“Any bite they remember is worth checking,” Will announced as a reminder, tapping his fingers on his desk. “Doesn’t matter how the victim or their family claims they got it- it’s worth checking. Don’t forget that. If I see you guys forgetting the little things, I’ll dock your grades still.” He scanned the room in front of him, the faces staring back, looking to him for knowledge, and then sighed. “That’s all. Remember, Thursday at nine is the final. If you’re late that’s time you’re losing.”
There was a chorus of yes sir’s and nods, and then the students were gathering up their belongings, heading out the door. Will checked his watched, just before three, and began shuffling his belongings into his bag to follow them from the classroom.
The lab felt lively- not due to an exceptional amount of activity, but perhaps because the air was warm and it was so close to summer that Will could taste it. Mid-May and the weather was proving they’d have a hot summer, and he wasn’t particularly unhappy about this.
He found Beverly getting herself a cup of coffee and smiled at her as she sipped at it, frowned, and dumped in more sugar. “Want some coffee with your sugar?”
“Funny,” she said, smiling at him over the mug. “You ours now?” He nodded.
“Yeah, class is over. For good.” That made her grin.
“Must be relieving, knowing you don’t have to preach at the kids again until August.” Will shrugged a shoulder.
“I might teach a summer course,” he admitted, pulling his jacket off and undoing his tie. “I haven’t decided yet. Not sure I welcome the idea of a tie in July though.” Beverly laughed.
“No, I wouldn’t either. Don’t do it Graham. Enjoy the break- besides, you know Jack will still be using and abusing you.” She set her coffee down, having no taste for the cheap stuff today. “Besides, I’m sure Hannibal would love the idea of getting you all to himself for the summer.”
“Don’t say that around him,” Will laughed, walking around her to make his own cup- knowing he’d drink maybe half of it, spoiled now by the taste of Hannibal’s expensive coffee. “You’ll give him ideas.”
“I like his ideas,” Beverly pointed out, “You need a vacation. A solid week of expensive food and that man on top of you.” Will rolled his eyes, blushing only slightly. He was getting used to Beverly’s prodding into his personal life, even in semi-public areas.
“I like the idea of being home,” Will said, “Hannibal has as good a chance of getting me to go gallivanting around Europe as I do of getting him to go fishing with me.” Beverly laughed, patting Will on the back.
“If you ever get him fishing,” she said, “I want pictures. Lots of pictures.” He grinned and threw his arm around her shoulder, squeezing her affectionately with a roll of his eyes.
Life felt like it had been quiet, and Will didn’t mind that. The cases Jack had hi consulting on felt far from home- currently a serial rapist running around New York. He didn’t ask him to fly out there, just consult over the paperwork. He hadn’t looked at a body in what felt like eternities- not since the Ripper had finished his trio of killings two months back, not since the man Will never met but knew intimately how he had died showed up as dinner for him and his closest friends, and he faught down as guilty smile as the warm waves that rolled through him at the silent trickery.
No, life seemed almost domestic now. And Will wasn’t complaining, as he tossed a ball and watched the dogs running after it, his shirt half unbuttoned in the late spring heat, the sun setting in the distance. Winston won out the chase and led the pack back, passing the ball to Will so he could throw it again.
This was what he wanted, he knew, settling in with his little glass of whiskey as he reclined on his bed and held the ringing phone to his ear. Simplicity- that was all. Nothing complicated, nothing with so many strings he got tangled.
Will grinned, hearing Hannibal’s voice, curling his toes into his sheets without even realizing it. “Hey,” he said, “how was your day?”
It was normal. Call your lover, ask how their day was, slip into little conversations that either ended in flirtations that left Will wanting, or those sweet little good-byes that Will needed, the reassurance that he was loved. After the hell on Earth he’d gone through learning the truth of Hannibal, he didn’t feel guilty expecting the man to remind him he loved him. He didn’t feel guilty at all with him, really. Even when his fantasies got dark- which, with the lack of brutatlity he’d been around lately, they had stayed rather pleasant- he never felt guilty, because Hannibal would indulge him, if he asked.
Ever since Barker, Will hadn’t asked. He hadn’t needed to.
“So my students have a final this Thursday,” Will pointed out, finishing off his whiskey and setting the glass aside, “How about I see you before the madness of grading them?” Hannibal chuckled.
“Dinner tomorrow night?” Will hummed his approval.
“It’s a date.”
The serial rapist case was really nothing all that interesting, Will noted to himself, skimming over the files the next day at the lab. And while the man was sick- he had a pension for cutting off fingers or toes and leaving them stuffed in the girls’ mouths as gags- he hadn’t killed anyone yet, and Will knew eventually one of the girls would see too much, would be able to put a face to him. He said as much, and Jack frowned, but didn’t pull for much else. It wasn’t his case, wasn’t Will’s case either- they were just throwing out ideas for the NYCPD to work with. Will drew up a profile for them, and found it rather colorless, lacking anything spectacular.
Lacking an art, like Cat’s profile had had. He’d drawn up a full, detail one of her, after the case was abandoned. Sure, warrants were out for her, but he knew she was long gone. To where, Will didn’t know- but she was somewhere else, hunting for fresh canvases, without his mind t track her down. She’d do just fine.
Alana had suggested he write an article on her. He pointed out that was her specialty, and she had changed her suggestion to writing one together. She would work with Will’s profile of the girl, and apply her own ideas. Will had let her run with the idea, but so far hadn’t read the draft she had given him a week ago. He wasn’t sure he wanted to, because he didn’t think Alana would see Cat the way he did- wouldn’t see her as an artist, as colorful and lively and brimming with ideas.
He asked Alana before leaving the lab- catching her after a guest lecture she was giving- if she minded checking in on the dogs that evening.
“Have plans?” she asked, standing by her car with the sun playing in her dark waves, and Will smiled, hands stuffed in the pockets of his jeans.
“Dinner with Hannibal.” She nodded, she knew as much, he was sure. “Do you mind?”
“No,” she said, smiling- a little forced, he noticed- “Of course not. Should I pop by in the morning?” Will thought on that, sucked his lower lip into his mouth for a minute.
“Would you mind? I don’t know if I’ll be home or not.” She laughed.
“Just plan on not,” she pointed out, reaching out to affectionately rub her hand along his arm, then turned to her car, accepting his thank you to the back of her hair as she climbed in. Will watched her go, quietly, before he got in his own car to begin the drive to Baltimore.
Hannibal had music playing quietly around the house, a soft symphony the serenade him as he cooked. The house smelled rich, and he inhaled softly, stopping to take a sip of his wine before returning his attention to the pan in front of him. He heard the front door open and close in the distance, but didn’t leave his position, even as Will walked into the kitchen, all wild curls and partially unbuttoned shirt- the top two, and Hannibal didn’t miss as he popped the third button, rotating his neck at the freedom it allowed.
“Hey,” he said, smiling his almost childlike smile and walking around the counter, wrapping his arms around Hannibal’s waist and pressing into his back, chin resting on his shoulder. “That smells amazing.” Hannibal chuckled, accepted the embrace, despite that it made it awkward for him to move. Will squeezed him gently, then let go, picking up his wine glass and spinning it between his fingers. “How were your patients today?”
“Terribly dull,” he offered, “considering present company.” Will laughed, stopping when he found the slight smudge from Hannibal’s lips, taking a quick sip. “How is the case you’re consulting on.”
“Terribly dull,” Will said, laughing as Hannibal gave him a look that said he knew Will was teasing him. “Considering present company.” Those burgundy eyes flashed dark for a second, a quick peek at the monster inside, and then it was gone- but it was enough. Will liked to poke sometimes, to make sure the beast was there. He knew he’d be sad if it wasn’t.
“Have a seat,” Hannibal said, gesturing towards the living room. “I will be out shortly.” Will nodded, pushing Hannibal’s wine glass back to him and slipping into the dining room.
Will slept best when curled up against Hannibal. The expensive sheets melted under them, and Hannibal pressed into the curves of his back and legs so perfectly that, to Will, they were one person. He’d wake up most mornings with one of Hannibal’s arms locked around him and the man’s face buried in his curls. He’d shower still feeling the ghost of his skin, dress slowly because he didn’t want to cover flesh Hannibal could touch.
Will dozed now, at the early hours of the morning, feeling as if there was something off about the room. He squirmed, pressed back against Hannibal and his bare skin- both clad in nothing but their underwear, because Will preferred them like that- opened his eyes because the darkness felt like it was moving in front of his lids.
A set of dead eyes stared back at him, wide, one steely blue, once piercing, and Will gritted his teeth, pushing himself up and holding eye contact with the dead psychiatrist. Matthew didn’t scare him, and Will felt his lip twitch in a snarl as he muttered,
“I should have eaten your heart.”
Barker smiled, a mouth with bloody teeth and no tongue, and Will wanted to pluck every tooth from his gums and wear them around his neck, strung together like pearls.
His eyes shot open when he felt Hannibal rolled him over, onto his back, the older man sitting up and gazing down at him. Will blinked, like his eyes adjust- knew he had been dreaming.
“Was I thrashing?” he asked, and Hannibal shook his head.
“No, simply squirming. You spoke, though. Rather clearly.”
“Hmm. What did I say?” Hannibal hesitated, then,
“I should have eaten your heart.”
Will nodded, and Hannibal didn’t asked about the dream, because he knew. Will was sure he kept a mental catalog of every dream Will had about Barker, probably had a notebook filled with his curving handwriting about the details of the dreams, his own opinions on them. Will wouldn’t mind- he just didn’t want to talk about them. They weren’t terror filling, fear inducing- they didn’t even usually leave him feeling angry.
If anything, he felt hungry.
“I thought they had stopped,” Hannibal mused, lying back down, remaining on his back. Will shrugged, rolled over, pressing to Hannibal’s chest.
“It’s been about three weeks,” Will whispered flatly, “Maybe I just had one more in my system.” He received only silence, and he knew what Hannibal was thinking- thinking that maybe he needed to flush it out, maybe he needed to sink his hands into someone and feel heat and blood and the tightness in his belly. Will wouldn’t answer him if he asked, and Hannibal wouldn’t expect an answer. Alyssa had been a necessity. Barker had been an obligation. And Will had enjoyed them both- but he hadn’t bloodied his hands aside of them. He let Hannibal bloody himself as he chose- which, after the last Ripper killing, he hadn’t- and while he loved the aftermath, loved filing through the details in his head and piecing together the image of his Hannibal in his glory, cutting a body open with keen precision- he didn’t feel the need for it himself.
Not yet. And Will had reservations, still. He didn’t think they’d ever go away. One moment, he was sure he’d never need it again, the next, he contemplated it, closed his eyes, felt Alyssa’s throat beneath his hands. He swore he was two men, vying for control of his mind, his body. Just like Hannibal.
Will loved and hated the sight of the imposing stack od finals on his desk in his home. The feeling that he could be free of a classroom for the summer if he chose- though he still had not made up his mind- the feeling that something was ending, closing, properly for once. But the thought of reading through all of them made his head ache already.
The dull throb intensified as he worked. He hadn’t gone to the lab that day- he’d told Jack the sooner he had this done, the better, and the man had been rather complacent about it. Nothing new in the case he was consulting on, anyway. Will was just glad Jack hadn’t bought him a plane ticket to New York yet.
It was later afternoon when he heard the sound of a car pulling up. He didn’t move from his desk, caught half way in a student’s rambling about biting- he had insisted they remember that, Will told himself as he felt his attention waning- and only put the paper down when he heard a key in the door, and the dogs moving, surrounding it and barking happily as Hannibal pushed the door open and slipped inside. He crouched down, greeting them with a smile, and Will watched, amused, with a slight tilt of his head.
It felt so normal to see Hannibal just walking into his house. It made something feel warm inside him, spreading out through his limbs to the tips of his fingers, his toes. It felt like life.
“I thought you had appointments all afternoon,” Will mused, tapping his pen and watching as Hannibal weaved his way through the dogs to him, bending to kiss Will’s lips gently in greeting. Will smiled against the kiss, the pulling of his lips growing when Hannibal chose to kiss his temple as well.
“I had a cancellation,” he offered, “a family emergency, so I could forgive the short notice. I thought you might enjoy some company tonight, while you worked.”
“You thought right.” Will looked out the window- it was still bright, warm, and stood up, stretching, before slipping an arm around Hannibal’s waist. “But I could go for a bit of a distraction before I continue, too.”
His sly smile told Hannibal more than words ever could, and the man returned it, pressing against Will in that perfect way that only he could, with his every curve coupling with Will’s.
Once afternoon had settled to evening, once Will had been thoroughly distracted, and once Hannibal had fed them- Will couldn’t help but laugh that the man had cooked something light and brought it with him. He knew Hannibal hated the idea of attempting to cook in his kitchen, it was possibly the biggest deterrent of him staying at Will’s- although Will was silently grateful that he managed to over come the obstacle and stay with him regardless. Once the afternoon had run its coarse, Will settled at his desk to continue, Hannibal on the couch with a book and a few of the dogs inching closer- not touching, but watching.
Will silently wondered if he’d ever see Hannibal curl up with one of them. If once it was cold- and Will’s house was prone to the cold- if he’d let one or two curl up against his lap when Will wasn’t there. He wondered if he could bring Hannibal to that level of comfort, of normalcy.
“Your thoughts are rather loud tonight, Will,” Hannibal said, looking up from his book and catching his lover watching him. There was no follow up question, but Will understood it. And he had the option to answer, or not. It was his choice.
“Just wondering if I can ever convince you to cuddle with the dogs.” He smiled, shrugging, and Hannibal chuckled- reaching over and scratching Winston behind the ear.
“Perhaps after a thorough bath, and if the need for warmth was that dire.”
“They’re clean. It’s not like they live under the house, Hannibal.” The man said nothing, and Will looked back to his papers, chuckling and still picturing it in his head. A silent goal, then. Winston might be the easiest to ease Hannibal in with- the dog seemed to have quite the affection for the man, although they all did. It was as if they could read Will’s very thoughts, feel that yes, he trusted this man- and thus they could too. They only barked when Hannibal appeared in greeting, and when the man spoke, they listened.
Granted, Will was fairly sure when Hannibal spoke even the Earth stopped turning to listen.
“I can still hear your thoughts turning.”
Will turned and glared at Hannibal, playfully, and wondered if he walked over and kissed the smug smile off his face if he’d ever manage to get back to grading.
It was dark when he heard it- pulling him from his trance like state, pulling him from Hannibal’s arms as the man made not a sound, simply rolled over as Will pulled himself from the bed. He couldn’t say what it was, like a low humming that could have been in his head, but yet he was so sure it wasn’t. He padded his way to the door- where were the dogs?- and unlocked it, slipping out onto the porch.
Waiting for him, a few feet from the steps, Julie stared with her honey eyes and little smile. Will felt his body tensing, a cold chill running down his spine, while heat exploded in his chest. He glanced down from her face, took in the expanses of skin, that she was naked-
That she was opened like a book, and he could see the empty spaces where Cat had rearranged her insides on a spike.
“I’ve missed you,” she whispered, and Will wasn’t sure if he should run back inside or run to the girl, gather her up in his arms and pepper her temple with kisses. If he should appreciate her. “You’ve left me very lonely, Will.”
“The dead can’t be lonely.” He took a few steps to the stairs, stopped, watched the way she cocked her head, the way her hair moved in waves of gold. He wanted to touch it, to run his fingers through it and bury his face in it and smells flowers and stale blood.
“But your thoughts can be.” She walked, and Will watched her insides rearranging, the skin that had been peeled back swaying. He saw glimpses of her spine and thought of Hannibal digging at Matthew’s.
“My thoughts are a lot of things,” Will offered, “Lonely isn’t one of them.”
“I beg to disagree.” She stepped up the first step, reached out, pressed a hand to him. She was warm, she shouldn’t be warm. “You’re lonely, dear Will.”
It took Will a moment to realize it was Hannibal’s voice that had come out of her mouth. He stared at her, reached out and sank a hand into her hair, pulling her close and nuzzling into it, smelling flowers and stale blood and the rich, heady scent of Hannibal’s cologne. His stomach tightened.
“See?” she whispered, taking one of his hands and pressing it into the gaping maw of her body, so he could run his fingers along tissue that shouldn’t have still been slick. “See?”
Will realized his eyes were closed, and he couldn’t.
He sat with a start, gasping, eyes jerking around the room. Nothing was out of place, right down to Hannibal, facing away from him, sleeping soundly. Right down to the delicate curve of his spine disappearing into the blankets.
Will ran a hand through his hair, wet with sweat, and grimaced. He pulled himself from the bed, wondering if he could put a towel down without disturbing Hannibal, wondering if he could shower without the man noticing. He’d have to come up with a lie to tell the man, couldn’t tell him that he was dreaming about a dead girl. Couldn’t tell him this wasn’t the first time she’d come back to him, she’d told him things and made him feel warm and cold at the same time- like two people.
She’d never had his voice, before. She’d never smelled like Hannibal. But Will had never dreamed of her around him before. He acted, for the most part, as a deterrent for dreams, except the occasional slippage of Matthew into his thoughts, especially back briefly after the incident. Will didn’t like to think of it as rape. If he didn’t he could detach himself and pretend it hadn’t happened, during the daylight hours at least.
He jumped when he heard his phone buzzing on his nightstand, an grabbed it, hoping the noise wouldn’t wake Hannibal. The man was usually a very light sleeper, but Will knew he didn’t sleep as well here, and often Will could get away with being slightly more careless once the man finally did drift off, without waking him.
“Will.” Jack’s voice was clear, real, and Will frowned. A look at his clock told him it was seven thirty- even if he had planned on being at the lab, it wouldn’t be until later. And Jack knew he had grading to do.
His stomach tightened into a small lead ball. That left very few reasons for the call. “Good morning, Jack.”
“Will, we need you.” He heard the man swallow. “We’ve got a scene. And it’s not a pretty one, Will.”
Were they ever pretty? Will raked a hand back through his hair, uncomfortable as the sweat cooled and dried against his body. He should have known the silence wouldn’t last, the lull in violence. Eventually, it had to come back to him. Eventually, it had to come back home.
“Let me shower,” Will said, “And I’ll be there. Hannibal’s here, Jack.”
“Bring him. We might need his help.”
That told Will more than any details Jack could give him on the scene. He grabbed a small pad of paper and a pen from the nightstand and scribbled down the address, then hung up, turning to the bed. He watched Hannibal for a moment, his back and the way he moved when he breathed, the way his hair was rumpled from tossing about. He hated to disturb him, but crawled onto the bed, over the cooling wet splotches his sweat had left, and bent to kiss between his shoulder blades, following his spine lower. By the time he was mid way down his back, Hannibal was stirring, sighing and turning his head, trying to look back at Will.
“Good morning,” Will mouthed into his skin, lower still, until he reached the small of his back. He would have liked to roll Hannibal onto his stomach, continue to trail up again, rouse him as slowly as possible and fit against him in a lazy but needy fashion. Will liked those warm, hazy mornings, where if he wanted he could spend an hour properly rousing Hannibal from sleep. They only happened here, in his home- Hannibal always woke so perfectly crisp in his own.
He moved as Hannibal rolled onto his back, watching him, frowning when he noticed the way Will’s hair was sticking to his forehead. “Did you have a nightmare?”
“Just restless,” Will lied, and then, “Jack just called. We’re needed.”
The perfect deterrent from his own problems. Hannibal stared at him for a moment, then sat up. “Is it simply you that Jack needs, and I happen to be conveniently at the right place?”
“No. No, when I told him you were here he asked for you to come as well.” Will licked his lips, and saw a few things cross Hannibal’s eyes- the realization that this was something most certainly unsavory, and the excitement of getting to see it first hand- fresh.
Will wasn’t sure which emotion was stronger. He wasn’t sure, hadn’t been sure for a long time, really, that he cared.