not a patient of yours.”

“No, you are not.”

Will looked at the empty glass in his hands, rolling it back and forth. His long curls fell over his eyes. His voice was quiet; perhaps these had been the words he was holding back. “We haven’t even touched.”

Hannibal felt a chill roll down his spine. He had catalogued every minute touch — the brief touches at Will’s elbow to guide him along, the brush of their fingers as they passed an object back and forth. Only once had Will initiated purposeful touch: pushing his thigh against Hannibal’s on the harpsichord bench. Now, Will’s face flushed darker. “Would you like to?” Hannibal asked, keeping his voice neutral but open.

Will winced with a grunt, like he was struck with a sudden stomach pain. “Isn’t it strange? Like we’re doing everything out of order.”

Hannibal tilted his head. “There is no predetermined sequence to relationships.”

“I jacked off during a phone call,” Will snapped, eyes blazing. “I feel like I have power over you.”

“You do,” Hannibal said easily. “It’s rather fascinating.”

Will made a sound like a laugh and a groan, rubbing his face again. “God. You’re so weird.”

“And you’ve dodged the question.”

Will glared at Hannibal, but he wasn’t displeased. “You wouldn’t do anything I said.”

“No. There are limitations.”

Despite having just drank a glass of water, Will suddenly looked parched. “What are the limitations?” he asked, a bit breathless.

Oh, this was beautiful. Hannibal had never freely given power to another, nor expected it to feel so intoxicating. “I would not do something I believed would harm you. I also have some professional obligations that I cannot ignore. Additionally, I would not obey you if you were inebriated.”

Will blinked, frowned. “But… besides that?”

Hannibal lifted one shoulder in an elegant shrug. “There are likely limitations that I cannot anticipate at the moment.”

“What if I asked you to fuck me, now?”

Hannibal knew it was boundary testing by the way Will said it, casually defiant, chin lifted but not quite meeting Hannibal’s eyes. That didn’t prevent the words from rippling through him like a flash flood. Hannibal breathed through his nose until his lungs were full to bursting, suddenly quite aware of his body, hands gripping the edge of the counter and muscles tensed to spring. His mouth worked; he exhaled slowly. In control. Calm. Will saw it all, of course, and Hannibal saw his arousal and fear in response. Hannibal chose his words carefully. “I believe that would fall into the first category.”

Will jerked his head to the side, cheeks bright red. “Sorry, that — that was rude.”

“It’s quite alright,” Hannibal said smoothly, countenance maintained. He turned and considered the teapot and mugs, then poured. “If that’s something you’re truly interested in, I believe it deserves consideration.”

“This whole time, I was expecting you to make a move.”

Hannibal turned and regarded Will again, all rosy cheeks and dark hair. “I might have, in a different circumstance. Though, I am very patient.” Hannibal beckoned Will with the curl of two fingers. “Come here,” he said gently.

Will debated with himself for a moment, or perhaps he just wanted to make Hannibal wait. He stood from the chair, leaving the water glass on the floor, and walked towards Hannibal wearily. It was obvious what Will expected, with the pink of his cheeks and tilt of his head (obvious too that he was nervous); but Hannibal simply held out his hands, palm up. With a glance, Will put his hands in Hannibal’s.

Hannibal squeezed both of Will’s hands and lifted them some to examine. They were smaller than his own, soft and smooth, just a bit of roughness in the palm. Hannibal smoothed his thumb down each finger, mapping them by touch. As he anticipated, Will did not reciprocate the touch but was passive. “Touch is one of the ways we understand the world,” Hannibal said, flipping Will’s hands over to stroke the palm, feeling the intricate network of bone and muscle beneath the skin. “It is a necessary sustenance. Sadly, our society has a lack of platonic touch outside of families.”

Will was looking down at their hands, biting his lip. Hannibal lifted one to press Will’s knuckles against his cheek, breathing in his scent. He could tell the boy was sensitive, and wondered when was the last time he had been touched with care, if his father had hugged him or not during his trip. Perhaps in greeting or farewell, but Hannibal didn’t think more than that. He pressed a chaste kiss to Will’s fingers, and Will made a soft, muffled sound. Unsure boy, eyes to the side.

Hannibal lowered his hands and ran hands up Will’s arms, feeling the tension there. Gently, and finding no resistance, Hannibal pulled him into an embrace, one hand cupping his neck and the other solid around his back. Will was just short enough that he could tuck him under his chin like this.

Will shuddered violently, enough to shake his breath ragged. A bundle of emotions, unspooling in Hannibal’s arms, and Hannibal a solid anchor around him. Tentative hands gripped his sides, a hard breath against his collar as Will hid his face. Hannibal held him and rubbed the back of his neck until the tension bled out of him.

A shrine in the hall of his memories, for this moment.

Will sighed, in the way that Hannibal knew meant he wanted to speak. “I haven’t been sleeping well,” he muttered.

“Let’s get you to bed,” Hannibal said softly. He loosened his arms and after a moment Will looked up at him, soft-eyed and exhausted, and so close that Hannibal couldn’t resist drinking in the sight of him. He smiled, eyes tracing the boyish features beneath him. “Drink your tea, and I’ll get you something to sleep in.”

 


 
Everything was arranged just so: the corner of the duvet folded back on the guest room bed, fresh sleep clothes laid out, the only light from the bedside table lamp, and Will showering in the bathroom down the hall. Hannibal had always found satisfaction in caring for his baby sister, and similarly for making his guests welcome in his home, and these gestures for Will triggered the same nurturing pride.

Hearing the shower go off, Hannibal quickly exited the room and made for his own bedroom to begin his own nightly ritual. Though, he was tempted to stay — see Will in the doorway in a robe or towel, nearly trapped; corner him against the door and feel his damp, warm skin; deny him a kiss until he was weak-legged with desire. Hannibal wanted to be cruel to the poor boy.

Instead, he let Will come to him.

Hannibal was already reading in bed when he heard Will call his name. Hannibal met him in the hall in front of the samurai armor, the boy’s hair still wet from the shower and longer for it, framing his slender neck. Looking somber, Will said, “I just wanted to say goodnight.”

It was not ‘just’. Hannibal knew this perfectly well. It was perhaps one of his more insidious manipulations with the boy that he took him at his word, kept his hands to himself and simply said, “Goodnight, Will.”

Will looked up at him, waiting, wondering; a shift in his jaw; a puzzled wrinkle in his brow. Then in a rush, Will pulled Hannibal down by his collar and pressed their lips together. A hard, graceless kiss, both of them near immobile, unable to end or further it. Hannibal heard arias. He felt ice melt in the sun.

Their mouths parted with a soft sound, and came together again more gently. Will’s hands were firm on his neck and jaw, claw-like. Hannibal held Will under the arms, keeping a few inches between their bodies. He didn’t want to consume him yet.

“God, you’re so…” Will said against his lips, then made a frustrated noise. Whatever he wanted to accuse Hannibal of was lost in the slide of their lips, Will wanting more, Hannibal keeping himself tame. He could taste Will in the slick left between their kisses, and it was not enough.

Hannibal tilted his head and licked at the seam of Will’s lips to open the boy’s mouth, which he did eagerly; and another lick to taste deep inside him. Sublime. Will groaned and Hannibal pulled away.

“Fuck,” Will sighed, flushed and aroused. He surged forward again, but Hannibal held him back. “Hannibal, christ, kiss me, don’t make me wait.”

Hannibal nuzzled against Will, but dodged his kiss. “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.”

“You’re going to drive me insane,” Will complained, pulling as close as he could. “Kiss me.”

“Darling boy,” Hannibal purred. “How could I deny you?”

Chapter Text

There were a handful of days before school began, and Will spent them at Hannibal’s. There was a growing ease between them, Will making himself entirely at home and finally accepting that Hannibal truly welcomed him in his space. The only expectation Hannibal seemed to have was that Will joined him for dinner at the table, which was no hardship.

Will took over a desk in the study and worked away on his laptop, adding detail and evidence to his thesis outline. He soon had a pile of books, Hannibal bringing some back from his office, and Will going to the school library to bring over his stack. For most of the day, Will was entirely absorbed in his work.

The holidays being over, Hannibal was back to work. For many of his patients, it was a depressing and stressful time of year. Anxious Franklyn was decidedly not dealing with his familial stress and instead obsessing over a new ‘friend’, and one of Hannibal’s favorite patients was having a nasty bout of suicidal ideation. Between work and errands, Hannibal was out of the house for most of the day. And, of course, there was his own appointment with his therapist.

“Hello, Hannibal,” Dr. Du Maurier greeted him, blonde hair curled perfectly around her shoulder.

“Hello, Bedelia.”

“How was your holiday?”

“Interesting.” Hannibal sat himself in her home office before elaborating, freeing the buttons of his jacket. “I’ve entered into something of a relationship.”

“Have you,” Bedelia said, not a question nor sounding particularly surprised. She never did. “You have been harboring an infatuation.”

Hannibal inclined his head in agreement. “Will Graham is staying with me for a few days.”

“He’s been your guest before. What has changed?”

Hannibal drummed his fingers against his knee twice. “A level of intimacy and honesty.”

Bedelia saw the restless motion of his fingers and slowly tracked her eyes up to Hannibal’s face. “You were concerned about your ability to maintain boundaries with him.”

“If he were my patient, I would have referred him to you by now.”

Bedelia smiled. “Will Graham is not your patient.”

“He is quite young.”

“And you feel that this gives you undue influence over him.”

“Does it not?”

“Age has never protected someone from your influence,” Bedelia explained. “You feel protective over him, because you know yourself.”

“I don’t wish to hurt him.”

“Why do you believe you will harm him?”

Hannibal was fairly sure she knew the answer to that question. Usually in their conversations, they avoided saying the obvious. “I won’t maintain boundaries with him. I thought I would, but I was mistaken.”

“Would it be so dangerous to let him in?” Bedelia asked.

Hannibal took a deep breath and looked around the room. “If I do not maintain control with Will, I cannot be sure that I will elsewhere.”

Having fished it out, Bedelia looked quietly pleased with herself. “Control is not your issue, Hannibal. It is the willful violation of your ruleset. You, perhaps wisely, added Will to your ruleset; and now that you have broken your rule, the entire set is called into question.”

“Yes.”

“You can neither fully control Will, nor completely remove him from your influence. Relationships are causally messy.”

“Do you think my concerns are unwarranted?” Hannibal asked.

“Not entirely,” Bedelia said with a wry look. “But Will Graham is also not my patient.”

 


 

At night they kissed each other silly in the hall. Like that was the designated time to do so. Their days were quite platonic, but at night after all those soft, longing thoughts accumulated they met like magnets. Inevitable. Hannibal didn’t press for more; after all, Will had told him to kiss him, and he was taking the boy’s instructions quite literally. There was enough terrain to explore in just Will’s mouth, which was divine and haunted Hannibal’s days— lips red and soft but not without firmness, the alluring peak of his cupid’s bow, and all that soft hot muscle and skin within.

Hannibal was patient, and enjoyed savoring. This had the added benefit of frustrating Will.

Will had Hannibal backed up against the wall, their bodies pressed close together with only the thin fabric of their sleep clothes. “Jesus christ,” Will cursed, lips red and wet, frustration tempered by a laugh. “Are you really just going to kiss me?”

Hannibal smiled and traced the line of Will’s jaw. “I could happily kiss you for years.” He could feel the boy growing hard against his thigh.

“You’re impossible,” Will complained, burying his face in Hannibal’s neck. “Don’t you want more?”

Hannibal nuzzled against Will’s curls. “I want everything. Every inch of you. Every minute of your day.” He pulled Will’s curls aside, and kissed his neck, punctuating his words. “And I want you. To tell me. What you want.”

Will groaned softly. “You’re really making me spell it out.”

“Yes.” Hannibal rubbed circles into Will’s lower back, and refrained from kissing his warm skin. It would be counterproductive to drive Will to distraction while encouraging him to be decisive.

Will sighed, and was quiet for a long moment. “I. Um. I want to get off with you. If that’s alright.”

“More than alright,” Hannibal purred in his ear. “How do you want it?”

Will shuddered at that. “Hannibal,” he whined, “Fuck if I know. Decide for me.”

Hannibal tilted Will’s head up and kissed him wetly, teasing out his tongue to stroke and parry. “As you wish,” Hannibal said, nipping at his lip.

Hannibal took his hand and lead him to the master bedroom. Will devoured the environment around him with quick glances, curious about Hannibal’s private domain. As Will was distracted by the Japanese prints hanging above his bed, Hannibal sat back against the pillows. “Sit in front of me,” Hannibal said, patting the duvet between his spread legs.

Will bit his lip and climbed on the bed, and Hannibal pulled him back to chest, where he fit so nicely in the curves of his body. Hannibal kissed his pink ears and placed his hands on Will’s stomach, tracing figure 8’s into his ribs and hips. “Ffffuck,” Will groaned in realization.

“Touch yourself,” Hannibal commanded in a low murmur. His circling fingers bunched up the large shirt and began undoing the buttons.

“Oh god,” Will breathed, bending his knees and tensing up. Even in too-large pajama pants, Hannibal could make out the arc of his stiffening cock. Hesitantly, Will grabbed himself through the fabric and gave a few, shallow strokes.

“That’s it,” Hannibal said in his ear, rubbing his lips against that sensitive spot. “Good boy. Touching yourself so nicely for me.”

“Fucking fuck.”

Hannibal finished with the last buttons and bared Will’s chest, looking down at the pale, lean body in his arms. “What a foul mouth you have,” Hannibal chastised playfully. “Won’t you make sweet sounds for me?”

He smoothed his hands down Will’s chest, feeling the flutter in his belly. “You’re, uh, going to get cursing,” Will said. Embarrassment or unease was keeping him from giving in to his own pleasure, but Hannibal would see him warm to it.

“What if I told you not to curse?” Hannibal asked, kissing down Will’s neck, pausing to scent him. “Do you think you could control yourself?”

“And if I didn’t?”

“I would have to punish you.”

Will groaned and his head fell back on Hannibal’s shoulder. He slipped his hand under the band of his pants and worked himself steadily. The motion of his wrist lifted the fabric to reveal shrouded glimpses of Will’s iliopsoas muscles and the base of his cock, the curls of dark hair. The peek of flesh coupled with Will’s steady strokes was shockingly arousing, and Hannibal felt himself fill out against Will’s back.

“No rules tonight, I think,” Hannibal said thoughtfully, teasing his ribs and hips again. “Even if you could keep polite.”

“Ah, fuck you,” Will snarled, turning his head. Hannibal kissed him hard, sucking at his mouth and drawing out little groans of pleasure. Will was so sensitive, it was impossible to resist teasing him: skimming his nails down ribs and along the iliac crest, just brushing the nubs of his nipples, rubbing his tongue over a vein in his neck. Will was sweating, flushed to the chest, smelling of fire and salt and precome. And all the while, Hannibal was speaking to him, “Beautiful, darling boy. Just like that. How I’ve longed to see you like this. Show me how you make yourself feel good.”

“Mm, Hannibal. God, your voice.” Will’s hips rolled steadily, thrusting into his fist and occasionally bumping back against Hannibal’s erection in the most tantalizing way.

“Did you think of me while masturbating?”

“Fuck, you know I did.”

“How long?”

“Ahh — I don’t know.”

“Tell me.”

Will whimpered. “After, nnn, the coat. I couldn’t get you out of my head.”

Hannibal wrapped his arms around the boy and brought him closer so Will could feel how aroused he was. “You feel so beautiful.”

“Oh my god,” Will gasped, his hand stilling. The veins popped in his wrist. “I thought about you bending me over the desk and making me take it.”

“The coat?”

“You ass!” Will exclaimed, laughing. “That too.”

Hannibal licked the shell of his ear. “My darling boy, show me yourself.”

Will pushed down his pants to mid-thigh. His pretty cock was circumcised and wet at the head, curved elegantly towards his naval. “Exquisite,” Hannibal breathed, rocking his hips up into Will’s ass once. “Look at you, bearing yourself so willingly to me. Such a good boy.”

“Ahh!” Clear liquid dribbled from the slit.

Hannibal held him tightly, one hand snaking up to his collar. “I want you to come for me, Will. Can you do that?”

“Yes, god,” Will ached, grabbing his cock again and stroked it furiously.

“Please, Will,” Hannibal muttered into his sweat-sweet skin, feeling his heart race under his palm. Will shook into whimpers, stroking himself harder until his back curled and he started orgasming, one loud, aching groan after the other, spilling furiously across his hand. Hannibal cupped his neck as Will’s head went back as far as it would, feeling breath and heartbeat and trembling desire.

As the aftershocks passed, Will melted in his arms, groaning softly. Hannibal took his sticky hand and licked across the palm. The taste edged Hannibal closer to his own peak, his head filling with the musky flavor. “What are you — jesus —" Will stuttered as Hannibal licked his hand clean. “God, you’re going to kill me.”

When he was finished, Hannibal released Will’s hand. He turned his face to see the squirming embarrassment there. “I needed your taste.”

“Evil,” Will complained, hiding his face with his dry hand. “Pure evil.”

Hannibal chuckled and nuzzled Will’s curls. “Thank you, Will.”

Will lifted his hips to slide his pajama pants back up, then relaxed against Hannibal. “That was surprisingly not embarrassing,” he said after a minute.

“Good.” Hannibal kissed him on the cheek. “Did you expect it to be difficult?”

Will shrugged. “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“You were wonderful.”

After a moment, Will sat up and turned around in Hannibal’s lap. He looked at his chest for a beat, then met his eyes. Hannibal didn’t know what he saw there, just what Hannibal hoped he did. “Can I do something for you?” Will asked, glancing away.

Hannibal shook his head. “No, thank you. But I would love to hold you a while longer.”

“Ok.” Will kissed him sweetly and then turned back around, sighing as Hannibal wrapped him in his arms. They stayed like that for a long while before Will returned to his room.

 


 

 

“Will?”

“Hmm?” Will grunted, eyes scanning his laptop, completely engrossed in his work. The table was a mess of books and notes and coffee mugs, which seemed to multiply no matter how fastidiously Hannibal returned them to the kitchen.

“May I ask you something?”

Will looked up at that, giving Hannibal his attention. “What is it?”

“I’d like your permission to buy you something.”

Will blinked. “Oh.” He frowned, blushing slightly. “What is it?”

“A few items for your comfort, when you stay here. Slippers. Your own sleepwear.”

Will snorted. “Uh huh. Because it’s been such a burden to see me in yours.”

Though Hannibal enjoyed the teasing, he didn’t let much of it show.

Will shrugged. “I don’t mind. Just don’t get too carried away.”

“Very well. Thank you, Will.”

Will stared at him. “What else?”

Hannibal tried not to fidget. “I couldn’t help but notice that the heel of your shoe is coming undone. I know a cobbler —“

“Sure, sure.” Will waved at him, looking back at his work. “Hey, do you know if anyone has written about developmental plasticity for psychopathy in this century?”

 


 

 Will stared at the boxes waiting for him on his bed for about five minutes before touching any of them.

There was a basket filled with toiletries: a shaving set, deodorant, a soap stone, and some kind of oil Will guessed was for his hair. Unwrapping the boxes revealed a plush white robe in the same material as Hannibal’s ridiculously fluffy towels; a silk robe in dark blue; slippers; three sets of pajamas; a set of soft boxers in dark grey; and a dozen pairs of socks. There was also a pair of fleece-lined leather boots.

“I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you,” Hannibal said, almost shyly, when Will found him in the kitchen.

Will cleared his throat. “It’s. Um.”

Hannibal turned his attention from dinner and walked over to Will, touching him lightly on the arm. “I’ve gone too far. You needn’t accept any of it.”

“No, it’s not —" Will shook his head, almost angry. “It’s nice, I like it, it’s just. Money is so stressful.” Will laughed bitterly. “You know, I can’t enjoy any of it because I’m just thinking ‘how many months of student employment is this?’ And I haven’t earned it.”

Hannibal squeezed his shoulders. “It’s not about earning or worth.”

Will pressed against his eyes. “I know. But it feels that way.”

“I don’t wish to cause you distress.”

“And what’s with the boots?!”

“Your shoes will be fixed in a week, until then—"

“It’s fine, it’s fine.” Will broke away from his embrace and paced around the kitchen, agitated. “You like it. Giving me things.”

“Yes.”

“You like seeing me wear something you bought for me.”

“Very much so.”

Will shot him a look. “Even socks.”

“I couldn’t help that notice that none of yours match.”

Will rolled his eyes. He returned to Hannibal and wrapped his arms around his waist. “I don’t mean to be ungrateful.”

Hannibal held him back, running a hand through his hair. “I don’t take it that way at all. No thanks is necessary. It is, after all, a selfish pleasure to provide for you.”

Will looked up at him. “What else do you want to give me?”

Hannibal shook his head lightly. “I’ve already overwhelmed you.”

“Yup. Might as well go the whole nine yards. Tell me.”

Hannibal stroked his cheek. “I would see you dressed in finery. Take you to my tailor for a bespoke suit. My choice of fabrics.”

Will turned his face away. “Where am I going to wear a suit?”

“Just for me. Perhaps one day you’ll permit me to take you out on my arm, to the opera.”

Will blushed. “I’ll look like a call boy.”

“You'll look devastatingly handsome."

"People will talk."

"I don't care."

“This is really a thing for you, isn’t it?”

“I haven’t even started on the jewelry,” Hannibal teased. He paused, more serious. “Or your schoolbooks. A new laptop. Everything you need to focus on your studies. I’d pay off your student loans this minute if you permitted it.”

Will looked down at his shoes, pink to the ears. “You can’t do that,” he said harshly.

“No; not unless you let me.”

“That’s insane.” Will glared to the side. “I’m not going to be your kept boy.”

Hannibal grabbed his chin and lifted his face, startling him. “That’s not what I want, and you know it. Be careful, Will. I will give you what you ask of me.”

Will pushed away from him, pacing the kitchen again in agitation. “No strings attached, huh?” he mocked. “You’re possessive. That’s what this is.”

“In part,” Hannibal admitted, watching the upset boy cooly. “I have no desire to restrict you.”

“Oh, sure,” Will huffed, “because I have other people to give my attention to.”

“Will—"

The boy waved a hand at him. “Don’t. I need to clear my head. I’m going for a walk.” He stormed off.

Hannibal fussed with dinner preparations, but he couldn’t focus. He didn’t hear the door open. He made himself put dinner in the oven.

He found Will in the foyer, sitting curled up against a wall. “I can’t go for a walk because you took my fucking shoes,” Will snapped, though there was little bite to it. He groaned and buried his head in his arms.

Hannibal sat next to him on the floor, legs stretched out and hands folded in his lap. “I’m sorry, Will,” he said quietly.

“Don’t apologize, jesus,” Will said, lifting his head and staring up at the ceiling. “I’m the one who asked. I knew the answer would upset me.”

“That doesn’t change the fact that my desires upset you.”

Will sighed. “My dad always gets too many gifts for christmas,” Will said to the ceiling. “And I always feel guilty. Ever since I could remember. It’s complicated.”

“I think I understand.” Hannibal looked up at the ceiling, to see what Will saw in this moment. “You are very precious to me. Allow me to demonstrate that in whatever way you are comfortable.”

“Ok.” Will got to his feet and Hannibal followed him, at the boy’s queue wrapping him in his arms. Will sighed into his neck. “I mean. I really do need a new laptop.”

Chapter Text

The semester started up, and Hannibal’s house stopped smelling so strongly of Will. The first night was normal, a little strange to come home to an empty house and familiar quietude. To make food for one.

The second day, Hannibal started to suspect something was wrong with him. He almost never got sick, but he did not feel well. He could feel Will’s absence, not metaphorically but tangibly, like an insidious hollow under his ribs. He had not been an amputation surgeon but he was friendly with one during his practice, and familiar with the experience of her patients. This might be what a phantom limb felt like.

Hannibal wondered if this was what it would have felt like, if he had lost Mischa all those years ago, as he nearly did. A kind of absence that fundamentally shifted him. He and Mischa had had years to overcome their separation anxiety — ah yes, that was the source of his unease.

He was uneasy with the obvious intensity of his connection with Will.

Hannibal texted Will to ask after his day. Polite, reasonable responses that did not betray his neediness. Will responded in kind. They made plans for the weekend.

Hannibal stayed up later than usual at night, unable to rest. It was unusual for him to have difficulties falling asleep, but he was somewhat restless. On the third night, Will called him late, the moon high enough to just emit a sliver of light through the circular window above Hannibal’s bed.

“Hello, Will.”

“Hi, sorry… did I wake you?”

“You did not.” Hannibal wondered if he couldn’t sleep because Will was still awake. “Trouble sleeping?”

Will huffed a laugh, and Hannibal could imagine him rubbing his face. “Yeah. You could say that.”

“Tell me.”

“I, uh. Nightmares.” His voice was tight, and then was silent for a long moment. “I have a lot of them.”

“How often do they occur?”

“The normal ones? Once a week.”

“And was this a normal one?”

Will laughed. “Oh, no, Dr. Lecter.” He let out a shuddering breath.

Hannibal wondered what sorts of monsters a mind like that could imagine. “You are safe, Will. Although they may feel real, dreams cannot hurt you. Would you like to talk until you are ready to sleep again?”

“Yeah. If you could just... talk to me.”

”Of course, Will.”

 


 

Will came over to Hannibal’s office on Friday after his last appointment, wearing the coat and blue scarf. Will let Hannibal take them and hang them up, a simple ritual: sliding the wool back to reveal broad, bony shoulders; unwinding cashmere from the nape of his neck, close enough to smell how the sweat and heat was trapped away from the cold. Will turned to watch Hannibal hang them besides his own coat, the space between them graceful and weighted, closing as Hannibal turned back and Will caught his wrist. Will stepped into his arms and breathed a sigh of relief. Hannibal held him and rubbed the back of his neck, feeling the boy’s tension begin to ease.

They returned to a familiar routine — Will working away on his laptop while Hannibal finished his notes for the day. This time Will worked on the teal couch adjacent to the door, a highlighted text on the cushion beside him and fingers flying over the keys in short bursts. There were dark circles under his eyes and the collar of his flannel shirt was twisted.

“Do you have any strong opinions about the differential susceptibility hypothesis over the diathesis-stress model?” Will asked, not looking up from his work.

Hannibal tapped the butt of his pen against his notebook twice, considering. “They need not be mutually exclusive, if some people are more susceptible to negative environmental factors, positive, or both. But it would be a disservice to science to ignore, within a group, those that respond more positively to the environmental factor.”

Will looked over in his direction, gears turning. “On the one hand, plasticity can’t only be negative. If you’re more flexible and susceptible, it makes sense that you’d change for the better in good environments. On the other hand, the way we react to stress is pretty different from —“ He paused. “Thriving. If you have a family history of addiction — well, it’s like you said: some things are negative susceptibilities. Someone with a genetic condition that can be triggered by environmental factors isn’t necessarily a more plastic person.”

“But a more plastic person would react more to the environment.”

“True.” Will sighed. “You’re not a very malleable person.”

Hannibal knew that Will was really talking around how susceptible and plastic he was himself. “At my core, I have changed very little,” Hannibal said. “I came into this world as I am.”

“Sometimes I feel like I could be anyone,” Will said, head tilted to the high ceiling. “That I’m no one at all.” With a graceful roll of his neck, Will looked to Hannibal. “Just a shadow mimicking form.”

“Although you are mutable, that is around a core of iron,” Hannibal said. “You are not uniquely susceptible to the negative. Put in an environment where you can thrive, your power would be limitless.”

Will scrunched up his face. “Power?”

Hannibal folded his hands in his lap and turned to face Will directly from his desk. “I work with many adults who find it extremely difficult to change. It is a grave disadvantage to be stuck in one’s ways.”

“What has changed you?” Will asked.

“Not so much circumstance as habit. Any brain can change — mine through rigorous practice that takes time. You adapt quickly.”

Will looked satisfied for the time being with that answer. “Adapt… evolve,” he said thoughtfully, sighing.

Hannibal thought of his own potential, and Will’s. An adjacent concept to plasticity. What environmental triggers need be in place?

I never worry about my potential, Hannibal thought to say to Will, but it wasn’t true. It would be, in another circumstance, a Hannibal just like him, who had no qualms about fulfilling his potential. “Are you worried about your potential, Will?” Hannibal asked.

A brief frown, that turned into a mocking smile. “My potential is limitless,” he drawled, half teasing. “Depending on the environment.”

 


 

Dinner: Sacromonte omelette with liver and salsa. Will now held his fork as Hannibal did, in the European style, and ate with a mirrored elegance that Hannibal suspected was intentional. For such a jittery and tense young man, Will could be as relaxed and conservative in his movement as Hannibal was, when he wasn’t overstimulated. Will’s lips pressed firmly on the tines of the fork as he pulled it out, looking up at Hannibal and catching him staring, amused. Hannibal returned his attention to his food as a concession, but they were both smiling.

When they had finished eating, Hannibal suggested that Will wait in the study while he cleaned up. Taking the dishes back into the kitchen and rinsing them before putting them in the dishwasher, Hannibal could hear Will move in the dining room, but his footsteps did not fade off towards the study. Hannibal heard him approach and lean against the doorframe between dining room and kitchen, and felt Will watching his back.

Hannibal ignored him, and cleaned the cutting board and pan. He had a theory about space and gravity. It felt as if the distance between himself and Will was not quite a void, but had its own mass that remained constant. When Will was closer to Hannibal, he could feel the space compress, atomic friction creating tangible energy, more and more dense until they touched and collapsed and created new stars. Warm water ran over his hands as he cleaned, sharp blades set aside to be dried.

Will walked up behind him as Hannibal rinsed the suds from his hands. He felt Will tentatively touch his waist on either side, and rest his forehead between Hannibal’s shoulders. Hannibal shut the water off and placed his wet hands on the edge of the sink.

“I don’t know how to proceed,” Will said with a sigh, nuzzling just slightly against Hannibal.

Hannibal took a deep breath, so Will could feel him relax. “There is no right or wrong way. You must know that I will not judge you for your desires or trepidations.”

Will’s fingers rubbed over the tight creases of Hannibal’s apron, up and down his flank. “Not helpful, doctor.”

Hannibal hummed. “I think you would benefit from acting on instinct.”

“Maybe.” Will slid his hands around to Hannibal’s belly and stepped a little closer, so Hannibal felt the long line of his body against his back. “I don’t think you’re going to approve of what my instincts are telling me to do.”

Hannibal picked up the dish towel and dried his hands, careful not to move much and break Will’s timid touch. He placed one of his hands over Will’s, pressing it a little firmer into his belly. “Why do you feel the need to get drunk in order to have sex?” Hannibal asked.

Will huffed, annoyed. “I already told you.”

“What happens when your mind is uninhibited?”

“Too much stimulation. I get overwhelmed.”

Hannibal turned around slowly. Will kept his head ducked, forehead pressed against Hannibal’s chest. He rubbed the back of Will’s neck, just under his skull, in the way he knew relaxed him. “You enjoyed telling me what to do before,” Hannibal suggested, voice low and warm.

Will let out a shuddering breath, and pulled a little closer. “Yeah,” he said quietly.

“You can tell me what to do. I will only do as you say, and you can touch me as you want and go at your own pace.”

“What if you don’t like what I do?”

Hannibal tilted Will’s head up and he pouted, cheeks tinged with embarrassment. Hannibal ducked down so Will could feel his words on his skin. “There is nothing you could do that I would not enjoy,” Hannibal assured him. “Don’t underestimate how terribly I want you.”

Will whimpered at that, caught in his throat. His eyes flicked up for a moment, pupil overtaking brilliant blue. “Ok. Kiss me.”

Hannibal obliged eagerly, pressing his lips softly against Will’s mouth and drinking down the little sigh of pleasure. He stroked Will’s ear with his thumb and opened his mouth when Will parted his lips, letting the boy taste him freely. Space compressed into the single point of their tongues dancing, new galaxies in the wake of Will’s hands and breath and skin.

Will drew back after a series of closed-mouthed kisses that couldn’t be called chaste. His blue eyes were vibrant against the soft pink of his skin. “I’m going to shower,” he said. “You can if you want to, and then I’ll come to your room.”

“Yes, Will,” Hannibal said with a faint smile.

 


 

Hannibal finished cleaning the kitchen and took a brief shower of his own, then changed into his sleep clothes. Covering himself was a calculated move, as much as his restraint. Hannibal emerged from the ensuite bathroom to find Will sitting on the edge of his bed facing him, wearing his blue satin robe, the color of the sky just after the sun sets. The soft, fine material clung to his form and cascaded over his lithe legs in artful folds, rivaling the beauty of ancient wet drapery.

Hannibal allowed himself to indulge in this image — Will’s damp, dark hair sticking to his neck, the splay of his thighs and pink of his cheeks, the steady look he gave Hannibal in return. There was no apparent nervousness to him, and Hannibal felt rather like he was being lured into dark waters.

Will beckoned him with his hand, then turned his wrist over and pointed his fingers to the floor. “Sit,” he said casually, then leaned back on both hands.

Hannibal walked forward and knelt between Will’s legs, laying his hands politely on his own thighs. His expression was calm. It was not often that he could appreciate Will from this angle, the tilt of his square jaw, the uneven turn of his nostrils. “Close your eyes,” Will said, and Hannibal did.

He felt Will’s fingers stroke through his hair, still slightly wet, messing it one way and then the other. He ran his nails down Hannibal’s scalp and he hummed at the sensation. Will touched his face, exploratory and gentle, smoothing both thumbs under his eyes and over his cheekbones, under his jaw, down his neck. Hannibal tilted his head like a dancer following the leader, attuned to Will’s touch. He felt Will shift before him. One hand cupped the back of Hannibal’s skull while the other traced his lips, which parted on a sigh; then a firmer touch, bolder, pushing his lower lip to one side and dragging it down to open his mouth.

He heard Will sigh and shift, felt his thumb tracing the edge of Hannibal’s sharp teeth and the tip of his tongue. He wanted to snap forward and suck the boy’s thumb down hard, hear him gasp and moan. “Stay still,” Will reminded him, as if he could sense his thoughts or knew that he was playing in the jaws of a lion.

Will slid his thumb forward along Hannibal’s tongue and he opened his mouth more, but kept pliant, breath hot in his mouth. Will hummed in appreciation and slid his thumb out, stroking down Hannibal’s neck. “You can open your eyes,” he said, and Hannibal did so immediately, glad to see Will pleased and faintly aroused. “Lay down on your back,” he added, patting the mattress.

Hannibal rose gracefully and walked around the bed to climb in on the other side, lying himself down in the middle with his hands by his side. Will turned and looked over him and Hannibal’s gaze caught on his slim waist, where the satin robe was tied closed. “Close your eyes,” Will teased.

Hannibal obeyed with a soft sigh. “You deny me the pleasure of looking upon you,” Hannibal said with a smile.

“I could deny you everything,” Will reminded him. “This is about what I want.”

Hannibal shuddered and flexed his hands before falling still again. “Yes, Will,” Hannibal agreed, his name spoken with the reverence of an honorific.

Will shifted closer on the bed. “Arms up by your head.” Hannibal did with a deep breath. Both of Will’s hands smoothed down his chest and stomach, grabbing the hem of his shirt and lifting it up slowly, humming at the sight of Hannibal’s bare chest. Will ran his hands through the swirls of greying chest hair, grabbed on, and pulled lightly.

The touch of pain tugged Hannibal up in a sinuous curve of his spine, a rumbling moan of pleasure in his chest. “You like that?” Will asked, faintly surprised.

“Oh, yes,” Hannibal said, not smirking. Will stroked over his pectorals and tugged on his chest hair again, and warmth spread out from his sternum.

Will’s thumb found Hannibal’s nipple and the other arm braced on the pillow so the boy could bend down and kiss his jaw. “You always smell so fucking good,” he growled, kissing and lapping at Hannibal’s neck. “I want to make you feel good.”

“You are,” Hannibal said, arching up into his touch and craning his neck to expose his sensitive skin. Hannibal was not naturally very vocal in bed, so trained to perform his reactions to the outside world, but he intentionally made his breath heavier and colored with soft sounds of pleasure. Will rubbed his tongue over and over the external jugular and Hannibal panted as his body flooded with warmth.

“Like you make me feel,” Will muttered, sucking on his clavicle and alternating between rubbing his nipple and gently tugging his chest hair. Will’s mouth descended, supernaturally hot against Hannibal’s skin, and then he was licking around his other nipple and Hannibal started getting hard.

“Yes, Will — just like that,” Hannibal said with a little moan as the boy sucked at him. It was near agony to not be able to see Will like this. All Hannibal could see was the maroon tint of his eyelids, shifting color in the dim light of the room. “How I wish I could see your pretty mouth like this.”

Will groaned, the vibrations against sensitive skin rolling heat down his spine. Will moved over to the other side, draping half of his body over Hannibal’s torso. Soft, wet sensations, flicks of his tongue, rubbing firmly, suction, teeth. Hannibal groaned fully, rocking his hips up.

Will cursed under his breath and sat up, no doubt looking over Hannibal. Will pulled himself on top of Hannibal, between his legs, and the full weight of his boy on his erection pulled a sharp gasp from Hannibal, a wanton thrust of his hips.

“Ah, god!” Will gasped, caging Hannibal’s head with his forearms and grinding down. “You’re so fucking gorgeous,” Will whined, their breaths mingling, before catching Hannibal’s mouth in a wet kiss.

This was utterly indulgent. Will’s erection slotted just next to his own, rubbing close through soft layers. Hannibal kissed back fiercely, taking a mile where Will had given him an inch, hands clenching in the pillow for wanting to touch. Hannibal caught his tongue between teeth and sucked it between his lips, making Will gasp and twitch. They were both hungry, devouring, opening mouths wide to let each other in. Their heads tilted in tandem, tongues sliding against each other and deep, and they both moaned together, the same note.

Will pulled up and his hand was suddenly at Hannibal’s hip. “I need to touch you,” Will said breathlessly.

Hannibal swallowed. “I understand the sentiment.”

Will chuckled, and sat back on Hannibal’s thigh, a delicious weight. “Just a little longer,” Will said, soothingly. Hannibal nodded.

He heard Will take a deep breath and his hips were grabbed firmly. His cock was hard beneath the soft fabric, leaving little to the imagination, and Will already had a prodigious imagination. He hummed and ran his palm over Hannibal’s naval, heel of his hand along the hem of his pants, then slipped his hand down the ilium muscles and up his cock.

Hannibal groaned and arched his back — Will’s pressure was firm and without hesitation. He slid his fingers and thumb up and down the sides, took him in his grip through the cloth and tugged.

“Oh, Will.”

“Keep talking.”

“Darling, beautiful boy. That’s so good. I love it when you touch me like that.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Do you feel how I ache for you?”

“Yes — Hannibal, fuck. I need to see you.”

Will pulled down the hem of his pants slowly, and groaned. “God. Hannibal.” Will rubbed himself against his thigh. “You’re so—" But whatever Hannibal was, was lost in Will’s gasp as he took him in hand, skin to skin.

Will stroked him firmly from root to tip and behind his eyelids, Hannibal’s eyes rolled. He felt the touch all the way down his spine, and curled and arched. “Will—"

“Feel good?”

“Incredible. Please, Will—"

“Not yet. God, you’re hard.”

“For you.”

“For me.”

“Ahh—"

“Would you rather see me or touch me?”

“Cruel boy.”

“Hmm?”

“Taste you. I want to taste your skin.” Your everything.

Will rubbed his sensitive foreskin, up and down the ridge of his cockhead. Hannibal could feel his blood pump against Will’s hand, feel Will rub his ass on his thigh. He was breathing heavily now and could hear Will breathe the same, like they shared a set of lungs. “Feels good,” Will muttered, then: “You can look at me.”

Hannibal opened his eyes. He looked down at Will’s hand on him, stroking steadily, then raised to see his face. Will’s dark eyes were sharp despite the glaze of lust. He was flushed down his neck, the color just starting to spread to pink splotches on his chest. The satin robe was still belted but was coming loose, revealing a strip of Will’s chest — all the more tempting for being half-covered. “You can touch me,” Will said, lips swollen and mouth lax. “But not with your mouth.”

Hannibal groaned and moved at once, pushing up on one arm so he could reach and grab Will by the back of the neck. The boy gasped, but Hannibal was gentle enough not to dislodge him, pulling their foreheads together. “Will,” he breathed, “my darling. Look what you do to me.”

Will shuddered, looking down between them where he still gripped Hannibal’s hard cock. “I know.” He ducked his head in the crook of Hannibal’s neck and whined.

Hannibal sat up and pulled Will into his lap easily, so he was straddling his thighs. Will wrapped his free arm around Hannibal’s back, and Hannibal held him close by the waist. “Devious boy,” Hannibal breathed, hot in his ear. “You only whet my hunger.”

“H-ahh,” Will gasped. He had to twist his wrist to keep his grip on Hannibal, and rubbed the head. Hannibal ran his hands all the way down Will’s sides to his knees, then up under the robe and around to finally, finally squeeze his ass.

“Fuck, yes,” Will moaned. He got the idea when Hannibal pulled him closer, and let go of his cock. Will wrapped his arms around Hannibal’s neck, giving him plenty of room to run his hands up and down his back, squeeze his ribs and waist and hips and fondle his ass — which was perfect and pert and thick in a way Will wasn’t anywhere else. He was slender and boyish, a late bloomer, and it made Hannibal want to see how his skin and muscle would thicken with age.

Their erections bumped together as Will rolled his hips lazily. Hannibal touched him all over, mindful of Will’s breathing and the twitch of his hips, wanting him warm and relaxed until he melted off the bone, but not overstimulated. Not yet. He found his small nipples and rubbed them lightly. “Your body is perfect, lovely,” Hannibal said softly. “Like you were made for my hands. I don’t want to touch anything else again.”

“God.”

“I can’t wait to taste you. Your lips. These.” Hannibal tugged both his nipples lightly. “Your release flooding my mouth.”

“Jesus, Hann— ahh!”

“What sweet sounds you’ll make when I have your cock in my throat.”

“Fuck. I want it. I want you to fuck me.”

“You’ve thought about it.”

“Every night.”

“How sweet and strong your body will be when I slide into you.”

“Nnn!”

Hannibal pulled Will out from the slit in his silk boxers and stroked him steadily. The fingers of his other hand gripped the inner edge of his ass, moving up and down his crack. “Fuck - god - yes!” Will gasped into Hannibal’s neck, his groans of pleasure becoming incoherent.

Hannibal loved having Will’s cock in his hand, warm and flushed pink, throbbing steadily. He did not think there was an inch of Will’s body that would not be bliss to hold and touch and taste, worshipping him. Hannibal wanted to siphon every drop of sweat, every twitch of Will’s legs in helpless pleasure, every gasp. Will bucked into his hand with a growl, and Hannibal let out a deep sound of gratification.

His, his, his.

“Come with me, come with me,” Will muttered into Hannibal’s neck, voice nearly broken. “Please.”

Hannibal sighed through his nose. He wasn’t close enough yet. “You first, my dear boy.”

Will pushed Hannibal back, eyes wild and dark. “No,” he said, removing Hannibal’s hand from his cock. “Take yourself to the edge. Tell me when you’re close.”

Hannibal lay back down on the bed, slightly stunned, Will disheveled and monumental atop him. The boy’s command was natural. Hannibal switched his hands so the one sticky with Will’s precome was cupping his ass, and with the other Hannibal jerked himself quickly. He didn’t even need his filthy thoughts of Will — he had the boy here, a perfect weight on his hips, ass in his palm. His skin and muscle felt divine under the silk. Will gritted his teeth and went lax with a long sigh as Hannibal squeezed him hard, cock bobbing freely and untouched.

Hannibal’s gaze was ravenous. Will was a siren, a sweet temptation belaying the crushing power of the deep; a lick of hell flame; a mad, divine vision. An ache deep as a glacial fissure. Hannibal’s breath caught in his throat, entirely beyond his own control. “That’s it, that’s it,” Will muttered, watching Hannibal’s quick strokes and his face in turn, eyes blown wide with lust. His hips circled slowly as Hannibal ran his fingers from tailbone to perineum, just barely feeling the soft give of his hole through the silk.

It wasn’t much longer before Hannibal was leaking into his hand and felt the building pressure in his balls and erection. He slowed his strokes. “I’m close, Will,” Hannibal told him, voice rough, and Will snapped to attention, a hungry look in his eye.

Will rolled them onto their side, and without instruction they took the other’s cock in hand. Will’s face was mere inches from his on the pillow, lips red and wet, beautiful eyes a ring of frost around black. They shared breath and stroked in tandem — Hannibal wasn’t sure who was leading and who was following. He delivered touch to Will and felt it on his own cock. It was like they were sharing a body, blurring together, and he began to lose himself in it.

Enraptured, Hannibal watched Will fall apart and tear open with orgasm, loud, aching groans that spilled from his wide mouth, eyes rolling up. Each fraction of the expression was carved into stone in his mind. Hannibal felt himself coil and unwind with his own release, a bright, beautiful puncture of sensation.

Will kisses him, sloppy and perfect and electric with the remnants of their shared orgasm. Will’s seed was sticky and warm on Hannibal’s hand; he wanted to taste it again and learn the minute differences in Will’s flavor. Instead, Hannibal kissed the boy until he was exhausted, wiped his hand on his own sleep pants so he could hold Will tightly.

“My sweet boy,” Hannibal purred warmly. “You were magnificent. I could never tire of touching you or hearing the notes of your pleasure.”

Will grinned, embarrassed, and ducked his head under Hannibal’s chin. “You’re not too bad yourself.”

Hannibal pet through his sweaty hair. They were both sticky and smelled delightfully of sex, and Hannibal was loathe to move even as his come dries cool on his skin. “How do you feel?” Hannibal asked.

“Mm. Like I’ll probably sleep well tonight.”

Hannibal planted a kiss on his forehead. “I’ll be but a moment, my dear,” he said, disentangling with Will and leaving him pouting slightly into the pillow.

Hannibal cleaned himself up in the bathroom and put his soiled pants and shirt in the hamper. He changed into his own robe and brought out a warm hand towel for Will. The boy reached for it, and Hannibal hesitated. “May I?” he asked.

Will looked embarrassed, and shook his head. “No, it’s alright.” He took the towel and cleaned himself off, and Hannibal put it back in the hamper when he was finished. Will watched him carefully when he returned to the bed, wrapped up in the robe once again. “You wanted to clean me,” he said.

It wasn’t a question, but Hannibal affirmed it anyway. “Yes. I would enjoy that.”

Will looked thoughtful. “I’ll let you bathe me sometime, if you’re good.”

Hannibal crawled into bed next to him, propping himself up on his elbow. “Have I not been good, Will?” Hannibal asked, faintly amused.

Will grinned. “Oh, you’ve been great. But I’ve got to watch out for you, don’t I?”

Hannibal didn’t deny it. He took one of Will’s hands and kissed the knuckles.

Will stretched, and sat up in bed, looking towards the door. “Will you stay tonight?” Hannibal asked.

Will shook his head, his smirk self-deprecating. “No. I’m not a good bed fellow. I don’t want to keep you up.”

“I truly don’t mind,” Hannibal said, but suspected Will would not budge on the issue tonight. He hid the small twinge of disappointment, wanting to be fully comfortable with Will’s denials as much as he was of his offerings.

“I’ll sleep better alone anyway,” Will said quickly, but gave Hannibal a little smile. He leaned in and Hannibal kissed him gently. “Goodnight.”

Hannibal cupped his jaw and gave him a fond look. “Goodnight, Will.”

Chapter Text

Hannibal rarely dreamed.

He was not bothered by this. He had a rich internal landscape, and while he was fascinated by all aspects of cognition, it would be mildly distressing to observe his mind in chaos. During his rare dreams, many of the structures of his mind palace remained intact, but more slippery and imperfect.

Hannibal woke with a start, and for a moment he thought he had been dreaming.
It was the middle of the night and at first Hannibal was unsure why he had awoken. Then he heard it again, a muffled wail from down the hall.

In an instant Hannibal was out of his bed and walking quick and light out of his bedroom and towards Will’s. The sounds were of distress and ragged breathing. Hannibal opened the door into the pitch black room, the illumination from the hall window cascading around his legs and giving him barely enough light to see. Will was in the throes of a night terror, legs tangled and kicking in the sheets, face pinched in pain and chest seizing with aborted breaths. Hannibal could smell his sweat, ripe with fear.

He was beautiful.

For a moment, Hannibal simply observed. The way Will thrashed and groaned was nearly feral, a man possessed. The night terror was obviously a potent one. After his selfish minute of voyeurism, Hannibal sat on the edge of the bed. “Will?” he called gently, and then louder. Will’s eyes flicked rapidly behind their lids and his shaking calmed somewhat as he fought to awaken.

Hannibal squeezed his shoulder firmly. “Will.”
With a sharp gasp, Will broke from the surface of his dreams, eyes snapping open and looking around wildly. Hannibal let go of him, but Will snatched his wrist and glared at him with fear and fury.

“Ha-Hannibal?” Will choked out.

“I’m here, Will,” Hannibal said, making his voice soothing. “It was just a dream.”

Will stared at him for a moment, catching his breath, then glanced down at his hand as if he was surprised to see his grip around it. He let go of Hannibal’s wrist and sat up, kicking the bedding off himself. He had sweated through his white t-shirt and smelled of bitter fear. When Will stood up from the bed, he left behind a sweaty stain.

Ignoring Hannibal and still heaving breaths back from the edge of anxiety, Will stalked towards the window and pulled the curtains open. Streetlight poured in, the orange of Baltimore light pollution framing his dark silhouette. Hannibal saw his fists curl against the window frame. “Sorry,” Will said, shoulders curling.

“You don’t need to apologize to me.”

“I woke you.”

Hannibal glanced at the bed and touched the wet spot Will had left behind. The sweat would make him cold; and indeed his tremors were changing into shivers. Hannibal stood and walked over to Will. He stood just behind him, not touching, and placed his hand on the windowsill next to Will’s fist. Will was small enough that Hannibal felt like he could fold the boy up inside of himself to keep safe.

Will sighed deeply, and rocked back on his feet. It was a minuscule gesture but Hannibal took it for the queue that it was, and pressed up against him, hand sliding to cover Will’s. “You’re awake now,” Hannibal said, nuzzling his damp curls.

Will whimpered slightly. “I know.” His thumb slid over Hannibal’s. “You wouldn’t lie to me in a dream.”

“What did you dream about?” Hannibal asked. He wondered if he had been in it.

Will shook his head, but he did answer. “I was under the floorboards of — of a house. And there was a party going on above me. Laughter and footsteps cutting through the cracks in the floor.” He flinched, as if such sensations were painful. “I couldn’t move. And there was this darkness beneath me, rising up.” He let out a long breath, slumping forward. “Sounds stupid.”

Hannibal wrapped his arm around Will’s stomach and pulled him close, planting a kiss on his neck. “Not so.”

“They were dancing on my corpse.”

Hannibal smoothed his hand up from Will’s fist to his shoulder, and back down, keeping the pressure even. Will relaxed some back into him. “Your fear was apparent to me,” Hannibal said. Will nodded but didn’t say anything. “Can you sleep again?” Hannibal asked.

Will shrugged, still looking out the window. “I’d rather not.”

“Go take a shower, and change into something clean.”

Will finally turned in his arms, nodding against his collar. “I’m fine. You can go back to bed,” he mumbled.

Hannibal tilted his chin up and Will’s eyes dodged away. He placed a kiss on his forehead, so soft and slow, then one cheekbone and the other. Will’s breath shuddered as Hannibal kissed his upper lip and then his lower with just as much care.
“Right,” Will said, mostly to himself.

While Will showered, Hannibal changed his sheets so he wouldn’t be sleeping in his own sweat. He brought the ruined sheets to his nose and took in the scent of Will’s nightmares, bittersweet and more acrid than the sweat he produced normally. Will came back in as Hannibal was turning down the fresh sheets for him. “You don’t have to do that,” Will said, embarrassed.

“No, I don’t have to,” Hannibal agreed. The task complete, he turned back to Will, who was wrapped up in his bathrobe and staring at his feet.

“Go back to bed already,” Will said with a little smile. “I’ll probably read for a while.”

As Hannibal approached, Will’s eyes flicked up to his bare chest and face, bright blue framed by tired skin. Hannibal ran his hands up Will’s arms and cupped his face tenderly. Even like this — no, especially like this — Will was beautiful, raw vulnerability peeking out from jagged defenses. In exhaustion, he could not keep those defenses up as easily. “You are always welcome in my bed,” Hannibal said. “If you feel you would sleep better next to a warm body, do not hesitate. Not for my comfort, not for the cleanliness of my sheets, for no reason. Do you understand?”

Will sucked his lip in, looking at Hannibal like he was a strange creature. “Yeah. Uh. I’ve got it.”

 


 

Later, when Hannibal was just falling asleep, he heard Will come in and slip into his bed. The boy curled up against his back, not holding him but still pressing as much skin to skin as possible. Hannibal sighed with deep satisfaction, and slipped into the warm comfort before sleep.

Will whimpered and tossed through the night, less violent than before, and Hannibal took him into his arms and soothed him in his sleep. Hannibal slept fitfully but couldn’t be sorry for it — over and over again through the night, Hannibal awoke to find Will in his arms. Sleepy eyes blinked open for a moment before Will turned back into the covers or Hannibal’s chest. Hannibal heard the rhythm of Will’s breaths above all other thoughts. 

Hannibal naturally woke early and rarely set an alarm for himself, the light coming through the window enough to bring him from the depths of sleep. This morning he lingered longer in bed. Will was tucked sweetly under his arm and smelled of sweat but less fear. Hannibal rubbed light circles into his back, at once absent and methodical, tracing the contours of his body with no purpose beyond exploration. Trapezius, scapula, thoracic and lumbar vertebrae.

Will’s breathing became lighter as he slowly awoke. His fingers splayed against Hannibal’s chest where they had been limply curled, and he pressed lightly into his skin. The little curls his fingers made mimicked the motion of Hannibal’s palm on his back, and he took it as encouragement. Hannibal shifted a little closer to Will, resulting in a hum from the boy, and continued his petting.

They continued like that for some time. Will occasionally skimmed his fingers over Hannibal’s chest or nuzzled his head closer, small motions of acknowledgment, that he was awake and liked the touch. Hannibal slipped his hand up under Will’s shirt, and when he pressed just so to Will’s back, he could feel his heartbeat. Soft and relaxed and vulnerable and his.

Will shifted up so that they were nose to nose, still groggy with sleep. They could feel each other breathe and Hannibal could tell by the even pace and click of his throat as he swallowed that Will was attempting to remain unaffected. Hannibal could kiss him with a tilt of his chin, but it was better not to — so much more exquisite to have Will a breath away and not take his lips between tongue and teeth. So much more tempting. Eyes still closed, Will licked his lips. So much better to deprive the boy.

In his movements, Hannibal drew Will a little closer by the small of his back and felt his partial erection press against Hannibal’s thigh. Will scratched him lightly at the collar. It was a silent conversation but clearly understood. Hannibal took a deep breath of satisfaction.

“Morning,” Will said weakly.

“Good morning,” Hannibal rumbled, and kissed the corner of his mouth.

Will pressed closer, a roll of his spine — or maybe Hannibal pulled him closer — maybe both. Hard against the line of Hannibal’s leg, Will’s hand snuck lower. Will kissed Hannibal firmly, like an accusation, so of course Hannibal answered, parting lips and pressing tongue. Will’s mouth was sticky from sleep, and Hannibal savored it.

“How did you sleep?” Hannibal asked, drawing back.

Will finally cracked his eyes open and gave Hannibal a look that clearly said he was more interested in dealing with his morning wood than a conversation. His fingers skimmed the band of Hannibal’s pants. “Okay,” he said. “Definitely better here.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

Will looked down between them, hand on Hannibal’s hip, and there was a hungry look in his eyes. Hannibal kept his own arousal in check, but the way Will looked at his clothed, partial erection, made it challenging. “You gonna help me out?” Will asked, voice husky with sleep, and trailed his hand down Hannibal’s thigh.

Hannibal hummed. “I think we are overdue for a safe sex conversation.”

Will glanced up at him, startled. “Oh. Right.” He cleared his throat. “Good idea.”

“Perhaps over coffee and breakfast.”

Will’s eyes went sly. “So that’s a ‘no’.”

Hannibal rolled over Will and delighted in the boy’s gasp of surprise. He slotted himself between Will’s splayed legs and rolled his hips, delivering delicious friction and pressure to his groin. “Ahhn!” Will moaned and gripped Hannibal’s shoulders.

It was so perfect to take Will off guard, to suddenly overwhelm him and to heat his skin until it was pink and sweaty with arousal. Hannibal grinded against him, circling his hips and then thrusting forward, feeling the drag of Will’s hard cock through his clothes.

“Ah — fuck, fuck,” Will gasped, arching and grinding back.

Hannibal kissed his way up Will’s neck to his ear and sucked on the lobe. “Darling boy,” he growled against his ear, before wetting it with his tongue. “How can I deny you when you ask so nicely?”

“Hhh— you want me to say pretty please?”

Hannibal lifted his hips completely away from Will and the boy keened. “It’s only polite, Will,” Hannibal teased in a low voice.

Will turned his head against Hannibal’s. “Please, Hannibal. Get me off.”

Hannibal lowered himself again, core burning pleasantly, and Will bucked into him. He was fully hard as well, but focused on Will, thrusting deliberately and giving him something firm to rub against. Hannibal sucked on his ear again. “Can you imagine me inside you like this?”

“Ohh — god, yes!”

“I can imagine you,” Hannibal breathed, “stretching and trembling around my fingers, hot and velvety as I work you open.”

“Ffffuck.”

“Touch yourself, Will.”

Will shoved his hands into his boxers and started jerking himself firmly, mouth open and panting. Hannibal nipped at his ear and sucked the delicate skin behind it. “That’s it boy, take care of yourself for me.” Hannibal pushed up onto one arm and reached down to cup Will’s balls, just a bit of pressure behind. “Will you be this obedient when I have you on my cock?”

Will jerked and groaned, face pinched and flushed. “Y-yes,” Will whimpered, eyes closed as Hannibal stared down at him. “God, yes, Hannibal!”

Hannibal could smell his precome and heard the slick sounds of his fist sliding up and down, rapid, on the edge. Hannibal felt his balls tighten and pressed more firmly against Will’s perineum. “Good boy, beautiful boy,” Hannibal murmured.

Will came with a shout, the wave of his scent testing Hannibal’s control over his arousal. Will’s face was transformed in rapturous pleasure, and Hannibal didn’t think he could ever tire of that sight. Hannibal removed his hand, trailing it over Will’s spent and twitching cock and smearing his semen.

“You’re… wicked,” Will panted, shooting a pleased glare at Hannibal. Hannibal lay on his side, as pleased as a cat that caught the canary.

“Perhaps,” Hannibal said, placing a fond kiss on Will’s lips. “You did seem in dire need of assistance.”

Will huffed and rolled his eyes. “And whose fault is that?”

“Should I apologize?”

“You’re ridiculous. Now, go make me coffee.”

Hannibal pulled on his robe and went downstairs with nearly a skip in his step, his erection subsiding as his mind turned to other tasks. He made coffee in the siphon and pulled out eggs, bacon, arugula and goat cheese from the refrigerator. The coffee was ready and thick slabs of bacon sizzling in the pan when Will emerged in the kitchen, making a beeline towards the coffee. He had the dark blue robe tied around his waist and still smelled of come. Between that and the dark hair on his strong legs, Hannibal was almost distracted.

“So: a conversation,” Will said, hopping up on a stool.

“Yes, shall I begin?”

“I’d prefer it.”

Hannibal turned the bacon over and gave Will a small smile. “I currently have no other sexual partners. When I am sexually active I get tested every three months for everything, and my last test came back all negative. I normally use all protective barriers, with some exceptions.”

Will frowned, looking a little nervous. “Well. You’re very prepared.”

“Comes with the medical territory.”

Will’s cheeks went pink. “I don’t have any other partners. I, uh, haven’t been tested. Ever.”

“That’s alright. We can rectify that.”

“Not that I’ve…” Will’s brows pinched. “You tasted my come, before.”

“Yes.” Hannibal looked up from his task. “An unusual lapse in my self control. I was not overly concerned, and the panels came back negative after that.”

“Oh.” Will looked a bit relieved. “So I’m probably clean?”

“Negative, you mean,” Hannibal corrected. “There is nothing dirty about having an STI. But that is definitely not a guarantee for your negative status. I can save you a trip to the doctor and draw your blood myself.”

Will glanced up at that, but Hannibal couldn’t entirely read his expression. “Convenient,” he said after a moment, then stared back down at his coffee mug. “So, until that comes back, what can we do?”

“My preference is for no fluid exchange or direct genital contact. I have barriers for anything we would like to do.”

“Including oral sex?”

Hannibal tilted his head. “What is your question?”

“Well, since you’re negative, could I go down on you without a condom?”

Hannibal blinked away the image, and checked the eggs. “Some STIs could still be spread, so I would prefer to use a barrier.”

“Okay,” Will said weakly.

Hannibal turned off the burner under the bacon and wiped his hands on his apron. He moved to Will and cupped the back of his neck. “There is nothing wrong with you,” Hannibal said firmly. “This conversation is not meant to make you feel ashamed or that you have done anything wrong.”

“I could have given you something.”

“You didn’t, and if you did it would be my responsibility and hardly the end of the world. Do not fret.”

Will shrugged, still looking a bit down and tired.

Hannibal plated their breakfasts and set one in front of Will, the other adjacent to him. “No dining room?” Will asked with a bit of amusement.

Hannibal pulled the other stool around the counter corner from Will and sat down, adjusting his robe. “Pajamas are more suited to the kitchen.”

Will smiled briefly and dug in to his eggs benedict. He moaned in pleasure. “God, this is good.”

Hannibal preened.

The food went a long way to relieving Will’s anxiety around the conversation. “You know,” Will said after a moment. “I haven’t had sex before.”

Hannibal blinked at him. “Can you be more specific?”

“Oh, I mean, I’ve given and received oral sex,” Will answered, lips pulled in a nervous grin. “But not anal. Or vaginal. I’ve been… digitally penetrated.”

Hannibal pressed his lips together. It certainly wasn’t his place to feel possessive — but both the idea that others had been with Will in this way, and that Hannibal might have Will in ways no one else has lit a flame beneath his ribs. “Are you interested in anal sex?” Hannibal asked lightly.

Will chuckled and caught his tongue in his teeth. “What, was that just dirty talk to you?”

Hannibal gave a little smile. “I’d like to lay out explicit expectations. Especially considering your inexperience.”

“Then yes, I do,” Will said, straightforward and without embarrassment. “Do you?”

“Yes. I want you in all ways I can have you.”

Will took a slow sip of coffee. “Would you let me fuck you?”

“Language while we’re eating, Will. And yes, of course. Would you prefer that?”

The line formed between his brows again. “No, actually. I mean, I’d maybe like to try. I’m surprised; I can’t imagine you bottoming.”

Hannibal tilted his head. “Really?”

“You’re always so controlled. I suppose it’s not so much the act of receiving as imagining you letting go.”

“From the day we’ve met, you’ve been provocative. I think you like the idea of making me let go of control.”

Will finally blushed. “It’s… a provocative idea. But,” he added, “it also feels safer that I can push you and you’ll remain steadfast.” He glanced up, blue eyes against the pink of his smooth cheeks. “You’re careful with me.”

Hannibal regarded him. “I take care with what’s important to me.”

Will’s head tilted to one side, but he kept eye contact. “How does my inexperience make you feel?”

Hannibal thought on his answer for a moment. “You’re very young, Will. It’s true that if you were older I might take less caution.”

Will look aside. His eyes were suddenly hard. “I don’t feel young.”

In the silence that followed Hannibal could hear a few birds calling outside, and the rumble of traffic. “I have never felt young,” Hannibal replied gently.

The hardness in Will’s face mingled with a smile and he looked back. Something in you is in me too. “When you were my age, you were with older men,” Will said. “How was that?”

“Educational,” Hannibal said. “And without the attentiveness with which I treat you. There were no conversations such as these.”

Will nodded, and returned his attention to his food. Thoughtful. “I don’t know if I want to go as slow and systematically as we have been,” he said. “That’ll just make sex feel like this big, intimidating destination. Though, you like teasing and denying me.”

“It’s gratifying to see your desire.”

Will smirked. They finished breakfast and Hannibal cleaned up, Will checking his phone. “Go get dressed,” Will said after Hannibal was done.

Hannibal went back upstairs and changed into a brown suit. Will hadn’t specified so Hannibal chose to present himself tailored and groomed, every strand of hair smoothed into place. When he returned downstairs Will was still in the kitchen, not having changed himself. He was sitting in the corner chair, leaned back and legs spread wide, toes tapping in his slippers. The robe was still belted but the way the fabric fell, Hannibal could see the creamy skin of his thighs.

“You said you could take my blood for a test?” Will asked.

“That’s correct.”

Will extended his left arm on the armrest, wrist up. “Do it.”

Hannibal obeyed gladly and fetched his medical supplies. He took a low stool and sat in front of Will. “It’s been a moment since I’ve done this,” Hannibal said conversationally, but proceeded with confidence: tying Will’s upper arm and instructing him to squeeze his fist. “You have lovely veins,” Hannibal said, tracing them with a gloved finger before cleaning the puncture site.

Will snorted. “You’re ridiculous.”

Hannibal took out a needle. Will was watching him closely as he slipped it into the vein, attached the vial and let the blood flow. Hannibal felt a tingling sensation at the base of his skull, a quiet thrill at seeing the bright red fill one vial, then another. The vein bulged under translucent skin.

Will let out a breath through his teeth, and when Hannibal glanced up he saw a dark swirl of arousal in the boy’s eyes. It nearly took Hannibal’s breath away. For a moment Hannibal imagined lowering his mouth to the puncture site and removing the needle with his teeth, then sucking down on Will’s blood.

“I want your cock in me by the end of the day,” Will said. “Can you do that?”

A throb of arousal pulled through him. The suddenness of the comment wiped his mind blank; then it filled up with images and observations. Will was confident. It would be disingenuous not to trust the boy’s self-knowledge.

Hannibal licked his lips. “Yes, Will.”

Looking like an emperor on his throne, Will nodded. “Good. Is there anything else?”

Hannibal removed the needle and pressed a cotton swab to Will’s inner elbow, taping it down efficiently. “I need either a urine sample or a swab from the genital area.”

Will looked at the bandage and then stretched both arms out on the armrest. “You can take a swab.”

Hannibal packed the vials away in the kit. Will made no move to disrobe himself. He looked at Hannibal both amused and expectant. “I find your control rather titillating,” Hannibal said, moving from the stool to his knees in between Will’s legs.

“I know,” Will said with a smirk.

Hannibal pulled the belt of the robe undone, noticing Will’s erection beneath the folds of fabric before he pulled them aside like removing the lid on an artful entree. Will was straining in the dark silk boxers. He hadn’t changed after his morning orgasm and he still smelled of sweet musk, a dried stain visible on the fabric.. “At times it feels to me like you understand our situation better than I,” Hannibal said, fishing Will’s cock out from the slit in the boxers. Even through the latex gloves Will was hot to the touch.

“I do,” Wil said simply.

Hannibal took the swab sample. He handled Will clinically but it was still enjoyable and intimate. He secured the sample away in the kit as Will tucked himself back in his boxers. “You’re transparent to me,” Will said when Hannibal looked back.

Hannibal stiffened, mentally if not physically. The way Will said it rang with absolute truth, but it could not be the case. Parts of himself were restrained. He took a deep breath where he kneeled before Will, looking at him curiously.

“Don’t worry,” Will said playfully. “I like what I see.”

“And I am immensely glad that you do.”

Will climbed down into Hannibal’s lap and he wrapped the boy up in his arms immediately. He was securely held between Hannibal and the seat of the chair, an expression of relaxed indulgence on his face. “We don’t have to do anything you don’t want to either,” he reminded Hannibal.

Hannibal ran his hands down Will’s back and then over his round backside, and felt Will’s cock twitch against his naval in response. “I do want,” Hannibal said. He kissed Will’s jaw and took the curve of bone between his teeth, firm enough to leave indentations behind. Will gasped and pulled at the lapels of Hannibal’s suit. “I want you, Will,” Hannibal said into his neck. “Terribly so. I can’t wait until you let me play with every inch of your body.”

Will shuddered and nuzzled Hannibal’s cheek. “You can.”

“Do you want me now?”

Will’s thighs squeezed Hannibal’s hips. “I want more now.”

Hannibal maneuvered to his feet, holding Will around his waist and the boy laughed in surprise as he was hoisted up. Hannibal sat down in the chair with Will in his lap and Will grinned down at him. “In the kitchen, Dr. Lecter? How unsanitary.”

Hannibal caught Will’s mouth in a kiss. They both hummed and opened up to brush tongues, the contact of those strong muscles always stoking the fire in his gut. Will’s taste was inexplicably erotic, his mouth and perfect lips electrifying. Will groaned as Hannibal sucked on his tongue, and he looked forward to having Will’s cock in his mouth and really getting a taste of him.

“You like it, dirty boy,” Hannibal hissed, squeezing Will’s ass. “Wearing your soiled boxers, barely cleaning yourself up. I can smell it on you.”

“Gonna do something about my mess?” Will asked, sucking his teeth. Despite how slight the boy was, in this position Hannibal was cornered in by him, every inch of his vision filled by Will -- dark curls and keen eyes.
Hannibal nipped at his lip, but pulled back before Will could kiss him. “I daresay you haven’t seen filthy yet.”

“Mmm.” Will’s cheeks grew dark and he rolled his hips on Hannibal’s lap. They kissed again, deep and indulgent and wet, Will’s hands in Hannibal’s hair, neck, and shoulders. As their mouths worked hungrily, Hannibal opened the robe again and felt up Will’s torso. There was only the barest of youthful muscle there, a hint of broadness in the shoulders but without any thickness that came with maturity. Hannibal was entranced by the defined lines of his collar and sternum, which just begged to be traced by his fingers. His hands found the dark nubs of his nipples and rolled over them, causing Will to stutter a breath against their kiss, and thrust up against Hannibal. Hannibal could wrap his hands around the curve of Will’s ribs and thumb his nipples, and he felt small in his hands.

But not delicate. No, not delicate.

Will rubbed himself in Hannibal’s lap not to put on a performance, but to seek his own pleasure, uncalculated and primal. For the moment there was no self-consciousness, just the rocking of his body and the attention as he kissed Hannibal, nearly driving the breath out of him. Hannibal couldn’t get enough of the feeling of Wil’s weight on his lap, and in a few minutes he gave Will something to really grind down on, an erect line under his suit pants. “Oh yes, yeah,” Will muttered, rubbing their cocks together.

Hannibal trailed kisses to his neck, and placed sucking, wet marks there. Will’s moans went high with the attention to that tender skin, and Hannibal had to taste more, licking his neck and collar and dragging teeth against skin, until he was bent forward and had the boy’s chest by his mouth. Hannibal did everything he could to bring Will pleasure like this: kissing and nipping around the nub before rubbing his lips against it, building and varying sensation. He made his tongue flat and dragged it up, then pointed and circled the areola, closer and closer and then out again. Will’s nipples were stiff and he whimpered softly. “Jesus, you can keep doing that -- fuck it feels good.”

Hannibal moved to give the same attention to the other side, rubbing the nipple he left behind with his thumb. Will shook slightly in his lap with direct nipple stimulation. With his spare hand Hannibal cupped Will’s buttox and slowly, slowly began to tease his crack.

“Nnn -- Hannibal,” Will groaned. His breath was heavy with desire. Hannibal had no attention to spare for his own arousal, even with Will squirming on his cock. He moaned with his mouth on Will’s chest; it was divine to taste him like this and feel each reaction to the movement of his mouth.

Though Will was still wearing his boxers, the silk fabric was so fine that Hannibal could feel everything. He had two fingers between Will’s cheeks, stroking from his tailbone to his balls; and he felt his whole body heat up like a flash of sunlight when he felt the coiled muscle of Will’s opening. After a few strokes Hannibal lingered there, feeling the shape of it through the silk.

“Oh fuck,” Will gasped.

Hannibal pulled back slightly to survey his work -- Will’s chest was flushed and his dark nipples slightly swollen and damp. Will was red to his adorable ears, mouth slack and looking slightly surprised. His eyes fluttered shut when Hannibal pushed on his rim. “Gorgeous boy,” Hannibal muttered, his free hand coming up to squeeze the back of Will’s neck in the way he knew the boy loved, watching as his tongue slid against his full lower lip. Hannibal sealed his lips over Will’s, devouring the noises that slipped out of him.

Will had stilled his hips to let Hannibal touch him carefully. His cock jutted out the front of his boxers and rested on Hannibal’s bulge, beginning to stain his suit. Sucking on Will’s lip, Hannibal played with his rim through the silk, just enough rubbing, pulling, and pushing to get him to relax. His finger dipped slightly against it when he rubbed past, making Will gasp each time. The kiss was growing lewd, Will running his tongue between Hannibal’s lips and teeth, wet moans punctuated by the slide of tongues.

Then, with just enough pressure, Hannibal slipped the pad of his middle finger between the tight coil of Will’s opening.

“Fuck!” Will exclaimed, and cursed again when his instinctive clench pushed Hannibal out. His expression was blissed out, teetering in the edge before he was overwhelmed — Hannibal might have looked similar. He pushed his finger back, not quite inside, and not quite touching him for the thin fabric between them. That silken barrier made this all the more intense, pushing a boundary, teasing them both. Hannibal dipped his finger in and out, and when he rotated his finger to stretch Will’s rim, Will lost the ability to kiss back.

“Beautiful,” Hannibal breathed, kissing Will’s lips and jaw as the boy shook atop him. “You’re opening up for me.”

“That’s, uh — ahh — ah.” Will’s nails dug into the back of Hannibal’s neck. “Touch me.”

“Like this?” Hannibal asked, and pushed his finger halfway in.

Will let out a choked whine and collapsed against Hannibal, sweaty forehead pressed against Hannibal’s. The silk prevented Hannibal from going any deeper. Though indirectly, he could feel Will’s hot walls clenching around him, and for a moment let himself revel in the sensation. “P-please, Hannibal.” Will’s quiet pleas brought Hannibal back, and he looked up at his slack-mouthed boy. His blue eyes were shining and out of focus, the very pitcture of divine ecstasy.

“Alright, darling boy?” Hannibal asked gently. Will bit his lip and nodded. “Good, good,” Hannibal murmured, stroking the nape of his neck. “You’re doing so well. Perfect.”

Will hid his face in Hannibal’s neck in embarrassment, but bent his spine invitingly. Hannibal pulled his finger partway out and back in, stimulating his rim and massaging his channel. Will’s breathing was insistent and hot against his neck. Hannibal almost couldn’t stand not feeling Will directly.

Hannibal pulled out and squeezed his ass, leaving the fabric bunched in him; then pulled it out, and wiggled his finger back in. Will bit down on Hannibal’s shoulder, hard enough for Hannibal to feel through his suit. “Too much?” he asked, and Will shook his head vehemently. As if to prove his point, Will pushed himself back on Hannibal’s finger.

“Want more?” Hannibal asked, and Will moaned in response, nodding and drooling against his suit. Hannibal pressed his forefinger to his middle, tight enough to ease the transition. He pushed a tiny bit inside. “Then take it.”

“Un — uh — uh,” Will panted, muffled against Hannibal’s shoulder. He pushed his hips back, stretching himself on Hannibal’s fingers. “Fuck, ffffuck,” Will cursed, not taking the fingers deep at all but pushing on and off them. The silk was growing damp with sweat, clinging around Hannibal as tight as Will’s muscles. It was cruel to ask the boy to do this; he had less leverage and accuracy, desperate to have Hannibal inside him even through the fabric of his boxers. Hannibal thought of teasing Will with his cock like this, and growled.

“Hannibal—” Will gasped. “Touch me. Directly. Please.”

Hannibal removed his fingers and pulled Will’s head back by the curls at his nape, a dark wave of arousal rushing through him at the way Will went pliant when he pulled his hair. Hannibal brought the two fingers to Will’s lips and the boy sucked them down gently. Hannibal could feel the suction of his hot mouth right on his cock.

Sighing through his nose, Hannibal released Will’s hair and petted his neck. Will opened his eyes and took Hannibal’s hand in his own, holding it how he willed to suck and swirl his tongue around, looking devious. Captivated by the sight, Hannibal unbuttoned his straining suit jacket and reached into the inner pocket. “Open and pour over my fingers,” Hannibal instructed, handing Will the packet.

Will released Hannibal’s fingers after a long suck. “Gonna open me up?” he asked, taking the packet and tearing it open.

“Have you ever orgasmed from prostate stimulation?” Hannibal asked, and Will nearly spluttered as he squeezed lube over Hannibal’s fingers.

“N-no,” Will said with a glare, nervous and excited.

Hannibal rubbed his fingers together to warm the lube. “You can achieve orgasm from it alone. The quality of sensation is different.” He reached behind Will, sliding his boxers down under his rump with the help of his free hand. “Stimulation can be intense. Let’s get you used to it, shall we?”

Will grasped Hannibal’s shoulders and his mouth went slack again, lips red and wet. Hannibal palmed his cheek with his dry hand and pulled it to the side, slick fingers finding Will’s hole. Directly. Slightly open and blazing hot to the touch. Hannibal felt a groan rumble deep in his chest as he rubbed wet circles against Will. This. There. His. Hannibal slipped his finger in easily. He was inside of Will.

“Ah, fuck, yeah,” Will gasped, dropping his head down and knocking foreheads with Hannibal. “Sorry,” he said with a breathy laugh, and Hannibal gazed up at him, completely adoring, completely and utterly fucked.

Hannibal made Will’s eyes roll back with a swirl of his finger. Made his thighs tense around Hannibal’s; pumped his finger, making Will clench down; drew trembling, debauched sounds from his lips; made a space for his cock in Will, tight and vulnerable and strong. He did this. He was reducing this brilliant, defensive, atypical boy to wanton need.

“Feel that?” Hannibal asked, finding the small nub of Will’s prostate.

“Y-yeah,” Will gasped, and Hannibal glanced down to see Will’s cock leaking over his pants. Hannibal rubbed gentle circles around his prostate and the boy shivered all over.

“Tell me how it feels.”

“God — so much. Un, don’t make me talk.”

“Do you feel it in your thighs?”

“Yes—”

“Your scrotum, your cock, all throughout your core.”

“Ahh! Y-yeah.”

“So sensitive…”

Hannibal worked his second finger in and Will threw his head back. Hannibal sunk his mouth on his neck, felt the vibrations of his moans under his lips.

“Fuck, wait I’m—”

“Close?”

“Nnng. Gonna piss. Hannibal, seriously—”

“It’s not urine, though the sensation is similar. Let go, Will.”

“Ah — fuck.”

“Come for me, baby boy.”

Will’s face flushed dark and opened wide as oblivion as he came in a seamless stream on Hannibal’s pants. The sound filled Hannibal’s ears, absolute helpless pleasure, moans wracking the boy’s chest as he back curved sinfully. Hannibal eased the pressure of his fingers, rubbing oh so lightly through Will’s orgasm before withdrawing — later, when Will was used to the sensation he could push his body as far as it would go, milking out every last drop of come and sensation.

“Good boy,” Hannibal said, the words blasphemous on his tongue. Will collapsed against him and Hannibal held him close, keeping his used fingers aside. Will shuddered for some minutes, soothed in Hannibal’s arms.

“God,” Will groaned, not moving from where his head was resting on Hannibal’s shoulders. “I’ve ruined your suit.”

“Not quite,” Hannibal said, amused. “Though isn’t that what you imagined when you told me to change?”

Will shrugged weakly. “I imagined a lot of things.” He shifted a little, pulling his underwear back on. “How many pairs of boxers are you going to ruin today?”

“Is that a challenge?”

He caught a glance of Will’s grin before the boy kissed him. “Should I shower?” he muttered, “Or will you just make me filthy again?”

Hannibal kissed him, nipping at his lip. “I’m going to ruin you.”

Chapter Text

Will was obviously exhausted after a difficult night of sleep, and disappeared upstairs to shower and nap. Hannibal changed out of his soiled suit, treating the stains before placing it in a dry-cleaner's bag. He tidied up around the house, setting everything to rights and entertaining thoughts of dinner.

Will deserved a proper seduction and courtship. Hannibal would present him with an elegant display to enrich all the senses — the finest ingredients, the sweetest nectar and most tender flesh, and a captivating centerpiece. He would prove himself as a more than capable provider, attentive to Will, and show how he cherished the boy. He would see Will sated in every way, warm him by the fire, and then make his body sing.

He would bare all of Will’s skin on dark silk sheets and have him.

Hannibal did not mind the delay of his release, and breathed through the sensation until his arousal subsided. He rarely experienced the discomfort common to other men of maintaining erections without orgasm, and in some ways preferred the delay of his gratification. When he finally came, inside Will, it would be all the more intense for his patience.

I want your cock in me by the end of the day, his boy had said. Even if he was nervous, Will was stubborn enough to stick to that like a promise.

Lamb would be appropriate. Pomegranates. Blood, fire, salt. Of course, there was hardly time for a complicated preparation, but Hannibal was a master improviser. He woke Will gently to let him know he was going out for errands, kissing the sleepy boy fondly on the cheek.

Bedelia had cautioned him to take two steps backwards when he felt the instinct to step forward with Will. Will did not want penetrative sex to feel like a great, imposing destination. Hannibal wanted theatrics. He was not so sure that stepping back here was in fact a careful retreat. And, most importantly, he didn’t want to, so he would not.

As Hannibal went from his butcher to his grocer, his mind went further afield. Hannibal liked to plan for multiple eventualities. He was, in many ways, a chronic preparer, and now Will was enfolded completely into the domain of his life. There were many things to consider.

 


 

Hannibal returned in the late afternoon laden with groceries. He found Will in the study, fully dressed and working away at his desk. “Hey,” Will said with a smile. “Welcome back.”

“Thank you. Hard at work?” Hannibal asked. He walked up to the desk and took the empty coffee mug, kissing the top of his head.

“I figure I should get something done today. Besides the hedonistic.”

“I’ll be in the kitchen, speaking of hedonism,” Hannibal informed him. “Dinner should be ready at nine. Let me know if you need anything.”

Will caught his wrist, sharp eyes on Hannibal’s. “Give me a proper kiss.”

Hannibal set the mug back down and cupped Will’s face, giving him a tender kiss on the lips. Will gave a pleased hum. It was difficult to resist kissing those lips again. “Making me wait,” Will murmured, his tone good-humored.

Hannibal stared down at Will’s bitten lip. “I wish to cook you dinner beforehand.”

“I know.” Will gave him a pat on the arm and leaned back. “Go on, let me study.”

“As you wish.”

 


 

Hannibal considered his cooking to be an art form, in the sense that form, composition, and metaphor took stage on his dining room table. Centerpieces were still lives, and flavor was a non-verbal arrangement comparable to music. Tonight, he put more of himself into the meal than he had previously done for Will. The ingredients were at hand and the arrangement was forming in his mind. There would not be time for a whole crown of lamb, but he would arrange the ribs against each other to resemble intertwined fingers. Brightly colored fruit and chutney would become a fresh garden of delights.

Hannibal lost himself in the work, or perhaps it would be more fair to say that he found himself in it. He was a master of his domain, expressing himself through every element. For the centerpiece, he brought out a pair of pheasant’s wings, abalone and clam shells, porcupine needles, and a bouquet of ferns and rose hibiscus he had picked up from his florist. The wings embraced the arrangement of shells, some closed tightly and others cracked open, opalescent against a bed of black feathers. The ferns in turn cradled the wings, bright red rose hibiscus not in the usual place of glory but tucked underneath and behind the ferns. Around the visual center of wings and shells, everything overflowed — dark flowers and leaves cascading into the table runner, spotted with bright pomegranate seeds.

Besides the flicker of light from the fireplace, there were two white tapers lit on either side of the arrangement. Flame glinted off the iridescent materials and white chargers, the empty wine glasses, and filled decanter. Everything was ready, and satisfaction hummed through Hannibal’s skin.

Hannibal hung up his apron and redressed himself upstairs in brown, burnt orange, and crimson; tie knotted intricately and each seam smoothed. He checked his reflection, his appearance flawlessly in place, and returned downstairs.

Will was waiting in the dining room, standing behind his chair and looking down at the table. The fire lit his backside, turning his wild curls amber. He turned upon hearing Hannibal walk up and gave him an appraising look. Will had changed into fresh clothes, shirt buttoned to the collar and tucked in, an obvious attempt to tame his hair. “I feel underdressed,” Will said with a smile.

“You look very handsome,” Hannibal said earnestly. He walked up, and pulled out the chair for Will.

“Well, you look like something out of a magazine,” Will said, taking the seat.

“Thank you.” Hannibal poured them both wine. “I appreciate every effort you make for me; it’s quite charming.” He lifted his gaze and caught Will’s momentarily, sharing a tame smirk with the boy. “I’ll be but a moment, Will.”

Hannibal returned to the kitchen to plate their first course: creamy eggplant orzo with caramelized baby carrots and fresh greens, an elegant drizzle of red chutney. Hannibal announced the course as he returned to the dining room, setting the plate on Will’s charger before setting his own. “This will only be a three course meal,” Hannibal said, just a touch self-mockery, and gave Will a wink.

“This…” Will looked from his plate to the centerpiece, ears growing pink. “It looks amazing.” He picked up his fork when Hannibal did and took a bite of the creamy orzo.

Hannibal began to eat as well, his attention on Will’s response to the food — the soft furrow of concentration in his brow, the slow working of his jaw and throat. “It’s delicious,” Will said, reaching for his wine.

Hannibal tilted his head in acknowledgement, and picked up his own glass. “Tell me what you smell and taste,” Hannibal said, indicating his own raised glass.

Will’s brows pinched for a moment, and he brought the glass right up to his nose. His eyes closed. “Um. It smells tart, and…” Will glanced at him apologetically. “Like wine.”

Hannibal swirled the wine in his glass. His own palette discerned the notes of blackberry and sweet tobacco, velvety tannin. He tilted the glass without looking away from Will, noting the color in Will’s cheeks rising like the flavor spreading across his own tongue. Will took a sip as well, humming as he considered the flavors. “It’s sweet and sharp,” the boy observed, “and then the flavor gets… round? Is round a flavor?”

Hannibal smiled. “Round is indeed a descriptor, when the tannins don’t bite. The secondary taste is more savory than the first.”

“Yeah.” Will took another sip, his nostrils flaring. “It’s good. Fruit and meat.”

“The history of the wine can be discerned through the taste,” Hannibal said, “The grape, the soil, the climate, how the wine was processed and stored. Wine is sensitive to all these elements, including time.”

“Wine has plasticity,” Will said with a faint smirk.

“Indeed.”

“Does it always get better with age?” Will asked, so lightly that Hannibal was not sure he was speaking euphemistically.

“Not at all, though the fruitiness of a wine deteriorates quickly. Old wines are often considered to have a special quality, as rarity increases from that specific year on the vineyard.”

Will set his glass down and took another bite. “How old is this wine?”

“1993.”

Will paused. He lowered his fork to his plate. He glanced at Hannibal, drinking red wine as old as himself, and then looked to the centerpiece with the same expression of concentration he had when discerning flavors. “Has it aged well?” Will asked, and there was definitely a twist of meaning to his words.

“I would say so,” Hannibal replied.

“No regrets for opening it prematurely?”

“Time will tell how it ages, how the flavor changes. Now is the only moment I care for, and I would not change any accompaniment to the meal.”

Will sucked his lower lip into his mouth, still looking at the display Hannibal had made for him — a cradle of opening shells, spines and barbs, defensive and protective and vulnerable all at once. The bright, fresh colors and flavors on their plates. “Is this how you see me — us?” Will asked, a trembling emotion behind his words. “A tough nut to crack?”

“My attempts at representation are humbled by the wealth I find in your companionship. We are both sharp-edged men, slow to trust." Hannibal's words were careful. "I cherish the way you open up to me.”

Will’s chinks were pink and his eyes bright. “This is a lot, Hannibal,” Will said. “A lot that you do for me. It’s… beautiful.” He ducked his head and continued to eat, thoughtful.

“Thank you, Will.”

“I congratulate your restraint,” Will said after a moment, “It’s hardly phallic at all. Not a horn in sight.”

“I am occasionally capable of subtlety,” Hannibal said with good humor.

He rose and took their empty plates back into the kitchen. A minute later he emerged with the main course: the lamb ribs leaning against each other, bones reaching up; red chutney with pomegranate seeds spilling out across the white plate; and a bright green smear of mint sauce. “Braised lamb rib with pomegranate chutney,” Hannibal announced, setting their plates down gracefully. He poured them both a little more wine.

“Almost looks too good to eat,” Will said, picking up knife and fork.

“Some art is meant to be ephemeral.”

“Alright, no more food for your ego.”

Hannibal smirked faintly, and cut into the rib, Will mimicking his movements.

“Seriously, though,” Will said, “I do appreciate this.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

Will’s eyes fluttered shut when his mouth closed around the fork, and when they opened there was veiled pain behind steely blue. He chewed and swallowed with a far away look.

“Is everything alright, Will?” Hannibal asked.

Will breathed in hard, fingers clenched around the utensils. “Y-yeah,” he said in a thin voice. “It’s just. Nice to be taken care of.”

Hannibal lowered his fork and knife, giving Will his full attention. “You haven’t been sufficiently taken care of. Not as you deserve.”

“It doesn’t feel deserved.”

“Caring for you feels as natural as breathing.”

“Well, other people feel differently,” Will said sharply.

Hannibal took a deep breath. “Then I will make up for their deficiencies.”

Will stared at him. “Some people only have so much to give.”

“And others neglect to give it.”

“I’m not easy to take care of.”

“But no less deserving of that care.”

Will swallowed hard and looked down. “I’m trying not to clam up.”

“If you do, I get to pry you open again.”

Will’s lips twitched in a smirk. “Dirty old man,” he mumbled, unable to suppress his smile. He dug back into his meal. Warmth spread through Hannibal’s chest, glinting like the fire on abalone.

After a few minutes of eating Will cleared his throat. “You know, the nightmare I had? I was in your house, beneath this floor.”

Hannibal tilted his head, glad for the invitation to probe Will’s psyche. “What about the dream was frightening?”

“I could feel everything they were doing,” Will said, frowning at the table. “As a physical pain. The sound, the vibrations, the feelings. They were hurting me, but they didn’t even know I was there.”

“And if they saw you?” Hannibal asked.

“Probably would ruin the party.” Will smirked around the bite of meat.

“You see too much, yet no one sees you.”

Will spoke his words carefully. “If they did, they would see something monstrous.”

“Is that how you see yourself?”

Will’s eyes slid across the opposite wall towards Hannibal, but didn’t meet him. “It’s how I believe I will be perceived.”

“And that’s what frightens you?”

“I’m afraid that they’ll be right,” Will said quietly.

“Will,” Hannibal said gently, coaxing the boy’s eyes to him, cold blue flickering with flame. “Even your monstrosity I would welcome.”

“Not going to tell me I’m a good person?” Will asked wryly.

Hannibal smiled faintly. “I wouldn’t know about that.”

Will seemed amused by his answer and relaxed, drinking more wine. They finished the main course and the conversation eased into more comfortable territory. Hannibal brought out desert, individual chocolate cakes that practically bled out onto the plate. “Oh my god,” Will moaned around the chocolate. “This is sinful.”

Hannibal brought the brandy-soaked chocolate sponge to his lips, unable to look away from Will’s mouth. The flavor was heavy and nearly overwhelming. Will caught him staring and sucked on the tines of his fork. “Something on your mind, Doctor?” Will asked.

“There’s no need to repent,” Hannibal said playfully. “I never feel guilty about anything that I eat.”

“That’s because you’re very careful with what you put in your body,” Will said, throwing his own words back at him. His eyes were shining.

“Or bodies are meant to taste. To sin.”

Will kept his eyes on Hannibal while he took another bite, eyes flicking as the flavor hit his tongue. “You’re a glutton. I don’t know if I can take another bite.”

Hannibal set down his fork on the plate in the way that that would, in a restaurant, indicate that he was finished. “Really — I’m famished.”

Will blushed and the prongs of the fork dug into his lower lip before he lowered it, tongue catching a stray fleck of cake. He swallowed. “If only there was something that could sate your appetite.”

Hannibal did not restrain the subtle indications of his desire, the focus of his eyes and flare of his nostrils as if he were opening his palette to a new glass of wine. “I can think of one thing. Are you finished with your cake, Will?”

Will looked down at his plate and took a sip of wine, cheeks glowing. He savored another bite of chocolate before setting his fork down for good. “Thank you for dinner,” Will said, just a touch mischievous and uncannily seductive.

“It’s my pleasure,” Hannibal said, and took their dishes back to the kitchen. He put the plates in the dishwasher; everything else had been cleaned as he went. Returning to the dining room he found Will standing by the fire, wine glass in hand.

Hannibal approached and stood in Will’s space, taking the nearly empty glass from him and setting it aside. Will’s look was challenging, expectant, and as Hannibal cradled his jaw Will leaned into his hand with a fluttering sigh. Hannibal could see the elevated flutter of his pulse beneath fair skin. They bent into each other, grazing noses and catching the heat of the fire between their bodies. “Darling boy,” Hannibal said in a low voice, mingling breath. “How I adore you.”

Will arched up and moaned behind his teeth. “Want you.”

Hannibal kissed him slow, basking in the soft sounds of their lips releasing. He bit the corner of Will’s mouth and swiped across his lips with his tongue, reveling in the way Will cracked open with a needy breath. “What would you have me do?” Hannibal asked against his mouth.

Will pulled at the lapels of his coat so tightly Hannibal felt the fabric strain in the shoulders. “Kiss me,” he demanded, “Fuck me, make me feel good. God.” Will pulled him closer and Hannibal maneuvered them around the fireplace, pinning Will to the wall. Will gasped and Hannibal found his mouth to devour that sound, feeling a bulge pressed against his thigh, Will’s arousal triggering his own instantly. He could never tire of kissing Will like this, not with the sweet, burning taste of him or his shuddering response.

Hannibal’s hands found his slim waist and pulled him against his thigh. Will rolled his hips with a grunt, biting back at Hannibal’s mouth in retaliation. Hannibal drew back a touch and Will stared up at him, features blooming with arousal; and Hannibal wanted Will to bend to him.

He took Will’s jaw in hand, palm against his neck, and tilted his head back against the wall. Will didn’t resist him, and Hannibal traced the line of his jaw and neck softly before taking a firm hold again, tilting Will’s head sharply to one side and leaning in to devour his neck. “Uh, fuck!” Will gasped as Hannibal warmed his skin with ardent kisses. His hands clutched at Hannibal’s suit, but he didn’t resist; in fact, he relaxed more under Hannibal’s dominance.

Hannibal cupped his hand over Will’s mouth softly and nibbled at his ear. “You’ve been such a good boy for me,” Hannibal whispered, and Will moaned against his palm. “And you’re going to let me give you everything you want.”

Will sagged against him, deliciously hard against his leg. Hannibal released Will’s mouth with a puff of hot hair against his skin, and traced those pretty flushed lips with his fingers. He leaned back to watch Will chase his fingertips with lips and tongue, for the moment unselfconscious in his pursuit of Hannibal’s attention. Hannibal gave him his fingertips and Will sucked them into his mouth, blushing and unsure as his eyes fluttered open. Yes, Hannibal was confident he could play Will’s body like a fiddle.

“Beautiful, Will,” Hannibal murmured, painting his lips with his own saliva. Will caved under his eyes, wincing slightly in self-consciousness. Hannibal gave him a soft kiss, then slid his hand over his eyes. “I’ve got you,” Hannibal said, folding his body around the boy. “Let me have you.”

“Yeah,” Will said softly, nuzzling into Hannibal’s hand.

Hannibal was always attentive with his partners but he needed to be doubly so to keep Will from becoming overstimulated, which could trigger a panic. He wanted Will out of his head, entirely in the give and take of their bodies. Someday he would push all of those limits, have Will gasping for air in his arms — but not tonight.

Hannibal kept Will’s head against the wall and kissed him until they were both panting and grinding against each other. When Hannibal finally released his hand from Will’s eyes, the boy buried his face in the shadow of Hannibal’s jaw and whined softly. “Hannibal,” he said, almost an admonishment.

Hannibal’s hands trailed down and he squeezed Will’s ass. Suddenly he hoisted Will up, and the boy wrapped his legs around his waist with a startled laugh. For a moment Hannibal leaned Will against the wall, looking up at him, calm in the face of maddening pleasure where their hips slotted together, his trousers uncomfortably tight. “You’re not carrying me up the stairs like this,” Will said, cocking an eyebrow.

“I’d like to see you stop me,” Hannibal replied.

“Hannibal,” Will chided.

He pulled Will from the wall and carried him through the dining room, supporting him with one arm beneath and the other wrapped around his back. “Hannibal!” Will cackled, swatting his back playfully. “Let me down.”

“Are you very sure, Will?” Hannibal asked, kissing his neck.

“Very.”

Hannibal stopped and let Will down, unable to suppress a moan as the boy’s body slid against his trapped erection. Will startled slightly at the noise, stepping back and looking dazed. He glanced at the bulge in Hannibal’s pants and his mouth went a little more slack.

“Yes, Will?” Hannibal asked as calmly as he could.

Will looked away, swallowing hard. “Upstairs,” he said roughly, pink to his ears.

Hannibal followed him up to the second floor, resisting the urge to pin Will against the wall, watching the sway of his hips as he ascended the stairs. He wanted to chase him through a forest, run him down and into the dirt, tear his clothes from his body and sink his teeth in. He wanted the hairs on the back of Will’s neck to stand on end and his heart to race when he felt Hannibal’s hungry eyes on him.

When they entered the bedroom Hannibal gave in. Will glanced over his shoulder, dark eyes and parted lips, and Hannibal took the back of his neck in hand and guided him firmly to the wall. He wasn’t rough but he was insistent, squeezing Will’s neck, and the boy’s arms came up to brace against the wall. Hannibal covered Will’s body with his own, cock pressing hard against his ass, and Will groaned. “Fuck…”

“This is what you do to me,” Hannibal breathed into his ear, heat rocketing up between them.

“Oh god.” Will arched back into him, knuckles of his fists against the wall. Hannibal stroked broad hands down his chest to feel him shiver and curse again.

“Want more baby boy?” Hannibal growled.

“Jesus fuck . Yes, damn it.”

Hannibal leaned back so only their hips were connected, and that was a sight that burned into the back of his skull — his cock nestled between Will’s cheeks, confined by their clothes. He turned Will around and kissed him sweetly, but the boy pressed into his mouth and bit at him, rough and demanding. “On the bed,” Hannibal said, voice thick. “Make yourself comfortable.”

Will went, eyes sharp on Hannibal, who took a deep breath and headed to his closet. Moving away from Will was like stretching toffee. He stepped out of his shoes with the shoehorn and placed them on the rack; removed his cufflinks and tie. He hung his suit jacket and matching waistcoat and turned back to the bedroom, undoing the buttons of his shirt. Will was watching him, hand lingering on the open fly of his trousers like he was distracted from his task, shoes and socks off and shirt folded over a chair. “Gonna leave me anything to do?” Will teased, a bit breathless.

Hannibal walked over to where he sat on the edge of the bed, and grabbed the hem of Will’s pants, feeling his heat radiating against his knuckles and giving a tug. Will squashed a whimper between his lips. “Your hands seem busy,” Hannibal said, releasing his waistline and returning to deal with the buttons of his shirt.

Will shoved his pants down and kicked them to the side, glaring up at Hannibal with a wry smirk. He grabbed Hannibal’s trousers in revenge, yanking him close. “Wanna touch you,” he muttered, easing the button out of its eye and carefully lowering the zipper.

Hannibal went hot all over.

Will was staring down at the bulge protruding between the teeth of the zipper, biting his lip, features awash with hungry awe. Hannibal was wanted, viscerally, by this lovely, rough, fascinating boy. Will let out a whine as his rubbed his thumb over Hannibal’s erection, as if he too could feel the intense heat that simple touch inspired.

“Fuck.” Will pulled his pants down just enough, and turned his wrist to put his palm against Hannibal’s throbbing cock. The last few buttons of Hannibal’s shirt were forgotten as he watched Will touch him. Will squeezed him, and they both grunted softly.

“Do you feel that too?” Hannibal asked, finally shedding his shirt and tossing it aside, wrinkles be damned, so he could touch Will again.

Will gritted his teeth. “Yeah — fuck, Hannibal, you feel so good.”

They stripped Hannibal’s trousers down and Will fell back against the bed, tongue between his teeth as he looked the man up and down. “Jesus!” Will laughed, eyeing his calves. “How does that look so fucking sexy?”

“Should I leave them on?” Hannibal teased.

Will shook his head. “Just… damn.”

Hannibal removed his socks and sock garters then crawled up the bed to lay next to Will, both of them naked save for their briefs like a skin all the sweeter to shed. They looked before touching, Will propped up on his elbows with his tongue against his teeth, a flawless cascade of skin and muscle over bones, smooth and angular in his youth.

Hannibal felt like a coil waiting to spring.

Even in his relaxed position, prone on his side with one forearm supporting him, Hannibal felt ready to pounce and rend flesh. The itch to strike was so potent he felt as if his bones were vibrating; but it was not as if he was desperately pulling at the reins of his control. Not like a beast snapping at the bit. Rather, it was fingers on the keys of a harpsichord, knowing that with a gentle push the wire would be irrevocably plucked, sounds sharp in the air — that he was so close to pinning Will immobile to the mattress; to pulling him into a kiss by the neck; to telling Will he was loved. Hannibal thrummed with possibilities.

“God,” Will breathed, eyes dark as a midnight pool, reflecting only distance and aged stars. They touched each other then. Will pulled Hannibal half over him into a kiss and Hannibal’s hand found the warm inside of his thigh. Hannibal’s plan to not overwhelm faltered; Will was making these sinful noises between their lips and Hannibal had to keep coaxing them, had to urge the bite of Will’s nails against his back, and gravity took him into the sweet space between his legs.

When he finally disentangled himself to take the jar of lube and conforms from the bedside table, Will’s jaw was trembling and his chest was spotted with flush marks. “Fucking finally,” Will said, but his breath hitched.

Hannibal left the jar on the bed and took Will’s face between his broad hands. “My darling,” he said, trying to keep his voice calm, even with Will spread before him like a feast. “I’m going to open you up now, and you’ll tell me if it’s too much.”

Will nodded, looking delirious, but there was something hesitant in the pull of his brow. Hannibal stroked his cheeks with his thumbs, smiling. “Are you nervous, beautiful boy?”

Will chuckled and squeezed his eyes shut. “I’m not -- hmm. Maybe a little.”

“Do you want me?”

“God, yes.”

“You can have me tomorrow. You can have me any day.”

“I don’t want to stop.”

Hannibal kissed his lips. “Look at me and tell me again.”

Will took a shuddering breath, chest filling. His eyes snapped open, dark and shining. “I don’t want to stop,” he repeated earnestly. “I want to keep going. Please, Hannibal.”

Satisfied, Hannibal sat back on the bed and pulled Will’s thighs on either side of his hips. He was pliant and warm to the touch, sweat making his skin smooth and filling the roof of Hannibal’s mouth with his scent. He pulled Will’s boxers down and his cock flopped back against his belly, dark pink and leaking. “Gorgeous,” Hannibal breathed, lifting Will’s legs to remove the last barrier before sliding his hands up and down his body as far as he could reach.

Hannibal slicked up his fingers with lube and slid them between Will’s cheeks, stroking his cock gently as he did. The duel motions made Will break out into a stream of moans, quiet but no less arden for it. This time, Hannibal could really see, and devoured the sight of Will’s pink, tight hole, surrounded by wisps of dark, sweat-damp hair. Hannibal nudged Will’s thighs back to expose him more.

“Ah, ffffuck!” Will whined, throwing his wrist over his eyes as Hannibal rubbed him with his thumb. He pulled the skin of his hole to one side, then another, pressing all around it. “Can -- can you talk to me?” Will asked, voice choked.

Hannibal released his cock to stroke his thigh. “Of course, darling. Try to relax for me.”

“T-trying.”

Hannibal nudged the tip of his thumb into the center of the wrinkled ring of muscles, pulling back and pushing a little more each time. “That’s right, just like that.” He wrapped his hand around Will’s dick again and slowly pumped up and down. “Your little hole is so beautiful.”

Will cursed loudly.

“Can’t wait to get my mouth on it,” Hannibal said, his voice sounding wrecked to his own ears.

“Uhn -- that’s--”

“I’ll work you open with my mouth and tongue. All I’ll be able to taste is you.”

Will’s ass relaxed and was sucking him in. Hannibal worked his thumb in and out slowly, pulling the ring wider, shocked by the heat of his body. Of the inside of his body. “You’re hot as the inferno.”

“More -- you can give me more.”

Hannibal got more lube and worked his index finger in, pumping deeper and faster. Will’s legs trembled as much as his breath. “Just like that,” Hannibal murmured in encouragement, bending to kiss his ribs. “Baby boy. You feel perfect.”

“Ahh - ahh.”

“You’re devastating. You’ll be the death of me.” Hannibal wasn’t sure where some of these words were coming from, pulled from some deep water inside him. Will was bent up as Hannibal pressed forward, mapping Will’s chest with his mouth as he slid two fingers in to Will’s perfect, tight heat. He could feel Will clench and flutter around his fingers, muscles opening and pulsing.

“Please, please,” Will gasped, eyes hidden in the crook of his arm.

“Look at me Will.”

Will clenched so hard around him that his fingers were nearly pushed out. “Ahhn!” Will thrust his arm off of his face but his eyes remained closed for a moment as he heaved for breath. He glanced down at Hannibal, looking so undone and desperate. “Please,” he said again.

“I want to see your face when I sink inside you,” Hannibal said.

Will cracked a smile, despite his embarrassment, and blew out a puff of air. “Is it weird that that’s the hardest part?”

“Looking at you?”

Will nodded, eyes shutting for a moment. “Your attention is… intense.”

Hannibal kissed his chest softly and hummed. He scissored his fingers slowly, and Will’s mouth gaped open. “Turn over.”

“It’s alright.”

“Would you be more comfortable?”

Will bit his lip and turned his head to the side. He nodded.

Hannibal gave a pleased growl and nuzzled Will’s neck. “That’s right. Let me take care of you.”

They readjusted themselves and Will stretched into the bed, sighing as he arched his spine. Hannibal understood the sense of safety in being cocooned and limiting stimulus, and he ran a hand up Will’s spine to stroke his hair and push him down into the bed. “My beautiful boy,” he cooed, groaning in the back of his throat as he pressed up against Will’s ass.

“Oh, my god, yes,” Will panted, pressing back. “Yeah, just like this. Please.”

Hannibal draped himself over Will, careful to keep his weight up, and Will practically purred. “I want you terribly,” Hannibal said in his ear, kissing his neck and jaw. He was mindnumingly hard, cock hot and pulsing like his heart had relocated.

“Then take me,” Will challenged, turning his head so they could kiss.

Hannibal hardly wanted to wait any longer. He leaned back and placed his hands on the globes of Will’s ass, spreading him open and looking into the slick-pink opening of his body. He stretched him open a little more, then took the condom and tore it open. Hannibal could hardly keep his eyes open when he had the condom on and slicked his cock up, giving himself a few strokes after so much denial.

“God,” Will whined as Hannibal slid himself between his cheeks, rutting against his tailbone.

“Are you ready, Will?” Hannibal asked, voice rough.

Will tilted his head and looked over his shoulder, meeting Hannibal’s eyes. “ Yes,” he breathed.

Will kept looking at him while Hannibal took himself in hand and lined him up with Will’s slick, stretched hole. He pushed forward gently and steadily, easing up when he saw Will flinch. “It’s alright,” Hannibal said, stroking his flank. “Relax, let me in.”

Will nodded, and took a deep breath. Hannibal pushed against him again, and Will’s eyes rolled with a loud cry when he popped in, and Hannibal heard arias.

He didn’t move. Will was tight and hot around him, gasping and groaning like he had been stabbed open, hands clawing into the pillows. Hannibal breathed hard through his nose, gritting his teeth, hands squeezing Will’s hips to keep them both still. “ Will.”

When he felt like a shred of his sanity had returned, he sunk a little deeper into Will, moving carefully. “You feel incredible,” he said in a thick voice, looking down the long arc of Will’s spine. “Does it hurt?”

Will shook his head, gasping against the sheets. “Nn— intense.”

“You’re doing so well,” Hannibal praised. Will was so tight he was sucking Hannibal in, spreading his legs and trembling faintly. He pushed in halfway and then eased back out, adding more lube. He didn’t think he had ever heard anything as sweet as Will’s shuddering moan when he pushed back in.

The pleasure was hot down his spine, bursting behind his eyes. He eased in and out as gently as he could, getting Will used to the sensation. “S’good,” Will slurred, pushing back with a hiss. “You can — nnn.”

“Let me go slow,” Hannibal breathed, stroking up to his ribs and back down to pull his hips closer.

“Fuck, Hanni—“

He bottomed out inside Will and they groaned in tandem. Will buried his face in the bed, stretching beneath Hannibal. The place where their bodies merged was throbbing and hot as magma. “Perfect, Will,” Hannibal murmured, starting an easy rhythm, reveling in the way Will swallowed him back in.

“Ahh — ah — hnn!” Will grunted against the pillow. Hannibal’s thighs and core were straining from keeping his movements controlled when it was so tempting to thrust in to the tight channel presented before him. Sweat beaded his brow and ran down his spine. He had to be in control and watch for any signs of pain; he wanted to show Will exactly how good this could be.

He leaned back and looked down. He was deep in Will, and even through the thin condom he could feel Will’s pulse. Hannibal groaned at the sight.

“Darling boy,” he breathed, sliding to the hilt. “Wish I could stay in you forever.” He reached around to stroke Will’s cock, pleased to find him still hard. Will bucked at the touch with a cry and a curse, collapsing even more into the bed. With care and attention, Hannibal slid into Will and fisted him in tandem, skull buzzing with the force of his concentration. Will whimpered softly over and over. No part of his body was resistant save for the clutch of his fingers in the sheets. The smell of sweat and sex and the glisten of Will’s skin made Hannibal ravenous; he bent over and lapped at the muscles of his back, kissing his spine with a growl.

“Mmm -- gonna come soon,” Will murmured, barely coherent where his mouth was pressed against the pillow.

Hannibal stroked him faster, mouthing at the back of his neck. “Yes, Will -- come for me.” He thrust in a little harder, angling as best he could to hit Will’s prostate.

“J-just like that,” Will managed to say before breaking out into a stream of desperate groans, each building up and up to the white-hot pleasure of his release. Hannibal was all around him, braced on one arm not to crush the boy, grunting soft encouragements against his neck; and when Will starting orgasming he clenched around Hannibal like a vice, burning him inside out.

Hannibal’s fist was soaked with Will’s come and his mind was swallowed by pure heat and light. He never wanted it to end.

“Fuck, fuck,” Will gasped weakly, shuddering violently through the dregs of his orgasm as Hannibal grinded into him slowly. Will tilted his head, blue eyes glancing at Hannibal through the sweaty streaks of his hair. He twisted enough to grab Hannibal’s hair and pull him closer. Hannibal kissed his flushed lips, thrusting shallowly. “C’mon, H-Hannibal,” Will growled, voice catching as Hannibal sank in deep.

Hannibal sucked Will’s lip between his teeth and plunged in and out of him twice, and that was all it took to push him over the edge. He spilled into the condom near silently, grinding as deep as he could like he was carving out a place for himself in Will’s body.

Hannibal memorized the sensations of their shared post-orgasm -- the cadence of their breathing, their mingling smells, and the way Will’s skin stuck to his thighs. Then he pulled out slowly, Will whimpering still, and rolled onto his back. He tied off the condom and placed it on a disposable sanitary wipe he had ready in the bedside table drawer. The empty bliss of his mind was slowly filling in with the usual trains of thought.

He wrapped Will up in his arms, staring down at his exhausted and glowing face, reading in it the rush of endorphins and their slow fade. “My dear boy,” he said, as warm as he could manage, stroking his hair out of his eyes. “Words cannot express the depths of my affection for you.”

Will smirked and closed his eyes. “Yet you still try.”

“How are you feeling? Any pain?”

“N-no.” Will rested his head on Hannibal’s chest.

Hannibal waited a beat. He pulled the covers over them to keep Will warm.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Will said after a minute of silence. Hannibal couldn’t see his face but heard the catch of emotion behind his words.

“How so?” Hannibal asked. He stroked Will’s neck and felt that his pulse was elevated.

Will shook his head. “Dunno.”

“Intense experiences often bring up unexpected emotions.”

Will sighed. “How do you feel?” he asked, not wanting to speak of his own emotions.

Hannibal paused to evaluate himself. He didn’t feel any emotion in particular, though he was pleased and immensely satisfied. “Content,” he answered after a moment. “Grateful. Awestruck.”

Will looked up at him with a slight frown, something like worry in his eyes. “And how did you feel after your first time?”

Hannibal’s expression went from mild to stale, very briefly recalling the loss of his virginity to a man. He very carefully chose his words. “Annoyed,” he answered.

Will’s eyes grew damp, and his inhalation was ragged. “You take such good care of me,” he said, dropping his eyes and rubbing them with the back of his hand. “God. I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

“Nothing is wrong with you,” Hannibal said at once, smoothing a hand down Will’s spine.

Will sobbed once, burying his head in Hannibal’s chest so he couldn’t see his face. “I’m not upset -- it was good -- it was great. I swear, Hannibal. No one… no one else would take care of me like that.”

Hannibal held him close, shushing him gently. “It’s alright, Will. You don’t need to justify your feelings to me.”

“Don’t know why it feels like this. Why being cared for feels so difficult.”

Hannibal kissed the top of his head. “I understand.”

Will sighed and squeezed Hannibal tightly. They held each other that way until Will’s breathing returned to normal, gently touching each other and placing chaste kisses against skin.

“So how was I?” Will asked, the humor returning to his voice.

Hannibal opened his mouth, then closed it. “Nothing short of incredible, Will,” he said earnestly. “I could never tire of touching you or hearing you. I feel immensely honored that you would trust me with new experiences, and that you tell me what you need. It is a gift.”

Will chuckled. “And it felt good?”

Hannibal tilted Will’s chin up so he could see his boy’s beautiful face. “Maddeningly so,” he said, voice low and dark.

Will grinned, and scooted up to kiss him, lips soft and warm. “Good,” he said between kisses. “I don’t want to be the only one going mad.”

Chapter Text

Will didn’t know why this one was different.

He kept returning to the case over and over. It had been months. He had reread the available articles so many times he had some of the URLs memorized. There weren’t many photos available, and few of them were of the bodies. He hadn’t left much behind. There were only remains for the last two victims -- Elise Nichols, strangled to death and cut open before being returned to her childhood bedroom; and Abigail Hobbs, whose body had not been fully processed before her father put the barrel of a hunting rifle in his mouth. The other seven speculated victims were still being identified by the hair and hides in the house.

Will kept returning to the photo of that pillow, sliced open to reveal the stuffing of dark brown hair inside. He saw it behind his eyes before he fell asleep.

Hobbs had ate the girls who looked so much like his daughter. Will supposed that was the reason for his obsession with the killer -- cannibalism was a taboo and fascinating pathology. That was reason enough.

The cannibal cases always caught his interest.

Last May, there had been a cannibalism case near Baltimore. A student at MSU had killed and eaten part of his roommate. His trial was sometime this year, and it remained to be seen if he would be judged mentally competent. Will suspected he was a paranoid schizophrenic, having read some of his facebook posts.

“HEAR ME OUT, BUTCHERS:” one had read.

Perhaps unwisely – definitely unwisely – Will had watched the video of the Miami Zombie’s attack. He knew it was bad for his brain but that didn’t mean he would stop. He had to know . He devoured cases of cannibalism while procrastinating on his homework. Many of the perpetrators were diagnosed with schizophrenia, and a few were high on PCP. Abnormal psychology was definitely a primary cause; but there were plenty of incidences of cannibalism without, and that was all the more fascinating.

Why would someone choose to eat another person?

Garret Jacob Hobbs might have been delusional, but he was functional. His wife had not reported any changes in personality or mood, even if she admitted that he had always been a little strange. He had methodically chosen, captured, and killed his victims over half a year. He had been in control of his actions.

Will knew why Hobbs had done it.

He could just tell .

Will tried to explain his theory on his forum, but most people said that he was projecting. According to them, there was no way that Hobbs killed and ate those girls and his daughter as an act of love, and Will was a freak for thinking so. It didn’t matter that Hobbs had tucked Elise Nichols back into bed when he realized he couldn’t eat all of her, that he didn’t want to waste any part, that his suicide note contained an apology for failing to honor their daughter.

Only one other user seemed to get it.

[-] Ghoultura

I wish someone cared about me enough to do that.

Will understood that sentiment.

Maybe the other reason he kept coming back to this case was that he had heard about it right around the time he had met Hannibal.

It had been four months since he met Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Some days that felt like a ridiculously short amount of time, and others it felt like an age. Will didn’t exactly know how he got into this relationship or what to even call it; like he had been walking in a fog and found himself in a clearing of fresh air, not knowing which way the wind will blow next. Not knowing how he got here meant he didn’t exactly know to stay.

And Will wanted to stay.

He had a friend he was comfortable talking to and a place away from school that was starting to feel like home. He no longer felt alone. And Hannibal’s attention was intoxicating, like looking at a beautiful light until you couldn’t see anything else, not even worrying about the damage to your eyes. When Hannibal wasn’t around, Will carried the afterimages of him imprinted in bruised colors on the world.

It felt so, so good that it had to be bad for him.

But Hannibal tended to make Will care less about ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

 


 

It was a loud and long day in a long and loud week, and it was only Wednesday. Will had finally given up on work at 9PM, admitting defeat after 40 minutes of distraction on the true crime reddit. He packed up his laptop and left his corner of the library for the dorms, keeping his eyes down as he passed students in the quad.

He hadn’t managed to drag himself to the cafeteria that night, so he stopped by the vending machine and got a few cereal bars. The cafeteria was his own little circle of hell — hundreds of students clamoring for food and way too many decisions to make. He always brought work with him so he could avoid interacting with anyone, but sometimes the small tables were all filled up so he had to sit with other people. More often than not his stomach was a ball of anxiety and he couldn’t eat anyway.

Will stepped into his small dorm room and dropped his bag by the bed, sitting on the edge to kick off his shoes. He collapsed back on the stiff single mattress and pulled his laptop onto his lap. He drummed his fingers on it — he really shouldn’t go true crime diving this late. He wouldn’t be able to sleep.

He put the laptop back in the floor and curled up towards the wall, pulling out his phone and playing his fishing simulator to distract from his thoughts.

Hobbs had been a hunter, not a fisherman. He had taken his daughter on hunting trips her whole life, out to a cabin in the woods barbed to the teeth with antlers. Hunting, fishing. One you catch, another you lure.

The heat bubbling in his throat was anger. It wasn’t his. Some of the things people were saying about Hobbs and his daughter… it was wrong. They didn’t understand.

Will sighed, jabbing his screen with his thumb to reel the fish in. Red snapper, 13”! He closed the game and opened his recent contacts, rolling onto his back and staring at the ceiling as the phone dialed.

“Hello, Will.”

Will cracked a brief grin. That damn voice, tugging at the back of his neck. “Hey.”

“How are you this evening?” Hannibal asked.

“I’m just hanging out in my room,” Will said. He didn’t particularly want to talk about his feelings. “What did you make for dinner tonight?”

“I christened a new set of Japanese knives on sashimi, accompanied by muscle miso soup.”

“Say that ten times fast. Do you ever roll sushi?”

“I have. Someday I would like to make a pilgrimage to learn the true art. There are a number of Japanese dishes that require expertise.”

“Sounds adventurous.” Will rubbed his sore neck.

“How was the lecture?”

“Hmm.” Will chuckled to himself. “It was somewhat interesting. The guy was extremely pretentious, couldn’t tell if it was really deserved. Maybe you’ve heard of him — Dr. Frederick Chilton. He runs the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.”

“The name does ring a bell, yes, though I can’t say that I’ve made his acquaintance.”

“Dr. Bloom introduced us. I might get access to some of his patient case files for my research.”

“Excellent. Seems like a useful connection.”

“I tried to be polite.” Will bit his lip. “I mostly succeeded.”

Hannibal hummed fondly, the kind of sound Will wanted to wrap around himself like a blanket. “Have we begin to curb your rudeness?”

Will snorted. “Naw. I’m just biding my time.”

Hannibal tutted, voice going low. “What am I going to do with you?”

Will shivered and grinned. “I can think of a few things you can do with me,” he said playfully, drawing out each word.

“Is that the kind of conversation we’re having?” Hannibal asked innocently.

“If you want,” Will said. In truth he was tired and wanted to shake the mood he was in. “I kind of wish I had come over after all,” he confessed, curling up on his side again. He had a morning class so it didn’t make much sense.

“You could still come over,” Hannibal offered, “Or I could come to you.”

“It’s late. I just want to fall asleep.”

“How did you sleep last night?”

And now I’ve worried him . “Not great.”

“What would help you sleep?”

Not being alone with his thoughts. Hannibal, warm and all around him. Will sighed. Hannibal would come if he asked him to, without complaint, even though it was late and Will’s room was a mess. Hell, Hannibal would sleep on the tiny bed with him eagerly. So why not ask?

“Will?”

He rubbed a hand over his face. “Do you want to come over?” He winced.

“I would love to,” Hannibal said. “I can be there in half an hour or so.”

“‘Kay. Text me when you’re outside and I’ll let you in.”

“See you soon, Will.”

Will flopped on his stomach and groaned. Why was this so difficult? He should have told Hannibal he hasn’t eaten, and Hannibal would have brought him something. Hannibal would have wanted to know. But that was asking for more than Will could stomach.

 


 

Will had to swipe Hannibal into the dorm with his key card. Thankfully the man wasn’t wearing one of his three piece suits, which would have been utterly conspicuous. As it was, in a sweater and blazer combination, he looked like a normal psychiatrist, one without a barbed tongue. Most students probably assumed he was Will’s father, and he still stood out against the nocturnal young adults glancing their way.

“Thanks for coming,” Will said, weighed down by his neck as he opened the door to his room.

“Of course, Will.”

“It’s a bit of a mess.”

Will let them in, and Hannibal shut the door behind them. This was the first time Hannibal had been in his dorm room and Will felt a fresh wave of embarrassment. He kept tidy most of the time, but this week he hadn’t had the energy to put things away or take out the little trash bin. The room felt barren, with only the dorm furniture of bed, dresser, desk, and chair and no decoration to speak of. He could feel Hannibal drinking in the sight.

“That’s quite alright,” Hannibal said, crisp and proper. He set his satchel by the bed and reached out for Will.

Will allowed himself to be pulled into Hannibal’s arms with a sigh. Of course, Hannibal hadn’t touched him like a lover while they were moving through the dorm. As shameless as Hannibal was about their relationship in private, both of them knew how it looked, and Will didn’t need the strain of that attention.

“You look exhausted,” Hannibal said softly, rubbing the back of Will’s neck. Will hummed in acknowledgement. This was the first time he had been touched in days, and warmth spread through his body from Hannibal’s embrace.

“Yeah, I don’t feel great.” Will nuzzled Hannibal’s collar, drinking in his affection and maddening scent like a starved pup.

Hannibal tilted Will’s chin up to look at him, amber eyes soft and attentive. “What’s wrong, dear boy?”

Will shrugged, pushing his glasses up his nose so Hannibal wasn’t obstructed by the frame. “I keep getting overstimulated and I’m not sleeping well, so my brain feels like it weighs 20 pounds.”

Hannibal squeezed him a little closer and scratched lightly at the base of his skull. Will’s eyes fluttered as his fingers moved through his hair and pulled just slightly. “Let’s get you relaxed,” Hannibal said, voice husky and scraping low down Will’s spine.

He could tell Hannibal didn’t mean it in a sexual way but his words still did funny things to Will’s head. There was that fuzzy feeling in his head, like his skull was brushing the softest fur, and all the sharpness around him began to dampen. Will sat on the edge of the bed and removed his shoes, watching Hannibal do the same out of the corner of his eye, removing his coat and blazer and hanging them on the back of the chair.

Hannibal wasn’t like other people. He was quiet. His emotions were powerful but rare and buried deep, always a low simmer. He didn’t emote like other people; didn’t flail with emotions and reactions. Hannibal showed only what he wanted to, and with a purpose, defaulting to a state that had at first seemed blank.

Will knew better now.

Hannibal crawled into the little bed with him, wrapping an arm around Will’s lower back. They had to be snuggled up close, not that Will was complaining. He rested his hand on Hannibal’s collar, taking in his broad chest and shoulders, the freshly-shaven curl of his chin, his stupidly gorgeous lips and cheeks that could kill. Will couldn’t help the flutter of arousal from being so close to him, held by broad hands and surrounded by his natural scent.

Hannibal kissed his forehead, then cheek, and finally his lips, just a soft press of their mouths that nonetheless sent another pulse of warmth under his skin. “Missed you,” Will said quietly for the closeness between them.

Hannibal gave him another kiss. “And I, you. Some of my thoughts are always with you.”

“How was your day?”

“Uneventful, save for the arrival of my knives. Work was as usual.” He gave one of his smiles that could only be called such because that was the feeling, hardly a lift in his lips. “My day is much improved now.”

Will scoffed. “Yeah, bet you love hanging out in this ugly little room.”

Hannibal gave him a look — amused, sly, and beneath that a spark of radiant attention. “I see no ugliness.”

Will rolled his eyes but couldn’t help but grin. “Looking in the wrong direction then. Or maybe you need to get your eyes checked.”

“I’ll have you know that I have excellent eyesight, unlike some difficult boys.”

“Oh I’m difficult now?”

Hannibal touched his cheek and Will closed his eyes. “No. Not at all.”

Will couldn’t help but ease under the fondness. It was genuine, in Hannibal’s weird, obsessive way. But Will knew Hannibal would soon try to ask him how he felt, why he was having a bad day, and Will didn’t want to get into it. He kissed Hannibal again, a distraction for both of them. He felt Hannibal curl his hand around the back of his neck and knead the tense muscles there, humming a low vibration that Will could feel in the press of his broad lips.

Hannibal kept it chaste — well, chaste for them — and Will was too tired to push for more. He sighed and played with the collar of Hannibal’s sweater, eyes down. “It’s bizarre having you here,” he said after a minute. “When I’m at your house or office it feels like a vacation from my real life. Having you here feels like forcing a cog.”

“Is that what’s bothering you?” Hannibal asked, nothing but curiosity in his tone.

No. “I’m not bothered.” I’m mad because someone insulted my favorite cannibal online — don’t be jealous.

“I have wanted to see the privacy of your daily life, just as you have seen mine,” Hannibal said.

“There is no overlap between our natural habitats,” Will said, because talking about this was better than the alternative. “One of these things is not like the others.”

Will knew that with anyone else his blunt words would provoke self-consciousness or offense, but there was none of that with Hannibal. His range of emotion went from excited to disinterested, with brief sojourns into anxiety and broodiness, all of it so mild and syrupy it never jarred Will’s senses. Will hadn’t managed to insult Hannibal so far.

“You would be bothered by people’s perception of our relationship if it were more public,” Hannibal said, scratching at Will’s scalp.

“They would be wrong ,” Will said, a bite at the back of his words.

“Misunderstanding is fundamental to the human condition,” Hannibal said. “We cannot fully understand each other without deep and selfless love. Few enough people understand themselves, let alone those around them.”

“I’m used to not being understood,” Will replied. Love — dropping that in a conversation like it wasn’t ink in a glass of water, as casual as anything because Hannibal always meant what he said, even if he didn’t always say what he meant. “That kind of attention is liable to stress me out.”

“It’s no difficulty keeping you all to myself,” Hannibal said, pulling Will closer so their legs were tangled together. Hannibal was amused, a ‘however’ hanging off the end.

“I’m not going to your opera,” Will grumbled. Hannibal was going to one this Friday and had extended the invitation to Will out of politeness. Of course Will had turned him down.

“I know,” Hannibal said, nosing Will’s curls. “I would simply find it amusing.”

“You want to watch them dance. Scandalize them just enough to cause a stir.”

“Their opinions don’t matter to me. What anyone believes about our relationship is of no consequence.”

Will sighed. “I’m not upset. I don’t need people to know. It’s just hard to really believe that I belong with you.”

Hannibal’s hand stilled in his hair. Shit -- he was upset, he was worried, Will had said the wrong thing. How could Will show doubt after all that Hannibal had proven to him? Will felt the skin prick on the back of his neck, a tiny dose of anxiety.

Hannibal rolled on top of him and all the breath left Will’s lungs in a gasp as he felt the man’s weight settle on him. Hannibal’s arms caged his head, holding his skull, and Will grasped the front of his sweater automatically. “You belong with me,” Hannibal said, deep and steady like the warmth of his embrace. Will sunk into his amber eyes, the full force of Hannibal’s attention putting him on edge. He was everywhere, covering Will completely. “You belong to me, and I belong to you.”

God, that voice – it caressed his spine and gripped his neck. “I-I know,” Will said with a shudder. The sudden emergence of Hannibal’s desire for him was overwhelming. “Hannibal.”

He kissed Will, hard and claiming, like he could kiss away his doubts, hands in his hair smoothing down his scalp. Will spread his legs with a soft whimper. Damn, but Hannibal could undo him in seconds when he was like this.

“Do you know?” Hannibal asked, hovering just above his lips. His eyes searched Will, a predator at ease. “Do you have any reason to doubt it?”

Will smirked, blushing and pushing his head against one of Hannibal’s hands. “The usual reassurances don’t apply.”

Hannibal’s nostrils flared. Goaded. “Shall I ask you to be my lover, my partner?” He nipped at Will’s lip. “I would do anything for you.”

Will knew that. It wasn’t doubt that plagued him so much as incomprehension. They seemed so unlikely, two oddities from different worlds colliding spectacularly. An antisocial, neurodiverse kid and an aristocratic psychiatrist more than twice his age, bonding over social exclusion. Will eased his hands down and around Hannibal’s torso. “I know,” he said again, firmly this time, making sure to meet Hannibal’s gaze just above him. “Don’t let me forget it.”

Hannibal smiled, the intensity easing. He bent down slow for another kiss, lips so soft Will could melt. “How I adore you,” he said fondly.

“Yeah, you’re pretty alright too,” Will said back with a grin, pulling Hannibal back into a kiss.

 


 

“I should go brush my teeth,” Will grumbled sometime later, sleep clinging to the dregs of his mind. They were still lying together, and Hannibal was still as a statue save for the steady rise and fall of his chest and the occasional stroke of his thumb. “You staying over?” Will asked.

“I’d like to,” Hannibal said.

“It’s not much of a bed.” Will pushed up and cracked his neck. Hannibal’s eyes were alert, like he hadn’t been lying in bed for an hour. “I don’t have an attached bathroom. There’s a shared one down the hall.”

Hannibal didn’t say anything for a moment, assessing, and Will thought he saw something mischievous behind his eyes. “Let’s shower together.”

Will’s eyebrows shot up. He rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Are you kidding me?”

Hannibal smiled slow and Will tried to stamp out his own grin, imagining sneaking into the shower with Hannibal, other students coming in and out. “You want to be conspicuous,” Will accused. “Dirty old man.”

“I thought you didn’t want to give the wrong idea,” Hannibal said innocently.

“I don’t want to give them any idea!” Will said, cheeks flushing. God, they would have to be quiet, someone would see them walking back with wet hair and know . Will shivered. He hadn’t thought about it before, but there was something dangerous to the idea that was entrancing. Hannibal shushing him, pressing him up against the tile. Will bit his lip and looked away.

“Is that a no?” Hannibal asked, infuriatingly relaxed.

“No.” Heat cooled in Will’s stomach. He stood up, stretching his arms over his head. “Fine. You wanna shower? Let’s take a shower.” He went to his small closet — thankfully he had two clean towels. He grabbed his all-in-one body soap and shampoo, toothbrush, all bundled in the towels. “Try to stay decent,” he admonished.

“I shall do my best,” Hannibal said, mild-mannered on the surface.

They both toed into their shoes and stepped out into the hallway, Will locking the door being him. The hall was long, with dorm rooms on both sides and the shared bathrooms in the middle. A few dorm rooms were open and Will could hear people talking inside, and a student was walking down the hall in their direction.

Most of the students in the dorm were freshmen and sophomores, as juniors and seniors typically lived off campus or in the campus owned apartments. It put Will with people closer to his age, but he didnt feel like their peers. He always had his head ducked in the hall, and wasn’t on first name basis with anyone. He knew some of his neighbors names only because he had a memory for details.

The girl coming down the hall towards them was on her phone. Will watched his feet. He didn’t want to see her glance up as they approached or Hannibal’s little nod or her glance back over her shoulder at him, though it was in his periferary. He heard someone brushing their teeth in the bathroom — this was a bad idea, they should just go back, or better yet leave and Will could hide under the covers of Hannibal’s bed for the rest of his life because oh god this was humiliating.

Will glanced up at Hannibal outside the bathroom door, mouth open to say something, but Hannibal just gave him a small smile and stepped ahead of him inside. Damn it . He followed Hannibal in. There was a row of sinks to the left and stalls to the right, the showers around the corner. The guy at the sink glanced at them in the mirror, someone I know or not, nope. Wait —

Hannibal turned into one of the stalls, and the guy’s attention flicked to Will. Will ignored him, heart in his throat, and walked around the corner to the showers. He stepped into the furthest one. God damn it Hannibal. He sighed deeply and tuned out the sounds around him. The shower stall had a tiny changing area before the curtain with a small bench, and Will dropped his bundle of towels there, leaving the door unlocked and cracked behind him. He reached in and flipped the water on, letting it warm up as he shimmied out of his clothes, hanging them on a hook.

He stepped into the shower and tried to focus on the rush of the water. He heard the steady clip of Hannibal’s shoes on the tile growing louder. His pace was easy, stalking, tapping at Will’s heart; the hunters leveling their scopes on their mark, a stag with it’s ears swiveling towards the sound. Will rubbed his arms. He heard Hannibal enter the stall and lock it behind him, then the rustle as he undressed. Will stuck his head under the water.

The curtain parted and a bit of cold sweeped in, dispelled immediately by the hot weight of Hannibal’s presence behind him. Will felt his eyes roam over his skin. Then Hannibal was against his back, hands sliding around to Will’s stomach. “Now that wasn’t so difficult, was it?” Hannibal whispered in his ear. Smirking.

Will pushed his hair off his forehead and wiped down his face, leaning back a touch. “Gonna die of embarrassment.”

Hannibal licked the water from his ear, sucking gently. “You’d be surprised what people overlook.”

They spoke in whispers, all sounds bouncing off the title. Hannibal licked beneath Will’s ear and down his neck, hands sliding up and down his slick abdomen. Will’s cock twitched — Hannibal barely needed to touch him to work him up, just the scrape of teeth on his neck and the firm body behind him.

“It’s alright,” Hannibal said, hands sliding up to Will’s chest. “No one will notice so long as my boy is good and quiet.”

Will pressed his lips together as hard as he could. “Everyone notices shower sex!” he retaliated, barely speaking the words.

Hannibal turned Will and pressed him up against the tile, covering his back completely, and the air slowly left Will’s chest. God, he was strong, broad hands firm on Will’s hips, erection filling out against his thigh. Surrounding him. “Shhh,” Hannibal nudged against Will’s neck, placing wet kisses there. “Are you going to be a good boy and stay quiet?”

Will thumped his fist lightly on the tile, tensing with a full-bodied pulse of heat. “Hmm?” Hannibal nosed his ear. Will nodded, biting his lip. “That’s my boy,” Hannibal muttered, proud and fond and absolutely evil. His hands slid up and down Will’s ribs, one down his thigh and the other teasing the curls just above his groin. Will felt his mouth move slow along his neck, hotter than the water raining across their shoulders.

“Don’t move,” Hannibal said, voice low and so easily commanding. Will knew that Hannibal would never have to raise his voice to get what he wanted, would never need to use force. Even when he said the most absurd, purple prose shit, Will couldn’t help but believe him.

Will sighed and shifted his hips, forearms against the tile, watching the water curl around his thigh. Behind him he heard the curtain part and the snap of Hannibal opening the soap. He lathered up his hands and slid them over Will’s shoulders. The soap made his touch glide over his skin, and Will closed his eyes to the sensation — firm hands kneading the muscles of his back and arms, thumbs sliding down either side of his spine. Hannibal loved bathing him and Will had indulged him a few times. It was always extremely relaxing once Will got over his self-consciousness, and it wasn’t usually sexual.

This time though, it was charged. Hannibal soaped up Will’s armpits and massaged like he was feeling for lymph nodes, pulling the hair there. Why on earth did that make Will’s spine curl? Maybe it was just that it was Hannibal. He could do anything to Will and it would feel this intense and right.

Hannibal washed Will’s chest next, gently playing with his nipples as he did. Will pressed his lips together to keep the little whimpers inside, but Hannibal’s touch was like liquid gold, he was pressed against Will’s soapy back and sliding against him, placing a kiss on his temple. Will arched against him, felt his cock on his ass. Damn. And he was pulling at Will’s tits. So good. Warmth spread through his chest. Hannibal slid a hand up to cup Will’s neck, tilting it back, and the other wrapped around the base of his cock with a slick tug and —

Will heard the bathroom dorm open and froze. When Hannibal continued to stroke him he reached around and swatted his side. “Hannibal!” Will hissed.

Hannibal swiftly removed his hands, but just as quickly he grabbed both of Will’s wrists and pinned them to the wall. “Did I say you could move?” Hannibal whispered in his ear.

Will wanted to say something in protest but the person was walking around to the shower stalls. Hannibal folded Will’s hands over and gripped both with one of his, putting enough weight that Will knew he would have to struggle to get free. The person was starting up one of the other showers.

“Be quiet for me,” Hannibal whispered, fisting Will’s erection. He had to bite the inside of his cheek, breath stuttering.

“Fuck.” The curse was little more than a breath and a click. Since they could be overheard, Hannibal’s slick hand on his cock sounded louder than life, even over the rush of water. Hannibal was going slow enough that the sound probably couldn’t be identified — probably — but when he pressed his thumb on the slit Will couldn’t stifle the moan. He turned it into a cough, face desperately hot.

Hannibal released Will’s wrists but he kept them there. Hannibal’s hand was free of soap when he pressed it over Will’s mouth, forcing Will to breath through his nose. He fisted Will faster, his cock rubbing into the crease of his ass, and Will shamelessly spread his legs. He couldn’t deny how badly he wanted to feel Hannibal’s cock there, not even inside of him but against his hole. It felt so right, grinding back on him. Will tensed up, trying to squash the sounds in his lungs. Arousal spread down his legs and up his spine.

Hannibal gave him a few fingers and Will bit down on them to keep quiet, a groan slipping out. Hannibal rubbed his palm over the head of Will’s cock and it was so slick, the water making their skin slide perfectly. Will’s hips shook and he bit down hard, edging close to orgasm.

Hannibal slipped his fingers out of Will’s mouth, and turned him around, pulling him into the spray. The sight of Hannibal, rivulets of water sliding down his naked body, made Will lightheaded. He didn’t know if he would ever get over how gorgeous the older man was, the perfect way his tight pecs fit into broad shoulders and long torso, the intensity of his face. The fact that Hannibal was so much stronger than him was a turn on, though he didn’t want to admit it. Will put his arms around Hannibal’s neck and was held in return, bodies sliding close and collecting warm water between them.

“My Will,” Hannibal breathed against his mouth. “Such a good boy.”

Will surged forward, needing to kiss him, and Hannibal met his lips with the barest of hums. Will opened his mouth immediately, tongue searching for Hannibal’s before he closed around the man’s upper lip and sucked. Everything was wet and warm and intimate. Will pulled back a fraction to lick at Hannibal’s lips, coaxing out his tongue. They were both stiff and rubbing against each other, Hannibal’s thick cock rubbing against his groin with indulgent rolls of his hips. “Yeah, yeah yeah,” Will barely said into the kiss. Hannibal thrust his tongue in deep and Will’s legs went weak.

Hannibal kept him up with an arm around his waist, but his other hand went around Will’s cock again. Will clawed at his shoulders, not fully able to stifle himself. “Mmm, mm,” Will whimpered, shutting his eyes tight. “Gonna come.”

Hannibal mouth pressed all over his like he was drinking Will’s orgasm out of him. Will sucked on Hannibal’s tongue as hard as he could, heat trembling through his body as he came all over  Hannibal’s wet fist. He had mostly been quiet.

“Evil,” Will mouthed at Hannibal before the man kissed him again. Will felt a little dizzy from the heat and the ruth of blood, so he turned the cold up and leaned up against the tile. Hannibal gave him a concerned look and stepped closer.

“Are you alright?”

“Dizzy,” Will whispered back. “S’fine.” He reached for Hannibal’s hip and slid to grab his cock. Hannibal was long, thick, and uncircumsized. Will never thought genitalia were particularly arousing so much as the other person, but Hannibal’s made him salivated. He wanted his cock in his mouth; they hadn’t done that yet since Will didn’t want to use condoms and they were still waiting on his results.

Hannibal rolled his shoulders back, and braced one arm on the wall. They both looked down where Will fisted his cock, sliding the foreskin back to reveal the dark, flushed tip. Will felt the small divot there with his pinky and saw Hannibal’s thighs tense. “This is my revenge,” Will whispered, licking his teeth.

Hannibal submitted to Will’s touch. His reactions were subtle, especially as he was making no noise. But Will was learning his tells: the shift of his neck, his open mouth, and most triumphant of all the curl of his upper lip when Will teased the skin behind his balls with his other hand. Hannibal’s eyes were dominated by his pupil, and for a moment the compressed color of his amber looked red.

“That’s it,” Will mouthed, ignoring the other sounds in the bathroom. They no longer mattered. He wanted to find that thread in Hannibal that would send him unraveling, saw the twitch of his leg and wanted him shaking, wanted to take a crowbar to the cracks in his defenses and expose him.

Will couldn’t look away from his eyes. Hannibal was pulsing in his hand, thrusting and slick. Will could count the lines around his eyes and saw water cling to his lashes. The man’s cheeks were beautifully flushed.

“Can you come?” Will asked quietly, nibbling his jaw. Hannibal shook his head. Will bit his jaw and stroked him roughly a few times. “Damn you.” Hannibal was leaning over him, head bent and Will could reach his ear. “Wanna suck you off so badly,” Will whispered, and Hannibal tensed up and took a deep breath. Emboldened, Will licked his ear. “Want this cock in my mouth. Wanted it for so long, fuck, Hannibal.”

“Condoms in your room,” Hannibal whispered back, thrusting lazily into Will’s fist.

“Don’t wanna taste the condom. Want to taste you.”

Will heard Hannibal’s teeth click and pulled back to see him. His jaw was tense and his eyes dark, his look hitting Will in the gut. At this rate he was going to get hard again. Will bit his lip and slowed his strokes. “Let’s finish in my room,” he said, though he didn’t know if he really wanted to go down on Hannibal tonight.

Hannibal nodded and they finished washing up. Will thought it was almost funny how Hannibal’s cock prodded him accidentally as they moved around, it was weirdly platonic. He melted as Hannibal washed his hair, and the exhaustion hit him again.

Will dressed first in the little stall and went out ahead of Hannibal, who was frying his hair as thoroughly as he could. It was quieter now, and no one paid Will much attention as he hurried back to his room.

When Hannibal knocked and entered the room Will was laying on bed in his boxers, eyes drooping. “Can’t believe we did that,” he muttered.

“I don’t believe anyone was the wiser,” Hannibal said, undressing. “And even if they noticed, I don’t believe any harm was done.”

“Do no harm, hmm?”

Hannibal changed into a pair of sleep pants and sat on the edge of the bed, stroking Will’s arm. “Did you eat today?”

“Some.” Will closed his eyes. “Not my best day. No dinner.”

Hannibal humed, and petted through Will’s hair. He didn’t say anything, but Will knew he wanted to feed him and was trying to find a way to do so without imposing. Will felt as if his face was being weighed down. “M’sorry,” he muttered, turning on his side towards Hannibal.

Hannibal got into the bed and held Will close. “Tell me next time, and I can easily bring leftovers. I always cook more than is needed.”

“Yeah. Ok.” Will sighed. “I’m really sick of the cafeteria. Not sure if I would really eat more if I had a kitchenette.”

“I’ll cook for you,” Hannibal said softly.

“Yeah?” Will said, tired and playful. “Gonna do my laundry and send me off to school with an apple and a kiss on the head?”

Hannibal kissed the top of his hair. “You tease me, knowing how much I would enjoy providing for you.”

“Got to laugh at the absurd.”

Hannibal sighed. “I want to.”

And then, when Hannibal got tired of cooking for him? If Will lived with him and then something happened he would be screwed. Dependence was a sour taste in his mouth, but at the same time he remembered the quiet, broken look on Hannibal’s face when he told Will about the cold winter he and his sister barely survived. “You can always feed me, remember?” Will said, nuzzling his chest. “I don’t mind.”

“Thank you, Will.”

Chapter Text

Will never slept well, and tonight was no different.

He remembered vaguely a primordial time of his childhood where he could fall asleep easily. Then there was an age when it took him a while to sleep and he would entertain himself in his imagination for what felt like hours, spinning fantasies. But his overactive imagination and obsessive thoughts began to spin on anxiety, on overstimulation, and the thoughts just wouldn’t stop.

And of course there were the nightmares.

Will dreamed that he was laying on a bed of dark brown hair, the tangle of strands itching his bare skin and undulating like the belly of some beast. The nothing around him was filled with the sounds of hooves clopping, the flat of a knife on leather, a rifle cocking, wind through the eaves. There was something there, a creature of oil slick black and antler tines, slowly circling him.

He tried to sit up on the bed of hair but it wrapped around his wrists, burning his skin. He tried to pull free, harder and harder, thrashed and tugged against it, but it wrapped around his legs, his neck; and he was sinking into it; and pale flesh rose up from the nest, discolored bodies floating on the tangled surface, eyes pale and dead.

And then the girls looked at him.

When he woke, he was shaking and gasping, and he was in Hannibal’s arms. The older man soothed him and kissed his skin, comforting him until Will’s breathing returned to normal. Will fell in and out of sleep, always waking to Hannibal touching him and saying, “It’s alright.” Will heard whimpering in his sleep.

Even if he didn’t sleep better with Hannibal in the little bed, his heart warmed with affection whenever he woke to Hannibal’s gentle attentions.

Almost like the old man cared for him, or something.

“I’m curious to know your dreams,” Hannibal said, when it was close enough to Will’s wake-up time to give up on falling back asleep.

“Of course you are,” Will grumbled, rubbing the gunk from his eyes and stretching his arms up. “You’re curious about my shits.”

Hannibal tucked his head into Will’s arm, scenting near his armpit.

“Stop that.” Will swatted him and blushed, turning to get out of bed but Hannibal grabbed him around the waist and pulled him back.

“You smell delicious,” Hannibal purred, and Will’s face burned with mortification and arousal. He let Hannibal hold him for another minute, planting kisses on his check and neck.

“I have to get ready for class,” Will mumbled, so tempted by the warmth of Hannibal’s arms.

“I know,” Hannibal said, stroking Will’s thigh. His voice was clear, sounding wide awake even though he probably hadn’t slept much. “I won’t keep you.”

“You say that,” Will accused fondly. He sighed, remembering the dreams with a spike of fear. “They were fairly abstract dreams,” he said. “Kind of about the cases I’m reading.”

Hannibal let Will climb out of bed and change into a fresh pair of boxers and his clothes for the day. “Any case in particular?” Hannibal asked from behind him.

Will pulled his flannel on and buttoned it up. “Forgive me if I don’t want to relive my nightmares,” he said, a snap in his tone.

There was a pause before Hannibal said, “Of course, Will.”

Will’s chest went tight. As he packed his satchel, he saw Hannibal out of the corner of his eye, sitting on the edge of the bed for a moment before dressing himself. Maybe he should just tell Hannibal, get it over with and see what happens. Or maybe Hannibal could mind his own damn business.

“If you had to use all the parts of a human body,” Will began to ask, “What would you do with everything?”

Hannibal had an odd and restrained look on his face, and sat very still and proper with his hands folded in his lap. If Will had to guess what was going on in the man’s head, he was trying to figure out why Will was asking. There was a guardedness there, though, and it surprised Will — had he finally weirded Hannibal out?

“Most everything can be cooked and eaten,” Hannibal answered lightly. “That seems the most straightforward way to deal with the material.”

“Bones?”

“Boil down to stock, clean and carve the remainder.”

“Intestines?”

“They can be cleaned and eaten as well. Homemade sausage. Or, they could be treated like catgut strings and put into instruments.”

“That’s creative,” Will said, raising his eyebrows. He leaned against his desk and crossed his arms. “Ears?”

Hannibal chuckled. “Yours, I would most definitely eat. But the less desirable parts can be made into waxes, oils, soaps.”

“What about the hair?” Will asked.

Hannibal considered for a moment. “In the victorian era, mourners used the hair of the dead to weave elaborate funerary memorials. Frames for portraits.” He cocked his head to one side. “Although that’s not a decoration I particularly want in my abode. Stuffing for throw pillows, I suppose.”

“Yeah.” Will gave Hannibal a quick smile. “That’s what I was thinking too.”

Will put on his coat and shouldered his bag, aware of Hannibal’s mind churning quietly. “Use is not necessarily the best disposal method.”

“It’s a hunter-gatherer mindset,” Will replied, fiddling with the strap of his bag. “Every part has to be used to honor the kill.”

“Waste would make it murder.”

“Exactly. Anyway, I have to run — the door will lock behind you.” Will stepped forward and Hannibal stood to give him a farwell embrace. Will took the soft kisses to his cheeks and lips as embers to keep him warm until they met again. When he withdrew, Hannibal’s eyes were sharp behind the usually fondness.

 


 

 

A full day of classes and work at the library, another restless night of sleep, and it was Friday. Hannibal would pick Will up after his thesis meeting that afternoon, and Will was looking forward to the weekend together.

Will was spending less and less time at school. He was still able to focus on his work, even with Hannibal nearby and damn distracting in his suits, but sometimes it was a challenge. It was also difficult to care about any of his coursework that wasn’t his thesis – that’s where all his focus was. This semester’s classes were spread out over the week, which was frustrating because he had so many pockets of time where he couldn’t go to Hannibal’s office and had to find the hidden spots in the library to work.

And he often missed Hannibal.

Will needed time for himself. Being around Hannibal could be relaxing but there were often moments of intensity like Will had never experienced before. Time alone was good for him, but he wanted it less and less. His world was focusing around Hannibal like water down a drain, everything sharper and more vivid.

Will had never been in love before. He didn’t really know if this was love, and sometimes worried that his attachment to Hannibal was just a result of his need for a caretaker. But he thought about him constantly, ached for him, and couldn’t bear to think of Hannibal rejecting him. Better for Hannibal to swallow him whole than make him leave.

 

At 4:30 Will had his advisor meeting with Alana in her office. They went over what he had drafted so far.

“I’m concerned that your scope is too ambitious,” Alana said, though kindly as always. “We don’t have access to enough hard data on serial arsonists, assaulters, and killers. Not regarding their upbringing. You may want to consider focusing on one case and demonstrating how the two plasticity models could help understand the subject.”

Will sighed, slouching a bit in the chair. “I might be able to get access to more cases from Dr. Chilton. I was going to send him a follow up email after this meeting.”

Dr. Bloom pressed her lips together, considering. “I don’t want you to bite off more than you can chew. Even with more cases, we can’t reverse engineer a study of their lives during developmental periods.”

“I’m not trying to create a predictor of these behaviors,” Will replied, annoyance rising in his chest. “I just want to demonstrate that there is a nature and nurture component.”

“I’m not sure that you have the data to prove that.”

Will rubbed the bridge of his nose, pushing up his glasses. “So you’re suggesting a single case study for part two?”

Alana nodded, her expression encouraging and sympathetic. “Think about it. That would really give you a chance to dive into the profiling aspects that interest you.”

There was a polite knock on the door, an interruption Alana wasn’t expecting. “Just a moment, Will,” she said with a warm smile, standing and smoothing her dress before crossing the small room to investigate whatever it was. Will took the opportunity to squeeze his eyes shut and try to build a fort around his disappointment.

“Hello, Dr. Lecter.”

Will’s head snapped up and he blinked several times upon hearing Alana’s surprised but pleased greeting.

“Dr. Bloom. Don’t let me interrupt, I was passing through the area for an errand and thought to say hello.”

Will turned in his chair, catching sight of Hannibal as Alana opened the door further. The two of them maneuvered the social situation nimbly — Alana stepping aside and glancing to Will. “You remember Will Graham, I take it?”

Hannibal restrained his delight to a mere flicker, bowing his head in greeting. “Good to see you again, Will,” Hannibal said. “I hope your thesis is going well.”

Will stared at the ground between their feet, his cheeks warm. “I wouldn’t say it’s going anywhere, right now.”

“Nonsense, Will,” Alana said (a smile to Hannibal, ‘you know how students are’, hoping for encouragement). “Focusing is always a challenge when it comes to theses.”

“It’s easy to be hard on oneself when you care about your subject,” Hannibal said, standing just within the doorframe.

“It’s certainly being hard on me,” Will replied with a bitter smirk. He waved his hand. “It’s fine. I just need to take a step back and look at the big picture.”

Hannibal nodded. “Well, I don’t wish to interrupt a productive session. Though, if you wanted a different perspective, feel free to email me your latest draft.”

“Thanks,” Will said with a shrug, holding back his smile. “I don’t want to take up any more of your time.”

When he glanced up he saw a smile grow on Hannibal’s face. “Not at all. My time is freely given.”

“Thank you, Hannibal, that would be a great help,” Alana said.

“Good to see you again, Will,” Hannibal said with a nod and a smile. “I’ll look forward to your email. And, Alana — we should have dinner soon, it’s been too long.”

“I’ve been busy,” she said apologetically. “But that sounds lovely.”

“I’ll give you a call.”

Alana shut the door behind him, smiling. “Well, sorry for the interruption — but that’s a happy coincidence.” She circled around back to her desk. “You should really take Dr. Lecter up on that offer.”

“You don’t think he’s just being nice?” Will asked, still slightly in shock.

“Oh, no. He’s not the kind of person who makes offers he doesn’t intend to fulfill.”

“You’ve known him a while then?”

“About eight years now. He was my mentor.”

“And now he’s your friend.”

Alana pursed her lips together. “Yes,” she said carefully. “Why do you ask?”

Will shrugged. “We’ve kept in touch a bit. He’s interesting. But he strikes me as the kind of person who has many acquaintances and few friends.”

Alana smiled, but wasn’t sure why Will was asking after Hannibal. Of course not. This was the first time she had seen them together, and she wouldn’t suspect anything from that brief interaction. “I suppose that’s true. Remind me to never ask for your impression of me?”

Will laughed, genuinely, running his hand back through his long hair. He liked Alana Bloom. For a moment, he almost wished he could tell her. “Ok. Can we wrap up the meeting? I have to run soon.”

 


 

Will sighed before approaching the Bentley, parked not so innocently in the lot next to his dorm. He couldn’t help but glance around to see if anyone was watching him. He opened the passenger door and slipped inside.

“Was that premeditated?” Will asked, removing his messenger bag and putting on his seatbelt before looking over at Hannibal. The expression on his face was Hannibal’s version of beaming, eyes alight and crinkled at the corners, and a steady closed-lip smile.

He ran his hand through Will’s curls, leaning over to kiss him, not in greeting but in hunger. He smelled faintly of ginger and lemon soap, and the earthy musk Will would know anywhere. “No. A happy coincidence,” Hannibal said, pulling just away from Will’s lips to speak before descending once more. They kept their tongues behind teeth but it was still possessive.

Will pushed Hannibal back with a huff of amusement and Hannibal straightened back in his seat, turning on the ignition. “At least one of us found that amusing,” Will said.

“You did not?” Hannibal asked curiously, and pulled them out of the parking spot and through the lot.

Will glanced out the window at the students passing by. “What would happen if Dr. Bloom found out?”

Hannibal considered the question for a quiet moment of driving. “I imagine it would cause a disruption to our friendship. She wouldn’t approve. And as she is already protective of you, she would likely take steps to ensure your safety.”

Will felt his stomach grown cold. He crossed his arms over his chest. “Yeah. Sounds great,” he said sarcastically.

Hannibal rested his hand on Will’s knee. “We would resolve it.”

“That was the first time we’ve been around other people,” Will observed. “And the other day. I don’t know how to be with you around other people.”

Hannibal was quiet for a minute, thinking, and gently rubbing Will’s thigh. Will could imagine what he was thinking. Did the perception of others matter? Shouldn’t they be how they were, regardless of who was watching? But there would be consequences for both of them, even just the subtle, unsaid disapproval.

“I would like to spend more time with you in public,” Hannibal said at last. “I have been selfish, keeping you all to myself.”

“Like a house pet,” Will said.

Hannibal sighed. Of course he didn’t view Will that way, but Will had his barbs out.

“I’ll allow it,” Will said after a moment. “I don’t particularly want to socialize with any of your so-called friends. Not that you’ve told me about any of them.”

Hannibal shrugged. “No one is worth mentioning.”

“We really are perfect for each other,” Will teased. Hannibal smiled at that.

“Why should we share our world with anyone who would not understand it? They are undeserving.”

Will chuckled and squeezed Hannibal’s hand. A few more minutes passed of silent driving, but the cold in his stomach still lingered.

“Have you told your sister or aunt about me?” Will asked. He tried to make it sound casual.

Hannibal hummed behind his teeth, and he turned his palm up to hold Will’s hands. “I want to tell my sister. Very much so. But I want your blessing to do so.”

“Then why haven’t you asked?”

Hannibal’s face was carefully blank as he stared at the road. He took his hand back to shift gears and then immediately returned it to Will’s, stroking his knuckles. “I suppose I didn’t want to press us to define what we are. Also, my sister will want to come meet you as soon as she can.”

“Should I be worried?”

“No, I’m sure she’ll adore you. But she can be intense.”

“Well if she’s anything like you…” Will let that trail off. Hannibal’s hand was warm and welcome in his, his profile sharp against the passing city beyond. “How would you describe us to her?”

Hannibal’s eyes softened, glancing at Will briefly. “I would say you’re my young lover whom I care for deeply.”

Will smiled broadly. “That makes you my old lover.”

Hannibal smiled and brought Will’s hand up for a kiss, holding it there against his soft mouth. “I am gladly your old lover.”

Will disentangled his hand and smoothed it on the back of Hannibal’s neck where skin peaked above his collar. “Boyfriend,” he said to the car, testing out the word on his tongue. He scowled. It sounded so… juvenile. “Sugar daddy,” he said next, feeling wicked.

Hannibal gave him a sly look out of the corner of his eye. “You’ve hardly let me spoil you enough for that.”

“Not sure how I feel about the paternal connotations there,” Will said, feeling a bit embarrassed. “Hmm. Partner. Sweetheart.” He brushed his fingers through the short hair above Hannibal’s neck. There was a downward turn to Hannibal's bowed lips, just a hint of some enigmatic internal working. “What are you worrying about?” Will teased softly.

“Nothing, my darling,” Hannibal lied. “How can I worry when you give me such sweet words?”

Will withdrew his hand with a hum. He wouldn’t press it.

“Ah, before I forget —“ Hannibal said, changing the conversation (what was he worrying about?) “There’s an envelope on the back seat with your test results.”

Well, that distraction worked. “Oh!” Will turned around and grabbed the manila envelope, working it open with a nail. An anxious bubble formed in his chest — probably everything would be fine, but there was the worry that if he had an STI Hannibal wouldn’t want to have sex. Which was ridiculous. It would be fine. Will scanned the test results. Apparently Hannibal had ordered a full blood panel along with the STI screening.

Will read it twice and then sighed deeply. “All negative,” he announced, tossing it back on the back seat. “You can obsess over my nutrient levels later.”

They didn’t need to use condoms anymore. Will could — oh god, and he really wanted to. He tried to tame his grin, staring out the window. Hannibal’s hand returned to his thigh, a little higher this time. “Mine,” Will said, excitement surging beneath his skin. “I think that’s the word.”

 


 

As soon as they were in the door, before Hannibal had time to take off his coat, Will pressed against him and sought out his mouth. Kissing Hannibal always filled the entire scope of his mind, and he didn’t want it to end — the press of lips, the closeness of having him right there, the maddening taste of him. “When do you have to leave?” Will asked in nearly a whine, brushing his lips over his jaw.

“7:30,” Hannibal said. “I’ll cook us an early dinner.”

Will held on to the lapels of his coat and leaned up against him. He could rest his weight against Hannibal’s solid form, like he was being caught from a fall. “I’m not hungry for that,” he muttered.

“Will,” Hannibal chided, but there was the tell-tale hitch of arousal in his breath. His hands rested on Will’s back.

Will kissed him again, sucking on his lower lip. Thinking about what he wanted to do to Hannibal made him hot. To push Hannibal up against the door and then fall to his knees. Will wanted it. He was already thickening in his briefs. “I don’t want to wait.”

Hannibal ducked away from Will’s kiss. “I need time to get ready. And have you eaten today?”

“Yeah.” Will nipped at his neck.

“Have you eaten meals ?”

Will groaned, his head falling with a thump on Hannibal’s neck. “Do you have to go to the damn opera?”

He felt Hannibal stroke his spine. “If you tell me to stay, I will.”

Hannibal wanted to go, though, and Will could wait a few hours — he wasn’t a complete horny mess. He sighed and stepped back, breaking their embrace and finally taking off his own jacket. “Fine — let’s eat. But you have to be real nice to me when you get back.”

“Aren’t I always kind to you, Will?”

The boy snorted, moving towards the kitchen. “Oh, please. You’re a tease and a torture.”

Chapter Text

Will had spent time alone at Hannibal’s house before, and this was only for a few hours, three at the most, but he was restless. After Hannibal left he took a long shower and changed into his sleep clothes, phone tucked into the pocket of the robe. In his soft slippers he wandered the house, thoughts spinning in odd directions.

In the lounge, Will prodded the stiff pillows on the couch. He touched the tips of the horns rising phallic from the unused desk, and examined the iridescent bugs pinned behind glass. Everything here was a cultivated version of Hannibal, beautiful and inhuman.

In the study, Will opened the flat storage drawers and went through Hannibal’s drawings, handling the paper with care. Architecture, reproductions of famous works, and others—ones that were drawn from Hannibal’s memories. Portraits. Snapshots. A man’s back as he walks down the street, coat hunched up to his ears. A hands around small bowls of food. Two entwined dog tags. Some drawings of him—no; many drawings of him.

Sleeping in the armchair at Hannibal’s office. Biting his pen at his laptop. Looking out the window of Hannibal’s car. Others that made him blush, though they weren’t explicit.

He found the last drawer to be locked.

That's the thing: Hannibal was locked up. Part of him, at least. And though it wasn’t like Will told Hannibal everything, Will was all on the surface. Hannibal was deep, not in the pretentious way he thought he was, but buried. Submerged. The Will Graham people saw was pretty much what they got.

In the kitchen, he turned all the mug and teacup handles the other way, just because he could. He went into the pantry and pulled up the trap door, lights automatically coming on below. He had never been down to the basement before, though he had noticed the trapdoor. He stepped down the steep stairs.

It was cooler down here. There was more wine, of course, in another automated storage thing . There was storage for jarred goods and a chest freezer, and… what on earth? Will stepped forward to a large, illuminated tank, aware of a faint crunching sound

Snails. A lot of them. Fascinated, Will stared into the little garden of garlic, herbs, and grass, in which around thirty snails oozed slowly as they ate.

When did Hannibal find the time?

There were other projects down here: a brewery station, curing meat, and raw steaks in sealed bags of water that looked weirdly clinical, like organs for transfer. This was a private part of Hannibal’s domain, a place for preparation and experimentation. Will didn’t quite feel like he was trespassing, but there was something unsettling about being down here that he couldn’t put his finger on.

He thought of Hobb’s cabin, TattleCrime’s morbid photos, antlers in stark relief from the camera flash.

Will left the basement and the light clicked off automatically when he shut the trap door. He poured himself a bit of wine from the bottle they had opened at dinner and went upstairs. He settled in Hannibal’s huge bed and pulled out his phone, checking the replies on the Hobbs Case thread. There was no new information, but people were arguing over why Hobbs returned Elise Nichols to her bedroom. Will started drafting a post taking down the arguments proposed, then reconsidered, deleted it, and gave his own argument.

Even though the forums stressed him out, it was difficult not to engage when people were so wrong. Especially when they weren’t responding to reason.

He wasted the time away online, reading up on some new cases. He tried to avoid the comments. The sheets were all tangled up by the time he heard Hannibal’s car pull into the drive.

Will pulled himself out of bed and went to the top of the stairs. Hannibal smiled up at him from where he hung his coat by the front door. “Welcome back,” he said.

“How are you, dear boy?” Hannibal asked fondly.

Will shrugged. “Sleep deprived.”

Hannibal came up the stairs and took Will into his arms, stroking his hair. “I wish you could have heard the performance. It was beautiful.”

Will wrapped his arms around Hannibal’s neck. “You have a good time then?”

“Yes, thank you.” Hannibal kissed his cheek. “Although I was accosted by a patient.”

Will grinned. “Oh really?”

“I think he’s engendering accidental run-ins. I saw him at cheese shop last week.” Hannibal sounded so terribly put out that Will nearly burst out laughing.

“Ah, how terrible,” he mumbled, ruffling Hannibal’s perfect hair. “Does someone have a crush on you?”

Hannibal pouted, allowing Will to miss his hair. “I think he wants to be friends.”

“With his therapist.”

“He has an anxiety disorder, and creates dependent relationships with certain personality types. Although,” Hannibal added thoughtfully, “He did have a friend with him tonight, so perhaps he will fixate on him instead.”

“You never talk about your current patients,” Will said, sliding his hands down Hannibal’s shoulders before taking his hand and pulling him back into the bedroom.

“There’s not usually much to say of interest, save for the patients I like.”

“And the ones you like, you keep their confidentiality.”

Hannibal nodded, watching Will sit on the edge of the bed.

“Kind of sad,” Will added, leaning back on his wrists, “trying to be friends with your therapist.”

“It’s generally not appropriate, no. But for those who have few people in their life who truly listen to and understand them, the appeal can be great.” He opened the door to the walk in closet, going to change.

Will bit his lip. He knew what he wanted from Hannibal right now, but didn’t exactly know how to say ‘alright Hannibal, blow job time’. He was nervous about it, or his general nerves were latching onto this: what he wanted and declared he would have. And he did want it, god, the sight of Hannibal’s cock and the idea of putting his mouth there had been haunting him for weeks. Will had given head a few times before and knew he liked it, but he wasn’t that experienced and Hannibal was bigger than those boys.

And if he didn’t do it now, he would feel weird about it later.

“Leave your clothes on,” Will said in a snap decision, intent solidifying. “You can take off your shoes and jacket.”

He saw Hannibal pause in the closet and hear what Will was ordering. Adrenaline prickled under Will’s skin. “Yes, Will,” Hannibal said, removing his shoes. That was right. Hannibal would do anything Will said.

Hannibal emerged from the closet, fixing Will with his entire attention. It had been a black tie event, and he looked sharp in his bow tie and crisp white shirt, hands folded behind his back. More confident now, Will patted the edge of the bed next to him. “Sit.”

Hannibal sat and Will stood, moving just beyond his reach although Hannibal didn’t attempt to touch him. His posture was perfect, hands over his thighs, and his eyes were dark. “What can I do for you, Will?” he asked.

Will dropped the robe off his shoulders. He pulled his sleeping shirt over his head and could feel Hannibal’s eyes on his body. Will shimmied out of his pants and stood naked before him; and then he could really see how Hannibal was looking at him, hungry, lips parted, like Will was a god

He stepped closer, nearly between Hannibal’s legs, and saw his hands twitch. “No touching,” Will said.

Hannibal nodded, still openly admiring Will’s body. Will was starting to fill out, just standing here before Hannibal and having him obey. Will closed the distance between them and took Hannibal’s face in his hands, relishing the small gasp from his lips at the touch before kissing him hard. Hannibal’s mouth opened and met his with gentle suction and the slide of tongue. The taste of him, the act of kissing him, this weird, fascinating old man who would kiss the dirt at his feet, it made Will so hot. Hannibal was bigger and firmer than Will in every way and, yeah, it was embarrassing to think about directly but Hannibal was really a man, grown up in the way the college guys weren’t. Older than him, fucking twice Will’s age and more powerful than him in every way—except that he was Will’s and right now, he couldn’t touch him.

Will moaned into their kiss and Hannibal caught his tongue, sucking on it. Will pressed his half-hard cock against Hannibal’s stomach, rubbing there, and it felt so good. “My darling boy,” Hannibal said against his lips, voice heavy.

“Hands on the bed,” Will said roughly. Hannibal obeyed immediately and Will climbed up onto his lap, the pressure against his groin shooting off sparks. “Fuck,” Will grunted.

He just kissed Hannibal for a minute, and when he forgot his self-consciousness he started grinding against him—and that felt so good that he couldn’t really be self conscious about it anymore. Hannibal starting to get hard beneath him, a rising bulge to push against, and the heavy wanting of his breath and deadly flash of his eyes urged Will on.

“Will, darling, you feel so good,” Hannibal said into his mouth.

“Yeah, just you wait.”

“I want to touch you so badly.”

“You can’t.”

“I know—ahh.” Hannibal bucked up into him.

“Hips down,” Will said, swatting Hannibal. It wasn’t a hard hit, but Hannibal froze entirely. Will’s cock twitched almost painfully—hell, that was arousing. “S-stay still,” Will said through clenched teeth, circling his hips on Hannibal’s lap.

“Yes, Will.”

He could hit Hannibal.

He could hurt Hannibal.

Will slowed to a rocking on Hannibal’s lap and grabbed his hair, pulling his face back. Hannibal’s eyes were clear and calm, touched by his deep hunger. Will stopped moving. His heart was in his throat. Will slapped Hannibal on the cheek, not too hard but enough for a little sting. Hannibal smiled and hummed.

“Jesus.” Will’s jaw was shaking. “Can… can I?”

“Anything, Will.”

“Don’t say that.”

“It’s true.”

“Are you testing me?”

Hannibal didn’t say anything.

Will took a deep breath. He scooted back on Hannibal’s thighs and slapped him. Hard.

The sound rang through his ears. Hannibal’s face was forced to one side, mouth open, a lewd groan on his lips; then he faced Will again, accepting.

Will slapped him again.

Again.

His palm stung.

He tried the other side and caught Hannibal on the ear, making him wince. “Shit, sorry,” Will spluttered. “Are you ok?”

“Perfectly fine, Will. You can keep going.”

“I don’t know.” Will stroked his face, kissing his pink cheek. It was warmer than usual. “God, that’s crazy hot.”

“Yes.”

“That turn you on?”

“It’s you.”

Will was overcome with a wave of arousal and clenched Hannibal’s hair with a moan. “I… I kind of want to hurt you.”

Hannibal nuzzled him, kissed his jaw. “May I make a suggestion?”

“Um… sure.”

“You may find it freeing to beat my ass.”

Will wasn’t sure he had heard English at first. And then the image of Hannibal Lecter bent over the bed with his pants down and his ass bright red nearly killed him.

“Take your dick out,” Will said in a rush, climbing off Hannibal and staring at him with wild eyes. “Need you in my mouth and then… then I’m going to hit you.”

Hannibal’s eyes fluttered. He nodded, and unzipped his pants, pulling himself free.

Will was so, so hard. He knelt between Hannibal’s legs and stared at his cock, uncut and thick and so fucking gorgeous. His head was full of heat and light, a rush, no thought as he took Hannibal in hand, the satiny warmth of him; fisting him up and down so the foreskin retracted on the pink, sensitive head. He stuck out his tongue and licked the tip, and Hannibal let out a shivery groan.

The taste was stronger than he expected, but not bad. It was Hannibal. Intensely him. Will licked around the head, rubbed his lips, and Hannibal was so soft. He held him by the base and licked up the curve of him. Gathered spit in his mouth before doing that again.

“Will…” Hannibal groaned softly. Will could hear each breath and how it changed with what he was doing. Feeling hot deep in his stomach, Will took him into his mouth, teeth tucked behind his lips.

Hannibal hissed above him.

Will sucked. Sucked harder.

Hannibal’s legs were trembling faintly beneath his hands. Will curled and rubbed his tongue beneath, and tried moving up and down. It felt good to be doing this—really good, having Hannibal in his mouth, sliding in and out.

“That feels amazing, baby boy.”

Will groaned, and so did Hannibal. His pleasure hit him like it was his own. That was always why this was so good, really pleasuring his partner, not having to see them, just getting lost in it. Will came off with a wet sound and licked around the tip again. It was salty sweet, hot, Hannibal.

Hannibal’s soft sounds and words of encouragement. Will took him inside again, the soft head against his palette, and tried going deeper. He felt the stretch of his jaw—Hannibal gasped—Will had him at the back of his throat and nearly gagged. Be he wanted more. He was leaking on the carpet. His hair fell in his face as he started bobbing up and down, an almost-choking sensation in his mouth.

Will kept going until his jaw was really aching, and Hannibal was getting loud. Will pulled off again, looking up with wet eyes, not able to quite meet Hannibal’s gaze. “Can you come?” Will asked, his voice wavering.

Hannibal’s hands were white-knuckled against the bed. “Yes… just a little more.”

Will stroked him and Hannibal let out a hot sigh. Will put just the head back in his mouth while he pumped him, rolling his tongue around. Hannibal was rock hard and leaking into his mouth, blood pulsing, groaning with each breath. Will pumped his cock faster and sucked harder. “I’m going to come,” Hannibal said in a quiet, wrecked voice above him.

Will slid down as far as he could, and he could actually feel the pulsing as Hannibal started to come, his ejaculate hitting the back of Will’s throat and flooding his spit-filled mouth. It was a little more than Will could handle and he pulled off, cupping his mouth to keep from making a mess. He swallowed some with a flinch and wiped the rest on his thigh.

Hannibal was a beautiful mess above him, and Will grinned. He could see how badly Hannibal wanted to hold him. “God, Hannibal…” Will wrapped his arms around his waist, nuzzling his chest.

“Will, my darling.” Hannibal sounded like he was going to fucking cry. Will pushed up on his knees for a kiss and Hannibal took his mouth fiercely.

“F-fuck,” Will keened, Hannibal sucking his lip hard. He turned his head to survive the onslaught. “T-turn around. Pull your pants down.”

Hannibal did, somehow making it graceful, even though he looked like a mess with his clothes rumpled around his ass. His really soft, round ass. “Hands by your head,” Will said, and fuck he was shaking.

He straddled the back of Hannibal’s thighs, folds of fabric against his bare skin. His head was spinning. Will had never done anything like this, and his chest clenched with anxiety right next to the fierce wanting. He touched the small of Hannibal’s back, pushing his shirt up, and smoothed a hand over the swell of his behind. “I… I don’t know what to do,” he said, words tumbling out. “I don’t want to hurt you bad. Not in a bad way.”

“It’s alright, Will,” Hannibal said calmly. “You won’t be able to do any damage with just your hands.”

Not with just his hands.

But with something else.

His belt ( “I’d never use a belt on ya, Willy).

A knife ( in his hands, sinking so deep into all that muscle.)

Will flinched and slapped Hannibal hard across one cheek. The sound and sting ran through him like a bell, clear and pure. Hannibal just breathed beneath him, relaxed. He hadn’t even made a sound. Will spanked him again, on the other side. And again. He hit him until he had to stop to catch his breath, and Hannibal’s skin was pink and warm to the touch. He still hadn’t made a sound and didn’t seem uncomfortable.

“Are you ok?” Will asked nervously.

“Yes, Will. I’m enjoying this.”

Something was bubbling up in Will’s chest and kept expanding. He brought both of his open palms down on Hannibal’s ass as hard as he could, slap,  and Hannibal shifted slightly beneath him with a sigh that was almost a moan. Again, again, again. This was… actually difficult to get a reaction from Hannibal. He really wasn’t hurting him that much, even though it was physically tiring.

Will balled his hand into a fist and brought it down on the center of Hannibal’s right cheek.

“Nn!” Hannibal grunted in surprise and peeked over his shoulder.

“Finally feeling it?” Will asked, voice shaking.

“Don’t doubt that I’m feeling it.” And Will could hear in his voice that he did. He hit him with another closed fist on his reddened skin and Hannibal gasped; again and his hips stuttered; again, again and he was squirming beneath Will.

Will was on fire. Whiting out.

“Fuck, fuck,” he cursed, laying himself on top of Hannibal’s back and thrusting against his exposed skin. It was too much, he needed to come. Shaking, sweaty, he thrust desperately against Hannibal’s ass, skin warm. Beneath him, under his hands. Will shined against Hannibal’s neck, covering him, coming on him.

 


 

“Will?”

“Mm?”

“May I please move?”

“...Yeah.”

Hannibal twisted on his side and took Will into his arms, who had half slid off his back in his stupor.

“Darling. Darling? Are you alright?”

“I don’t know. I’m sorry, Hannibal.”

“You have nothing to apologize for.”

“I feel like I did something wrong.”

“No; that’s not the case.”

“I… I feel wrong.

Hannibal hushed him, kissing his face over and over. “Don’t cry, my dear boy.”

Chapter Text

Laying in Hannibal’s arms, Will received his gentle affections passively. Fingers petting through his hair and rubbing the top of his spine. Lips brushing against his temple. The steady hand on his hip. So long as Will didn’t move, he wouldn’t break the spell of this moment.

His mind and his feelings were a mess, like the debris after a whirlwind, relatively still in the aftermath but ugly and distorted. It felt bad, but not in a way he understood. He had stopped crying, and Hannibal had cleaned the tears from his cheeks with his thumb; kissed there, under his eyes. Hannibal was passive too, waiting for Will.

“I don’t know what I’m doing,” Will said, deep into their shared silence. Then, “I think something’s wrong with me.”

Hannibal leaned back on his pillow to look at Will. “You’re appalled at your reaction to violence and pleasure.”

Will’s stomach twisted. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Would it be more accurate to say that you don’t want to want to hurt me?” Hannibal asked.

Will couldn’t hold his gaze, and stared at Hannibal’s chest. “Maybe.”

Hannibal stroked his side. “Will. What we did was hardly abnormal for the bedroom, and I found it quite enjoyable. Both the sensation and the dynamic.”

“I… I punched you.”

Hannibal chuckled softly. “Yes. In the most densely packed muscle and fat region of my body, where no bones or organs could be harmed.”

Will felt his cheeks get warmed, embarrassed. But he had wanted to hurt Hannibal, harm him, had thought about stabbing him. He flinched as the intrusive thought surfaced again. Hannibal didn’t understand — but could Will tell him the truth?

Hannibal nuzzled his cheek. “Anything you want, or need, or fear, you can trust me with. I would never shame you. I can only accept you as you are, and all that entails.”

And Hannibal meant it. Will swallowed against a whine and held Hannibal back, gripping his arm. He felt tears burn behind his eyes again. “I really wanted to hurt you,” Will whispered as he hid beneath Hannibal’s chin. “I thought — sometimes I have thoughts I don’t believe or want, that don’t feel like mine. And they’re — they’re terrible, Hannibal.” Hannibal held him closer, and Will really did whimper. “My mind is a terrible place.”

Hannibal kissed the top of Will’s head, and rocked him gently. “It’s not terrible.”

“Hah. You’re not in here.”

“Are you in control of your dreams, Will?”

Will frowned. “No?”

“Our thoughts are not the entirety of ourselves, nor are they fully in our control,” Hannibal said. “You cannot hurt me or anyone else with what you think.”

Will thought about that. So often he felt like a bad person, a monster, because of what went on in his head. Normal people didn’t think about murder this often, about the impact of force on human bodies, disposal methods, the why of it all. They didn’t enjoy thinking about it.

But had Will actually harmed Hannibal? No. Was he afraid that he would? Not really — Hannibal could take care of himself if Will ever truly lost it. There was a very real chance that they would hurt each other emotionally, but not physically.

“I don’t want to lose control and have all these thoughts spill out of me,” Will said eventually. “Like a contaminant.”

Hannibal’s chest rose and fell beneath his hand and cheek, the soft pelt of his hair, the thumping of his heart. It sometimes took Will off guard, being this near him, that Hannibal was real and alive and physical, not even inches away. Hannibal wasn’t just another outside force, rattling the windows of the bunker Will had built around him.

“This isn’t a new concern of yours,” Hannibal observed.

“I don’t want to be crazy,” Will whispered.

“There is nothing wrong with you or the way you think,” Hannibal said. “Nor do I think you need be overly concerned. But if you do feel unsafe in your own mind, know that I am here to help you in every way that I can.”

Will breathed hard against Hannibal’s chest, his own tight and aching. “I’m sorry — that’s just. Hard to hear.”

“You’ve been conditioned your whole life to believe otherwise. That because you disrupt the social fabric, you have something to be ashamed of.”

Will laughed darkly. “Yeah. You could sure say that.”

Hannibal tilted Will’s chin up with a finger, amber eyes soft. “It is everyone else who is wrong.”

“I don’t know about that,” Will said with a bare smile.

“They’re wrong about you ,” Hannibal said.

Will wanted Hannibal so badly in that moment, not sexually, but to have him in his life. He wanted to keep this and continue to be important to Hannibal. A part of him wanted to tell Hannibal I want you or I love you or please stay with me — but whenever Will gave him an inch, he took a mile. A circuitous mile. Will had to be cautious with what he gave.

The feeling of Hannibal accepting him like this, taking care of him? Will couldn’t give that up.

Will leaned forward for a kiss, which Hannibal gave him, a slow press of his lips as if he needed to witness every millimeter of contact.

“I want to talk to you about everything,” Will said quietly. “The shadows in my mind, what I’m ashamed of. Only I’m not so good at talking about it.”

“You can talk to me about anything, Will.”

“You know, you can tell me too,” Will said. “What you’re afraid of.”

Hannibal’s eyes became somber as he stroked Will’s cheek with the back of his fingers. “Yes. Though I don’t wish to burden you.”

“This has to be a two way street. There’s no way I’m talking about this shit if you won’t tell me things too.”

“I don’t wish to keep anything from you.”

Will hesitated. There was something Hannibal was keeping from him, and Will could only see the silhouette of it. Hannibal’s temptation. His not-paraphilia. What made him see himself as a bad person — and that wasn’t so different from how Will felt about himself, was it? That he was fundamentally bad and harmful, and needed to try so hard to be good?

“Have you ever harmed someone, Hannibal?”

His fingers stilled behind Will’s jaw, and his face took on that eerie blankness that sometimes descended. His hesitation was answer enough. Yes. Hannibal had hurt someone before. And he didn’t want to tell Will. Hannibal took a deep breath, eyes downcast for a moment. “Only ask me for things you want, Will,” he said in a flat voice. “For I will give them to you.”

Will gripped his arm, and Hannibal’s eyes were back on his, guarded and curious. “I want to know,” Will said firmly. “Please tell me.”

Hannibal sighed, a flicker of a sad smile. He kissed Will again, like a goodbye, and Will felt a rush of sorrow. “Yes. I’ve hurt people before,” Hannibal said. “Come — I’ll put on some tea.”

 


 

They pulled on their sleep clothes and made their way to the kitchen. Although it wasn’t actually that late, it felt like the rest of the world was asleep, and they were trespassing into a quiet moment within the darkness. That was how a lot of moments with Hannibal felt; like they were in the eye of a storm.

Will sat at the island and watched as Hannibal prepared their tea. The set looked Japanese, and the way Hannibal handled each piece had the weight of ritual. Gracefully, he set the water to boil and scooped the dry leaves into the pot.

Hannibal looked calm and distant, and didn’t look directly at Will. He looked vulnerable.

The two of them, alone in the world at that moment.

“Sometimes, I drop a teacup on purpose,” Hannibal said, lifting the pot with two elegant hands. “Just to remind myself that it breaks, and won’t come together again.”

Will watched the stream of liquid fill one teacup, then another.

“When I was a child, I killed two men,” Hannibal said, setting the teapot down carefully. “And I nearly took another life, when I was a young man.”

Will could feel the force of Hannibal’s confession like a gravitational weight beneath the floor. Pulling at them. Shifting the whole reality. He said it so clearly and calmly, yet Will knew it was difficult for Hannibal to voice aloud — that he never talked about this. Tears sprung up in Will’s eyes.

“I have a tremendous capacity for harm, and violence,” Hannibal continued. He sat across the island from Will, contemplating his cup of tea with the tap of one finger to its rim. His eyes were glassy when he looked up. “I’ve considered it multiple times throughout my life. It’s only through the grace and guidance of those I hold dear that you know of me through a colleague's referral, and not as one of your case studies.”

“Considered it,” Will repeated faintly.

“Killing people,” Hannibal said.

A tear slipped down Will’s face and he took a shuddering breath. There was a twinge of pain on Hannibal’s face, seeing Will cry for this. “What happened?” Will forced the question out between his teeth.

Hannibal took a slow breath. His fingers came around the edge of the teacup, cradling it. “My family and I were at our vacation home during the winter. A terrible snowstorm descended, and we were trapped. A group of soviet soldiers came to us for shelter.” Hannibal’s throat clicked and his eyes went dead. “There wasn’t enough food.”

Food.

“The food ran out. We had to wait for the first thaw.”

The meals. The excess.

Will wiped the tears from his eyes, and tried to control the shaking in his jaw.

“We tried to ration,” Hannibal continued. “Tensions rose, and the snow didn’t let up. My father argued with the soldiers, and they killed him. Then my mother, after a few days. A few became sick, and weak. They were going to hurt my sister next, so I cut one of the strong ones in the throat while he slept. Another, I gutted. My sister and I barricaded ourselves in the cellar, and the rest were too weak to do anything but wait to die.”

Will was still crying, blinking down silent tears as he clenched his jaw to stop from bawling outright. He didn’t know what to say. Sorry was a word that meant nothing. He felt like he had been gutted. “You were a child,” he managed to say.

“I was what I am now,” Hannibal said.

“That doesn’t make you… dangerous to me. That doesn’t make you a bad person.”

Hannibal smiled faintly. “No. It did not make me what I am. I already was this way.”

“I know better than to indulge my appetite. But hunger is frustrating.”

Hannibal’s inability to maintain boundaries.

“I’ve considered it.”

Hannibal wasn’t just telling Will that this awful trauma had occurred in his childhood, where he was forced to commit such a terrible act. Will understood what Hannibal was also saying: that he wanted to kill people. That he was tempted to do so, like claiming a birthright.

But he was also afraid that in telling Will this, he would drive him away.

“We… we talk violent potential, and susceptibility,” Will said, blinking down at the tea set. “Stress and plasticity. You have the neurological traits of a killer and a childhood stressor, and you don’t — you don’t hurt people. That matters , Hannibal.”

“Yes,” Hannibal said after a moment, voice lacking it’s usual conviction. “I believe it does.”

Will covered Hannibal’s hands with his own, warm around the teacup. Hannibal looked so vulnerable that it hurt to see, raw skin against the freezing snow. “I’m not leaving you,” Will said. “You’re not going to scare me off.”

Hannibal took a shuddering breath. Will felt his hands squeezing hard around the cup. “I want you to know everything about me,” Hannibal confessed. “To see me. And what I am, is dangerous. Even to those I hold dear.”

“Even if it’s dangerous, I want that too. I want you to know me.” Will stroked the backs of his hands gently. “I feel like I can tell you anything, now.”

Hannibal took Will’s hands and kissed them like they were something precious. He breathed deep against Will’s palm, wet eyes shut. “I never want to hurt you, dear boy. Never. I didn’t wish to burden you with this.”

“It’s not a burden,” Will bit out, taking Hannibal’s face in his hands. “It can’t be. It’s you.” He stood up and leaned awkwardly over the island, kissing him. Each of Hannibal’s breaths was raw, and Will kissed that away, kissed Hannibal back to being sure of them.

Chapter Text

Will couldn’t stop touching Hannibal. He came around the island and sat in his lap, hugging and kissing him tenderly. Hannibal felt brittle under Will’s hands. The confession had taken something out of him, and he was raw and distant all at once.

Will saw the blinding white of snow and cold, and the cracks in the fortress. The gnawing, empty pit at the center of all things. Hannibal’s love came from that place, it’s tendrils drawing Will back into that dense hunger.

Vivid as any memory, he saw Hannibal as a child, gaunt and thin, crouching in cellar with his arms wrapped around a small child. Dark and cold shivered along the walls. The boy grew around the girl like a cage, bones stretching skin to its breaking point, tearing open to reveal obsidian beneath. The cavern of his abdomen became mouth-like, ribs jutting out, large enough now to hold the girl safely inside. Milky white eyes. Antlers sprouting from the crown of his head.

And beyond them, the flurries of snow, the ruins of a mansion, the gleaming pillars of a cathedral, alcoves and galleries and courtyards filled to bursting with life.

Will kissed the fringes of hair at Hannibal’s temple, his eyes stinging. Hannibal roused slowly from his statuesque manner, and turned to kiss Will’s neck with reverent, chaste lips.

They drank tea quietly, holding each other close. Hannibal had an arm wrapped around Will where he sat across one leg, and he set his teacup down after every sip to caress Will’s knee. Hannibal was warm and solid to lean against. He needed to care for Will in that moment, and Will gave himself up to that caring, feeling almost like a child as Hannibal poured him more tea and stirred in honey; as he tucked Will’s hair out of his face while he drank.

“I’m glad you told me,” Will said quietly, after the silence had tempered some of their emotions.

Hannibal nosed Will’s jaw. “There need not be secrets between us.”

Will stared at the ceramic cup between his hands. He was settled in this moment, but his thoughts circled like vultures overhead, waiting to pick and tear once he was away from the bizarre easiness of being with Hannibal. “I’m not afraid of your secrets,” Will told him.

There seemed to be some hesitation in the stroke of Hannibal’s thumb against his knee. Will set the teacup down and turned to look at Hannibal. “If you tell me I should be, I’ll punch you someplace less densely-muscled.”

Hannibal’s brows rose. “I don’t think you’re foolish.”

“I’m not that either.” Will cupped Hannibal’s face with both of his hands, marveling at the way his palms fit against the dramatic slope of his cheeks. Amber eyes flicked between his own, like Will was an illusion Hannibal struggled to grasp. “Do you think I will run?”

“Although I seek to understand you, and anticipate you, I cannot predict you. You are mercurial, oscillating like the surface of water.” Hannibal paused. “Had I told you differently, you might be less accepting.”

“You mean like if you tried to scare me off with it?” Will tried to keep his voice gentle. “The semantics don’t matter, Hannibal, I… I see it.” Hannibal’s eyes shone, the cold melting away in Will’s hands. “You can tell me the rest later,” Will said, the sorrow welling up. “I know there’s more.”

Hannibal pulled Will closer. Will found his mouth as natural as breathing, as necessary, firm kisses upon his lips. Hannibal sighed his name, and their mouths slid open to create one warm space. Their tongues curled forward, gently exploring, making the familiar terrain of their mouths a revelation. Will felt heat spread out through his body, and wanted to thaw all the boundaries between them.

Hannibal’s breath trembled, his hands gripping Will’s robe. Will couldn’t let go of Hannibal’s skull or release his mouth, not for the awkward angle twisted on his lap, not for the late hour. Will sucked Hannibal’s lip and he did the same, parting only to breathe and for the pleasure of coming together once more. Will felt tears against his nose and gasped, struck.

Hannibal said something in a foreign tongue, and pulled back just enough to see him. “My darling, brave boy.” He shuddered, amber eyes damp and raw. “My beloved.”

“Yours,” Will affirmed, his throat tight. He stroked the tear away with his thumb, and without even properly thinking about it, took the salty sacrament into his mouth.

Hannibal closed his eyes, head tipping back. Like it was salvation.

“Let’s go back to bed,” Will said, though it was another minute before he was ready to climb down from Hannibal’s lap. They could hardly stay out of each other’s arms all the way upstairs.

In the bedroom, Hannibal peeled the robe from Will’s shoulders and arms, leaving his side only to disrobe and hang them both inside the closet door. He laid Will out on the center of the bed, and it was easy to become the object of Hannibal’s reverence, the idol on the altar. Hannibal laid beside Will and caressed his shoulder.

“It’s late,” Hannibal said, but his hand moved like he couldn’t stop delivering affection, up the sweep of Will’s trapezius, fingers tracing the pulse of his artery, looking like he wanted to follow the paths of Will’s veins through to each extremity and back.

Will swallowed, wanting Hannibal to make a map of his skin, and also feeling the weight of his exhaustion. He turned into Hannibal’s arms, nuzzling under his chin. “Let’s try to sleep. We have all weekend.”

Hannibal kissed him softly on the forehead. “Yes, my love.”

Will fell asleep to the soft caress of Hannibal’s hand, and the steady rhythm of his breathing.

 


 

In the morning, Will woke to find Hannibal reading on his side of the bed. Will blinked the sleep from his eyes and snuggled up against his hip, and Hannibal wrapped an arm around him.

“Good morning, Will.”

“Morning,” Will said sleepily, peering at the book, though it was in German. “How long have you been up?”

“Three hours. It’s almost ten.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t wake me.”

“I’m glad I didn’t—you could use the rest.” Hannibal tucked the bookmark in and set the book aside, smiling down at Will and brushing his hair away from his face. “I have hardly left your side.”

Will’s cheeks went warm. “Don’t want you too.” He spread his hand across Hannibal’s chest, around to his ribs.

“There’s coffee for you.”

“What about my kiss?”

Hannibal smirked, leaning down to meet Will’s upturned face. “Sweet boy,” he murmured, and kissed his lips.

Will felt tingles spread out into his jaw. He wondered if he would ever get used to kissing Hannibal. “I’m not that sweet,” he said, without much protest.

“I’ll have you sweet, sour, bitter…”

“Umami?”

Hannibal chuckled and kissed him again firmly. Will opened his mouth in need, and Hannibal hovered above him, just lips brushing before his tongue sweeped the tips of Will’s teeth. Shuddering with a pulse of heat, Will clutched his side, tongue darting out to find his lips. Hannibal relented and brought their mouths to merge, and Will indulged in a slow swirl of his tongue. Hannibal’s eyes were heavy when he pulled back.

“What do you want to do today?” Will asked. “I mean, I want to do something for you, something you want to do.”

“I only wish to spend time with you.”

Will felt his blush deepen. “Well… besides that?”

Hannibal stroked his jaw fondly, looking content and at ease. More than that—he looked happy. “Thank you, Will. I’ll have to consider.”

“Maybe consider while I take a shower, unless you want to join me?”

Hannibal’s hand trailed down to Will’s hip and squeezed firmly, nearly making him gasp. “I would love to join you.”

Hannibal’s bathroom was stupidly fancy, a deep tub set against the far wall with ample marble framing, a glass shower with a bench next to it, and huge mirrors. There were two sinks that looked more like fountains than sinks, and dark blue tiling on the walls to match the bedroom. Will appreciated the heated floor, but didn’t really understand what one was supposed to do with all the open space, nearly as big as his tiny dorm.

“May I undress you?” Hannibal asked, all proper and unembarrassed. Will shrugged and gave him a nod, like it was casual.

The way Hannibal undressed him made Will wonder what it would be like to be dressed by him. It was ritualistic, removing each article—unbuttoning the sleep shirt instead of pulling it over Will’s head; folding it over his arm while he kneeled to pull Will’s pants down. Hannibal looked all the way up his lithe legs, serene, but the attention was making Will more than a little hard.

“This is really a thing for you, too,” Will observed, crossing his arms for warmth while Hannibal put his pajamas in the hamper.

“I find providing and grooming to be comforting,” Hannibal said, facing Will while he attended to his own clothing. “It’s a tangible way of showing care.”

Will watched him expose himself, though Hannibal wasn’t vulnerable when naked. He looked natural and powerful, graceful even stepping out of the soft trousers, so beautiful it made Will’s chest tight. “It’s also a means of control,” Will said.

“I don’t control you,” Hannibal replied, closing the hamper top and moving back to Will’s side.

“It would be thrilling to, in small doses.”

“Yes.” Hannibal touched his elbow and guided him to the shower.

“Arousing?”

“In more ways than one.”

Hannibal kept a hand on Will as he opened the shower door and turned on the water, feeling for the perfect temperature. Will let himself be guided in, smirking. “It’s safer to be in control.”

Hannibal put Will under the spray, stroking up and down his arms. “Often.”

“I don’t know if I always like to be in control, or if it’s just with you.”

Hannibal licked his lips at that, stepping closer. Will wrapped his arms around his neck, and then their bodies were touching, so warm and easy. “I hope it’s just me,” Hannibal said in a low voice.

Water cascaded through his hair and down the dramatic planes of his face, currents around his collar and the greying hair of his chest. Will pressed his cock lazily against Hannibal’s thigh, remembering the shower they took the other day. “It’s all just you,” Will said, and watched Hannibal light up, sharp as the facets of a diamond.

Hannibal kissed him until Will melted against the wall, and then sank to his knees. And that—fucking hell—felt so good it was almost like dying. Hannibal didn’t let him savor, sucking his cock down greedily, and Will couldn’t resist grinding into the hot clutch of his throat until he came.

Dizzy, Will lost sight of the steamed shower as his legs went weak. Hannibal held him up, secure with an arm around his waist. “Jesus fucking christ,” Will gasped, shaking faintly. Hannibal kissed him, and Will didn’t shy away from the taste of himself in Hannibal’s mouth.

“Do you want to come?” Will asked.

“No, thank you.”

Will wiped the water from his face a few times and looked at Hannibal. He didn’t see anything beyond adoration, perhaps more desperate than before, but none of the cold of last night. Will didn’t know if it was fear or guilt; he knew those feelings well, and they didn’t map onto hollow in the center of Hannibal’s chest.

Loneliness. Isolation. The profound knowledge of one's otherness. Will placed his hand over the soft rise of Hannibal’s stomach. “Are you alright?” he asked softly.

“More than,” Hannibal said warmly.

Will bit his lip, hand sliding to the center of his chest. “It would be ok if you weren’t.”

Hannibal took a deep breath, smile fading out. “It is very difficult for me to share myself with others. With you, it is far easier, and for the first time in a long time I find myself wanting to share without inhibition.” He hesitated—there—there was the ancient, cold pain. Hannibal closed his eyes for a moment, recalibrating, remembering, navigating the labyrinth of his mind. His eyes opened, and almost looked red. “My most pressing… doubt… is whether sharing will harm you.”

Will felt a pang deep in his chest, followed by a rush of anger. “You’re a psychiatrist. You’ve worked with trauma before.”

“Yes…”

“You know that’s bullshit then.”

Hannibal glanced aside, though his hands kept moving softly over Will’s skin. “Neither the traumatized nor mentally ill are more likely to be violent. Rather, they are more likely to be the victims of violence and abuse.”

“What happened to you didn’t make you.”

Hannibal nodded. “It did shape me. I don’t fear going into the past with you, only what you will find of me there.”

Will bit his lip. He leaned his forehead against Hannibal’s collar. “Wash me?” he asked.

Hannibal took the soap and began cleaning Will, giving the young man time to gather his thoughts. Hannibal could be too honest at times. It was almost manipulative, the way Hannibal disarmed himself for Will, confessing his obsession and giving Will absolutely everything he could ask for. Sometimes Will wished that Hannibal would push, or own up to his wants, or ever, ever ask Will for anything.

Hannibal did not just have childhood trauma.

Will had pegged Hannibal day one as having sociopathic traits; specifically, a lack of empathy, disregard for the boundaries of others, and a stunted emotional range. He had sensed the alchemical components in Hannibal for violence. And it hadn’t bothered Will—there were plenty of neurotypical people who were atrociously harmful. Regardless of how his odd mind worked, Hannibal was kind to him, and in his own way genuinely cared.

Hannibal had warned him that he was a dangerous, manipulative person. Will had known that.

This was something else.

Hannibal wanted to hurt people. To kill them.

Will should have been horrified. This should have been the last in a series of red flags warning Will to get out. He knew this. But the idea of wanting to hurt and kill people wasn’t unfamiliar to him. In all the cases he studied, there was motivation: anger, desperation, curiosity, fetish, fear, delusion, love. He understood why someone would want to kill.

He was, maybe, afraid of his own lack of disgust. He couldn’t quite look at that directly yet.

“Are you alright?” Hannibal asked, breaking the quiet as he rinsed the suds from Will’s hair.

Will nodded. “I think so. I feel settled—glad I asked, and glad you told me.” Hannibal’s fingers kept stroking through his hair. “I don’t know what it means that you’re so easy for me to accept.”

Will wiped his face and looked at Hannibal. “I can only say how your acceptance feels,” Hannibal said, eyes glowing warm. He kissed Will gently, and all that love hit the center of his chest like a bolt of sunlight.

“Yeah,” Will said. “Me too.”

 


 

The Baltimore Aquarium was busy on a Saturday, mostly with families, parents attempting to heard their smaller kids through the chaos, children and teens blissfully unaware of people around them. Will stuck close to Hannibal’s side, letting him guide them away from the crowds. There were so many people, and Will felt pulled in a hundred directions at once—but he could turn his mind to the serene tanks, or to Hannibal, both of them anchors.

People looked, occasionally. Hannibal’s appearance marked them out, and their closeness did not quite appear to be familial. Their eyes fell on Will like the barbs of thistle, and he tried to let Hannibal’s words and attention brush them off. There was something about being around Hannibal that made Will feel untouchable.

Blue light bathed them as they sat before the glass of a huge tank, reaching beyond the confines of the high ceiling like the promise of gothic cathedrals. Up and up, to the surface and light above. The dim viewing room made the expanse of water seem to glow, sharks, turtles, and rays swimming lazily around darting schools of fish.

Kids pressed up against the glass, shadows against blue, gasping whenever a large fish floated by. Will tilted his head up, blocking them out, and imagined for a moment that it was just himself and Hannibal, alone in the world.

They both were content to watch the tank in each other’s company. Hannibal took Will’s hand into his lap at some point, and Will wasn’t sure that their breaths and the beating of their hearts wasn’t the same.

“Strange, that the fish knows nothing of the beauty of the school’s movement,” Hannibal said at last, watching the silvery flicker of the cloud of fish.

Will watched their movements for a moment, the shifting angles revealing new facets of color on the scales. The mass bounced away from larger creatures, a constant of movement. “We’re here to see it; would it be beautiful if we weren’t?”

“Beauty isn’t entirely contrived. When we are long gone, there will still be stars, born from the roiling chaos at the pit of the universe. Any conscious creature could not fail to know that beauty.”

Will wondered, glancing at him. “Do you believe in god?” Will asked.

Hannibal’s lips pulled into a smile, like the question was an old, tired joke. “God and I have had disagreements about his existence.”

Will imagined him then as a fallen angel, coiling smoke in a three-piece-suit. “I’ve never understood the belief in a loving or benevolent god,” Will said. “Or any god invested in his creations.”

“God does not truck with morality,” Hannibal said, his dark eyes gleaming. “He is a being of aesthetics. He delights as much in the grace of swans as the spread of typhus.”

Hannibal’s thumb stroked over Will’s knuckles. A shark swam lazily by the glass. “And if god doesn’t exist,” Will said, watching the cast of blue light on Hannibal’s cheeks. “Then beauty is without design. I’m not sure that you can say it’s a constant.”

“Or it’s made.”

“By us.”

“Is that not like being god?” Hannibal asked.

Will chuckled, ducking his head, the movement bringing him closer to Hannibal. He almost leaned against him, feeling the tug of closeness, but chose to keep enough space to look at him, interlocking their fingers. “God’ll strike you down, if your ego gets any bigger.”

The hood of Hannibal’s eyes was dark, looking down at Will like he wanted to kiss him, here amongst the pedestrians and the kept sharks. “At times, I want to test him.”

Will’s heart kicked up in his throat. Making art, testing god, the grace of Hannibal’s hands on a scalpel. He almost became dizzy with it, sinking into blue, a blossom of blood making the sharks circle. Will blinked, and the vision was gone. “I know,” Will said softly. “It’s in your nature to test the rules.”

Hannibal’s expression sobered, though he smoothed his free hand over Will’s. “I can’t abide ugliness in my life, Will,” he said. “I’m full up with it.”

Will shook his head lightly, feeling for once condensed down to one point. “You’re not,” he insisted. “You see beauty in so much; I don’t know how you do it.” Unlike him, seeing so much ugliness.

Hannibal lifted Will’s hand and kissed his fingers briefly. “It’s easy, now.”

Will blushed, and took their hands into his own lap, glancing around at the other aquarium-goers crowding the tank. He wished none of them were there. It felt wrong for them to intrude on Will and Hannibal’s shared reality. “It doesn’t feel so easy to me.”

Hannibal pulled Will’s gaze back to him with a squeeze of his hand, sharp features suffused in all his affection. “I know. Let me show you, Will.”

Chapter Text

Anal sex wasn’t exactly what Will expected. He had some big assumptions from the nebulous overlap between sex ed and pornography, and his own experimentation. It was still good—so, so good with Hannibal. It just didn’t always look like what Will expected.

And bodies were inconvenient.

First of all, he was frustrated to find that his body didn’t get used to it, and then stay used to it. Hannibal would open Will with the patience of a Saint, and then the next morning he would be just as unyielding as before. Or if his digestion was funny, or he was really stressed, Will just couldn’t take the same amount of anal stimulation before it became overwhelming. Sometimes Will wanted Hannibal’s cock in him so badly he could cry, but it just wasn’t going to happen.

And the first time Will saw the color of lube after sex, he nearly died of embarrassment. Many private internet searches later and Will had no real idea how to make himself cleaner inside, and the vague fear that any attempt would damage his intestinal tract.

But when Hannibal was sunk deep inside him, with no burn, whether draped over him to almost crushing or reared back to one point of contact—god it was good. Will would feel so full, feel the hot and cold shivers up his spine. It felt more vulnerable and intimate than anything else. Maybe it was because, in those moments, Hannibal could really hurt him.

He was always so careful. Sweet, in his own way.

No matter what they did, Hannibal always made it feel like sex. Like fucking. Like the most intense bodily connection they could have. That was how Will experienced it, sprawled on his belly and clutching the sheets, Hannibal between his legs two fingers deep, using the momentum of his body to fuck his hand into Will, shaking the bed frame, drilling his prostate. Will didn’t know he could make the sounds he was making, but he sure couldn’t help it now.

“Fuck, fuck,” Will whined, grinding back on Hannibal’s fingers when he paused thrusting to catch his breath. Will didn’t even want to touch his trapped cock, not wanting it to end. Hannibal started up again, pushing Will up the bed with every roll of his body, Will’s hands braced on the headboard. “God, yeah yeah,” Will murmured, delirious with the building pressure.

The sounds Hannibal made behind him made it clear he felt it to. Heavy breaths, choked grunts, his large hand sliding down Will’s spine and pushing him further into the mattress.

Will came slow, clamping down, with a long cry into the pillow. Hannibal stroked him inside steadily until Will was writhing, then slowly slid his fingers out. Will groaned in satisfaction. He felt thoroughly fucked.

He heard the wet slaps of Hannibal stroking himself, and gasped. “Come on me, please,” Will said, delighting in Hannibal’s answering moan. He spread his legs and tilted his hips up, embarrassed but determined, and heard Hannibal’s hand speed up.

Will knew Hannibal’s orgasms by now, not perfectly but well enough to feel them rise, breaths and muscle contractions and the subtle, half-sounds in the back of Hannibal’s throat. Hannibal often denied himself, wholly satisfied in pleasuring Will, and seemed to enjoy delaying his gratification. But he was also less comfortable losing control, even an inch of it, during these rare, blinding moments of intensity.

Will looked over his shoulder. Hannibal was so beautiful when he came, face painted with intensity and strong body bowed like a martyr—struck, devastated. He looked that now, slitted eyes finding Will, coming on his backside with a snarl that bared sharp teeth. Will looked down at the red hot head of his cock, glistening, and shuddered.

“Fuck,” Will cursed into the pillow, and Hannibal chuckled, laying down half atop Will, for the moment reveling in their mess.

“I concur,” Hannibal said in a low voice. He nuzzled Will’s head until his cheek was exposed for a kiss, and Will turned his head to find Hannibal’s lips with his own.

It wasn’t the first time this weekend that Will thought to say he loved Hannibal. He didn’t, unsure.

“I could touch you every day and never cease to be amazed,” Hannibal said. “Beautiful boy.”

Will deflected. “You do all the work. I just get to lay here and be lazy.”

“I enjoy your laziness.”

“Apparently.” Will grinned, sighed. “Wish we could just stay in bed all day.”

Hannibal nodded in agreement. “Breakfast, and then I’ll drive you to school?” Hannibal proposed.

Will nodded, turning on his side to snuggle close. “Yeah. Just five more minutes.”

 


 

School was school. Will worked his way through Monday and Tuesday, cramming to make up for the weekend, where he hardly did any of his homework. Maybe the distraction was good, but when he tried to sleep in his small bed at night, his thoughts ran circles and circles around himself and Hannibal.

Tuesday night, wide awake at 2AM, long after he’d called Hannibal to say goodnight. Was Hannibal like the killers he studied, or wasn’t he? And where was the difference, truly?

He doesn’t hurt people, Will thought. Everyone thinks about killing someone at some point in their life, don’t they? And Hannibal won’t. That’s the difference. It’s in his actions. Good people don’t hurt other people.

It made sense, but it didn’t feel right, like watching the calm surface of stagnant water and knowing there were jaws beneath. It felt like justification.

Good people don’t want to hurt people.

Will had never hurt someone like that in his life, but did he believe he was good? No. He felt rotten by what he understood, bloated with corpses and the terrible desires of killers who put them in the ground. He desperately needed to believe in good and evil, even if it meant damning himself.

But he couldn’t damn Hannibal. He couldn’t be disgusted or appalled.

The foundation of logic was sinking. Built on sand.

Do I even know who I am anymore?

I know who I am with him.

Will turned on his belly and dangled off the edge of the bed, reaching for the cardboard boxes underneath. He pulled one out, and tossed the old school notebooks out until he reached his prize at the bottom: a heavy square photo book with black cardstock pages. The corners were worn, the plastic slip for a title card blank, not even his name on the first page. If he ever lost it, he didn’t want anyone to know it was his.

He sat back on the bed against the wall and cracked open the book, the old feeling of guilty excitement rising through his bones. The first chunk of the book mostly had newspaper clippings, and the rest was filled with printed pages, all neatly glued down, a centimeter border of black paper between each scrap. Murders. Violent assaults. Bodies turned up in the bayou and rivers he called home. Famous cases, pages pulled out of library books, graphic crime scene photos. The Zodiac. Bundy. Gaskins. Little know cases. Cases only he saw patterns in. Sadists, spree killers, regular people who just snapped. Just touching the pages, Will remembered all the details.

And the feeling. The feeling of killing someone.

See? See? Hobbs whispered in his head

Hobbs’ case spanned multiple pages. The coverage was thorough. Past him, a few pages were dedicated to an unsolved case about a mushroom garden of corpses. There were only about a 1/5th of the pages left before he would have to get another one.

Diving into these cases was his guilty pleasure. And he didn’t do it for the victims; the stories he told weren’t for them. It was a sick, twisted, inhuman fascination.

I can help people, he always told himself. So long as I can help people.

 


 

Wednesday. Will couldn’t wait for the weekend. He needed to show Hannibal the book and to talk to him about the case that was preoccupying him.

Will: Hey. Can I come over tonight? I’ll need to leave in the morning.

Hannibal: Of course. I would love to have you. What time?

Will: Last class ends at 4:30.

Hannibal: I will not be able to drive you, but I’ll be home. I’m having the harpsichord rewired so the technician may still be there when you arrive.

Will: Ok, I’ll bus over after class.

Hannibal: Lovely. How did you sleep?

Will: Not much.

Hannibal: I won’t keep you up too late then.

Will: You’re no fun.

Hannibal: We’ll see about that.

 


 

After his last class, Will boarded the bus to Hannibal’s, bag heavy with his scrapbook and laptop. The latter was giving him more and more grief, running slow and overheating quickly, so he did most of his work on the library computers. But he needed to be able to work on the go, and Hannibal didn’t have a computer, just his tablet. Will was pretty sure that a new battery and external hard drive would fix the issue. He had them picked out; all he had to do was ask Hannibal for financial help.

Which he kept putting off.

A “full” ride with student employment and government loans didn’t cover all the miscellaneous expenses of college. There was no help with textbooks and Will’s were often over a hundred dollars, if he were to buy them new. Lab fees, any food outside the dining hall, laundry detergent, coffee, bottom of the shelf booze, a book bag that wasn’t falling apart. Will needed to be frugal and he was reaching the bottom of his bank account.

It would be nothing to Hannibal to pay his expenses for the month, or, hell, to buy him a new computer. So despite Will’s guilt about it, he would ask.

The guilt for the book weighed heavier than that, burning a hole in his mind. Will resolved to get at least one thing off his chest tonight.

But all thoughts of the scrapbook or money fled from him when he opened the door to Hannibal’s house.

He had been given a key weeks ago in case of emergency, but he liked to let himself in instead of knocking like a guest. It was a pleasure to find Hannibal in his natural habitat, usually the kitchen, drawn by the smell of whatever he was cooking. But when Will stepped inside today, he heard a conversation coming from the living room. He dropped his bag beneath the sideboard and hung his coat by the door, frowning. The conversation—Hannibal and another man—sounded sociable. Will had not expected Hannibal to get chummy with the technician.

Will walked to the living room to find Hannibal standing with a svelte black man by one of the display desks, another man fiddling with the harpsichord across the room. Hannibal and his guest both had glasses of white wine; he was in full blown entertaining mode. Will felt a prickle of annoyance. Hannibal lifted his head to the door and greeted Will with a dazzling smile. “Will, there’s someone here I’d like you to meet.”

The other man turned his wide, catlike eyes to Will, and Will nearly froze to the spot. Cold. Empty. Observant. Will’s heart seized in his chest.

Will unstuck his feet from the ground and walked to Hannibal’s side, close enough for Hannibal to rest his hand on the small of his back while he made introductions. “Will, this is Tobias Budge. A musician with an instrument shop downtown, and a fellow patron of the arts. Tobias, this is Will Graham, a prodigious student of behavior at Johns Hopkins.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Will,” Tobias lied, sticking out his hand.

Will shook his hand with a brief smile. “Likewise.”

Hannibal was practically glowing. Tobias’s face was neutrally polite, but he regarded Will with both curiosity and disgust, a twitch of his cheek and brow betraying his friendly exterior.

“We were speaking of instruments,” Hannibal informed Will. “Would you like a glass?” Will shook his head, tempted to take a sip from Hannibal’s to show Tobias that he was intruding.

“My instruments are stringed with the finest catgut from Italy,” Tobias explained, his attention more given to Hannibal than Will. “There’s no comparison between sound. Not to talk business in such fine company, but I do hope the symphony takes me up on my offer.”

“Even the finest strings can’t save the second violins from a poor player,” Hannibal said with a secretive smile.

Tobias laughed, discordant. “Indeed.” His eyes slid to Will. “Do you play an instrument, Will?”

“No,” he said tersely, hating the superior look on Tobias’s face. “One of my neighbors had a piano I would play on. Pretty sure all I know is the pink panther.”

“Well if you did have interest, I teach lessons,” Tobias said.

Will leaned closer to Hannibal, whose hand found his hip. “If I had the time, Hannibal would teach me. We were talking about gut strings the other week, though.”

“Oh?”

Will grinned. “Oh yeah. We were discussing all the different methods of using human body parts. Unless you’re making a lot of sausage, better string the intestines.”

Tobias’s eyes went hard. “Interesting, if morbid.”

“Will is a student of criminal behavior,” Hannibal said proudly. “It’s how we met; I’ve written my share of articles about abnormal behavior.”

“Gut is gut,” Tobias said with an amused smile. “Though a goat gives significantly more to work with than a man.” He sipped his wine.

“Seven or eight meters,” Will said. “How much goes into a string?”

Tobias’s fingers tightened on the wine stem, and Will delighted in his discomfort. “It depends on the string,” he answered after a moment, turning his attention fully to Will. “Even the finest violin string uses a few lengths of gut, twisted together.”

Hannibal had a few instruments out on the display desk, and let go of Will’s waist to pick up a violin and put it in the crook of his neck. Instead of taking the bow, he ran a finger down the string, eliciting a faint sound. “I imagine you could get several violins out of a man,” he said playfully. He held the instrument upright for Will to see—it was beautifully carved and decorated with a floral pattern of inset wood. “This was given to me by Lisa Van Aller when she retired from the symphony.”

“It’s beautiful,” Will said. He had no idea who that was, but Tobias was quick to chime in about his opinion on her legacy with the orchestra.

Will took Hannibal’s wine glass after all, and received only a tsk from Hannibal. He studied Tobias behind the bulbous rim as the conversation went on. He and Hannibal got along well, though for Will the conversation was growing tedious. The technician by the harpsichord called Tobias over to consult on something, and Hannibal smiled warmly at Will, taking his wine glass back.

“I’m glad you came over,” Hannibal said. In another circumstance, his good mood would have been infectious.

Tobias Budge was dangerous. Every instinct Will had sounded clear. They were in a room with an intelligent psychopath, who was currently testing the tune on the harpsichord by playing Bach.

Will smiled. “Do you want to invite him to dinner?”

 


 

 

“Strudel with broccoli in anchovy broth,” Hannibal announced as he served the starter on Will and Tobias’s chargers, the stuffed pastries arranged elegantly with a pool of red sauce. “From Liguria, one of the most beautiful coastal regions of Italy.”

“Wonderful,” praised Tobias. Hannibal merely nodded his thanks and poured them all red wine before taking his seat at the head of the table.

“I try my hand at cuisines from all over the world, but Italy holds a special place in my heart,” Hannibal said. “There is a treasure trove of culinary wonders in each region.”

“I was just there last year when I changed manufacturers,” Tobias said. “In Tuscany. This is delicious!” He turned his attention to Will. “Have you ever been, Will?”

Will snorted quietly. Tobias only saw fit to include him in the conversation as a way to put him down. “I’ve never been out of the country.”

“Ah. A shame. There’s so much a young man can gain from travel.”

“So I’ve heard,” Will said flatly.

“Florence is one of the many places I’d like to show you,” Hannibal said.

Will blushed, and smiled into his food. It really was delicious. They hadn’t talked about taking trips together, but Hannibal had asked after his school schedule and summer plans. Going somewhere away with Hannibal, with no school work, sounded heavenly.

“How long have you two known each other?” Tobias asked.

Will’s smile fell. He hid behind the wine glass.

“About five months,” Hannibal answered. If he was irritated at the personal question, he didn’t show it at all. “Will came to me regarding his research, and the rest is history.”

A short history, Will thought. Tobias nodded, as if that explained anything. It was plain by the way Will and Hannibal had interacted that they had some sort of intimate relationship, but Will could feel the scandalous questions floating in the air. So young. What’s he getting out of this besides gourmet food? It made Will’s skin crala.

“It’s good to spend time with the next generation,” Tobias said airily. “I daresay I learn as much from my students as they do.”

Flat platitudes. Why did Tobias want to get in Hannibal’s good graces? Social climbing?

“Just so. I certainly am in debt to Will in that regard.”

“I picked apart one of his most renowned papers on our first meetings,” Will said with a little smirk.

“I was charmed,” Hannibal said warmly.

“I was rude,” Will countered, “but everyone has their exceptions.”

“What faucet of behavior are you studying now?” Tobias asked.

Will hesitated; took a bite. “The criminally insane.” He pushed his glasses up his nose and looked across the table at Tobias. There was something beneath his mild demeanor, a sheen of oily toxins and predation that was oh so familiar. And, like a snake caught out in its hidden spot, Tobias gave warning: a slant tightness around the eyes.

“I’m looking at models of predictive behavior,” Will continued, for once holding eye contact. “Environmental factors. Childhood antisocial and violent behavior. Brain trauma. Abusive upbringings. Skinning cats.”

Tobias gave a minute flinch. “Catch them early?”

Will shook his head. “Not really. That kind of precedent would be unethical and impractical, and likely just lead to the further traumatization of abuse victims. It’s about understanding their history to intercept them along their spree or pattern.”

Tobias lifted his wine glass, glancing at it and forcing a smile. “Is it really unethical to catch a killer before they commit a crime, if it saves lives?”

“If the measurement of ethical behavior is ‘the most people alive’, perhaps it is,” Hannibal said. “But then forced breeding would also be considered ethical.”

“Freedom for all, including the would-be serial killers.” Tobias smiled at Hannibal and lifted his glass.

“It's a reductionist argument,” Will said with a wave of his hand. “We could play in hyperbole all night long. But in reality, there are often crimes that precur murder, and if understood as such, we can take steps to prevent future killings.”

“I think it’s an interesting question,” Tobias insisted. “If you have reason to believe that someone will commit murder, shouldn’t we restrict their freedoms?”

Will breathed hard through his nose, agitated by the line of reasoning extending before them, and unable to contain his distaste. Hannibal stepped into the conversation smoothly. “No greater crime to autonomy than killing, the total removal of choice and personhood.”

“Precisely,” Tobias agreed, flat as the ocean’s horizon.

 


 

Will washed the dishes and Hannibal dried, side by side in the quiet, clinical light of the kitchen. Absorbed in his task and his thoughts, Will didn’t notice at first that Hannibal was waiting for him to speak, patience coiled like elastic around his finger.

“He wants to be friends with you,” Will ventured first, dryly.

Hannibal hummed.

“I don’t like him,” Will continued with bite.

“I thought you were generous with your socializing,” Hannibal said fondly. “It was a successful evening.”

Will scrubbed the last plate hard enough that Hannibal covered his hand with his own.”Will?”

Bitterness flared behind his eyes and through his jaw. He stubbornly looked into the sink, away from Hannibal’s questioning gaze. “Don’t see him again.”

Will pulled his hand away from Hannibal and rinsed the plate over and over again; but when he handed it over Hannibal didn’t take it. Will glanced up. Hannibal was still, not yet upset, but guarded. “What do you mean?” he asked.

Will set the plate down and backed away from the sink, wiping his hands on his trousers. “I mean don’t see him again. I’m serious, Hannibal, I think he’s dangerous.”

“Ah. Is that why you invited him to dinner?” Hannibal asked mildly.

Will crossed his arms over his chest, only glancing at Hannibal for moments at a time. He didn’t get it. “I wanted more time to read him,” Will explained, agitated. “He’s psychopathic. I think he’s a predator.”

Hannibal folded the drying towel, like a nervous tick, carefully smoothing the edges. He frowned slightly. “That’s quite an accusation to level at someone you’ve spent mere hours with.”

“I know what I’m talking about,” Will snapped. “You’re telling me you didn’t notice anything ‘off’ about him?”

“I’m psychopathic, Will. That doesn’t mean I’m a predator.”

“No, no.” Will shook his head. “Don’t do that. You’re not like him.”

For a moment, he thought Hannibal would rebuke him and push the point. Will felt nauseous. No one ever believes me. But Hannibal crossed the distance to him and stroked his tightly held arms, tilted his chin up. Will looked at him reluctantly, reading his concern plainly. “It’s no great hardship to me, if you don’t want me to see Tobias,” Hannibal assured him. “He is not woven into my social circle, and I don’t care about him. I’m simply trying to understand.”

“He’s dangerous,” Will said. “That’s all there is to it.”

Hannibal wanted to ask if Will thought he was dangerous, but didn’t. “I believe you, Will.”

Will let Hannibal take him in his arms, stiff and distant.

Chapter Text

Will sunk into the warm, fragrant bathwater until it was up to his lips. It moved silky across his jaw, his shoulders stretching deeply as his arms were draped over the marble edge. Porcelain, mirror, soft light. Will stretched his neck up and sighed, then sunk up to his eyes.

The bath had been Hannibal’s idea. Something to relax you. He felt responsible for Will’s bad mood, though he hadn’t done anything wrong. It wasn’t guilt, but rather an extension of his control obsession. If Will was upset, then Hannibal had to fix it. Control the environment, control the response. The bath and wine weren’t hurting, but Will felt heavy and unclean.

Will stayed mostly under until he felt that his lungs would burst, then a few seconds longer. He lifted up from the water line and took a shaky breath, covering the sound with a splash of water. His lungs burned and he tasted lavender.

He could hear Hannibal fussing in the bedroom. Will didn’t know how to stop being a mess of anxiety. He flexed his toes and watched the shape of his legs waver at the edges. “Hey Hannibal?” he called, swallowing back his hesitation.

“Yes, Will?” Hannibal appeared at the doorway, ready to be of service. He was still done up in his suit sans-jacket. His flamboyant armor.

“Can you get something from my bag?” Will asked. “It’s downstairs by the front door. A photo book. You—” Will glanced down. “—You can look at it.”

Hannibal cocked his head, but only said. “Of course.”

Will listened to him walk away and down the stairs, and then sunk under the water again, where he couldn’t hear anything except for his heartbeat. It was out of his hands now. He thought of floating in a larger body of water, suspended beneath the gently rolling waves, small and free.

Will surfaced and pushed his hair back, wiping the water from his face. He sipped his wine and waited for Hannibal to come back.

It was a few long, long minutes before Hannibal returned, standing straight in the doorway with Will’s scrapbook tucked under one arm. He paused for only a moment, blank faced, before sitting on the step stool by the bath. “This is what you wanted me to see?” he asked.

Will siphoned the information from his voice and posture, drawing unconsciously from the vast vault of Hannibal in his mind: he was calm, unperturbed, any judgements hidden so he could lure out Will’s intentions. But that didn’t mean Hannibal didn’t have judgements.

Will pulled his knees to his chest and just nodded in affirmation, his heart stuck in his throat. Hannibal curled his broad hand at the base of Will’s skill, massaging, and the gentle touch sent a shiver down his spine. Will tipped his head forward against his arms and closed his eyes.

“How long have you been doing this?” Hannibal asked.

“Since I was six. Used to be in a shoe box,” Will said into the dark crook of his arms.

“An impressionable age.”

“Other kids had imaginary friends.”

Hannibal scratched light circles into Will’s scalp. “Did you think I would find this distasteful?”

“My thoughts are rarely tasty.”

“Your fascination with killers has never concerned me,” Hannibal said, finger curling around the shell of Will’s ear.

“Well, maybe it should.”

Hannibal continued to pet through Will’s wet hair in silence, and stroked his knuckles over his shoulder. The calm touches brought Will a little out of himself, and he lifted his chin to rest on his arm, eyes glassy and set firmly ahead. “What does concern me,” Hannibal said slowly, “is your propensity for self-flagellation. Although, perhaps you enjoy it.”

Will turned to him like a rod snapping straight, brows drawn up in sudden fury. “What?”

Hannibal leaned forward, hand on Will’s arm. “You feel guilty for the contents of this book and yet take pride in your work, as you should. Were you hoping to repulse me?”

“It is repulsive,” Will snapped, face hot. “It’s wrong; it feels wrong.”

“Then stop,” Hannibal said calmly.

“Just because you’re okay with it doesn’t mean that normal people are.”

“Ah, how important, the beliefs of normal people.”

“And you’re such a great judge of healthy behavior.”

“It’s not what I believe,” Hannibal said, not releasing the intimate distance between them. “Or what others think. What matters is what you believe. Do you think this is wrong?”

Will tried to look away but Hannibal tilted his head back. He was infuriatingly gentle, holding Will like they might kiss. Will wanted to splash him and run away, but he felt like he might burst if Hannibal stopped touching him. “Why are you doing this?” Will said through clenched teeth.

Hannibal smiled. “Maybe I like you angry.”

Will rolled his eyes and squeezed them shut. Hannibal pulled him closer by the back of his neck, the space between their bodies charged. “I think it’s wrong,” Will said, voice nearly trembling.

Hannibal soothed the skin at the back of his neck. “Then why do you do it?” he asked; the obvious question that precluded the obvious answer.

Will breathed heavy through his mouth, bit his lip, and looked up at Hannibal. He had to know what Hannibal really thought when the words tumbled out of his mouth, so quiet as to barely be a whisper. “I… like it.”

There , Hannibal seemed to think, proud as a cat with a mouse under its paws. There it is. “Your guilt protects you from the judgements of others,” Hannibal said, hands firm on Will’s neck and arm. “But as far as I can see, the only person this book hurts is you.”

Will’s eyes stung and he took a shuddering breath, rattling around the knot in his throat. He remembered the disgust and fear snapping in his father like a live wire, the way he shook the contents of Will’s backpack out on the floor. Hannibal’s face blurred like the slick of oil in water; it was more familiar than Will’s own. Don’t leave me. Don’t hate me.

“How could I not love every facet of you?” Hannibal asked. “An impossible thought.”

“I don’t know why you do,” Will choked out, and then the tears spilled. “Fuck,” Will cursed, drawing away to wipe furiously at his eyes. “I feel like a mess.”

“You’re tired,” Hannibal said kindly. “Here, come out of the bath.” He stood and set the book on the long counter next to the sink, grabbing a thick robe to wrap Will in, and drying his hair. He drew Will into the bed and cocooned him in the plush comforter.

“Come to bed too?” Will asked, but Hannibal was already unbuttoning his shirt.

“Of course, darling.”

“I feel like a child.”

“How does that feel?”

“Like I’m out in open water without a paddle.”

“I’ll be your paddle.”

Will curled into the naked warmth of Hannibal’s shoulder.

 


 

In his dream, they stood in a field Will didn’t recognize beneath the thick, oak-twisting branches of a tree, blood splattered in a fresh circle around them. Will wore black leather gloves.

“I think in every world I have loved you,” Hannibal said. “Ancient, inevitable.”

The clop of hooves behind him, sharp as copper. The snort of an animal.

“Do you see, Will?”

 


 

Will’s laptop was pulled up beneath the ledge of the desk, next to the library’s older model, affording him some privacy in his corner. Students moved in and out of the entrance and came to him occasionally to check out books, which was now an automated exchange: Will scanned the books and they scanned their student ID, sometimes offering a few words. Hidden behind his glasses, hair, and the parapet of the desk, Will was obliged to his silence.

His reddit post and TattleCrime were open next the digital reading. The Sensitive Psychopath: Contradictions in the Hobbs Profile. Delusional Mushroom Maniac Denies Murders. From Synapsis to Syndromes in Stress Research: Translational Approaches to the Study of the Neurobiology of Stress-Related Disorders.

“High functioning serial killers are often characterized by a lack of remorse. While Garrett Jacob Hobbs meets several hallmarks of psychopathology, his actions demonstrate guilt, empathy, and love, thereby undermining the commonly accepted profile.”

“‘I helped them understand each other,’ Stammets told investigators. Stammets kept his victims alive for nearly a week after burying them in shallow graves, using a combination of breathing tubes and sugar water IVs to construct his diabolical diabetic garden.”

“Activation of the stress response evokes a cascade of physiological reactions that may be detrimental when repeated or chronic, and when triggered after exposure to psychological/emotional stressors.”

Scan, click, highlight. Peripheral bodies shrugging bags, shifting weight. The trajectory of steps on marble, lateral, curving towards him. Goring and mounting, antler velvet. Networks of fungi shooting spores like sensory organs and axons in one, a web of nerves exposed to the world. Feedback. Feeding. “Hey.” Take the top book from the stack and swipe it on the metal reader and place it on the adjacent stack. I said hi but he didn’t even acknowledge me . “Thanks.” Aggressive, impatient.

Will greeted the next in line with a glance and a grimace. Stammets was on the spectrum with his horse hitched somewhere between aspergers and sociopathy. No empathy and few tools to understand socializing but well aware of his deficit. Fixation on fungi. Opportunity. What triggered it? Or was it a new obsession taken to its logical conclusion?

Catalysts: these killers started in their middle age. There had to be a trigger that pushed latent desires and capabilities. For Hobbs it was his daughter leaving. Stammets? Who knew.

Will brought up google and searched for Tobias Budge. His business had been open for four years, but before that he was in Austin, and before that L.A. Never more than five years in one major city before uprooting his business and moving somewhere else. Very few employees. No social media.

“Hey,” the next student said, loud and drawn-out as opposed to a half-hearted mumble. Books on the counter.

Will gave him a brief smile and took a book. “Hi,” he replied and then hid back beneath his curls. Scan, place. The guy was staring at him. Will’s thoughts slunk away as he became aware of the student’s attention.

“How have you been?” the young man asked, and there was familiarity in his voice.

Someone I should know. Will looked at him, finding a familiar face but not immediately placing him. South Asian, not in the Behavioral Sciences department, well dressed. “Alright, thanks,” Will offered awkwardly.

He frowned briefly— Does he seriously not remember me? The tang of embarrassment and offront slithered across Will’s skin, and then it clicked: he had hooked up with this guy at the end of last semester, right before his drunken phone call to Hannibal that started everything. Catalyst. A mouth on his neck. Will glanced to the side: rude, awkward, but still so pretty.

“I haven’t seen you around,” the guy said, accusation beneath friendliness. God is he embarrassed? Grow up kid.

“I’m usually here or the stacks.”

“Not at parties?”

“Not really.”

“That’s a shame.”

Will pushed the last book towards him. “Here you go.”

“Thanks. We should hang out sometime.”

Will remembered drunk kisses against the wall and being suffused in the immediacy of pleasure, sloppy grinding and the utter blindness of it. Does that feel good?—Yeah. Can I—Yeah. Sticky hands in their pants. Come back to my room—No, here is fine. Here?—I can suck you off—Here? Down on his knees and nowhere at all.

He waited for Will’s response, hopeful and amused.

“I have a boyfriend,” Will said, praying for someone to come to the desk to sign out.

“Uhuh,” he said, either unconcerned or unbelieving. “Who?”

Will blanched and furrowed his brows. “He lives off campus,” Will said to the tune of none of your fucking business .

Wide eyes. Unbelieving, then. Fair enough; I wouldn’t believe me either . “Okay,” he said, grabbing his books, irritated. “See you around, Will.”

 


 

When Will’s work shift was over he walked back to his dorm room and wondered what it would be like to live with barriers between himself and the world, as others seemed to; to be contained by skin and personal space; to not expand to fill every space he entered, spread out and exposed. What would it be like to close himself up and chose what touched him? Everything touched him. Everything. He didn’t get a choice ; he didn’t get to say no ; he didn’t want to track his peers’ every movement and mood, to care about the gaggle of friends walking across the quad from him, the student hurrying, the professor in conversation; everyone, everywhere, feeling things and moving with the world like fish in a stream and him snagged in tree roots, drowning.

He felt awful, and maybe he had felt this way for a long time and just tamped it down into the bed of rot in his mind. The ground level rising as he buried trash and bones. He should talk to Hannibal. Hannibal always knew what to do. Hannibal: his vacation from the real world.

“Will Graham?”

Will was almost back to his dorm when a familiar voice called his name. Just before there had been the sound of a car door opening and shutting, which had not been worth noting, until now. Will turned, hackles up, to see Tobias Budge walking towards him with a silicone smile.

And he wasn’t alone. There was a short, portly white man with him who was dressed primily.

“I did not actually expect to run into you,” Tobias Budge explained. “It’s a large campus.”

“A coincidence then, Mr. Budge,” Will said, his own fake smile brief.

The other man smoothed his hand over his head and stepped up. “Franklyn Froidevoux,” he introduced himself, and stuck out his hand.

Will made himself take it. “Will.”

“How do you two know each other?” Franklyn asked, looking between Tobias and Will, though Tobias was intent on watching Will.

“We met at Hannibal’s, when I was servicing his harpsichord,” Tobias explained. “He had us both for dinner.”

“He what?” Franklyn was shocked, and for some reason upset. Will frowned. “Lucky dog. I hear his cooking is to die for, not that I’ve had the opportunity to try it. Yet,” he added, somewhat hopefully to Will.

“Well, I’ve got to—”

“How do you know the good doctor?” Franklyn asked eagerly.

Will didn’t say anything for a moment. Tobias was pleased to have put him in an awkward position. To tell or not to tell—it was a lose-lose situation.

“He’s my boyfriend,” Will said tightly.

In for a penny, in for a pound.

Franklyn’s jaw literally dropped and he made an uncomfortable squeak. “Well, uh, well. Well. Then it’s so very nice to meet you! I’m surprised, I mean—”

Will wanted to crawl in a hole.

“He’s so renown as a bachelor, I hear, not that—not that I’m surprised about, well, he’s European so you never know—” Franklyn was rambling and Tobias didn’t seem to be inclined to stop him anytime soon.

“Not surprising that he’s gay, you mean,” Will said, “Or that he’d go for jailbait?”

That shut Franklyn up. His eyes were wide and his neck was flushed, a patch of rosacea blooming pink across his nose. Will jerked the shoulder strap of his bag violently. “I wouldn’t hold your breath on those dinner invitations.”

He turned his back to them and stomped to his dorm, hearing Tobias call, “Until next time, Will,” with his curled smile.

Chapter Text

Will hit the bed and called, but Hannibal didn’t pick up. He hit the whiskey and was just starting to feel it when Hannibal called him back.

“Hello, Will. I was with a patient.”

“Figured.”

“How are you?”

“I’ve been worse.”

“Sounds like there’s room for improvement.”

Will took a deep breath, shuddering. “I feel strewn across the floor, left staring at the ceiling.”

“What do you see?”

“People passing over, picking at the detritus.”

“Discarded?”

Hannibal said it softly and Will’s chest ached. “Not by you,” he whispered.

“Tell me what’s troubling you.”

“Oh, everything. Me.” He was going to say more but found his throat closing tight.

“May I come over?”

 


 

Will knew Hannibal would disapprove but he kept drinking, and when it was time to let Hannibal inside, the sharp edges were smoothed out and Will could mistake the pulse of alcohol for feeling good. Hannibal’s nose twitched, smelling the booze on him, and Will grinned stupidly.

“I’m not that drunk yet, don’t worry,” Will said, leading the way to the stairwell. He walked steadily, definitely drunk but hiding the effects. Hannibal was carrying his on-the-go meal bag; Will didn’t remember if he had eaten lunch.

“When we’re lost, we return to familiar places, whether good or ill,” Hannibal said, and the door closed them in to the blue-dim stairwell.

“Too bad my dad moved us around, then,” Will said, starting up the steps, thoughts akimbo. “No dream-home of childhood.”

A tug at his wrist, and Will spun back to Hannibal, gazing up at Will from the ground floor landing, holding his spindle limb like a tether. “But you know what that’s like,” Will continued. “Do you ever go back there?”

“No,” Hannibal said. He stepped up, sliding hand from wrist to forearm, and crowded Will against the wall.

“Then we're both repressed, huh?” Will grinned and slid in for a kiss that Hannibal didn’t deliver.

“You make a home of your father’s alcoholism,” Hannibal murmured, affect flat. He inhaled. “Is that his brand?”

“Kiss me and I’ll tell you.”

Hannibal let go of Will and pulled back, but the boy threw an arm around his neck. He kissed Hannibal’s jaw and neck, as soft as he could. His cologne. The bristle of close-shaven hair under his skin.

“Am I here to distract you?” Hannibal asked, annoyed.

Will shot him a glare and released him, stomping up the stairs. “No. I thought you always wanted to kiss me.”

Hannibal followed him silently to his dorm room. By the time they were inside, Will's anger had fizzled out, and his horniness had returned. He flopped on his bed and watched while Hannibal neatly closed the door and set his bag on the desk, unbuttoning his suit jacket. He moved the chair across from Will and sat, crossing his legs in a way that seemed very therapuetic.

Will picked up his mug from where it rested on the floor next to the whiskey bottle. “Do you want some?” he offered.

“No thank you.”

“I ran into Tobias today,” Will said, turning the chipped mug in his hands. Curiosity flickered across Hannibal’s face. “Well, I say ‘ran into’ but it felt more like an ambush. It was right outside the dorm. He had someone with him, Franklyn Frovideaux.”

Hannibal’s indifferent facade broke. “Ahh.”

“A patient of yours?” Will asked.

“Yes. He introduced Tobias and I.”

“At the opera. He’s the patient whose been stalking you.” Will groaned, rubbed his face, and took a swig of whiskey.

“I wouldn’t go that far.”

“Well…” Will’s face burned. “I told them both that you’re my boyfriend.”

Hannibal looked proud, even as he contemplated the repercussions. “I’m sure Franklyn and I will have much to discuss next week."

“I’m just making trouble for you.”

“Please do. I’m glad that you claimed me.”

“Are you going to claim me?” Will challenged.

Hannibal’s mouth parted, tongue darting out, sensual in his consideration of Will and their conversation. Will had wanted some reaction when he mentioned Tobias, but if Hannibal was angry, possessive, or worried, it didn’t show. “You see Tobias as a threat.”

“Oh, it’s the other way around.”

“What do you imagine Tobias will do next?”

Will sighed. “He’ll contact you, if he hasn’t already. Maybe engineer another coincidental run-in. He wants your attention; he’ll find a way to get it. Something spectacular.”

“You’re the one who has my full attention, Will.”

“He knows that. Needs me out of the picture.”

Hannibal looked suddenly grave. “That won’t happen.”

Will swallowed down more whiskey. It was something to do. His hands were trembling. “He wants to kill me.”

It was never fully quiet in the dorm. There was always ambient conversation, or the track of footsteps down the hall, or the hiss and pop of the heater. Sounds Will usually ignored. But there was nothing else to listen to: not a thought in his head, and Hannibal so silent as to be absent.

“You don’t believe me,” Will accused, his heart sinking like lead.

Hannibal came back to himself at that. “I do believe you, Will,” Hannibal said quickly. He paused, choosing his words like picking the lesser evil. “You have a remarkable gift of insight. I would be foolish not to trust your instinct.”

“I don’t know what to do.”

“What do you want to do?”

I want you to take it all away. Will shook his head. “I don’t have proof of anything. I can’t go to the authorities about an intuition. I just want him to leave us alone.”

“We can come up with a solution together,” Hannibal said. “Perhaps when you’re well rested.”

“So: never.”

Hannibal gave him a faint smile. He got to his feet and turned his attention to his bag. “I brought you dinner,” he said, arranging the meal on the desk. “It would please me if you ate.”

“I haven’t been very hungry,” Will said guiltily.

“Despite my best attempts, you’re looking thin.”

“I’m sorry.” Will rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I feel like a mess. Didn’t I warn you I was a mess?”

Hannibal walked over and sat next to Will on the bed. His hand settled on the back of Will’s neck, warm, and Will felt like he hadn’t been touched in years. “You’ll feel better once you’ve eaten,” Hannibal said, taking the mug from Will’s hands and setting it back on the floor. Will leaned into him, resting his head on Hannibal’s shoulder.

“You know I—” Will swallowed. “I’m glad you’re here.”

 

Will managed to eat some while Hannibal tidied the dorm room. Hannibal seemed deep in thought, and Will was too drunk to protest the cleaning, even though it made him feel even more pathetic. When he was done eating, Hannibal made to put the dishes away, but Will waved him off. “Let me, dish duty is the least I can do.” He packed everything away in the go-back, carefully, like Hannibal would.

He could feel Hannibal watching him from the bed.

“You’re recalcitrant tonight,” Will said, smiling nervously.

“What is said and unsaid weigh in counterpoint. Words and reality share breath.”

“You think if you don’t say it, you can keep it locked up?”

“Don’t you?”

Will stalked forward and slid into Hannibal’s lap, knees bracketing his thighs, and Hannibal held him. Will shuddered at the warm intimacy, feeling naked as he entrusted his whole weight to Hannibal. “You thought you could keep your feelings for me contained, back then,” Will mumbled. Hannibal’s mouth, his eyes, all of him right here. “You’d do anything for me.”

A groan slipped between Hannibal’s lips. “You have no idea.”

“Don’t I?” Will rocked their hips together and Hannibal pulled him tight against his body, not erect yet but Will was, chasing the friction against his clothed cock. “Just because I’m drunk doesn’t mean I don’t mean what I say,” Will panted out, Hannibal gazing adored and pained up at him. “You listening, Hannibal? You believe me?”

“Will…”

“I need you to fuck me. I want it, I’ve been wanting it. I don’t want you to hold back.”

Hannibal’s hands dug down his back and Will gasped. “I haven’t been holding back, Will.”

“I ahh, don’t believe you.” Will grinned, grinding down and feeling Hannibal stiffen beneath him. “You’re careful with me.”

“You deserve care,” Hannibal rasped out.

“C’mon, Hannibal. I’m here, I’m telling you that I want it. Want you so bad. Your hands feel so good.” He kissed Hannibal hard. Every touch was hot and electric, like Will was being ionized, Hannibal sucking his lip and squeezing his ass. His tongue slid against Will’s teeth, mouth tasting so perfect that Will groaned and throbbed. Sparks of alchemy and cascading thoughts. Will laughed and Hannibal’s eyes were there, amber and fire. “I love you, you know,” Will slurred. “I love you so much.”

Hannibal gasped like he had been struck. A knife twisting deep and dislodging his charred reliquary. Will laughed again as he was flipped over onto the bed, and then Hannibal’s weight was on him, looming and grey-shadowed against the light, and the sudden thrust of himself between Will’s legs was like an orgasm, so much sudden pleasure that his vision blurred.

“Yeah, please please—“

“Say it again.”

“I love you. Hannibal. Love you so much. Can’t stand it.”

Will.”

“Don’t know—ahh, ah—what to do.” Will threw his arms back and arched, held down by the weight on his groin. “What do I do with all of it? S’so much.”

Wet on his neck. Hannibal’s hands bending his ribs and hip bones, gripping hard enough to leave his touch everywhere. “Will. My love, my love, my love.” Hannibal’s head hidden by Will’s rucked up shirt, licking his chest.

“Please fuck me, please. Want your cock in me.” Will reached down in search for it but Hannibal was too far down his body, sucking marks on his naval while he shucked his pants down. Will’s cock flopped out and Hannibal’s mouth was wide and pink, wet muscle and gleaming teeth.

Will sobbed as Hannibal sucked him down, hard and brutal. Everything was shaking. Hannibal swallowed around him and pushed and the head of Will’s cock slipped into the back of his throat with a click. “Oh my god, god, Hannibal.” He stayed like that, pressed down into Will’s pubic bone, not breathing and swallowing rhythmically, groaning deep. “Ah, ah, fffuck.”

It was too good. So good. Will was blurred and wet. “I’m gonna come like this. Hhh, oh, please.” Hannibal slurped up and his cock was drenched, blood thudding against his skin. The suction nearly hurt.

Drunk and sweat-spotted, Will writhed on the bed, his coltish legs trembling by Hannibal’s ears as he sucked his cock without mercy. Will bucked his hips with a high whine. Saliva and precome slicked down his balls and Hannibal rubbed it into the tender skin between his cheeks. “Seriously, gonna,” Will tried to warn him but Hannibal just pushed him into the back of his throat and swallowed and swallowed, red lips stretched, devouring him. Will came and came, acutely aware of pulsing in Hannibal’s clutching maw even as the rest of him dissolved into the atmosphere.

Hannibal cleaned Will with his tongue while he shook and whimpered. He licked his scrotum and the junction of his thighs. And lower. Hannibal swirled his tongue down over Will’s asshole, pushing Will’s knees towards his body so that it was more exposed. “Oh, shit,” Will gasped, embarrassment flushing all over. “That’s—not there.”

Hannibal moaned and kissed him, right on his hole. “Not here?” he asked, voice deep and purring.

“S’dirty.”

“I beg to differ.”

“Oh, god. Your mouth.”

“Shall I stop?”

“Nnn. No.”

Hannibal swiped his tongue up Will’s crack and rubbed hard against the tight muscle of his opening. It felt slick and tender, and the residual pleasure from his orgasm churned anew. Hannibal thrust the tip of his tongue in the center and bobbed his head, grunting, his arousal coiling in Will like a serpent.

Hannibal stayed down there for a long time. Will was so relaxed it took nothing to slip a finger in, then another, and his cock was fattening up again and leaking. “H-hey,” Will said in a shaky voice. “You gonna fuck me?”

Hannibal looked up at him, his jaw wet. “I want to.”

“Please. Need you to.”

Hannibal leaned back, hands on the underside of Will’s thighs. He looked starved and—angry? He stood up and Will whined, legs sprawling on the bed.

“You’re drunk,” Hannibal said and began to undress.

“M’not out of my mind. Still want you.”

Hannibal folded his jacket neatly and began to unbutton his waistcoat and shirt. He wasn’t hurried, though his erection was straining against his pants.

“You’re not going to,” Will said, disappointed.

“If I want to, why shouldn’t I?” Hannibal asked, folding his clothes bare-chested.

Will squinted at him, distracted by the sight of all that muscle and hair. “Cause I’m drunk. And you don’t trust drunk Will.”

“I trust you, Will.” Hannibal stared at him, dark-eyed, as he slipped the button free from his trousers. He stepped out of them and folded them as well, and Will was hot all over at the sight of his legs and ass.

Will sat up and shifted uneasily on the bed. He didn’t know why Hannibal was mad, but it was probably him, right? Aroused, stressed, euphoric, and now angry, Will didn’t know what he felt or how to get the two of them back in synch. “Sorry.” Will pulled his legs up and rubbed his hands up and down his shins. “I wanted you to be my drunk sex memory, like you could get inside all these bad places and they’d be better, for you being there.” His pillow was half out of the pillowcase, stained with the tag sticking out. “I didn’t say I love you because I’m drunk. I’ve been meaning to say it but didn’t know how. I mean it. I'll say it sober, too, I'll tell you all the time.”

The bed dipped and squeaked. Hannibal slid between Will’s legs and pulled him onto his lap, jaw dry now but still smelling of sex, reddened lips moving luxuriously around his words. “I love you terribly, Will. I don’t want to hold back.” He kissed his way to Will’s ear. “I want to bend you over and fuck you as hard as I can. I want to force you to come over and over until you’re begging me to stop. I want to keep you, and dress you, so that when anyone sees you they will know that you belong to me.”

The words made Will feverish. He rubbed himself on Hannibal’s cock, moaning when Hannibal kissed and bit his ear. “I want your obedience, I want your defiance, I want to observe your every waking moment and bear witness to your nightmares.”

Will felt pressure all over, like his skin was squeezing down around him. Hannibal’s fingers dug into Will’s waist and a breath was squeezed out of him. “God, Hannibal, please.”

An inhalation of breath, and Hannibal’s mouth grazed over his lips. “And I want to kill Tobias Budge.”

Chapter Text

Will woke to a throbbing headache and a strange, sweet pleasure. It was different than the nauseousness of a hangover but it did bubble like bile up his throat. He groaned, more of a whimper, and Hannibal’s arms came to life around him.

They were back to front as only the small bed allowed, naked, warm, and sleepy. It was a balm for his headache, and Will laced his hand over Hannibal’s, which lay against his chest.

Last night was blurred and indistinct, but so good. Will still felt Hannibal’s hands and mouth all over him, gripping him tight and licking him into a melted mess. Kissing him desperately. His words scouring Will down to the bone. I love you. I want you. I want to…

The lingering vestiges of sleep burned away at once, and Will opened his eyes.

I want to kill Tobias Budge.

Hannibal pressed kisses to Will’s shoulder. Will remembered grinding against Hannibal and nearly coming from the words. The knowledge washed over him anew and he moaned softly. Hannibal slotted more firmly behind him, and Will felt his half-hard cock against his thigh.

“After all of that, you didn’t fuck me,” Will complained, and Hannibal chuckled.

“I best make up for it then,” he purred into Will’s skin. He slid his hands down Will’s chest, and back up to rub his nipples. Hannibal’s immediacy made him groan, slurred with sleep.

“I should take something for my headache,” Will said with a hitching breath.

“Orgasm is a great pain reliever.”

Will laughed, and Hannibal kissed his neck, but he dislodged himself from Will and the bed, going naked to find a water bottle from his bag. Willms headache was no longer a concern, watching Hannibal’s body and the evidence of his arousal, hanging lazily between his legs. Hannibal returned with water and a small bottle of lube. Will took the proffered bottle and chugged it quickly while Hannibal crawled back into bed, and soon they were entangled again, Will thinking is this what it’s like to be taken care of?

Will flung his leg over Hannibal’s hip and kissed him slow, pressing and savoring his skin. Hannibal wasted no time sliding his hand to Will’s ass and the tender skin between his splayed legs. “Still need you,” Will smeared against Hannibal’s cheek. “I meant it all, last night.”

“As did I,” Hannibal replied.

They were tangled up, needing, and feverish with an arousal beyond their bodies. Will wondered if something would break and rip open. They opened up to a slow swirl of tongues, Will daring to plunge deep and suck hard. Hannibal shuddered and, gratified, Will bit his lip and groaned.

Hannibal pressed against his hole, teasing in dry. “You told me not to hold back.”

“God, yes. I want more,” Will said, scratching over Hannibal’s shoulders. “You can be greedier.”

Will .”

“Ah—Maybe I’m greedy. Make me lose my mind.”

Hannibal pushed Will onto his back and crushed him into a kiss. His weight and mouth consumed Will, snarls caught in their pressed chests. Hannibal kissed down his body and pushed his knees up to his chest, tongued the dark wisps of hair on the back of his thighs. “God yeah,” Will sighed, then winced when Hannibal sucked a bite to his pale flesh. It stung, but the release of his teeth bloomed into hot pleasure.

“I’m going to fuck you,” Hannibal said like a prowling tiger.

Ohh .”

Hannibal inhaled and let out a rumble, nosing his way into Will’s ass. “I love eating you out.”

Will covered his face, feeling so dirty-good and blissfully wrong. He couldn’t respond because Hannibal’s tongue was on him, licking fat stripes over his eager hole, swirling circles and sucking—god—igniting him. Hannibal pointed his tongue and grunted with each thrust, Will’s pink skin framed with spit and untrimmed hair. He whimpered into the heel of his hand.

Hannibal paused for breath and poured a generous amount of lube on him, looking pleased with himself. “You open so easily this way.”

“Nnn.”

“Hold your legs, Will.”

He did, biting his lip and looking away. It was embarrassing, exposing himself like this, asshole tilted up so he could be easily fingered and licked. But it was Hannibal, and his scrutiny wasn’t alienating: he loved scissoring Will to watch the flesh squeeze and gape, his mouth worshipped, every reaction Will gave him was treasured. And Will shook, containing all that on his own, the sweaty fervor of their desire.

“Please, Hannibal,” Will said breathlessly. He pressed his feet to Hannibal’s shoulders. “I want to make you feel good.”

“You are.”

“I want to touch you,” Will clarified.

Hannibal shifted up and Will’s legs bent around his waist. Will curled up and gripped his cock, gasping, “Ohh, fuck,” at the silk heat of him.

And Hannibal’s eyes were there, deepening with every stroke. And Will was in them, desperate, here. Alive, pumping Hannibal towards his own body. Wanting (killing). “I need you in me,” Will gasped, not saying because I can’t tell us apart .

Hannibal closed their gaps into a kiss. Will closed his eyes and dissolved into such pure need, making a mess of their lips, and feeling Hannibal grip himself to line up. The first breach was an exquisite stretch around Hannibal’s cock, and Will threw his sweaty head back. “Ohh oh, hah.” Hannibal pulled out and pushed back in, making Will break out in goosebumps. “Fuuuuck.” And out again, and again, and again, until Will whimpered and crushed Hannibal’s neck with his arms. “Yeah, Hannibal, hahh.”

Hannibal’s breath fell heavy and close, like a curtain in the shadowed, fleshy home of his body. He pressed in until Will winced, and when he paused Will laughed. “It’s fine, it’s good.”

Hannibal pulsed in Will. He manhandled his legs on either side of his neck and rolled his hips, hitting deep, and Will’s head jerked with a cry. It was intense, not a tearing pain but such pressure and deep sensation. Will’s nails dug into his arms.

“Ohhhh god.”

“You’ll tell me if it hurts.”

Hannibal fucked into him again and Will felt it in the tip of his cock. “Mm yeah,” he whined.

“Will.”

“I will, ohh.”

Hannibal set a fast pace and Will felt pulled inside out, skinned and left trembling in the wilds. With each practiced roll of his hips Hannibal’s balls slapped against Will, already stiff and heavy, and his cock seemed to suck Will on the way out. The grunts from Hannibal were of exertion and coiled heat, condensed to single-minded devotion: fucking Will exactly.

“Oh yeah, ohhh yes,” Will gasped on every breath. Hannibal thrust in time with their breaths, fucking out the sounds from Will. Eyes glazed, Will caught glimpses: Hannibal’s forearms straining where he gripped the back of Will’s ass and leaned on the bed; his flushed, severe face; the clench and flex of his stomach between Will’s legs. And all the while, Hannibal’s cock churned molten gold inside him, glowing, liquid pleasure.

Will was pink all the way down his chest, trembling and aching. He gripped his own cock, trying to concentrate the overwhelming sensations. “So good, s’good,” he whimpered. Hannibal snapped his hips faster.

“Ahhh!”

“Will–”

“Oh goddd.”

His hips and lower back were entirely off the mattress, curled in half and pushed up to the head of the bed. Will gripped the metal bars of the frame to protect his head while Hannibal loomed above him, using the weight of his body to plunge brutally deep. Will couldn’t do anything but take him, and it was a lot—waves of heat and cold and bliss and too much rolled through him.

“Beautiful boy,” Hannibal growled, shifting so he was upright and pushing Will’s knees to his chest. “You feel divine.” He seemed to watch as he sunk into Will, pulling out slow and then snapping deep.

Will sobbed into his arm. He was entirely pinned. There wasn’t room for anything else in him besides Hannibal’s thick cock and the electric miasma between them. Of them. “S’so much.”

Hannibal slowed and took a deep breath like he needed it to stay sane. He rubbed the back of Will’s thighs while he rocked in him, pushing all the way flush but no longer hitting into him. “Is that better?”

Will nodded, sucking in breaths through his mouth. “You can—you can still. Fuck. Can’t speak.”

Hannibal alternated slow and deep with a few rough thrusts and Will cried out. “Yes! Like that, please, please, oh my god, I’m gonna come so hard.”

Will felt him press deep again, and then Will’s cock was seared wet. His eyes flew open to see Hannibal bent down and sucking on Will’s length. High, wrecked curses spilled from Will’s mouth as he hurtled towards climax, disbelieving, Hannibal gulping him down and thrusting quick and shallow inside him. Will rocked his hips up and back down, and it rushed through his whole body. He slapped a hand over his mouth and screamed out his release.

Hannibal sucked every drop from him, and then his eyes were wild, his chest heaving. “Take your hand from your mouth,” he growled.

Will sobbed and grabbed at Hannibal, feeling high, like he was still coming. Hannibal fucked into him hard and fast, and Will didn’t cover those cries.

 

There was only Hannibal, and himself. One at the same. Sweat, skin, semen. Maybe it was just his empathy, but Will didn’t feel like he was getting fucked. Like there was any give and take. For a delirious moment, Hannibal’s body felt like his own. He was coming again, inside, spilling into that raw, dark place. Twitching, clenching, pushing everything inside.

When Hannibal finally pulled out, Will stretched out and they lay against each other, breathing heavily. Will wanted to stay in the crook of Hannibal’s collarbone forever, watching his pulse.

“I love you so much,” Will said into his warm skin.

“My beautiful boy. I love you as well. Longer than I should admit.”

“How’s that?”

“Forever, Will. For my whole life.”

Will’s breath caught. “Sounds serious, doctor.”

“A fatal prognosis.”

“I’m late for class. No, I’ll skip it.”

“I feel like a bad influence.”

“Actually, I think I’m the bad one for you.”

Hannibal pet through his hair, quiet for a long moment. “There’s some truth, to that. You bring out aspects of myself no one else has.”

Will shifted so he could see Hannibal. “Did you mean it?”

Hannibal was calmer than he expected. “Yes. I will of course not act on any desires or impulses that will put us in jeopardy. I have long lived with these thoughts. There’s no risk of taking action now.”

“Ok. Good. I don’t want to trigger your mid-life murder crisis.”

“Just my ‘affair with someone half my age’ life-crisis.”

Will smiled, but he wasn’t entirely convinced. “Ok. So… what are we going to do?”

“I don’t want you spending so much time alone, or using public transit. Truly, I would prefer if you stayed at my house.”

Will frowned. “That makes no sense for either of our schedules. You can’t always drive me to class.”

“Perhaps a car service.”

“Not a chance!”

“Then, a second car.”

Will stared at him. “Like a rental?”

“You’re not of age to drive a rental.”

“No, Hannibal. No way. You’re not getting a car for me, and I’m not driving your Bentley!”

“Will, I am not going to sit back and do nothing,” Hannibal said sternly. “Nor do I wish to interrupt our lives.”

Will rubbed his face. “I don’t want to do nothing either. But the campus is safe. There’s always people around, and I just won’t go out at night.”

“I would really feel better if you stayed at mine.”

“Then pick me up after your last appointment. No need for another car, okay?”

Hannibal closed his eyes for a moment of concentration. “Very well. That will serve, for the time being.”

Will snuggled back into Hannibal’s chest, wrapping his arm around his waist. It wasn’t a permanent solution, if Will was right about Tobias. But there were no other permanent solutions on the table. They didn’t have any proof to bring to the authorities, and getting proof of whatever Tobias did would be stupidly dangerous. There was nothing to do but wait.

Will didn’t want to wait.

Chapter Text

His last client departed, Hannibal was finally alone in his office. His hand lingered on the closed door; a deep breath, unsuccessful in dispelling the tension that had coiled tighter and tighter all day.

Hannibal sat at his desk and opened his last client’s notebook, jotting down a few uninspired notes. He closed the book, slid today’s stack into his desk drawer, locked it, and straightened the pens on the gleaming wood.

It had been a long time since he had felt such anger.

Hannibal took his phone from the desk and texted Will:

An emergency call interrupted my lunch, so I need time to finish bookkeeping. I should not be more than an hour to you.

He did not wait for a response before collecting his things and going to his car.

 

Driving was not his preferred method of airing his thoughts, but tonight wandering the streets of Baltimore served another purpose: determining whether or not he was being followed. He drove carefully, almost lazily towards John’s Hopkins before taking a detour away.

He didn’t want to be around Will while he was so unbalanced. Even if he reinforced his defenses, it was likely that Will would sense that something was amiss, and, volatile as the boy ways, drag it out of Hannibal or internalize it. There was no hiding, with Will.

He despised being out of control: of his circumstances, and himself. And, yes, of Will. He was pouring effort into giving Will stability, yet couldn’t make him sleep well or eat well, let alone protect him from true danger. And as often as Will depended on Hannibal when under duress, he equally kept Hannibal at bay. Will was under an enormous amount of stress, and Hannibal couldn’t fix it.

He was angry, at Will, for pushing and pushing, and furious at himself for offering such little resistance. Will was just a boy after all, in the end of his adolescence—it was unconscionable that Hannibal had so utterly lost control of their relationship.

That he had given control away.

How bittersweet, that he had Will’s love and devotion at the price of his forged stability.

He was being followed, after all.

 


 

In their new arrangement, Hannibal dropped Will off at college in the morning with a packed lunch and a fragile kiss, and collected Will at night. The boy was exhausted and sleeping badly. Hannibal’s own schedule was quite interrupted: there was little time to go to his gym or keep his kitchen stocked just as he liked it. He did not want to be away from Will for long, but lack of personal space was weighing on him.

Saturday morning he slipped out of bed as quietly as he could. Will had the covers bunched up in his arms and over his head, his pale limbs peaking out of the tangle. He was a sweat-stained Caravaggio at night, a rumpled Botticelli in the morning. The moments Hannibal caught of him asleep were infinitely precious to him.

When he emerged, dressed from his closet, Will rubbed the sleep from his eyes and looked at him. “What time is it?” he mumbled.

Hannibal perched on the edge of the bed and smoothed his hand down Will’s neck and upper back. “Still time for you to sleep. I didn’t want to wake you.”

“Are you going somewhere?”

“Just to the market. I wanted to be back before you woke up.”

Will pushed up to his elbows and frowned at Hannibal, but was too sleepy to make the expression firm. “I can come with you.”

“You barely slept last night. I’ll be fine, Will.”

“Be careful.”

“I shall.”

In the dim, dusky light he leaned forward and kissed Will, sticky morning lips clinging as he pulled away. “Try to sleep again, darling.”

 


 

The grocer Hannibal frequented offered deliveries, though Hannibal infrequently used the service, preferring to select his own produce. After his shopping was done he put in a delivery for later in the week. He tipped the girl who helped bring his bags out to his car, and then it was on to the butcher and cheese shop around the corner.

Hannibal was watching the butcher wrap his cuts when his phone rang. It was Will, as he anticipated; as he worried. With an unfamiliar pang of dread he answered.

“Good morning.”

Will sucked in a breath. “Where are you?”

His voice was tight and quiet, riddled with anxiety. Hannibal felt his fingers clench against his mobile. “I’m at the butcher’s, on Maple St. I’m nearly finished with my errands.”

The quiet on the other end was concerning, and Hannibal immediately thought of the worst. “Will?”

“There’s been a murder,” Will said, breath hiccuping. “At the Music Hall.”

The butcher had finished packaging his meats. Hannibal handed him his card, and turned while he waited: the shop was small, but the bright glare of morning in the windows prevented him from seeing clearly outside into the bustle of the street. He didn’t feel as if he was being watched. “Who?” he asked.

“They haven’t released the name yet. Just was found this morning. I don’t know any details yet but… Hannibal, I don’t know what to do. I can’t do this.”

“I’m on my way home.” Hannibal kept his voice soothing, hoping to quell the panic he heard in Will’s. “There’s nothing you need to do at the moment.”

“Hannibal…” His name was a plea.

Hannibal signed his receipt and took the bag, teeth on edge. “Would you like me to stay on the line while I drive home?”

“Nnn.” Will took a sharp breath. “This isn’t working. I can’t wait here in your room and worry and hide, waiting for you to babysit me. I feel like something awful is going to happen and I—I just can’t deal with this.”

Out of the shop, Hannibal scanned around himself for a familiar man or car, but found neither. “We’re going to be alright, Will.”

“We’re not alright! This isn’t alright! Have… have you seen him? Has anyone been following you? Don’t—don’t lie to me.” Will’s words were interrupted by sharp inhalations.

“Breathe, Will.”

“Answer—hh! Me.”

Hannibal got in his car, and started it. “Yes. I observed a car following me.”

“Oh god.”

Hannibal put the mobile on speakerphone and set it between the seats. He wanted to be honest to Will, but now was not the time to tell him that Tobias was also sending him messages through Franklyn. A few miles away and through the phone, Will was gasping through a panic attack. “I’m in the car and safe, and I’ll be home soon. Just focus on your breathing.”

“Can’t stay on. The phone. I’m sorry.”

 


 

Hannibal decided to refrigerate the groceries before he went and attended to Will. He had to keep some order in his life, after all.

His bedroom smelled of tears and fear. Will was huddled up before one of the chairs by the fireplace, for some reason sitting on the floor. He held his knees to his chin and had a far off expression, eyes red and cheeks streaked. The panic attack had ceased, and his breathing was back within the normal range.

As Hannibal kneeled next to him, Will didn’t react to him at all.

“I’m here, darling.” Hannibal brushed Will’s arm with his knuckles, pleased when he didn’t flinch away at the touch. He flattened his hand and slid up to the back of Will’s neck.

Will blinked, and lowered his eyes. Hannibal rubbed his neck and after a few moments Will released some of the tension in his body. “I hate this,” the boy hissed.

“You’ve been living with more than your fair share of stress,” Hannibal said, brushing his curls back from his eyes. “It’s put you on high alert.”

“I think it’s reasonable to be on high alert,” he said snidely.

“It is. But we can’t panic.”

Tears swelled up again, and Will brushed them away. “He’s going to hurt us. I can’t do this, Hannibal.”

“You said that before, but I don’t know what you mean, love.”

Will’s hands curled into fists against his shins. He looked pained, and bared his teeth. “I don’t want to ask you to take away all my troubles. But I want you to.” Will’s eyes slid towards him, and they were deeply troubled. His voice became nearly a whisper. “I want you to take it away. I want to…”

Will couldn’t say it. He gasped around the unsaid words and jerked away, but Hannibal pursued him: cupped his face in both hands and kept him close. “Will. Trust that all I want is to take care of you and see you flourish. I will keep you safe.”

“If you mean that,” Will whispered, “Then kill him.”

Hannibal’s mind drained. The long-vacant corners caught light, frosted over. His fingers loosened on Will’s jaw.

Will suddenly looked horrified. But he didn’t take his words back.

“Do you think of me as a killer?” Hannibal asked quietly. “Am I another page in your book?”

“No.” Will shook his head. “No, no. Hannibal—I’m sorry.” He put his hands over Hannibal’s to keep them on either side of his face. “I love you. I’m just… so scared. I want him to die.”

That was what Will feared, more than for the skin on their backs.

The part of Hannibal’s mind dedicated to the role of psychiatrist came back first. Will was reaching for a way to control a situation in which he felt helpless. It was too direct to be a manipulation, wrenched from the deep mire of guilt. Will had tried not to give voice to it for days and days.

They were both burying their desires.

“If I killed him, how would you feel?” Hannibal asked.

“Guilty,” Will breathed. “Like I did it with my own hands. Like I robbed you of your peace.”

“You can’t control my actions,” Hannibal told him. “There is no way for you to force my hand, with this. You are not responsible for me.”

Will swallowed, and his lip trembled. “I feel responsible.”

“Darling boy. None of this is your fault.” Hannibal pressed his hair away and kissed his salted forehead, then drew him up in his arms. He sighed into Will’s trembling form. “Voicing the unmentionable gives it reality, but letting it haunt us in silence and it becomes a sickness.”

Will tucked his face into Hannibal’s neck. “You want to kill him,” he said softly.

“As do you.”

Will tensed, then nodded.

“God kills all the time,” Hannibal said.

“Bet he doesn’t feel so guilty about it.”

“No. He feels powerful.”

“I feel like a monster,” Will whispered.

Hannibal kissed his temple, fingers stroking his scalp. “You’re in touch with your humanity, and the ugliest edges of it. The goodness in you is appalled by your understanding.”

“You don’t feel guilty.”

“No. And I wouldn’t.”

Will pulled back; they untangled and stood, and Hannibal watched Will sway into the bathroom and run the sink. When he came back to the bedroom his face was freshly washed and he seemed more alert. Wiping my his hands on his boxers, he nodded at the room, and spoke decisively. “Alright. So. Are we going to kill him or not?”

 


 

Sunday morning brought heavy rain, marking the probable end of the snowy season for Baltimore. But weather was unpredictable those days.

Will floated in the doorway and watched Hannibal at the counter kneading dough. The fine material of his shirt spread across his shoulders like wet marble, muscles in relief against new folds. Hannibal was beautiful—and Will frowned to himself, because he knew the man was, but hadn’t looked at him like this; like he was someone outside of himself.

It was suddenly obvious how someone else could see Hannibal’s unflappable grace and control as a seductive power, and swarm like moths to the flame. Of course Tobias took one look at Hannibal and put his violent heart on his sleeve. Everyone who drew close enough would bend over backwards to be seen as the exception.

They couldn’t begin to imagine what it felt like to be on the receiving end of Hannibal’s obsession.

Will walked into the kitchen and pressed himself against Hannibal’s back, arms wrapping around his waist. Hannibal hummed sweetly as he worked the dough. “How did you sleep?” he asked Will.

“Better.” Will pressed his lips to the warm skin above Hannibal’s collar. “Did you see they released the victim’s name?”

“I haven’t checked the news yet.”

“He was in the trombone section. Douglas Wilson.” Hannibal stiffened his shoulders.

“Tobias and I spoke of him,” Hannibal said lightly. He took a large blade and began cutting the flat sheet of dough into squares.

Will made sure not to cling too tightly and hinder his work. His hands slid to Hannibal’s hips. Will thought about fucking him. It seemed forbidden, to touch so deep inside him. “The kill’s for you,” Will said. “He wants to show you what he can do. Impress you.”

Hannibal finished cutting the dough and placed the knife aside, then dusted the dough with flour. Will allowed himself to drape his weight against Hannibal’s back, just feeling the movement of his body. “What reason does he have to prove himself to me?” Hannibal asked.

Will rested his forehead on Hannibal’s shoulder. He didn’t know the answer to that. “Maybe he’s lonely. If he’s gotten away with it before, now he wants recognition. That’s usually how it goes.”

“Recognition from the public, or from me?”

“He sees something familiar in you,” Will mused. “I saw it too. Just took me a while to figure out what I was seeing.”

Hannibal stroked the top of Will’s hand where it rested on his hip, standing still but present. “And what is that?”

Will sighed. He pushed onto his tiptoes and kissed Hannibal’s neck. “You’re a predator.” Hannibal made a soft sound. Will turned him around and cradled his jaw. “How can anyone see you and think you’re ordinary?”

Hannibal smiled and tilted his head down. “You’ve made a compliment out of a murder, my dear.”

“Poor taste?”

Hannibal bent down and kissed him. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” Will slid their closed lips together, back and forth, then leaned back. “There’s something else. Dr. Alana Bloom is working on the profile.”

“Interesting. So the F.B.I. is on the case?”

“Yeah. Unusual for a single murder. It must be… noteworthy.” Will sat down on one of the stools and Hannibal started making him coffee. “I’ve been wondering how to pass along a tip about Tobias,” Will continued, watching Hannibal’s routine movements. “Now there’s a murder, but who knows if the tip line will be flooded.”

“So we tell Alana.” Hannibal glanced at Will as he ran the press. “If we had something to tell.”

Will ran his hand through his hair. “It’s just an idea. ‘He creeped me out’ isn’t exactly a lead.”

Hannibal tapped a bit of sugar into the espresso and delivered it to Will. “I’ll speak with her. I can always say that my patient spoke about him, which is technically true.”

“Doctor-patient confidentiality only goes so far,” Will smirked, but the brief levity dropped like a stone in water. “It would be best if he was just caught.”

“I’m sure he will be, with the F.B.I. on the case,” Hannibal said, somewhat falsely.

“I’m not sure,” Will countered. “I wish I could see the scene. I feel like I would understand what he wants, then.”

 


 

After Hannibal dropped Will off at school, he noticed the car again. Bold of Tobias to follow him in the daylight. He wasn’t even trying to remain hidden.

Well, if Tobias wanted to see him so badly, who was Hannibal to deny him?

Hannibal altered his course on the Baltimore streets, and drove to Tobias’s music shop. When he parked, the car behind him did the same, a little ways ahead on the street. Hannibal drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, and considered his options. It was very possible that Tobias wanted to kill him, and he would have the home advantage at his shop. Hannibal had a scalpel in his pocket and hadn’t been in a fight in nearly 20 years. But he did have something Tobias wanted. He just wasn’t sure what that was.

Hannibal stepped out of the car, eyeing the one that had been following him, and after a moment Tobias emerged. They stared at each other for a beat, then both closed their car doors and strolled towards each other.

“Dr. Lecter,” Tobias greeted with a smile. “What brings you to my shop?”

Hannibal tilted his head. “You, of course.”

Tobias gestures to the shop. “Would you like to come in?”

“Please,” Hannibal answered. They stepped up to Chordophone, and Tobias showed his back to open the door, his carotid artery pulsing above the crisp line of his white shirt. Hannibal slid his hand into his pants pocket, feeling the handle of the scalpel.

They entered, and Hannibal took in his surroundings curiously. It was a converted house and mostly held string instruments. “How does your harpsichord sound?” Tobias asked, watching him carefully.

“I’m quite pleased with the results, thank you,” Hannibal said. Once he finished taking in the room he looked at Tobias, standing by a little cashier desk.

“The quality of strings make all the difference,” Tobias said, eyes glinting. “I vastly prefer authentic catgut, as does the orchestra.” Tobias lifted up a coil of white string, and offered it to Hannibal.

“I prefer gut.” Hannibal stepped forward and took the coil. “Harps found in the tombs of Thebes still made music after 2000 years.” He ran his fingers along the strings, and wrapped one around his finger, aware of the weight of Tobias’s eyes.

“If only our compositions could last so long.”

“Do you compose?”

“Yes—yourself?”

Hannibal set aside the coil. “I discover. Can’t impose traditional composition on an instrument that’s inherently freeform.”

Tobias’s expression became curious. “What instrument do you play?”

“The theremin,” Hannibal explained.

Tobias nodded. “Instruments speak volumes about those who play them. Especially one that doesn’t require touch.”

“The theremin isn’t the only instrument I play, but it is one of my favorites. It can generate any pitch through its range, even those between conventional notes.”

“So can a violin,” Tobias said, then pointedly, “Or a trombone.”

“Are those your instruments?”

“The violin, not the trombone.”

“A pity. I hear the orchestra is looking for a new trombonist.”

Delight flickered in Tobias’s eyes, quickly subdued with a frown. “Altogether horrible what happened”

“Not altogether,” Hannibal said. “It’s an unpleasant way to leave the symphony, but I can’t help but feel that the orchestra will be better for it.”

“The brass section, at least,” Tobias said, his humor returning.

Hannibal smiled as well. “All lives are musical. They have their refrains, crescendos, and denouements.”

“And ends,” Tobias supplied. He regarded Hannibal for a moment. “I was under the impression that you didn’t wish for my company, and yet here you are.”

“I apologize for my rudeness,” Hannibal said easily. He explored the room again, plucking the string of a bass and then silencing it politely with a finger. “I’ve been quite occupied.”

“So I see,” Tobias said. “How is Will?”

Hannibal kept his expression calm, but the look he gave Tobias was a warning. “I apologize for being so blunt, but why are you following us?”

“I was curious about you,” Tobias said with a tilt of his head. “Curious what I might find out about you.”

“Find anything to sate your curiosity?”

They faced each other, not yet posturing but both poised. “Sated? No.” Tobias shook his head slowly. “We have a lot in common, and I could use a friend. Someone who thinks like I do, and can see the world and the people in it like I do.”

“We’re both musicians,” Hannibal said, somewhat reserved.

Tobias stepped forward, and Hannibal held his ground. The man’s eyes were bright. “I can show you how to play a new instrument,” Tobias said, with breathless excitement. “As a fellow appreciator of unconventional notes.”

The tension held between them like a long note. So Tobias wanted a mentee: a fellow killer to teach and nurture. Another psychopath who could understand him. Hannibal had to admit to himself, that besides wanting the advantage of knowledge, he was also thrumming with curiosity. “Show me,” he said.

Chapter Text

“Alright. So, are we going to kill him or not?” Will felt strangely calm as he said it, his lungs no longer constrained by antler tines. It felt like giving in and being free.

Hannibal looked lost. Will could see a boy his age inside the man, unused to kindness. What was to be done with such a rare and tender appetite, besides starving it of light and feed it slop on a silver platter; keep it caged and out of mind? “How would you do it?” Hannibal asked.

“Use you as bait,” Will said, considering. He walked back to the fireplace and sat in the chair this time, legs spread wide. Hannibal sat across from him, curious. “I invite him to dinner,” Will said slowly. “Get him talking. Feed his ego and appetite. Poison would be easiest, or sedatives in the food. I know how to disguise the taste.”

“And when he’s at your mercy?” Hannibal asked.

“Cut his throat in the cellar,” Will answered. “Smash his teeth with a hammer and cut up the body for a scattered disposal.”

“Inviting an altercation with Tobias is an unacceptable risk,” Hannibal said.

“How would you do it?” Will asked.

“I would wait for the right opportunity to present itself,” Hannibal answered, carefully. “Some plans must be discovered.” Hannibal looked aside, to the empty fireplace, a furrow in his brow. “I’ve spent too much of my life curbing impulses and honing discipline to let myself fall to reckless violence.”

“What would happen if you did?” Will asked slowly. He already thought he knew the answer.

Hannibal was quiet, for a long moment. His features smoothed out to a solid foundation. “I would want to do it again.”

Will heard the unspoken words:

And again. And again.

He shuddered, lifted his jaw. Hannibal looked back at him with a sad smile. “We’re not going to kill Tobias,” he said.

“I know,” Will said in a breath. “I… I don’t want to be a killer.”

Hannibal leaned forward, elbows on knees. The chairs were set close enough that by just reaching out he could stroke the knob of Will’s knee with his knuckle. Just a small touch could be like an anchor. “I believe you have the potential to do anything you set your mind to,” Hannibal told him. “If you soak yourself in the minds of humanity’s most depraved, you would make a spectacular monster.”

Will’s eyes burned—and down his throat, to his lungs. He clutched Hannibal’s wrist with nails. “I don’t want to be a bad person,” Will said, like begging.

Hannibal turned his hand in Will’s grip, smoothing his palm over the tender side of Will’s wrist. He knew his heart was throbbing. “You’re a wonderful person, Will,” Hannibal said. “And resilient.”

“Not good.”

“I don’t believe in good and evil.”

“You sure talk a lot about god for someone who doesn’t believe in him.”

“I believe in god,” Hannibal corrected, smiling. “I just don’t believe he cares about good and evil.”

“So why should I?”

“You care deeply about right or wrong. But so far, you look for judgement from those around you. Your sense of righteousness is what matters.”

Will let go and leaned back in the chair. His sense of righteousness was telling him that neither of them deserved the anguish or thrill of killing Tobias. It wasn’t right for them, but it wouldn’t be so wrong either.

“I just wish I could do something,” Will said. “If I was a police officer or an FBI agent I could do something.”

“I know, love. Come here.”

Will eyed Hannibal skeptically, and then his frustration ebbed and he stood up and stepped between Hannibal’s legs. The other man guided him down onto his lap and pressed his lips against Will’s neck, breathing deeply. “Someday you’ll be hunting killers with the best of them,” Hannibal said, words warming Will up from the core. “And I’ll feel much safer then.”

 


 

Tobias’s basement was, in a word, spectacular. The entire string making process must take place here. There were jars of preserved intestines, chemical baths, racks of stretched whole intestines, and thin cut lengths of gut string, floating in liquid or stretched taut. One corner was hidden by plastic curtains, likely his kill station. The air seemed to hum with the potential of sound, of violence.

The decor was slightly wanting, but overall it was impressive.

Hannibal’s interest shone on his face. As Tobias showed him around and explained the process, they kept a close eye on each other, never quite turning their backs or exposing their necks, two predators circling each other.

“You’re a busy man,” Hannibal said, feeding Tobias some of the praise he so desperately sought. “It’s a wonder you have time for all this.”

Tobias grinned. “When you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.”

“So all the instruments in your shop…”

“And I did say the orchestra prefers gut.”

Hannibal nodded, seeing a deep spark of psychopathic delight on Tobias’s eyes. “Many bodies have passed through your shop. How do you chose them?”

Tobias arched his neck to it’s full length. “Who they are is no concern to me. I find reliable targets.”

“Lean animals make the best string.” Hannibal was thinking of the homeless and disenfranchised. He kept his face bright, though that was somewhat displeasing.

“They all sound the same,” Tobias said, voice lilting. “Though the trombonist had a unique pitch. Had to stick a cello down his neck to get a sound out of him.”

Hannibal smiled. He needed Tobias to feel secure around him; but the smile wasn’t entirely an act. Tobias was interesting, and his play with language compelling enough. Nothing like Will’s twists of logic and lyric.

Tobias wanted a mentee. But in that dynamic, would Tobias seek to control him and be dominant? Hannibal could play submissive and lure him into a false sense of security, but it would mean bearing his throat.

Hannibal peered into the bath of cut gut, feeling the other man’s gaze on the back of his neck. If Tobias was looking for an opportunity to kill him, this would be it. But Tobias didn’t make a move. “Why are you showing me this?” Hannibal asked, straightening and turning back to him.

“I wanted to see how you’d react,” Tobias purred.

“I hope I’ve met your expectations.”

“If you don’t, I can just kill you,” Tobias said, unconcerned. “Lean animals.”

“I have to say, being preserved in an instrument has its appeal,” Hannibal said. “Though I have no plans of dying anytime soon.”

“Neither do I.”

“Yet you came out of the shadows to put on a show.”

Tobias waved his hand. “It was time for a change.”

“A risky move. Do you want to be caught?”

“No.” There was a flash of annoyance on his face.

“What will you do when they come for you?” Hannibal asked.

“I own one of the few string shops in Baltimore,” Tobias explained. “They’ll send police here. And when they do, I’ll kill them, and then I’ll kill Franklyn.”

Hannibal frowned. Tobias had delusions of grandeur if he thought he could get away with that. “Don’t kill Franklyn,” he said.

“Oh, but I’ve been looking forward to it,” Tobias said, turning on his heel and surveying his domain.

Hannibal slid his hands into his pockets.

“Actually,” Tobias said, glancing back at Hannibal. “I was going to kill Will Graham too.”

Often, Hannibal wondered what his life would be like if the events of his childhood had gone differently; if, in that nightmarish winter, the soldiers had tied his hands more securely; if he had not been able to slip out and slit their throats; if they had not gotten so sick, vulnerable to his blade. If they had taken Mischa when their parents’ corpses were picked clean, as the easier prey. If he had gone to the orphanage alone, and had no sister to belay his hand when he found the names of the men who survived.

Hannibal dreamed of that life, sometimes, and the hollow-ribbed creature that could never be satisfied.

Hannibal didn’t react. He would not, could not give himself away. He rest his fingers around the scalpel in his pocket, thumb on the back of the blade. “What changed your mind?”

“You did,” Tobias said. “Or you will. Consider it collateral: you learn my craft and keep our secrets, and I won’t need to pay Will a visit.”

Hannibal had to play this very carefully. He could lie well, but it would be more believable if it was close to the truth. “There’s not much I can keep from Will. He’s very observant.”

“Then get him out of the picture,” Tobias said flatly, and tried to stare Hannibal down.

Hannibal couldn’t stand back and allow this risk to Will.

He lowered his eyes in submission.

“Very good, Hannibal,” Tobias said with a fondness, like he was one of Tobias’s students. He looked towards the door, saying, “Now—“

Hannibal cut him short by slicing across the curve of his neck. Blood sprayed from his artery in a shock, and Tobias looked back at Hannibal with wide, angry eyes, touching his wet neck; he tried to put his hand over it but his knees buckled, he stumbled backwards against a metal cart, and slid to the floor.

Here, now: the flow of blood over dark skin, soaking clothes, flooding the concrete. Suddenly death was in the room with them. It was a familiar comrade, appearing for scant moments in which Hannibal could intervene: pressure on the wound, shocking an arrhythmic heart. But this time, death was here by his design.

The spray had partially caught Hannibal on the face and shoulder. He watched Tobias die, and it wasn’t so different from how he remembered: a powerful, vivid moment, like the climax of an aria. He licked his lips, and tasted copper.

Above him, there was a knock at the shop door.

 


 

Will knew exactly when the photos dropped. He had TattleCrime open behind the library counter, and about half way through the library shift the alert on his phone went off. One refresh later and he was looking at photos of the Music Hall murder. Good old Freddie Lounds, sneaking out material from the investigation that she probably shouldn’t. But Will wasn’t thinking about the sanctity of the investigation or the public panic: he was listening to music.

See how well I play.

He didn’t know how long he was lost in the photos, but he only snapped out of it when a girl came up to the desk and cleared her throat. Will blinked back the swell of bitter music in his ears, and took her books without a word.

While he scanned them, he called Hannibal with his free hand, but he didn’t pick up. Probably with a patient, then. Will finished scanning the young woman’s books and handed them back, though his attention was back on the article. Tobias had made a spectacular display, transforming the body into a human instrument. A serenade.

Will wondered if Hannibal would be impressed when he saw it, and felt strangely jealous at the notion.

An hour passed in his shift, and Hannibal didn’t text him or call him back. Will’s stomach dropped more and more with each passing minute, and when an hour had passed he knew something was wrong. This past week they had been especially careful to stay in touch with each other while apart. Hannibal would have texted him between sessions.

Will called again. Then the office number. And again. Nothing. He still had 40 minutes left in his shift, but he couldn’t wait. Will told the librarian that he had a family emergency and the worry showed on his trembling face.

He could barely breathe.

Every worst case scenario flashed before his eyes—Tobias seeking Hannibal out, strangling him with a piano wire, flaying him open. Will hurried to the edge of campus and called a cab, fighting to stay calm. He counted the minutes since the first call. Hannibal might have been in an appointment at that point, so maybe Will wasn’t too late.

Tobias didn’t want to kill Hannibal. Not unless he didn’t get what he wanted.

While the cab took him to Hannibal’s office, he considered calling the police or the hotline. He didn’t know if it would help—it was supposed to help but police presence could spook Tobias. Or maybe Will really was being paranoid, and nothing was wrong.

Except that Hannibal would have answered one of his phones.

When the cab arrived, Hannibal’s car wasn’t outside. Will paid the cab in a hurry and ran into the building. In the waiting room was the man from before, and Will was confused for a moment to see him there. Franklyn—that was his name, sat in the chair wringing his hands nervously as he looked at Will.

“Oh, hello,” Franklyn said, and as Will strode through the space he made a fumbled motion as if to offer his hand. “Wait, you can’t go in there!” Franklyn called, but Will ignored him and threw open the door.

The office was empty.

Will was panting heavily now, and tried to get his breathing under control. He checked the side rooms, but no one was there. Everything was in its precise place; in fact, it looked like Hannibal hadn’t been in his office all morning.

“We really shouldn’t be in here without Dr. Lecter,” Franklyn said nervously, even as he stepped inside the office.

“Did he tell you he was going to be late?” Will asked, so fiercely that Franklyn flinched.

“No, no—why? Is something wrong?”

Will took out Hannibal’s appointment book, and Franklyn made a high sound of distress. Franklyn was the first appointment today at 2PM. Will frowned, his brow furrowed, but he felt a spark of relief. Maybe Hannibal was out doing errands and his phone died. That still didn’t explain why he was late.

“He’s never late,” Franklyn said, pacing between the chairs and daybed. “Do you think something happened? Like an accident? Should we call the hospitals?”

“It’s only been ten minutes,” Will said, looking through the appointment book.

“You’re nervous though! What do you think happened?”

Will glared at him. “I don’t know. He’s just not answering his phone.”

The sound of gravel under wheels made Will’s gaze jerk to the bay windows. He and Franklyn went over to the windows to see Hannibal’s car coming to park, but it was only when Hannibal stepped out that Will could breathe properly.

“Oh thank god,” Franklyn breathed. “I was so worried… Oh, I should go back to the waiting room. Are you… no? Okay.”

Franklyn went back through to the waiting room and closed the door behind him, leaving Will staring at Hannibal’s car until his eyes filled with tears. He heard Hannibal and Franklyn speaking, Hannibal making apologies, and Franklyn trying to say that Will was in the room. Will wiped his eyes furiously.

Hannibal opened the door, saying to Franklyn, “I’ll just be a few minutes. We can go longer.”

“Oh, of course, take all the time you need.”

Hannibal closed the door, and Will looked at him. Hannibal didn’t even take off his coat before coming to Will. “Why didn’t you answer your phone?” Will snapped.

“I apologize, Will. I left it in my other jacket.”

Hannibal reached out, and Will slapped his hands away. The hurt on Hannibal’s face came and left suddenly. “And why are you wearing a different outfit?” Will demanded.

Hannibal sighed, and put his hands in his pockets. “I had an unfortunate luncheon spill. So I went home to change, and subsequently lost track of my phone.”

Will laughed. “Are you kidding me?”

“I am not.”

“I thought… something terrible had happened.”

Hannibal looked at Will sadly. “Why did you call me?”

“They released photos from the crime scene. I saw what Tobias did, and what he wants.” Feeling caged, Will shook his head and stalked off along the bookshelves. “I just… for a moment I thought…”

He turned, and looked at Hannibal, who seemed much the same as he always was: put together, quietly aching, and so attentive to Will. He had been so sure that something was wrong.

Will was suddenly afraid.

“You never spill on your clothes,” Will said quietly.

Hannibal gave a small smile. “The exception that makes the rule. I have a patient, Will, would you like to wait?”

Will shook his head, and swallowed down the fear into someplace caged and contained. “No. I’m sorry I freaked out. I’ll just go.”

“Will—”

“I’ll see you later.” Will walked over to the patience exit and pulled open the door before Hannibal could protest.

But he didn’t go back to school.

 


 

The whole block where Chordophone was located was blocked off by police and ambulances. A small crowd was forming, reported and curious passerby. Will squeezed through to near the front of the police blockade; he could just barely see police and investigators moving in and out of the shop. A quick scan showed him that there were no bodies in the ambulances.

Reporters and news crew tried to ask questions, but the police by the barricade had no answers.

Will stayed as long as he could. He saw three body bags come out of Chordophone. The place was flooded with police CSIs, and what Will guessed were the FBI. It had to be related to Tobias and the trombonist’s death.

“Hear anything interesting, kid?” came a frustrated voice beside him.

Will turned to see a woman with a shock of red hair, easily recognizable. “You’re Freddie Lounds,” Will said.

She smiled, vivid lipstick and bright eyes, and held out a hand. “And you are?”

Will hesitated, then shook her hand. “Will. I read your columns.”

“It’s always nice to meet a fan,” she said, slippery. “If you hear or see anything, shoot me a message. Us aficionados have to stick together.” She passed him a card, looking him up and down.

“Sure.”

“What brings you here?”

“Same as you. I heard it on the police scanner,” Will lied easily. “Have you heard anything?”

“Just that the owner was a suspect for the recent murder at the music hall,” Freddie said, “and they were investigating him. The rest you’ll have to read on TattleCrime when I find it out.”

Will bused and walked back to Hannibal’s before his day was over. The house was empty. He thought about texting Hannibal to let him know where he was, and then firmly decided not to.

Will checked the laundry. There was no dirty suit there, though Hannibal had probably taken it to his dry cleaners. Will found their number in the rolodex and gave them a call, pretending to be Hannibal’s assistant.

They had not received a drop off from Hannibal today.

Just in case, Will checked the closet, but did not find the suit Hannibal was wearing this morning. So it wasn’t here, it wasn’t at the cleaner’s, and Hannibal wasn’t wearing it.

There were three bodies that came out of Chordophone. Tobias, and two of his precious victims?

Hannibal has said that he wouldn’t kill Tobias. Maybe it hadn’t been him.

Or had Hannibal promised that they wouldn’t kill Tobias together?

Will poured himself a glass of wine from the cooking wine in the fridge. He sat in the corner chair, feet tucked beneath him, and waited for Hannibal to come home.

Chapter Text

Will wasn’t answering his phone.

Hannibal supposed it was revenge, but if Tobias was still alive Hannibal would be a wreck with worry. Either Will was being especially petty, or he knew that Tobias was dead.

When Hannibal returned home that evening, he smelled Will in the air as soon as the door was open: that sweet and bitter whiskey tang to him, like rotting apples, and as he approached the kitchen he caught the tanins of red wine.

Will was to his right in the corner seat, a glass in his hand and a bottle at his feet. He grinned, lopsided, fanged, and gestured with his glass. “Do you want a drink?”

Hannibal regarded him. He didn’t seem drunk. His phone was by his hip. “I was worried,” Hannibal said tightly.

“Oh? I wonder what that’s like,” Will said with a scathing tongue.

Hannibal undid the button of his suit jacket and hung it by the aprons, along with his waistcoat, as he usually did when preparing dinner. He returned to Will and knelt before him, picking up the bottle which was light in his hand. “I am sorry that I could not contact you earlier.”

Will grit his teeth. “Where’s your suit?”

Hannibal stayed kneeling. His free hand rested on Will’s shin. “The dry cleaners. I’m not—”

“No, it’s not,” Will interrupted, bearing teeth. “Where is it?”

Hannibal breathed steadily through his nose. Will’s anger was palpable, raising hairs on his skin. “I can’t tell you that.”

“Why not? Because it will be a conspiracy to obstruct justice?”

Of course Will knew. It was near impossible to hide anything from him, not when Hannibal’s heart was open to him. Will bit his lip hard at Hannibal’s silent admission, brows furrowed, and huffed a bitter laugh. “You killed him,” Will said, each word a weight.

“I did,” Hannibal said softly.

“You said you wouldn’t.” Will tensed, then stood up, brushing past Hannibal and stalking through the kitchen. Hannibal stood and turned to watch him, and set the wine bottle in its proper place on the counter. “What happened? Why were you even that close to him?” Will demanded, gesturing wildly.

“I noticed he was following me, so I paid him a visit. Your assessment was correct: he didn’t want me dead.”

“He wanted a partner. A… student,” Will said, pacing.

“Yes.”

“After all your talk of caution you just walk into his den,” Will spat.

“We were at a stalemate.”

“You could have died!” Will shouted. “You could have been caught. You could still be caught!” His eyes were wide and icy blue, searching the kitchen for some rational answer.

“I won’t be caught,” Hannibal said.

“You don’t know that.” Will grit his teeth and put a hand in his hair. “You could go to jail, Hannibal. For the rest of your life.”

Hannibal put his hands on the counter and watched his angry boy, body and mind restless. He saw Will’s face change then, brows drawn deep and fearful eyes searching rapidly through his thoughts. Will slowed, one foot and then the other coming to a stop, staring to the side with his jaw bared. “There were three bodies that came out of the music shop,” he said quietly. “Three.”

Hannibal steadied himself, or tried to. He didn’t feel so steady. “Two police officers came into the shop shortly after I killed Tobias,” Hannibal said.

Will’s lips pulled around a harsh breath, then curled over teeth. His eyes were damp, suddenly, and Hannibal felt pierced through. “You didn’t,” Will said.

“It was either that or be caught,” Hannibal said.

“Two police officers. Hannibal—you didn’t know them! They could have families, they could… that could have been me.” Will’s voice, angry at first, became defeated. He turned so Hannibal couldn’t see, and wiped at his eyes.

“I wish I had another choice,” Hannibal said, gently pleading. “But the alternative was unacceptable.”

Will shook his head. “I can’t accept that.”

“Because they might have been innocents?”

“You killed three people!” Will looked at him; broke. Put his head in his hands. “I can’t do this.”

They stood in silence. Hannibal felt the world falling out from under him. That’s right, he thought, this again. The immutable rejection. Of course his loved ones had seen into the depths of his heart and found that monster there unpalatable; he was not, nor would ever be accepted.

Which was reasonable. Expected. He could not blame Will for any of this.

“Do I need to call my lawyer?” Hannibal asked.

“No. You don’t have to worry about me telling anyone. I should go.”

But Hannibal couldn’t let him go. He intercepted Will and took his wrist. “Stay,” Hannibal insisted.

“What am I supposed to say?!” Will said, explosive.

“That you love me.” Hannibal cupped his cheek, and Will looked to the side, tense in his arms.

“You know I do,” Will said in a hushed voice.

“Then don’t go.”

“I can’t.”

Will pushes him away slowly; Hannibal’s hands slipped to elbow and fingertips. Will’s tears were like crystals on his flushed cheeks—Hannibal would draw him like this later, a betrayed martyr.

“I’m sorry,” Will bit out, slipping past Hannibal.

Maybe if Hannibal was a better man he would have just let Will go with the last word, but he was not good. “You were supposed to accept me,” Hannibal said as Will turned on the doorway. He saw the words hit home, like arrows piercing. Will paused when struck, but didn’t look back.

“I did,” Will barely said, and then left.

 


 

Hannibal thought of France and his strange family there. Mischa, Lady Murasaki and Robert Lecter living together in their Paris house. The little, ornate flat in the center of the city where the Lady spent time with Hannibal while he was in school, and where Mischa would come for tea or stay over talking late into the night. He thought of the man who wronged Robert shortly before his death, how his body felt under Hannibal’s hands, and how Mischa did not scream when she saw them behind the butcher shop, only said quietly for Hannibal to stop.

The look on her face, which did all the screaming for her silence. How sane her logic that Hannibal had no right to take away her brother.

“The police are idiots. They wouldn’t catch me,” he had told her, arrogantly.

“And will his death be enough?” she had rightly asked. “I know you. You would always want more, beloved brother.”

He had seen how his relationship with his family would be splintered if he went down this path, and so he deferred. He did not hunt down the soldiers who survived; he did not take his revenge on the swine in his college; only recreated Italy’s masterpieces in graphite. He who had swallowed darkness as a child blunted his teeth on surgery. Cooking was just cooking.

He composed. He drew, and kept some drawings under lock and key. The anatomy studies he made were from corpses in the morgue.

It felt so beautiful and right to take Tobias’s life—and the lives of the police officers. Forbidden fruit.

Hannibal sat in the corner chair, already lacking the warmth from Will’s boy, feeling demure. He would call his sister and tell her everything, but not yet. Tonight was for waiting in the silence Will left for him.