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A Fascination of Tongues

Chapter Text

“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.

“Hello Will.”

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.”

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.

“Hello?”

“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.

Chapter Text

By the time they had showered, dressed, and made the hour and a half drive to Milford, Virginia, Will was feeling on edge. He hadn’t been to a fresh scene recently- and the ones he had been to hadn’t been particularly gruesome, compared to what he had seen.

Compared to what he had seen Hannibal create.

He drove, although Hannibal had offered. The day threatened to be hot, and Will had no idea how Hannibal was in a tie, let alone a suit. He wanted to call him crazy, but kept his mouth shut as he rolled to sleeves of his plaid button down up and popped the second button. He was thankful Hannibal was letting him drive in silence. He wasn’t sure what there was to say at this point, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to talk.

Hannibal probably sensed that on him. And Will was grateful.

The address brought Will up to a small church, blandly labeled Milford Presbyterian Church with a Biblical quote beneath their sign. He ignored it as he killed the engine and opened his door, stepping into the bright sun and squinting.

Jack hadn’t told him it was in a church.

He was flooded with thoughts of Richard Blake then, carving apples into his victims, turning women into his metaphorical Eve for his punishment. It made him grit his teeth. It had been tasteless.

Hannibal’s hand on his lower back was the only thing that got him walking.

Jack was waiting for them at the door, blocking a view inside. “Dr. Lecter,” he said in greeting first, and Hannibal gave him a nod, before he turned to Will. “Sorry to pull you out here like this. I hope you’re ready.”

Jack was sugar coating something, and it made Will’s fist clench. He didn’t want to see what was behind that door-

But he was slipping past Jack to the sounds of the man calling everyone away, to wait for Will to finish. Hannibal was the only one that slipped inside, standing back by the door, out of sight, a silent observer.

The church was lit naturally- the lights left off, sun streaming in through the windows, pooling along the pews in soft golds. Each stepped along the scuffed wood echoed inside Will’s head, filled it until he couldn’t hear his heart, at he stared ahead of him, his breath hitching, nostrils flaring at the scent of stale blood, laden heavy with what had once been fear.

He swallowed the lump in his throat, closed his eyes, felt more than saw the pendulum swinging in his mind, as the world around him rearranged, the sky dimming back to early morning, early enough that it was cool and dark still, the moon an opalescent nightlight bathing the pews in pearly blues.

“I brought her here, bound and gagged,” Will said, opening his eyes, wrapping his arms around the girl standing in front of him, clutching her back against his chest. She had a black canvas bag over her head, her arms bound hastily with rope. “I had to displace her, she couldn’t stay where ever she was. She was out of place.”

He grabbed the bag and ripped it off her head, shoving her down to the ground. She fell onto her face, crying around the fabric tied into her mouth as a gag, dark hair in a disarray of near black waves. She rolled onto her side and looked up, just as Will crouched down, brandishing a knife and cutting up along her shirt, tearing it free. He placed a hand to her belly, felt soft, warm skin, the way muscle tensed nervously beneath, and he stroked his thumb along he, leaning down to press his forehead to it, to smell her skin.

“A sweet thing like you,” he whispered, “Should have known better, should have known where you belonged.” He felt the desire to nip at her skin but didn’t, simply plunged his knife into her, eyes rolling back at the shrill, muffled sounds of her screams. He cut with a frenzy, sawing and ripping, nothing neat or orderly about this, as she thrashed, until she was shuddering, nearly convulsing- but still alive. He tugged on her intestines, let them spill onto her lap and wiped at a spray of blood on his lip with the back of his hand.

He grabbed her by her hair, held her head up and tipped the gag free. She looked at him blown eyes, glossy, hazy- she could feel but she was going numb, into shock. He had almost waited too long. Baring his teeth, Will grabbed her chin and opened her mouth, grabbed her tongue and pulled, his knife sawing through flesh and leaving her to fall back, blood welling in her mouth and running down her chin and cheek, pooling on the floor.

Will pocketed the hunk of flesh, then stood up, grabbing her and dragging her to the alter, leaving a huge smear of blood behind. He propped her up against it, crouched back down and looked at her eyes again, frowning.

“I’m angry she has died,” he said, “she wasn’t supposed to die yet. I pushed her too hard, more than her body could withstand. She is weak and and I know it, want everyone else to know it.” He pulled on her intestines, digging into the bloody cavity of her body and cutting them free. He left them on the floor and lifted it, settled her on the alter, her head falling back over it, legs dangling free. He ran his hands along them, before digging into her body again, cutting and tearing and pulling until she was an empty cavity, organs thrown about around her.

“There were plans,” he said, looking at the mess, frowning. “No, no not now. Her weakness has put them off. I wanted her alive still.” He turned took a few steps away, stopped, looked back. “She would have been my design,” he muttered, fists clenching tightly as he closed his eyes.

When he opened them again, the blood was dry and dark, the body cold- but left as it had been, her intestines pooled at the foot of the alter, her other organs strewn about the top in no real order. He took a deep breath, fingers flexing, reached up to rub his jaw. When he looked back, he sought out and found Hannibal by the door, jerking his head once to invite him over. The psychiatrist moved from the shadows, making his way to Will in a few long strides and peering at the body from where he stood.

“Quite the mess,” he whispered, pressing a hand to the small of Will’s back as he was so prone to do, tilting his head to take in the disarray.

“He’s sloppy,” Will pointed out, a sour taste in his mouth. “He’s an amateur. This didn’t go like he wanted.”

“Oh?” Hannibal asked, turning and nuzzling into Will’s curls, breathing in. Will smelled different- not exceedingly so, but there was a different undertone to his scent, something akin to wet flowers, left unattended in a locked car in the sun. A smoldering, decaying sweetness. It rested on Hannibal’s tongue as he inhaled again, instinctively moving partially against Will. He had no fear of discovery- no one would enter until Will allowed it. And even if they did, there were countless lies he could tell for needing to be so close to his lover. “Tell me, dear Will, how should it have gone?”

“She shouldn’t have died,” he said, pushing against Hannibal as the man’s arms wound around him. “He wanted her alive until the very end. He didn’t realize how quickly she’d go into shock and bleed out. He didn’t read up on the body before he did this.”

“A crime of passion, perhaps?” Hannibal whispered, hearing Will’s mind as it turned and wanting to sink his fingers into his skull. “They can often be spontaneous.”

“I don’t know,” Will said, frowning, “I’m not so sure. I don’t think he knew her personally- not personally enough for that.” He pulled away from Hannibal, stepping closer to the body, careful to avoid the mass of tissue on the ground. Hannibal followed, peering over his shoulder, frowning.

“His cuts are atrocious,” he whispered, fingers itching to touch the tissue. Instead he toyed with the excess of Will’s shirt at his waist, where it was tucked into his jeans. “It’s as if a child did this.”

“Not everyone is as skilled as you are, Dr. Lecter.” Will almost laughed at himself, knew Hannibal was smiling. If someone had told him months ago he’d be making a murder joke, he would have sent them into a psychiatric ward. Now he was sure he deserved a visit himself.

“Nor as skilled as you,” Hannibal breathed, “Tell me, how would you have done this, Will?”

Will shook his head. “No. Hannibal stop, this is a case.” He squeezed his eyes shut, but he wanted to imagine it, to fix the small details. He pushed those desires to the back of his mind, pulled away from Hannibal and walked back towards the door. “I’m letting them back in. Might wanna take a step back. Don’t want to look too interested.”

Hannibal ignored the slight bite to Will’s words and followed him, vowing to resume this conversation at a later time.

*

“Sloppy incisions,” Beverly said, echoing Will as she snapped a photo. “It’s almost like he tore her open with his bare hands after he got the first cut in.” She took another shot, then stepped back from the body, looking at the pile of intestines being bagged from the floor. She frowned. “You think he’ll do it again like this, Will?”

“Most likely.” Will pushed his glasses up, watching as everything was cataloged, photographed, and removed. His hands itched to be the ones to lift the organs, feel the weight of her kidneys, her lungs, and gently place them away in the evidence bags. “This didn’t go the way he wanted it to. She died before he wanted her to.”

“That’s...probably more disturbing,” Beverly admitted, folding her arms. She hadn’t heard the story Will had given Jack, who was discussing it with Hannibal now- asking for his opinion on what Will had constructed. “He wanted to hurt her.”

“He wanted her to feel everything.” Will looked down at her, finally taking in the details of her face. Not overly pretty, yet not unattractive. Plain, but not unusable. She could have been turned into something marvelous-

“-again we’re going to have a bigger mess on our hands.” Will jerked his head towards Beverly, whispering, “what?” realizing he had lost himself in his thoughts. She only gave him a small smile. “I said, if he decided to try this again we’re going to have a bigger mess on our hands. If this is a failed attempt, what does a success look like?”

Will said nothing. He had no answer.

“Her tongue is missing,” Beverly noted as the body was lifted. Will nodded.

“He cut it out.”

“So where is it?” She looked at the alter, wondering how the perish was going to explain this to its congregation. She was sure it would be interesting to hear.

“He took it with him.”

“A trophy?” Will nodded, a mumbled “mm-hmm.” Beverly frowned. “At least that gives us something to look for if we...if we can’t catch him before he does it again. But if he was this much of a novice, he must have left something behind.”

Will wasn’t so sure about that.

*

Jack requested Will come to the lab in order to write up his findings, and to have a second look at the body. By the time he was finally asking this, it was nearing one o’clock. Will was starving- he hadn’t eaten yet- and knew the pile of finals looming on his desk hadn’t magically shrunk while he was gone. However, he saw no alternative.

“Fine,” Will said, rubbing his jaw. “Let me stop home first, let the dogs out, drop Hannibal off. No reason he needs to get dragged along with all this. Besides- oh hell.” Will stopped, turning and finding Hannibal talking with one of the officers, almost casually. “Hannibal!” he called, and the man looked over, “Do you have appointments tonight?” A gentle shake of his head, and Will nodded, turning back to Jack. “Yeah, let me stop home for a minute. Then I’ll come in.”

“Thank you,” Jack said, and Will could only think it sounded funny coming from the man who expected so much of him.

*

Will rolled the window down on the drive back home, the heat settling in the car uncomfortably. Hannibal even took his jacket off, carefully rolling his sleeves up, much to Will’s amusement.

“Don’t tell me you’re wearing suits in the summer,” he teased, and Hannibal smiled at him.

“I find myself in temperature controlled environments more often than not, Will. But I believe in your presence I will have to make some...adjustments.”

Will tried to picture Hannibal in something more casual and appropriate for summer, and ended up simply laughing as he drove. Hannibal glanced at him, but let a small smile play on his face, reaching out to briefly take one of Will’s hands.

Once at the house, Will got out of the car long enough to greet the dogs and let them out, slipping inside with Hannibal for a moment to glance at the stack of papers he had waiting.

“I’ll be as quick as I can be,” he said, “You don’t have to stay, you know. I’m sure you’ve got something you need to be doing.”

Hannibal only smiled at him, kissing his forehead. “I came prepared, dear Will. I will be here when you return. Take whatever time you need.” Will nodded, received a kiss on the mouth- this one lingering longer, sweet enough to make Will wish he had a few more minutes to spare. “I will collect your dogs as well. You do not have to wait for them.”

“You sure?” Hannibal nodded. “Alright. Thanks.” He squeezed his hand, then slipped right back out of the house, hopping back in his car and speeding off towards the lab.

*

The autopsy was going on still as he walked in. Will avoided it, and was silently thankful no one asked him to watch. There was a mixture of having seen enough carnage for one day, and not wanting to see the ugly mess this man had left. Wasteful, really.

He bit back those thoughts. They were things not to be entertained here, among this company.

He expected Beverly, but was given Jack. She was standing in on the autopsy. “She’s got the stomach for it,” Jack said, guiding Will into his office. They sat, Jack passing him a file across his desk. “This is your copy, to take home. I want to find this one, Will, before we get another body. We’ve had a nice break here, let’s keep it going.”

Will nodded, opening the file and flipping through. All it had were the notes on the crime scene and photographs. Photos of the body after the autopsy would have to be added, along with any more notes they made- and, of course, the victim’s identity.

“We’re working on an ID now,” Jack said, “I wanted it before you got here. They’re telling me maybe tomorrow.” Will nodded. “What are you feeling with this one, Will?”

Will closed his eyes for a second, saw himself cutting the girl’s tongue out and pocketing it, cursing as she died before he was ready for her to. “Desperation,” he said, opening his eyes, pushing at his glasses. “I don’t think he was really ready for this one, Jack. Something pushed him. He didn’t want her to die when she did. He wasn’t done with her. That’s why he left a mess behind, it was all unfinished.”

“Do you think he’ll kill sooner because of it?” Will sucked on his lips, thought, slipped into the blackness of his mind for a second and bared his teeth at her dying eyes.

“Yes.” He cleared his throat. “He needs to redeem himself, to the world. To us, to his victims, to her. He’ll be anxious, desperate for it.”

“Desperation made him sloppy once. It could make him sloppy again.” Will nodded.

“It could. But with what we have right here,” he tapped on the file, “it won’t matter. We have nothing to go on.”

“Get me something to go on, Will.”

“Get me an ID on the girl,” Will said, standing up, “And I’ll get you something.”

*

He left Jack and wondered the halls, thinking. Stopped to get a cup of coffee, took it with him, as he paced. By the time it was empty Beverly was looking for him, grabbing his arm and dragging him down to see the body.

“You’ve got something new,” he mused, by the way her arms were twitching slightly around his own. He liked the hold she had on him. Will liked when Beverly touched him- she was one of the few.

“Just look at this,” she said, pulling the body out, pointing with her pen at the woman’s neck. What had been pale earlier in the awkward lighting of the church was now peppered with light bruising.

“Suck marks.” Will pulled on a pair of gloves and leaned closer, gently touching her skin, tracing along her throat. He blinked and felt her skin in his mouth. “But no teeth indentations.”

“He didn’t bite,” Beverly said with a frown.

“Guess he wasn’t that desperate. Was their any saliva?” She shook her head.

“Traces of bleach. He was prepared enough. You thinking he really didn’t think this through?”

“I’m thinking he wasn’t quite ready but something pushed him into it. So what else?” Beverly was frowning.

“She’s got vaginal tearing.” She watched the slight twitch in Will’s eyes, waited to see if there was more. He held his breath for a second, then exhaled.

“Okay. So we add that to his profile. Sexually starved, maybe. Maybe this is the only way he thinks he can attain intimacy.”

“Will.” Beverly was covering the girl again, pushing her body back, out of sight. “There’s more.” He watched her, the way she looked away from him, at where the body had been pulled out, swallowed down the lump in her throat. When she looked back, her eyes were dark- tinged with some angry, something akin to a sickening disgust. “She...she was already dead, when the damage occurred.”

*

The sun was threatening to set when Will pulled up to his house. A warmth filled him when he saw Hannibal’s Bentley was still there. He wouldn’t have blamed the man for returning home- even after saying he would not- but he had wanted to find him here. Will was unsettled, his stomach in knots, and he needed someone to sort through them, untangle them.

When he opened the door the dogs ran to meet him, and he bent down to administer quick scratches behind ears, before letting them out. He closed the door and took a few steps into the house before Hannibal emerged, the apron he had been keeping at Will’s tied around his waist. Will smiled at him, feeling the knot loosen, and accepted the kiss to the corner of his mouth, slipping his arms around Hannibal.

“Are you making dinner?” he asked, not sure what he could possibly have in the house that Hannibal could cook. He was still very bad at keeping his kitchen stocked.

“Yes. I may have made a quick shopping trip while you were away.”

Will didn’t ask where. Hannibal’s eyes told him there was nothing incriminating about tonight’s dinner. Besides- when ever Hannibal next decided to use a scalpel on anything more than a pencil, Will knew he’d know. It was just a matter of what he’d do.

Will nodded, kissing Hannibal’s mouth gently, then releasing him. “I’m gonna go watch the dogs,” he said, turning and stepping outside onto the porch. The file was sitting in his car. He didn’t want to look at it right now. It had a few new scribbled notes that he wanted to pretend didn’t exist. He just wanted to slip into a night of watching the dogs romp around in the settling dusk, of grading papers and settling in against Hannibal. He didn’t want there to be anything else.

Hannibal joined him, a few minutes later, sans apron, and stood next to him, hand on the small of his back. He didn’t need to tell Will that dinner was ready, Will knew. His appetite was lacking, however- which only made him feel miserable, if Hannibal had gone through the trouble.

“What is on your mind, dear Will?” Hannibal asked, and Will furrowed his brow.

“The case. Some...some things came to light.” Hannibal nodded. He did not ask, and Will didn’t want him to. It was in the air, Will could continue if he desired, or he could not. If was his choice, and Hannibal would accept either. “He raped her.”

Hannibal’s hand pushed in tighter, slid around to curl into his waist, pull Will closer. He turned and pressed his face into his hair, kissed his curls, sighing. Behind his eyes, he saw himself cutting open Matthew just as Will instructed, he saw himself picking apart the man who thought he could touch the only piece of true perfection, true art, in Hannibal’s life.

He relived it, in his dreams. He would give almost anything to actually relive it.

He didn’t tell Will that. He didn’t feel he needed to, he was sure Will was capable of inferring that much on his own.

“She was already dead,” Will finally croaked out, running a hand over his face, “Jesus, she was dead when he did it. He waited until she was dead- or dying, maybe. Maybe I reconstructed it all wrong.” He was shaking his head, turning to lean his hip on the railing and look at Hannibal. “And I’m not sure what’s worse- what was done to her, or that I keep thinking it was completely graceless.”

“Both can be a shame,” Hannibal whispered. “You can feel distress over this girl’s fate, and about the way it was executed. It was very unsavory.” Hannibal trailed his hand along Will’s side. “What does this tell you about your killer, Will? That he waited until after death.”

“He was terrified of her.” Will swallowed. “He wasn’t just putting her in her place because he felt that was where she belonged- he was doing it because he was scared of her. It was his last way to degrade her, but...” He choked for a moment. “He couldn’t do it while she was alive. He’s scared of women. He might not show it, but he is.”

Hannibal nodded. “Your picture is becoming clearer.”

“Not clear enough.” Will sighed, stepping closer, pushing his forehead against Hannibal’s shoulder. “Jack is hoping to have the victim’s ID for me by tomorrow. Once I have that, I can piece this together more.”

Hannibal wrapped his arms around Will, rubbing along his spine. “I fear you will have to do all your grading this evening, then. Jack will surely steal you.” Will laughed, shaking his head, pushing up against Hannibal completely and slipping his arms around him. Hannibal turned to kiss his temple. “No more talk of this case until tomorrow, dear Will. Come, gather the dogs and let’s have dinner.” Hannibal decided he could wait a day or two before sinking his fingers into Will's mind and pulling out the crime, repainted to fit his design. Will might be more willing to give it then, as well. He wanted his lover to present it to him, not to tear it from his skull. Everything from Will was always better when freely given- Hannibal wasn't sure he could take at this point, not from Will. Never again from Will.

Will inhaled, sinking into the comfort of Hannibal’s cologne and warmth, and nodded. He found his appetite was already returning.

Chapter Text

Hannibal departed in the morning, leaving Will with that dull ache in his belly he always got when they separated. While they had gotten into a rhythm of finding their ways into each other’s homes, it still wasn’t the same as coming home to the man every night.

It was something Will wanted to think about, to entertain, but driving into the lab, he had to push it aside. He was wired mostly on coffee, having stayed up to grade as many finals as he could. Hannibal had even turned in before he had- but, there had been something satisfying about crawling into bed and sliding along the man’s back, wrapping his arms around him and nestling in between his shoulder blades. There was always something satisfying about holding Hannibal.

He was greeted just as he made it in the door by Jack, holding out a handful of papers. “For your file,” he said, and Will dug out the folder, taking them and cramming them in. Autopsy report, a drug test that showed nothing of interest-

“Her ID,” he said, stopping at the last page. Jack was nodding.

“Anna Lee Moss. Reported missing last night. Her parents said she went out for a walk and never came home. They thought she might have gone to visit a friend, but when she still wasn’t back they called the local police.”

“She’s from Milford,” Will mused, “he killed local.”

“Could he be local?”

“It’s a possibility.” Will tapped the paper. “Do her parents...know?”

“That she’s dead? Yes. The local police took care of that. They haven’t given them many details, yet. They’re waiting on us.” Will nodded.

“Are you driving, or am I?”

*

Will flipped through the new information as Jack drove. Anna was only twenty years old, lived at home, went to college out in Indiana. She had no history of trouble, in fact she seemed like a regular young adult. Will tapped the papers, pulling his glasses off and leaned back, thinking. Julie had seemed normal too- yet she had willingly let Cat carve her up, turn her into something of a masterpiece.

But this hadn’t been art. This hadn’t been willing. This hadn’t been Cat. Will sucked on his lip. He would have liked to have picked at her brain before letting her go, to hear her tell him the things his mind put together for her- how to determine what piece of the body to put where, the colors that each person needed to display- how to know exactly what to do to each canvas.

Answers he’d never have.

Will put his glasses back on, looking out the window. Dangerous thoughts to have around Jack, but the man was no mind reader. Will was thankful for that.

They were in Milford when Jack started speaking, more than the occasional small question on the drive- neither men were gifted with small talk. “I’m going to explain this to her parents, Will. You just sit back and let me talk. Once I’ve got them...understanding, you can chime in if you need to. Or stay silent.”

“I want to see her room.”

“I know.” Jack sighed. “I’ll get you in there.” Will nodded, contented himself by looking out the window then, until they pulled up to the house. A soft yellow, it was nice without being perfect. Will assumed the insides would be clean but cluttered, a far cry from Julie’s home.

A teenage girl opened the door, staring at Jack and Will, before moving aside and yelling, “mom!”, letting them in. Will wondered if they were expecting them, or if the girl was making a mistake Anna could have. He filed the possibility away.

“Mrs. Moss?” Jack asked as a woman appeared, her dark hair cut very short. She nodded, and he extended his hand. “Agent Jack Crawford.” She shook it, gesturing for the men to join her in the living room. The girl who opened the door was sprawled out on the couch, but her mother clapped her hands and she got up with a roll of her eyes, moving to one of the two arm chairs, her mother taking the other. Will sat silently next to Jack as he gave his condolences for the loss of her daughter, told her what he had to explain to her was not an easy thing to hear. He looked at the girl, but her mother didn’t chase her away.

Will didn’t look at Jack as he spoke, or Mrs. Moss. He looked around the room, the hanging, framed photos. Mother and father, two girls. Anna and this younger one, who Will assumed was her sister. One looked like a vacation from a a lifetime ago, another showed Anna in her graduation gown, smiling with her arms around the younger girl.

Will looked at her, draped on the arm chair, looking bored. She didn’t seem as phased by what Jack was saying as Will would have expected. The idea, however, was interrupted when a dog walked in, tail wagging, and sat right by the girl’s chair. She reached down idly to scratch behind its ear, before it got back up, walking over and sitting right by Will, looking at him.

“Basil no,” Mrs. Moss said, her voice shaky, face pale. “Come here girl.”

“It’s fine,” Jack said as Will reached out to scratch her ear. “Trust me, he likes dogs.” Will smiled as the dog trotted over, resting her head on his lap as Jack gently took back up the conversation. He left out a lot of details- most, actually. Just the place of Anna’s murder, that it had been a rushed affair- that they were afraid this man would kill again, and that any information they could give them would help save other lives.

“Anna was only home a few days,” her mother said, rubbing at her eyes. “Her semester just ended.”

“If you can help me put together a list of all the places she went while she was home, it would be helpful,” Jack said, “And if special agent Graham here could take a look at her room.” Mrs. Moss nodded as Jack pulled out a small notepad and a pen.

“Wendy,” she said, “Please show him up to Anna’s room.” He voice broke a little on her deceased daughter’s name, and Wendy nodded, standing up and walking past Will, hands shoved into the pockets of her Bermuda denim shorts. He stood and followed, the dog slipping ahead of him and right behind the girl- Wendy, tail wagging happily.

Up the stairs and down a scuffed wooden floor, Wendy stopped at the last door on the right, hand on the knob. “Don’t mess it up, okay?” she said. “Mom will get made. She doesn’t want anyone to touch it.”

“That’s normal when grieving,” he said, and then as an after thought, “I’m sorry...about your sister.” Wendy gave him a sad little smile.

“Me too.”

“Were you close?” Will realized it sounded ridiculous, and hated himself for even bothering. Socializing with adults was hard enough, but teenagers? He wasn’t sure he was capable of that.

For a moment he thought of Abigail, and he clenched a fist and dug his nails into his hand to will her away.

“Yeah,” Wendy said, “I mean, she was great as far as sisters go. Didn’t bitch me out for too much, didn’t squeal to mom or dad if I did something. She helped me hide my weed once.” The girl laughed, folding her arms. “And I probably shouldn’t have told you that.”

Will gave her a smile, pressing his hand to the door knob. “Your secret is safe with me.”

*

Anna’s room felt like a stark opposite to what Will had seen before. He couldn’t help but think back to Julie’s- splashing color to her parents’ home but still so toned down. The walls were a cream color, but the with a cherry red trim- matching the red bedding accented with gold threads. Lovely, pretty- lived in, with stacks of books about, clothes hanging over the chair at her desk. There was a purse and a few things scattered on the bed, a pair of sneakers showing from beneath the bedspread, half under the bed. Will stood with the door closed, inhaling- breathing in the smell of vanilla lotion, a floral perfume. He looked at her dresser and saw them sitting atop it, next to a few framed photos.

Will went to her bed first, very carefully lifting the blanket and folding it partially onto the mattress, dropping down to peer underneath. He moved the shoes, pulled out a plastic storage tub filled with hastily folded sweaters. A pair of pink heels followed, a discarded t-shirt. Nothing out of the ordinary- no diary, no hidden pictures. Not like Julie.

Will almost hated that he was thinking of her so much- but she was his only true point of comparison. He replaced the objects, standing, and carefully pulled the mattress up. He found a half empty pack of cigarettes and a lighter, but nothing else. He left them untouched and flipped her blanket back down. He walked to her dresser, carefully pulled a drawer open, stared at balled up tank tops and half folded shirts, closed it.

“What are you lookin’ for?”

Will turned, found that Wendy hadn’t gone back downstairs, but had opened the door and was leaning on the door frame. The Golden Retriever- Basil- was laying on the floor, watching.

“Anything,” he admitted.

“Have you touched anything yet?” Will nodded. “...I can’t even tell.”

“I put it back.”

“Perfectly.” She walked in, leaning against the dresser, closer, staring up from overly lined eyes, her hair long and wavy- near black like her mother, her sister. “You got OCD or something?”

“I just knew how she’d have left it.” Will frowned, not sure why he was bothering to explain himself. “I have this...thing. I get inside people’s heads.”

“So you can think like anyone?” He nodded. “Huh. Cool, I guess. If you’re looking for a diary she didn’t keep one. But she had a blog, guess you could read through that. I can tell you it’s pretty boring.” She folded her arms. “Her laptop is on her desk. Taking it?” He nodded. “Figured. What your partner down there was saying- he was leaving a lot out, wasn’t he?”

Will said nothing, turned away from the girl and walked over to Anna’s desk, reading the spines of the books stacked there.

“I’ll find out anyway,” Wendy said, “Eventually. It’ll be on the news. They’ll know at school. Mom doesn’t think I should go back to school ‘til Anna’s...buried.” Will looked back, saw her mouth twitch, and she tugged at her hair. “I think she’s crazy and should let me out of the house.”

“I’m sure she’s just concerned about you.” Wendy shrugged.

“Yeah. So can you think like me if you try?”

“Probably.” Will stuffed his hands into his pockets, watched her just nod.

“That’s hella cool, and kinda creepy.” Will laughed, making her smile. He was sure he agreed with her on that.

*

Jack wanted to check out every place on the list Mrs. Moss had given him, but he needed to get back to the lab for a conference call. He drove a good twenty miles over the speed limit on the highway to get them back, Will making his own copy to keep in his file.

“Was she as calm with you after I left?”

“She broke a little once her other daughter was out of the room.” Will nodded.

“I think she’s scared it will happen to her again. She’ll lose the other one.”

“Wouldn’t you be?” Will shrugged. He wasn’t sure- he didn’t have anything to base those thoughts off of. He assumed so. “So nothing much from her room?”

“Just her computer, like you saw.” Mrs. Moss had handed it over eagerly, and Will knew he’d have a look at it after someone at the lab went over it. He shifted, his pocket suddenly buzzing, and pulled his phone out, smiling to himself and answering, “Hello?”

“Hello Will.”

“Shouldn’t you be with a patient?” Jack looked at Will quickly, then back at the road. Will turned, looking out the window.

“I have a few minutes. Will you join me for dinner tonight? Even if you think you will be late?” Will’s smile turned into a frown.

“I can’t, Hannibal. I have to finish grading those finals, and I just got some more information on the case. In the car with Jack heading back to the lab now, actually. I’m sorry baby.”

Will felt Jack’s eyes on him as he let the little name slip- not something he did often, but for some reason he got a rush knowing that Jack was forced to hear his conversation. A rush knowing Jack had to put up with whatever Will decided to say- a thrill because it was nice to not hide anything.

“That is a shame. I do miss you when you spend nights away from me.” Will heard Hannibal sigh. “Will you call me tonight?”

“Of course.”

“Good. My patient should be here Will.”

“Okay. I love you.” Will felt a small heat in his stomach saying that- he always did. Always a rush, like it was the first time.

He could hear Hannibal smiling. “I love you too, dear Will.” Will ended the call and shoved his phone away, counting silently in his head. He got to twelve before Jack finally asked,

“So...how are things with you and Hannibal?”

“Fine.” Will leaned against the door, partially turning to him. “Are you done disapproving?”

“Mostly. He hasn’t affected your work poorly. And it’s nice to have him on hand for consultation. I catch Beverly talking about you two a lot.”

“Of course you do.” Will sighed. “Sometimes I think my love life is the center of her personal life.”

“She makes it sound like some sort of heaven between you two.” Will laughed.

“Maybe to her. Try making that commute just to meet for dinner.” Will rubbed his jaw. “It’s a bitch. Worth it, but I’m not a fan of driving back from Baltimore at midnight with a class in the morning. And I know Hannibal’s not a fan of making that same drive form my place to Baltimore with patients in the morning.”

“There’s always a solution to distance,” Jack said idly, and Will stared at him for a minute, not sure if he was really suggesting what he thought he was.

“Are you-“

“Look Will, I’m going to say something, and you had better listen, because it is not something I’m going to repeat, and not something I say often.” He glanced at Will quickly, then back at the road. “Maybe I was wrong about my reservations regarding you and Dr. Lecter. You’ve been a lot more...”

“Stable?” Jack frowned, but gave a nod.

“Yes, stable, lately. I think he’s doing good for you. I know you’ve had some time away from the real gritty work- but you seemed fairly in control yesterday. I need you like that- and if Dr. Lecter keeps you calm, then I’m more than willing to stand behind the two of you.” Will shifted back into his seat, mulling over Jack’s words. It was the closest to support he was going to get from the man- Jack saw something in the relationship that benefited him, and at least he wasn’t sugar coating it. “So maybe the two of you should figure out how to close the distance a little.”

Will was silent then, not sure what he had to say. If he had anything to say at all.

*

He closed himself in his empty class room once they returned to Quantico, looked over the files, closed his eyes and traced a picture of Anna in the morgue.

“What do you see?” Will looked up, watched as Julie settled on the edge of his desk- clothed this time, normal looking except for the massive dried red stain up her white shirt. He blanched for a second, confused- he wasn’t asleep- and he knew she shoudn’t be there.

“A mess, still.” He frowned. “Am I going crazy? I thought I was over that.” She smiled at him.

“Do you feel crazy?” He shook his head. “Sanity isn’t black or white, Will. You know that. Nothing is.” She looked down at the pictures on his desk, scrunching up her face. “This is a disgrace. How would you have done it?”

Will’s head jerked then, looking up at her. The words that had left her lips hadn’t been her’s, the voice a different one- silky and accented and doing crazy things to Will’s stomach and blood. And in a moment he was alone again, staring at the empty corner of his desk. Will groaned, scrubbed his hands up along his face, and threw everything together, deciding he needed some coffee.

*

Once home that evening, he let the dogs out, then set back in to grading. He was determined to finish it all that night and just be done with everything. One less stress on his shoulders- then he could dedicate himself to the case. The stack had grown relatively small by the time his concentration was broken by the buzzing of his phone. He looked up, blinked, reached for it answering blindly.

“Hello?”

“Hello Will. Are you alright?” Will blinked, then looked over at the clock on his mantle, cursing. It was nearly midnight.

“Shit. I’m sorry Hannibal, I’ve been grading since I got home. Time got away from me.” He stretched, groaning. “I’m alright though. Almost done, actually.”

“You will damage your eyes. You should step away for a moment, dear. Have you eaten?” Will frowned.

“Uh...possibly no. Probably no. No.” Hannibal sighed, and Will shrugged to himself. “Sorry.”

“What am I going to do with you, my dear William.” There was amusement to his voice, and it made Will feel warm. “Sometimes I think you would forget to breathe-“

“If you didn’t remind me? Probably.” He leaned back in his chair. “I’m sorry I couldn’t make it tonight. Once I’m done with this I’ll only have to worry about this case.”

“Have you decided against that summer class you considered teaching?”

“Not fully. Maybe you should convince me.” Hannibal chuckled.

Will, careful now. It is not fair to tease when I am so far away.” Will sighed, leaning forward then onto his desk, pushing at his pen.

“I wish you weren’t. So far away, I mean. Jack thinks you’re good for me. Told me so on the drive back from Milford. He thinks you keep me stable.” Will didn’t bother to mention the fact that for a moment he’d hallucinated a dead girl, and Hannibal’s words streaming from her mouth. He didn’t mention his dream of her. He wanted to hold onto the idea of beings table for a minute- he’d had a taste of it recently, and he was determined to savor it.

“I would agree. Although he would not agree with me ideal version of your stability.”

“No murder talk over the phone.” Hannibal chuckled.

“As you wish, Will.”

“Jack thinks we should do something about the distance.” Will wasn’t sure why he said it, and for a moment he regretted it- it sounded ridiculous.

“And does my Will agree with Jack?”

“Well, uh...” Will swallowed the lump in his throat. “Can we not talk about this over the phone?”

“Am I making you uncomfortable Will?” Hannibal’s voice had a twinge to it- a hint of disappointment, and Will hated himself in that moment.

“No. Not exactly. I’d just,” he stopped, took a breath to steady himself, “In person please. It will be easier, Hannibal. It’s a pretty big topic we’re skating around.”

“The idea of living together? I believe you are the only one avoiding the topic. But as you wish. Would you care to talk about the case, or shall I let you return to your grading?” Will looked at the papers in front of him, his stomach in a mess of nervous knots.

“I-I think I should get back to grading,” he admitted, “I owe you one boring conversation about this case.”

“Our conversations are never boring.”

“You flatter me. I’ll call you tomorrow, I swear. We’ll work something out between our schedules.” He heard a muffled hum of approval.

“I will hold you to this, Will. Please do remember to get some sleep.”

“I promise. G’night, Hannibal.” He received a warm good-night, then ended the call, setting his phone back down and looking glumly at the papers in front of them. He cursed them and set back in with gritted teeth, trying not to think about the honey sweet words he could have been enjoying dripped from Hannibal’s mouth instead.

*

Will felt he had barely fallen asleep when his phone was going off. He rolled onto his stomach, ignoring it, but when it finally silenced at the signal of a missed call it began again. Will groaned, pushing himself up and grabbing it. “Hello?”

“Get dressed.” It was Jack, and that had Will frowning. Instead he flopped back down onto the bed.

“Jack I was up half the night grading, whatever details you have can wait for a few hours-“

“Will, you were right. He struck fast.” Will froze, his mouth suddenly tasting sour.

“Struck...”

“I can send Beverly to your house, she is on her way. Just get dressed. It’s a mess here.” Will swallowed the lump in his throat, nodding despite the fact that Jack couldn’t see.

*

His hair was still wet from his shower as he hopped into Beverly’s car. She lifted a to-go cup of coffee from one of the holders and handed it to him, and he thanked her, taking a sip of the hot liquid and praying it would wake his body up. They got on the highway, neither speaking a word, and Will was thankful. He wasn’t awake enough for conversation. He simply leaned his head against the window and watched the cars fly by.

The ride was shorter than the trip to Milford, and he began reading the signs as Beverly got off the highway. Warrenton the signs read- still in Virginia. In his mind, Will tried to plot the map. They’d need to create a possible killing zone for him. Two points would prove more useful than one-

As much as Will didn’t want to think about there being a use for a dead body. Not with this one- not with someone so tasteless.

Beverly pulled up to the curb, outside the Fauquier County Library, killing the engine and watching along with Will at the police scattering about, trying to push back on lookers. Will sucked on his lip- he didn’t like when there was a crowd. It was too easy to let the situation get out of hand, too easy to have people slipping where they shouldn’t. He got out of the car, hiding behind a sip of coffee as Beverly walked around and they walked towards the library. The officer at the door let them in, and they found Jack speaking loudly with the sheriff, the veins on his neck beginning to stand out.

Will was more than happy to let Beverly walk in front of him, greeting Jack cautiously. He looked at them, then sighed in relief, turning back to the sheriff. “Look, my guy is here. Just keep your men out while he does his thing, and then you can cram back in with us.” The sheriff looked at Will with a hard gaze, then turned on his heel, storming off.

Will had a very unsettling feeling in his stomach. He gripped his coffee cup, following Jack and Beverly through the scattered officers, past shelves of books. Will could smell it, as they grew closer- the irony, muffled scent- stale blood and innards. He inhaled through his mouth, but it simply coated his tongue.

He rather disliked the scent when it was stale.

“Two rows down,” Jack said, “You’ll...know it when you see it.” He placed his hand on Will, looking grim. “I hope you didn’t eat breakfast.”

Will frowned, handing his coffee to Beverly, letting his fingers brush along hers. Oddly soothing- not like the feel of Hannibal’s hand pressed into the small of his back, but still serving to cool his blood and still his rolling stomach.

For a brief moment, as he took a step away from the group, Will wasn’t sure he wanted to look.

Chapter Text

As he stepped around the shelves, the scene rewound before his eyes, the pendulum swayed with each beat of his heart, each pulse of his temples. Suddenly it was dark, he could see only from the street lights flickering in through the windows, and the girl was alive, pressed back against his chest, gagged and squirming. His hand was on her throat, and he inhaled, smelled fear that made his eyes nearly roll back.

“I want you afraid,” he murmured, pressing his face into her hair- a dirty blonde, cut at an extreme angle, “I want you so afraid it stains the pages of these books with its scent. I want to open them and know you were here, you were dying.” He presses his mouth to the back of her neck, bite down and sucks as she thrashes, and then he shoved her to the ground, dropping down to straddle her thighs, a hand on the middle of her back to keep her down. “You’re too small to throw me off. You’re too small for this world, aren’t you?”

Will had a detached, though slightly amused, smile on his face. He ripped at her shirt with his bare hands as she cried against the gag, but the rich expanse of skin left him soft and gritting his teeth. Frustrated, he brandished a knife from his pocket- this one small, easy to conceal, and began cutting into her skin as she gave a struggled, muffle cry. He pulled the skin back to expose muscle at random points, leaving her back a dotted mess of blood and bare muscle. He licked his lips, tossing the skin aside, having no use for it other than to remove it.

She was choking on wet hiccups by the time he decided it was enough, feeling a heat in his gut. He stood up just to roll her over, watching her face scrunch up in pain as her partially skinned back rubbed down into the dirty, old carpet. Then he was on her again, tilting his head, examining her year stained cheeks, eyeliner loose and running with her tears.

“Despicable,” he muttered, “Look at you. This is what you really are. You pretended, just like her. You thought you were something you weren’t.” He wrapped his hand around her throat, his other hand pulling her torn clothing aside so he could bend his head, bite down into her left breast, nearly tearing a chunk of flesh away. She screamed again, bucked up against him in an attempt to escape. His cock twitched.

When he straightened again, mouth stained red, Will felt around for his bigger knife- the good one, the one he hadn’t cleaned Anna’s blood off of, and dragged it down the center of her body, a trail of red welling up in her skin. He watched for a moment, before he dug it in and tore it down again, opening her up as her body shuddered. He reached inside blindly, grabbing and pulling and tearing, tossing hunks of muscles and tissue away as he grinned, feeling her warmth seeping into him.

“You’re not so strong on the inside,” he cooed, leaning down and letting one bloody hand tug her gag free. She was staring with wide, glossy eyes. She was almost dead- but she could still feel.

He needed that.

Will grabbed his knife, pried her mouth open, and grabbed her tongue, cutting the offensive muscle free. He leaned back, leaving her to choke on her own blood, as he held it up, examining it in the light, before shoving it into his pocket and returning his hands to the warm cavity that was her body.

Will gave a small start, eyes opening, stared at the remains of the incident. Her body lay open and discarded on the ground. Her eyes were wide, staring, her mouth open, filled with the blood she suffocated on. Scattered all over the floor was discarded skin, tissue, muscle.

He took a step back, then another. He wanted Hannibal’s hands on him in that moment, to steady him. He wanted something to cling to.

He smelled Hannibal’s cologne. He smelled flowers. He didn’t smell home.

Not in this mess.

“Jack,” he called, voice hoarse. He cleared his throat, then louder, “Jack!”

Beverly and Jack appeared, and Will felt Beverly’s hand between his shoulder blades, steadying him. He exhaled, and the scents were gone, leaving him with just stale blood and a very vile taste in his mouth.

*

The local police tried to warm their way in. Will watched Beverly snap at a few as she tried to take pictures, gloved hands gently working at the body.

“He cut her left breast off,” she said, disgusted.

“He bit it,” Will said, “That’s why. To hide the teeth marks.”

“But...where is it?” Will stood up, having to stare at the ground to move, the little evidence tags all over the floor where pieces of the body remained. He walked away from the scene, down a few shelves, until he noticed on the carpet a few rusty stains. He turned, eyeing a section filled with old looking, worn books. One of the spines mentioned something about Kierkegaard, and Will could only figure theory or Philosophy- Philosophy, most likely. Not that he knew very much on the particular subject.

There was a smear on the shelf, he could just see it, with books thrown to the floor. He walked over, careful not to touch anything, and stared into the gap where the books at been. Her breast was mutilated, it was just torn, bloody flesh at this point- but it was tangled around her heart, which was otherwise still in tact.

Will swallowed the lump in his throat and called out to Beverly, his voice breaking part way through her name.

*

It took hours to completely process the scene. Will was jittery by the end- running on a third cup of coffee that had been passed to him by one of the FBI underlings whose name he didn’t know, whose face he didn’t look at. He hadn’t eaten and the caffeine was giving him a head ache, the bright sun blinding him when he stepped out of the library and making it worse.

The crowds had changed but hadn’t thinned. Locals demanding answers, confused- scared. Will sucked at his teeth and looked for the quickest, cleanest way into Beverly’s car. He didn’t want to interact with anyone- not yet. Inevitably, he’d have to, he’d have to help conduct interviews, but right now he was content letting the local police and the other FBI agents gather the information.

“I know we need to get to the lab,” Beverly said, “And I know it’s crazy to think about after what we saw in there...but do you want to grab lunch?”

Will scrunched his face up, but nodded. “My head is killing me. Food might help.”

“Maybe lay off the coffee.”

“I’m exhausted. I don’t want to pass out on my feet.” Beverly nodded, walking briskly with him to her car and sliding in before anyone could stop them. The moment Will’s door was shut she was driving with a purpose.

“We’ll have to be fast, Jack won’t be happy if we waste even a moment. He’s gonna want this closed yesterday, Will. It’s been quiet, I think he wanted to get used to it.”

Will rubbed his hands over his face, having pulled his glasses off and left them laying in his lap. “Never get used to the silence. It will swallow you whole, you’ll just end up drowning in your own screams.” Beverly looked at Will quickly, then back at the road, saying nothing. She told herself it was being around bodies again- it was having a real case again.

Will hadn’t sounded that desperately pessimistic in quite some time.

*

Will wasn’t sure he felt better after the food he’d forced down, and used his fourth cup of coffee at the lab to down his aspirin. Beverly shook her head but said nothing. They were in Jack’s office, the man’s back to them as he put a tack in a map of Virginia.

“Odds that he’s located somewhere between these two locations?”

“Decent,” Beverly said, “But not concrete.” Will watched as she folded her arms. “I do think he’s in Virginia.”

“We need to narrow it down more. Local police were working on an ID when I left. I bet they have on already and they’re just holding off until I call and give them the okay for her body.”

“You’re releasing it after the autopsy?” Beverly didn’t seemed thrilled about this, but Jack gave a curt nod.

“To get them to cooperate. Let’s hope this guy doesn't kill there again, the locals have been a pain so far. No one seemed to have any knowledge pertaining to the case- hopefully an ID will stir something up.” He walked over to his desk, sat down, looking at Will who was perched on the corner of it. “You two get a good look at the body before it goes back to the local PD. This is your case- I don’t want either of you working anything else. Let’s get this son of a bitch so we can go back to our lives.” Beverly nodded, jerking her head, and Will stood, following her out of the office, towards the morgue.

“So do you agree that he’s Virginia based?” Beverly asked, and Will nodded.

“It makes sense, with both victims here. I don’t know where. You were right that there’s a logical chance he’s somewhere between them, but in truth he could be anywhere.” They entered the morgue, the body sitting, waiting for them. Will set his coffee down, nearly empty, and pulled gloves on. Beverly accepted the report she was handed, reading over it quickly, her face scrunching up.

“Fucking bastard.”

“What?”

“He did it again.” She swallowed. “Raped her. Postmortem.”

“Well it fits his profile. He’s terrified of her when she’s alive. Please tell me he didn’t wear a condom this time.” Beverly said nothing, and Will sighed. “Always worth a shot. Can I see that?” She handed the chart to him and moved to give the body a quick final looked. Will flipped through the chart, not seeing much he wasn’t already aware of. He tapped the clipboard, before walking over to join Beverly. He didn’t expect to find anything there.

*

“Megan Bell,” Jack said in the hallway, stopping the two as they were leaving the morgue. “She just turned twenty.”

“He’s got an age range,” Beverly said, and Will didn’t disagree. The two followed Jack to his office and accepted the papers he handed them, listing her information.

“She’s a student in Baltimore, home at the wrong time.”

“What’s she got in common with the other girl?” Beverly asked, and Will was quiet for a moment.

“Similar age but still a difference. Anna has a little sister, looks like Megan is an only child?” Jack nodded. “Both her parents are alive. Anna’s father passed two years ago- car accident. I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t read the file again. Still pictures of him in the house recent enough to fool.”

“So not family dynamic.” Beverly said. “They don’t even look alike.”

“Age is a start,” Jack said, “Look...I know you were just there, but I need you to drive out again. Talk to her parents. I’ll let the local PD know you’re coming so they can warn them, but we need to hit them fresh. Beverly...you do the talking.”

She nodded, looked at Will, who was staring at a picture of Megan, searching for similarities he knew weren’t there.

*

Will was grateful that Beverly didn’t speak much on the drive. He stayed in his head, placing the bodies together, one next to the other. Megan and Anna. He had their pictures in his lap, their wounds plotted in his head. It seemed as if the sadist had had an intended plan for Anna, but she had died before he completed it and he’d grown frustrated. With Megan, Will got the feeling he had abandoned a step by step plan- he knew the ending he wanted and he improvised until he got there.

Will was sure she still died too soon for his tastes.

The local police had done some of their job, filling in the parents about Megan’s fate. They were rather undone when Beverly and Will arrived, and Beverly gave a hasty introduction, saying she was there to get their statements and answer as many questions as they could- and that Will needed to examine Megan’s room for possible evidence.

He was so thankful for being able to bypass all interactions with the parents he could have kissed Beverly. He was shown to her room and left alone, her parents more interested in Beverly- because she held the false promise of answers.

Will stared at the door- chipped white paint. Old. It creaked when he opened it, the poster displaying some sort of fairy or other creature- Will wasn’t entirely sure, there were so many splotches of dark colors that his eyes at the moment didn’t feel like decoding- making a noise as the air rushed under it.

Her room was in a similar state. The walls were plastered in posters and pictures, to the point that Will would barely see the white paint. Her curtains were a navy, old and faded but heavy. Good at keeping light out. She had a mess on her bed, a pile of clothing and books, a backpack discarded. He walked over and lifted a worn out t-shirt up, settled it back. Anna’s room had been orderly- not perfect, but the few items out of place would have been easy to fix. Megan’s room was pure clutter- but beyond that, a different caliber even. Her clothing was worn, her door paint chipped- Anna’s bedding had been expensive. The shoes Will found looked like they had cost more than a decent chunk of the clothing on Megan’s bed.

Affluence and wealth wasn’t a factor in the victim selection, then. The girls were too different. Mentally Will checked that off the list. He made a few laps around the room, touching things here and there, wondering what she had touched last. Where had she stood before she left, had she looked in the mirror? Was the pile of clothing usual, or had she been unable to pick an outfit?

Was she going out to impress someone?

Will found her laptop turned off and shoved under her pillow. They’d need it- he’d ask Beverly to ask the parents. Instead of leaving the room or waiting, he pulled his phone from his pocket, texting her the request, then shoved it away. He walked around again, stopping at a pile of books on her desk, lifting the top one up and flipping through it. Greek Philosophy. He set it down, picked up another- Kierkegaard. Will tapped his fingers on the pages.

He’d found her heart in a mess of Philosophy books.

He closed the book and set it down, walking to the door. He opened it just as Beverly was reaching for it.

“Hey,” she said. “Her parents said we can take her computer. They don’t have much for me. They’re in pretty rough shape.” Will nodded. “Grab it and let’s give them some peace.” She watched as Will did, handing it and the cord over to Beverly. Megan’s parents were waiting at the door, and just as they stepped out Will stopped, looking back.

“Megan was a student,” he mused aloud, “What did she study?”

“Philosophy,” her father said, her mother looking so pale Will wondered if they should wait in case she passed out. “It took her a while to find what she liked, but she declared at the end of this semester. We were so proud that she’d made up her mind-“ he choked, shaking his head, and Will only nodded his silent thanks.

*

Hannibal reclined on his couch, slowly turning his wine glass in his hand, eyeing his phone as it sat next to him. It was almost ten, and not once had he heard from Will all day.

The man had promised to call.

Hannibal took a sip of wine, wondering what had him so distracted now. Had he finished his grading? Possibly not. Hannibal knew Will took the time to make sure his students had correct answers and proper feedback- he was really trying to teach them something. That was commendable.

It didn’t ease the ache he had from waiting. He had been patient with Will for so long that his patience was gone. Not that it led to anger- it led to an ache in his belly, an emptiness that clenched on itself. Like a gaping maw with teeth that clamped its mouth shut so hard it pierced itself. He’d almost lost Will too many times- the man had slipped through his fingers and he was only in his life because Will had come back.

Hannibal didn’t fool himself into thinking he held his strings any longer.

If anything, Will’s fingers were in his brain.

He sighed and stood up, leaving his wine glass and phone behind, and walked through the house, slipping into his wine closet, and pushing on the door there. The door Will had never opened, in their months together. A door Hannibal was saving for just the right time. He’d almost had it, after Barker- he should have done it then, he cursed himself for not, but he hadn’t been as concerned with nurturing Will’s dark intentions as he had with cradling his affections.

His heart beat for the man, and it made the ache in his gut worse when he was gone.

Hannibal walked down the stairs, flipping on the light. Cold concrete and the sway of plastic as he parted it. The smell of bleach. He cleaned it even when it hadn’t been used-

It had been too long.

He’d been good so long.

He was craving so many things, his fingers twitching to open up- a body, Will, it didn’t matter. Both. Preferably both. He licked his lips and inhaled, trying to quell the heat that surrounded the ache. Bleach and lemons and that underlying feeling that there was more- more scents one couldn’t place. Blood and meat and the scent of fear, dead and alive. He knew, but Hannibal birthed those here, nursed them to full bloom until they were ready for the world.

For his kitchen.

He turned and clicked the light off on his way upstairs. He found his phone still silent, and grabbed it, calling Will for the second night in a row. The phone rang a number of times, before finally Will picked up. “Shit Hannibal, I’m sorry.”

Hannibal sat down and wondered if he should have refilled his wine first. “What has come up now? Did you not finish your grading?”

“That’s done.” Will gave a little groan- he was standing up. Hannibal knew those noises, loved them, had them bottled up inside his mind. He wondered where he had been- he didn’t hear the couch or the bed, so that left his desk or the table. A moment later the tap, and he knew the kitchen. “It’s the case.”

“Is there new information coming to light?” There was a pause while Will took a drink.

“There’s a new body.” Oh. Hannibal shifted, getting comfortable- wishing Will was pressed into his side sharing this with him, and not a disembodied voice. “It was a mess, Hannibal.” Another pause, then, his voice hitched deeper, “This guy has no taste.”

“You always had problems with taste, dear Will.”

“You’d be just as disappointed as I am. I’ll show you the pictures.” Hannibal’s eyes lit up at that, and he leaned forward.

“Careful darling, you shouldn’t excite me when you’re away.” Will laughed at that, and Hannibal himself gave a small chuckle.

“They’re not exciting. Well...” Will trailed off for a moment, and Hannibal wished he was there to pull the words out with his tongue. Instead, all he could offer was,

“Finish your thought, William.”

“Well...I guess they could be exciting if we tried to fix his mistakes. Clean up his mess.” Hannibal smiled. That was what he wanted to hear.

“Come to me tomorrow and we can do this, Will. I promise you’ll find it very satisfactory.”

“I’ll be at the lab late,” Will whispered, “Jack is going made over this. He assigned Beverly and I solely to this- nothing else. He wants to catch this guy before he makes even more of a mess.”

“I’d like to catch him and teach him a thing or two about aesthetics.” Will laughed, and Hannibal breathed a sigh. “Come see me, Will. I miss you.” The laughter died, and when Will spoke, the dark edge was gone.

“I miss you too. Okay, I will. It might be late, though. I’m sorry. Can I just stay the night?”

“You never need to ask,” Hannibal whispered, his mind flooding him with all the things he wanted from the short time span he’d be allowed with Will. Dinner, to lay out those pictures on the table and work through their fantasies. To curl up around him in their bed- when Will was in his home everything was theirs and not his- to kiss him until his lips were swollen. To make love to him, because Hannibal suddenly had the aching need to go so very slow with him, to show him he did indeed miss him. Desires that all shouldn’t go hand in hand, but fit so perfectly. “My home is your home, Will.”

Will was quiet, but he was smiling. Hannibal knew. He always knew when Will was smiling.

Chapter Text

When Will entered the lab the next day, he hadn’t anticipated spending his day sitting on a girl’s laptop next to Beverly, scrolling through her history. They had had other agents go through it, but Jack said he wanted the two of them to do their own search through. Only what they could get into a day’s work- they didn’t have the time for much else.

“Anna’s blog is...interesting,” Beverly said, and Will knew she didn’t mean entertaining interesting.

“But is it useful?” She shook her head.

“No. No one saw anything that hinted towards her demise. And I’m not either. Megan got anything interesting?”

“I can tell you what type of porn she watched.” He rubbed his jaw, scrolling down the list of bookmarks. “That’s about it.” Beverly leaned over, pushing his hand away from the mouse he had plugged in.

“This one looks interesting-“

“Beverly I am not watching porn with you-“ Will cut off when she clicked it and a window opened, and he had to shove her away to close it before the video could load. “I fucking hate you.”

“You love me,” she insisted, “You’d be lost without me.”

“I’d be sane without you.” But he smiled at her, pushing the laptop away. “Switch with me, I’d rather see what Anna was writing than this.” Beverly shrugged a shoulder, accepting as they unplugged mice and pushed the computers around. Anna’s blog was mostly personal- if she had been murdered on her campus, Will could have seen a connection. But this didn’t say much, except that she was home for summer break. That had been the last entry. Two days before her death. No plans listed, no locations, nothing.

Will knew this was going to be hopeless. He said as much to Jack when he came in to check on them. “I’m not going to get anything of these girls from here.” They’d wasted hours, half the day, really, on this mess. “Our time is better spent.”

“How?”

“Going back to Milford. Going over the scene again. Hell, I’d rather do door to door interviews at this point. Did you talk to Anna’s sister a lot? I only got a few sentences in, but she might have more of an idea. If we didn’t ask, she might not think it’s that important. She’s young.”

“Then go,” Jack said, waving his hand. “If you really think it will help. Just get those computers checked back into evidence.”

*

Beverly had grumbled about the drive, but Will insisted. He wanted to talk to the neighbors, if any of them were home. Or have her talk to them, he just wanted to get a feel for the neighborhood again. She didn’t argue, but she didn’t have to be happy about the idea, either. Will didn’t blame her.

They parked outside the Moss home and started there, knocking. It occurred to Will when there wasn’t an immediate answer that they should have called ahead- but a minute later the door opened and Wendy was standing there, looking up at them.

“Hi,” Will offered, “I’m special agent Graham. We met before.” She nodded.

“Yeah, you were the one who touched Anna’s stuff and put it back perfectly.” Will smiled, couldn’t help it.

“Yeah. Is your mom home? I wanted to talk to you, but I should talk to her first I guess.” Beverly was watching him, and Will realized she had been prepared to do all the talking. He still wasn’t one for socializing.

Wendy was shaking her head. “Mom’s out. Let me put my shoes on and we can talk. I need some fresh air.” She closed the door before Will could respond, and Beverly just shrugged.

“You babysit,” she said, “I’ll see who else is home, give them the boring question run down. Maybe after some time their heads have cleared.” Will nodded and Beverly headed off, just as the door opened and Wendy stepped out, closing and locking it behind her.

“So what do you wanna know?” she asked, stuffing her hands in the pockets of her jeans. Will followed suit.

“Did anyone ask you much about the night your sister disappeared?” She shook her head. “What do you remember?”

“She wanted to go out with some friends,” Wendy said, “Mom said no. I heard her on the phone with her friends, she was gonna sneak out but they were changing plans and she wasn’t interested. I stopped by her room to see if she wanted...” she hesitated, then shrugged, “a hit, a got a new bowl and I was psyched about it. She had her window open and looked ready to climb out. Told me she needed a walk but she knew mom wouldn’t believe her, but I thought she was too dressed up for that.”

“Could she have been meeting someone?” Another shrug.

“I guess, I dunno. I only knew a few of her friends. I think she was just going to go out to a bar or something. She was good at sweet talking her way into anything. Could get in a bar and get a free drink without flashing her ID. I envied that.” Wendy smiled. “I guess I won’t ever get to have her teach me.” They’d reached the end of the street, had turned onto another one. A warm breeze picked up, tangling free strands of Wendy’s dark hair around her face, the rest knotted back into a loose bun resting against her neck. “How about we make this less awkward. You tell me about you, Special Agent Graham.”

“You can call me Will,” he offered, “And I’m pretty boring. You don’t wanna know about me.” Trust me, you don’t want to know.

“Oh c’mon. You like dogs, right? That guy who was with you the first time said you did.” Will nodded.

“Yeah. I have seven.” Wendy stopped walking, stared at him, then started laughing.

Seven? God, you’re like a crazy cat lady except a hot dog guy.” Will furrowed his brow and she rolled her eyes. “Not hitting on you, stating the obvious here. I know, I’m too young. I hear it a lot.”

“You’re fifteen-“

“And I like older guys. They just don’t like me, yet. A few years and they legally can. But anyway, seven dogs? How does Mrs. Graham feel about that?”

“There’s no Mrs. Graham,” he said, and then, because there was something about this girl that made him feel warm, “My boyfriend would probably be very happy if the seven was a zero.”

She was grinning. “Now there’s something interesting. Is he hot?”

Will laughed, daring to reach over and tussle her hair. Her grin grew. “Yes, he is.”

“Well good for you. I guess I’ll have to give you Anna’s life story for that.” They crossed the road, and as Wendy started talking, she reached out, took Will’s hand. Will let her-

For a moment, it was a different girl holding his hand. Older, yes, but broken even further, with a sad mouth and eyes that didn’t know if they wanted to hate or love him.

*

Beverly came up with nothing. All Will could add was that Anna had snuck out that night, that perhaps her friends knew something. They’d discuss it with Jack, interview them maybe tomorrow. Will looked through his notes as Beverly drove, noted that Mrs. Moss had told the police she hadn’t even known her daughter was gone at first. That fit the story.

When they finally got back to the lab, Beverly asked Will if he wanted to grab a beer. She needed it- she hated door to door interviews. Will declined, said he had plans, and she grinned and patted him on the back, told him to have fun. She’d just go with Alana, and yes, she’d thank Alana for him again for checking in on the dogs.

It was after eight o’clock when Will was finally in Baltimore, killing the engine. He sighed, then slipped out, walking up to the door and opening it, slipping inside the house. As per usual, he could smell dinner cooking, and very quickly he closed the door, locking it, and toed his shoes off. He hadn’t brought a jacket, and walked as silently as possibly in his socked feet towards the kitchen. The table was partially set, the wine set out and glasses prepared. He ran his fingers along the polished wood as he circled around it to the kitchen, peeking inside. Hannibal was at the counter, but not by the stove, instead he had his back to Will, was arranging something on a plate. Will grinned, padded across the room, and then in one quick motion slipped his arms around Hannibal’s waist. The man tensed for a moment, but then relaxed, his pulse barely rising.

“Hey there,” Will whispered, leaning into the back of his shoulder. “Did I scare you?”

“You startled me for a moment,” Hannibal admitted, closing his eyes and enjoying the feel of Will pressed against his back, inhaling his scent. Will kissed the back of his shoulder through his shirt, up along it until he got to his collar, finally got to the skin of his neck. Hannibal tilted his head, the work his hands had been doing momentarily forgotten, as he gave a content sigh as Will nibbled and kissed at the skin. “Is this a suggestion to skip dinner?” Hannibal teased, and Will was laughing.

“I’m starving,” he admitted with a laugh. “But don’t worry, I’ll still be hungry later.” Hannibal laughed, turning in Will’s arms and deciding he was veyr found of the grin Will was sporting.

“Your methods of seduction are dreadful, William,” he mused, leaning in and finding his mouth anyway. He wrapped his arms around Will’s neck, tangling a hand in his hair, tugging gently, and suddenly Will was gasping into his mouth, pressing tighter to him, sucking on Hannibal’s tongue greedily before the psychiatrist finally gave him leave to breathe.

“I’m sorry, Dr. Lecter, I have so much more to learn.” His smile was teasing and Hannibal pecked his lips this time, before untangling himself to finish plating dinner.

*

After dinner, instead of moving to the living room, Hannibal let Will return to his car to get his files- which he had forgotten in his excitement of seeing the man- and spread the pictures out on the table. Will sat, arranging them, and Hannibal stood behind, peering over his shoulder with a glass of wine.

“Two victims,” Will said, “both young, twenty. Both from Virginia, not the same town. Decent but not impossible distance between them.” Hannibal nodded, watched as Will set their two pictures side by side- pictures from when they were alive, provided by the families.

“They look nothing alike,” Hannibal said, “he has no interest in aesthetics. But we knew this, considering his poor taste and unsophisticated style.” Will nodded, and Hannibal leaned over him, looking at a picture of Anna’s body, even though he had seen it in person. “There’s simply no accounting for taste.”

“Maybe you should write a book, Hannibal. The Chesapeake Ripper’s guide to Highly Stylized Murder. Best seller right there.” Will was laughing, but Hannibal’s face remained serious, still looking at Anna’s body. Wasteful. When Will realized he wasn’t smile, his own laughter died. “Sorry...I didn’t mean to offend you.”

If someone had told him months ago he’d be apologizing to the Chesapeake Ripper for an ill placed murder joke, Will would have institutionalized them. Now, he leaned back, looking up at Hannibal, reaching up to tangle a hand in his hair.

“C’mon,” Will whispered, “You know I...” Will trailed off, swallowed the lump in his throat, then left the thought unfinished. I like it. “If it’ll make you feel better, you can rip me apart.” Will’s voice dropped low- he hadn’t meant it to, he’d meant it as a continued joke, but he heard a small crash- the sound of glass shattering, and Hannibal’s hands were running down his chest, the man’s face pressed into his neck, biting hard onto his skin without warning. Will yelped, but didn’t fight as Hannibal sucked at the tender spot.

“Do not say those things,” Hannibal breathed, his blood suddenly running fire through his veins. He had not perfected his self control over the years, he would have lifted Will from his chair and thrown him onto the table in that very moment. Instead he settled for marking what he had claimed as rightfully his, until Will as squirming and the skin was an angry red, torn slightly where the points of Hannibal’s teeth had broken flesh. He could taste the hint of copper in his mouth.

Will only nodded, and Hannibal untangled, moving to the kitchen so he could clean up the mess his dropped wine glass had created. Will had never seen him drop something before.

He wished he’d been able to see his eyes when he did. He wished he’d been able to see the darkness in them, the pupils blown, how they would have wanted to devour him- to truly rip him apart.

Will shuddered and closed his eyes, took a deep breath to steady himself, then looked back at the pictures on the table. He felt his lips twitch at the crude work, and when Hannibal came back to clean up the mess, Will turned to watch him instead.

“I can’t look at it,” Will said as Hannibal used a small towel to sop up the wine, before brushing the broken glass into a dust pan. He said nothing until he had tkaen the objects to the kitchen, and then returned. He leaned against the table, folded his arms.

“Why not?”

“It’s crude and ugly,” Will said, “He was careless. He tore her open- but not with passion. Not even with fear. He did it with hate.” Will’s lip twitched up into a half snarl. “These girls deserved more than this. Cat would have made them beautiful.”

Hannibal’s nostrils flared, a pang of something sharp and sour running down his belly. He didn’t want to hear about what the girl would have done- he was intrigued himself about her, yes, but she was gone and he wanted Will’s attention on him, on what he could have done.

Or what Will would have done himself.

He pulled a chair out, sitting down, reaching for the picture of Anna’s body and pushing it to the center, directly in front of Will. “Tell me,” Hannibal whispered, “Tell me what you would have done.”

Will hesitated, sucked at his teeth, seemed annoyed for a moment, like he might brush Hannibal off. Then he was reaching out, tracing fingers over her body. “I’d want her clean cut,” he whispered, staring at the massive, open tear in her abdomen. “Cleaner than I can cut.” He looked at Hannibal, reached up and pulled his glasses off, setting them on the table. “I’d want you to cut her.”

Hannibal exhaled, instantly relieved of his jealousy. “Then tell me what you would have me do, dear Will. Allow me to be your hands.” He reached over, placed one on Will’s thigh, squeezing gently.

“The alter wasn’t a bad choice. She can stay there, but you’d have to cut faster than he did. I know you can. A clean line, open her like a book so I can read her insides.” He licked his lips. “Reach inside, what would you like to take, darling?” He turned, felt Hannibal’s hand trail up his thigh, yet he said nothing. “I think we should hang her intestines. There weren’t enough lights hanging in that church. Imagine if it had been outside, we should string them along branches, like a frame for her.”

Hannibal’s hand pressed close to his groin, finger tips just brushing him, before trailing back down again. Will let out a shaky breath. “I wouldn’t cut out her tongue,” Will whispered, “Unless you were hungry for her words. Leave it, go for something I know more. What would you like to take?”

The repeated question had Hannibal dragging his eyes from the picture to Will, dark and heavy and Will’s lips parted as Hannibal’s hand pressed between his thighs, palming him through his jeans. “You.”

Will choked, reached an arm around Hannibal and grabbed him by the back of his neck, dragging him closer. His mouth was willing when Will found it, opening for his prying tongue, his own sliding against Will’s in a way that made him shiver. One of Hannibal’s hands clutched at his shirt against his waist, holding Will in place. Will whimpered, belly hot and knotted, the pictures on the table forgotten. His hand slipped up into Hannibal’s hair, grasping, pulling his head back so Will could find his neck and kiss. He was far gentler than Hannibal had been- but the aching pulse in Will’s throat where the man had marked him only made his blood run hotter, quicker.

“Upstairs,” Will breathed against his neck, and Hannibal was standing, grabbing his arm, nearly dragging him. Will wanted to laugh- he wondered how long this had been boiling under Hannibal’s skin. Had he wanted him since Will stepped in the door, before he saw him?

The idea made him bite back a groan. He couldn’t wait to strip down and feel flesh on flesh. Once the bedroom door was closing behind Will he was ripping at his own shirt, tossing it to the floor and grabbing Hannibal, the two of them tumbling to the bed. Hannibal landed on top, pinning Will and grinding his pelvis down into him, mouth back on his neck, sucking on the tender spot he’s left. Will gave a sharp cry, pushed up, squeezed his eyes shut against the tears that sprang up. His hands ran along Hannibal’s chest until he was leaving his neck, his tongue dragging over his collar bone, lips closing over one nipple, his tongue bringing it to life. Will choked, tugged on Hannibal’s shirt- so glad he hadn’t been dressed properly- whimpering to him to take it off. “Please,” he said, as Hannibal moved to the other nipple, worrying this one with his teeth before soothing it with his warm tongue.

With a chuckle he sat up, unbuttoning it slowly, letting Will stare with hungry eyes, before pulling it off and tossing it to the side. There was a time Hannibal would have wanted to fold it carefully. Will was glad he’d broken him of that- he didn’t want the moment to stop or trip for any reason.

Grinning, Will tangled their legs together and rolled them, Hannibal losing his balance and falling to the mattress, Will straddled him, leaned down and pressed his mouth below his ribs, trails down his navel, hands working on opening his pants. Hannibal gave a contented sigh, and Will was proud at how quickly he managed to get his pants open, reaching in and freeing him, only to take the head of his cock into his mouth, sucking carefully as he inched clothing down his hips. Hannibal groaned, pushing up into Will’s mouth, and Will let him, taking as much as Hannibal dared to push, the salt of his skin and excitement making Will so very thirsty.

His own cock was aching in his jeans, and he dared to reach down, palm himself as he continued to run his tongue along Hannibal’s length as he bobbed his head. Hannibal sat up, bracing himself with one hand, the other tangling into Will’s hair, guiding his movements, and Will shuddered, moaned around his mouthful.

The psychiatrist smirked, tugging Will up and kissing at his swollen lips, reaching to work Will’s jeans open and shoving the clothing down his hips, his tongue in Will’s mouth testing the sharpness of his teeth, the eagerness of his tongue. Will whimpered, gave a little cry that Hannibal drank down when he wrapped his hand around his cock, stroking slowly- because he knew Will never had patience when it came to intimacy, but if he forced him to wait he was always simply breath taking by the end.

“Fuck,” Will growled, forcing Hannibal’s tongue back into his own mouth and biting at his lip, “Don’t tease me.”

“Oh, but it’s so fun,” Hannibal mused, swiping his thumb along the weeping head of Will’s cock, dragging a trail of slickness down his length. Will’s breath hitched. Hannibal smiled. “Strip.” He released his hold on Will and Will nearly jumped off the bed, forcing everything down his legs and kicking them off, and Hannibal watched the way his cock bobbed, probably aching for him to be touched again.

“You too,” Will whispered, eyes gleaming devilish, as he reached down and wrapped a hand around himself, stroking. “Better ah- hurry, or there won’t be anything left for you.”

Hannibal grinned, arching up to tug his clothing off- once he would have always stood to properly strip. Will had broken him of that too. He loved the way his body contorted anyway, this was a far more pleasing sight. Besides, he liked to know Hannibal was feeling just a bit frantic as well.

When Hannibal was naked he shifted to the edge of the bed, reaching out and wrapping an arm around Will’s waist, tugging him closer until his cock bumped the older man’s chin. Will forced himself to stop touching, let Hannibal’s tongue teased at the head, the underside- before the man was guiding him back onto the bed, reaching across him to the bedside table to retrieve the lube.

Will squirmed as he watched Hannibal coat his fingers- anticipating the feeling of being pulled apart he’d come to love so much. There was something about having Hannibal’s skilled fingers filling him that made his heart thud like a trapped bird in his ribs.

Hannibal pushed one in, then added the second right away. Will, proped up on his elbows, tipped his head back, groaning, lifting his hips a little to let Hannibal push in deeper. His fingers scissor, stretching him further, and Will shivered, felt his cock leaking against his belly where it lay.

“I fear I neglected to properly answer your earlier question,” Hannibal whispered, spreading his fingers again. His mind feeling fuzzy to anything except Hannibal’s touches, Will groaned out a confused, “what?” as he sucked his lips into his mouth. “You asked what I would take,” he whispered, his voice dropping low, and Will stiffened then, his mind blanking.

“Hannibal,” he said, in warning, looking at him, even as those fingers spread him again. He gave a low sigh. “D-don’t-“

“I think I’d take her lungs,” he whispered, ignoring Will, but staring at him with dark, hungry eyes. Will shuddered, his heart hammering, as then Hannibal’s fingers were curling up and hitting his prostate and he was sucking in air. “Maybe she should have been flayed-“

“H-Hanni-“ Will broke off in a cry as Hannibal shoved a third finger into his body and hit his prostate again.

“Don’t deny your heart is racing, my darling,” he soothed, leaning forward and pressing his mouth to Will’s chest. He could hear the organ pounding against his lips. “You’re safe with me,” he reminded him, kissing skin as Will squirmed down against his fingers. “Indulge.”

Will gasped, then, unable to take it, “Stop.” He reached down, grabbing Hannibal’s wrist, pulling his hand away. “I want your cock.” Hannibal groaned, pulling back, unable to deny Will that. He poured more lube into his hand, stroked himself, as Will shifted, moving. “Lay down,” he whispered, “I want to be on top.”

Hannibal’s eyes gleamed, and he obeyed, watching Will straddle him, holding his cock steady as Will lined up and eased down onto him, tossing his head back and letting a ragged groan slip from his lips as Hannibal filled him. Once he’d bottomed out, he didn’t move, loving the feeling of being filled, and Hannibal ran his hands up along his thighs.

“Talk to me about the other girl,” Hannibal breathed. “Don’t say her name, but tell me.” Will lifted himself carefully, hands going to Hannibal’s chest to steady him as he brought his body up and then back down, enjoying the moan he tore from Hannibal. Will didn’t speak, and Hannibal threaded a hand into his hair as he rode him, fingers playing at his scalp. “You’re safe.”

Talk to me. Open up. Indulge.

“Can I do her myself?” Will breathed, and Hannibal smirked.

“You can do whatever you want, love.” His other hand was on Will’s waist, trying to help steady him as he kept a steady rhythm- one that was making Hannibal’s nerves begin to blaze.

“I wouldn’t tear her u-up,” Will admitted, his eyes dark, wild with lust, with the realization of what he was actually talking about. With the release of so many thoughts he’d dared to bottle up, hadn’t wanted to think recently. “Cut her nice and clean. O-open her sternum to cunt.” He pushed himself up, so his body was straight, running a hand down his own body, into the curls at his groin, gripping himself.

Hannibal groaned, seeing the storm in those eyes- the way the grays darkened to near black, his pupils wide. “More,” he breathed, and Will smirked, eyelids fluttering as Hannibal’s cock was rubbing up against his prostate, as he stroked himself.

“Hands i-inside her. Need to feel everything. She wouldn’t be dead yet. N-not yet, still bleeding out.” He licked his lips, gasping louder as Hannibal thrust up, pressing harder to his prostate. “F-uck Hannibal. I’d want to feel every organ in my hands. Hot and slick and waiting.”

“You’d take something,” Hannibal hissed, grabbing at Will’s thighs, his muscles clenching, a knot in his belly hot and waiting to burst. Will nodded, his breath catching.

“Her heart,” he said, “I want her heart.” The only detail the original killer at gotten right. Will’s hand was stroking faster, his orgasm there, so close, just needing something. “I think I’d eat her heart.”

Hannibal gave a cry, unable to stop himself, pushing up into Will’s body as his orgasm hit, coating him hot and slick inside. Will gasped- that was all he’d needed- giving a broken sob as his muscles clenched around Hannibal, dragged the older man’s orgasm out longer as Will’s cum fell down onto his stomach, dripping over Will’s knuckles. Will didn’t move once the waves subsided, the hazy afterglow kicking in- not until Hannibal was helping to guide him off. Will whimpered when Hannibal left his body, slumping on his knees on the mattress and panting, feeling his thighs growing wet. Without much thought, he leaned down, ran his tongue along Hannibal’s abdomen, cleaning up the mess he’d left behind.

Hannibal gasped- not excepting it- and then was pulling Will up. “Come here,” he said, voice low, “You’ll make me want you all over again.”

“Good,” Will said with a chuckle, laying down and curling up against Hannibal’s side, kissing at his neck. His mind still had images of his hands pulling Megan’s heart down past her ribs, holding it in his hands, a trophy to bring home to Hannibal. See what I’ve done? Look what I can do for you.

“It felt good,” Hannibal whispered, “To correct his mistakes, didn’t it?” Will hesitated, than nodded. “Have you been thinking of that, Will?”

“A little,” he admitted, “I try not to.” Hannibal rolled onto his side, pulling Will flush against him, fingers running along his cheek.

“Do not ever hide from me,” he whispered, tracing Will’s swollen lower lip. “You’re safe here, William.” He leaned in, pressed his mouth to Will’s- hot and slow and lazy, all lips that made Will melt as he wrapped an arm around Hannibal to cling to him tighter. Will slipped a thigh between Hannibal’s legs, entangled, let the man feel the evidence of his own orgasm on Will’s thighs. Hannibal’s tongue flicked Will’s lips, before he stopped. “Perhaps a shower is in order.”

Will shook his head. “No,” he whispered, “No, I want you to fuck me again like this.” Hannibal’s eyes flashed, dark, possessive. Will was going to let him indulge in marking him even more- coating every bit of his insides until Hannibal had seeped into every fiber of his body-

Hannibal sucked in a breath, the ache in his gut begging him to roll Will over and do it now. “You may have to give me a few minutes,” he offered with a smile, and Will suddenly laughed, pressing his mouth to Hannibal’s chin.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Will offered, tangling his fingers in Hannibal’s hair, nestling into the crook of his neck, inhaling deeply. Shivering at the comforting scent. “Did you like what I did to her?” Not would do, did. In these passing moments it was a reality, not a fantasy.

“I loved it,” Hannibal said, kissing at Will’s curls.

“Good.” He sighed. “It wouldn’t be worth it if you didn’t.”

“My darling Will, you do know how to make me feel loved.” Another kiss to his curls, and Will was mouthing at Hannibal’s neck lazily, inhaling again. Cologne and his skin and sex all mingled in the air, making Will feel dizzy, drowsy. He might nod off, he thought, for a bit- wake in an hour and let Hannibal take him again. Sleep be damned, he’d rather spend half the night awake with him.

Will inhaled once more, stomach warm. Hannibal smelled like perfection in that moment, like safety- Will didn’t feel a hint of remorse in those moments for his thoughts. Later, perhaps he would. Later he might hate himself a bit- but then, he didn’t. With Hannibal, he could let himself slip into that world- could remember how good it felt to choke the life out of someone. He just had to let himself open up.

He yawned, heard Hannibal whispering for him to sleep, he’d be here when he awoke. Will smiled lazily, feeling at home in his arms.

That’s what Hannibal was. Hannibal was home.

Chapter Text

When the alarm went off Will groaned and reached for the clock on Hannibal’s bedside table, turning it off and not moving. He pressed his face deeper into his pillow, muttering curses to the world for existing so early. Only when he felt Hannibal shifting next to him, a set of lips against the small of his back, did he lift his head.

“If you do not get up now,” Hannibal mused, “You will be late, and Jack will be none too pleased.”

“Fuck Jack,” he said, without any conviction behind the words, “fuck everyone this early.” He let his head drop back down to the pillow and Hannibal chuckled- tired as well, having gotten only a few hours of sleep as Will had, other more intimate activities having kept them up for half the night. He kissed up along Will’s spine, sliding against his body, and Will gave a pleased little moan as Hannibal kissed tenderly at his neck.

“Come now,” he urged, “Go have a shower. I’ll make coffee.”

“Can’t you shower with me?” Will asked, Hannibal’s mouth down between his shoulder blades now, easing the muscles with his soft kisses.

“You would be more than late then, darling.” Hannibal slipped over Will, and the younger man rolled onto his side to watch Hannibal walk across the room, naked, to retrieve his pajamas. Will let himself openly stare, enjoying the fact that Hannibal forwent his shirt and slipped his robe on over his bare chest. Once he was dressed Will got up, made a show of stretching, and then took his time crossing the room to the bathroom for his shower.

He felt Hannibal’s eyes the whole time. It left his belly warm.

*

He found Hannibal had indeed made coffee while he was showering, and accepted the cup handed to him with a kiss to the corner of Hannibal’s mouth and a quiet, “thank you.” Hannibal smiled, asked if he wanted breakfast, but Will was shaking his head, looking at his watch. “No, I should leave soon.”

Hannibal clicked his tongue, but didn’t argue, returning to the kitchen to get his own mug of coffee. As he did so, Will felt his phone vibrating in his pocket and fished it out, answering rather warmly, “Hello?”

“Someone’s in a good mood.”

“Hi Bev.” He sipped his coffee. “What’s up? I’ll be on my way to the lab soon, I’m in Baltimore.” Hannibal walked up behind him, wrapping one arm around him and placing his mouth over the large bruise that was quite visible on Will’s neck- no matter what he did to hide it. Will bit back a gasp, squirmed, heard Hannibal chuckle. “Bastard,” he said with a breathy laugh as Beverly said something, “I’m on the phone.” He squirmed away, shaking his head. “Sorry Bev, can you repeat that? Hannibal got a little handsy.”

He expected a sassy remark from her for that, cooing for details. All he got was, “I’m going to text you an address. I need you there ASAP.” Her tone was serious. “It’s...you know Will. I don’t need to say it.”

Will did know. Another body. This damn soon. “Okay,” he said, setting his coffee down and rubbing his jaw. “Okay, send it, I’ll get in my car in five minutes.” He hung up, stuffing his phone into his pocket, then grabbed his coffee and finished it. Hannibal had disappeared, and Will found him in the kitchen, refilling his own mug.

“Here,” he said, offering his hand, “I have a feeling you’ll need more than one cup, Will.”

“No time.” He handed Hannibal the cup anyway. “I have to go. We’ve got another one.” Hannibal’s eyes flicked up.

“So soon? My Will, your boy is feisty.” Will frowned. The inflection in Hannibal’s voice made him think back to the night before, to the hot feeling he got from reworking Megan’s murder to be his design. To be beautiful. He swallowed that heat down, and it went easily, so easily.

“He’s impatient and sloppy,” he pointed out, “One of these days he’s going to leave something behind. If I don’t put a bullet in his head first.” His words had a bite, and Hannibal was leaning across the counter, staring at Will.

“Shooting to kill, Will?” Will furrowed his brow.

“If I find him? Possibly. Probably.” He raked a hand through his hair. “He deserves it, Hannibal. For this shit.”

“Are you speaking of the targeting of young women, the sexual desecration of their corpses- or the tasteless way he wastes them.”

Will licked his lips. “Yes, is the answer to that.” He leaned across the counter to kiss Hannibal quickly, feeling his phone buzzing in his pocket with the address.

*

It took over two hours- traffic was heavy- before Will was in Stafford, Virginia, parking his car by the bank of the Aquia Creek, closer to the mouth of it than inland. The police cars were scattered along the bank, and he saw Beverly’s car parked among them. He got out, pushing his glasses up and wincing at the glare from the sun, before he made his way past the cops, giving a nod to another FBI agent, and carefully making his way down along the bank. He could see Beverly yards away, by the water, crouched down, looking at something.

He closed in and she looked up, giving him a nod. He crouched next to her, accepted the gloves she handed him. Bobbing in the water, tied by a rope to a root, was the girl, face down. “No one has touched her since she was discovered,” she pointed out, “I was just hoping he might have dropped something. Got a good shoe imprint though, which is new. Do you want us all back?”

“Where’s Jack?” Will asked, pulling the gloves on.

“Court. Just you and me, partner.” She gave him a grim smile. “So work some magic for me, please.” He nodded and Beverly stood up, patting his shoulder and walking back, making sure the cops and other FBI agents followed her.

Will licked his lips, closed his eyes and breathed in the rushing water and the scent of rich dirt, thick mud. The sky darkened until it was night and the girl was tugged from the water, dried off, her hair going from mud to blonde, long and razor straight. She was gagged and he had his hands around her throat, squeezing so her eyes were wide and staring at him. He cocked his head, took in the way they seemed like nothing more then black pin pricks against the whites of her eyes.

“I squeeze the life out of you,” he said, “Different from the others.” He squeezed tighter, leaning in, letting his breath ghost on her cheek. “There is no ceremony. I won’t display you- I’m getting rid of you.”

He pushed her to the mud, crouched over her, tearing her gag down. He pulled the pocket knife from his jeans, tore her mouth open as she let out a hoarse sob, and cut her tongue. He didn’t bother to look at it, he just shoved it away, then rolled her over, face down, and slipped his hands around her throat, fingers digging into the mud as he squeezed and squeezed and she trashed- then went limp.

Will settled down on her, petting muddy fingers through her hair, then shifted so he could roll her over.

Alyssa stared back at him, glossy eyed and long dead, fanned by her blonde waves. Will gasped, eyes opening, and he looked around him. No Alyssa, no mud on his fingers- the body was still in the water, bobbing with the current. He reached up, raked a hand down his face, shook his head. A deep breath, and he was collected- enough to turn and call for Beverly, waving her over.

“She’s different,” he said, “You get her out of the water and you’ll see. He didn’t cut her open. He strangled her, cut her tongue, that was it.” Beverly folded her arms.

“Why change now? Shit, you don’t think we’ve got a copycat, do you? I don’t think I can handle that right now.” Will was shaking his head.

“No. I don’t think so. He was disposing of her. I think...I think he kept her somewhere.” He shifted. “He was just throwing out the trash with this one.” He and Beverly looked back at the water, the calmness of the way she was bobbing, face down, causing their guts to chill.

*

Will put a thumb tack in the map in Jack’s office, signaling where the girl’s body had been found. It felt odd to be in there without the man, but he was still at court. Beverly was down for the autopsy, leaving Will alone to look at the map, tap his fingers on his thigh, rub his jaw with his other hand. He’d watched them pull this girl out of the water- he’d seen the lack of mutilation on her body. She’d still been partially dressed- more so than the other victims.

Will sucked on his lower lip. He wanted an identification on her. He needed to see her, in relation to both Anna and Megan. She had something different, perhaps, than they did. He closed his eyes and tried to picture it again, his hands tight around her throat, staring at the back of her hair. He hadn’t looked at her for a reason- but he’d looked at the other girls. Did that matter?

What had she seen that the others hadn’t?

There was a knock on the door frame and Will turned. Beverly was watching him, casually. “You seemed pretty deep in thought,” she offered, “Didn’t wanna interrupt.”

He raked his hands up over his face, into his hair. “No, no come in. What have you got?”

“Died of asphyxiation- different from the others for sure. Tongue cut out- but you saw that at the scene.” Will nodded- he’d stopped them form taking her body so he could open her mouth and look. He’d known, but he’d needed to see. “She wasn’t cut up like the rest. She’s got a lot of bruising, discoloration, some injuries. They were all inflicted while she was alive.” Will nodded. “Do you want to see her?”

No, because she was a thrown away body. She was used up, spent, crumbled and wasted. No, because she lacked any true sophistication in death. She hadn’t even been displayed.

“Yes,” he said, because that was his job.

*

In the morgue he pulled her sheet back, Beverly holding the chart to read off to him, even though he was sure she could see a lot of this just by looking at the body.

“She’s got bruising all over her lower arms and calves. Localized bruising on her inner thighs and abdomen. And here,” she pointed with her pen, “Bruising along her breasts.” Will bent down, examining one of her arms, looking at the pattern. “What do you see?”

“He had her bound,” Will whispered, “This is from the bindings being too tight. Same with her calves, I’d bet. He was definitely keeping here somewhere.”

“The bruises look like they range from fresh, like yesterday, to maybe six days, a week.”

“He had her before he killed Anna or Megan.” Will straightened up, only to lean over her, looking at the bruising along her breasts. “Beverly, look at this.” He pointed to the bruising as she leaned closer, these ones dark, nearly black. “He bit her. Some of these bruises are covering that, but he did. I’d bet you could get an idea here, or check the ones on her thighs.”

“It won’t give us great teeth impressions but at this point, I’ll take anything.” She set the clipboard down. “Autopsy showed vaginal tearing, but not like the other girls. Not nearly as intense.”

“He didn’t...not after, not with this one.” Will swallowed the lump in his throat- couldn’t bring himself to say it. It was distasteful.

Says the man whose boyfriend would have turned her into dinner. Will forced that thought back as well- not because he feared Beverly seeing it, hearing it echo in his skull, but because it simply did not phase him, and he couldn’t dwell on that in that moment. There was a lot he couldn’t dwell on that he was sure he needed to.

“You think he raped her while she was alive?” Will shook his head, sucking on his lip. Beverly watched his eyes flash, the way they seemed vacant for a moment. He was slipping into something, and she was glad she didn’t have to see it.

“No.” He closed his eyes, focused on the pounding of his head against his ribs, tried to forget where he was. There was no Beverly, there was no morgue, no corpse, no tiles beneath his feet. There was concrete, dusty and old. The air smelled like hay, after it has turned to near dust, and dirt and the rough rope. The rope he had used to tie her up, suspend her arms up over her head- not supporting her, he left it slack enough that she could be on her knees, but she was suspend in his eyes still.

Will stepped closer, reaching out to touch her hair as she knelt. She was naked, she hadn’t had clothing in days, her body an array of blossoming lilac and indigo shadows, peppered with that sickly yellow that came with bruising. She watched him through lifeless eyes- he had broken her. He had broken her and that was what he had wanted.

“Will?” Will opened his eyes, looked at Beverly, who was frowning. “You...okay? You don’t normally just...do that.”

“I’m comfortable enough around you,” he whispered, rubbing his jawline as he was so prone to do. “He kept her bound. If we’re lucky when you go through her clothing we’ll find something from the rope. I think it was in a barn- maybe a garage, but I think barn.” Beverly nodded.

“Any reason aside of the Graham reason why?” He shook his head.

“And he didn’t rape her. He wanted to, he probably tried, but he couldn’t go through with it.” Beverly covered the body again, sliding it away, and pulled her gloves off.

“Think he couldn’t get it up?” Will nodded. “So he gets pissed off and kills her?”

“Yes.” Beverly frowned.

“I guess I was expecting something...more.”

“Just because it sounds simple doesn’t mean it is.” He turned. “I have to step outside.” Beverly nodded, watched Will walking briskly out of the morgue.

*

Hannibal moved his scalpel over the tip of his pencil, carefully refining the point. On his desk, his paper was covered in the rich, smooth lines from his pencil, forming a pair of startling eyes staring back at him, a mess of waves framing a handsome face. Hannibal set the scalpel down, admiring his drawing for a moment, before carefully etching his pencil along Will’s jawline, filling in his stubble more fully. A few flicks of his wrist, and Hannibal was interrupted, the sound of his phone vibrating on his desk pulling him from his calm, soothed state. He set his pencil down and lifted it, saw Will’s name, and smiled.

“Hello,” he said, voice silken. The voice that spoke back was far from that- almost a nervous croak.

“Talk to me, Hannibal.”

Hannibal straightened up. “Will, what is wrong? Has something happened?”

“No.” He breathed. “No just...I slipped out of myself. Right with Beverly in the room. I didn’t even mean to, it just sort of...happened. He kept the one we found alive. Maybe for a week.” Hannibal nodded, even though Will couldn’t see, was quiet. “I saw it. I smelled the dirt on the floor and the rope around her wrists. I was right there.”

“You often find yourself directly within crime scenes, William. You place yourself there very often.”

“Yeah, well, I had a nice lapse where I didn’t at all. And now...fuck, nearly every day we’ve had a body. Every day I’m there Hannibal. I’m ripping someone open, I’m staring down at a mess and there are sounds and voices in my skull that sound nothing like me.” Hannibal heard his voice catch. “Dammit Hannibal please talk to me.”

“What about?”

“Anything, I don’t care. Just fill the spaces with you. I don’t mind when it’s your voice in my head.”

“Is my voice often in your head, William?” Hannibal couldn’t see the way Will’s eyes flashed, his mind showing him Julie, but when her dead mouth opened it was Hannibal’s voice, Hannibal’s words that tumbled out.

“Sometimes,” Will admitted. “Just talk to me for a minute. Calm me down. What are you doing?” Hannibal could hear the slight wind, and wondered if Will had been outside the whole time, or if he was simply walking faster.

“I am drawing,” Hannibal admitted, looking down at Will’s face, nearly complete on his paper. “My next appointment is not for,” he looked at his watch, “a half hour.”

“What are you drawing?”

“Something beautiful.” Will was frowning, he knew. “Perhaps instead of filling your mind with my voice, we should be helping you to hear your own voice.”

“What do you mean?” Hannibal was quiet, inhaled deeply. Will’s voice telling him how to cut a man filled the space within his head, dark and perfect, commanding, Cut out his tongue. And his eyes. Hannibal’s hesitation must have been enough, because Will was talking again. “Hannibal...no. No. Look, I know...fuck. I can’t do this over the phone.” He sighed, Hannibal could picture him pinching the bridge of his nose. “I’ll explain why I’m saying hell no later, okay? Next time I see you?”

“Which will hopefully not be long,” Hannibal whispered, tapping his fingers on his desk, his own clawing hunger rising. He had satiated it with Will briefly, but every moment the man was gone it came back, tearing at the inside of his gut, trying to reach the air outside, expose its ugly head.

“No. I’ll call you again tonight, yeah?” Hannibal made a small approving sound. “Okay. I’m going to go back inside and wrap my head around this shit again. Hey, Hannibal?”

“Yes Will?”

“I love you.” Hannibal smiled, fingers tracing over his scalpel.

“I love you too, William.” The line went dead and Hannibal set his phone down, pushing the scalpel aside in favor of lifting his pencil again. He hoped Will had meant it when he agreed it would not be long. Hannibal knew there was much sitting in the air now, waiting to be discussed. His voice inside Will’s head? Intriguing...

But what did he whisper to his dear Will? What sort of things came from the lips of his mouth that Will had crafted? And did Will obey? Did Will bargain with the voice, hide from it? Hannibal couldn’t see Will hiding from him in any way now- not after all they had gone through. Not after Will had seen everything- not after Will had killed for Hannibal, and Hannibal, in turn, had allowed Will the reigns to his body as he’d carved up Matthew something beautiful.

No. Will certainly wasn’t hiding. Then what, Hannibal mused, as he traced his pencil along Will’s jawline and could imagine his finger tips along his stubble, was Will’s mind having him say, and exactly how was his lover reacting?

*

Beverly had an ID before they left. Will was impressed, although she didn’t seem to be. “Been missing a week,” she said as she pushed the girl’s picture across the table. “Laura Horne. Parents reported it when she didn’t come home from meeting a few friends for drinks.”

“Local?”

“To Stafford? Yeah. She goes to Cornell University though, in New York. Graduate student, home on break. Twenty-four, older than our other two.”

“Fits the age range.” Will folded his hands. “College age-“ He stopped then, his heart doing a quick tap against his ribs. “No, not just that.” Beverly raised an eyebrow, waving her hand, beckoning him. She wasn’t in his head, whatever thought he was processing she couldn’t see. “They all are college students.”

“You think that’s part of his requirements?” Will nodded. “Okay, so we’re looking at, what, eighteen to maybe twenty-five or so?” Another nod. “So then, he knows they’re students. Question is how.”

Will sighed. They all went to different universities, didn’t know each other, didn’t seem to have any real over lap otherwise. Will knew it had to be there, though, he just had to find it. “We’ll have to interview her family. Her friends.” Beverly nodded.

“Tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow there might be another body.” She frowned.

“Will, if we don’t sleep we’ll be the next bodies. I’m exhausted. I was exhausted when I got here. I’m not sleeping all that great with this shit in my head.”

“Welcome to my world.” Beverly rolled her eyes at the small smile he gave her.

“Yeah, preaching to the choir, I know. Look, let’s wrap it up. I’ll tell Jack what we’ve got. Maybe he’ll have an opinion tomorrow, and then we’ll get track down Laura’s parents and do our interviews. If you’re really sure on your location idea, we can try to get a list of all the properties that still have barns erected in this area. I don’t know how pretty that would be-“

“Wait until after the interview,” Will said, “We might be able to narrow it down.” Beverly nodded.

“Okay. Then one more thing.” Will looked at her as she closed the folder on the table. “You need to have a drink with me.”

*

Will was sure he shouldn’t have, but then again he was sure he should. He took crime scenes home enough with him, it was nice to leave it behind for a bit and sit with Beverly, watching her laugh, watching her trying to forget.

“I’ve been drinking buddy-less for a while,” she said, “You’re either busy or with Hannibal, and Alana has been working on some stuff she wants published. Leaves me lonely.” Will shook his head at her, taking a drink of his beer.

“I’m sure you could convince Alana to come out if you asked nicely.”

“Have you ever tried to get that woman away from her work? It’s impossible. Dedicated just like you.” Beverly sighed. “If you weren’t so perfect with Hannibal, I’d say you and her should be a thing. You’d both be too busy to notice the other person was too busy.” Will laughed.

“Maybe you should just date her.” Beverly choked, and Will grinned. He played this angle with her from time to time- and he’d seen it, something in the way Beverly acted around her, touched just a little too much, smiled more. “Oh think about it Bev, we could go on double dates.” He snickered, finishing off his beer, and she glared- but playfully so.

“You just want to be able to ask for juicy details.”

“Exactly what you do with me.”

“Speaking of! You’ve got quite the mark on your neck there. I didn’t say anything earlier but... well, we’re not at the lab now. Get lucky last night?” Will looked down at the table, heard Hannibal encouraging him in his silken voice to walk him through the darkest parts of his mind. To recreate Megan’s murder in the glory it should have been.

“Like you wouldn’t believe,” he admitted, smiling, a dark twinge at the corners of his eyes that Beverly missed. He got up to get himself another beer, not wanting her to see the smile growing he couldn’t avoid. Not wanting her to glimpse the truth behind it all-

He’d love every moment, every breath of the recreation. If he could, Will would sever time’s hold on reality and step back, put himself in that library and properly cut her open himself. Himself. He wouldn’t have Hannibal do it. He’d get his own hands dirty.

The thoughts weren’t terrifying themselves- he’d had them, more so now that he knew what it was life to squeeze the life right from someone’s throat. What it was like to tell Hannibal how to butcher a man to his liking.

No, it wasn’t the thoughts. It was how calm they made him feel- as if they should be there. It was the ease with which he was sure he could give into them that was truly terrifying.

Will sat down, smiled at Beverly, took a drink, and turned the conversation back on her and Alana, all the while a dead girl lay gutted behind his eyes, with a voice in his skull he recognized not as his own, but Hannibal’s- sweet and melodic and whispering at him that it was just fine, and if he smiled no one would see.

He could hide in plain sight.

Chapter Text

Will expected, the next day, to be spending his time going door to door with Beverly- meeting and speaking with Laura’s parents, friends, neighbors. Not eventful, but necessary. He had almost been looking forward to it.

Instead, he was crammed into a car with Beverly and Jack, and whisked in the opposite direction with very little explanation. Confused, he leaned forward, trying to catch Beverly’s eyes in the rear view mirror, and she only shrugged from the front seat. She didn’t seem to know much either.

“Where are we going, Jack?” Will finally asked. “We don’t really have time for a joyride. I’m sure Beverly had brought you up to speed-“

“We’re getting a little outside help,” he said, “An opinion, if you will.”

“Losing faith, Jack?” Will asked, and the man looked back at him with heavy eyes through the mirror.

“No,” he said, “Just speeding up the process.”

Will decided he believed him.

*

Will hadn’t had much reason to visit John Hopkins, and felt rather out of place as he walked abreast to Beverly and behind Jack around the campus. The thought of being at a university made him think of Cat, holed up in the basement studio with students, probably dreaming of Julie while she told them how to properly sculpt worthless canvases that would never amount to any real shine.

Will swallowed, pushed those thoughts away. Later, maybe later he would entertain them. Always later, never now.

Jack knocked at a door and received a muffled greeting. He opened it, stepped inside, Beverly and Will following. The office was cool against the warm day, kept neat and rather spacious. A woman, possibly of Indian decent, was sitting at a large, polished wood desk, reading off a tablet. She looked up as the door closed, and smiled.

“Ah, hello Agent Crawford. My, it’s been too long.” Jack smiled at her, walking over to her desk and extending his hand to shake hers. “How is Bella?”

“As well as she can be,” he said, and Will heard the tinge of despair there. He wondered if this woman knew- and how she knew Jack and his wife. “This is agent Katz and special investigator Will Graham.” The woman looked at them and smiled, pulling at the lines in her dark face. Her teeth seemed almost too white- distracting like the whites of someone’s eyes.

“Good to meet you,” she said as Beverly shook her hand with a polite smile. When Will grasped it, she held his firmer. “And Mr. Graham, it’s an honor to meet you. Please, have a seat. I apologize Jack has neglected to finish his introduction. I’m Dr. Anne Mallick.” She folded her hands on her desk as they shuffled into chairs.

“Dr. Mallick has known Bella for quite some time,” Jack said, “and of course comes highly recommended by my wife.”

“Bella is too kind,” Anne said, “I believe she still thinks she owes for our brief trip to India where she had absolutely no knowledge of the language.”

“She has spoken of that brief tour many times, Dr. Mallick. She was very thankful for you.” Anne smiled more.

“It was a pleasure. But we digress, I’m afraid. We shall have to get together some evening for dinner to reminisce. Please, do you have the case file?” Jack pulled his own copy from a bag, and Will frowned.

“Helping us with the psychological profile?”

“Yes, Mr. Graham. Jack did not tell you? He is terrible like that. He’s asked me to weigh in on what you have, and give my insight.”

“She’s very knowledgeable,” Jack said, “She’s been teaching here for, what, ten years now?” A nod, the kind that jostled her dark hair, let the light hit the grey streak that was rather fetching on her.

“We could have just asked Hannibal.” Will folded his arms. He held nothing against this woman, but he was not fond of suddenly having help thrown in without his consent or even knowledge.

“Dr. Lecter? Why yes, you should ask his advice on this. Compare his findings to my own, I’m sure he will bring to light gaps I will have missed. But I would imagine you would have already asked him.” She held Will’s gaze, and something in her voice Will didn’t like. She disguised it with a curious smile. “I apologize Mr. Graham, that was perhaps rude of me. It’s hard to not know about your life and...romantic endeavors, considering how publicly they have appeared in certain printings.”

“Tattle Crime.”

“Precisely. Also, you are as always the talk among any psychological circle. I’d love to have a chat with you myself some day. Throw in that you are...connected now to one of our best known experts in psychology, and your name gets around. But we are not here ti discuss you, Mr. Graham.

“No,” Will whispered with a bit of bite, “We’re not.”

“Tell me about your killer.” She was scanning over the pictures. Will was sure Jack had sent her the rest of the file previously.

“He’s localized to Virginia,” Beverly said, “We have a good idea, but the radius is larger than we’d like. He targets college aged women- we’re looking at about eighteen to maybe twenty six, depending. Two victims were twenty, the most recent was twenty four. The first two were mutilated-“

“Hastily,” Will pointed out, unable to keep his tongue still. “His cuts were sloppy. Looks like he tore at them from time to time. The mutilation patterns are different, except for the removal of the tongue. Those were not recovered- he’s keeping them as trophies.”

“The last victim,” Beverly said, taking over again as Will settled back into his chair, looking suddenly detached, “Was different. She was not mutilated- died of asphyxiation. However, she has bruising dating back six, maybe seven days. We believe he was keeping her somewhere, before he even targeted the other two. He might have other girls, we can’t be sure. But he has been killing in quick succession and we have little time to find him.”

The woman nodded.

“Beverly left one detail out,” Will said, swallowing, hating that he had to say it. “The first two victims had their bodies...sexually defiled, postmortem. The final did not, but she showed signs of assault to a slightly lesser degree. We believe he...he couldn’t get it up while she was alive.”

“He is intimidated by these girls,” Anne said, and Will nodded.

“Yes. He’s only sure of himself around them once they are dead. By killing them he’s...putting them back in their place, according to his mind.” She nodded. “I think he’s got a barn somewhere, that’s where he’s keeping them. We didn’t get anything off the last body sadly, but it’s...a feeling.”

“A connection you cannot explain.” Will didn’t respond. “He’s showing a fear of educated women. Removing their tongue silences them, in his mind.”

“Yes.”

“Have you considered his family life? Perhaps his relationship to his parents?”

“No, not yet,” Will admitted.

“Dr. Mallick has written on this sort of profiling,” Jack interjected with a smile, and Will thought he just wanted to be included, like a child. He tapped his fingers on his leg.

“Please doctor, proceed.”

“Look for abuse in your suspects. Perhaps not to him specifically, but to his mother. His blame for his dysfunctional family life was misplaced on her as the victim, and women then became a reason for distaste. She was probably educated. Perhaps that is what may have spawned the fights between his parents. Regardless, he will have a background of a broken home and abuse.” Will nodded.

“He knows they’re college students, somehow. All of them. They don’t attend the same schools, one of them even went to school in New York. So somehow he knows all of them. Even if it’s nor personal.”

“That would appear logical.” She smiled, seemed about to speak, when the door opened suddenly, without a knock. A tall, slim woman slipped in, running a hand over her black, buzzed hair and smiling a startling smile of white teeth against the near black of her skin. She gave the group a nod, slipping right around the desk.

“Your meeting is about to begin,” she said, looking only at Dr. Mallick, who nodded.

“I almost forgot, thank you. Oh, please, this is my good friend and colleague, Dr. Diane Mays. Diane, this is Jack Crawford- yes, I know I’ve spoken of him and his wife to you. And agent Katz, and this.” She stopped, smiling, staring right at him, “is Will Graham.”

The woman nodded her greeting, quiet. Her eyes lingered on Will the longest, and Will felt uncomfortable under the intensity.

“I apologize, the department decided they absolutely needed to have a meeting today on very short notice. I do hope I’ve been some help.”

“You always are,” Jack offered, shaking her hand. Will and Beverly stood up, ready to go, and Will watched as Dr. Mays grabbed the handles of Dr. Mallick’s chair and wheeled her from behind her desk, before stepping back for her to take over with her own hands.

*

Will filed all of the information from the meeting away inside his head. He hadn’t thought about the killer’s family life- and yes, it made sense. Perhaps it could help, but as it stood now, it wasn’t direct enough, wasn’t grounded in the present enough. He was more concerned with figuring out the tie between these girls.

The Horne home proved to be little help. He discovered that Laura had studied literature- she had just earned her Masters and was set to return as a PhD candidate in the fall. She enjoyed classical music and had decided that instead of staying in her apartment with her roommate for the summer, she wanted a taste of home. Her parents said it had been a grasp at relaxation after all her hard work. Her father had broken down mid sentence and hadn’t been able to finish.

She was an only child.

Will thought her over the next day, sitting in the lab, the room stuffy, papers strewn about. He thought about the three girls and how he didn’t know them, know them from the inside out. He almost didn’t feel as if they were real, now that he couldn’t see their bodies, smell stale blood and that faint scent that simply whispered death inside his skull. Frustrated, he left everything on the table and made his way outside, taking a deep breath of the warm air and thinking he’d rather be fishing in that moment, or out with the dogs. Maybe go for a run with them.

He simply wanted to be far away from here.

He stuffed his hands in his jeans and watched as people walked by, crowds smaller now that the spring semester was over. Summer hosted far fewer students. Vaguely he took them in, general shapes and sizes, cataloged them. For a moment, he lost himself in it, until one of the shapes didn’t fit, was jerky and shorter and walking at a different pace.

Will blinked, pushed his glasses up his nose, and then made a beeline towards the girl. She noticed him within a few steps and smiled, waved, rushed over and looked up with a breathy, “Hi.”

“What are you doing here?” Wendy looked away fro a second, scrunching her face up.

“I...I just needed to get away. Skipped school, took a few buses.” Will said nothing, just stared at the girl, wondering what he was supposed to do when a vagrant child just came to him. Call her mother, perhaps? Call the police? He could at least tell Jack a victim’s sister had sought him out. “You said you had dogs.” Will nodded. Wendy shoved her hands in the pockets of her jeans, the strap of her canvas backpack slipping along one shoulder. “Can I see them?”

*

Will had made plenty of choices in his life he didn’t understand. He was sure he’d made more he couldn’t understand than ones he could- his entire relationship with Hannibal was a testament to that. But the fact that he was walking along the fields behind his house, the dogs running about, with a dead girl’s sister whom no one knew was even there, was going up there as one of his top most non-understandable decisions.

Wendy hadn’t talked during the car ride. Will hadn’t made her. She’d stared out the window as buildings and cars dissolved into trees, and started until the car had stopped at Will’s home.

Her bag was forgotten in the car, and now as they walked slowly, her eyes were drifting among the dogs as they ran, happy at the surprise of Will returning home in the middle of the day and allowing them to enjoy the fresh air.

“It’s nice here,” she said, “Isolated. You like it?” Will nodded. “Yeah. I would too.” Will glanced at her as her steps slowed slightly, and for a moment she was a different girl, taller, older, with a scarf around her neck to hide her scar- to hide her memories. Will forced Abigail away from his mind as Wendy spoke again. “My mom is a mess,” Wendy admitted, “Over Anna. She wants to lock me in my room to be safe. She’s drinking a lot. She drank a little after dad died, but not like this. She’s...she’s not my mom, not really. Not like she is.”

She stopped, and Will stopped to, facing her as she pulled her hands from he pockets and wrapped them around herself. “I fucking hate this. I hate this guy. I don’t know him but I hate him. He could have taken a million different people, but he took my sister.” Her lip held a quiver to it, and Will reached out, placed his hand along her shoulder, stroked down slightly. She leaned towards his hand, the warmth of his palm, and then she was taking the step and a half to close the gap, pressing right into his chest and clutching at his shirt. Will hesitated, felt her tremble, heard a choked sob, and then he wrapped one arm around her, the other reaching up towards her dark hair. “I miss her,” she whimpered into Will’s chest, “I wake up and I think she’s just going to be in her room like always, and all this is just going to go away. And we’re going to take Basil for a walk and she’s going to watch a bad movie with me later and mom is going to yell at us to turn it down. I just keep thinking this is all a dream.”

Will kept his arm around her, stroking her hair as she trembled. She made only tiny sounds, but Will knew them- sorrow, choked in a tight throat and unwilling to fully show its face. Despair, because there was no way this was reality. There was simply no conceivable way that reality had taken this turn.

Across the field, standing among the dogs, she was staring at him, with her blue eyes that seemed to pierce right into his brain. She was staring and it felt as if she could reach across the world and touch him, thread fingers into his hair- but he could not touch her. She was above that, too pristine for his fingerprints. Abigail was supposed to be a triumph, Abigail was supposed to be the thing he could have saved.

And she had been ripped away from him.

And Will had never let himself truly grieve that. He’d always chased the thoughts away.

“Have you lost anyone?” Wendy whispered, looking up, seeing Will’s stubble and his jawline and barely able to make out his eyes. He didn’t look down at her.

“Yes.” He swallowed, and her name dissolved in his mind as she flickered in the distance. Wendy didn’t say anything else for a moment, then leaned back against Will’s chest and whispered,

“I want to kill him.” She sighed, inhaled, smelled the grass and the sun and all of it mingling in Will, and seemed to relax. Will wondered if that was what it was like when he was in Hannibal’s arms and smelled his cologne. “I want to put a bullet in his head.”

“We’ll catch him,” Will offered, daring the hold her tighter. Her trembling had ceased.

“That’s not enough.” Will wanted to tell her she didn’t know what she was saying, but couldn’t make himself form the words. He looked out, and Abigail was gone, only the dogs remained, happy, carefree. He swallowed, closed his eyes, and dipped his head down, pressing his mouth to Wendy’s hair and hushing her.

There were no words when a decision like that had been made. All Will could do was hold her and wonder if her anger, her hatred, could seep from her small body into his own, if he could drink it down and feed it to the black maw inside him that gaped, that begged to tear him completely open.

He wanted to kill him too.

*

They sat on the porch, after Will had collected the dogs and ushered them inside upon their return. Will wasn’t sure what to offer Wendy, and when he asked she said she didn’t want anything, just to sit a little longer. She knew she had to go home. She just didn’t want to face that yet.

“Does your boyfriend like it out here?” she asked as Will settled down on the steps next to her. He hesitated.

“It’s...different from where he lives.” He was quiet, and she motioned with her hand for him to continue. “Baltimore. He leads a very different life from me.”

“How did you meet him?”

“...Work,” Will said, then, because it seemed like it couldn’t hurt, “He was almost my psychiatrist. It’s complicated.”

“Sorta like the student-bangs-the-hot-teacher narrative?” Will looked at her and she was laughing, and he couldn’t fight her on it because she was pretty when she laughed. She’d cried enough- his shirt was damp with proof. “Got a picture?” Will chuckled, wanted to tell her no, of course not- but then he was pulling his phone out, scrolling through it.

“He thinks I’ve deleted every picture of him I’ve taken,” Will admitted, “So this is our secret, okay?” Wendy nodded, eyes alight, and Will couldn’t help but feel his chest tighten a little. “Sorry none of them aren’t going to be great- I have to catch him when he’s distracted.”

Will found one of Hannibal sitting on the couch, reading, and turned the phone to show her. He was dressed in one of his plaid suits- actually, one of Will’s favorites- and looked every bit the put-together Hannibal Will knew. Wendy studied it for a second, then grinned.

“He’s hot in a he-could-be-my-dad way,” she admitted, and Will huffed a laugh. “His suit looks expensive.”

“Everything in his life is expensive,” Will pointed out, “Except me.” He scrolled through, then grinned, found one of Hannibal in his pajamas with his robe open, hair disheveled. Will had gotten up early for once because he had to get to campus for meetings with students, and Hannibal had barely been awake when he took it. The man had threatened to flay him right then and there and eat him for dinner if he didn’t delete it. Will had been lucky he’d managed to keep Hannibal from taking his phone to check. “Here,” he said, showing her, and she gave a squealing giggle.

“Oh my gosh, did you fuck the class out of him?” Will laughed, his cheeks flushing, and she was grinning now. “That’s pretty cute though. I bet you two are cute together. Any pictures of that?”

“No,” Will admitted, putting his phone away. That was something normal they were missing, he silently mused. Couples normally were in pictures together, weren’t they? Should Will have a framed picture of Hannibal on his desk in his classroom? A picture of them on some weekend get away in his home?

Will didn’t think he’d ever have any of those. And that made something inside his belly ache, slightly, dully- something he could ignore for the moment, but that he knew would sit there, waiting. Everything waiting.

“Do I have to go home?” Wendy finally asked, folding her hands together. “I mean, can I...” She sighed. “God this sounds ridiculous. Can I stay? I can lie to my mom, I can tell her I’m with a friend. I can have someone call her to verify. She might be drunk and not notice. She’s slipping keeping tabs on me because of it. Please? I don’t want to go back to that house. I don’t want to face her room and know there’s nothing behind that door.”

Will reached over, slipped an arm around her shoulders. She felt small as she leaned against him, and he wanted her to stay. He wanted her to curl up with his dogs and smile and he could show her his lures-

No. She’s not Abigail. Will bit his tongue, knew it was absurd. She needed to go home- he had to take her. This was already strange enough- he should have told someone she was with him, he was sure. Beverly or Alana, one of the two. They would have...understood? No, but they might have been helpful. He wondered if Wendy should meet Alana- but then he ran the risk of Alana viewing her just as he was-

As a second Abigail, a second broken child to wrap up in their arms.

Will didn’t say no, but his silence was her answer, and Wendy leaned her head on his shoulder. He felt her shaking a little, and knew she was crying again. Before he would settle her in his car in the coming hour, he’d hold her again, wrap her in his arms and kiss her hair and wonder if Abigail would have ever let him hold her like this. He’d wonder if Hannibal had ever held Abigail like this.

He’d want Hannibal to meet this girl, to tell Will they could fix the family that he had broken, that he had torn from Will’s grasp. The family Will was ready to grieve.

*

He was restless in sleep. He hadn’t called Hannibal, he should have- but he simply hadn’t wanted to. He wasn’t mad, anger wasn’t the emotion he was feeling, but there was something like regret in him that he wanted to swallow down before seeing Hannibal. They had discussed Abigail so briefly- she had been swallowed up in the realization that Hannibal had, for a time, worked to manipulate Will as he pleased.

But that was done, it was in the past, it was swallowed up by time and trauma and Will refused to think of it again. Hannibal didn’t do that now- not anymore. Will wouldn’t let him, he’d see it, smell it on him. He’d know.

Will rolled onto his stomach and pressed his face into his pillows, sighing, heard movement from the living room. He assumed it was one of the dogs, but it felt heavier, with no tell-tale scratch of claws on the floor. Deciding he wasn’t sleeping anyway, Will shoved himself from bed and made his way towards the front of the house, rubbing at his eyes. He found the living room deserted of dogs, and instead found a pair of pale, bare feet on the floor. He followed up curved legs, naked and red smeared stomach, and to Julie’s eyes that seemed to smile at him.

“Hello, Will,” she whispered, and he didn’t watch her mouth move but her stomach as she breathed. The skin and muscle was lose- she was closed, but cut, hiding the pages of her body’s novel from him. He didn’t speak, his mouth felt dry, and she turned away, walking towards the door. He followed without a word, this was how it always played out- he followed. He didn’t question.

She always had such things to show him.

She opened the door, stepping onto the porch, and Will followed, staring out at the display set on his yard. Two sever stag heads, tethered to the ground, and impaled on their antlers two naked bodies. Will didn’t move- could smell the blood in the heavy, hot air, tasted it when he opened his mouth to inhale. Julie gestured with her hand, and Will walked down the steps, towards them slowly. He reached out, touched one girl’s leg, ran his hand up along her thigh and then dropped off, staring at the angry slit along her throat and her pretty but dead blue eyes, staring up wide.

“Abigail,” he whispered, reaching out again to touch her cheek. Soft, but cold. He let his hand trail back into her hair, leaning closer and resting his forehead against her temple. She didn’t smell like blood, like death, like an open bodied book- her shampoo was floral, something spring like and sweet, and he inhaled and felt the corners of his eyes were wet. His breathing hadn’t changed, his heart remained stoic in his chest. “Abigail,” he whispered, again, before pulling away for fear of falling into her. He didn’t look at Julie as she watched from the porch, instead circled around to the other girl, staring down at her face, peaceful, her eyes closed, lips open slightly.

He reached out and wrapped her long hair around his fist, bent down, pressed his mouth to the top of her head, smelled the sun that had warmed her hair hours earlier with him. Then he pulled away, unwilling to look at the young girl who had cried into his shirt, and stared back at Julie.

“You can’t have them,” he finally said. “They’re not yours to touch.”

“But I’m you,” she whispered, “And they are yours.” She walked down, and Will watched a rivet of blood make it’s way down her leg. “They are yours by right, because you can understand them- you can show them their true potential.”

“Abigail is lost.” He looked back at her, impaled like Cassie Boyle, then away. It hurt to see that, tore at the tissue holding his heart in place.

“But not forgotten.” Will’s head jerked up, and he stared. That hadn’t been Julie’s voice- or the voice his mind had created for her, as he’d never heard her speak, never saw her alive. It had been Hannibal’s. “The other is still within reach.” Julie again. Will shook his head, his temples beginning to pound.

“No,” he said, “No. No you can’t have her. I won’t do it!”

“She’d be so much more beauti-“

“Some people are art without being torn open,” he spat, baring his teeth. “Some people are masterpieces without having to open up their cores to the world.” He was nearly snarling, and he wanted to reach forward, to tear at her, rip her open and pull everything from inside her and leave her an empty heap for touching them. Instead he turned back, but his lawn was empty, and he blinked, feeling the cold grass under his bare feet for the first time. He heard whining, barking, and he turned back, found the porch empty and the dogs by the door and windows, watching him. Will looked around, pinched his arm and gave a little sound. He was awake, at least now.

He hadn’t been sleepwalking since the Encephalitis. He raked his hands over his face, and with a groan, turned and made his way back into the house, locking the door, the images of the impaled girls behind his eyes leaving him angry. He wanted to reach inside himself and find the dead girl, drag her out and tear her open and silence her.

I’m you she had whispered, but now, now it wasn’t her voice inside his skull, repeating it as he crawled into bed.

It was Hannibal. And then, only then, did the anger die down, and could Will find sleep, because that invasion of his mind’s space had a haunting but soothing quality.

Chapter Text

“I want to look at their travel,” Will said to Beverly as she came in, holding a cup of coffee. He was at the table he had left a mess the day before. No one had touched it. She didn’t say anything, just gave him that look that said continue. “Maybe that’s how they overlapped. They all had to get home somehow. Airport employee, bus driver, something. Maybe there is a connection that.”

“Good idea,” she said, sitting down. “Where’d you go yesterday? Jack was looking for you, wanted to ask you about that lady’s psychological profile of this guy’s parents. I had to cover for you- I said you got pretty sick and left to look over everything at home.”

“Thanks.”

“So where were you?”

“Home.” Will made a note on a piece of paper- travel?- and then pushed it away. “Wendy Moss came to the lab yesterday.”

“The first victim’s sister?” Will nodded. “How the hell did she get here? And more importantly, why?”

“Skipped school, took a bus. She was looking for me. She...she wasn’t in a good place, she was looking for comfort.” Beverly sat down, her hands wrapped around her cup.

“And you’re her comfort?” Will nodded. “Will that’s...don’t you think a little strange? You don’t know this kid and she hops a us to come see you- let’s not even get into the fact that she’d have to look up where to find you. And you just...god, did you take her home?” Will nodded. “Will! Her mother is probably going to have an absolute fit.”

“Her mother has been drinking. She won’t tell her. She wanted to stay, didn’t want me to take her home. I did, Beverly- don’t give me that look. I’m not stupid. She took a walk with the dogs and she had a good cry.” He folded his arms, swallowed, and he must have looked uneasy because Beverly leaned across the table, her hands together but there, within reach.

“Will. What hole is this girl filling for you?” Will stared at her, at her mouth, to make sure it had moved.

“That’s a very Alana thing to ask,” he pointed out, and Beverly blushed. “So how about I don’t press you on why her words are in your mouth, and you don’t press me on why I wanted to make a girl forget for a few minutes that her sister was brutally murdered and the killer is still out there.” Beverly nodded, pulling her hands back, and Will stood up. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

“Where are you going?”

“Outside. I want to call Hannibal.”

*

Hannibal was pushing up from his desk, about to take a walk around his office to make sure everything was in order, when his phone rang. He answered without looking at the ID, walking towards the windows and pulling on the curtains, one at a time, to allow a little light in. “Hello?”

“Hey there darlin’.” Hannibal chuckled at the way Will’s voice slipped, and he heard just the faintest hint of an accent that once graced his voice.

“Hello Will. I missed you last night.”

“You know you can call me.”

“And I was going to, but I am afraid I may have nodded off with the book I was reading.” Will laughed, and Hannibal was sure he was picturing him in bed with a book planted on his chest as he slept. Will had caught him once or twice like that. “I do apologize.”

“S’okay. Dinner tonight? Feel up to that?”

“I always do.” Hannibal smiled, making his way back to his desk and flipping out open appointment book. “My appointments will be done by six.”

“I can be at your place a little after seven,” Will suggested.

“That would be fine.” It was more than fine, but Hannibal restrained himself. He didn’t feel he needed to say much to express to Will that he missed him and would be glad to see him. The man knew. He simply did.

*

Hannibal was in the kitchen when Will stepped into the house. He heard the door, but he didn’t leave his place, only refilled his own wine glass and was taking a sip as Will entered the kitchen, run a hand back through his curls and pulling small water droplets with it.

“Is it raining?” Hannibal asked, walking around the counter and placing a kiss to Will’s cheek.

“Just started as I got out of my car,” he admitted, reaching for Hannibal’s chin to give him a proper kiss. Hannibal smiled into it, was still smiling as Will leaned back and plucked the wine glass from his hand, spinning it to drink from the same place as Hannibal. “Dinner smells amazing.”

“Do not sound so shocked,” Hannibal teased, walking away and peeking in the oven.

“I’m always blown away that you manage to do so much so well.” Will took another sip then set the glass on the counter, pushing it across to Hannibal. “Sorry that I find you breath taking.” Hannibal chuckled, smiling, feeling a warmth inside his body that only ever appeared around Will.

“Is your case going well?” Will shrugged a shoulder.

“It’s...going. I sent a request for the girls’ travel information. Maybe there’s something there. Jack took us on a field trip.”

“Did he?”

“Yeah, the John Hopkins, to talk to a...Dr...” Will rubbed his jawline. “Dr. Mallick, that’s it. I guess his wife knows her or something.” Hannibal nodded. He thought to ask about how Bella was faring, but then decided against it. He would rather hear Will speak of the case than Jack’s dying wife. Hannibal had seen enough of her sickness through his few, brief sessions with her. “She gave us her opinion on what might have made him the way he is, but I swear she looked like she would have been more interested in me.” Will shifted, watched as Hannibal slipped his oven mits on and opened the oven, pulling out the dish as closing the door with his elbow.

“You are always a topic of discussion among psychiatric circles,” Hannibal said, setting the dish down and removing his mitts. “And your connection to me does not help you in that respect.”

“That’s basically what she said.” Will sighed. “I don’t like people prying around my head space unless they’re you.” Hannibal looked at him briefly, saw something flash in those eyes- they grew a shade darker, there was a slight twinge at the corners. He frowned. “I’m gonna go sit down, is that okay?”

“Of course,” Hannibal whispered, watching Will go. His initial thoughts of the evening being some simple between the two were forgotten. There was something swimming inside Will’s skull, and Hannibal was sure it would be presented to him. He pursed his lips, and wondered if it would be wise to perhaps share some of his own thoughts as well.

He would wait to see what Will’s lovely mouth produced.

*

Dinner started calm, small talk of the little details of life that they missed. Hannibal was feeling Will out, and the younger man could tell. He baited back, gave nothing, until finally Hannibal sighed, set his fork down, and asked, “What is on your mind, William? You were rather...pleasant upon arrival. Have I said something?”

“No,” Will admitted, tapping his fingers on the table. “No I just...one of the victims, the first, her little sister took a bus all the way to the lab to see me.” Hannibal nodded. “I...I took her home, let her meet the dogs, talk. I don’t know what I was thinking, except that maybe I wasn’t but...” He bit his lip. “I saw Abigail when she was with me. I swear to god I watched her watching me, and it was like if I held Wendy, I could hold Abigail.” He hung his head, heaving a sigh. “I never grieved for her, Hannibal. I never really...really let Abigail’s death sink in.”

Hannibal pushed his chair back, stood up, extended his hand. Will hesitated a moment, then took it, and Hannibal led him away from the table, out towards the living room, stopping in the center to thread his hands up into Will’s curls.

“Did you never grieve because life allowed you no time for it- or because it would mean accepting that I took Abigail from you?” Will closed his eyes, didn’t pull away from Hannibal’s touch as the man stroked along his scalp.

“Yes,” Will whispered. “Life did not allow me time- not when I found out she was really dead. You remember. But...I know if I dwell on it...”

“You will have to face what I have done?”

“I’ll have to admit you hurt me. You took something from me, Hannibal.” Will’s words were steady, steadier than Hannibal had anticipated. He opened his eyes and stared at him, evenly, his problem of holding Hannibal’s gaze forgotten long ago. It would have been unnerving, if Will stared that way at anyone else. To Hannibal, it was mildly beautiful.

Hannibal pulled his hands back. “I took something from both of us, Will.”

“Why?” Will balled up on hand into a fist, his mouth twitching once. “Why Abigail? She...she was...”

“She was deemed a necessary loss at the time.” Hannibal looked away.

“A necessary loss? Hannibal you...you once said to me that we were her fathers.” Will’s voice was a bit louder, but only the tail end had a quiver to it. “She was ours Hannibal. She was family.”

“Is it her loss you wish to mourn, William- or the loss of the idea of family?”

“There’s something so foreign about family,” Will said, folding his arms. “I was almost ready to get used to the idea with her. With you.”

“You and I, we are a family, Will.” Hannibal reached for him then, pulled Will forcefully against him, felt his squirm once, twice, then go still, pressing down against his chest. “We are bound, darling.” He pressed his face into Will’s curls, inhaled and held him tightly. Had Will’s mind been clear, he might have noticed the desperation in it- that emotion that Hannibal only seemed capable of around him, concerning him.

Will stopped squirming and relaxed, but his insides were still tight. Behind his eyelids he saw Abigail and he wanted to hold her- to heal her. He wanted her to be the success Alana had originally claimed she was. He wanted to set something right in the world-

He couldn’t fix Hannibal, but maybe he could have fixed Abigail.

“There was something salvageable about her,” he whispered.

“She was not a stray for you to mend, William,” Hannibal whispered, “You know that. You know what she was capable of.”

“Well maybe she...she didn’t have to be like...”

“Like me?” Will was silent. “Like you?” He tensed then, frowning. “You have no ground to deny yourself now, Will. You know just as I do what you are. I have seen it, and William...it’s beautiful.”

“I don’t want to hear this right now,” Will muttered, trying to pull away. Hannibal’s grip was iron.

“If not now, when? You cannot run for it forever, Will. You have blood on your hands, and you feel no remorse for it.”

“I had to do it!” Will tore away then, wrapping his arms around himself as if to replace Hannibal’s lost embrace. “Alyssa...she knew Hannibal. We’ve been over this. I killed her for you. To protect you. And I’d do it again if it meant keeping you safe, yes. But that doesn’t make me what you think I am.”

“And Matthew?”

“That was retribution. That was his reckoning. He needed to die, Hannibal.” Hannibal pursed his lips.

“You once argued it was not for us to decide. When did your philosophy change?”

“When he violated something I worked so hard to get under my control.” Will’s lip twitched in a small snarl. “They needed to die, and their blood on my hands is fine.”

“Come with me,” Hannibal broke in, “Come experience it again.” He tried to close the gap, moved closer to Will, took his face in his warm hands. “You showed me you want to, the other night. You know those words tasted sweet.” He leaned closer, kissed Will’s mouth gently, whispering to it, “Show me how that girl’s death should have been properly done.”

Will shrugged away, shaking his head. He laughed, nervously, darkly. “After all this and you want me to...to...what? Go hunting with you. Oh jesus Hannibal, you know how to push me. But I should know that by now.” There was bite to those words, a sharp edge that cut under Hannibal’s skin, and the older man was frowning. Will decided he didn’t care- he wouldn’t apologize for that. It was true, after all. Hannibal knew how to push him in exactly the directions he wanted. What Will didn’t want to admit was that something in his belly was tightening with excitement at this push. He fought it down, the claws digging up through skin, because he couldn’t reason with this. He couldn’t give an excuse to any blood his hands could tear from vessels that night.

He walked away from Hannibal, quickly, heading towards the door. Hannibal followed him, calling out to him, and Will hated the required pause to slip his shoes on, giving Hannibal time to catch him, to stand in front of the door. “Will, what are you doing?”

“I’m going home,” he admitted, straightening up. “I can’t do this tonight, Hannibal. I can’t handle your pushing when I’m trying to finally grieve Abigail.” He squared his shoulders with Hannibal when the man didn’t move, staring directly into his eyes, unflinching. Hannibal watched as something seemed to open in them, something almost threatening, but kept reined in, on a tight leash, and he knew Will was hiding much more in that moment. And while it piqued his curiosity, it made something ache in his chest as well. He had opened up to Will, he had let him see behind his eyes, he thought they were passed hiding anything.

Then he remembered his own private chambers beneath his house, the smell of bleach covering the coppery tinge of blood, and he knew they still operated in separate worlds.

He stepped aside then, and Will opened the door, stepped out into the night. He halted, turned, looked at Hannibal, and sighed.

“I’ll clean up your mess,” he said, a little softer, and anger and frustrating ebbing out of him slowly. “You know that.” A nod, and Will sighed. He leaned in, and Hannibal felt his mouth ghost his, mostly the corner of his lips. “I just need a night,” Will whispered, and Hannibal wondered if he could undo his resolve in that moment. The night air seemed to take away the edge to everything.

He decided not to push. Instead he watched Will walk in quickened steps to his car, to leave him alone in his big house with the ghost of a girl he had managed to bury, when he had been able to shift his affections and effort into Will.

*

When Will got home he let the dogs out, poured himself a shot of whiskey, and downed it with a grimace. He collected the dogs and did another, and then one final shot for good measure before crawling into his bed. By then he was warm and the corners of his mind were fuzzy. He pulled his blanket up around him and closed his eyes, wanting to sleep on his sorrow, on his grief. One night, he would give himself that. One slip into the blackness behind his eyelids where Abigail could haunt him, and he could ache, and then he would be done. He didn’t have the time for more.

He didn’t want the grief to separate him from Hannibal longer than one night. By now, his head having cooled, he knew he wasn’t angry. Frustrated to a degree, perhaps, but not at Hannibal, no.

Frustrated at himself, because something in him had yearned so badly to slip into the night with his lover and wrap his hands around a throat, to watch terror seep from eyes to skin, down to dying tongues. Because he knew Hannibal saw it in him, the desire, and hard as he tried, it was clawing up, talons protruding out of his pores for the world to see.

Will was terrified he wouldn’t be able to keep it inside, keep it in check- that it would destroy the small pocket of bliss he could forge with Hannibal in their moments of perceived normalcy. They could hold onto them, if one of the two still clung to the fraying edges of society, still attempted to play by the rules. Will worried that if he slipped as well, that would be gone. Everything he wanted- no, no not everything, because everything he knew was unattainable at the same time- but most of what he wanted would slip through his finger tips, fall away to be trampled over, if he gave in and let himself be just like Hannibal. There would be no fixing him after that fall, just like Hannibal couldn’t be fixed.

That’s because he doesn’t need to be.

Will rolled onto his belly, buried his face in his pillow, and knew that when he opened his eyes next, he’d be surrounded by the dead.

*

A knock on his door was what drew Will from the depths of blackness back into the realm of the waking. He opened his eyes, stared up at the ceiling, blinked, then rolled over, stumbling out of bed. He rubbed his eyes and yawned as he made his way towards the door- feeling calm and wondering if he was actually awake.

There had been not a single dream. Just the cool absence of anything behind his eyelids, and voices, whispering. Abigail’s and Hannibal’s and the voice he had crafted for Julie, singing a sort of lullaby that in his waking state he could not remember.

He opened the door and found Alana smiling at him, looking put together and perfect, as always. “Good morning,” she offered, and he licked his lips.

“Morning.” His voice was a little hoarse, and he stood aside so she could step in. “What, uh, are you doing here?”

“I thought it might be nice to see you,” she replied with a shrug, holding up a bag. “I brought breakfast.”

Will smiled. “Well, if you come bearing bribery, then I guess I should make coffee. And find some pants.” Alana laughed, and Will felt rather at ease as they made their way into his kitchen and he started the coffee. She moved around as if she lived there, but Will didn’t feel as if it over stepped a boundary. Alana was, after all, still a close friend. She and Beverly were about all he had.

She was settling a danish on a plate as he disappeared, and reading his mind, he swore, she called out, “I’ve said I have brothers.”

“And I happen to not be one,” he called back, finding a pair of jeans and tugging them on quickly, walking back and fastening them. He realized she wasn’t watching him do that- something he might have caught her doing once. It made him relax even more. “So what’s the real reason for stopping by? It’s early, I can’t imagine you were just driving by.” He grabbed two mugs and watched her take a bite of the breakfast pastry, knew she was stalling.

“I heard you had a visitor the other day.” Will poured the coffee, shooting her a quick look, then back at the mugs as he filled the second one. “The sister of one of your case’s victims.”

“Her name is Wendy.” He nodded towards the sugar and Alana nodded, and he dumped a spoonful into both mugs. “She deserves to be more than a victim’s sister.”

“You brought her to your home.” Alana didn’t sound angry, just...bemused. Will nodded and walked to his fridge, opening it, finding cream, and got another nod from Alana. He poured that in her mug only before replacing it where he found it. He gave her coffee one final stir, than dropped the spoon in the sink and walked over, passing her the mug and receiving a quiet thank you.

“She asked to meet my dogs.” Will took a sip, ignoring the food. “She’s not doing well, Alana. I wanted to help her out.”

“I’d like to meet her. You know I could help her through this.” Will gripped his cup, realizing painfully this could be Abigail all over again for Alana just as much as for him. Except she had the blissful lie that Abigail was alive and had simply disappeared to cling to. Will only had the stinging reality of her death.

“I don’t think she wants therapy,” Will said, “Just an...escape.”

“And you can be her escape?” Will shrugged a shoulder.

“If she wants me to.”

“Will...” Alana reached out, and he offered his hand, let her take it. “It’s...it seems strange. You know that. You should have called me when she came to you. Someone should have been with you. You shouldn’t have brought her here. Her mother could insinuate a lot of things from that.” Will didn’t say anything. He knew, and he knew Alana logically and rationally had a point. But neither of those factored into his decision, and neither seemed to hold much merit in the reality of the situation. Wendy was breaking and he wanted to keep the pieces together so she could be glued back into her original form.

I want to kill him.

“How do you know about all this?” He stared her in the eyes, something he still rarely did with anyone other than Hannibal, and her gaze flicked away.

“Beverly told me. We were having a few drinks and she thought I should know. She’s worried about you. I’m worried about you. We don’t want you to...get attached to something.”

“Like a stray?” Alana nodded.

“She’s not Abigail.” Will pulled his hand back at that, and Alan frowned. “She has a mother still, Will. I’m sure you’re upset over Abigail’s disappearance, considering we never talked about it, but she can’t be a replacement.”

Will took a quick gulp of his coffee. “No, we never talked about it.” There was a hint of bite to his words, and he knew Alana heard it. “I don’t want her as a replacement.” It’s not a full lie. “I want to help the kid. And she has a mother who she claims is drinking up a storm. She needs some sort of escape.”

“I’ll look into helping her,” Alana said, her hand turned palm up. An invitation. Will ignored it and drank more of his coffee. “But you should keep a comfortable distance, Will. You have Hannibal, you have a life- keep your home separate from your cases, from the messes you have to deal with.”

Will wanted to laugh at that. There was no way to separate the grotesque images he saw at a scene and his life with Hannibal. They were one and the same- the only difference was with Hannibal looking was enjoyable.

Will finally reached for the danish Alana had brought him, and she noticeably relaxed as he took a bite. He wondered if Hannibal was awake yet. He wanted to talk to him. He’d had his one night, and he wanted him to know he wasn’t angry per say. He just felt like he lost the one small clutch they had at being normal. And Will wanted that, in his bones, he wanted something almost domestic.

And then part of him wanted to watch Hannibal tear open strangers, to cook their insides and feed them to him as if Will was some prize that Hannibal needed to pamper. He wanted everything, and he couldn’t have it. Not both, those realities could no coexist. He had to choose.

That made the taste in his mouth instantly sour.

“I didn’t just come about the girl,” Alana admitted as Will set the pastry down in favor of finishing his coffee. “I came about your case.” Will nodded, and reached his hand out. Alana took it happily, squeezing, warm and reassuring. “Jack...called me last night, asking my advice. He wants to take the information Mrs. Crawford’s friend gave him and put together a...rather insulting profile. He wants to see if he can bait your killer out, make him sloppy enough to leave something behind.”

Will went to take his hand back, but Alana’s grip was firm. “He did that with the Chesapeake Ripper once. We saw how well that went.”

“Well, he’s going to do it regardless of if we approve or not.”

“And did you approve?” Alana hesitated.

“I told him what he already knows. That yes, he could probably goad your killer into becoming visible, but he runs the high risk of another victim. He chose to hear what he wanted of that.”

“We can’t let him do it,” Will said, pulling his hand free and standing up. “I’ve got to talk to him.”

“He’ll be waiting for you,” Alana said, “Sit down, finish your breakfast first. Jack’s not going to d anything without you first.”

“He gave this case to Beverly and I. He better now. God, what does she think about this?”

“I went to see her for drinks after Jack came to me. She’s having about the same reaction as you. When I left her this morning she was getting ready to take Jack’s head off.” Will raised an eyebrow, and Alana realized all she had said and looked away.

“Left her this morning?” Will did sit down now, giving Alana a teasing smile- well, as much of one as he could manage. “You know, I’m still waiting for you two to admit to something.”

“Nothing to admit to.” Alana distracted herself by taking a bite of her danish, and Will shook his head.

“Plenty to admit to, I’m sure. Is it serious or just for fun?” Alana chewed, slowly, swallowed, then sighed.

“I don’t...I don’t know. I haven’t decided how I feel yet. She hasn’t either.” Will nodded. “So keep it to yourself, okay?”

“I will. Except for teasing Bev,” Will admitted, “she has it coming, with all she has put me through for Hannibal. And of course Hannibal.”

“You two are one and the same,” Alana said as Will stood up again, making his way for the bathroom for a quick shower. “Anything you know, I expect Hannibal knows as well.”

Will closed the door against her voice and leaned against it, huffing a sigh. He wondered if she was right- if everything he knew down in his bones, Hannibal knew as well.

Was it worth lying to the man about his desires, then? Was it even worth omitting the dreams and pretending the need wasn’t inside his belly, running up his spine? Was it all just wasted effort, if Hannibal could see through his skull, taste his very thoughts on his tongue, hear his mental voice echoed inside his own head?

Chapter Text

Alana had offered to drive Will, but he wanted to take his own car. When she left him, he was barefoot with wet hair in the middle of his living room, attempting to rouse all the dogs to get them outside once before he left.

When he walked into the lab later, she silently mused he didn’t look much different- shoes and his glasses and mostly dried curls, but the same frustrated expression that he did little to hide. She was fairly sure he didn’t care to, and she didn’t blame him.

“Where’s Jack?” he asked, and Beverly was grabbing his wrist and dragging him away. Alana had to nearly run to keep up, her heels clicking along the tiled floors. Beverly threw the door to Jack’s office open, without knocking, and found him sitting at his desk. He paused his typing to glance up.

“It’s a bad fucking idea,” she said, releasing Will’s wrist. Jack’s eyes narrowed. “Someone could get killed.”

“Someone will get killed if we don’t do something. And you two aren’t getting me results.” Will frowned then, reaching out and holding Beverly by the arm as she started to advance. He squeezed, reassuring, and stepped up next to her- but not in front.

“You take this case than, Jack,” he said, “And you piece something together. We’ve given you what we can. We don’t know when he’ll kill again- it might not be until after we’ve discovered something.”

“What is there to discover? His last victim’s body yielded nothing. No strands of rope, nothing.” Will bit his lip- he knew Jack was right there. He had hoped they’d get some sort of fiber, something, but there had been nothing. “We need to stir him up.”

“So you’ll get into bed with Freddie Lounds and risk the lives of every collage age girl within his radius?”

“Yes.” Will released Beverly then, frowning.

“Then don’t drag me into it. I won’t want their blood on my hands.” He turned to leave, but Jack called out to him- his voice stern, rumbling from his chest. Will halted at the door, facing Alana, his gaze angry, hard, enough to make her take a step back before Will looked over his shoulder.

“You’re putting it together,” he said. “Beverly can go examine the girl’s body one more time to make sure nothing was missed, but you’re going to go put together a profile for him. Now.”

Will said nothing, only stormed out of the room, for a moment planning a mental resignation letter.

*

He had been sitting in his classroom, in the dark, for perhaps twenty minutes when the door opened, and Alana slipped inside. She didn’t speak, just walked up to his desk and carefully sat on the corner, watching him scribbling onto a piece of paper. She didn’t speak, and Will was thankful for it, she just watched.

He shoved a paper away, came face to face with a picture of Anna’s body. He frowned, swallowed, his mouth tasting suddenly sour, and he turned it, sliding it towards her. Alana looked at it, reached out and touched it with a finger. “Her sister,” Will whispered, saw Wendy behind his eyes. Smiling. He could smell her hair, feel it, warm from the sun. She had felt so small in his arms. Smaller than Abigail would have. “How am I supposed to entice this sadist out when I’ve got these girls on my conscious.”

“Their deaths weren’t your fault.”

“The next one will be.” Will pulled his glasses off. “If Jack goes through with it.”

“Her death will be on Jack.”

“No.” He shook his head. “No, it will be on all of us. Just another layer of blood for our filthy hands.” He looked down at his, and for a moment he could picture them slickened, hot and red-

And then they weren’t his hands. They were Hannibal’s.

“Will?” He snapped his head up, caught Alana’s eyes- wide and rather worried. He blinked, reached up to take his glasses off, and realized his hand was shaking. Silently he cursed and nearly dropped them on his desk, pinching at the bridge of his nose. “Are you alright?” He nodded, but Alana didn’t seem convinced. “You’re very pale.” She reached out, leaning along the desk, pressing her hand to his forehead, and his initial reaction was to pull away slightly. A moment later, the hint of her perfume on her wrist, and he leaned into it, though hesitantly. “You’re not warm, that’s good.”

“I’m not sick, if that’s what you mean.” He chuckled, a dark, low rumble. “Just unstable, remember?” She pulled back, frowning, and Will knew he’d overstepped a line. “I’m sorry Alana. That was uncalled for.” He looked down at the paper he had been scribbling on. “I just think this is a mistake. Jack’s going to get some girl killed over all this. We’re still working angles, we’ll get something.”

“He’s impatient.” Will nodded. Alana folded her arms, still watching him cautiously. “Are you sure you’re feeling alright? You’re pale.”

“Fine,” Will mumbled, stopping to look at the photo of Anna’s body. He closed his eyes and saw Wendy impaled on the stag’s head, right next to Abigail, and fought down the violent shudder that threatened to overtake him.

“You need to step away from all this,” she offered, “You had a good few months. Maybe...maybe it’s time to consider leaving this behind.”

“Quit?” Alana nodded.

“You could still teach. You could consult from time to time- but no more crime scenes, no more gruesome photos. No more nightmares.” Will frowned. He didn’t like that she assumed she still had nightmares. He didn’t like that she was right.

“Not all of the nightmares come from crime scenes,” he reminded her, and he did shudder than, feeling hot breath on his neck and bile rising in his throat. She looked away.

“It’s not the best suggestion,” she whispered, “But you should talk to someone about...what happened with Dr. Barker.” Will’s eyes flashed when she said his name, and Alana saw it. She leaned away, openly staring.

“Suggest a therapist to discuss the previous one that tried to rape me?” Will leaned back, folding his hands in his lap. “No thanks, Alana. Hannibal’s all the therapy I need.”

“Than maybe you need more of him.” She pushed herself from his desk, brushing her hands down her skirts to smooth out the wrinkles. She walked away, but stopped at the door, turning to look back at him with a frown. “Remember Will,” she forced out, “You can walk away.”

When she slipped out, Will wasn’t sure he knew exactly what she thought he could walk away from.

*

Will had found the profile difficult. It shouldn’t have been, but his mind was muddled. He thought of a young dark haired girl who has lost her family- she had no face and two names and two separate lives but slowly, slowly, she was becoming one in his mind, losing and gaining years simultaneously. He saw bodies and imagined it was her with her two faces and had to walk outside and drink down the hot spring air.

When it was done, he handed it off to Jack without a word. The man tried to speak to him, but Will walked out of his office, not caring that it was only mid afternoon. He stalked to his car, kicked the engine to life, and drove without a conscious purpose other than to get away, until he recognized the highway and knew where his mind was taking him.

He tried to imagine Hannibal’s schedule in his mind. He had it memorized, and knew he was still at his office, would be even once Will reached Baltimore. He decided it didn’t matter and drove anyway, felt an overwhelming relief at seeing Hannibal’s house taking shape. He slipped out of his car, flipping through the few keys on his ring and unlocking the door, stepping inside. Will swore the building echoed around him, groaned as he stepped inside, alone. He relocked the door and slipped out of his shoes, leaving the lights off as he made his way into the house. He stepped into the kitchen, realizing it had such a different feel without Hannibal moving within it, without rich smells soaking up into the air and floating through the house- but always beginning here.

He ran his fingers along the counter- cool and smooth and almost sending little shivers down his spine- and walked around it, beyond the stove, over along the wall, the sink. He walked a full circle around the kitchen, as if he needed to stir life up within it, like dust. It didn’t feel right without Hannibal. He stopped at the doorway and wrapped his arms around himself, frowning. This wasn’t the first time he’d been alone in Hannibal’s home- far from it- but to come in when the house was sleeping, had been sleeping for hours, this was new. It felt strange, and Will wondered if he could breathe life into it if he tried.

Instead he left the kitchen, making his way upstairs and towards Hannibal’s bedroom. He slipped inside, closing the door behind him, and sat down on the edge of the bed in the cool darkness. His head had a dull ache to it, a subtle thump along his temples. Will pulled his phone out of his pocket to text Hannibal- not wanting to interrupt with a call and have his lover think something was gravely wrong-

Come talk to me. I’ll be waiting.

He didn’t feel the need to explain where he was, or what they needed to talk about. He didn’t feel the need to say much of anything, despite how he had left previously. Will set his phone and glasses on the bedside table, knew he wouldn’t get a response, and pulled the blanket back, slipping into bed. He sighed as the sheets seemed to melt against him, and pressed his face to the pillow. It didn’t smell like Hannibal, like it had the first few night. Now it smelled like Will, the faintly familiar scent that had no real affect on him other than to make him feel he was in a space he owned.

Will turned away from the bedside table and stretched out, burying his face in Hannibal’s pillow and inhaling happily. The scent made him dizzy, made him smile, made his body go lax. Distantly, he heard his phone buzzing, but he didn’t bother looking because it wouldn’t be Hannibal-

And he didn’t give a damn what anyone else had to say to him in that moment.

He curled is sock-clad toes against the mattress, clutched at the pillow and felt his mind drifting, slowly. There was something soothing about being in Hannibal’s bed in the middle of the day- when he should be elsewhere. IT cradled him from the world, let him block everything out for a brief moment. Let him fade.

Will let go, let the frustration melt to stress melt to fatigue, and slipped into an easy sleep in the middle of the afternoon, in an empty house that groaned around him and then slept with him, enjoying dark, dreamless slumber to the sounds of his shallow, soft breaths.

*

Hannibal slipped inside his home and locked the door behind him, giving a quick look to his watch. It was about six o’clock. He slipped his shoes off- directly next to Will’s, and took a moment to breathe in the sleeping house around him. Then he moved, silently, towards the stairs, slipping his jacket off and draping it over his arm as he ascended. He pushed the door of his bedroom open and smiled to himself, finding Will as just a lump under the blanket, fast asleep. He gently draped his jacket over a table, working his vest open to join it. He laid his tie atop, then worked the top few buttons of his shirt as he walked over.

He stood, staring down at Will, rather amused that he could be so deep in sleep so early. He assumed Will must have fallen into slumber shortly after texting him, so he had been out for well over two hours. Hannibal turned away, rolling his sleeves up, and picked Will’s phone up off the bedside table, bringing it to life.

Two missed calls from Beverly, and about five from Jack. Along with a few unread messages. Hannibal frowned, set it back on the table without bothering to check them. Instead he turned back to Will, and very gently settled onto the edge of the bed, reaching out and pulling the blanket down along Will’s body. He was mildly disappointed to find Will still fully dressed- and had to wonder if his state of clothing was a reflection on his reason for visiting. Hannibal had not forgotten to way Will had stormed out prior- and while the kiss had been settling, it had not cleared his mind fully. There was something about watching Will leave that always set his pulse to quickening- when very few things in life ever had.

He ran his hand up along Will’s spine, leaned over him to kiss at the back of his neck, his curls tickling. Will stirred, flexed under his touch, smelled like his shampoo- lavender, as Hannibal chose it now- and that Earthy scent that was Will beneath everything. It was relieving to know that dreaded aftershave was only a memory now.

Hannibal kissed again, then sat up, reaching both hands out to press into Will’s shoulders, rubbing the muscles gently. Will made a pleased little sound, didn’t turn to face Hannibal, just whispered, harder in a voice that made Hannibal’s pulse quicken for entirely different reasons. He pressed with more force, massaging the tension he found out of Will’s shoulders as his lover went lax beneath his hold.

“You’re carrying a lot of stress today, Will.” Will didn’t respond- not verbally, anyway. He simply let his hand inch its way over and brush along Hannibal’s leg, as the older man worked his hands down his back. He received a gasp, then an audible moan for his efforts, and smiled to himself. “Care to tell me what has you so...tense?”

“You’d be listening for a long time,” Will whispered, untangling from Hannibal’s touch- though not happy about it- and sitting up to look at him. He ran a hand back through his hair. “What time is it?”

“After six.” Will frowned.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to doze off for so long.” He stretched, and in that moment Hannibal moved, wrapping an arm around Will and tugging him close, kissing the corner of his mouth, then his lips. Will sank into it, leaned against Hannibal, arms lazily encircling his neck, kissing with all slow, almost sluggish, lips that made Hannibal’s stomach tighten. Will gave a pleased hum as Hannibal pulled away, eyelids heavy.

“Never apologize for allowing me to find you in my bed,” Hannibal whispered, and Will laughed, causing Hannibal to smile, the sort that only Will seemed to drag out of him. True, up to his eyes.

“Do you want to hear about work first, or should I go right into the other night?” Hannibal stroked his hand along Will’s side.

“The other night, if you please.” Will nodded, released his hold on Hannibal and settled back against the pillows.

“Okay. I’m sorry if my leaving gave you the wrong idea. I didn’t mean for it to be...serious, I guess. I just needed a night to think. I never grieved Abigail, you were right. I needed to do that.”

“She was not only your loss,” Hannibal pointed out, “but mine as well.”

“You killed her, Hannibal.” The words were calm, and Hannibal knew Will was fighting to keep the bite and bitterness from his voice. His was grateful for it.

“And I loved her, just as you did. What I did was...necessary, in the moment. If I could go back and see the future as it is now, I would have acted differently.” Will didn’t comment that that was possibly the closest thing to remorse Hannibal had felt in a long time. Instead, he only nodded.

“Can we both agree that we miss her?” A nod. “Okay. And can you maybe not try to convince me to go...hunting with you the next time I’m not emotionally sound?”

“And would you go, if you were?” Will frowned. He saw in Hannibal’s eyes he hadn’t liked the term, but he hadn’t corrected Will. Will wondered what Hannibal would call it.

“No.” The word was bitter in Will’s mouth, and he saw Hannibal didn’t believe him, but he didn’t push. Will was thankful. There would be a time to talk about the dead women that plagued him in his sleep, the itch when he found these corpses in such sloppy disarray-

The night he had moaned to Hannibal all he had wanted to do to correct this sadist’s work.

But that wasn’t this moment, this evening, Will knew. Hannibal knew- and the silent knowledge, that little slip into his mind, was one of the things that reminded Will this was not the game they had originally played- this had ceased to be a game, and was actual affection.

“You had said Abigail could have meant family for you.” Will nodded, and Hannibal leaned over, stretched out along Will, making the younger man shift as he sank his hands into Will’s curls. “What would you consider me, William?”

“Home.”

Will leaned forward, pressed his mouth to Hannibal, traced his mouth with his tongue and pulled Hannibal into him, drank down the small sound the psychiatrist made with a little smile. “You’re my home, Hannibal,” he murmured, “I guess that’s more than family.”

“While it may seem foreign to both of us,” Hannibal replied, settling back enough so he could stroke through Will’s curls, “There is no reason we cannot create our own. Two constitutes a family, William.” Will smiled. He wrapped his arms around Hannibal, rolling them over and laughing as they tangled awkwardly in the blanket, laying top him and tipping his forehead against Hannibal’s.

“I don’t know if I’d be very good family.”

“You once said you wouldn’t be very good company,” Hannibal reminded him, “I could argue that has been proven wrong. I very much enjoy your company, dear Will. I am sad to see you go.” Will brushed his nose along Hannibal’s, settling atop his hips and pushing himself up.

“You know I’m always sad to go.” Hannibal reached up, ran his hands along Will’s thighs, squeezed them gently, and Will gave a low groan, soft, dared to press down against Hannibal’s groin in just the right way that had him sighing.

“Perhaps you should stay.” He trailed his hands back down Will’s thighs again. “Perhaps we need to remedy this situation, William.”

Will sucked his lower lip into his mouth. “Hannibal...let’s not be coy. We’ve danced around this before- and I don’t feel like dancing tonight. Are you seriously thinking about wanting to live with me?” A squeeze on his thighs again, reassuring, just shy of being high enough to make Will squirm.

“It is not simple thinking, William. I know I do.”

“But we’re so...different.”

“Yes, and we have managed thus far. I would dare to say that, considering what has transpired over the past few months, that I have very little concern of us being able to reconcile any differences we may encounter.”

“You say that now, but the moment you find dog hair all over one of your suits, I think you’ll be singing me a different song.” Hannibal chuckled, watching the rise and fall of Will’s chest as his hands stroked his thighs- stroking something else, inside him, a little flame that made Hannibal’s belly just as warm as Will’s.

“We would have to discuss some of the details, yes, but again Will- I believe we can preserver through.” His voice seemed silken, his words seeping into Will- and he let himself imagine what it would be like to come home to Hannibal every night, to never have to make that dreadful drive in the late hours of the night.

To have a space they could create together.

“I don’t want to live in the city,” Will mumbled, and Hannibal was sitting up- the sudden movement jarring Will, nearly throwing him back, if the man hadn’t quickly tossed his arms around him to hold him up. “Jesus Hannibal, careful! You nearly-“

He was cut off when the man kissed him, open mouthed with his tongue pushing between Will’s lips and leaving him gasping. Will clutched as his shirt until Hannibal had had his fill of assaulting his mouth- by that point, Will found himself trembling slightly, feeling light headed.

“We will find a place as isolated as you wish,” Hannibal whispered.

“And your patients? We won’t find something like that in Baltimore.”

“I will make the drive. Perhaps I will relocate my office. I am confident some of my patients will be willing to make a longer drive to continue to see me. And there are always other courses of action that can occupy my time.” He nuzzled Will’s jaw, still smiling.

“And my dogs?” Hannibal sighed.

“Are rather fond of me, I would argue. I believe I can tolerate having them underfoot- so long as we do set a few rules, darling.” Will chuckled, bowing his head down to rest against Hannibal’s shoulder.

“Okay,” he whispered, his tongue feeling heavy but his heart pounding against his ribs. “Okay, we’ll do this. We’re not done talking about it, but...let’s fucking do it.”

Hannibal’s hold on Will tightened, and Will wrapped his arms around him as well, content in that moment to hold onto him and inhale his cologne, feel the hum of his excitement. Had Will pushed himself, he could have felt the true hammering inside Hannibal’s veins, the clenching inside his stomach, felt the relief that washed beneath his skin. He would have realized this meant far more to the man than Will could see on the surface.

But he closed himself off, kept himself from slipping into Hannibal’s skull, under his skin, contented himself to holding him and feeling like everything was tilting back into balance.

Everything will be alright.

Chapter Text

Hannibal left Will in bed to make dinner. Will had protested, and only released his hold on his then naked lover when Hannibal promised it would not be a large affair. Will let him go then, and stretched out naked in the sheets, smiling in his after glow and letting his bones and muscle click into comforting place. He lay there for a while, listening to the house around him, sounds from downstairs in the kitchen, and Hannibal’s movements.

He rolled over as he heard Hannibal leave the kitchen, was reaching for his phone as the man made his way up the stairs. Will was reading his messages and glaring at his missed calls when Hannibal appeared in the doorway, holding a tall glass with a richly amber beer in it, as a small offering. He forgot it as he watched Will’s face contort.

“You never told me what Jack had done to upset you so,” Hannibal said calmly, walking over. He sat on the bed and offered the glass to Will, who took it, taking a long sip before looking back at his phone.

“Jack wants a...provocative profile of this killer. He wants to bait him out, to piss him off. He hopes he’ll get sloppy.”

“He’s risking another death.”

“My thoughts exactly.” Will raised the glass, inclining his head towards Hannibal’s head, then took another drink. “I told him as much. He wouldn’t listen. Beverly is just as upset- but she doesn’t have to draw it up. Jack asked me too specifically, with my information and what Dr. Mallick gave us. I wish he’d just called her, asked her to do it. But she probably would’ve just asked about me.” He took another, long drink, and Hannibal watched the way his throat worked. Will knew he was watching. “I hate that everyone is so goddamn interested in me.”

“And what of my interest in you?” Will shot Hannibal a glare, and the older man smiled playfully at him.

“Fuck you,” Will said, nearly laughing for a brief moment, as he leaned into Hannibal’s embrace- the contrast between Hannibal, clothed now that he had gotten up, and Will, still naked, was oddly enticing. Will settled in, took another drink. “You know what I mean. Everyone else. They want in my head space.” He sighed. “So much that they don’t seem to really care about the rest of the world.” Will felt one of Hannibal’s hands running down along his stomach, and he closed his eyes. “Beverly left me a text saying Jack was pissed that I just disappeared. And she was worried.”

“She is your friend, I would imagine she would worry.”

“She probably knew exactly where I went. Jack probably pushed her. Maybe he’s afraid that I won’t show up tomorrow to give the profile properly to Freddie Lounds.” Will spoke her name with such distaste it seemed to make the air foul. He cleaned his mouth of her name with another long drink of beer. “Fuck her. Fuck this whole plan. Fuck Jack.” Another drink, and the glass was empty and Hannibal was taking it. “I should just get out.”

“You have had chances to quit, and you have taken none of them,” Hannibal pointed out, nuzzling into Will’s curls.

“Yeah well, this isn’t good for me- and if it isn’t good for me, it’s definitely not gonna be good for us.” Hannibal kissed at his neck, before untangling himself and standing.

“Dinner will be ready shortly.” Will nodded, watched the man leave, and wondered what life would be like if he left the FBI. Would that mean the dreams would stop? He reached up, pinched the bridge of his nose, and wondered if he ever really would be able to close his eyes and stop seeing the dead. He could hope but his hopes weren’t held very high. If anything, it felt as if his hope was pressed beneath the heel of his shoe.

*

Will didn’t go home that night- and Hannibal was thankful for it. There was always a sweet pleasure in having his arms locked around Will as they drifted off into sleep. He had called Alana about his dogs- and had been forced into a conversation with Beverly, who informed him just how pissed off Jack was about Will storming out. Will didn’t give a damn- and while Hannibal could simply tell, Will had gone a step further and flat out said it. Yet he had assured Beverly he would be there in the morning to face Freddie Lounds.

His breathing was even now, and Hannibal knew he was asleep. Cautiously, he pulled his arm free and sat up. Will slept on. Content that Will would not awaken, Hannibal slipped from the bed, making his way from the bedroom in bare feet and his pajama pants, as silent as the house itself in slumber. Down the stairs, into the kitchen, and then he was opening doors and staring down a dark stairwell. He didn’t flick the light on, he descended instead in the blackness, standing at the base of the stairs in silence and letting the cool darkness act as a blanket.

He inhaled, smelled the inevitable smell all basements had- slightly damp, slightly earthy- over the smell if bleach, and beneath that something coppery most would miss. He made his way in the darkness, parting the handing plastic, running his hands along the table he had installed recently. There was a sense of unease in his gut knowing he would have to dismantle it before he ever truly got to put it to good use. He’d have to dismantle all of this, discard everything with careful planning, scrub everything with so much bleach it would burn through his gloves.

His little sanctuary would become obsolete, and then become nothing. He sucked on his lower lip, unwilling to turn the lights on and face it as a reality. Instead he gripped onto the table, solid and hard and heavy, and wanted nothing more than to bound up the stairs, gather up Will in his sleeping state, and bring him down into this darkness. Lay him out on the table and worship him and show him this small, beautiful world he had down here- where he created art and delicacy and perfection.

But Will was not in the state of mind to fully appreciate this. He had almost been, when he had ridden Hannibal and dared to look down at him with his stormy eyes and describe how he would perfectly kill a girl, cut her apart and what they could enjoy together. Almost then, but Hannibal had let himself be blinded by how good Will had felt, and hadn’t taken advantage of it. He cursed himself for it, how easily Will made him forget the things he wanted for the baser things- how he made Hannibal forget how much he wanted to see him blossom into something so dark, and instead filled him with images of lazy Sunday mornings lounging in bed with the sun streaming in through open windows.

Hannibal exhaled, slowly, rolled the images of his Will over in his mind- disheveled and drowsy, mouthing lazy kisses along his shoulder and collar bone in greeting, giving Hannibal that barely-awake smile that made the man’s insides warm and surging. The smile that made Hannibal think, for the first time since he had seen a small girl give him similar lazy smiles, that maybe there really was a family to be had in this life.

He left the basement as quickly as he had arrived, making his way back upstairs to slip into bed with Will. The man pressed back against him in his sleep, and Hannibal held onto him tightly, as if for a moment there was the risk of Will being torn away from him. The concept of family already had one love being ripped from his life- part of Hannibal worried applying the label to Will would give him a death sentence as well.

*

Will awoke to the smell of coffee, three minutes before the alarm was to sound. He yawned, stretched, turned it off before the insistent beeping could begin, then made his way to the shower, unaware that Hannibal had left the bed at all before rising before him to make coffee.

Once clean, dressed, and mostly awake, Will made his way downstairs, finding Hannibal in the kitchen preparing his coffee. Will accepted it with a rather deep good morning kiss, wrapping one arm around Hannibal’s neck to keep him in place as he explored his mouth greedily. Had there been no need to breathe, Will could have gone on forever, but when Hannibal pulled away he untangled himself and took a sip of the coffee, a playful smirk on his face.

“I’ll think of that when I have to stare at Freddie Lounds,” he said, as Hannibal gestured to the stove- the silent do you want breakfast? Will shook his head, received a frown for a reply. “You know I don’t have time.” He took another sip of coffee. “I wish you’d come with me. It’d be easier to look her in the eye and pretend to be friendly with you there.”

“I don’t think you intend to even pretend to be friend with Ms. Lounds.” Will shrugged a shoulder.

“True.” He downed the rest of the coffee, setting the cup down. He leaned over, kissing Hannibal on the corner of his mouth with a smile. “But waking up in your bed will make it easier to not picture gutting her.”

Hannibal inhaled sharply, and he glanced at Will’s eyes- a perfect mask of nothing but calm, and Hannibal realized he couldn’t tell if that was an innocent jest, or a hint at something Will had been considering. He couldn’t read Will, and in that moment it was completely terrifying. Yet Will acted as if nothing had happened, and nibbled along his jawline, giving Hannibal a low chuckle to vibrate his skin.

“I’ll call you later,” he said, taking his hand and giving it a quick squeeze, pulling it up to his mouth so he could kiss along Hannibal’s knuckles. The slight brush of his mouth was all that seemed to drag Hannibal back to the present, made him give a faint nod. Will smiled and released his hand, turning and making his way for the door. Hannibal stood for a moment, until Will was out of sight, then rushed forward when he heard the scuff of his shoes being put on. Will had the door open and was stepping out when Hannibal appeared in the hallway.

“Will!” The man stopped, turned, looked at Hannibal in response, and suddenly Hannibal’s throat felt tight. He took a breath, forced a smile, and said in a voice that was nowhere near steady and calm, “I love you.”

Will’s smile broadened, and he winked at Hannibal. “I love you too, darlin’.” His accent hung thick on the last word, made something inside Hannibal quiver, and then Will was gone, leaving him alone in the house. He waited until he heard Will’s car starting, pulling away, and then he turned, made his way back to the kitchen for his own coffee.

When he drank it, his hands shook not from the caffeine, but from the sudden knowledge that while he had altered his life to accommodate Will Graham into it to begin with, everything would have to change again. And suddenly, Hannibal felt his affections for Will like a near crushing weight, something that could just eas easily drown him as bring him joy.

He drank his coffee quickly and tried to block all thoughts of Will from his mind, so he could begin his day. But as he made his way upstairs for a shower, all he received was thoughts of Will coming home late from a kill, showering the blood off his body, and crawling into bed with him to sleep his way into that lazy Sunday morning Hannibal secretly coveted so. An impossible reconciling of both worlds that Hannibal wanted so desperately- needed with a choking force.

*

Will found Alana waiting for him at the lab. He had expected Beverly, and his face must have shown that.

“She’s with Jack,” Alana said, “she wants to be there when we give Freddie the profile.”

“We?”

“Jack has asked me there as well. I have nothing to add to the profile you built, but he thinks I might be useful is she has questions.” Will nodded, and Alana looked him over once. “You look better than yesterday.”

“A few hours with Hannibal will do that to me.” Will raked a hand back through his curls. “A night with him and I feel like maybe I never saw a dead body in my life.” At least not these cheap attempts at art. The thought was sudden and Will didn’t fight it off. Instead he kept it locked up in his mind, to dwell on later. Not around Alana. There was something almost perverted about the idea of dwelling on the dead around her- at least the dead that Hannibal had sculpted, the dead that Will found beautiful and enticing.

Another reason he was glad she hadn’t brought up the article on Cat he was supposed to be helping her with.

They walked towards the small conference room, and Will could tell Alana had comments, yet she kept them to herself. It was amusing to silently think on her shift in view on their relationship. The fact that she saw Hannibal as something good for Will was a step in the right direction. And Will knew he was good for him- in many ways though if Alana knew the whole truth, she might question his definition of the word good.

Jack didn’t stand when Will and Alana entered. The small table had four chairs crowded around one side, and Will disliked that he was going to be seated right next to Jack. He gave Beverly a nod, then settled in, folding his arms, glancing at the papers resting on the table in front of Jack.

“Sure you want to go through with this?” Will asked, and Jack narrowed his eyes, nodding. “Then their blood is on your hands. I won’t have it on my conscious.”

“Catch this sadist and you won’t.” Will bit his tongue, saw Beverly shooting him a glance that said keep it in, as Alana slipped out to inevitably bring Ms. Lounds to the room. Silence fell, lapsed, was not broken until the door opened and Freddie Lounds walked in, bag slung over one slender shoulder and red curls a mess of fire framing her face. She smiled and greeted Jack, shaking his hand. She got a flimsy hand shake from Beverly, but only gave Will a nod. She knew better than to attempt to take his hand at this point.

“We know your time is valuable, we won’t waste it,” Alana said, folding her hands after she had settled next to Jack. “You have helped us before, by publishing your article on the Ripper.”

“You had me publish a story confirming Abel Gideon as the Chesapeake Ripper, even though he wasn’t.” Freddie let her eyes shift along the four faces, noting that Beverly’s was a less familiar one. She had seen her on scenes, but never seated in a room like one of the holy judges that Alana, Jack, and Will seemed to be.

“We’re not asking you to confirm anyone’s identity,” Alana said, “Simply carry an exclusive story on this nameless sadist. We have a profile drawn up that will go to no one but you.” Freddie nodded, eyeing the folder in front of Jack.

“So what’s my angle?” she asked, clasping her bare hands together, her painted nails a stark contrast in deep burgundy to the pale of her hands. “Are you baiting someone again?”

“Yes,” Jack said, flatly.

“So you can make it as tasteless as you see fit.” All eyes shifted to Will, who was watching Freddie with an annoyed detachment. “I’m sure you won’t have any problem making things tasteless.”

Freddie tilted her head, smiling at Will- the kind that made his stomach roll. “I’m sure I can’t even name what you’re upset over now, Mr. Graham.”

“You, in general, upset me, Miss Lounds.” He leaned forward, felt Alana watching him with a gaze that told him to stop. However, since Jack had yet to voice any concern, Will was happy to push. “Your prying into my personal and private life more so than the rest of your actions.”

“Oh.” She unfolded her hands, reached down to smooth her skirt along her thighs. “The article about you and Dr. Lecter.”

“I don’t care how you paint me. But you do not paint an ugly picture of Hannibal.” Will’s teeth were nearly bared, and he heard a chair squeak- Alana pushing her chair back, ready to get up and walk around the wall that was Jack to him. “Your article spread a lot of falsified ideas about our relationship. You could have cost him his patients.”

“I was simply raising important questions. It is unethical for a doctor to enter into such a... relationship with his patient.”

“Hannibal was not my psychiatrist.”

“Than you can simply explain that.”

“It is not a simple explanation-“

“Will.” Jack was looking at him, frowning, and Will leaned back into his chair, frowning. After a moment, Jack turned back to Freddie. “Take the profile and word it as you see fit. We need this man frustrated.” He pushed the folder across the table and she opened it, gazing along the page. “Take some time to read it, we will step outside for a few minutes.” He stood up, the other three following suit and filing out, leaving Freddie with the profile and the few classified images she was being allowed- nothing with faces or names attached. Will had refused to be that vulgar.

Once the door was shut Jack was glaring at Will, who only frowned in response. “What were you thinking?”

“That Freddie Lounds is a tasteless human being and the work she does is an absolute waste of space.”

“She’s vital to what we’re doing.”

“What we’re doing is dangerous.” He folded his arms. “It’s going to get someone killed.”

“It’s going to catch us a killer. Maybe I shouldn’t have had you in the room.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t.”

“Will,” it was Alana, pleading, soft, but Will and Jack ignored her. Next to her, Beverly was silent, content to let Will fight his battle- one she held his side firmly in.

“Good. Then you take care of Freddie, and I’ll go back to doing my job.” He turned to walk away, and Jack was hollering after him, only to have the door open and Freddie pop her head out with a questions. Jack sighed and jerked his head towards Beverly, having her accompany him back into the room to attend to Freddie.

*

The air was warm outside. It settled around Will as he inhaled, closing his eyes and tipping his head back. He wanted to be back home again- or better yet, behind his desk in his classroom, talking at students. Not listening, not being dragged out of his world and into theirs. A world he could leave behind at the end of the day when he returned home-

“You okay?” His eyes snapped open and he turned his head, found Alana standing close, folding her arms. He shrugged a shoulder.

“This isn’t sitting with me well.” She nodded her agreement. “Freddie doesn’t sit well with me.”

“She doesn’t with any of us. But I can see why Jack wants to utilize her- even if I don’t agree with his method.” She reached over, placed her hand on the small of his back- a gesture that made Will want to step away. He liked Alana’s touches for the most part, but that part of his body so often had Hannibal’s hand rested there that it felt nearly sacrilegious for Alana to touch it. “Don’t let her sour your mood. You were in a good one when you got here.”

“I guess I need another dose of Hannibal.” Will shoved his hands in his pockets, rolled his thoughts over in his head for a minute, then said, “We’re moving in together.”

Alana’s hand dropped away, and she gawked up at him. “Will that’s...” she hesitated, seemed uncertain, then tentatively added, “great.” Her hand moved back, pressed, and Will felt the tips of her nails through his shirt. “A little sudden, though.”

Will shrugged a shoulder. “It’s not going to happen over night. There’s a lot to...work out. But I like the idea. It’ll be nice to not have to make that drive to see him. And you won’t have to look in on the dogs so much.”

“Applesauce enjoys their company.” The two laughed, and Alana finally removed her hand. “I am happy for you, Will, please don’t misunderstand. It’s just sudden- I wouldn’t want you and Hannibal to take a step too fast and trip.”

If only you knew how many times we’ve tripped, how many steps we skipped. Matthew was in Will’s mind for a moment, and he wasn’t sure if that was a skipped step or a trip, or both- or neither. He wasn’t sure what a lot of aspects of their relationship were, just that, as a whole, it felt right. Even with the blood that stained the bone under Hannibal’s skin.

Even with the blood that was invisible under Will’s fingernails now, form the lives he had taken for the man. For the thoughts that invaded his skull, uninvited. For the lack of repulsion he felt now- curiosity, excitement, but that sickness was gone. He didn’t think it would ever come back- not when Hannibal was concerned.

Alana seemed poised to continue, but someone was calling Will’s name, pushing through the thing crowds and making their way to him. Will’s eyes widened for a moment, before he smiled without meaning to, raising a hand to greet Wendy as she closed in, huffing her breath. She looked as if she had been running.

“I was worried you might not be here,” she said, hands on her knees as she caught her breath. Next to him, Alana was eyeing the girl, confused. “I thought maybe you’d be...I don’t know, doing stuff that involves you driving around with your badge or some shit.”

Will laughed at that, and when she moved to give him a hug, he wrapped an arm around her as if he had known her her whole life. Alana cleared her throat at that, and Wendy turned her head, rather content in Will’s heat despite the warm air.

“This is Wendy,” Will said, looking down at the girl, than at Alana. “Wendy, this is Dr. Alana Bloom- a friend and colleague of mine.”

“Hello,” Alana offered, and Wendy reached her hand up, gave her a half wave. “Shouldn’t you be in school?”

“Skipped.” Wendy shrugged away from Will, looking back at him now that she had answered Alana. “Can I see your dogs again?” Alana was frowning, and Will looked from her to Wendy.

“You should be in school.” The girl sighed.

“I had a dream he came for me.” Will felt his breath begin to catch at that, but Wendy didn’t elaborate. She just stared up at him, and with a sigh Will told her of course she could see the dogs. Of course.

*

Will had tried to shake Alana, but she had insisted on joining them, and sat on Will’s porch with Wendy silently as the dogs romped around and Will made iced tea- about the only thing he could offer them aside of water, or anything that Wendy would be too young for. He was happy enough that he had straws to make the ordeal easier- and there was something almost obscenely sweet about Wendy kicking her sneakers and socks off and sitting in her shorts and bare feet, sipping on the iced tea and looking out at the dogs. He almost whispered Abigail- but Wendy was too small, shorter, too young. She was different, and yet she was the same.

Will’s temples pulsed.

“Tell me about your dream,” Alana coaxed, softly, hands wrapped around the glass as Will leaned on the railing. Wendy looked at her, but when she spoke her eyes were back on the dogs.

“He came through her window, her room. Into mine. He didn’t have a face- like someone had wiped it off and left a smooth mask behind. Said he wasn’t done with the job, that Anna hadn’t been enough.” She took a sip of the tea, her tongue flicking the straw around absentmindedly. “I tried to move but my arms and legs felt like lead, like there were weights there. But there weren’t. Then he cut me, here,” she ran her finger along her belly, “And he pulled everything out, throwing it over me like confetti. It was a mess.”

She took another drink, and Will’s fist was clenched around the railing, his knuckles white. Alana seemed calmer.

“Are you afraid he might come after you?” she asked, and Wendy shrugged a shoulder.

“I dunno. Mom is. That’s why she doesn’t let me go anywhere, when she’s sober. She doesn’t notice I’m gone when she’s drunk. But I don’t know...I’m different from Anna. I don’t think he’d like me.” She looked up at Will, smiling, and shifted the topic as if they were discussing the weather. “I want to meet your boyfriend.”

Will forced a smile for her. “I’m sure he’d like you.”

“Maybe you’d like to meet my dog,” Alana inserted, trying to get Wendy’s attention. “Her name is Applesauce, and I’m sure she’d like you.”

“I like Will’s dogs.”

“Then you’d like Applesauce.” Wendy didn’t say much, and Will knew what she was doing- knew she thought she could help the girl in a controlled way. He knew she thought any help Will offered would be too unorthodox. He couldn’t argue there- but he felt it was still right.

Wendy set her glass aside as Winston made his way over, resting his head in her lap so she could pet him. She smiled, scratching him behind his ears, and Will wondered what Hannibal would think of the girl. Would she drag Abigail from his skull like she did for Will? Would something stir inside Hannibal that made him want to protect her, like Will was feeling now? He wanted to believe it wasn’t just because he’d stared at her sister’s corpse and felt her death was a waste- felt she deserved so much more.

But Hannibal had seen it too, Will realized. And suddenly he was sighing in relief, because even if that was the case, Hannibal would feel it too. And he desperately didn’t want to be alone in this. Suddenly, his broken idea of family had room for one more link- smaller than Abigail’s, and a different metal, so it stood out. But then again, none of the links in the chain matched perfectly.

Will sucked his lip into his mouth and thought he would ask Hannibal to meet the girl. She still had a family, yes- a mother- but Will couldn’t help but think the girl deserved more. And he wanted to be the one to give her that.

He wanted to redeem himself for how he had failed Abigail.

Chapter Text

The article went live that night. Will sat on his couch with Alana and a beer, glancing at it on her tablet and then deciding he’d rather focus on his drink. She had been the one to suggest he have one, to calm his nerves. When he protested that he still had to drive her back to the lab for her car, she promised Beverly would pick her up. After that, he stopped arguing.

There had been enough of that driving back from bringing Wendy back home. Alana had told him for the countless time it was crazy, what he was doing. That he should let her step in, the girl might feel more comfortable with her.

Because you’re a woman? I don’t think Wendy gives a fuck about my gender, Alana. She’d yelled after that, and Will had thought he would have to pull his car over, his own voice rising, his throat feeling raw by the time they finally stopped, about ten minutes down the road from his house. They’d sat in the car until they dissolved into muttered apologies and awkward glances.

Now, Will was glad for the drink. It eased his frustration with Alana. He just wanted her to step outside herself and see the situation for what it was- something her ethics couldn’t explain. He finished off the drink and set the bottle aside, one of the dogs sniffing it than turning away. Alana was finishing her own, and seemed more relaxed. She set her tablet aside, looking up at him.

“So now we wait?” It was half a question, half a statement. Will nodded, raking a hand up over his face. In his pocket, his phone sat untouched. He had felt it going off a few times that afternoon but hadn’t looked. He knew a lot of it was Jack.

“Jack won’t be happy that I disappeared again.”

“Disappearing is good for you, Will.” Alana rolled the empty bottle between her hands. “This mess isn’t.” He frowned, waited for her to continue. She watched him for a moment until he quirked an eyebrow up, giving her to go ahead, and she sighed. “I care about you, Will. I just don’t want to see you break. You’ve been through...a lot. A lot that Jack doesn’t know about.”

“I save lives,” he pointed out, and Will felt like a broken record. That was always his excuse for letting his work chip away at him slowly- he saved lives. How long could he go on before his own life needed saving?

Will was fairly sure he was past that point.

“And I worry about you, and your life,” Alana pointed out. “What if someday it needs saving?”

“I have faith Hannibal can save it.” There was an honesty in Will’s voice he hadn’t meant- but it was true. Hannibal seemed able to pull him out of anything at this point. There was too much between them- too much truth- for Will to think of anyone else getting close enough to truly save him.

“What if Hannibal isn’t there?” Alana sighed. “I’m not saying that will happen, Will. I’m just saying what if? You need to be in control of your own life.” She looked down at her lap, mouth falling into a loose frown. “Don’t let Jack or this job take over everything.”

Will sighed and reached over, draped an arm over her shoulders and pulled her over into a loose embrace. He rested his face in her hair, wondering if he could even step away. Perhaps the job already had taken over- perhaps it was too late. There was an odd structure to it all that he craved. His whole life had been taking that on, as of late. The structure of the drive to Hannibal’s, of the routine he had when sleeping in his bed. Could he let that all go?

Could he stop looking? There was something so enticing about it, yet repulsive. If the work had character than there was something pleasing about slipping into the heads of others, feeling their hands move like gloves over his own, reconstructing their fantasies and attempting to become them. With Hannibal, the fear of losing himself within them was gone. He could reach inside Will’s head, sift through the details that didn’t belong and pull Will free. He knew him, inside and out- he knew Will better than Will suspected he could know himself. And suddenly, he wished to ask Hannibal what he saw, behind his eyes. What was Will, inside his own skull?

What sort of fantasies could he see Will constructing?

There was a knock at his door, and Will lifted his head, knew the only option was Beverly, and yelled for her to come in. She opened the door, stepped inside and was instantly flooded with wagging tails and whines, grinning at the dogs and bending down to scratch behind ears. She looked over at the couch, grinning playfully. “You two look cozy. Should I come back later?”

“Funny,” Will said. “We’re discussing my life’s dependence on the job.” Beverly nodded.

“Then I’ll definitely come back later, that’s no fun at all.” She stood up, walking over, throwing a wink at Alana that Will didn’t miss as she sat up, and quickly looked away. Will noticed the slightest color to her cheeks, and thought to say something, but Beverly plopped down next to him, throwing her arms around his neck in a mock embrace and sighing.

“If you’re going to get cozy with Alana, does that mean I can borrow your boyfriend?” Will rolled his eyes and tried to pry Beverly off, but she refused. “Oh c’mon Will. He could make me dinner. There wouldn’t even have to be sex! Not that I’d mind-“

“Beverly!” Alana gasped, looking over at her, and she was just grinning.

“Oh please Alana, all three of us have thought about Hannibal naked at least twice. Will is just the one lucky enough to get it. You know, if you switched Will and Hannibal, it’s be true that everyone would have thought about Will naked at least twice too.” Alana stood then, gathering up her tablet and grabbing Beverly by the shoulder of her shirt, tugging her roughly off Will and nearly dragging her off the couch in a huff. Beverly stumbled, followed, laughing, and waved behind her without looking to Will, who watched them go. Once he heard Beverly’s car drive off he got up for another drink, and to take a look at his phone finally.

*

Will never called Jack. He had plenty of missed calls form him, but he decided to go for a run with the dogs, have a shower, make dinner- call Hannibal. Really anything else he could do. He knew come morning he’d have Jack screaming in his face, and sure enough, three steps into the lab and the man was yelling from down the hall, “Graham! My office!”

Will felt like a guilty teenager being dragged into the principle’s office. But he went, the door slamming behind him. He could see the veins in Jack’s neck as the man screamed, and Will was sure anyone in the same hallway would hear at least Jack’s half of the conversation.

“What the hell were you thinking? You can’t just walk out, not when I need you here. We’ve got an open case and a killer that’s hot right now. He’ll kill again!”

“Definitely now that he’s being provoked.” Will folded his arms, and Jack narrowed his eyes.

“Let it go, Will. The article is out, use it to your advantage, or it’s a waste.”

“It was a stupid move, Jack.” Jack frowned, slamming his hands down on his desk.

“If you dislike my methods so much Will, you know where the door is. Walk your ass right out it and be done.” Will glared, felt a heat rising in his throat, his hands clenching onto his arms. The world slowed, and for a moment he imagined digging his hands into Jack and pulling his lungs out while he was still gasping for breath. He blinked and it was gone- but the seething anger remained.

“Fine.” The word was heavy, felt like a canon ball lurching out to the structure Will had previously thought of when Alana suggested he do exactly as he was doing. The walls began to crumble, and suddenly the air was moving, cold, yet refreshing. It made Will’s stomach twist, his breath quicken. He turned on his heel, grabbed the door, ripping it open, and spoke without looking back. “Consider this my last case, Jack. I’m fucking done with your bullshit.”

The door slammed behind Will as he stormed away, to lock himself in his classroom and get some real thinking done.

*

He had been left blissfully undisturbed for most of the day. He had photos scattered around his desk, arranging them, closing his eyes and picturing the girls alive again, dying, thinking there was something he was missing. Different ages, different appearances, different schools and home towns. Nothing he could think of.

In a fit he’d remembered he’d wanted their travel information, since summer vacation had just begun and had brought the girls all home, but when he called out for it the clerk who had been compiling it was out to lunch, and the trainee who answered the phone couldn’t seem to find anything on it. Will told her to have the man call him back ASAP, or come straight to his classroom. Pending another scene, Will didn’t think he’d be leaving the lab until late that night- late enough that maybe he’d ask Beverly to check on the dogs for him. He didn’t want to ask Alana- even if she had left in an embarrassed huff with Beverly, their argument was still too fresh in his mind.

He was contemplating the empty feeling in his belly when the doors to his classroom burst open, Beverly walking in quickly, her eyes looking dark. Will took one look at her, and didn’t need to ask, the grim line of her mouth giving it away.

It had started.

*

The fact that they were back in Milford made Will uneasy. He saw Wendy dead behind his eyes and he had pestered Beverly to get any information on the victim that she could while she drove. All she had was that the girl fit their profile, and he relaxed- but his stomach still felt queasy.

There was a storm threatening when they finally parked off the side of the road. Will heard thunder rolling as he opened his door, stepping out with Beverly and walking briskly through the grass, off towards the lines of trees. The wind had a chill, and Will desperately wished he had his jacket, his arms cold exposed to the air. Beverly seemed to be in the same predicament.

An agent pointed them towards the body, in the distance just a lump on the ground, as the other agents stepped back, falling back to where the local police were scattered. Beverly walked a few yards with Will, then stayed back herself, allowing him to close the distance alone. He stood, looking down at the naked body for a moment, before he crouched down, staring up the expanses of her legs, her gutted belly, at the bruises and angry red skin around her neck, and finally her open, dead eyes- staring up at the sky. He inhaled, closed his eyes, heard the pendulum swinging within his skull, erasing the scene, then stood. She was in his arms then, bound, naked already.

“This is my rebuff,” he whispered into her matted blonde hair, “to what was spoken of me. To the lies spread. I need them to know I have the power here, and I’m not scared.” Will reached around her with his hunting knife, stabbed into her, tearing up without trust destination, stopping when the resistance felt too much. He stabbed again, dragging down, opening her up so her insides could tumble down to her feet. Heat rose off the organs as they hung from her, as she swayed- her mouth silent around the rope gag he had crafted. He cut it free, tugged it from her hair, then cut the bonds on her hands, throwing her down onto her ruined stomach on the ground. He crouched over her, grabbing her legs by the backs of her thighs.

“They will know you are nothing,” he hissed, “you will know you are nothing. And I-I will know I’m everything.” He gritted his teeth, spread her thighs, and in that moment Will snapped his head up, breaking his own dreamscape to see her cold and dead, with the angry near black sky as a backdrop. He looked around, caught Beverly’s eye, and she made her way over, extending a pair of gloves for him. He took them , slipping them on, and crouched down next to the body again. “Here,” he said, gesturing to her neck and tangled hair, and Beverly used her tweezers to pull on a rough looking fiber. “Rope, from her bindings.”

Beverly grinned. “Gotcha.” She patted around for an evidence bag with her free hand, and Will reached into the pocket of her pants, pulling free the one she had stuffed in while he had been off within his head. She slipped it inside, rocked back up into a standing position. “I’m going to need more. I want to comb over her thoroughly before they move her, then get back to the lab as quickly as possible.”

“There will be evidence,” Will whispered, “He was angry. Frustrated.” He straightened up. “Jack got what he wanted- enough to find the guy. And this is all it cost him.” He looked at the woman, tilted his head, and for a moment sewed her back up, so he could cut cleanly inside her, pull her lungs from under her ribs and bring them home for Hannibal.

He shook his head, sucking on his teeth in annoyance with himself. She didn’t deserve that. If he could have saved her, he should have.

But if she had to die, make it worthy.

Will watched as Beverly combed over the girl. A few more fibers, some bruising on her skin that she measured. “I can guess his hand size,” she said, “his finger length. Might make for some awkward interviews, but hey, I’ll take this over nothing.” Will was silent, because he disagreed- this was tasteless and made his mouth sour. But he let it go.

*

Will was walking back to the car when he noticed the police were keeping a crowd back. Thunder rumbled again, and in that moment the air began to mist. Will was about to jump into the car when he noticed the crowds bustling, and he frowned, walking around the car. Beverly called to him, frustrated, but Will saw her before she broke through the police, and held up his hand to the officer to let the girl through.

“I thought you’d be here,” Wendy said, stuffing her hands in her pockets, her dark hair collecting the misting rain. “It’s all over town- another body. I knew you’d come.”

“You shouldn’t be here.” He was frowning. He wanted to scoop the girl up and drive her far away. She didn’t need to be so close to the latest wreck from the man who had killed her sister.

“Yeah well, I am.”

“Go home.” Will thought he sounded too harsh, but he wanted to scream at her. Reckless. “This isn’t safe for you.”

“Why? You think he’s here?” She turned, scanning her eyes along the crowd. “Maybe. I mean, I don’t recognize everyone. Got your gun?” she turned, looked up at him with bright eyes- and Will knew in his gut she was completely serious.

“I have to go,” he said, “I have work to do, to catch this guy. Go. Straight. Home.” Wendy frowned, finally shrugged a shoulder.

“Okay, but you have to promise me something.” Will sighed, motioned with a tilt of the head for her to continue. “Your boyfriend. Let me meet him. You said you would. At your house, with the dogs. Without your other friend.”

“You don’t like Alana?”

“Not that I don’t like her. She tried too hard.” Wendy shrugged. “Promise me you’ll get me out of my house just one more time?” Will closed his eyes for a moment, knew exactly what he should say- it was narrated by Alana’s voice in his head.

“Promise,” he whispered, reaching out. She took his hand, squeezed it instead of shaking, and then turned, made her way back to the crowd. Will watched her bump into a man, tip her head up- knew she was mumbling because he could put himself inside her head and then she was swallowed up, leaving Will to hurry around the car, and hop in. Beverly looked at him- that cautioning look, that Alana is going to kill you look, but then the car was moving, and she was a woman on a mission.

*

Beverly went straight down for the autopsy. Will took a snap shot of the girl and began sifting through missing persons from the past two weeks. He moved with precise gestures, only leaving the computer to get a cup of stale coffee and downing it anyway. He never noticed when his phone buzzed within his pocket- didn’t move until Jack walked by the room he was sitting in, looking inside. Will took one look at him, then got up and shut the door, wishing he was in his classroom.

He didn’t want to spend the time moving his laptop.

His searching left him thinking the girl could have been Cassandra Mills,missing from Fredricksburg for about ten days. It was had with the girl’s face dirty, hair tangled, and this face on his computer so alive, so put together, but she matched his type- twenty two, college student. All that he needed.

His phone was buzzing again, and this time he pulled it from his pocket, seeing Beverly’s name. “Hey.”

“Come down here.” She hung up, no explanation, and Will noticed when the call ended Hannibal’s name appeared. Must have missed that. Will sighed, shoving the phone back into his pocket, not having the time in that moment to call him. He hurried from the room, down towards the morgue, found Beverly tapping her pen on a clipboard. “We got him. Or, we will.”

“How?”

“Semen.” She made a small disgusted sound. “Left some behind this time. Got more rope in her hair, so we’re analyzing that. We’ll be able to match it if we get something, along with the hand measurements from her bruising. We’ve got something to work with.”

“All it cost was another life.” Beverly sighed, reaching over, resting her hand on Will’s shoulder.

“Trust me, I don’t feel good about it either.” She swallowed. “But let’s not make her death...wasteful. Let’s mind this motherfucker.” Will nodded, was about to speak, when Jack came bursting into the morgue. Will noted the perspiration on his brow, eyes slightly wild, and he could only wonder what as coming. He knew, for sure, it would begin with death.

“A call from the Baltimore PD,” he said, “They need assistance.”

“Jack, we’re on a case,” Beverly pointed out.

“They’re shaken up, Bev. I need my best.” Will frowned. He didn’t want to be torn away from this- not when they were close. It made no sense, except he knew it had to be bad if Jack was going to pull them from what he had even deemed as a top priority.

Plus, there was something human in his eyes, and Will reminded himself that despite their endless differences, he didn’t hate Jack Crawford. He rather liked the man, at the end of it all. Jack looked at Will, and Will remembered his threat- that this was his last.

He wasn’t sure where the truth of that statement stood, but he nodded, consenting. He would go with them. He’d sift through the truth later, when there was time to think. When he had help deciding if he was being irrational, or rational for the first time in his life.

*

Jack drove, Will sat in the back making calls, trying to get anything on this missing girl Cassandra, staring at photos of her body. Beverly was busy herself, playing phone tag with the lab, with anyone who was still there. It was dark now, late, and the thunder storm that had threatened earlier had rolled in with a vengeance, the rain coming down in sheets, slowing their drive.

Will thought once to call Hannibal, if they were going to be in Baltimore. Then he had the silent, chilling moment of realization that this could be his work. Jack would have said Chesapeake Ripper if he thought it, but it could still be Hannibal. He wasn’t sure he could keep face during a conversation with him, thinking that. Not with Beverly and Jack right there.

He’d probably smile. Smile because Hannibal’s work would be refreshing. Will felt his lips curling and sucked the lower one into his mouth, willing himself to be stoic, to not think. He would have to wait to see the body. Hannibal would have to wait. And if it was his work, Will would have to decide if he should have known. Should there be some sort of communication over this- and if so, what? Will knew anything Hannibal left would leave him breathless upon first sight- and a little warning would allow him the chance to steel himself, to prepare his mask.

And how would I go about that? Oh honey, planning on killing anyone lately? I’m sure you’re restless- just call me after and let me know. He reached up, covered his mouth to stifle the chuckle rising, picturing Hannibal leaving the house in his plastic suit with a smile on his face, as if it was just a normal day at his office. It was comical in so many ways that it shouldn’t be, and Will bit his tongue to try and remain calm.

He closed his eyes, letting the silent laughter die, and pictured a body so perfectly opened by Hannibal. Clean, precise cuts- neat in ways a bloody murder shouldn’t be. What would be missing? He wondered if Hannibal would flay off the cuts of meat he wanted or go for organs. What would Hannibal turn them into?

Would he cradle Will’s face in one hand and force a fork full between his lips with the other?

Will shivered, pressing his other hand to his face as well and raking them up into his hair. He inhaled, slowly, exhaled, tried to calm his rampant heart. His blood was hot suddenly, the crotch of his pants tighter than it should be, and Will had to tell himself to calm down or else he would give something away.

He needed Hannibal to help sew him a person suit of his own, an expressionless mask he could hide behind, so that he could enjoy his thoughts at ease whenever he so chose.

*

They pulled up to an apartment complex, and Will waited until Beverly and Jack were out of the car to even open his door.The storm had followed them and it was pouring, the freezing water soaking into him quickly and leaving him chilled to the bone. He hugged himself as they walked quickly into the building, pushing past police and other FBI who had gotten there quicker- who were waiting for Jack’s command.

“Give me something,” Will said, “An idea of what I’m walking into.”

“A mess,” Jack said, “That was all they told me. The officer who reported the scene was in shock.” They stopped at an apartment door, sealed with an office standing by, who nodded as Jack gripped the knob. “Brace yourselves.” Will knew the warning was just as much for himself as it was for either he or Beverly. He heard Beverly take a breath- because warnings from Jack were seldom heard, and he himself closed his fists, dug blunt nails into his palms.

He inhaled, and wasn’t sure if his mind was telling him he smelled Hannibal’s cologne- or if it was only wishful thinking.

Chapter Text

The door swung open, and Will was met by darkness. The light was off, and he frowned, taking the first step inside, thinking to reach out and hit the switch so he could see. He finished pulling his gloves on and turned to slip the switch, stopping when he smelled it- coppery, and could just see the color. The switch was smeared, fresh and wet still. He retracted his hand.

“Give me a light,” he said, and the officer at the door pulled his flashlight free, handing it to Will. Beverly and Jack waited at the door, the latter anxious, watching as Will flicked it on and stepped into the darkness, the door shutting behind him with a heavy thud. Will took a moment to close his eyes, inhale, calm the beat of his heart. Then, eyes open, he proceeded, into the small living room area. There was a blood stain on the couch, a lamp knocked over and broken. Will turned, fallowed the drops of blood that stained the carpet to a closed door. He looked at the knob, and it was smeared with blood. With no other choice, he grabbed it, turned it, knew there was a smear on his glove now.

The door opened and he raised his light, found white tile flooded with red, and sucked his lip into his mouth. It was a heady, strong mix- enough to make him feel drunk. He inhaled through his mouth and could taste it on his tongue, and it made him crave Hannibal’s mouth. Will swallowed, stepped over a stain on the floor, careful not to disturb anything, and looked around. Splatters lined the floor as if an animal had been gutted, smears where a body had been dragged, and Will raised his light to the tub, seeing the entire shape smeared pinks and reds.

One step, two closer, and Will was peering inside at the mess of what remained of the tenant. His neck had been slit and carved into to the point of a partial decapitation. Below, his body was nearly severed at the waist, his stomach completely cut open, all his organs laying in a haphazard mess along his naked body. His chest showed puncture wounds, smeared, and Will could tell the bones within his left fingers were broken. His face was nearly as startling as the rest- his eyelids had been stapled open so he was staring wide eyed up at Will, his mouth left propped open by small hunks of cheap plastic, his tongue pulled out and stapled to his chin.

Will trailed his light down the mess, stopping at the man’s groin, a piece of paper stapled numerous times to his flaccid penis. Will sighed, closing his eyes, and clicking his light off so he was bathed in sweet, rich darkness, and for a moment there was nothing.

Then everything was moving.

Will was in the living room, slashing at the man’s throat- slashing up and out, he was shorter than him. The lamp had been on, it bathed everything in a pale yellow light, made it all seem unreal. “You’re bigger than me,” he whispered, his hand clutching the large hunting knife that seemed to dwarf his hand. “Yet I’m overcoming you. You’re sluggish.” He jabbed to the left, slashed out to the right, caught the man’s throat and opened it wide. He jerked back, fell onto the couch, bled on it- leaving the stain- and kicked out at Will, his feet connecting with ribs as he clutched onto his throat. Will went down, sprawling on the floor, as the man staggered up and stumbled away, towards the bathroom. Will forced himself up despite the ache in his ribs- one was cracked, he could tell- and followed, clutching his knife, blood staining his teeth from where he had bitten his tongue on impact.

The man got the door open, and Will growled, lurching after him, grabbing him by the back of his shirt and dragging him back. He fell to the floor and Will slipped, following suit, landing on top of him. He took the opportunity to raise the knife, stab it into his chest, heard him howl, then gurgle, and did it again, and again. He was nearly laughing at this point, hysterical, but having no words, until the man below him bled but did not move.

He slowly stood up then, aching, and held the blood knife between his teeth as he grabbed the man and dragged him towards the bath tub to finish his work.

He opened his eyes, inhaling, the scent of blood and innards and the lingering frustration. He clicked his tongue, turned his flashlight back on, and shined the light at the man’s terrified face.

“Who did you piss off?” he whispered, before he turned and carefully made his way towards the front door.

*

He removed his bloody glove for a fresh one, handing it of to be bagged, and a photo was taken of the light switch before it was flicked on, and the apartment was bathed in pale, artificial light. Jack made his way to the bathroom to examine the mess, while Beverly lingered first in the living room, taking snapshots of the blood couch, smears and splatters on the carpet, the knocked over lamp. Will watched her behind silent eyes, saying not a word, wondering what ideas her own brain was putting together. He was curious if they would be the same as his own.

Beverly was smart. He knew without a doubt smart enough to come to some of the conclusions he was thinking, once she had a moment to internalize everything.

To her credit, she didn’t make a sound upon entering the bathroom, camera flashing over and over and over again as she got the filthy floors. She stepped carefully around the blood, making her way to Jack to look at the mangled body within the tub. Her only response was to raise the camera. From the doorway, Will felt a little pride swelling in his chest over her.

“Someone was pissed off,” she said, “And royally so.”

“Agreed.” Will waited, and she looked back at him. He shook his head, a silent you first, and she nodded, leaning over the body to look at the wounds.

“Look at the angle of this,” she said, pointing to the cut on the man’s neck. “Up and out. The attacker was smaller, shorter. These chest wounds probably occurred over there.” She pointed towards the mess that was the beginning of one large bloody smear. “He went down, attacker on top of him, and was stabbed. The gutting happened in the tub.” She looked back at Will, who smiled.

Perfect. “Exactly. The mutilation occurred postmortem, or as he was very close to dying. He probably bled out and his heart probably gave out before the killer was done.” He made his way over, felt Jack’s eyes on him but not Beverly’s- she was looking at the body again.

“And the...paper?” she gestured towards his groin, and Will shrugged.

“I can’t read anything, if there is writing, which I would presume so. We’ll have to wait until it can be removed from the body.” Jack gave a nod.

“Let’s get it back to the lab.” He turned, began carefully walking out of the room, and Beverly and Will followed.

“For a second I was worried it was the Ripper,” Beverly admitted, and Will nodded.

“By Jack’s initial reaction, maybe he did too. It’s not though- I know his work. This isn’t it.” Beverly nodded, and missed the ghost of a smile on Will’s mouth. “Let’s give this place a good once over. This place is too messy to be dealing with an experience killer. They left us something somewhere.”

“Agreed.” They stopped in the open space between living room and kitchen. Beverly looked at Will, tilted her head. She knew his mind was going. “Tell me what you’re thinking.”

“Wondering what the point of it was,” he admitted, “This messy, this rushed- crime of passion maybe?”

“You think we’re dealing with a woman?” Will sucked on his teeth.

“Possibly. I’m not about to gender our killer until I know something for sure.” Will knew what had happened the last time he’d done that- a pile of bodies with Cat’s signature on them. Yet he didn’t feel remorse over that- her work had been so lovely to find. “You take the bedroom, I’ll take the kitchen.” Beverly nodded and turned, doubling back, and Will made his way to the small kitchen nook.

Will opened the small fridge, took in the stock of mostly beer- some milk, a few packages of things, and then closed it. He moved along the counter, eyeing the dishes in the sink- stopping at the set of glasses that hadn’t been set in. He leaned closer, saw lip smudges along one- the fainest hint of color, like rubbed out lip gloss, and a smile crossed his face. He carefully pushed that glass aside, looking at the other, smelling the faint bit of cheap whiskey left inside the glass. There was something else to it as well, something that made it smell wrong.

He flagged down one of the agents working quickly around the house and had him bag and tag the glasses, giving him a stern look when he said he needed those at the lab ASAP for testing. DNA, he wanted to know if they could tell him the brand of lip gloss, the shade, anything-

“And the residue in the other glass,” he said, “There’s something in the whiskey. I want to know what.”

He tracked Beverly down after that, finding her sifting through the bedroom with a frustrated look. “I’ve got nothing,” she said, “Nothing that looks like foul play, anyway. Doesn’t even look like he’s been in here recently- probably not since morning.” Will nodded, told her about his findings in the kitchen while she got down on her hands and knees and looked under the bed. “So you think she drugged him?”

“Possibly. Probably.” Will couldn’t keep his heart from quickening at that- couldn’t keep the flood of sudden fear of immobility from his mind, that feeling of his body being dead around him and unable to listen to his silent screams to move. He swallowed the fear and let it cool into something more like subdued anger in his belly. “It would make it easier. She was probably smaller than him.” Beverly nodded as she pushed herself up. “He got a kick in at least out in the living room. Or something. That’s how he managed to not die there- but in the bathroom.”

“Then whoever she is, she’s hurting right now.” Will nodded.

“Ribs, I think. One cracked, at least. She’ll want to get into the ER.”

“We’ll have to send a call out to all the hospitals in the area. You think they have security cameras here?” Will shrugged. “I’m going to go see. If they do, we might get a face, which will help.” Will nodded, moved to the side so Beverly could slip past him and out, and took one look around the bedroom. Ordinary, slightly messy- a bachelor’s room. The whole apartment was, the fridge had confirmed it to Will.

Will found Jack in the hallway, and slid up to him, leaning against the wall.

“I thought it might have been the Ripper.” Jack didn’t look at Will as he spoke, he looked at the wall opposite. “The way the officer was described as being in hysterics, I thought...” He sighed. “Should have realized a rookie would react like that to any gruesome scene.”

“This is particularly gory, Jack,” Will admitted, “But it’s not the Ripper.” Will couldn’t keep the disappointment from slipping into his voice- and Jack mistook it as the same disappointment he harbored in that moment. The disappointment at not having a shot at catching the Ripper.

“We’ll get him,” Jack said, “One day, we’ll get him.”

No, we won’t. He looked at the opposite wall, where Jack was staring. You never will Jack- because I already have him.

“The officer- why was he called to the scene? Run me through it all, if you’ve got it.”

“They filled me in while you and Beverly were in there. Noise complaint- so the body was fresh when he got here. He knocked multiple times, than had the superintendent let him in. He flicked the light on, saw all the blood, drew his gun, and found the body in the bathtub. Got some blood on his hand from the bathroom door, and managed to get it on the light switch on his way out.” Will nodded. “Those contaminations have been noted.”

“I’d like to speak with the superintendent,” Will said, and Jack nodded, pushing himself off the wall and leading the way. They found the man down one floor, outside his small office, worrying his wrinkled hands. He shook both Jack and Will’s hands when offered, and Will caught a glimpse of Beverly in his office, through the crack in the door. They must have at least one security camera. “Can you tell me about the noise complaint?”

“Seemed same as ever with that boy,” the man began, seeming frail as he spoke, “Screaming and hollering. We get it a lot from him- he’d not the best of people. Wasn’t. I know it’s not right to speak ill of the dead but...he wasn’t a nice man. Lot of women come and go with him, we were used to it here. But see, one of the tenants just had a baby, and Jeff and his lady friend were keeping the little one up with their hollerin’. She begged me to do something about it- so I called the police.” He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his high risen trousers, his glasses sinking down his nose. “Glad I did.”

“Did you see who he was with tonight?”

“No sir.” He looked back at his office briefly. “I didn’t. But Jeff brings lots of girls home- I’ve seen them leaving at all hours of the night and morning. Very few ever come back a second time.” Will nodded. “I don’t think he was very nice to them- but I wouldn’t expect him to be.”

“Why is that?” Will watched the twitch in the man’s mouth- distaste.

“Did some time,” the man said, “Drugs. I think that’s what he was still doing. But there was a mess with a girl back a few months ago- one of his lady friends showed up dead a few days after he saw her. She’d been fixing to call him on rape, that’s what the talk around the apartments is. He went to court over it, but they said he was innocent.”

Will folded his arms, still feeling cold beneath the drying shirt. “Doesn’t sound like a likable guy.”

“No,” the old man offered, shaking his head, “No, Jeff wasn’t likable at all.”

*

The let the superintendent leave to go speak with a few of his tenants who were rather riled up over the whole ordeal, both Will and Jack slipping into the office, finding Beverly with a grin on her face, staring at the computer.

“I like that smile,” Will said, walking around the desk and sitting on the corner, looking at her screen. A man that resembled their victim was on it, arm around a short girl- light hair, but Will couldn’t be exactly sure of the color, as the cameras were black and white.

“Just found them, but she’s not looking at the camera. Maybe if we go forward just a little,” Beverly offered, and then in that moment the girl turned and she froze it, grinning. “Gotcha.”

Jack walked over and looked at the screen, nodding. “Good. We’ll get this picture out to every hospital in the area. I want you two back to the lab ASAP, process that body and get me anything you can. I’ll call it in and get this guy’s history- criminal record might be telling. I’ll have one of the other agents drive you back.”

Beverly nodded, looking over at Will, who knew it was going to be a long, endless night.

*

Once back at the lab, Will and Beverly both went down to the morgue. The body had beat them there and the autopsy was in progress, but Beverly seemed perfectly fine slipping right in to comment and examine. Will hung back, more curious about the paper which had been removed from the man’s genitalia after the body was brought in. It had been left folded, unread or examined, in an evidence bag for Will, who snatched it up and left Beverly to the body to examine it.

Once he had gloves on, Will set the bag on a small table in one of the examining rooms, unsealing it and pulling the paper out. It had small holes where the staples had been, and a few blood stains. He unfolded it- and smiled when he found writing inside- just as expected.

The FBI thinks it’s okay to use women as bait- so we’re biting back. We can be justice, we can be death, because we bring life- and we will take it back from any who don’t deserve it.

The letters were large, quickly scrawled, and Will recognized the same pinkish color smudged at the end. Sealed with a kiss. How cliche. He found himself almost chuckling over it.

“What’s so funny?” He looked up, saw Beverly watching him. He held her eyes for a moment, and she seemed to pull back, as if she glimpses the beast inside that found humor in this sick show. Then she was walking over, looking down at the paper.

“She signed it with a kiss.” Beverly’s lips moved as she read it, her brow furrowing.

“Is this...”

“A response to us baiting our other killer? I’d say so.” He frowned. “Whoever this girl is, she’s pissed off at us just as much as she was at our victim.”

“Think she’ll do it again?”

“I’d say yes.” Will touched the paper, closed his eyes for a moment and saw feminine hands scrawling the letters quickly as blood dried under her fingernails. “If she can get away with it. But this is a statement- a direct warning to us.”

“A warning for what? What do we need to do to get her to stop?”

“Catch our other killer- or else there will be more. But,” Will whispered, tapping his fingers on the table, “even if we do, I don’t know if she’ll stop.” Beverly frowned, and Will could see in her eyes she was sick. She turned and left him then, to go back to the body. Will looked back down at the paper for a moment, before carefully refolding it and slipping it back into the bag. He needed coffee if he was going to get through the night.

*

The coffee he made was terrible, and he over sweetened it in his haste, making it taste like bitter sugar water. He grimaced as he swallowed a mouthful down, walking through the halls of the lab and stepping outside into the cold night. He needed a moment to breathe before he dove in for the night- he held no illusions that he’d be going home. He’d texted Alana as he made the coffee and asked her to peek in on the dogs if she was still awake. She responded that she already had- and Will realized Beverly must have told her already about their upcoming night.

Will made a mental note- again- to delve more into their rather murky relationship. It was intriguing, and he was sure this was how Beverly felt about he and Hannibal. He could almost laugh at himself over it.

Will dug his phone out of his pocket, saw that it was nearing midnight, and decided to call Hannibal anyway. The phone rang a few times, and Will waited for the voice mail to kick on, when Hannibal finally answered, voice thick with sleep.

“Fuck, sorry,” Will whispered, “I thought you might have been up still.”

“I have a-“ the sentence was broken by a yawn, and Will couldn’t help but smile because it seemed such a normal thing, yet he found it endearing, cute. “Patient in the morning. I turned in an hour ago.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t call. There was a body- Jack’s bait worked, the guy killed again. Then we were working through it and...there was another.”

“The same killer striking twice in one day,” Hannibal mused, and Will heard the bed shift as he rolled over. He could see him curled up under the blankets and wanted to wrap himself around the man. “Very daring.”

“Not the same guy,” Will broke in, “Different killer entirely. In Baltimore. Jack was pretty on edge, and for a moment I thought...” he trialed oof, looked around, and knew he was alone. “For a moment I thought it might have been my old friend the Chesapeake Ripper.” He heard Hannibal’s sharp intake of breath, and Will fought down the urge to murmur the name. Not here.

“I assure you, Will, I have been quite good.” Will nodded, yet he wasn’t sure if good was the word they should be using. “So what did you find?”

“An absolute mess.”

“But what was it to you, Will?” Will knew what Hannibal was asking, and took a sip of his coffee, frowning at the taste.

“I saw frustration, anger- rage. I didn’t see art, but I didn;t see the disgrace of this other guy. What I found was...intriguing, or had the potential to be. She was sloppy.”

“She?” Another sip, and a frown.

“Yeah, she. Left too much evidence, they’ll get her without a problem I’m sure. I’ll let you get back to sleep, sorry about waking you.”

“Do not apologize, it is always good to hear your voice, darling.” Will shivered, let his breath escape him.

“I’m going to be here all night. I’ll call you whenever shit calms down and I can, okay?” He got a small noise of agreeance, and smiled. When he next spoke his voice was soothing, slipping back into his Louisiana accent that he allowed through from time to time with Hannibal. “Sweet dreams, darlin’.” He hung his phone up, shoved it back into his pocket, and then finished the last of his coffee before returning inside.

*

Will went through two more cups of horrible coffee while he weeded through the paperwork being sent to him over this new case. He wasn’t happy about focusing on it when he had another killer on the loose, and had reasoned with Jack that he would spend the night on it, but come morning he was returning to his previous case. Jack hadn’t argued- he didn’t seem to think it would take much more time or effort than that to close.

Beverly brought him information about the body around three AM, when tox screens were complete. She had pulled her hair back into a ponytail and had the beginnings of bags under her eyes. He was sure he looked worse.

“Definitely drugged,” she said. Will gave her the glance that meant with what, and she hesitated, before finally admitting, “Rohypnol.”

Will felt his throat tighten, but he nodded. “Date rape drug. Fitting, considering what he may be accused of. Jack still owes me the file.”

“He probably was just starting to feel it when she attacked him. Would explain why he could fight back.” Beverly sat on the corner of his desk, rubbing her hands along her face in a very Will-like gesture. “Fuck, I’d kill for a nap right now.”

“Go find a couch and stretch out,” Will offered, “I’ll go through the papers. I told Jack come morning I’m going back to our case. Where there any hits on the semen you got from Cassandra’s body?”

“Negative.” She folded her hands in her lap. “But if we get any suspects we can match the DNA, so there’s that.” Will nodded, and Beverly slipped off the desk. “I’m getting more coffee. Want some?”

“I’d rather drink piss at this point.” Beverly laughed at that, a sharp sound that became melodic and made Will smile.

“Trust me,” she offered with a tired smile, “I’m with you there.”

*

Will got Jeff’s criminal records by about four thirty that morning. He saw double of Jack when the man brought them in, and had to rub his eyes, stifle the yawn that was in his throat. The papers confirmed that Jeff had done time for drug possession and trafficking- and that there had been a trail on the young woman’s death. The charges of murder and rape were both dropped, but Will couldn’t seem to fathom why from the court files given to him as well. He read through them over and over again, but it seemed beyond plausible that this man had been guilty.

Will was sure there had been something under the table going on. But he decided that was another matter- one for a real FBI agent, and not one that simply empathized with the killers.

Not all of them. Twice, you were the killer, Graham. Will rubbed his eyes and looked at his watch. Nearly seven AM now, and he felt drained. He got up and made his way from his classroom, stopping at the bathroom and splashing cold water on his face, before he made it outside.

The air still felt slightly chilled, wet, but it was refreshing. The sky wasn’t as bright as usual, and Will reasoned there could be more rain coming. He stuffed his hands into his pockets and closed his eyes, inhaling again, heard a set of soft footfalls behind him, and then suddenly a pair of arms thrown around his shoulders from behind, and a slim body pressing into his. She smelled like something warm, fresh cotton and wild, warm sunflowers. Will opened his eyes and knew it was Beverly, before looking down to see her hands, before she even spoke.

Hannibal’s constant cataloging of scents seemed to have gotten in his skull.

“Morning sunshine,” she said, resting her chin on his shoulder. She was on her tip toes, peering out at the parking lot with Will. “Emerging from your cave?”

“I needed to clear my head,” he admitted, “Before I go back and switch gears.” Beverly nodded, and the two watched as a car pulled into the parking lot. Will heard Beverly give a little squeal as Alana stepped out, and waved her down, Alana smiling and waving back, walking towards the two holding a plastic bag and balancing a cardboard cup holder with three very large cups of coffee.

“You’re an angel,” Beverly said, releasing Will and meeting Alana a few steps away, wrapping her hand around one of the cups but not lifting it. She kissed the corner of Alana’s mouth, and Will watched the other woman blush, frozen, until Beverly stepped back and took the coffee with her. Alana didn’t meet Will’s eyes as she walked over, offering up the coffee that he happily took.

“Thank you.” She nodded.

“Brought you two some breakfast too.” She lifted the bag. “I thought you’d be hungry.”

“Starving,” Beverly chimed in, throwing her arm around Alana’s shoulders. “I owe you hun, you’re saving my life.” Alana said nothing, and Will knew what it was like to be her, in that moment. To have someone watching as Hannibal touched and kissed, and he felt so out of place, like a spectacle. Now, he craved it, loved it- but it took getting used to.

He told them he’d be in his classroom, and left them alone, for a brief moment of early morning privacy before the rest of the world woke up. He heard Alana scolding quietly as he stepped away, heard Beverly laughing, and wondered what it was like between the two when they were alone. He made it part way down the hall when a trainee stopped him, speaking in a rushed breath and holding out a folder.

“Mr. Graham, this is for you. We tried to get a hold of you yesterday but you were gone.” Will took the folder in one hand, looking down at it, perplexed. “You wanted some travel information for your case.”

“Oh.” Will nodded, having forgotten with all that had happened. “Yes. Thank you.” The trainee nodded and was off, and Will tucked the folder under his arm and made the rest of the walk to his classroom, opening the door with his shoulder as he took a long sip of coffee, making his way to his desk. He dropped the folder down, settled in, then picked his glasses up and settled them on his nose. Another sip of coffee, and he opened it up, reading over Anna’s travel list first. A quick outline for how she got home from school, and then details about her flight and subsequent bus travel. He flipped to Megan, read over the list, frowned, then set his coffee aside, flipping right to Laura. Alana and Beverly were opening the door and walking in, talking to each other, as he stared at the page. When they reached his desk they stopped, both staring at him.

“Will?” Alana whispered, setting the bag down, and he flipped back through again, making sure his mind hadn’t created the thread he needed.

“The same bus,” he said, reaching up, rubbing at his jaw. “They took the same bus.”

“Who?” Beverly sat down, reaching into the bag for a danish, and having Alana bat her hand away, only to get one for her. She didn’t trust Beverly not to take two. Or three.

“The girls. All of them. Anna, Megan, Laura- I bet Cassandra, too. They took a bus from the same station after their flights to get home.”

“Shit,” Beverly said, reaching up to cover her mouth which currently was full of pastry. She swallowed quickly. “From where?”

“Fredricksburg.” Alana leaned her hip against the desk, looking up, drawing a map in her mind.

“Not far from where the bodies have been found.”

“Not far at all. A little over a half hour from Milford. And we’ve had two bodies there.” Will stood up, raking his hands back into his hair. “We need to go. Now. Where’s Jack?”

“I don’t know,” Beverly admitted, “Maybe his office.” She stood up, grabbing her coffee in her free hand. Alana left the bag on Will’s desk, taking only her own coffee- and grabbing Will’s, as he rushed around the desk and left it- and followed the two out the door quickly.

Will was walking with purpose- quick, precise movements, like how Hannibal wielded a knife, a scalpel. In his mind, pieces were fitting together. This had been all he needed, this one thread to weave between the girls. All the evidence they had from the most recent body would be enough to match to any suspect they had. They just had to round up the employees and screen them.

He just had to get there before the killer grew too nervous and ran. Or, worse- too bold and killed again.

Chapter Text

It hadn’t taken much to get Jack moving. Will’s serious look and simple I found the connection was enough. He didn’t even ask where they were going until they were piling into his car. Will ended up in the back with Alana somehow, and could only think it would be more fitting for Beverly to be in his seat. He couldn’t even find a reason for Alana to be joining them, except that she had gotten swept up in the rush.

He didn’t mind- she would be helpful. He wanted to get this done as quickly as possible.

Jack called in a warrant on the drive, and arranged for an agent to bring it straight to the station. They hoped they wouldn’t need one, but if so it would only be about twenty minutes behind at most. Will hoped that wasn’t too long.

*

They made it to the station at about ten to eight. Moving as a stream, Jack led and managed to get into the manager’s office within five minutes. His voice was heated and stern, and Will knew with a sinking feeling they’d be waiting for the warrant.

“What are we looking for?” Alana asked. Will was sure Beverly had discussed the case with her, but she hadn’t been a part of the investigation, and he was sure there were gaps in her knowledge.

“We’re looking at personal records. Anyone who may have a barn or large shed on their property. Anyone who lives far enough from others to be isolated.”

“Like you,” Beverly pointed out. Will looked at her, and remembered the way she had pulled back when she caught him chuckling over the new killer’s note- and for a moment he wondered if she knew, if she saw into his skull and knew things he never wanted her to see.

“Yes,” Will finally forced out, licking his lips. “Like me.” Alana nodded. “One, if not both, parents may be deceased. Single, no real social interactions. He’ll otherwise be very normal.” Will looked at Beverly, trying to gauge her eyes, but she seemed absolutely normal despite the comment. Perhaps it was just a playful jab-

That was what Will was hoping for.

*

The warrant arrived while Jack was still in a heated discussion with the manager. Will took it from the agent and opened the door, not bothering to knock, and handed it to Jack, who passed it on to the man. With a sigh he threw his hands up, shouting fine, and stormed out, yelling to a woman who was standing by the ticket counter to give these assholes whatever they wanted.

He had a cigarette in his mouth and lit before he even got outside. Will frowned, sucking on his tongue and teeth and thinking only one word over and over again as he watched the man disappear. Rude.

The woman had made it over by then, introduced herself as his assistant manager, and led them back into the office to allow them to go through their personnel files.

“We only need information on your male employees,” Jack said, and she nodded.

“The files are labeled by name. Would you like some privacy?” Jack nodded. “Okay. Come find me if you need anything. We’ve got buses leaving soon, I need to make sure everything is in order, but I will be around. I...apologize for him. He’s rather...”

“Rude,” Will filled in, and she shrugged and gave a sad smile, then left them alone. Beverly settled at the computer, going through the digital files, while the remaining three each took up filing cabinets. Will let his eyes flick around, watching as Jack and Alana would remove a folder and set it aside if it had the possibility of fitting their profile.

“I’m printing the past few weeks schedules,” Beverly said, “we can cross reference who would have been available.”

“Good,” Jack said, giving her an approving nod. He had a few folders stacked already. Will was sure he would have a lot of reading to do after- but not here. What they needed to do was get everything and get out before they were really noticed. The managed causing a scene was rough enough- Will didn’t want to startle the killer. Pushing him to kill again would be more blood on their hands, and this wasn’t the blood Will wanted.

Jack’s filing cabinet had been the lightest, and he left them to finish, slipping outside to observe. Will looked at Alana, and jerked his head, motioning for to go as well. Jack was a smart man, but he trusted Alana’s observations. He could finish the work for her.

“Try to blend in,” he said, and Alana gave him a smile, only to have Beverly throw out,

“She looks too good to be traveling long distance. Then again, she always does.” She grinned, and Alana shot her a look, then hurried out, leaving Beverly rolling her eyes but smiling. She looked a wreck behind the computer, tired eyes and ponytail with stray hairs everywhere- but Will would be she felt amazing, because there had been the tiniest of blushes on Alana’s cheeks.

He would if he could manage a reaction out of Hannibal now- for he knew he looked probably worse than Beverly did.

*

It took some time, but they finally left with files stuffed in boxes, Beverly cradling all the files she had printed from the computer. The ride back found Beverly and Alana in the back seat together, and Will looked back once, found Beverly leaning against Alana’s shoulder, passed out. He didn’t blame her, and gave Alana a soft smile. She returned, a little nervous, but Will looked away quickly, to give her privacy. He understood, he had been there.

Once back at the lab Beverly was roused by a gentle nudge from Alana, and they all made their way inside. Jack left them to work, and Alana left to get them lunch- despite Will’s protest that he didn’t need anything. She had frowned and ignored him.

“Lay out the schedules,” Will said, and Beverly stretched them out on the top of the table. “If someone looks like they could fit the profile fairly well, stack them and we can check if they correspond to a time the girls were taken or murdered.” Will had a red marker, and he had circled times on the schedules, the oval reaching down to any names beneath it. There were multiple schedules for drivers, maintenance, and ticket and janitorial staff. That left plenty of names.

The table was a mess when Alana returned. Will didn’t move to greet her, kept tossing papers around, shifting them, frowning, only stopped when Beverly grabbed his arm and pulled him away.

“You have to eat something,” she said, “If you starve Hannibal will kill us. You know him and food.”

“He’d probably kill us for feeding Will a burger and fries,” Alana pointed out, setting the food out on a corner of the table she had cleared. Will popped a fry into his mouth without much thought, ignoring them and still looking at the table. He was popping a second in his mouth when there was a knock at the door, a woman Will didn’t know stepping in. Beverly gave the agent a smile and a greeting, but the woman seemed rather grim, pulling Beverly aside. Will watched for a second, than ignored them, turning back to the table. He pulled his glasses off and rubbed his eyes, hands running down over his thick stubble. When he turned again, Beverly had a grim look on her face.

“There’s another body.”

“Fucking hell,” Will muttered, pulling at his own hair. “The bastard got scared. Fuck. You drive, Beverly. Can you?”

“Yeah.”

“I think I should come,” Alana offered, “You two are exhausted, you shouldn’t be driving. You should be passed out, you’ll run yourselves ragged.” Will tapped his fingers on his arms, then simply said,

“You drive,” and made his way out the door, the food Alana had so desperately wanted he and Beverly to eat forgotten.

*

Will was in the back seat, and must have dozed as Alana drove. He didn’t even know their destination, until the car was pulling off the road onto gravel, parking. He groaned, trying to stretch out and unable to in the confines of the car. In the front seat, Beverly and Alana were climbing out, eyes looking up at the overcast sky. The air smelled like impending rain.

Will finally sat up, taking his glasses off to rub his eyes. He knew he hadn’t been out long- he felt worse instead of better, and he dragged himself out of the car, placing his glasses carefully back on his face. No other FBI had made it yet- probably still waiting for an order from Jack, who had left the lab for a late court date. He stretched his legs as he shut the door, turning to look out at the expanse of grass, towards the lines of trees where the police were huddled. One of the officers was making their way over, and Beverly met him half way, talking in hush tones.

Will rotated his neck, cracking something in his shoulder, ready for another mess, the sinking sense of failure, when he caught Beverly staring at him, looking grave. He raised his eyebrows in question.

“Let me go,” she said, walking over, standing near Alana. Suddenly, they felt like a wall, and Will didn’t like it. Alana seemed just as confused, but she didn’t move. “Stay here, and let me look at the body.”

“There’s no point in me being here if I don’t look,” Will pointed out, “I can look now, Bev. I’m fine, this isn’t getting into my head-“

“Will, stop.” Beverly was shaking her head, looking so tired. “It’s not that. It’s...I don’t want you to see her. Not like this.” Will stared at her, into her dark eyes, and for a moment he saw reflections of things they hadn’t seen- of things his mind had created. Of a girl on a stag’s head next to her predecessor.

Will pushed past Beverly, walking quickly towards the trees. Walking turned to running, and suddenly he was gasping for cold air and the world was swimming around him, becoming blurs of water colors against a faded canvas- and then nothing at all.

She had been tied to the trunk of a tree with fried rope. Unlike the other victims, she was still clothed, the fabrics soaked in deep red from the angry slashes along her belly. Pulled up from the clothing and flesh, her intestines were looped around her neck like a choker, helping to partially hide the twine that had been tied around her neck and the tree just under her chin to keep her head propped up. Twine had been used around her fists, holding them closed. In them, Will could see something dark red, flesh and tissue clutched away. The air smelled like impending rain and her rich blood- fresh, she hadn’t been here long. She hadn’t been dead long.

Will closed his eyes, willed Wendy’s body away as his heart began to hammer, beating violently against his ribs. Bile rose in his throat, and he tried to tell himself she wasn’t there. She wasn’t real. But when he opened his eyes she was bound and her small body pressed into his back. His hand was covering her mouth, and try as she might she couldn’t get his flesh between her teeth. He threw her down, twisting her in the process so she landed on top of her bound hands, staring up at him with wide eyes.

“It’s daylight,” he said, his voice shaking slightly. “This is reckless and I know it- but it’s thrilling. She is something different- she is not yet a threat. She is not yet something to be conquered.” He pulled the hunting knife from his jacket- there was dried blood on it still from Cassandra’s body, a lifeless rust that he could use to infect her with. “She’s only a thing. She’s only a way to make a point. I’m not scared.” He fell down onto his knees over her, lifting the knife up in both hands, “I’m fucking pissed off.” He plunged the knife down, deep into her, and she screamed, head tilting back, looking suddenly small. Will dragged it down and curved it carelessly, pulling out to plunge down again- not a care how the incision looks, no worries about the organs being damaged beneath.

“I gut Wendy,” his voice cracked on her name, “Like she’s a pig. She’s not human, nor id she something I need to force to be human. She is an animal.” He tossed the knife down and reached into her body, digging in and grasping at her intestines, pulling and pulling, splashing blood up his sleeves, onto his shirt. “This kill isn’t for me, it’s for all of you. So you can see that my cruelty doesn’t have to know bounds.” He wrapped the intestines around her neck as she stared up with wide, glossed eyes. Her mouth was open, and her last breaths were wheezing out. Will stopped, suddenly, dropping the tissue and stroking his bloody thumb over her cheek- not as the killer would have done, but how he would.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, as her eyes caught his, stared in pure terror but yet understanding- this was it, there was nothing more for her, there was only the blackness waiting behind her eyes. There was a sweet nothing ready to envelope her and carry her away. There was sleep. “I’m so sorry.” He choked back a sob, and pulled her broken body up to his chest, pressing her to him and cradling her as the sky grew darker. He squeezed his eyes shut, sobbed in broken gasps, heard soft footfalls on the grass and dared to look up, just past Wendy’s long, soft dark locks of hair. Watching him, only steps away, Abigail was looking down at him, her eyes too blue and too seeing. He stared at her, as she began towards him, closing the small gap and bending down, her arms open, waiting for an offering.

Will looked at Wendy’s body in his arms- lifeless now, and peeled her from him, settling her into Abigail’s embrace. She lifted her with an ease she would not have in life- the different in size between the girls was minimal compared to Will- and gave Will one long, final look. Then, wordless, she turned, walking away until she became the grass and the trees and the very air that Will was gasping in. He blinked, and found himself staring up at Wendy’s broken body once more, held to the tree in a mocking sacrifice.

He was on his knees, and he had no idea how he got there. His hands were limp, palms exposed as if he was offering himself. He gave a choked, broken sob, and hung his head as his chest squeezed to the point of agony. Dead eyes stared down at him, from the second girl he had thought he could save, only to fail.

*

He wasn’t sure how long he knelt there. It could not have been long, as when he felt hands on his shoulders, Alana dropping to her knees in the grass, the sky was barely darker- but the air threatened rain, he could taste it on his tongue, feel the water resting on his eyelashes. Alana held him awkwardly, she was speaking but he didn’t know what she was saying, wasn’t sure if they were real words at all.

Next to him, Beverly was looking at the body. She glanced down at him, and he nodded, giving his consent. They needed to get everything examined before the rain started. They needed this to be quick.

Will needed it to be done.

Beverly moved away from him, snapping her gloves on and carefully examining the body. Will shuddered with his breath, felt Alana’s breath on his ear as she spoke. “Let’s go back to the car, Will.” He shook his head. “You can’t stay here.”

“I’ll stay here until she moves,” he whispered, looking up at her. “I’ll go when she goes.” Alana followed his gaze, forced herself to look, and her grip loosened on Will. She knew then she wouldn’t move him- no one would.

*

When her body was finally cut down and packed away, Alana managed to usher Will and Beverly to the car for the drive back to the lab. Beverly appeared like a spring, ready to burst, ready to jump from the car the moment she lab was in sight, ready to get her hands on the body. Ready for answers.

“Why don’t you give Hannibal a call?” Alana asked, looking at Will through the rear view mirror. He was pale, so much so he seemed ill. The circles under his eyes were dark- his glasses could only hide so much- and his hair and shirt were rumpled. He hadn’t slept in well over twenty four hours, had barely eaten anything, and to add this to the equation, Alana worried about his mental state.

She worried about his stability.

Will looked at his watch, then shook his head. “He’s with a patient.”

“I’m sure he’d understand.” Another shake of his head. “Will-“

“I don’t want to call Hannibal.” It was the truth. For once, Will didn’t want that soothing voice inching it’s way into his skull, wrapping itself around his mind. He didn’t want to slip into the comfort Hannibal offered. The numbness in his body was changing, the guilt mixing in with it and dissolving. Something heated was emerging, churning in his gut and clawing slowly towards the surface.

Something like hate. And he wanted the hate to be his and his alone.

Alana squeezed her lips shut, shooting a quick gaze at Beverly- but the other woman was looking out the window, avoiding her eyes. Avoiding looking back at Will, avoiding his eyes and the endless fire that was burning there.

*

Beverly was out of the car before Alana had completely stopped it. Will was out before the engine was off, and she was left to rush behind them, her heels clicking on the pavement. Will heard her but didn’t look back, nor did he follow Beverly. He weaved through the lab to the room where they had left their files. The door slammed shut behind him and he stared down at them, before reaching for one and letting out an angered cry, throwing it across the room. He kicked out at a chair, sent it clattering down to the floor, and chucked another useless folder, papers scattering around the room.

He wanted to tear something apart, limb form limb, wanted to feel flesh and muscle give. He wanted to watch bone crack, to sink his teeth into tissue and swallow it down. He wanted t consume, drink down all the hate and the rage of the world and let it become him. He wanted it so he could use it on this man- so he could use it on so many men who took what was his. He wanted to punish a faceless man for taking Wendy-

He wanted to punish himself for losing her. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, heard words whispering in his ear softly you are blame free- you pull no strings, Will. Free will is mankind’s curse to bear, yours more so because you must feel the will of others. Will wrapped his arms around himself, inhaled, his mind telling him he smelled Hannibal’s cologne, could feel his fingers in his hair. Not soothing in the way Alana had wanted earlier- but chasing away the guilt. You cannot save her, Will. You cannot save any of them. They are not your’s to save.

“Abigail was mine,” Will whispered, fingers digging into his arms with bruising force, eyes still screwed shut. “Abigail was ours.”

Abigail was her own. She belonged to no one. Humans are not to be owned Will.

“You own them when you kill them.”

That is because they are less than human then. I transcend my place as man, and they descend down into a level of primal being. Only then can they be owned. Will worried his lower lip, then, in a broken sob,

“But you own me. I belong to you.” He heard a chuckle, one he knew, knew the way it rumbled up from Hannibal’s chest, the soft vibrations it offered. Knew the way his breath would tickle his ear.

Yes Will, you belong to me. And I you. But that is not because I force you into a bestial state. Will felt his breath then, smelled him, strong and perfect, felt heat and the brush of his mouth on his ear. It is because, dear William- you and I are simply one and the same.

Will inhaled sharply, and heard the door click open. Suddenly Hannibal’s heat and scent were gone- his breath fading, and he heard Alana speaking softly behind him, “Will?”

His arms dropped to his sides and his eyes shot open- dark, nearly black. Alana walked up to his side, not yet seeing, and looked around the room, but said nothing about the mess. She reached for his arm, touched him gently, then pulled back, as if she had been shocked. Will turned away from her, facing the table once again, and reached for that day’s schedule. He grabbed a pen and underlined every name listed with no hours next to it.

“Anyone not in today,” he said, “Top priority.”

“The Killer could have left when we arrived at the station.” Will shook his head, closing his eyes.

“No. No, he wasn’t in today. And he wasn’t supposed to be. This looks spontaneous, but he planned it. Slightly. He saw opportunity and took it. He...he saw her.” Will pulled his glasses off, dropping them on the table and rubbing his face. “He saw Wendy, once. And he knew she was special.”

“Because she was one of his victim’s sister?”

“No. No no no.” Will shook his head. “No, not special to him. He knew she was special to me. This is his fuck you for that profile. He saw her with me.” He rubbed his jaw.

“But where?” Alana seemed worried, looking at the mess of papers on the table. “She was here, and she was at your home- Jesus Will, is he stalking you?”

“No, he wouldn’t. That would be too obsessive for him. He can only stalk his girls.” He closed his eyes, felt his throat tightening. “When Beverly got to the last scene in Milford...before this. When we found Cassandra’s body...Wendy showed up. There was a crowd, the locals all curious- morbidly wanting to see the latest train wreck. She came up to me, and I told her to go-“ he choked, and Alana reached for him, looking as if she thought he might sob suddenly.

What was choking Will was a deep seated hatred that was looking for a target.

“I told her to go home,” he finished. “And she left for the crowd. He took her there.” Will closed his eyes, pictured her smiling, heard her voice, asking about meeting Hannibal and seeing the dogs again. Asking Will to take her away for one more day. He swallowed the pain and let it stew, let it fuel the fire in his blood. His chest ached but he welcomed it, let the agony become the fuse for the time bomb he was becoming.

He saw her turning and running to the crowd, past the officers, past a faceless woman. She bumped into a man, looked up, and he stared at her-

Will stoped breathing. He saw dark hair and the vaguest of facial structures. Then his eyes opened and he scrambled around the table, pulling open files and looking at the personel photos. “Will?” Alana asked, shrinking back when he let out a small cry and held a folder up, staring at a face he had seen but once before- a face that had stared down at Wendy as she tried to slip back into a sea of people, to blend in and become safe in that unified nothingness that the masses were.

“He took her from that scene. He was there, she bumped into him. I saw him.” Will flipped a page over. “Bradley Madison.” Will’s eyes flicked over the text. “Lives in Fredericksburg. Close enough for any of the murders. I bet anything he’s got a barn and an old farm house.”

Alana looked over the schedule, dragging her finger along it, stopping at his name- circled. “He wasn’t on the schedule today.” Will snapped the folder shut, grabbing his glasses and tucking them into his pocket.

“Get Beverly,” he said, “call Jack. We need to move, and we need to move now.” Alana glanced at Will’s face- and finally saw the blackness of his eyes. The blue was gone, in the light it had beens wallowed up entirely by his pupils. All that remained was a grey so dark it could be black, endless and open- a door with a broken lock. A door Alana didn’t look staring into-

A door she wans’t sure could be shut. She took a step back, then nodded, leaving the room quickly. Will listened to the click of her heels, closed his eyes and took one deep, long breath. His hands clenched, tightly, missing the feeling of a throat beneath.

If free will was mankind’s burden, it only seemed right to take it away, to shoulder it himself- he, who could harbor so many people’s wills it had been easy to lose his own. But in that moment, Will felt a startling amount of clarity- he felt himself, free of anyone’s fingers inside his mind, even with Hannibal’s ghostly voice fresh in his brain.

He felt like Will Graham- and he knew exactly what needed to be done.

Chapter Text

Alana returned with Beverly in tow, hand wrapped around her wrist, and Will was three steps ahead of them, out into the parking lot. Beverly called out, breaking away from Alana to run after Will.

“We have to get Jack,” she said, “Get a warrant.”

“No time.” Will unlocked his car, crawling in and pulling his gun and holster from the glove box. Beverly was staring with wide eyes. “You and Alana can get Jack and get everything in order. I’m going out there.” Her eyes panicked, for a moment, and Will add, his voice far too calm, “He could have other girls, Beverly. They might be alive.”

That wasn’t his reason- he knew it, and Will was very sure Beverly knew it too, from the way her eyes flicked along his, down to his mouth, and then back up.

“Beverly can get Jack,” Alana said, finally closing in, “I’ll go with you, Will-“

“Fuck no!” Beverly whirled around, looking at Alana, wide eyed, and Will stood up, closing his car door, frowning.

“It could be dangerous.”

“At least let me drive you.” Will thought for a second, then nodded. He passed the folder he held to Beverly.

“Everything you need is in there. Tell Jack and get his ass moving. I’m not waiting.” He walked past Alana, heading for her car, and she followed, not sparing Beverly a glance. The other woman stared, clutching the folder in her hand, before she hurried back inside- the sinking feeling that someone would die if she didn’t move quickly enough to make her stomach roll.

*

Alana drove fast- faster than Will had ever seen her drive. Her knuckles were white on the steering wheel, her GPS showing a map to the house. Will watched the world outside the wind shield, his mind a swirl of curls and demands and desires with one girl at the center who needed retribution.

“That’s it ahead,” Alana said, pointing down the deserted road. The sky rumbled around them, dark grey, nearly black, casting the afternoon in a darkness that felt like a faded version of night. The storm wouldn’t hold off for long. Alana’s hybrid was near silent, and Will hoped the thunder would disguise as noise it made. She drove past the house, pulling up on the grass with a large barn in sight. Will stared at it for a moment, then tugged his seat belt off and threw the door open. He was out and closing it quietly, drawing his gun as Alana climbed out herself.

“Stay here,” Will said, glancing back at her. “You’re unarmed, and it could be dangerous.” Alana frowned, but nodded. Putting herself at risk would be putting Will at risk in that moment, and she couldn’t do that. She didn’t climb back in the car, though- she stood and watched, slipping her heels off and standing in her bare feet on the cool grass.

Will moved quickly, gun held out and aimed at the doors of the barn. He reached them, pressed to them and turned his head, listening. No sounds- no footsteps, no breathing- nothing except the thunder rolling closer and the overwhelming smell of rain in the air. He took a deep breath, then threw himself into the doors, his shoulder bursting one open and dumping him inside, gun jerking around the wide open space as he scanned it as quickly as he could. His gun lowered slightly as one of the strung up bodies caught his eye- naked and bound in rope, bruised and battered. There were three- space apart. Two girls had their eyes open and were staring, raising their heads. The other hadn’t responded.

Shit. Will bit his tongue, then turned and rushed out the doors, calling to Alana. He risked exposure with the noise, but he needed her. He needed her help.

She ran for him, stopping when she slipped in the doors and staring, wide eyed. Will holstered his gun, moving over to a work bench and grabbing a hunting knife- caked with dried blood. He set it down and found another one that was only speckled, and handed it hilt first to her.

“Help me cut them down,” he said, grabbing a small step ladder from by the work bench and dragging it over so Alana could climb up. Will wrapped his arms around the girl, steadying her. “It’s okay, we’re here to help.”

Alana grabbed the rope and sawed at it, watching the blade bit in until the rope gave and Will was supporting the girl’s weight all on his own. He sank down to his knees, took the knife from Alana, and cut the bindings on her wrists, then the rope in her mouth. She gasped for breath as she spit it out, as Will passed the blade to Alana who cut the rope at her ankles. She was sobbing, and Will instinctively pet her tangled hair once. “Shh, it’s okay. You’re okay now.”

He released her, left her sitting on her own and grabbed the ladder, moving to the next. This was taking too long, but Will knew he couldn’t leave the girls hanging there. God forbid he had looked further and something had happened to him- to Alana- and they had been left with even less hope, if they had had hope at all.

Alana moved as quickly as she could, not handing the knife off to Will this time and cutting all the rope herself. The second girl, once released from Will’s hold, crawled over to the first and hugged her, trembling and sobbing.

The last girl was dead weight in Will’s arms- and he worried it was too late. He wondered if the man had ever lost one before he meant to- if he disposed of them somewhere where they couldn’t be found. Mentally, he noted they should search the property for freshly dug graves. It set a sour taste in his mouth.

He was sure Alana’s arm was burning by the time the girl collapsed into his arms. He lost his foot and stumbled back a step before going down, the impact sending a jolt of pain into his hip- but he cradled the girl regardless, taking the full impact himself. Alana worked at her bindings while Will pulled the rope from her mouth, leaning over and feeling the faintest of breath against his cheek.

“She’s alive,” he gasped, and Alana dropped the knife and took her from him, draping her in her lap and cradling her. Will stood up, digging into his pocket and dropping his phone into her palm. “Call an ambulance,” he said, glancing briefly at the two conscious girls, huddled together. He drew his gun. “Then call Jack.” Jack needed to know what they were dealing with- that this was their guy, for sure.

Will left the barn, Alana calling after him, gun poised and ready. He made his way for the house- saw there was still a car parked outside it. Bradley hadn’t left, then. At least not in that.

Will went around back, pressed against the house and took a breath, before whipping around and getting the back door open, slipping into the kitchen. It was quiet, dark with no lights on and the stormy sky offering no sun. Will gripped his gun with both hands, took a steadying breath, then carefully made his way through, rounding the corner to the hall carefully, peeking around it first and finding no one. He frowned, pressed to the wall and tried to silence his heart as it hammered his pulse up in his temples, his breaths as they escaped his throat.

Will eyed the stairs as they extended towards the front door, down the hallway, and took a tentative step towards the door. In that moment he heard before he saw- the sound of air rushing and the stairs creaking, and he jerked his body away from the wall and threw himself against the solid railing of the stairs as the man stood up, aimed his shotgun, and fired his round- the bullet bursting into the wall with ear shattering sound. Will stared at the splintered hole for a moment, then heard the stairs creaking.

He was running them up.

Will steadied himself and ran, grabbing the railing with one hand and nearly throwing himself up the first step. By this point the man- Bradley- was at the top, rounding the corner. Will aimed and fired, missed by a good six inches and put a bullet in the wall. He gritted his teeth and ran up the stairs, feet hitting the top floor with a thud as he watched Bradley disappear into one of the room. In that moment the front door flew open, Beverly running in, gun poised. Will turned, stared at her for a single moment, his eyes nothing but black pupil, and then he was moving towards the door. Beverly ran for the stairs, lowering her gun and following.

There was a blast before Will got to the door, blowing the wood out around the door knob. Will wasn’t sure what type of shotgun he had, or how loaded it had been- but in that moment he didn’t care. He didn’t feel human, he felt divine.

He kicked the door in, gun poised, and fired. The bullet went straight into Bradley’s knee, and he yelped, stumbling down, losing his grip on the shotgun. It tumbled from his hands, sliding across the old wood floor, and Will rushed in, slamming his heel down on Bradley’s hand as he reached for it. The man cried out as bones crunched, and Will pointed the gun straight at his head. Bradley stared at it, then laughed nervously, pulling his broken hand back and cradling it to his chest.

“You got me,” he said, his voice more mocking than fearful, gazing up at Will with nervous eyes, his blonde hair tussled and messy. He smelled like hay and fear and dust- Will could smell it in the air. It was dry on his tongue when he inhaled through his parted lips. “Gonna take me in, officer?”

“I’m not an officer,” Will said, releasing the gun with one hand and rolling his shoulders. Bradley raised an eyebrow, grinning with crooked, slightly stained teeth.

“Nah, you’re just a freak. I know who ya are, Will Graham. Anyone with a taste for blood does. Anyone with a body ‘ta hide knows ya.” Bradley’s grin broadened, and Will tightened his hold on the gun, pushing it closer.

“I’m not a freak,” Will spat, “You’ve got that covered. You’re tasteless.”

“Got a problem with my work, Graham?” Will sucked on his teeth.

“I do. You’re sloppy- like a child dragged their muddy fingers on a canvas and calling it art.”

“And ya know what art is, then?” Will smirked, a twitch at the corners of his mouth as his black eyes seemed to glimmer.

“Yes.” Will exhaled, slowly. “I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it created- I’ve made it.” Bradley, whose mouth had fallen into a frown, grinned again, wildly.

“Then you’re just like me. Ya know those cunts deserved it. Take ‘em down a notch, show ‘em where they belong.” Will’s nostrils flared with his breath.

“I’m not like you,” he hissed, finger twitching along the trigger. “I’m far better.” Before Bradley could breath Will pulled the trigger, the bullet sliding into flesh and skull and through brain tissue, dragging out the backside of his skull and painting the small bedside table red. Bradley slumped down, and Will stared at him, cocking his head to the side and crouching down to examining him, the way his eyes had nearly closed, his mouth gaping open. Ugly thing- but Will didn’t think he deserved to be much more than that. He would die ugly, just as his work had been so. “This is my design,” Will whispered, giving him one last stare, before he stood and turned away-

And was met by a dark, wide eyed stare. Beverly stood in the doorway, her arms limp at her sides, barely able to keep her hold on her gun. Will stared at her, unmoving for a moment, his heart oddly calm at the prospect of all she could have over heard. He gave her the moment to raise her gun, to point at him and scream, but she didn’t move. She barely seemed to breathe.

Then she stepped to the side, holstering her weapon. “It’s over,” she said, looking at Bradley’s body, and Will could only nod.

*

By the time the scene was processed, statements had been taken, and they were finally released and Will shoved back into Alana’s car, it was dark. The thunderstorm that had threatened had opened the sky up and the downpour was loud, echoing within the car. Will sat alone in the back, leaning his head against the glass and watching the water rivet down the window. His body ached in what felt like a thousand different ways, his eyes burned as if they had never once closed. He wanted to curl up and sleep for a hundred years- to close everything out.

And yet, he felt alive.

He had expected Jack to pull him aside- to keep him. He had expected someone to throw him in the back of a car and lock him up. It had been reckless, what he had done- he knew that, looking back. He knew Beverly had been there, had been behind him. And yet he had let his tongue run wild. He should have simply put a bullet in Bradley’s head like he had planned all along and been done with it.

There had been a moment of panic, briefly, when Beverly was alone with Jack. A moment where Will tried to decide what he was going to do, how he was going to escape. Run, but where? There were woods around the property, further out- if he could make it to them, they’d never find him. This was his territory, he’d disappear like a bird in the sky. He just had to make it to them. He didn’t think any of them would shoot to kill- not even Jack. They were invested in Will.

And he in them. He wouldn’t harm them, not to run. Not Beverly or Alana, they were above that. They were golden in his eyes. But he would run. He had thought to call Hannibal in that instant, but Alana had his phone- he would have to find a phone, find a way. Hannibal would gather him up and they would disappear.

It could happen.

But then Beverly had walked over with Jack, and Jack had clapped his hand on Will’s shoulder and told him he’d done a good job getting the bastard and finding those girls. That he’d taken a shot Jack would have too- especially when faced with a loaded shotgun. Will had said nothing, and Jack had told him to go home and get some sleep. Take a day or two off- he deserved it.

Will had looked at Beverly, and couldn’t read her eyes- not fully. He knew she had lied, there was no way that was how she had perceived the incident. It simply became a matter of how much was a lie, and how much she simply hadn’t witnessed.

Now, lulled by the rain and the rock of the car, Will didn’t care. Alana had thrown her arms around him before he had climbed in, had tried to hold him, but he had fought her off. Her embrace wasn’t what he needed, craved then.

When her car pulled into the lab’s parking lot and the engine died, all three sat in silence for a moment, before Alana turned to look back at Will- but he was opening the door and stepping out into the rain already. He managed two steps form the car before both front doors had opened, and Beverly was out first, reaching for him and grabbing his wrist, jerking him back. He looked at her, his eyes no longer black but still a stormy grey, still devoid of blue. It had all leaked out into his pupils and been swallowed down.

Beverly hesitated, before she wrapped her arms up around his neck, pulling him close. Will didn’t move for a moment, before his arms found his way around her and he cradled her close, pressing his face down into her hair, wet from the rain as it poured down over them. The fresh cotton and warm sunflowers still lingered, but there was fatigue and the rain and dust from the days spent with no sleep. He held tighter, and she could have dissolved in his arms in that moment.

“Let him help,” Beverly whispered, and Will knew she was inside his head for a moment. She knew where he would go before his mind had consciously decided. Yet, there was never a question. Not now. “Be okay, Will.”

Will pressed his mouth to her hair, kissed wordlessly and soundlessly, and wasn’t sure which one of them was trembling. He wondered if she knew that he was, in that moment, more okay than he had been before pulling the trigger.

*

It was raining still when he reached Baltimore, stepping out in clothes that had never fully dried. By the time he reached Hannibal’s door, he was soaked to the bone again. He found it locked and fumbled with his keys, missing the keyhole on the first try and finally getting it open with some difficulty. The door felt heavy as he pulled it open, but he found part way through the motion it became weightless.

Behind the door he found Hannibal with his hand against it, supporting it. His burgundy eyes ran over Will in one motion, before he reached for him, his hand pressing gently to him and helping to guide him inside. There was the click of the lock, and then his voice breaking the silence.

“Alana called me,” he said, his hand trailing down Will’s arm, turning him slowly. The rain water was cold against his finger pads. “She told me what happened. She told me you killed a man, Will.”

“I shot him in the head.” Will stared into Hannibal’s eyes as he spoke. “He died ugly. Like his work.” Hannibal nodded, slowly, running both his hands up along Will’s arms, collecting water until it spilled over his fingers, trickled along to his wrist and wet the cuffs of his sleeves.

“It felt good, didn’t it, William?” Will nodded. Hannibal inhaled, slowly, smelled the rain and Will’s sweat and dust and dirt. And beneath everything, Will. “You must be exhausted. Let’s get you cleaned up and into bed-“

“I don’t want to sleep.” Will stepped closer, looking up through his thick lashes. “I feel...I feel alive Hannibal. I feel good. I feel like there are a thousand birds in my chest- but they are calm, they are perched on my ribs and they are waiting.”

“What are they waiting for, dear Will?” Will leaned in, pressed his mouth to Hannibal’s neck and tasted his skin, breathed in his cologne and hummed.

You.” He closed his mouth over flesh, dug the points of his teeth in with enough force to leave small indentations, but not to puncture. Hannibal’s breath rushed out, and his arms were around Will, pulling his wet body against him, letting the man mouth and nibble and lick against his throat. His tongue laved over his pulse point, enjoying the steady hum of Hannibal’s heart. It seeped into him and set a rhythm for his own.

Hannibal let his eyes close, enjoying the feeling of Will sliding against him. He had missed him- missed him with every moment they were apart, in ways he had not known he could miss someone. He needed Will to be the bird inside his own rib cage, perched and singing happily to the beat of his heart. His hands roamed along Will’s spine, fingers digging in through his wet shirt, and in that moment Will felt just an extension of Hannibal, as if his eyes had been opened once again.

Hannibal knew there would be no other chance. This moment, or Will would never see the hidden truths of his house- never see the treasure he was going to be giving up in order to live under the same roof as him. Gently, Hannibal forced Will’s mouth from his throat- hating the loss of that wonderful feeling- and tilted his chin up. When he spoke, Will felt his breath in warm puffs against his lips.

“I need to show you something, darling,” he whispered, “Something very...important.” Will nodded, and Hannibal saw the blue of his eyes, seeping out from his pupils and bleeding into grey. He had no idea he had been the only one to see it that day- to see the truth in all that chaos. He took Will’s hand, palms pressed tightly together, and lead him through the house. If Will thought to protest because of his soaked and dripping state, he was quiet.

Hannibal felt Will’s eyes as he led him to a door kept locked, one Will had never questioned before. He had had no reason to. He pulled a key from his pocket, turning it, and then opened the door into a stretch of darkness. He didn’t flick on any lights, simply descended, slowly, Will’s hand still clenched in his own. Will inhaled deeply, smelled bleach and the damp musk any basement possessed- and beneath that, buried but still there, the coppery sharp twinge of blood. He licked his lips without realizing it.

Hannibal guided Will, once at the foot of the stairs, to stand in front of him, facing the open space of his sanctuary. He pressed up against his back, fitting every curve, and leaned into his neck as he reached for the light.

“This is my world,” he whispered into his ear, “This is my workshop. This, dear Will- is not your’s.” He flicked his wrist and hit the light switch, and a dull glow flooded the room. Will’s eyes darted around, up at the sheets of plastic hanging down, along the floors, to the table Hannibal had set up at the center and had- very sadly- barely gotten to use. Will said nothing, but pressed back into Hannibal as an arm snaked around his waist. “I wanted the timing to be perfect, when I first brought you here. I regret it has taken until the point of losing this.” He kissed at the sensitive spot just below Will’s ear.
“But for the brief time we have left, this is your space as much as mine. You are free here, dear William.”

“I’m free with you.” Will’s voice echoed inside both their heads, and Will turned, tilting his head almost painfully and catching Hannibal’s mouth. The older man’s hand flattened on his belly, stroked along it soothingly, spread a heat that had been waiting in simmering embers deep inside Will. He pressed his tongue up into Hannibal’s mouth, who sucked on the muscle, dragged teeth along it and made Will shudder.

“Look,” Hannibal breathed into his mouth, “See.” Will pulled away from him, reaching up to part the plastic and step into the inner circle of the room. He turned around, slowly, saw every corner, found Hannibal watching, and then the table again. He reached a hand out, laid it falt atop it.

“How many?” he whispered.

“Countless.”

“Right here?” Hannibal took a step, Will heard it. He felt it- because in that moment every thread tying Hannibal to him was tightened, so taught that Will was sure if he pulled Hannibal would stumble and fall for him.

“Yes. Everywhere.” Will tapped his fingers along the table- hard, heavy, and wondered what it had been like for Hannibal to assemble it here, in it’s pale shades, appearing like marble. He didn’t think it was- but he wouldn’t put such an idea past Hannibal. “I regret that the table has gotten far less...use. It would have been a smart addition far sooner.”

Will nodded, turned, leaned his back against the table and watched Hannibal for a moment with eyes wide open and completely seeing. Hannibal let him, he hid nothing, he stood filmless, suitless, with open eyes and exposed intentions. Will drank the honesty down raw and smiled, before he hopped up onto it, reaching up and coyly popping a button on his shirt.

“Come here,” he beckoned, and Hannibal felt his heart thump once, almost painfully, against his ribs- felt the blood raining down and pooling between his legs. There was a crossing of worlds suddenly, of his private sphere, the small pocket he had still held from Will- and the rest of his life, where the man had seeped in and clung. It was dizzying.

Will popped another button as Hannibal slipped between his legs, then reached up and cupped his face, pulling himself closer. “Make me belong,” he whispered, his mouth brushing along Hannibal’s lower lip. When he kissed Hannibal, it was slow, languid, his lips melting over Hannibal’s as the older man reached for him, wrapped his arms around him. Will’s hands slid back into his hair, his tongue pressing back into Hannibal’s mouth, tasting and testing, before it was shoved back into his own and Hannibal was pushing him down, down onto his back, tongue in mouth as he pressed his weight into him. Will rocked his hips up against Hannibal, moaned into his waiting mouth, one leg hooking around his thighs and holding him close.

Hannibal’s mouth found his jaw, pressed kissed along the stubble that was far too thick for Will, down along his throat, to the V of flesh revealed bu his undone buttons. His skin was damp with rainwater and sweat, and Hannibal lapped the salt up until he was thirsty. His hands were making quick work of the remaining buttons on Will’s shirt, letting it pool to his sides as he kissed down, over his ribs and along his stomach, feeling Will’s breath through flesh. He traced down his navel, followed the line of dark hair that disappeared into his pants, nipped at the sensitive skin above the hem before he opened them, dipping fingers into them and below the waistband of Will’s underwear. Will lifted his hips without being asked, and Hannibal dragged the clothing all the way down his legs, dropping to one knee to slip Will’s shoes and socks off, leaving the clothing in a pile. He pressed his mouth to one ankle, kissed up along Will’s calf, standing slowly, then along his thigh. He closed his mouth over the scar he found- remembered Richard stabbing down into Will’s thigh in his own home what felt like a lifetime ago. His tongue ran along the white, puckered flesh, and he sucked gently, heard Will whimper, almost pained as if he feared Hannibal would part flesh and meet a red sea, drink it down like salt water and cleanse himself.

He traced it with his tongue, his hands resting just above Will’s knees, closed his eyes and whispered mine in his head over, and over, and over again. The scar was a memory of a Will that had been so fresh and new, yet so abused- a man he had claimed and lost and reclaimed. A man who had fallen in love with Hannibal well before either had existed.

He was not the same Will Graham beneath Hannibal now, whispering his name and clenching his hands into fists. This was a creation, a masterpiece, a being that harbored inside him the original Will, drained from him all that was ideal- his devotion, the tenderness and affection he harbored and gave to Hannibal so willingly. A man that held the promise of a life. But he was encased within this delicacy, this Will who had opened his eyes, who saw and felt the world, who swam through Hannibal’s veins and breathed in his breath before it left his lungs. This man who, beneath his reservations, was made of the same fabric as Hannibal- the doctor knew, and he knew Will knew, no matter how hard he fought it down.

This man was a chimera, a concoction of so many begins- all of whom were perfect, all of whom Hannibal needed- and he was his. Hannibal harbored no doubts. Not now.

He finally pulled away from the scar, turning his attention to the flesh at the height of Will’s inner thigh, nipping at his before his tongue ran up over his balls, brushing along the base of his cock- which, to Will’s undying credit, was hard and resting flat against his belly, leaking thick precum into the hair along his navel. Hannibal pressed his tongue flat to it, traced up until he reached the head, and leaned completely over Will, sucking it into his mouth. Will’s breath wheezed out, a hand reaching for Hannibal and running back through his loose hair, stroking and toying as Hannibal sucked gently, pressed his tongue to Will’s slit and made him gasp.

Will tugged, gently, and Hannibal sucked him deeper, half his cock disappearing into his mouth, the wet heat enough to make Will shudder. “Hnnng, Hannibal,” he whimpered, “You’re perfect.” The words sang inside Hannibal’s skull, and he couldn’t fathom how this dream beneath him thought him perfect. Compared to others, he harbored no doubts about his own near perfection- but with Will, he suddenly felt simply a man.

He pulled away, straightening up. “Roll over,” he whispered, and Will scrambled to obey, tugging his shirt off and tossing it away without being asked. He knew it was what Hannibal wanted.

He was right.

Will pressed his chest and shoulders down to the table, his arms pillowing his head, while his ass was pushed up, bared for Hannibal to do as he so pleased. Hannibal guided it down, so he could lean over and press his mouth to Will’s spine, kissing along it slowly. At the base of his spine he tasted rainwater, lapped it up, enjoyed the heat of Will’s skin and the small sounds he made as Hannibal teased bone through skin and muscle, as he did his best to taste the marrow beneath.

He hand his hands over Will’s ass, guiding his hips back up, parting flesh and exhaling, making Will shiver, before he pressed his mouth to Will’s hole. Hannibal intended to fuck him, to have him, to open him up- but he wanted to worship first. He wanted to reward Will for what he had done.

He wanted Will to feel good for taking a life.

Will gave a soft cry, pushed back for Hannibal, who let his tongue trace Will’s hole, running up over it, flat, wetting him. Will tried to spread his thighs move, his cock hanging heavy and ignored, yet he made no motion to touch himself. He squirmed, whispered in a needy voice, “Your tongue, Hannibal, it- ah!” he gave a cry as Hannibal breached him, fucked him slowly and gently, “it’s too good.”

“Not yet, dear Will,” Hannibal whispered, the words sending ghostly chills through the younger man. “Wait for me.”

“Always.” Will whimpered as Hannibal pushed into him again, bit his own tongue. “I’ll always wait, Hannibal.”

Hannibal was sure Will wasn’t talking about sex, about the orgasm building at the base of his spine, in his belly and balls. He wasn’t sure what exactly he was thinking about in that beautiful mind of his, but Hannibal didn’t need to be sure- it was everything, that was what he knew.

He pulled away, sucking his fingers into his mouth, before pushing two gently inside Will. He wished he could leave Will and make his way up to the bedroom, to properly slick his fingers and his cock before driving into the man, but he had no desire to interrupt this. He couldn’t leave this room until Will had dissolved into it- until this last small bit of himself was thoroughly infected with Will Graham.

Will pushed back against his fingers, rode them, and Hannibal allowed it, watched the way his body thrust and needed him, the way he pushed himself up onto his hands and looked back. Will caught Hannibal’s eyes and held them, even as a third finger was pushed into his body. He cried out, but gave a small smile, his cheeks rosy, eyes diluted and dilated. Hannibal curled his fingers, and Will’s eyes rolled back- and then Hannibal couldn’t take it.

He pulled out, fumbling with the buttons on his shirt. Will scrambled around, settling on the edge of the table and grabbing fistfuls of his shirt, tearing it open, the buttons flying off and tapping onto the floor. Will was normally very careful with Hannibal’s clothing, but in that moment he needed him, needed skin on skin and Hannibal to be fully exposed.

He pushed the shirt off Hannibal’s shoulders, tossed it away as his lover opened his pants, tugging everything down. Will smiled wickedly, ran his tongue heavily up along his plam, then reached down, grasping Hannibal and stroking him, pressing his mouth to his chest. Hannibal tipped his head back as Will closed his lips around one of his nipples, sucking gently, his thumb dragging precum down along Hannibal’s length. He stopped to cup his balls, tug gently, and Hannibal gasped.

He pushed Will off, back down onto his back, and grabbed his thighs, lifting them and opening them, pressing them back until the pressed along Hannibal’s sides. He grabbed his cock, spit into his hand and coated himself as best he could, then dragged his cock along Will’s ass, teasing. Will whimpered, shaking his head.

“If you don’t put your cock in me,” Will gasped, his thighs trembling, “I’ll go mad.”

Hannibal almost chuckled, but the sound died in his throat as he pushed inside his Will, stretching him further. He felt Will’s body gripped him, forced himself to go slowly, reminding himself Will wasn’t slick as he usually was. Will groaned through gritted teeth, but didn’t ask Hannibal to stop. He tried to spread his thighs wider, until they ached at his hips and Hannibal was fully inside him. He leaned over Will, let his legs lock around his waist, dug both his hands into Will’s hair and pulled him up to kiss him.

He devoured, he claimed, he conquered Will’s mouth with his tongue, only to feel Will clench his body around him and then shove his tongue, along with Hannibal’s, back into the doctor’s mouth and capture him. Hannibal stroked his fingers along Will’s scalp, rocked his hips gently, just the barest of thrusts, but enough to have Will making small, pleased noises into his waiting mouth. Hannibal smiled, drank them down, swallowed them whole, pulled his hips back further and pushed inside Will again. The man gave a cry, arched his back, tore his mouth away from Hannibal’s and angled his ass so it was easier for Hannibal to move.

Hannibal found Will’s neck, lapped at his pulse, felt Will wrap his arms around him and claw at his back with dull nails. He dragged them along skin, leaving angry red marks behind, as Hannibal set a shallow rhythm that had Will craving for more, his body stretched so perfectly, Hannibal fitting into him as if they were physically one being. Will tightened his hold with his legs, whimpered, “deeper Hannibal,” and the doctor couldn’t deny him.

He pulled back, snapped his hips until his cock was pressing against Will’s prostate, and the younger man was seeing stars. He cried out, clutched onto Hannibal as if he could fall right off the edge of the world, felt his nerves turn to fire in his veins. Hannibal felt his own body aching, feeling as if he hadn’t been inside Will’s body in a lifetime. A day without finding his way inside him felt like years.

He pulled Will up with him, supporting him, and kissed him again. “William,” he breathed against his mouth, driving in and groaning himself, drowning out Will’s moan. “Too long.” His words were broken. His body was broken. Hannibal’s mind was so close to rupturing, would be gone when he tipped over the edge- but he was fine with that. He broke every night he was with Will, lost the control he craved and needed and cultivated around the world. With Will it was gone and he had stopped caring. It was a thrill, it made his pulse escalate like nothing ever had.

“I know,” Will sobbed, his cheeks wet. Hannibal nuzzled his hair and smelled the rain. “I-I can’t. Hannibal I’m-“

He was shoved down again, his words lost. Hannibal grabbed his legs, rested them up along his chest, pushing them down into Will’s down, body, the tops of his thighs pressing into his own flesh, Will’s ankles over his shoulders. Will arched as best he could, pinned beneath his lover, his cock brushing skin briefly, here and there- but it was enough. Will didn’t need much friction, not when Hannibal was so deep inside him.

“Will,” Hannibal breathed, and Will chocked on his breath.

“Again,” he whimpered, fresh tears on his cheeks. It was all too much. “Say me name again.”

“William.” It ended in a broken gasp, the beginnings of a groan. Hannibal pushed into him, watched his eyes roll back. “Will, my Will.” The words felt thick on his tongue, but they excited Hannibal as much as they did Will. His lover cried out, his cock twitched, red and wanton and so hard between the two.

“Fuck,” Will cried, body dissolving into needy trembles. “H-Hannibal. Mine. You’re.” He tipped his head back as Hannibal slammed his cock against his prostate. “All.” Another thrust, and Will’s hands were scrambling along the table to, finding nothing to clutch onto on the smooth surface. “Mine.” The word was hissed out before one final thrust, and then Hannibal tipped his head down, cried out Will’s name in a needy voice, and spilled himself inside him, filling Will with a heat that had his stomach tightening, his own orgasm tearing through him a moment later. He screamed, his throat nearly tearing with the force, his eyes rolling back as his head tipping back, exposing his throat almost painfully, as his semen slid along he and Hannibal’s stomachs, leaving a pearly mess.

Will’s legs slipped down from Hannibal’s shoulders, locking around his waist again, keeping Hannibal from pulling out of his body.. Hannibal leaned over him, pressed down against his body and found his mouth, kissing him deeply. Will reached up, one hand around Hannibal’s shoulders, the other sinking into his hair, holding him. He was whispering broken words into his mouth, words that strung together formed no sentences, that couldn’t possibly hold everything that crackled between the two like the lightning still striking in the sky. Hannibal encased Will, hands in his hair, pressed fingertips against his skull.

He could tell him he loved him, but it would be useless. The word didn’t fit- it was true, yes, but there was so much more here, in this moment. There was acceptance and an utter morphing of being, a coupling that left them one interlocked creature- not man, not yet fully divine- but enough so that Hannibal felt secure in letting Will feel the affection in his kiss. Will whimpered, brought a small sound from Hannibal, drank it down, savored it, kissed the corner of his mouth. “Always mine,” he whispered, and Hannibal closed his eyes, breathing in the rain and Will’s skin.

He wouldn’t deny it. He was Will’s in that moment, completely. Just as Will was his own- just as Will was a part of him, an extension- his own being yes, but able to flow into Hannibal without a seam. Where there may have been one, once, it was gone now. It had been ripped open when Hannibal flicked on the light, when Will breathed in bleach and dampness and the hidden blood- anything after this would not matter. Hannibal’s world fully belonged to Will now.

He reached one hand down, found the scar on Will’s thigh and stroked it. Will sighed into his mouth, body lax beneath him- tired, spent. He was barely conscious, Hannibal knew- would hold on as long as he could, but he was fading. He wondered how long it had been since his lover last slept, but kept the question to himself for now. Instead he kissed along his jaw, finding his ear and breathing his love into it, all the while stroking the risen white flesh on his thigh in a soothing way that could chase the demons from Will’s head, fill his skull with only Hannibal’s voice like a blanket to cover him from the nightmares that had reared their crowned heads. Cover him from the truths he had faced, from the men who had thought to take him- to claim him or destroy him, it mattered now.

Hannibal’s thumb ran along it, and Will whispered, voice sleepy, “Don’t go.” Hannibal nuzzled his ear, his hair, still inside him, not wanting to ever leave.

“Never.” He kissed his cheek, stroked the other with his free hand. “Never, darling William. “Not without you.”

Will smiled, and Hannibal wondered what fantasy was playing out inside his tired mind.

Chapter Text

Will stirred, pressing his face further into the pillow beneath his face, his toes curling into the expensive sheets he recognized. Hannibal’s bed. He sighed, turned his head, opened his eyes, found the bed empty beside him. He pushed himself up, looked around the room, then slowly climbed from the bed- acutely aware of a soreness inside himself, of an ache in his muscles from extended fatigue and then too much time spent unused- and made his way to the bathroom. He emptied his bladder, stared at himself in the mirror, frowned at what he saw. He didn’t look at tired, but there was still a darkness under his eyes, a paleness to his skin that made him seem as if he was recovering from illness. He reached up and ran his hands along his jaw, his stubble thickened into the beginnings of a beard, if he were to let it go for another day. He frowned, ran his tongue over his teeth, before reaching for his tooth brush.

When he returned to bed, his mouth tasted minty, far better than the ashy taste he had acquired during his sleep. He slipped back into the bed, sighing, just as he heard footsteps up the stairs and along the hall. Will smiled, flopped onto his side, and closed his eyes, careful to breathe slowly as the door was opened and Hannibal walked in. Will wanted to see him- so badly, he wanted to- but he resisted, fought down the smile that threatened to play on his lips as Hannibal walked over. He stood next to the bed for a minute, before he sank down on the edge, sitting and reaching out, running his hand along Will’s side.

“I know you’re awake.” Will opened his eyes, saw Hannibal watching him with a near grin on his face, and couldn’t help but smile. He huffed a sigh playfully.

“What gave it away?”

“I heard you knocking around before I came up.” Will frowned, then shrugged a shoulder and reached for Hannibal’s hand on his side, bringing it to his mouth and kissing along his finger tips.

“Lay down with me for a bit?” Hannibal didn’t hesitate, he stood up and walked around the bed, tugging his sweater off over his head and leaving it at the corner of the bed- Will couldn’t help but feel an action like that was all his own doing, his own influence- and even tugged his pajama pants down, crawling in in just his underwear. He lay on his back and Will happily cozied up to him, hand splayed on his chest, head resting up by his shoulder. “What time is it?”

“After one.” Hannibal curled an arm around him, traced a small portion of his spine. “I didn’t want to disturb you- from what I gathered from Alana when she called before you arrived last night, you have gone quite some time without sleeping.” Will nodded. “Are you feeling better now?”

“Somewhat.” He pressed his mouth against Hannibal’s collar bone. “A little sore.” Hannibal chuckled.

“My apologies for that, love.” Hannibal turned, kissed his forehead.

“S’okay. I think I was the one that instigated, anyway.” Will let his voice trail off, teased his fingers through the gray hair on Hannibal’s chest. When he closed his eyes he saw a room that spun and smelled like bleach, was a little chilled. He smelled rain over all of it, wet dust- himself. “How long has it been there?”

“Always.” Will didn’t need to specify what- he knew that Hannibal knew. He nodded, pushed himself up so his hand still rested on Hannibal’s chest but he leaned over him, catching his eyes.

“Were you ever going to tell me?” He wasn’t angry- his voice was soft and simply curious, a tenderness there that couldn’t be avoided when he lay so intimately with Hannibal.

“I needed the time to be right.” Will tilted his head slightly.

“And it was last night?” Hannibal sat up, dragging Will partially with him, cupping his cheek with one hand.

“More so than it ever has been.” He stroked his thumb along his budding beard. “You were completely open to me last night, Will.” He wanted to add that now he was completely open to Will, that the last bit of his private world had been exposed, but Hannibal kept it in. He had a feeling Will was reading it in his eyes.

He had lost the ability to guard them against his lover.

“Because I’d killed a man.” His hand continued to play over Hannibal’s chest.

“Yes. Do you know why you killed him, William?” Will’s mind tumbled over images of dead girls, of defiled bodies in tasteless forms- of Wendy, pulled from him when he had wanted her for his own. He said nothing, and Hannibal continued, stroking his cheek tenderly- lovingly. “Because doing bad things to bad people feels good.”

Will choked, for a brief second, and Hannibal pulled him in, kissed him softly, a movement of lips in a sweet rhythm that pushed the breath back into his lungs, reminded Will how to breathe properly. He pushed up against Hannibal’s chest, licked at his mouth but didn’t enter, enjoyed the sweet way his other hand found the small of his back and pressed to the base of his spine.

“Yes,” Will admitted. “It felt good.”

“Just like what you had me do to Matthew.” It wasn’t a question, and the revulsion Will felt at the usual mention of the man’s name didn’t come. Only the sweet burning in his belly at remembering Hannibal tearing him open.

“Yes.” Hannibal smiled, kissed him once more, quickly.

“Tell me, why was this man so bad?” Will settled down onto his chest, head resting there, and Hannibal stroked the curve of his shoulder. Will could hear his heart within his chest, and he closed his ease as he stroked skin. Something about Hannibal’s chest hair was always a divine distraction for his hands.

“What he did was tasteless. We’ve been over this.” He exhaled. “He had no form, no grace. He was sloppy and it was a disgrace to what we do.” Hannibal flicked his eyes down at the we. Will felt it. He didn’t correct himself- in his gut he knew there was no correction needed. “And what you do, alone.”

“Was there taste to the death you gave him?”

“No. He didn’t deserve that.” Will inhaled Hannibal’s cologne, the musky sweetness that made his head fuzzy. “Maybe the next one will be worthy.” Hannibal tightened his hold on Will, who kissed his chest, slowly, mouthed at the skin until he felt his heart beat in his lips. “I want to see it again.”

“See what?” Hannibal knew, the question was pointless.

“The basement.” The older man gave a nod, and Will looked up at him.

“You will. But let’s get you cleaned up first, dear boy. Have a shower, and I will make you something to eat.” Will thought to protest, but his stomach rumbled and he laughed, sitting up and raking a hand back through his hair.

“I can’t argue,” he admitted, “I haven’t eaten since...fuck if I know.” Hannibal frowned at that, raising his eyebrows. Will stood and made a mad dash for the bathroom to avoid the lecture he knew he was going to get, but Hannibal, to his credit, followed him, and stood in the doorway, half naked compared to Will’s fully nudity, arms folded over his bare chest, and chastised Will for taking such poor care of himself.

*

Will was glad when Hannibal finally left him be in the shower- heard him getting dressed before he made his way back downstairs, presumably to start making something- Will would have been happy with anything at that point.

In that moment, he was glad to wash away sweat and dust and stale rainwater. He lathered his hair up twice, rinsed soap from his body only to wash again. It felt like he was removing an outdated layer of skin- and when he stepped out, grabbing the fluffy towel Hannibal had left for him, he felt refreshed. He pressed his face into it, ran it back through his hair, sighing.

When he walked back into the bedroom, still naked, toweling off his chest and shoulders, he found Hannibal had left clothing laid out for him. He laughed at that, not hiding the grin on his face. He had a decent array of clothing left at Hannibal’s- at least half of which were things Hannibal had bought him, nicer clothing, more fit to the doctor’s style than Will’s. What Will found was a pair of warn jeans and a light weight blue plaid button down. Comfort clothing.

Hannibal knew him far too well.

*

Will was glad that Hannibal hadn’t cooked anything heavy- that he was seated in front of light, breakfast food despite that it was afternoon. As hungry as he was, he didn’t want food weighing him down. He’d gone long enough without eating that he worried he might upset his stomach. Hannibal seemed to have thought that too.

When they were done, Will followed Hannibal into the kitchen, fused that he wanted to help with the dishes, but Hannibal waved him off. “I have an appointment,” he said, looking at his watch, “soon. I will need to leave in about twenty minutes. I thought perhaps you would be able to drive yourself home, and I would come by later and spend the night.” Will smiled, gave his accepting shrug, and Hannibal leaned in, kissing his forehead. “Good. Now,” he steered Will away from the sink, walking him through the kitchen, back beyond a door, and Will’s heart began to skip a few beats as Hannibal dug into his pocket and placed a key against his palm. “You wanted to see it again, darling. Take a few minutes, before you lose the desire.”

Will opened his mouth to tell Hannibal he’d never lose his desire, then decided against it. Hannibal dipped his head, placed a soft kiss to Will’s neck, then left him. The key rolled in Will’s palm, before he pushed it into the lock, turned, and opened the door. He took a step into the darkness, his socks silent along the stairs as he descended into the blackness. At the foot he stooped, inhaled- exactly as he remembered- and closed his eyes. He stepped slowly, as he had the night before, only two, and then reached out, his hand on the light switch. In his mind he saw Hannibal’s hand, where it had been the night before- felt him pressed up against his back.

He opened his eyes and flicked the switch. Pale light flickered on, and Will took the room in again, for a second time- this time with a coherent mind. He began walking around it, pushing aside the hanging sheets of plastic. His footsteps seemed deathly silent- he wished he was wearing shoes. He wished he could hear the sounds bouncing off the walls.

He stepped towards the center after one full circle, brushing his fingers along the table where he had offered himself up to Hannibal. He sucked his lips into his mouth, wondered if every time he returned home after killing someone if he’d be rewarded as such. He knew it was a reward, Hannibal couldn’t hide that from him- and Will held no ill will against the idea. Killing Bradley Madison had been a reward itself- knowing there would be no more ugly disasters due to his hands was a relief. And it had felt good- it had been a vengeance he couldn’t take for Abigail, because he would rather rip his own organs out than dare to think of hurting Hannibal- not again. They were beyond that.

Will heard Hannibal coming down the stairs, but didn’t turn to face him. He felt his arms wrap around him, his lover pressing into his back, kissing at the back of his neck. “Do you like it?”

Will exhaled, a soft sigh. “Yes.” Hannibal’s hold on him tightened.

“It will be a shame to see it go,” he murmured into the base of Will’s neck, “but more pleasing to come home to you every night.” Will shivered, one hand reaching down and resting atop Hannibal’s, against his belly.

“I guess with all the shit that happened, we neglected to pick that conversation back up, didn’t we?” Hannibal chuckled.

“It seems we did.” He pressed his face into Will’s drying hair, smelling like their lavender shampoo- fresh and clean. “It can wait a few hours.”

“Tonight then?” Hannibal nodded. Will sucked his lower lip into his mouth and held it there, deciding that the fluttering in his stomach was excitement more so than nerves. Although he couldn’t deny the anxiety that was there, it was easy to latch onto the positive feelings and ride them out.

*

By the time Will arrived home, he knew Hannibal’s first appointment was nearly over. He’d have two more, and arrive at the house sometime before dusk, or there about. There was a routine here, one that Will could fall into.

The dogs were happy to see him, and he made a mental note to thank Alana for her endless help with them. He’d be happy when he didn’t have to ask for her help all the time. He stopped in the open doorway and scratched them all behind their ears, up along there backs, receiving happy kisses in return and sharp little barks and whines.

Will was barely in the house with the door closed when he decided he would take Jack up on the few days off. And he’d spend them right here- he was sure Hannibal would be willing to make the drive and spend a few nights. Even if he only spent that night, it would be something. And silently, Will had the thought in his head to cling to that this would all be over soon- the drives, falling asleep in an empty bed.

It made everything seem warmer.

He did a quick walk through of his neglected house, tried to straighten up a few things. There was still that feeling that the house just wasn’t fit for Hannibal. Then he gave up and headed to the bathroom, looking at himself in the mirror and running his hands along his jaw. He had half a mind to keep the short beard, if only to harass Hannibal- who had, upon kissing Will goodbye, given him a look and asked if he would be shaving before Hannibal came over. While he seemed to rather enjoy the stubble Will typically sported, it seemed this was a bit much for him.

Will snickered to himself and set about bringing his face back to the picture he was used to seeing in the mirror. Once the task was complete, he changed the sheets on his bed- another force of habit anytime he knew Hannibal was coming- threw the old ones in the laundry, and washed the kitchen counter and table. He knew that was the one room Hannibal would appreciate being clean.

As Will dropped the sponge- too used he decided for further use- into the garbage can, he wondered what it would be like to share a kitchen with Hannibal all the time. He didn’t think it could quite be sharing, but more of him inhabiting a space that Hannibal controlled. He didn’t mind, really- he had no ties or cares to his kitchen. It served its purpose. For Hannibal, it was a workshop. He could have it.

It felt strange, to be thinking about that. Will shoved his hands into his pockets, walked into his front room and looked at the clutter- organized, yes, but nothing pristine like Hannibal’s home. Would their home become a hybrid, or look like a checker board- one room Will’s, the next Hannibal’s, on and on until the house was mapped out. Will hoped it wouldn’t be like that- he knew he’d need a space, as would Hannibal, but there was something about their wolds mixing that made his stomach all fluttery in the best possible way.

Will looked at his watch, knew Hannibal’s last session was about over, and he would be en route soon. He decided there was still plenty of time for some mind clearing, and changed quickly out of his button down and jeans. The dogs saw the loose shorts he slipped into, the change into a pair of old sneakers dragged out from the closet, and began howling in excitement, running over to the door. He laughed, crossing the room and opening it, watching them burst out into the perfectly warm evening. Will hopped down the stairs, off the porch, and hit the grass running. The dogs chased after, barking excitedly, following him around the house and back into the field, off into the hazy evening.

*

When Hannibal’s Bentley pulled up to the house, the sky had turned to a deep orange, accented in brilliant hues of pink. He killed the engine and climbed out, pulling a bag from the back seat and slinging it over his shoulder- containing what he would need to make them a proper dinner that night. He walked up the steps, onto the porch, and into the unlocked house. He was met by silence, and quirked up an eyebrow- the absence of the dogs unsettling for a moment.

He made his way to the kitchen and unpacked the bag quickly, popping the meat from the small cooler bags into the refrigerator, and then walked through the first level of the house. “Will?” There was silence, and Hannibal was sure the entire house was empty. Frowning, he pulled his cellphone from his pocket, had no messages or calls from Will, and thought to call him when he saw the man’s phone sitting on the edge of his desk, by his fly tying gear. Hannibal sighed and walked back out onto the porch, fearful fingers beginning to slowly slip into his skull, until he heard the barking of the dogs. Sighing, Hannibal leaned against the railing on the porch, forearms resting on the wood, and watched as Will ran around the house, the dogs a blur around him. He looked at Hannibal and smiled, stopping to lean over and rest his hands on his thighs to catch his breath.

Hannibal smiled, liked the way Will’s curls stuck to him in his sweat, the way his chest moved rapidly as he caught his breath. The dogs caught sight of him and were bonding up the steps, circling him with wagging tails and kisses on his hands as he reached out to pet them. He chuckled, managed a scratch to each one behind the ear, before he gently shooed them off. They scattered around the porch and yard, as Hannibal made his way to the lawn to Will, who had straightened up then.

“Sorry, I must have lost track of time,” Will said, rotating his shoulders. “Felt good to just go for a run with the dogs.” His smile was broad, up to his eyes, a startling mix of blues and grays that in the setting light seemed like watercolors. Hannibal smiled and reached up, cupped his face and stroked his thumbs along his jawline- silently pleased with the fine stubble he found instead of the thick beginnings of a beard- and pressed his mouth to Will’s, who accepted the kiss happily, though his hands stayed at his side. He kept from pressing against Hannibal, giggling as Hannibal moved to nipple his jawline and tried to pull him into an embrace. “Hannibal- stop!” He laughed as Hannibal moved to his neck, nibbling. “Dammit, I’m all sweaty, I’ll ruin your clothes babe.”

Hannibal laughed into his neck at the affectionate term, and Will grinned more, struggling away. He whistled and the dogs all bolted towards the door, just as Will reached out and smacked his hand along Hannibal’s ass. “Let’s go,” he said, herding him just as he would the dogs, and Hannibal huffed but kept smiling playfully.

*

Once inside Will disappeared for another shower, and Hannibal went to the kitchen to wash his hands and begin on dinner. The dogs stretched out as they pleased, all except Buster who made his way to the kitchen, sitting right next to Hannibal’s feet and looking up at him. Hannibal looked down at him, then proceeded to pretend he didn’t notice the dog as he cut the meat, turning to drop it into the pan. He returned to his cutting station, Buster still watching, and lifted a small hunk he’d cut off at the dog’s first glance, and dropped it carefully.

Buster caught it before it hit the ground and he stood up, wagging his little tail happily and walking around Hannibal in circles. Hannibal chuckled, moving to cut up some vegetables to toss in the pan as well.

*

Will smelled dinner as he was stepping out of the shower. He toweled off and tugged his underwear on- the only clean clothing he’d thought to bring into the bathroom with him. He walked out, still toweling dry his curls, and heard a happy bark from the kitchen, followed by Hannibal speaking in a rather gleeful voice- though not in English. Will stopped his course to his dressed, then turned and walked into the kitchen instead- found Hannibal had dinner set out on the table-

But instead of sitting at the table waiting as was his usual pattern, he was standing with his shirt sleeves rolled up, a few buttons popped, holding Buster in his arms and cradling him so the dog was happily squirming. Will quirked up an eyebrow, letting his towel hang over his shoulders as he folded his arms over his chest. He cleared his throat and Hannibal stopped, looking over at him, and Will barely contained his laughter.

“So do you actually come to see me, or the dogs?” Hannibal smiled at him, and set Buster down, who wagged his tail, looked up at Hannibal for a moment, then rushed off towards the living room, past Will. The younger man broke into laughter then, watching Hannibal brush the dog fur from his shirt. “At least I won’t have to worry about you giving the dogs away while I’m out,” he pointed out, and Hannibal rolled his eyes, closing the gap and pulling his nearly naked Will up close, closing a hand around the flesh of his ass and squeezing, leaving Will breathless for a second.

“Careful,” he breathed, his nose just brushing along Will’s jawline, “Or I’ll eat your heart, darling.”

Will’s smiled turned into a faint smirk, his laughter a low chuckle as he reached up and caught Hannibal’s chin, holding him steady. “Not if I eat yours first,” he whispered, giving Hannibal a quick kiss and then turning to go find some clothing.

*

It was dark by the time they had cleaned the kitchen up. Hannibal was nursing a glass of wine and a book, settled comfortably in Will’s bed, while Will made sure the door was locked, his own whiskey sloshing in the glass he held. When he was content the house was locked up for the night, and the dogs were settled, he crawled over Hannibal, letting the man tap his book against his ass as he did so, and leaned into the pillows, taking a swallow of whiskey.

He watched Hannibal reading, his wine glass within reach on his nightstand, and swirled the whiskey in his glass. “I was thinking...” Hannibal made a small hmm sound, not looking up, and Will chewed his lip for just a moment. “The house isn’t gonna look like a checker board, is it?” Hannibal looked up then, quirking up an eyebrow. “I mean, like, one room is yours, one is mine, all over the house so that there’s no...blending.”

“How would you like it to look?”

“Like a home.” Will didn’t hesitate. He took another drink of his whiskey. “Not like it’s just two people living there. I know we’re going to need our own space, but...I want it to be ours, not yours and mine.” Hannibal smiled, closing his book and settling it in his lap.

“Have you been thinking about this?” Will nodded.

“Yeah, this afternoon. A lot while I was out with the dogs. I figured the kitchen is yours, and that you’d like that.” Hannibal smiled at that, an appreciative smile. “Maybe we can have a joint...office? You can draw, I can work on my flies. That’d be nice.”

“It would,” Hannibal agreed, “And it can happen. It will happen.” Will nodded.

“And the basement,” he whispered, “I want that to be ours.” Hannibal stared down at Will, who looked up at him, offering a small smile- a genuine one, but something laced in it that made Hannibal’s heart thumb slightly. “Did you think I would take it away from you?”

“I...was not sure,” Hannibal admitted, “We seem to have neglected my past actions, as of late.” Will nodded, looked down into his glass and swallowed down the last of the whiskey. Hannibal took the glass he offered out and placed it on the nightstand as Will took his book and set it on the mattress, crawling onto him and straddling his thighs.

“Then let’s stop neglecting them,” Will whispered, arms wrapping slowly around Hannibal’s neck. “Maybe it’s time you got your hands a little dirty again.” He felt Hannibal’s hands running along his sides, gently, but his eyes were dark. He wanted, Will could see. He wanted so badly.

“William-“

“For me,” Will nearly cooed, leaning in, mouth hovering over Hannibal’s, before deciding to trace along his jaw, to his ear. “Kill for me, Hannibal.” He breathed the words into his ear, felt Hannibal go rigid for a moment, and Will smiled to himself.

“What has brought this on, Will?” Hannibal asked- because Will had never asked this of him- no, only with Matthew, and there was reason there. This was a kill for Hannibal’s sake- for his reasons, which varied drastically from Will’s. Or had.

“I know how good it feels,” he breathed, “And I can’t deny that from you.” He nipped at Hannibal’s ear. “Bring the Chesapeake Ripper out to play.”

Hannibal pressed his face into Will’s neck, breathed him in and mouthed against his skin, holding him tightly. The man in his arms felt so perfect in that moment, and Hannibal’s chest was swelling. He wanted to ask Will what he wanted exactly- who did he want, how did he want Hannibal to do it, how would he like them prepared?

Would he come with him? Did he want to watch? Hannibal was nearly shaking, and he wanted in that moment to go out, he needed it, it was aching in his fingers tips and up through his veins. But he held it in, just as he held Will in that moment, and whispered, “Anything for you, beloved.”

Chapter Text

Will heard the knocking on his door from his sleep. He groaned, buried his face deeper into Hannibal’s chest and ignored it, the man sleeping beneath him as well. It came again, and Will furrowed his brow, forcing himself up and glaring, drowsy eyed, at the front door. With a groaned he climbed over Hannibal, who mumbled to him that it was early, and Will wondered how early if even Hannibal was still in that drowsy state.

Stumbled over Winston, who had lifted his head, and worked on the lock, feeling goose flesh beginning to break out on the backs of his bare thighs as his body missed the heat of Hannibal’s body. He pulled the door open, blinking against the sunlight, and found Beverly smiling at him, Alana at her side.

“Good morning,” Beverly offered, eyes drifting along Will, taking in the massive amounts of exposed skin. In just his underwear, there was plenty to see.

“What time is it?” Will asked, stepping back as Beverly opened the screen door and slipped inside, followed by Alana.

“It’s after ten,” Alana said, “Where you still in-“ She stopped, reaching up to cover her mouth as she looked at Will’s bed- more specifically, at Hannibal, sitting up with the blanket pooled in his lap, one rubbing his temples and the corners of his eyes with one hand in an attempt to wake up.

“Well shit,” Beverly said, openly staring at Hannibal in his unclothed glory. “I will call next time. Or. No. Who am I kidding, no I won’t.” She stuffed her hands into her jean pockets. “I’ll just swipe your spare key or something and let myself in.” Alana was still silent next to her, eyes flicking from Will to Hannibal- who was awake now, and watching.

“Give us a minute,” Will mumbled, feeling slightly embarrassed.

“Oh come on now,” Beverly said, “Hannibal we’ve seen Will in his underwear a hundred times, I think we can handle to see you in yours. Here, I’ll even show you mine.” She reached for the button on her jeans and Alana gave a startled cry, reaching for her and dragging one arm away. Will sighed, shaking his head.

“As flattered as I am that you would enjoy stripping for me, Ms. Katz,” Hannibal said, “I’m afraid you have caught me in a rather...ungentleman like position.” Beverly quirked an eyebrow, and Will raked his curls back.

“He’s not wearing anything Bev,” Will finally admitted. He slipped behind the two, opening the door and the screen door and whistling. The dogs got up and made a dash outside, and Will held it open, staring intently at both Alana and Beverly. “I wouldn’t be either if I hadn’t gotten up in the middle of the night to let the dogs out. So give us a minute?”

Alana nodded, tearing her eyes away and heading outside. Beverly walked slowly, backwards, openly craning her neck in the hopes of getting a better look at Hannibal, and Will had to grab her by the arm and drag her outside himself, closing the door and relocking it before she could try to get inside.

There was a moment of silence, and then Hannibal was laughing, taking his head as Will walked over. He hooked an arm around his waist and dragged him closer, pressing an open mouthed kiss to his tummy. “Ms. Katz can be terribly rude at times.”

Will smiled, reached down and ran his hand through Hannibal’s hair, as his head dipped lower, another kiss to the trail of fine hair that led to his groin. “She’s not for eating,” Will teased, and Hannibal laughed against his belly- more form the joy of having Will so openly joke with him than from the actual humor.

“I believe that is Alana’s job.” Will choked then, leaning over and losing it, laughing to the point that he tumbled onto the bed, sprawling over Hannibal’s laugh.

“Find a way to say that in front of them,” Will said, rolling onto his back and stretching, “They deserve a taste of Beverly’s medicine, for all the shit she put me through about you.” Hannibal smiled, managing to squirm free of Will and get up. Will watched him stretch, licked his lips, and really wished their morning hadn’t been interrupted.

*

When they walked onto the porch a few minutes later, Will had thrown on a pair of jeans and was still tugging a t-shirt down over his chest and stomach. Hannibal had slipped into his pajamas, which seemed to throw Beverly off just as much as seeing him naked had. “So what’s with the early morning visit?” Will asked, shoving his hands into his pockets and leaning back against Hannibal, looking past his friends and at the dogs as they happily romped around.

“It’s really not early,” Alana said, knowing full well that Hannibal and Will were both usually up at a decent hour. Will shrugged a shoulder.

“It is if you’re up half the night.” He gave a wicked smile, the kind that made Alana blush and Beverly give a little squeal.

“Killing me Graham,” she said, leaning against the railing. “But I know that feeling. I wasn’t too keen on rolling out of bed either. Not enough sleep.” She winked, causing Alana to blush further, and Will was sure they had discovered a wicked game here- one he wanted to continue, but Hannibal had a hand on his hip and squeezed, gently, speaking before he could again.

“Are you ladies hungry?” Hannibal asked, offering a charming smile. “Perhaps breakfast is in order.”

“Breakfast,” Alana said, giving Hannibal a thankful look for silencing Will and Beverly, “Sounds amazing.”

*

Breakfast was simple- at least, for Hannibal’s standards, Will knew- but the omelettes he dished out for everyone as they settled around Will’s kitchen table were still filling the house with a smell that had the dogs whining. Will caught Hannibal dropping a small chunk of egg right into Buster’s waiting mouth, and had chuckled to himself over it.

“So Will,” Alana said, sitting across from him and trying to catch his gaze behind his glasses, “how are you?” Will shot her a glance, then shrugged as he shoved a forkful of egg into his mouth. Alana frowned. “You went through a lot of trauma in a short amount of time-“

I’m fine.” Will spoke firmly- more so than he meant, and he looked down at his plate to hide it. Alana clamped her mouth shut, watched as Hannibal reached his hand out, rested it on Will’s thigh beneath the table.

“They informed her mother.” Beverly traced the rim of her glass, the orange juice having gone untouched. “Jack called me early this morning and let me know. While we wanted to check in on you- I wanted you to know. In person.” Will nodded.

“How did she react?” Beverly sighed.

“She was pretty calm. I don’t know for sure.” Will gave a nod. Suddenly, he wasn’t very hungry. He set his fork down.

“I want to go see her.” There was silence, and Hannibal’s hand on his thigh tightened- but in a comforting way.

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” Alana said, but Beverly was reaching out, covering her hand with her own, nodding to Will.

“You want to apologize?” Will nodded. Beverly gave him a weak smile. “I’ll take you, then. I could go for an apology myself.” Will smiled back at her, his ribs feeling tight in that moment, and he wanted to tell Beverly he loved her. Not in the way he loved the man touching him gently then, never in the way he could love Hannibal- but in a way all her own.

Will ended up sneaking his plate down to the dogs to finish the breakfast he had barely touched. He knew Hannibal saw, as much as he tried to hide it, but his lover only kissed his temple as Will walked past him to find a button down to throw on over his t-shirt. He left it open, old green plaid over his heather gray shirt, and left Alana and Hannibal in the kitchen as he and Beverly walked out to his car. Despite her offer to take him, he was rather happy to have her sitting in the passenger seat, rolling the window down and letting the warm breeze catch in her long black hair. She smiled, and Will exhaled, because everything felt alright.

*

“I’m worried about Will.” Alana was standing next to Hannibal, running a dishtowel along the plates as he handed them to her, then stacking them neatly on the counter. He handed her a glass which she took, staring at her skewed reflection in the glass. “That was a lot of trauma, Hannibal.”

“Will experiences massive amounts of trauma and fear all the time, thanks to his work.” His words had the slightest of bite to them. Thinking back to his Will being terrified made him irritated. And while Will definitely had lost a lot of the fear he’d harbored when he was ill, and in the beginning of their relationship, Hannibal knew there was still some there. Somewhere- it’s causes had simply changed. “I would argue that he has begun to cope with them rather well.”

“And I’m sure you’re to thank for that.” Alana set the glass down and accepted the one he held out to her. “But I’m still worried, Hannibal. Will needs some way to relieve all of this.”

“He has his hobbies.” Hannibal briefly thought of Will’s voice inside his head, telling him how to cut Matthew open, where to put which parts. He didn’t think Alana would find that a healthy hobby- even if Hannibal thought it to be one of the most helpful for Will. The only other hobby that might do better for his beloved was Hannibal himself. “He has his lures, his dogs. He still fishes, if he ever finds the time.”

“He needs someone to talk to.” Alana sighed when Hannibal frowned at her. “No offense Hannibal, but someone aside of you. Aside of Beverly, aside of me. We’re invested in Will, we’re biased. And he has something to lose with us, if he misspeaks. Will needs someone with no real tie to him.”

“Are you suggesting Will needs a therapist, Alana?”

“Yes.” The corner of Hannibal’s mouth twitched.

“And you do remember what happened the last time you suggested a therapist?” Alana frowned, tossing the dish towel onto the counter.

“Do not blame that on me, Hannibal. I shoulder enough guilt over what was done to Will, I do not need you adding to the weight.” He turned to face her, and her fists were clenched, her eyes alive with a crackling anger. “I still lose sleep over it, over what happened. If you think for a second I meant for that to happen, or that it doesn’t haunt me, than you don’t know me nearly as well as you like to think.”

Hannibal watched her, the way her lips were parted to let her breath rush out. Her aggravation was beyond what he had anticipated from her. “You care for Will.”

“Of course I care!”

“Do you still harbor feelings for him, Alana?” That shut her mouth tightly, and Hannibal sighed, feeling fatigued over this already. He hadn’t seen enough of Will lately, not with the case- and having the keep him pieced together left him feeling tired. He would have liked for the lull to return that they had enjoyed, it left so many calming doors open- it left the path to a domesticity that he secretly appreciated. The only positive he was seeing from this chaos was Will testing his comfort boundaries- and finding that yes, doing bad things to bad people really did feel good.

“Maybe I do,” Alana finally replied, folding her arms, “And maybe I still have feelings for you, too. Maybe I have a lot of feelings I’m trying to deal with myself.” She shook her head, laughed softly at herself.

“And what of Beverly?” Alana laughed more, nervous sounding.

“Oh trust me, she’s part of the problem.” She leaned a hip against the counter, looking up at Hannibal. “How’d you know, with Will? How’d you know you could trust him enough to let him in?”

Hannibal exhaled, slowly, saw Will atop him in his living room, wild, calling him a murder. He saw Will staying, even after he knew what Hannibal did, even after he saw his eyes with the protective film peeled away, raw and exposed. He swallowed the lump in his throat.

“I simply did,” he said, “I let him in, and he did not leave.” Alana nodded, rubbing her hands along her upper arms.

“I’m afraid to let her in.” She sucked on her lower lip for a moment, something Hannibal wasn’t sure he had ever seen Alana do. A nervous, Will trait. It seemed he had found his way inside everyone. “But I think I already did, a little. I just don’t know.”

“Agent Katz seems rather taken with you.” Hannibal reached for the towel Alana had discarded, drying his hands finally. “I think she would be a fine opportunity to explore.” Alana said nothing, and Hannibal reached out, covering one of her hands clutching at her arms with his own.

“She’s terrified for Will,” Alana said in a rush. “She was so...so broken, after what happened. I’ve never seen Beverly actually break, in any way- except...when Matthew...” She trailed off, swallowed, felt like her throat was on fire. “But she’s worried, Hannibal. She loves Will- but she saw something.” Hannibal’s grip tightened on Alana’s arm- just a little, and he felt his heart thud once. What had Beverly seen? “Whatever she told Jack, it’s not what happened. Will shot Bradley Madison point blank, with no threat to his own life. He did it out of cold blood.”

“He had reason to.” Alana frowned.

“There’s...there’s no reason for that, Hannibal. You cannot excuse that. If I didn’t have such a fondness for Will, for you...for her, I would have gone to Jack myself over this.” He could see in her eyes that Alana was torn, probably for truly the first time in her life. She was such a moral creature, so grounded in ethics, so set in her black and white views- Hannibal respected her mind, and while he saw the method to her thoughts, he did not agree with them. “Will needs to talk to someone, before he does something he regrets.”

Hannibal sighed. He needed to soothe this over, he knew. He couldn’t have Alana looking at Will suspiciously. He held far less concern for what Beverly may be thinking- while he did not know her as well as he knew Alana, he could read that she held starkly different views than Alana. He was curious if her views would sink into Alana’s and muddle them, or if eventually the two would become simply incompatible. Truthfully, he hoped for the former- not just to allow Alana to see the truth of the world- the countless, endless shades of grey that coated everything and everyone- but because there was something about the two together that he rather liked, even if he saw little of them.

“He doesn’t need to see a therapist indefinitely,” Alana said, “Just for a little while. It was a deadly force encounter, and Jack is going to want the same thing- except he won’t be gentle about it. He doesn’t know what Will’s been through. So, please Hannibal, I’m asking you- do you have anyone that you trust?”

Hannibal pulled his hand back, turning back to the sink for the last few dishes left behind. He left her waiting a moment, until he passed her a final glass, and said as she lifted the dish rag, “I can think of one person.”

*

Beverly was laughing as the pulled up to the quiet neighborhood. She shouldn’t have been, they were both sure, but she was- as was Will.

“He’s going to get dog hair on all his nice suits,” Beverly teased.

“I know. I’m sure it’s going to be a lot of trial and error with the dogs. But-“ Will shrugged, “he loves them. I caught him cradling Buster yesterday like a damn baby.” Beverly howled, leaning over and smacking her hand on the dashboard.

“I can’t even picture that. You two living together is going to be priceless. Have you started looking at houses?”

Will killed the engine. “I haven’t. He mentioned last night that he’s done a little preliminary looking. I think I’m going to leave that to him- he knows what I want, I trust him to keep that in mind.” He gripped the steering wheel and looked ahead, at the quiet house, his smile falling away. Beverly followed his gaze, her won dropping, and reached over, running her hand up along his arm.

“We’ll talk about it later,” she whispered, squeezing gently, before she opened her door and pulled away. The two stepped out, and Will shoved his keys in his pockets, walking just in front of Beverly up to the door. He rang the doorbell before his nerves could give out, and tried to roll over in his head what he’d say to this woman. He just felt he owed her something- a sorry I couldn’t save either of your daughters. Let her know the bastard would never hurt a woman again. He’d made sure of it.

There was silence, and Will knocked this time. Next to him, Beverly fidgeted. “Maybe she’s not home,” she said, but Will was shaking his head.

“Her car’s in the driveway.” He looked over at it. “Pretty sure they only have one car.” He was thinking back to the endless information he’d collected on the family. There was the possibility they had a second- what with Anna being of driving age, and the recent death of their father- in which case it could be very likely that she was indeed out. Still, something felt odd to Will.

“We can come back later,” Beverly said, reaching for his arm. “How about we drive for a bit? Tell me about what you want in a house, Will.” She was smiling, and it was lovely, and Will could almost fall for it, but a look through the glass around the door frame into the dark house had him pulling away. There was a dark spot on the welcome mat, a little puddle. It shouldn’t have stood out- not with all the rain they had had recently, but then again, rain would have dried by now. It was something recent.

Will tested the door knob, but found it locked. Frowning, he began feeling around the door frame, before turning away and looking around the porch. Beverly frowned. “What are you doing?”

“Looking for a spare key.” He tilted a potted plant, frowned when there was nothing. “With daughters the age Anna and Wendy were,” the word choked Will up for a moment, and he hesitated, swallowed the lump in his throat, “she would need a spare. I’m sure they forgot their keys plenty of times.”

“But why?” Will lifted a little statue, grinning when he found the key tapped into the curved base. He pulled it free, walked over to the door, and unlocked- Beverly gasping next to him. “Will! You can’t just do that-“

“Something is wrong.” He opened the door, pointed to the spot on the welcome mat. “Can’t be rain, it would have dried by now. They have a dog- this is what mine would do, if I didn’t let them out. By the door, because it’s at least close.” Sure enough, they took one step in, and the dog- Basil, Will remembered- was coming out of the living room, whining, tail tucked down. Will crouched down and whistled to her, scratched her behind her ear and hushed her affectionately. “Something is definitely wrong,” he said, looking up at Beverly. Instinctively, she reached towards her hip- but her gun was not with her. She hadn’t thought she’d need it on a casual visit to see Will.

Neither had thought to bring a firearm to see the grieving mother of two dead girls.

Will stood up, keeping a hold on Basil’s collar until Beverly had pulled the door shut. When he let go of her collar she trotted away quickly, and Will followed. Beverly called out to him, but he didn’t stop, and she followed, cursing under her breath. Will turned into the living room, stopped the moment his shoes hit the carpet, his heart stilling in his chest.

She was slumped on the couch, her head tipped back so her throat was exposed. Will stared as Basil walked part way over, whined, and then looked back at him. He felt Beverly move up next to him, heard her breath escape her. Before she could touch him, Will was moving, walking along the carpet, around the table, and bending over her, reaching for her neck. He pressed his fingers to her pulse point, but her skin was cold. There was nothing.

Her eyes were opened, along with her mouth, and it was silently terrifying. Will looked away, a half empty cup on a small table beneath a lamp next to the couch- an array of pill bottles left open, empty around it. Will turned away, reaching up to rake his hand over his face, skewing his glasses. He pulled them off, almost angrily, and found Beverly staring at him, silently.

Her chest squeezed tightly at the look in his eyes- the look of desperation, of anger. The look of defeat.

*

Beverly drove Will’s car home. He was silent- the promised pick up of their conversation about house hunting was gone. Will leaned his forehead against the glass and watched the trees merge into one blurred mess.

“You couldn’t have done anything,” Beverly said, not looking at him. “For her. She was depressed after her first daughter’s death- remember? Honestly, this might have happened even if...”

“If Wendy hadn’t died as well?” Beverly nodded.

“Yeah. That.” She sighed. “It was out of your hands Will. She...she did this to herself. You didn’t force those pills down her throat.”

“I know.” He lifted his head, looked over at her. She wasn’t smiling, and he missed it, desperately. He wanted something to light up the atmosphere. Her smile or Hannibal’s eyes or Alana’s laugh. Just something. “It doesn’t make it hurt any less.”

Beverly nodded, reaching over and taking one of his hands, squeezing. She glanced at him only as he lifted it, pressed his mouth to her knuckles. She swore she could feel his guilt seeping into her blood from his lips. It made her stomach ache.

*

Beverly didn’t force Will to get out of the car. She let him sit there and made her way into the house alone, finding Hannibal and Alana sitting in the living room, mid discussion. She heard the name Cat, and knew Alana must be pestering Hannibal about the article she had asked Will to help her write on that killer that had gotten away. She hadn’t heard Alana speak of it in a little while, and thought perhaps she had let it go.

Apparently not.

“Where’s Will?” Hannibal asked, taking in Beverly’s solitary state, and frowning. He could tell by the way her hands fiddled together something wasn’t right. Next to him, on the couch, Alana was watching as well.

“In the car.” Hannibal’s heart sunk an inch at the tone of her voice. “There was a...problem.”

“What kind of problem?” Alana sounded alarmed, looked taught, ready to burst up from her seat. Hannibal wasn’t sure if she would run to Beverly, or past her and out the door, to Will.

Beverly exhaled, and it seemed almost painful. “Wendy’s mother was dead.”

*

Hannibal crossed the yard, alone. He had finally dressed, after Will had left- feeling strange sitting with Alana in his pajamas. Under the afternoon sun, his light weight button down with the sleeves rolled up warmed considerably, and had he simply gone outside for a stroll with Will, it would be pleasant. Now it felt a little suffocating.

He opened the car door, where Will was still sitting, and leaned in, reaching for Will’s chin and turning him so he could look into his eyes. Blue- very blue, the grey seemed to have dissolved. The sun played tricks with Will’s eyes, Hannibal knew- but he swore the man’s emotions did as well. And this blue was breath taking, but sad. Hannibal’s chest ached.

“Come here William,” he whispered, stepping back, and Will climbed out of the car, slipping into Hannibal’s waiting embrace without hesitation. He pressed his face into Hannibal’s chest, inhaled his cologne and heat and sighed. The heavy guilt in his stomach began to dissipate. “You are not to blame.”

“Beverly told you?” he mumbled, and Hannibal nodded.

“She did.” Will tipped his head up, and Hannibal stroked along his cheek with his thumb, offering him a loving smile. “How about you and I have a walk, Will? Perhaps the dogs would like the exercise.” Will looked past Hannibal, at the house, knew Alana and Beverly were inside, and Hannibal turned him so Will had no choice but to look into his eyes. “Pay them no mind, they will understand. Come.” He stepped back, took Will’s hand, walking slowly towards the door to gather up the dogs.

*

Beverly and Alana had understood Will’s need for solitude- for Hannibal, and Hannibal alone. They had slipped out to leave themselves, and Will could only think perhaps Beverly needed a little comfort as well. Her eyes were dark, and looked tired- aged beyond her. So different from the smile he had seen earlier.

He’d squeezed her hand before she left. He’d almost wanted to kiss her, but he wasn’t sure he could explain why. Not the type of kiss he would give Hannibal, but something to make her laugh. To make her smile.

They were pulling away when Hannibal and Will stepped outside with the dogs running around them, and started for the fields behind Will’s house. They were silent until the house had shrunk behind them, the dogs had scattered happily at a comfortable distance around them.

“Alana and Beverly are worried for you,” Hannibal said, one hand in his pocket. The other was waiting for Will’s, when the man chose to take it. For now both his hands were in his pockets.

“Are you worried about me?” Hannibal sighed.

“Not to their degree. But I do feel concern, William. You let yourself get very close to this girl.”

“And she was ripped away. I should learn to stop doing that.” He stopped walking, laughed bitterly at himself. “I shouldn’t try to build a family. Everyone just dies.” Hannibal frowned at that, looking at Will intently.

“Do you fear that I am next?” Will stopped laughing, his heart freezing up. “Does that plague your sleep, Will?”

“A lot of things plague my sleep, Dr. Lecter.” Hannibal’s frown deepened. “Should we pencil me in for my old time slot with you?”

“I cannot be your therapist, Will.” Hannibal stepped closer, wanting to touch Will so badly his fingers twitched, but holding off. “I can be your friend. I can be your lover. But I cannot regress back to that. Too much has happened between us.”

Will scuffed his foot along the grass. “I suppose you’re right.” He sighed. “Don’t tell me they want me to see a...therapist.” His mouth tasted sour, and Hannibal could see Will’s mind thinking back. He reached out, took his hand despite wanting Will to make the move, pulled Will in against his chest and held him there.

“Yes. And they also know they cannot suggest one to you. They are concerned because of your previous experience, Will. As am I. They want therapy to help you, not hinder you.”

“I don’t need therapy,” Will whispered.

“Be that as it may, Alana raised a very crucial point to me, earlier. Jack is going to insist upon it, because of your killing Bradley Madison.” Hannibal leaned in, brushed his nose through Will’s curls and could smell the sun warming them. “If you take the step yourself, it may calm his mind. It may help calm Beverly and Alana’s minds. Whatever Beverly saw of you, darling, it has her shaken. And thus, Alana is as well.”

Will sucked on his teeth. “Alana tell you all this?” Hannibal nodded. “Even if you’re right...even if I should see one, I can’t just talk to any psychiatrist about what’s kicking around inside my head.” He gave Hannibal a small smile, and Hannibal couldn’t help but lean in, kiss him gently, breathe him in until Will was giving him open mouthed kisses and reaching up to wrap his arms around his neck.

“I know,” Hannibal breathed, feeling almost light headed from the sweetness of Will’s embrace and mouth. “There’s too much beauty in your skull for most to understand.”

“You understand.” Hannibal smiled affectionately, reached up and thread fingers through Will’s hair.

“Yes. Because you let me. And I, in turn,” he leaned closer, his nose bumping Will’s, making the younger man give a small giggle that had Hannibal’s arm around him tightening. “Return the favor.” Will nodded.

“Do you have someone in mind?” Hannibal’s hand flattened along the small of Will’s back, his hand carding all through Will’s hair and stopping at the base of his neck, resting there.

“I do,” he admitted, “And I assure you, my beloved Will, you will be in caring, capable hands.” He leaned in loser, tilting his head slightly, breathing against Will’s mouth, “You will be safe.”

He kissed him again, and Will fell into it, under the warm sun, with the smell of grass and heat, the sounds of the dogs barking and running about all around him. He fell into Hannibal and he forgot about the dead woman and his guilt, even if for only a brief few minutes. He forgot the world, except for the one he found sewing threads between the two of them.

Chapter Text

Will cast his line out and enjoyed the soft splash it made, the feeling of the sun on his back and shoulders. He reached up, adjusted his cap, and inhaled, closing his eyes. The sounds of the water calmly moving around him were soothing. It had been too long since he’d gone out fishing- and he made a silent promise not to let it go this long again. The soothing company of nothing but water and warm air had been horribly missed.

Part of Will wished he could convince Hannibal to join him. He knew he would always want it to be something of his own private world, but it would be nice to let Hannibal in from time to time. He tried to picture Hannibal dressed for the occasion, and nearly lost himself in laughter. It seemed impossible to tear down his well dressed facade so well.

He smiled to himself, inhaling deeply, losing himself completely as the world around him darkened. Hannibal had let him into his own personal world, Will felt he at least owed it to him to offer. He’d showed him that small locked treasure trove under his home- the basement that Will could easily smell. Bleach and a hint of lemon and copper and wet dust. He could hear the plastic move, could see it fluttering behind closed eyes, draped from the ceiling. He realized he was no longer standing in the river, but at the head of the table settled in the basement, facing the stairs.

He watched as Hannibal emerged from the darkness, somehow the light had settled only on Will’s small inner circle. The man was smiling, clad in his plastic suit over a fine plaid one. Will leaned forward, bracing his own gloved hands on the table, looked down and saw the same plastic covering his arms. When he moved he heard it, and his stomach gave an excited flip.

“You waited for me,” Hannibal said, and Will walked around the table, eyes not leaving Hannibal, ignoring the body that was draped over the cold table.

“Of course,” he breathed, leaning in. The plastic ran together, made an array of squeaks that had Will laughing as Hannibal stole a kiss, reaching up to rest his clean, gloved hands on Will’s face, fingertips just touching Will’s hair- the curls that had been calmly smoothed back, so that Will appeared himself in Hannibal’s image. Will smiled into Hannibal’s mouth, dragged his tongue along his lower lip, before he pulled back and looked at the body resting atop the table. She was naked, with darkening bruises along her neck. Bruises that would fit Will’s hands perfectly.

“You did so well,” Hannibal whispered into his ear, inhaling his sweet scent, the earthy kind now that was free of illness. “Do you like using your hands?”

“Yes.” Will’s words echoed in both their heads, and Hannibal was producing a knife from a small box he had set on the table, handing it to Will.

“She is all yours,” he cooed, kissing his cheek. Will smiled, leaning over the body, touching the tip of the blade to her belly, pressing down but not puncturing.

“What do you want?” Will whispered, as Hannibal slipped an arm around his waist and watched. “What part of her?”

“What would be your choice?” Will shrugged a shoulder, before he pressed the knife in and very carefully opened up her belly. Flesh parted with ease for him, and he ducked a hand inside, feeling slick heat radiating into his gloved hand. Hannibal smiled, leaned in to nip Will’s ear lobe. “I wouldn’t mind her kidneys, my boy. Perhaps we’ll cut some meat from her legs. I can think of so many ways to put her to use.” Will nodded, could smell meat sizzling, hear Hannibal shifting it in the pan, sprinkling the seasonings on. He loved to watch Hannibal in the kitchen, felt he didn’t see it enough.

He closed one hand around a kidney, other hand diving in with the knife to cut it free. He lifted it out, and Hannibal offered up a dish to set it in. He held it, almost like an offering, while Will cut the other free, dropped it into the porcelain to leave behind pink smears.

“I want you to cut,” Will whispered, as Hannibal set the dish carefully aside. He took the knife, bloody as it was, and Will leaned in, kissing his cheek. “Flay her thigh for me,” he whispered, “I’m sure it will be delicious.” Hannibal chuckled, turning and catching Will’s mouth.

“Not as delicious as you,” he murmured, and Will laughed into the kiss, breathless, as if the two were sitting on his porch and not deep inside Hannibal’s basement, Will’s gloved hands bloody, having been pressed into the dead girl’s body. The dead girl he had picked, he had killed, he had brought. His offering.

His turn to provide the meat.

Will’s eyes snapped open, and he was standing in the stream again. He inhaled, and it was water and heated grass, no blood, no cologne. He sighed, pulling his line back and casting again. The water parted with a pleasant splash again, and Will let himself fall into the calmness, even as his belly rumbled gently, and he could taste Hannibal’s cooking in his mouth- could imagine sucking his lover’s fingers into his mouth was he fed him.

*

Will was curled up into his bed, face pressed into his pillows that night, happily inhaling Hannibal’s scent. While he hadn’t seen him that day- Hannibal had gone home the evening prior- his scent lingered from where he had last slept, and Will couldn’t get enough of it. He was somewhere between placid wakefulness and dreams when he heard it, the soft footsteps outside, on the porch. Scuffing, flesh on wood. He sat up, looked over at the dogs, but they were calm, sleeping peacefully. He wondered what time it was, knew he had to get up in the morning, return to work after his few days reprieve- but for some reason he didn’t seem to think to look at the clock. All he did was swing his legs over the side of the bed and get up, pad his way to the front door in his boxer briefs and nothing else.

He unlocked it, opened the door, peeked out the screen door in the dark and then opened it. There was no one on his porch, but he took a step out regardless, looking around. He walked to the steps, touching the railing before descending them, bare feet on old grass. The air had just enough chill to make him want to crawl back in bed, his near undress state leaving him vulnerable.

He walked towards the tree that seemed to puncture his yard, stopped a few paces away, staring up, catching the eyes of a girl who was sitting atop a branch, kicking her legs happily.

“Wendy,” he whispered, and she smiled at him.

“You promised to take me away again,” she called down, “Just one more time.” Will nodded, feeling dumb, wanting to reach up and wrap her in his arms and cradle her to him- but as she shifted, leaned back to look up at the sky past the thick branches and canopy of the tree, he could see the red stains all over the belly of her shirt, dark and angry, nearly black. His breath left him in a rush.

“But you’re dead,” he whispered, more for himself than anything else. “You’re dead.”

“That never stops you.” Will turned, startled, was pierced by blues eyes so vibrant his breath left him. Abigail was watching him, her lips the perfect pink, the scar along her neck retaining the finest hint of that pink.

“Abigail,” he breathed, then in a whimper, “Oh Abigail.” He didn’t move towards her, he just watched. He was afraid that if he did, if he reached out to touch her, she would vanish, dissolve into the air itself. He knew she was dead.

Behind him, Wendy was scrambling to get down from the tree. Will looked back at her, watched her move in an awkward sort of grace. She walked past him, flashing him a playful grin, and made her way to Abigail, taking the older girl’s hand. Will stared at the two, felt his eyes watering, but he bit the tears back, choked down the sob in his throat.

“You two were perfect,” he whispered, “I don’t like to see perfection go.”

“You make perfect.” Abigail’s voice seemed to echo through the world around him, crack the sky open above him. “She told us so.”

“Who told you?”

“The masterpiece.” Wendy looked up at Abigail, as if to make sure she had spoken properly, and the older girl nodded. “She told us you make art, just like the girl who made her.”

Will’s heart thudded in his chest, ached. He didn’t say anything, until Abigail was looking away, off into the distance.

“We’re going to go, Will,” she whispered, clutching Wendy’s hand tighter. “We’re going to go for a while now. You don’t need us.”

“I always need you,” he whined, reaching out. “Abigail, I always need you. Hannibal needs you. We’re-“

“Family?” Abigail shook her head. “No, Will. None of us were. We wanted it, but we couldn’t lay the foundation. You don’t have it in you to open up so intimately to anyone except Hannibal for family. Neither does he- not anymore.” Will frowned, confused. Not anymore? “Family for you is simply Hannibal. Family is home Will. And home is what you make of this world.”

The two gave Will one final smile, and then Abigail turned them, walking off towards the line of trees that seemed black in the distance. They never made it, the dissolved, became the air that circulated around his world, into his lungs, back out and up to the stars. They became everything, and nothing.

Will closed his eyes for a moment, inhaled, opened, and it was a different stare looking at him. Blonde curls and an open belly, a smile he liked and didn’t. It felt strange, like it didn’t fit Julie’s face- like it was someone else’s.

“I lose them, but I have to keep you?” She shrugged gently, eloquently, her arms open and held down, wrist and tender flesh bared.

“Does it matter? We’re all dead, Will. You know that.” He nodded.

“Then why am I seeing you?” He reached up, raked a hand through his hair. “Maybe I do need therapy.”

“There’s a lot in your head,” Julie pointed out, “That you don’t want someone wading through. A lot of beasts kicking up dust that no one would understand.”

“Except Hannibal.” She didn’t protest, and Will sighed. “I wish you’d go away, already. I’m exhausted, I’m sick of seeing you.”

“You thought I was beautiful.”

“When you were dead. When you didn’t talk.” His voice had venom, bitterness. It was true- she seemed to lose her beauty here, the grace of the cuts Cat had administered, the way she had been rearranged. It was as if all the beauty had been shoved in a suitcase and thrown about, left in a jumbled mess, and he didn’t have a diagram to guide him in re-configuring the design.

“I can’t go away,” Julie said, finally, “Not until you see, Will. Not until your eyes are fully opened.” She walked towards him, held out her hands and brushed them along his cheeks. She was cold, like river water ran through her veins. “Until you admit what I am, I’ll always be here.”

Her mouth moved as if she might kiss him, but her breath ghosted over his lips- scented faintly like something soothing, warm and familiar, and he closed his eyes but the kiss never came. Instead, when he opened them, he was curled in his bed, breathing in Hannibal’s cologne and knowing what was the air that had caressed his mouth.

*

Walking through the halls at Quantico felt somewhat strange, for some reason. Perhaps it was the stares, the nods of approval from the men and women Will passed. A few stopped to clap him on the shoulder and tell him good job and that’s one less sick bastard out there Graham. He shrugged the touches off and said the bare minimum, hiding behind his glasses, making a quick escape towards Jack’s office. He stopped the knock, heard the man’s gruff response, and let himself in, pulling the door shut tight behind him.

Jack was at his desk, pen in hand, jotting a note on some paperwork. He looked up and the pen froze when he saw Will. “Will. I hadn’t expected you back yet.”

Will crossed the room and eased into one of the chairs with a small groan. “I wasn’t sure when you expected me back myself. Didn’t want to over stay my little...vacation.” Jack nodded. Both of them knew it hadn’t been a vacation, but a necessity. Will could recognize that now- especially after finding Mrs. Moss.

“I wasn’t sure you were going to come back.” Jack had settled the pen down and folded his hands atop his desk. “You told me that was your last, Will.”

Will gave him a small nod, arched his shoulder so his arm rested along the back of his hair and onto the arm. “I did.”

“Have you reconsidered, then?” Will sucked on his own tongue. He hadn’t thought on it- and he should have. But his lack of thought told him all he needed to know.

“I have.” He had no intention of leaving, as bad as the work could get for him. It had felt better, this last one. Better than the cases where they found the sick bastard and then he was gone, out of Will’s grasp and whisked away through a system that Will wasn’t sure actually worked. And it hurt to see the good ones get swept away-

He thought of Cat’s disappearance, her picture and name on one of the Most Wanted lists, and fought down his secret smile.

“So you’re staying?” Will nodded.

“I couldn’t give it up,” he admitted, “Not when I can save lives.” Not when I can take them. Not when there’s bad to be done to bad people. It was skewed vision, Will was sure, but he had stopped caring. It was his- and he was different from these men and women. Hannibal was different. Cat had been different. They were all together a breed all their own, and he felt an oddly staggering amount of obligation to weed out the impostors. He wanted both to protect and to maim. This job allowed him both.

Will wanted to prove that he was better than all the others. More so than nearly anything else, he wanted to assert his dominance. He wanted to envelope everything every other killer was, strip them down to their bare bones, and build himself a body out of the best. He could become anything, he could become everything- and he would pick and choose exactly what built him up. He would create himself as a masterpiece, in the image he so choose.

The image he wanted was Hannibal.

“Glad to hear it,” Jack said.

“But I won’t bait again.” Will’s voice was steady and stern. “The moment you want to bait a killer by getting into bed with Freddie Lounds, you can take me right off the case. It’s distasteful, Jack.” The man sighed, but nodded his agreement. Will smiled then, charming. “So what have you got for me now that I’m back in the saddle?”

“Paperwork.” Jack laughed at that. “There’s plenty now that we’re closing that case.”

“Not putting me on another one?”

“Not yet.” Will nodded.

“What about the other body we found, in Baltimore? Close it without me?”

“Yes. It was very straight forward- you were right. We got an ID on the girl from a local hospital, tracked her down. Found her dead in her apartment...suicide by over dose.” Will’s charming smile faltered.

“Seems to be a pattern.” He sighed. “You’re sure it was suicide?”

Jack nodded. “It makes sense. She was sloppy, probably knew she messed up and we were going to find her.”

“Yeah, but what about her motive?”

“Maybe she knew the girl from the man’s case. Either way, it’s closed Will, strike it from your mind. I’m more concerned about what’s in your head anyway.” Will gave a knowing half smile.

“Then you’ll be happy to know I’ll be seeing a therapist.” Jack quirked up an eyebrow. “For a short time, anyway. To work through the...stress of shooting Bradley Madison.”

“I am happy to hear that. Did Dr. Lecter have anything to do with this?” Will’s half smile turned into a full smile. “Then I owe him a good bottle of wine, he’s saving my beauty sleep. Lord knows I need it.” There was a pause, then- “I hear a rumor you and the good doctor are planning a move.”

“Did Beverly tell you this?” He made a mental note to get her back for that, but Jack was shaking his head.

“No. She told Price and Zeller, and I over heard the two. Good for you, Will. Dr. Lecter seems to be exactly what you need.” And thus what you need, Jack? Since you need me fully functioning? Will wasn’t angry in his mind, it was just a fact. He still harbored a tame respect for Jack, a slight friendship.

“I won’t argue with that.” Will leaned forward, settling his hands into his lap. “Hannibal’s a dream, I won’t deny it.” Still, that didn’t mean he wanted to discuss his relationship with Jack. It was one thing with Alana or Beverly- with close friends, but Jack was outside that. With him it only felt awkward. “How is your wife doing, Jack?”

Jack’s face went dark, and Will knew the answer wasn’t good.

*

Will felt out of place, pressing his finger to the doorbell. He was inside Hannibal’s world- where everything was too nice to touch, pristine, he could break it all with one cross look. That’s what this was, he knew. He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his pants, was sure he should at least have a jacket and tie on- but it was warm and he couldn’t imagine that. He didn’t know how Hannibal ever managed in his suits come the summer heart.

The door opened and jarred him from his thoughts, and he was greeted with a professional smile. Perfectly kept blonde hair, cool eyes, and Bedelia Du Maurier looked ever bit as if she had stepped from a portrait.

“You must be Will Graham,” she said, stepping aside, “Please, come in.”

Will stepped inside, out of the heat and into a pleasant chill. He followed Bedelia through the house, into a perfectly sculpted and kept room, the curtains on the large windows left open so it was lit by natural sunlight. She settled neatly into a chair, and Will fell into the one opposite her, acutely aware that she was watching him.

“I have heard so much about you,” she offered, “That I feel as if I know you.”

“You don’t.” Will kept the bite back in his voice- it was nothing personal. He was sure she was lovely- he was sure there was merit to her, if Hannibal continued to see her, even if he talked almost never of it. Yet he was not comfortable with anyone else in his mind. The only reason he was willing to attempt this was because Hannibal trusted her. He wouldn’t let what had happened to Will before, by Matthew’s hand, happen again.

Hannibal would protect him. Just as Will protected Hannibal, and his secrets.

“Then allow me to,” Bedelia countered, folding her hands in her lap. “You come to me from Hannibal Lecter, and I must admit, had anyone else requested I see a patient, I would have denied them.”

“Hannibal is persuasive,” Will admitted, “He gets what he wants.”

“He got you.” Will clicked his tongue.

“Did Hannibal explain our relationship when he set this up, or did you know from his sessions?” Bedelia gave Will a small smile. It was guarded, somewhat cold, but pretty to look at. She was pleasing, calming, all around. She didn’t warm him like Hannibal did when he reached into Will’s head, but she wasn’t terrifying.

“I cannot discuss Hannibal’s sessions with you,” she reminded Will, “You will have to ask him directly what we discuss. But I will concede that I was previously aware, and as I said- I’ve heard so much about you that I feel as if I know you. But, please William, allow me to properly meet you. Where would you like to begin?”

Will was thankful she wasn’t going to press him to discuss Bradley Madison’s death. He was thankful she wasn’t pressing him to talk about his relationship with Hannibal. He was thankfully she was giving him the floor, and he could ease into her with mundane topics and pointless, trivial facts. He could test the water-

And he knew she knew he was testing them.

*

Hannibal checked his watch. It was about six, and he was sure Will would be arriving home soon from his first session. He was curious what his lover thought of Dr. Du Maurier- of the questions she may have asked him. Curious, but not concerned. Bedelia would tread with Will as she did with Hannibal- allowing glimpses of the creature inside the person suit, and pushing only when necessary to continue the conversation. Only if she thought Will might make some use of it. She wouldn’t unravel him, wouldn’t pull him from the suit he was stitching.

Hannibal saw it, as if Will was building a chrysalis around himself. He wondered if his lover knew it was happening, or if he was simply mimicking Hannibal based on instinct. Either way, it was flattering, and beautiful to watch.

And entirely unpredictable.

Hannibal removed his watch, setting it on his kitchen counter. He rolled his sleeves up, before snapping on a pair of gloves, and making his way to his basement door, He unlocked it, dropped the key in his pocket, and walked down into the dark. He could hear breathing, ragged, knew his guest was awake, and it made him smile. At the foot of the stairs he grabbed an apron he had left hanging there- thick clear plastic, and carefully fastened it around him. There was no need to fully suit up for this, not in such a controlled environment.

He flicked the light on and walked towards the table. He had fastened leather straps around it the night prior, after returning from Will’s, when he had known what needed to be done. Now, they securely held a man, mid thirties, to the table- one even along his forehead, keeping his head from moving. He couldn’t see Hannibal from where he stood- not that that mattered much. He would never have the opportunity to speak again.

Hannibal walked over to the foot of the table, bending down to pick up the small box settled on the floor by its shiny handle. He opened it, plucked out a freshly sharpened scalpel, examined it in the artificial light. It gleamed, perfectly sharp and ready, and Hannibal ran his eyes over the man’s exposed torso.

“I’ve put a lot of thought into you,” Hannibal said, pressing the scalpel into his belly and drawing a very precise line. The man tried to jerk, but was held steady. Hannibal stopped his cut at the leather strap just belong the man’s ribs, before he set the scalpel aside and lifted a metal bowl as he reached a hand inside, grasping the man’s intestines and pulling with what seemed like inhuman ease. “Considered what my beloved might like best from you. It would be a shame to disappoint- after he asked this of me.” Hannibal lifted his scalpel, was careful with his cuts, even as blood leaked onto the table from the wound. “And I do believe this will please him for the mornings to come. I simply cannot let him go about such tiring days on an empty stomach.”

He pondered the man, watching him bleed, and inhaled the sharp scents of fear and copper. He hummed his approval, his tongue darting around against his lips. “It’s a shame that I’m going to have to let the life bleed out of you before I finish. But I cannot have you thrashing while I try to roll you over. I wouldn’t want to ruin my cut.”

Hannibal tapped the scalpel against the table, content to bide his time and wait for the man to bleed his way to death. After all, he had been terribly rude when Hannibal had visited the tailor he worked for, bringing measurements to have Will fitted for a few new shirts. He would have liked to have brought Will with him, but he had been terribly busy with his case. Now, Hannibal was almost glad his lover had been absent, it would be a lovely surprise to have something so succulent for dinner.

Hannibal contemplated dressing Will up in the new clothing he had picked up that day for him as well, to mark the night as a special occasion. He could imagine the lovely teal cotton resting against Will’s skin, a few buttons undone and the sleeves expertly rolled up, as he pulled a morsel from his fork with expert teeth and gave those small moans from the back of his throat in approval at the fantastical taste on his tongue.

Chapter Text

Will had called Hannibal one he returned home, but had only gotten his voice mail. He shrugged it off and changed, took the dogs out for a run, which ended with him laying in the grass on his back as they crawled over him, tugging on his shirt and covering him in happy kisses. It was calming, a pleasant end to his evening, which had been relatively pleasant as it was, despite his ideas that it would be anything but. Bedelia had been rather easy to talk with, even if their session had been very superficial, discussing the dogs and Will’s time management, his hobbies. They had left Hannibal otherwise undiscussed, and his job, which seemed...strange and yet smart, all at once. She had let him control the first session, he was sure the next she would begin to pick away his skull.

He wasn’t sure if he still hated the idea. She didn’t put him at unease like most would. Perhaps it was because she was just as intimate as Hannibal’s mind- granted, he knew she only saw a fragment over it, but still. It put him at ease to think Hannibal went through the same exploration by her talented mental fingers.

He forced himself up and wrangled the dogs inside, took a quick shower, and was wondering around in his underwear, contemplating dinner when his phone began ringing from where he had left it on his desk. He grabbed it and gave a quick “hello?” without looking at the caller ID.

“Will. It’s Jack. I know it’s your first day back but-“

“You’ve got a body?” Will felt relatively at ease with the thought. He wondered towards the kitchen, wondering what he might be able to grab and eat on the go.

“Not just a body.” Jack’s voice was deep, excited and yet trepiditious. Will stopped but the sink, his heart giving a flutter in his chest, and he heard his own voice inside his head, bring the Chesapeake Ripper out to play.

“The Ripper.” He heard Jack make a small sound. “Where?”

“Just outside Baltimore.” Will nodded.

“I’ll be there as quickly as I can. Text me the address.” He ended the call and left the kitchen in search of clothing, his appetite raging with a ferocity now- one that wouldn’t be satiated by anything he could create.

*

The body had been left, displayed in a small park outside of Baltimore. It was nearly nine o’clock by the time Will was stepping out of his car, his curls tamed and pushed back into a fashion he had seen behind his own closed eyelids. He passed by a few agents, one of which was Brian Zeller, who had to give him a double take to even recognize him. He followed him as he walked, Will shooting him only a quick glance.

“You got plans after this?” he asked, and Will only smiled.

“If I’m going to be in Baltimore this late, then a visit to Hannibal is in order.” He stopped, could see agents hovering around a bench, set under a large tree, and knew the body was waiting. “Have you seen it yet?”

Zeller nodded. “Yeah. It’s definitely the Ripper. He’s been-“ Will raised his hand, silencing him.

“Don’t. I want to find out for myself.” There was the faintest of smiles on his lips, and his blood was hammering through out his body. He didn’t want anyone to spoil the gift Hannibal had left him. He caught Jack’s eyes, but the agents, and gave him a nod. The older man gave the order, and the agents fell back immediately, moving away, as he made his way over to Will, clapping a hand onto his shoulder. He said nothing, just gave him a nod, and then was leading Zeller away, leaving Will alone.

He walked towards the bench, slowly, circling around to see the body waiting. His stomach was entirely cut open, the skin removed and rolled u neatly, tucked under one arm like a scroll. The open cavity had pins stuck within it, holding muscle and tissue together. They were so thin Will could almost believe he could snap one if he tried.

Will crouched down, looking at the cavity, smelling blood and tissue, and sucked on his lower lip. The pins were put in so perfectly, held everything together like a diagram, that his heart was thudding with excitement. He stood, walked around the nearly naked man, crouched down at the back of the bench and looked through the slants in the wood. There were even, deep cuts along his back, on both sides of his spine, the flesh and meat removed. Those same thin pins were inserted through the flesh, aligned so precisely that Will wanted to reach out and run his fingers along them. Instead he stepped back, closed his eyes, heard the pendulum in his head and saw it distort the darkness behind his eyes.

When he opened his eyes he was standing over this man, strong, large hands gloved, scalpel teasing along flesh, opening his belly. Will grinned, because the hands weren’t his own, but he knew them so intimately.

“I cut him open with acute precision,” Will whispered, “I knew exactly what I am looking for. I have a plan for this man.” Will reached inside with the scalpel, pulled out his intestines and cut them away, settling them securely out of the way. “I will watch him bleed. I risk damaging him if I roll him over for the final cuts.” Will closed his eyes, could smell the blood as it seeped, skipping ahead as if he could play God in that moment, and then opened his eyes and grabbed the body. He rolled the man over, digging his scalpel into his back and slicing along his spine. “This cut has meaning. This action has meaning. I’m no longer tormenting, no longer baiting. No, I am courting, I am displaying my skill for my beloved.” Will sighed, and the words that came from his mouth were no longer in his voice, but in Hannibal’s accent, “I am leaving my darling a gift.”

Will’s eyes opened and he exhaled, realized he had walked around the body and was staring at it again. Jack was closing in, he heard his footsteps, and he cursed his presence. He wanted to rip his gloves off and examine the body intimately. He wanted to reach into the cavity of his body and feel Hannibal’s perfect cuts. He wanted to see if his lover had left him any surprises.

“What are you thinking?” Jack asked, and Will folded his arms.

“It’s the Ripper,” he whispered, trying to keep his voice from shaking. “You were right there.” Jack nodded.

“Alright. This is a top priority, then. Will, I want you on this case. He’s going to kill again, and soon. We’ve got a small window to get him, if he keeps his pattern. He’ll be hot for maybe a week or two, then nothing, cold.”

“He’s broken his rhythm before,” Will whispered, “Don’t hold him to it now. He might be leaving us another body as we speak. He might be leaving us ten.”

Will closed his eyes for a moment, pictured Hannibal hard at work in his basement, a body on the table, opened up as he harvested the best there was to offer. Another strung up, opened and being bled. He shivered, wanted Hannibal to turn around and come over him, to kiss him open mouthed, guide him to a body and hold his hand around Will’s smaller one, give him a scalpel and guide his cuts until they were perfect.

“We’ll get this body back to the lab ASAP, have a full autopsy done.” Will nodded. He turned, saw Beverly was crouching by the body, holding a small light and peering into it.

“He took his intestines,” she whispered, and Brian was behind the body, looking at the spine.

“He cut him back here too. Took two strips, right along the spine.”

“He must be making filet mingon,” Jimmy threw in, in his light, joking voice. Brian laughed, but Jack’s face stayed very serious. Will swallowed, his stomach grumbling at him hungrily.

*

Beverly hadn’t given him an option- she had looked at him as they were leaving the scene and told him she’d stop by his house, that he should go see Hannibal. There had been something in her eyes, a sort of desperation, and Will could only think she feared this would throw him over the edge.

He wasn’t going to argue with her, though. He wanted nothing more than to see Hannibal in that very moment. He didn’t call, simply got in his car and drove. When he got to the house, he sat in his car and stared for a moment, saw the lights on, and checked the time. Just after ten. With a deep breath to calm himself, he let himself out of his car and made the quick walk to the door, unlocking it with his key and letting himself inside.

*

Hannibal heard the door open, heard Will’s steps as he didn’t bother with his shoes and made his way right for the kitchen. He reached for his wine glass, took a large sip, and smiled as he plated the last clump of mushrooms, just as Will walked in. Hannibal looked up at him through his loose bangs, stopped when he realized Will had styled his hair, was wearing a solid black button down instead of flannel. He looked as if he were trying to be Hannibal.

“William,” he said, smiling coyly, “What a lovely surprise. I had hoped you would come. Did you enjoy my work?” Hannibal watched Will walk around the stove, reaching up with both hands to grab his face and pull him in for a kiss. Hannibal was taken aback by the ferocity within Will, all open mouth and punishing tongue. He moaned around the muscle in his mouth, felt Will press right up against him.

“Beautiful,” he whispered, pulling back and nudging Hannibal’s nose affectionately with his own. “A breath of fresh air from what I’ve seen.”

“I knew it was what you needed,” Hannibal whispered, his heart alive in a way only possible around Will. He wrapped his arms around his waist and held him close, dipping his head to nip at his neck and inhale deeply. That Earthy scent, and something faintly sweet. Hannibal chuckled. Will had put cologne on- something very unlike him. It had been hard enough for Hannibal to get him to discard his horrid aftershave. When he had bought him the cologne, well over a month ago, it had been left in his dresser untouched, and Hannibal assumed it would stay there.

But Will had done himself up as if he intended to seduce Hannibal. It made the psychiatrist shiver. Will tilted his head as Hannibal mouthed along the skin, licking gently. “That smells delicious,” he whispered, and Hannibal raised his head, looking with Will at the two plates he had sitting on the counter. He smiled, and still holding Will close, lifted his wine glass and took a sip. He offered it to Will, who flicked his eyes, and Hannibal turned it so that Will’s mouth rest where his own had as he drank down a generous sip of the liquid.

“Filet Mingnon with mushrooms and a Pinot Noir sauce,” Hannibal said, “I thought it would fit your palette very well.” He untangled from Will, lifting a plate and offering it to him. Will grasped it, following Hannibal once he had picked up the other to the dining room. They settled into their seats- Hannibal at the head, Will at his right, and the doctor poured Will a glass of wine to match his own, before settling in his seat. “Tell me, what were the reactions at the scene?”

“Jack is beside himself,” Will said, carefully cutting into the meat, “He put me right on the case.”

“Wonderful.” Hannibal pierced a morsel with his fork, lifting it. “So I will have you as my judge. I would have it no other way, beloved.” He plucked it off the metal with talented teeth and tongue, and Will watched, his own fingers tracing along his fork, before he lifted it to skewer the small bite he had cut.

“Good,” Will said, “I’d be rather disappointed if you wanted someone else taking such an...intimate look at your work.” He kept his eyes on Hannibal as he slipped his fork into his mouth, chewing with the curve of a smile on his lips. “Mmm, this is delicious.”

“Isn’t he?” Hannibal cut another piece, while Will reached for his wine, taking a gentle sip after inhaling for a moment. “This is a far better use for him.”

“Who was he?” Will took another bite, Hannibal’s heart thumped every time he did so. Every morsel swallowed was another moment of sweet acceptance- not that Hannibal feared rejection. Not now.

“No one important. I am sure Jack will tell you tomorrow.” He reached a hand out, covered Will’s with it. “He was terribly rude when I was picking up a few things for you, and that simply would not do.”

Will took another bite, perfectly cooked meat and the mushrooms an explosion of flavor along his tongue. “Buying me things?” He raised his eyebrows. “And here I came empty handed.” Hannibal chuckled.

“You never need bring me anything but yourself and your mind.” He lifted Will’s hand, leaned over to kiss it, running his thumb along his knuckles. “But if you feel the need to return the gesture, I am sure I can think of a few things you can do for me, sweet Will.”

Will grinned, liking the sound of that.

*

The lab was a buzz when he entered. Confused, Will slipped around people, making his way towards Jack’s office. He was about to grasp the handle when it was opened and Jack nearly walked right into him. The two froze, Will jumping back a step.

“Good, you’re here.” Jack’s voice was serious. “We’ve got a hot one.”

Will furrowed his brow. A body? Hannibal hadn’t said anything about another body- in fact, Will had teased him, once they’d crawled into bed, and before Will had crawled on top of him, but Hannibal had said there had only been the one. So far.

“The Ripper?”

“Don’t know,” Jack admitted, “Could be. Ride with me, we’ll meet the team there.” Will gave a nod, following Jack, running his hands along his hips, feeling the lump in his pocket. He almost wanted to ask Hannibal if it was him- but he didn’t dare. Not even in a text. He would simply have to wait and find out.

*

It was almost dizzying to be back in Baltimore for a second time that morning. He’d barely left, it felt like, even if the drive was over an hour to Wolf Trap to check on the dogs, and then more time added onto that to get to the lab. Will stared out the window, fiddling with the cuff where one of his sleeves was rolled up. While he’d insisted on jeans, he had let Hannibal pick his shirt, and had ended up in a deep teal button down, sleeves expertly rolled up, a few buttons popped. He’d refused a tie and threatened to carve Hannibal open if he even tried.

Hannibal had grinned and laughed at him. Part of Will thought Hannibal might have wanted him to give it a shot- even if just for a minute or two.

“So how’s therapy?” Jack was navigating through the busy traffic. Will shrugged a shoulder. “Maybe it’s not polite conversation, but I’m curious. Considering you wouldn’t let anyone but Dr. Lecter into your head, until you let that other guy. Oh, what was his name-“

“Matthew.” Will clutched at his bare forearm, dug his fingers in. “And it’s fine. Dr. Du Maurier is Hannibal’s therapist- I trust her, because he does.”

“Isn’t that a little bit of a conflict of interest?” Will shrugged again. The shirt move along his collar bone and chest as he did, silky and light.

“Maybe. But it’s more acceptable then me asking Hannibal to play that role as well.” Jack’s silence told Will he aggreed, and he enjoyed it for the remidner of the ride into the city.

Another apartment complex- similar state to the one before. Will climbed out of the car, closed it just as he heard a camera snap. He jerked his head, saw Freddie Lounds behind the lens, smiling, and gave her a glare, which she caught, then turned and made his way inside with Jack.

Zeller and Price had beat them there, but not by much. They were still navigating through the local PD. Beverly was no where in sight. “Okay,” Jack said, “Point us in the direction of the body, and then no one touches anything until Will is done.”

One of the officers pointed to an apartment door, jerking her head. “Kitchen, to your right when you walk in. Watch your step, it’s a mess.” Will nodded, and didn’t wait for an invitation. He knew his purpose. He slipped inside, closed the door behind him, listened to the clack of the lock working. The light was on- he assumed turned on by an officer. He walked down the narrow hallway, stopped at the doorway on his right, and peeked into the small kitchen nook.

When they had said mess, they hadn’t been joking.

Will took in the massive amounts of blood smeared over the old, stained tiles. Slumped in a chair, over the table, was what remained of the body. Will’s eyes darted around the room, he inhaled once and nearly gagged on the blood that invaded his throat, and then closed his eyes, willing it all back, until things fell into places they belonged that he didn’t know.

“I killed him in here,” he whispered, “in the kitchen. He didn’t put up a fight. He...watched.” Will stepped onto the now clean tiles, towards the man slumped back in his chair, drool trickling down his chin. He ran his hands through the man’s cold, untamed hair, before walking to the counter, tapping his fingers along it. “I came almost empty handed. I wanted to do this with your own objects. Your own possessions.” He opened a drawer, pulled out a large cutting knife and examined it. Compared to the fine cutlery he was used to seeing in Hannibal’s home, this looked like plastic trash.

Still, walked walked over, sliding the flat of the blade along the man’s arms, before he grabbed one, slammed it down on the table, and began sawing at the man’s wrist. He gurgled, his eyes jerking but glazed, and Will let the blood spray up onto his shirt as he cut through tissue. He couldn’t sever the bone, and in his frustration and jerked the man’s arm, dislodging him from the chair and sending him spiraling down to the floor. He stomped his hell down onto the bone, over and over again, until the fragile bites began to shatter, until it was a mess and he could pick and pull and cut and tear-

Until the hand was free.

He dropped it on the table, got down on his knees, and began with the other. “You won’t need them,” he whispered, “Don’t deserve them. You can bleed out and watch in your drug induced stupor, as I take away your only claim to power.” He stomped on bone again, repeated the actions until the second hand had been dropped onto the table. Then he rested his hands on his hips, staring, frowning.

“No,” he whispered, “No, there’s not enough blood. This is taking too long. You have one more thing- something as useless and worthless as your sorry excuse for a brain, but you think it has power.” He kicked the man until he rolled onto his back, his arms jerking, spraying blood along the floor. Will crouched down over his thighs, grabbed a handful of his crotch, and grinned. “Allow me to take that from you, too.”

Will’s eyes fluttered open, his breath hissing out. He had known when he’d seen the scene that this wasn’t Hannibal- too messy. He clicked his tongue, made his way carefully into the kitchen, stepping around the blood smears. One looked like it may have had a decent foot print. There were pools beneath the man, where his arms had dripped from their uneven stumps. Some had spilled down his pant legs, from the gnarled bloody mess his groin was. Will had a bitter taste in the back of his throat.

He reached out, gloved hand grasping the man by the back of his head, and lifting it. His jaw was stretched open, and stuffed inside, spilling out, were his genitalia.

And below the mess was a neatly folded piece of paper, stiff with saliva and dried blood.

*

Will let the rest of the team in. Zeller and Price went right to work, snapping a good shot of the foot print Will pointed out. Jack stood with Will in the door way of the kitchen, a look of sick distaste on his face.

“Not the Ripper,” he said, and Will was shaking his head.

“No. But it resembles that other case- the one you said was closed.”

“It is, the girl is dead. No way she could do this.” Will shrugged, watching as the paper was photographed, then bagged. He wanted to get his hands on it.

“Maybe she has a friend.” Jack said nothing, and Will turned, peeling his gloves off and heading outside for some fresh air.

He had his cell phone in hand by the time he hit the sidewalk, and was about to call Hannibal when he heard that damned camera again. He whirled around, and Freddie was standing closer than he imagined. She lowered her camera, gave him one of her sharp, conniving smiles.

“So good to see you, Mr. Graham.”

“Obviously the pleasure is all yours.” He had the sudden image of her gutted and let in Hannibal’s basement while he sauteed her lungs and fed the little morsels to Will with his talented, bare fingers. Will fought down his smile. “Couldn’t find something better to do?”

“Third murder in a very short time frame. Would you care to comment on that?” Will shook his head. “Shame. Can you at least tell me if they’re all the same killer?” Another shake of his head. “You’re no help, Mr. Graham.”

“Not my job to be.”

“I’d argue it is. If you’re saving lives you’re helping.” Will frowned.

“My job is to catch these motherfuckers. My job is to be better than them.” With that, Will turned on his heel, jabbing at Hannibal’s contact and calling him, hoping to catch him before his patient got there to clue him in on what was up- there was something so pleasing and soothing about describing cases to Hannibal.

*

When he got back to the lab, he found Beverly waiting for him in his classroom, perched on the corner of his desk, holding a thick folder. He raised an eyebrow, walking over to her and dropping his bag. “Bringing me surprises?”

“Everything we dug up on the Ripper’s latest victim. And all our reports.” She set it down. “I heard you were at another scene?” He nodded as he flipped it open, looking at the picture of the man. “Was it wild? Jack had me locked up here with this guy.”

Will shrugged a shoulder, reading down his short biography. Worked for a tailor in Baltimore. Will looked down at the shirt he was wearing, and Beverly caught the gaze, raising an eyebrow.

“You look good. Hannibal dress you?” Will nodded, and she laughed. “Man, let me borrow him sometime. I’d like to let him dress me.”

“Alana could dress you.” Beverly shrugged.

“I think I prefer Hannibal’s tie collection to Alana’s heels. For me, anyway. ‘Lana rocks those babies, I just don’t feel like dealing with the after math foot ache.” She grinned, and Will settled on the desk next to her. “So what, are you working both cases? That’d be stretching you pretty thin.”

“I could handle it.” Will knew there was nowhere to go with the Ripper case- beyond making sure that no evidence that could incriminate Hannibal ever surfaced, as if there ever was any, there was such a lack of evidence to begin with, it would be a waste of time for him to sit and stare at reports and pictures. As beautiful as the pictures were. “There’s nothing for us with the Ripper case. He was clean, as always.”

Beverly nodded. “So what about this new one?”

“Remember that scene Jack thought could have been the Ripper, until we got there?” Another nod. “A lot like that.”

“Shit. That girl is dead.”

“Well then maybe she didn’t act alone.” Beverly turned, leaning closer, and Will could smell the faintest hint of her perfume, those warm sun flowers and the fresh cotton that clung to her shirt.

“You really think so?” Will tapped his fingers on the desk.

“Only way to find out is to dive in.” Beverly gave Will a smile, one he returned. He could handle both, he knew. Even if he didn’t know exactly how the Ripper case would pan out, he could. There was something intriguing about this new one- loose threads he wanted to pull on until he found the spool they came from.

There was more there than met the eye, he was sure. And Will was feeling powerful- alive. He’d pulled a trigger and it had changed things again. The ghost of his joy was passing invisible to the world- except for Hannibal, and it left him feeling hungry for more, craving something he could sink his teeth into. He was looking for a challenge.

Chapter Text

“Absolutely not.” Jack was sitting at his desk, staring at Will, as another agent was handing him papers to sign that needed to be mailed off quickly. “I need your full attention on the Ripper case.”

“The Ripper case could be cold already.” Will was leaning against the back of the chair, hands grasping it. “Listen Jack, I’m better use on this case. So is Beverly. Put us on it. We’ll work the Ripper on the side- if there’s any sort of break in that we’ll but everything on hold and focus on the Ripper.” Jack shook his head.

“No. Just...no. The Ripper is our top priority.” Will frowned. “I’ll let Zeller and Price analyze the evidence, and bring it to Dr. Mallick. She helped us with Bradley Madison’s profile, she can do this too.” Will clicked his tongue, but said nothing, turning and leaving Jack’s office. Instead of heading back for his class room, for the solitude and darkness he needed in order to concentrate, he headed down towards the morgue. He grabbed a pair of gloves, passing by- saw they had the man’s mutilated body on the table, checking it over. Zeller was holding a clip board, and Will walked over, snapping his gloves on. Both men looked up at him, and he gave them his most charming smile.

“Can I have a copy of the autopsy report, when you’re done?” Brian raised an eyebrow.

“Aren’t you on the Ripper case?”

“Yeah, but I’d like to see it. These murders are so different from the Ripper- comparing the two might help me think. There’s so little to work with, I need anything I can to get my mind going.” Zeller looked at Jimmy, who shrugged, and then Brian nodded. “Thanks.” Will left, giving them a small wave without looking back, smiling to himself that the lie had gone over so well.

His next stop was evidence. The agent working with the paper found at the scene didn’t bat an eye when Will asked to take a look- went so far as to walk away without being asked, to give Will privacy. Will couldn’t have asked for more. He unfolded the paper, finger tips poised on the edges, his lips moving slowly as he read it.

Like Laima, I will decide his fate. We will not be relegated to the position of object. If the law will not punish these men, then we as fate will.

Will looked around, tugged his phone from his pocket and took a quick snap shot, then slipped it back in and folded the note up again, leaving to get the agent who had been working on it and thanking him with a clap on his shoulder. On his way back to his classroom, he openly smiled at himself.

*

When he pulled up to his house that night, there was a car waiting for him. He wrinkled his brow, killed the engine, and climbed out of the car, found Alana sitting on his steps, the dogs out in the yard, plus one- Applesauce was romping around with them.

“Hi,” she called, and he walked towards her, stopped a few yards back, standing in the middle of the yard.

“What are you doing here?” For a moment Will thought perhaps he had asked her to check on the dogs, that he was supposed to be in Baltimore and not Wolf Trap- but a quick mental check told him no, he hadn’t had plans to see Hannibal, as much as he’d like.

Alana stood up, walking over to him, brushing out the wrinkles in her dress. “Just stopped by to check in.” She smiled. “Applesauce wanted a little company.”

Will laughed at that and invited her in. When she smiled and mentioned that dog with the silly name, he couldn’t say no.

He offered her coffee, but she declined- too late, if she wanted to get any sleep that night. “I’m about to broach the subject of your therapy.”

“I assumed you would.” Will settled into a chair, one of the dogs curling up by his feet. “And you can relax- Dr. Du Maurier is rather...relaxing. I don’t mind talking with her, yet.” Alana nodded. “And she doesn’t drag up memories of...him.”

Alana’s eyes widened, as if she hadn’t expected Will to mention Matthew, and he shrugged a shoulder. He was cradling a glass in one hand, swirling the whiskey inside it. He took a sip. “Your concern over my mental state is...endearing. But not necessary.” Alana frowned.

“You open your mouth, but I’m hearing Hannibal’s words.” She stood up, sighing. “Sometimes it’s still weird to think of the two of you together. But it’s stranger to think of a time when you weren’t.” She walked over to his desk, running her fingers along it. “Sometimes I dream about you two being the same person.”

“Then we have that in common.” Will took another sip of the whiskey, thought of slipping into Hannibal’s head when he had reconstructed the last Ripper killing. There was something so fiercely intimate about it he had to force himself to stop- it felt wrong, with Alana in the room. It felt voyeuristic.

“Did you ever look over the draft of that article I gave you?” Will jerked his head towards her. He knew she was changing the subject on purpose. For a moment he considered trying to slip into her, but stopped himself. That just seemed rude. “About Catrina Perilloux?”

Cat. Will closed his eyes, saw her red lips and the secret smile they held hidden- a knowing smile, a talent smile. He saw the first splash of color from one of her tattoos creeping up her neck. He saw excellence.

“No.” He opened his eyes, and Alana was frowning. He didn’t want to see what Alana had to say about her- because it would be all wrong. Her words wouldn’t fit- they’d be clinical, when they needed to be lyrical. They’d be cold and sharp as a scalpel, when they needed to be warm as his palms. Worse, Will couldn’t correct her. He couldn’t defend Cat, not when it would only make everyone look at him with suspicion.

“It’d mean a lot to me if you would.” She leaned against his desk, watching him. “I have a journal asking me for it. The deadline is soon. If you could just read it over, even if you don’t have anything to add, it would mean a lot.” Will knew she wanted him to add his own thoughts to it, his notes. She wanted to co-author it with him. He had had no interest originally, and still didn’t. Cat and her work deserved the truth from him- or muted silence.

Still, the way Alana looked at him, he found himself mumbling he’d try, and she smiled and walked over, leaning down and pressing her lips to his cheek. “Thank you,” she whispered, patting his arm. He didn’t shy from the touch. “Don’t drink too much,” she teased, and made her way to the door. She called the dogs in for him, and then left with Applesauce on her heels, leaving Will to settle into the quiet house alone.

*

“Laima,” Will said, looking at Hannibal across the table. Sunday had meant an excuse to not show up at the lab, and Will was taking advantage of it, having Hannibal all to himself within the quiet of his home. It was about eight, still early, but the two had felt oddly restless, had tumbled from bed early and sat now with breakfast between them. “What is it?”

“Laima is a goddess,” Hannibal offered, his fork poised to stab into a hunk of sausage. Will knew exactly what- or, who, he should say- was in it, and had complimented Hannibal on his work as he cooked, arms around his waist and placing kisses between his shoulder blades. “Or a Fate, found in mythology of Latvia- and Lithuanian.” Will smiled at that- a happy coincidence. He watched Hannibal carefully skewer the sausage on his fork and chew before continuing.

“Goddess of what?”

“Goddess or Fate, you would say. In Latvia, she has the final say in one’s fate, and is often associated with mothers. Her two sisters hold power of the lives of adults, and children.”

“And in Lithuania?” Hannibal’s smile broadened.

“She prophosized the fate of newborns.” Will nodded, gathering up a forkful of the eggs and sausage on his plate and taking a healthy bite. “Do you have a sudden interest in mythology, dear William?”

“It’s got to do with a case.” Will fished his phone out of his pocket, opening his picture of the letter and sliding it across the table for Hannibal to see. “This was found with that body I called and told you about.” Hannibal nodded, sliding the phone back. “So maybe this killer is playing god?”

“Fate, not god,” Hannibal said, “But you are on a correct thought path, yes. Has Jack allowed you to work on the case?” Will grinned.

“He doesn’t know...yet. Once I come up with something, I’m going to confront him. He’ll put me on it if I can bring him a theory- a working theory.”

“You said the crime scene was quite a mess, that there was even a foot print. Is there not enough evidence to most likely identify this killer as well?”

“Sure, we can identify her, but there’s more here than this. This is connected to the other one, even if Jack doesn’t want to believe me. This damn note should make it obvious.” Will sighed. “He’s too wrapped up in the Ripper to think straight. But-“ Will’s grin turned into a devious smirk as he pushed his chair back, standing up. He made his way around the table, grabbing Hannibal’s chair and forcing him to push it back, settling right over his thighs so he ould bury his hands in his hair, “In his defense, so am I.” Hannibal chuckled as Will kissed him, teasingly, tugging on his loose hair and shifting his hips so that Hannibal could push up against him devilishly, make Will whine.

“If I can distract you from such thoughts for a moment,” Hannibal offered, running his hands down Will’s spine, “Do you believe Jack would release you form his clutches for a day this week?”

“Mmm, maybe.” Will licked his lips, raising an eyebrow. “Why?”

“I’ve found a few properties I believe would suit both of us well. I was hoping you would walk through the houses with me- I wouldn’t want to make all the decisions.” Will’s smirk died, turned into a smile he couldn’t fight off, and for a moment he forgot about the case or the fact that he had been teasing Hannibal moments ago about being the Chesapeake Ripper. He leaned closer, pressed his forehead against Hannibal’s.

“You tell me the day,” he whispered, “and I’ll make sure Jack drops the leash.”

*

“Some would argue there is a conflict of interests here, Will.” Bedelia was sitting opposite him, looking composed, still as if she had stepped right out of a painting. There was something mesmerizing about her. “Most therapists would not take on the boyfriend of one of their other current patients.”

“I don’t want anyone inside my head,” Will admitted, staring right back at her in a way that, months ago, he never would have dreamed of. “The only person I trust in there is Hannibal- but he has stepped outside his possible role as psychiatrist and cannot step back in. However, he trusts you, which is enough for me.” He paused, then added, “And I don’t think I like the term boyfriend.”

“What is Hannibal then?” Bedelia cocked her head slightly, and Will leaned back, hands resting in his lap.

“I don’t know,” he admitted, because he didn’t see the point in lying. In some things, yes- there were secrets meant for he and Hannibal alone- but this felt safe. Will traced over the possible titles in his head. “Lover feels too temporary. Partner is too impersonal. But boyfriend feels too... juvenile.”

Bedelia eyed him, a cool stare, one Will felt down in his bones. He wondered if Hannibal felt her cracking him open to try and taste the marrow inside him too. “What do you call Hannibal, in your head?”

This time when Will spoke, there was no hesitation. “Mine.”

Bedelia said nothing, but Will could see it in her eyes- the way she cataloged it. He’d seen the same look in Hannibal’s eyes. She hesitated a moment, then pushed herself from her chair. “I know your session is not over, but would you like a glass of wine?” Will gave her a polite nod, and she disappeared, her heels clicking along the floor. Will closed his eyes and listened, heard the glasses on the counter, the stream of wine- her heels again. When he opened his eyes she was bending over slightly, handing him a glass. “I hope white suits you.” Another polite nod, and Will took a sip, watching as she settled back into her chair. “Would you be object to broaching the reason for your therapy, Will?”

“Possibly,” he admitted, flashing her a smile. He knew by the slight curve in her lips it had come across charming. “But you are more than welcome to try me.”

“You killed a man. A deadly force encounter is a serious interaction. Does it agitate you that your loved ones were so apt to push you to therapy?”

“No.” Will swirled the wine, looking down at it. “No, they mean well. Alana and Beverly care- and I thank them for it. Therapy just hasn’t...gone well for me before.” He took a swallow, refused to feel the heaviness in his limbs that his memory tried to force on him. “Hannibal is the only one that ever got close.”

“And you let him in entirely.” Will nodded. “That takes a lot of trust, Will. Why Hannibal?”

Because he’s the only one that saw that spark in me. He’s the only one that could sink his fingers into my mind and not get burned. “Because he gave me the chance when no one else would. Alana rejected me- she saw instability in me and didn’t want to get her hands dirty.” He took another sip of wine. “And I don’t begrudge her for it one bit. In her position, I wouldn’t want to either. But Hannibal... Hannibal chased the demons away.”

“So you feel as if Hannibal saved you?” Will nodded. “What did he save you from?”

“Myself.” Bedelia tapped her fingers in her lap. He knew she was thinking- and Will wondered what judgement she was passing over him.

“Is that why you feel compelled to move in with him?” Will laughed, leaning back, setting his now empty glass of wine on a small table.

“Has Hannibal been discussing the move in his sessions?” Bedelia smiled, and it was almost wicked.

“I will concede that he has. However, if you want the specifics, you will have to ask him. You’ve avoided the question, Will. Is this feeling that Hannibal saved you a reason you are willing to alter your life and move in with him? Your relationship is still rather young.”

“I feel comfortable with Hannibal.” Will closed his eyes for a moment, inhaled- the scent of Hannibal’s cologne was ingrained within him, a memory he could dredge up at will. The feeling of his fingers carding through his curls, his lips on his jawline. The way they made his heart flutter, yet his mind relaxed.

“And what does comfort include?”

“Security, companionship.” Will opened his eyes. “A sense of home. Of family.” Bedelia nodded, and Will knew her next question would be about Wendy, he saw it in her eyes, the way her lips curled. She would ask if he was striving to connect with anyone he could to create a family. She would ask about his family- his long dead mother and the father he had traveled with- dead now, too. She would ask him to drag up from his depths what he really wanted in family.

When she asked him if he had discussed what family meant to Hannibal, Will was caught off guard, and had no answer.

*

Will put on a good face for Jack the next day. He sat in his office with him for a spell talking over the Ripper case, how it compared to past ones. He bided his time, until Jack released him with as little progress as when they started. That was when Will made his way around the lab, collecting the various parts of the case file for the mutilated man- there was no other name, and this killer had been cleaner, hadn’t left DNA or been captured on a security camera.

He forced the files into his bag as quickly as possible, folders mixing in with the others he had gathered- the previous case, nameless to him still. Jack had given his approval for Will to leave the lab a little early, Will claiming he wanted to get a good night’s sleep in before he went out with Hannibal the next day to look at houses, and had been glad Jack hadn’t made him put up a fight. He didn’t feel like wasting his lies on the small things.

Beverly had said she’d check on the dogs for him that evening before heading to Alana’s, and that left Will to make the drive to Baltimore in the late afternoon, after pulling out the case file for the first mutilation, and getting the culprit’s address. It took him away from Hannibal’s house, which made his chest hurt. He always ached to be in the city and without the man, but he was convinced it would be easier to do this alone.

He parked outside the apartment complex, and made his way inside, right to the superintendent’s office. The woman was friendly, and didn’t ask any questions beyond saying she thought the police would be done with the apartment by now, considering the girl- Tiffany’s- fate. Will had smiled his charming smile for her, though, and she didn’t ask any more.

Once inside, Will flipped the light on, looking around. It hadn’t been touched or cleaned up yet, and he wondered why, who would do it- did this girl have family? He hadn’t read that far into the reports. He set his bag down by the door, made his way into her small kitchen, looking around it. It looked absolutely bland, neat but not in complete order. He ran his fingers along the counter, before he made his way towards the back of the small apartment, found her bathroom in the same relative state. He opened her medicine cabinet, found a few pill bottles, nothing extreme- nothing like the sleep aids she had over dosed on. He closed it again, looked at himself in the mirror, staring at himself through glass and behind glass.

“What do you see?” he whispered, pushing his glasses up. “Open your eyes, Graham. Look.” He stared at himself for a moment longer, until this reflection began to waver, and for a moment he swore that his eyes were burgundy, deep, boring into him in a way that made him tense. He gripped the sink and leaned closer, the smirk that crossed his face not matching his own, but Hannibal’s, that glorious, nearly divine curve of his lips that meant he knew something.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, before tearing out of the bathroom, into the girl’s bedroom. He left the light off, tried to sink into a girl he barely knew, but the two photos he had of her body weren’t enough, and he stayed firmly grounded in Will, with Hannibal swimming in his head. He sucked on his teeth in annoyance and walked around the room, peeked at the small bookshelf against the wall. He ran his hand along the spines, a mix of romance novels, a basic psychology book, a few faded copies of Shakespeare plays. The left overs of a brief academic career.

He turned away, left the bedroom, made his way into her small living room space. He looked at the couch, where her body had been found, slumped over, and settled himself down with a small groan into the same spot. He leaned his head back, closed his eyes, brought up the picture in his head, her jean clad legs and pink blouse, the way her blonde hair acted like a veil over her face.

He leaned forward, rested his forearms on his thighs, and opened his eyes, staring at the small table where her glass had been found. It boasted no rings, no trace of anything- nor had it in the picture, if he remember correctly. In fact, it looked almost too clean, too neat, considering the rest of her apartment. Not a mess but still enough clutter or various items left out to realize someone lived- or had lived- there.

He stood up, feeling a weight hanging over him, as if she had her arms around his neck, clinging to him. She was a murderer- but she was a victim, Will felt it in his bones. Something wasn’t right about this, about any of it. And as he walked from her living room, back towards the kitchen, he felt heavier and heavier, until he was sure her arms were wrapped around his neck and she was clinging to his back.

He grabbed the counter, leaning over it, squeezing his eyes shut one more time. Think Graham. See. He wished he had someone there to think with it- a scene this cold, left this long to deteriorate, it was hard to grasp onto. Plus he had only words to tell him about the evidence found- it was otherwise lost to him. He had never seen the body, not even in the morgue. All he had were two pictures- there had been no autopsy by the FBI. It had been an open and close case- it had been easy.

Sirens wailed in Will’s mind, because nothing was easy, nothing was ever easy.

The order detail a voice was whispering in his head, his own, but laced with an accent he knew very well. Without really thinking, Will reached up, opened one of her cabinets. The plates where neatly stacked, orderly. Above it, three shot glasses in a row. He left it open, opened another, a few spices, boxes of cereal lined together. Another, and then Will was opening every cabinet, staring in at the contents, trying to catalog the order. The cabinets housing food proved no help, so he returned to staring at the ones with her plates, the half a cabinet dedicated to her glasses. Five tall glasses, in a row, three small ones-

Three.

Will fumbled for his phone, taking a quick picture of it. Then, he shoved his phone away, began closing the cabinets, making sure the lights were off in all the other rooms. He collected his bag from the door, slung it over his shoulder, and flipped the light off at the doorway. For a moment he stood bathed in the cool darkness, listening to the silence of the room- not a living crime scene but a shell, a husk- but enough. He had enough.

He had all he needed to know he was right.

*

He let himself into Hannibal’s home and could smell dinner cooking. He checked his watch, realized he had spent longer than he had planned in the apartment, and quickly locked the door- habit, such a force of habit after the ordeal with Richard that made the scar on his leg pulse- and slipped his shoes off, before making his way back to the kitchen.

Hannibal was peeking in the oven when he made it back, and Will walked briskly around the counter, slipping behind him and wrapping his arms around his waist before he could turn. Hannibal chuckled, glancing back, and Will grinned, pressing tightly to him.

“You’re late,” Hannibal scolded, playfully, “Did uncle Jack keep you late?”

“No, I just lost track of time. Sorry.” He leaned forward, kissed the back of Hannibal’s neck, before releasing him, allowing him to close the over and walk over to the counter, where he had been chopping some vegetables.

“You should be more observant, dear Will. As punishment, you can help me finish up here.” Hannibal smiled at him, and Will laughed, walking over to the sink to wash his hands, and then quickly rolling his sleeves up. Hannibal offered him a knife that he took carefully, and set to slowly chopping vegetables next to Hannibal, as the man worked with a few he already had in the frying pan. “So what had you losing track of time?”

Will hesitated a moment, then offered, “That case Jack is working on, and the one before it. The murder and delayed suicide. It doesn’t feel right. I know they’re connected- or I thought I knew. I know for sure now.” Hannibal raised an eyebrow, beckoning him silently to go on. “I...I was at her apartment, the first girl. Tiffany, if I remember correctly. I had to see for myself. I tried to see her, see through her but- but it’s cold, there’s no scene, no body to connect with. I couldn’t pull from what I had at her murder scene, not for this. But I needed to see her apartment, needed to see what the FBI were missing.”

“So you broke in?” Hannibal sounded far more amused than anything. It made Will smile.

“No, I was let in. I just didn’t deny to the land lady that it was supposed to be a closed case. After a few smiles she stopped asking anyway.”

“A small lie-“

“Sin of omission,” Will countered, “I can live with that. Anyway, it looked exactly like you’d expect. No sign of any foul play, nothing to even point out this woman had a real reason for killing that guy- nothing to say she was unstable anyway. But then I looked through her cabinets-“ Will set the knife down, fished his phone from his pocket, and pulled up the picture, holding it out to Hannibal, “What do you see?”

Hannibal looked at it, and without hesitation, “She is missing two glasses.”

“Exactly. Two. The pictures of her body show one, and they took that for evidence. Where’s the fifth glass? Someone was there, Hannibal. Someone she knew and trusted, they had drinks, and this other person poisoned her. Whoever they were, they cleaned the table off so there was no ring from their glass, and took the glass with them in their rush to leave. She was murdered Hannibal. Someone was getting rid of a loose end.”

Hannibal contemplated this for a moment, then nodded, reaching for the vegetables Will had chopped and scooping them up, dropping them into his pan. “Will you tell Jack?” Will nodded. “To what end?”

“I want to be on this case. There’s nothing I can do other than admire on the Ripper case. That and make sure there’s no pesky mess left behind.” His hand reached for Hannibal, fingers walking up his sides, the silent promise of I’ll cover you in his voice. He would, Hannibal knew- he’d seen it when Will had killed Alyssa with his bare hands, because she had discovered the truth.

Will knew no boundaries when it came to protecting Hannibal, and that made the older man’s chest close up, tighten to much it was painful to breath. There was the promise of I’ll take care of you, and Hannibal didn’t know what that was like, hadn’t since he was a boy- and those were times he didn’t dwell on. And not around Will, who could see into him as if he was simply looking at his reflection. Not around the man who could see things Hannibal had not yet offered up.

Hannibal offered no other words, and Will retracted his hand, cleaning up the counter, his intent silent and open. He was too curious to let this case go without getting his hands dirty, even if it meant splitting himself in two. Hannibal knew that even if Jack some how offered, Will would request to remain inactive on the Ripper case- for the next time Hannibal acted, gave in to the fluttering desire to carve into something and create it into a culinary work of art, Will would be there, not only to appreciate, but to steer the direction of the case off into an abyss, a nothingness that held not a trace of Hannibal for anyone but himself.

Will would cover him, would lie for him- would kill for him. His love was something Hannibal could hold in his hands, it solidified in the air between them, coated him in a heavy heat and let him nearly panting for breath. Feeling overwhelmed, feeling unlike himself, Hannibal reached up and worked open a button on his shirt, just as Will left the kitchen. Hannibal heard him pouring wine into glasses in the dining room, and stepped away from the stove, leaning his lower back against the counter and reaching back to grip it until his knuckles were white.

Will Graham was too much, yet he could drown in him. And suddenly, in that moment, when his fingers had danced so playfuly along Hannibal’s side, almost child like, it had crashed over him how much he needed Will, how much he craved that feeling of being protected- how much he craved having the man to protect as well. When he had spoken to Will of family, soothing his mind that losing Abigail had not slain their only hope of the idea, he had tried to keep the word from penetrating too deep into him. He had been consoling Will, that had been it. He didn’t need a label, didn’t need an ideal for what they were, would become, would remain and always be.

He closed his eyes, inhaled. In his own mind, Will was melting, becoming something else. His eyes were grey and honey at once, and when he smiled, it was a child’s smile. The kind that made Hannibal hurt through every fiber of his being.

“Hannibal?” He lifted his head, turned, saw Will standing in the doorway, watching him. “Are you alright?” The man gave a nod, could tell that Will didn’t believe him.

“Just a little...light headed.” It was a half life- he was dizzy, but there was so much more there. Will walked over, slipping an arm around his waist, pulling him from the counter and running his hand up along the knots of his spine.

“Can I finish this?” he asked. “What if you sit down and just tell me what to do?” Hannibal thought to protest, but Will looked concerned, his eyes warm, and he found himself nodding. He turned off the stove as Will walked him out of the kitchen, making sure he was seated at the head of the table before leaning down to kiss his cheeks, brushing his nose along his jaw, then turning to return to the kitchen.

Hannibal watched him go, trying to grasp at the fact that, for the first time since childhood, someone really was willing to take care of him, to protect him.

Chapter Text

Will hadn’t wanted to get out of bed the following day. Hannibal had tried to rouse him, peppering one bare shoulder with kisses before climbing out of bed to shower. When he returned, Will was exactly where he had left him, curled up under the blanket, fully asleep again. With a sigh Hannibal held the towel around his waist with one hand, the other grabbing the blanket and pulling it down until it was tangled around Will’s legs. His lover groaned, rolling onto his back, frowning.

“Five more minutes,” he mumbled, and Hannibal huffed a sigh, tossing his towel onto the bed and crawling over Will, straddling his hips suggestively. Will’s eyes snapped open, the drowsiness ebbing to the corners, and he grinned, pushing up against Hannibal’s naked skin.

“Get up,” Hannibal said, rather sternly, and Will grinned devilishly.

“Half way there already, baby.” He reached out, grabbed Hannibal’s hips, watched the man lean back a little, and Will’s heart was hammering then. He’d never seen Hannibal like this- and suddenly he wondered what it’d be like, to pry him open and push into his body like he did Will’s. He hadn’t contemplated it much before, but now-

He whined when Hannibal slipped off him, flopping down somehow gracefully onto his back, and shoving Will towards the edge of the bed. “Go have a shower, I’ll make us coffee. We need to be leaving soon. Our first appointment is in two hours and I do not want to be late.”

“That would be rude,” Will said in a mocking playfulness as he pulled himself from the bed, his erection blatantly obvious in his boxer briefs. “We’re picking this up later, I hope you know.” Hannibal smiled at him, watched him storm off into the bathroom, before he pulled himself from the bed again to dress.

*

Will was still buzzing with a muted arousal when he accepted his coffee from Hannibal. “So how many appointments do you have lined up for us?”

“Five,” Hannibal admitted, and Will arched an eyebrow. “I know you won’t get much time away from your work, I wanted to get as much into our day as possible.” Will nodded. He leaned into Hannibal’s arm as they stood there drinking their coffee, forgoing breakfast in favor of saving time, and staring out the window for a brief moment of peace.

*

“I hate it,” Will admitted as he pulled his door closed, working on his seat belt. Hannibal laughed, starting the car and pulling away from the house.

“What was so terrible about it, William?”

“I could see the neighbors.” Hannibal huffed a sigh.

“You can barely see them, Will.”

“Yeah well, I just didn’t like it.” He folded his arms, sinking back into his seat as Hannibal drove. It had been the second house- the first he had hated as well. Hannibal had admitted that one wasn’t one he expected Will to like, but he had wanted to ease him into the experience. From his reaction, Will assumed Hannibal had expected him to enjoy the second one- but it had felt wrong. It wasn’t his house, his fields, the forest wrapping around him. And the house itself- it felt vacant. He couldn’t imagine filling so much space-

He knew he needed to, because his space would suddenly involve Hannibal, but it was difficult. It had been him and the dogs for so long, and the realization that that was changing was terrifying. But he couldn’t think of an alternative- he wanted Hannibal, he loved Hannibal. He didn’t want to spend the rest of his life taking over night trips and asking friends to watch the dogs. He wanted to come home to him every night, a shared space, something equally Will and Hannibal. He wanted a life, a family.

“Do try to leave the negativity in the car,” Hannibal asked, reaching over to take Will’s hand and squeezing. “I promise, it will be alright.” Will smiled, weakly, and squeezed back. He was sure, in the recesses of his mind, that it would be.

They just had to get there.

*

The third house they pulled up to at least looked better, Will could say. Old brick against a small field. He climbed out of the car, fidgeting with his sleeves where they were rolled up, felt Hannibal pushing his hands away once he had walked around the car to fix them for him. Hannibal was still touching when the front door opened and a woman walked out, her heels clicking along the paved driveway that fit a little too neatly in front of the garage.

“Hello Dr. Lecter,” she offered, extending her hand to Hannibal when she reached them and shaking his. “Good to finally meet you. Please, come in!” Will watched her dark pink nails drag slightly on Hannibal’s skin, caught her eyes glancing at him, but he received no greeting. He brushed it off, thinking he must be wearing his current disdain on his face- he wanted to be excited, and somewhere, he was. But this was so much, and Will needed a moment, or a hundred, to adjust his mind to it all.

Everything had been so chaotic in his life lately, it was hard to sit down and think he and Hannibal were making progress.

They stepped through the large, heavy wooden door and into the house. Will smelled fresh paint, old wood, a house untouched otherwise for a few weeks. Not vacant long, but long enough.

“You expressed interest in the kitchen especially,” the woman was saying, gesturing with her hand, “I thought that would be a pleasant place to begin?”

“Please.” Hannibal followed right behind her, Will trailing a few steps behind. He’d shoved his hands in his pockets and was looking around. The dinning room they passed through was large, open, darkly painted with an intricate light hanging above where a table could be placed. It had enough room, Will reasoned, for any small dinner party Hannibal wanted to host.

The kitchen held less interest for Will. He stayed by the doorway as Hannibal walked around, inspecting the lay out of the room, the side. Will’s only interest in kitchens was when Hannibal was in there, sleeves rolled up, apron on, morphing himself into an entirely new being. Hannibal breathed life into the room, but when that breath wasn’t there it was just a room to Will.

“Changes would have to be made,” Hannibal mused, “But it’s not an unsatisfactory layout. William darling, what do you think?” Will lifted his head, saw Hannibal looking at him, and scanned the room quickly.

“It’s just a room,” he admitted, “Until you’re bringing some life into it. I don’t dislike it.” Hannibal gave him a soft smile- because Will was trying- and gave a nod, turning to look at the wine closet. Will had cast his gaze out a window above the sink, and dragged it back as he heard Hannibal’s footsteps, caught the rather scrutinizing glare of the real estate agent. She held Will’s gaze for a moment then turned on her heels, making her way over to Hannibal and calling out something.

Will frowned and left the room, not really sure what he had seen on her face. He made his way out to the sitting room- one of two, this one smaller, having a glass door hidden by heavy curtains that opened up onto a back patio. Will slipped outside, walking across it and leaning against the railing, looking at the expanse of land behind the house. He tried to picture the dogs running there, exploring a new world and calling it home. He tried to picture himself running with them in the mornings, or the evenings, until his lungs burned, but it was translucent- he couldn’t paint the full picture.

It wasn’t terrible, but something was just lacking.

He ran his hands along the wood of the railing, then turned, heading back to the door. He pulled it open carefully, only partially, and was about to pull open the curtain and slip inside when he heard the Realtor talked rather heatedly into her phone.

“No Maria, this guy has the money for this place. Trust me. I just have to hook him- I think it has to do with the scruffy guy he brought with him.” There was silence, she must have been listening, and Will pressed a little closer to the curtain, felt it brushing along his face. “I don’t know, he seems too classy to be a fag, honestly. The other one maybe, but this guy? Then again, he’s got a funky accent- maybe he’s from some weird ass country. Look, if he is a fag he can do way better than whatever the hell he’s got tagging along with him. What? No, the guy’s not ugly, but fuck if he lacks the class to keep up with this guy. Yeah, full blown suit and all.”

She laughed suddenly, sharp. “Yeah, you and me could show this guy why women are way better, let me tell you. My underwear probably cost more than this guy’s shirt.” Her laughter began to trail off. “Okay, okay I have to go and check on him.”

Will turned away, carefully sliding the door shut so as not to make a sound. He returned to the railing leaning against it and looking out at the fields, his mind rolling over words, teeth grating together. He could forgive attacks on himself- he knew he looked nothing like the optimal choice for Hannibal, s far removed from the league the man was in- but the term fag had him irritated, a slight not against himself but a judgement over he and Hannibal. Will made a point to not think about his own sexuality, what it meant that he was attracted to, in love with, Hannibal. It didn’t matter in the end, what he was, if there was a word. It didn’t seem to matter in the slightest.

He sucked on his teeth, heard the door sliding open, and didn’t look back. When Hannibal’s hand rested against his lower back, he felt something coiling in him, angry, seething, protective. As if he needed to erase those words, to keep Hannibal’s image in its silent perfection.

“Come upstairs,” Hannibal said, “I want you to see the bedroom.”

“Do you like it?” Hannibal hesitated a moment.

“It is decent. With some work, it could be enjoyable.” Will nodded, turned, leaned against the railing and reached for Hannibal, pulling him closer. He tilted his head slightly, kissed him gently, but it felt forced here- as if the air around them couldn’t still, as if the sky was just too small above them.

“I’ll look,” Will agreed, “But I don’t think this is it.”

“Do you hate it?” There was a playful quirk in Hannibal’s lips, and Will laughed, kissing his cheek.

“No, I don’t. But it doesn’t feel right. Something is just...off.” Hannibal took his hand, squeezing it gently, and Will had the feeling he agreed as well.

*

Will had watched Hannibal tuck the woman’s card into his pocket, nestled with all the other agents they had met with that day. The fourth house they visited had been a very quick no from both of them, and now, head leaning against the window, Will was tired. Something about this was draining, and he wanted to curl up with the dogs and Hannibal for the night, doze off from time to time and wake up to a cozy heat that could draw him right back into sleep.

He wanted Hannibal to kiss along his bare spine while he worked his brain over his case- his even if he hadn’t confronted Jack yet. He was confident, it would be his.

“Don’t go inside Will,” Hannibal said, glancing at him then back at the road. “Stay with me.”

“Where else would I go?” Will turned, looked at him, giving him a lazy smile. Hannibal caught it and his open lips turned up, his smile genuine, up to his eyes.

“In that marvelous mind of yours,” he pointed out, “I promise we are almost done. And I have saved the best for last.” He reached over, and Will accept his hand, lifting it to his lips and kissing Hannibal’s knuckles to the soft sounds of hush classical music. It made him laugh, at times, and just once he wanted to get in the car and switch the music for something far less Hannibal. Perhaps Beverly could help him with that one of these days- when things had calmed down.

The roads began to open up, wide space and lush trees, and Will watched, the colors rich- so much so they seemed like saturated water colors, smeared and speckled onto the perfect paper.

“Where are we?” Will asked, as Hannibal turned onto a long road, the car slowing.

“Gaithersburg,” he replied, “Maryland. We’re still about an hour from Baltimore- about a half hour from Wolf Trap.” Will nodded, mesmerized by the colors passing him by- brilliant blossoms on trees, warm colors, wild flowers. He felt as if he was in a childhood picture book. It felt too perfect.

Hannibal pulled along a driveway, winding down around a wide yard, and parked a few yards from the garage. He killed the engine, and Will stared at the house in front of him- large, old wood and lightly colored. A grandeur farmhouse seemed the only way he could describe it. He felt Hannibal’s hand reaching over, behind his head, pressing against the back of his neck and toying with his hair.

“Your look is exactly what I was hoping for,” Hannibal admitted, and Will turned, smiling at him. He leaned over, kissed him gently, sighing into it, before allowing Hannibal to pull back so he could climb out of the car. Standing by the door was a young woman, hands in her jean pockets, an old plaid jacket left open. She could have been a Realtor, or more likely someone living in the house. Will liked that already.

“Hi!” she called, walking down the grass the grass towards them. “You must be Dr. Lecter,” she said, nodding to Hannibal, who gave her a polite smile. “And Mr. Graham?” Will’s eyes widened a little, and she just kept smiling at him. “Nice to meet you both. C’mon in, unless you’d like to have a walk around the property first?”

“We can begin with the house,” Hannibal agreed, taking Will by his elbow and leading him inside. The entrance way was wide open, facing a large sitting room. The young woman closed the door behind them, the sound echoing briefly through the house’s old bones.

“Sitting room is right ahead,” she said with a gesture, “the right takes you to the dinning room and the kitchen. Left is stairs upstairs, and the larger sitting room. Where would you like to start?”

“The kitchen,” Will said, smiling because he knew it was what Hannibal wanted. She nodded, brushing her brown hair from her face, tussled from the slight wind, and led them towards it. The first floor had a high ceiling, and large windows in the dining room that could allow for optimal natural lighting. Will decided instantly he liked that, something fresh and alive about it all.

The kitchen was large, and Will saw Hannibal’s eyes light up as he took it in. “It’s not the most up to date kitchen around,” the girl admitted, “But it’s cozy.”

“It can be brought up to date,” Hannibal said, walking around the counter, looking at the stove. It would need to be replaced, as would the oven along the wall- modernized like his own. But Hannibal hadn’t expected to find a kitchen set to his tastes, simply the base moldings that he could build from. “It’s a lovely room.”

“You’ve won him over,” Will admitted, hands in his pockets, smiling easily. The girl was charming, seemed at home in the room.

“What about you?” She looked back, grinning, and Will laughed.

“Show me upstairs.”

*

“So you two been together long?” she asked as they reached the top of the stairs. Hannibal had been left to enjoy the kitchen, explore the rest of the first level. “Not that it’s my business.”

“A few months,” Will admitted.

“And you’re moving in together?” Will nodded. She smiled, taking him left at the top of the stairs. “Must be nice to be that sure about someone.”

“It is,” Will admitted. “Is this the master bedroom?” He gestured to the door she was opening, and she nodded.

“Yeah. Bedroom, attached master bathroom. One large walk-in closet.” She opened the door, and Will stared, taking in the large room, the bed set opposite the door and between two large windows, streaming in light from the late afternoon sky. “Bathroom is the biggest in the house. There’s another, down the hall, with the other rooms, and one downstairs.”

Will nodded, walking over to the bed and sitting on the edge of it, looking about. “I like it.”

“That is refreshing to hear.” Will turned, saw Hannibal standing in the doorway. He walked in, pressing on the closet door and taking a look inside, smiling.

“Enough room for your suits?”

“And your horrible flannel shirts as well.” Will laughed, launching off the bed, walking over to Hannibal and taking his hand.

“Let me show you the other rooms,” the young woman said, slipping past them, “Great for guests. Did you see the study while you were walking around down stairs? No? Shame, I’ll show you after this, it’s near the basement.” Will felt Hannibal’s hand tighten around his at her last word.

“Basement?” Hannibal asked, and she nodded as they walked past the stairs.

“Yeah, big old thing. My family used to store a lot of stuff down there, from all the kids growing up. Took forever th clean it out after my aunt passed and we decided to sell this place. I’ll show you that after the bedrooms, and then we can take a tour outside, yes?”

Will was nodding, his stomach tightening, keeping his mouth shut and allowing Hannibal to answer. Two forms of excitement was washing over him- a warm, soft wave that was screaming this was it, this was the firs stepping stone for the rest of their lives-

And another, hotter, sharper, at the pit of his stomach, that held the promise of so many secret things.

*

The sun was still in the sky, as they made their way back towards Maryland, but its colors were morphing, slowly seeping to oranges and pinks. Will was smiling, watching out the window as the scenery began to fade, slowly.

“I want it.” He’d rolled it over in his mind, but he’d known his answer before they had set foot in the house. It had been perfect, grandeur enough for Hannibal’s tastes, but isolated, secluded in that way Will craved. It felt old, it felt loved-

It felt like a home.

Hannibal was smiling. “I had thought you would.”

“Why save it for last?” Hannibal reached over, taking Will’s hand, his thumb running along his knuckles as the car drove along, the music soft and flitting inside Will’s skull.

“Some things are best savored,” Hannibal whispered, “And waiting only makes them sweeter.” He squeezed Will’s hand, and the younger man felt the heat of his palm and fingers radiating all through out his body.

*

Will had to drive himself home that evening, and while it hurt to be away from Hannibal, it felt good to see the dogs. He took them for a late run, enjoying the cool air, the clear sky, the feeling of being surrounded by something he knew. Yet, inside him, something was alive, was excited about something new.

He couldn’t wait to take the dogs for a run at the house- the house he wanted to think of as his, even if Hannibal had to talk to the girl’s lawyer, get his own involved. Even if they had to tackle selling their own homes- Hannibal had seemed beyond confident his own would be no problem, and that Will’s wouldn’t take too much time- and Will wasn’t even sure how they were going to work out paying for it. He knew what Hannibal would most likely try to do, and it made him warm and want to slap the man at the same time. He wanted to support Hannibal as much as Hannibal could support him.

When he arrived at the lab the next day, he went straight to Jack’s office. The man was on the phone, and motioned for Will to sit as he finished up his call. Will felt his leg shaking, anxious, his phone being rolled between his hands. When Jack finally hung up, he raised an eyebrow at Will’s obvious state. “Something wrong?”

“I need to show you something.” He set his phone on the desk, sliding it careful across, and Jack took it, looking confused at the image.

“What am I looking at, Will?”

“Tiffany’s apartment, one of her cupboards.” Jack looked across at him, frowning.

“You went back-“

“She’s missing two glasses, Jack. Not one. You guys only have one in evidence. Where’s the other one?”

“Perhaps she broke one.” He set the phone back down, but kept glancing at the image.

“Or someone was with her the night she died. Someone who didn’t want us to know they were there. Someone comfortable enough to sit down and have a drink with her- who took the glass because who would notice something like that missing? Someone is covering their tracks, Jack.” Jack hesitated, then let out a loud sigh.

“What’s your point with this, Will?”

“Your cases are tied together. This woman, she’s connecting to your current case. She knew our current killer.”

“Do you think our current killer killed her?”

“Possibly.” Jack finally slid the phone across the desk, and Will stuffed it back in his pocket. “Put me on the case, Jack. The Ripper isn’t going anywhere. He might even go cold again for a while. He’s probably amused by this one, after all. We know he reads up on Tattle Crime, and I’m sure Freddie is all over this.”

Jack hesitated a moment, then reached down to his keyboard, began typing and looking at his monitor. “I assume you didn’t see this,” he said, turning the monitor around, Tattle Crime’s webpage loaded on the screen. Plastered as the headline was, in quotation marks, My job is to be better than them, and beneath that, a shot Freddie had gotten at the last scene of Will. He gritted his teeth, not needing to read the article. “It went live recently.”

“Fuck Freddie Lounds,” Will said, “I don’t give a shit what trash she’s posting. Give me the case Jack. That’s what I care about.” Jack sighed, hands folded atop his desk, and nodded his head.

“Fine. You’re on it. But if the Ripper goes hot again, I’m pulling you right off it.” Will nodded. “I’m assuming you want Beverly with you?” Another nod. “Good. It’s done then- go do some damn work.” There was a smile at the end of his words, and Will nearly grinned, pushing himself up from his chair with a small groan and making his way from Jack’s office, off to locate and collect Beverly and dive into the mess he had willingly inherited.

*

Will found her getting a cup of coffee, and with her, a smiling Alana, who was blushing about something and laughing in a musical way that made Will smile himself. When she saw him she tried to hide it, but it was impossible.

“Hey handsome,” Beverly teased, holding her coffee aside and nearly swooning in a mocking way towards Will, leaning into him. “Hannibal dress you again?” Will rolled his eyes.

“He bought the shirt. I woke up and put it on. Teamwork.” Beverly laughed.

“I’m sure you two have great teamwork. Share some tips?”

“Bev!” Alana had set her coffee aside, was tugging her away from Will, who was only laughing.

“Sorry, they’re all too advanced for you.” He winked at her, and Beverly groaned, falling back into Alana. “Serious note, we have work to do. You and me have this new case. Jack gave me the okay.”

“Pulled you off the Ripper?”

Will nodded. “Until he’s hot again. You got anything for me, or do I need to track down Price and Zeller?” Beverly sat down at the table, Alana settling next to her.

“Files aren’t with me, but I can tell you this was cleaner than that other case. Which I assume is definitely connected if Jack let you in.” Will grinned, and that was the only answer Beverly needed. “The guy was convicted of beating his ex wife, did some time for assault because of it. So he’s got a record, just like the last one.”

“What about the partial foot print?”

“We got a shoe size, women’s seven and a half. So, if we get any suspects, we can use that. But nothing that points to an identity.” Will nodded, and Beverly leaned back, on arm slung over the back of her chair. Will caught a glimpse of her other arm, as her hand made it’s way to Alana’s lap and was gently clutched between both of Alana’s. He fought down his secret smile. “It’s good to have you on it,” Beverly admitted, “Your mind is a wild thing Will.” Will stuffed his hands into his pockets, gave her a smile which she returned, but he saw something in her eyes, something that didn’t match- the rest of her sentence, left to hang in the air in silence.

Wild and dangerous.

Chapter Text

Will settled in at his desk, his fly tearing gear set aside and a mess of papers in front of him- Alana’s article, spread out as if it were a mural. He looked at it, tapped his finger on his desk. He’d read it once before, had known after what he wanted to say of Cat, but couldn’t.

He pushed his chair back, standing up and walking around the room, raking his hands back through his hair. He felt twitchy, unable to sit still. He’d gone for a run with the dogs, but that hadn’t helped- he felt as if he could crawl out of his skin. Will wanted to say he wasn’t sure why, but there was something aching at the base of his skull, some voice inside his head whispering, three voices rolled into one.

He pulled a drawer open at his desk, plucking out a business card and examining it. Hannibal had been ready to discard all of them except for that of the girl at the final house- not her own business card, just her lawyer’s to discuss the necessary things- and Will had taken them to do so. He’d kept one, palming it briefly before sliding it into his pocket.

And now, he’d been sitting on it for two days. He’d let life rumble by around him, the itch in his spine spreading up to his skull, until now his skin felt positively alive. He ran his thumb over her name, Angela Privette, closed her eyes and her heard sour laugh, the word fag twisting inside his skull, a snake that sank fangs into his brain.

Will stuffed the card into his pocket, moving to the door and opening it, whistling for the dogs as they all began moving, bustling outside.

*
He sat in his car, watching her house in silence. The sky was a rich black, sprinkled with stars- a lovely night. Will tightened his hands on the steering wheel, inhaled sharply through his nose- and knew it was now, or never. And the itch under his skin told him now.

He got out of his car, looking around quickly. Her house was rather isolated- the next neighbor wasn’t until far down the road. A nice home, well kept yard, intricate carving along the frame of her door. He studied it for a moment, then put his hand on the handle, pressing his ear to the wood. He waited a moment, heard nothing- he knew she was home, her car was sitting in the driveway- then tried to door knob. It turned with ease and the door opened. Will smiled at her carelessness, an excitement coiling in his belly, beginning to rise up to his chest.

He closed the door behind him, took a moment to look around the house. A lovely symphony was playing quite loudly, he was sure if Hannibal were there, he would be able to tell him what it was, would probably launch into a history on it while they worked.

That made Will shiver. Mentally, he slid the idea away to contemplate later, to roll inside the bone arena of his skull while he arched and whimpered to himself when Hannibal wasn't around.

He hesitated by the doorway, listening. He heard some commotion towards the other end of the house- a kitchen or a dining room, perhaps. Carefully, Will walked the circle of the house, passing through the kitchen, and revealing as he pressed against a counter so as not to be seen in the doorway that she was in the dining room. Something was being poured, and he could hear her humming along with the music, rather loudly and off key. It grated against his brain and made his head ache.

He ran a hand down along his side, felt the hunting knife he had brought with him. He slung the small padded cooler off his shoulder, set it on the counter, and then in quick, long strides, made his way through the doorway and into the dining room. She had a very full wine glass in hand, the bottle two thirds empty and sitting on the table. Her hips were swaying softly, not in rhythm with the music. Will had a feeling she didn’t care.

His hands flexed, and the moment he was behind her he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her back against his chest. He covered her mouth with his hand, muffling her cry, felt her thrash against him as his other hand clutched over her belly. He thumbed over one of the buttons on her blouse, then drew his hand up, wrapping it around her throat and squeezing. He felt muscles pushing against his palm, trying to inhale, and he hushed her.

“Shhh,” he whispered, “I know you’re scared. You only have to be scared a moment longer.” Honestly, Will wanted her to be scared for far longer than that- but he remembered things Hannibal had told him, factual advice spoken casually, as if they were discussing the weather, or what color tie might look best with Will’s eyes.

Terror taints the meat. And, as much as this was for Will, he knew his intentions needed her to go untainted, to remain her natural flavor. He clutched tighter, felt a heat in his belly and chest, wormed up under his ribs and squirming into his lungs, as he exhaled into her hair. There was something intimate about this, about how he used his hands.

It had been there, with Alyssa, when he’d straddled her and choked the breathe from her lungs, stared into her terrified eyes. He’d felt a quiet sense of power, a vibration in his veins that rocked his core with it’s humming movement, but had left the air still outside his body. Only he moved, only he took and gave and could decide on the fate of the woman in his grasp.

Then and now, it was the same.

The woman- Angela- was thrashing. Will inhaled, smelled her perfume and a hint of fear. He hoped not too much, he didn’t want to spoil her. Not when she was an offering, something he felt it was high time he did. Not when she was the answer to the itch under his skin, not when her mouth had been so vile to not him, but to Hannibal.

“You should watch that tongue of yours,” he whispered, grip so tight he was sure he could break her neck, if he jerked his arm properly. He would leave behind beautiful bruises, if he gave them the time to blossom. “It’s gotten you into quite a mess here, hasn’t it? Oh, shhh, don’t fret,” he murmured as she reached up, tried to claw at him. “It’s almost over. See, I couldn’t let what you did go- you can say what you want of me, I don't give a damn. But Hannibal? My Hannibal?” Will leaned over her shoulder, breathing right into her ear as he spoke, as her consciousness began to waver and slip down that inky slide into nothingness. “He’s off limits.”

She slumped back against him, unconscious, and Will held on for a moment longer, before he crouched down, carefully laying her out. He rolled his sleeves up as he stood, walked back to her kitchen for his little soft cooler, returned and pulled the pair of gloves he had left inside out and put them on- just to be safe. He was sure he wouldn’t need them, not for the plan he had.

He pulled the knife from his belt, tapping the point on the floor, before he grabbed her and roughly turned her. She was still alive, just barely, but at least know there was no fear.

Only calm, that quiet blanket that wrapped over her, over Will. The air went still, and all he heard was his own breath as he skimmed the blade along her blouse, cutting only what he needed to- the thought of someone finding a sexual appeasement in someone so vile left him feeling discontented. Then, with a final breath, he pushed the knife into skin, pulling it up her belly, to the point of her ribs- effectively gutting her. Working with shockingly nimble hands- something he had not expected of himself- Will pushed into her body, severed one kidney, than the other, and tucked them away.

Hands bloody, he pushed them up, under her rib cage, working the knife blindly. He was sure his cuts weren’t up to par with Hannibal’s- nor would they ever be- but he was as precise as he could be, severing her lungs and tugging them free, dropping them in and listening to them slide along the other organs. Finally, Will dove in one last time, hand wrapped around a now still heart, held it as he cut and cut, until it was free and in the open air, still cradled in his hand. He cocked his head, stared for a moment, could hear Hannibal whispering to him,

I think I’ll eat your heart.

He shivered and settled it in the cooler, zipping it closed. He stood carried the otherwise still clean cooler back to the kitchen, and left it on the counter, as if it were waiting for someone to take with them for a long hard day on the job. Then, upon returning to the body, he cut the bottom half of her shirt off, tying it around her stomach in a sloppy bandage- just enough to keep her from bleeding all over the floor for a moment. He sheathed his knife, then lifted her into his arms, cradling her against him in an almost tender way as he made his way through the circle pattern of her house, to the front door. He shifted her, leaning awkwardly with only one arm to brace her body, and placed his own hand over hers, her palm and fingers pressing to the door knob but his pressure forcing it to turn, the door to open. He took a moment to press her hand along the knob outside as well- obscuring his own prints into oblivion.

He carried her over to her car, found the door unlocked, and carefully settled her into the driver’s seat. He stepped back, stared for a moment, at the way she slumped back, at the stain pressing against the cut and torn fabric of her blouse. So many things missing, taken- but for better use.

Better for someone divine to have her insides than a pig.

Will walked away from the car, back into the house. He stripped his gloves off, inside out, stuffed them into his pocket, and slipped on a fresh pair. He found bleach wipes under her kitchen sink, and used them to wipe down the floor where they had been. He had spilled little blood despite nearly gutting her- he had been so careful and he only wished Hannibal could see, yet there was a voice in his head, a duality of male and female, Hannibal’s and Julie’s, echoing in the bone arena of his skull.

You did so well, William. Think of what you’re creating.

He kept the bleach wipes he had used, grabbed the cooler, and made his way out to his car. He popped the trunk after setting the cooler in his passenger seat, and dropped the used wipes and even his bloodied gloves from his pocket into the trunk. From it, he pulled a set of sharp pliers, stuffing them in one pocket, a lighter he shoved in the next, and finally, his gas can.

He walked over to the car, tapping his fingers along the hood, around until he reached the driver’s side. He popped the hood, shoving the key he had found in Angela’s pocket into the ignition but leaving it off, and walked back to the front. He propped the hood up, setting the gas can down and running gloved hands along the wires and tubes, until he found the one he was looking for. He held it in one hand, the other pulling the pliers from his pocket. Carefully, he clipped a small cut in the wire, then began to worry it, press the tips of the pliers in to turn it into a rough hole, without the fine, precisely line of a cut. It resembled natural wear far better than Will had hoped.

He tucked them away again, then grabbed his gas can, sloshing a layer of gasoline over the engine, then closed the hood, locking it securely again. He stopped back at the driver’s side door, sloshing a generous amount all over Angela’s body. He needed her to burn, and burn completely, until she was ash and bone. No clothing, not even hair-

She had to become the nothing she deserved.

Once satisfied, Will reached for the lock on the door and flicked it down. The satisfied jerk of the mechanisms made him smile, and he pulled the lighter from his pocket. He took one last look at her, and vowed silently the next one he wouldn’t cover, not like this. But there was too much going on for him to be distracted by trying to cover his own tracks at the lab. Too much to concentrate on, too many possibilities for his brain to wrap around.

He flicked the lighter and touched the soaked cloth of her blouse. In a moment she gas was igniting, and Will was pulling back, slamming the door shut as the flames licked along her corpse, filling the car quickly. To be safe, Will stooped down at the hood, flicking the lighter, the fumes seeping from under the hood igniting. He stepped back, grabbed the gas can, and didn’t look back until he was dropping everything in his trunk,pulling his gloves off. Once he had slammed it shut, he took a moment to enjoy the rich colors lighting up the dark night- but just a moment. Then he was climbing into his car, driving away at a reasonable speed.

Will Graham was soothed, his veins were humming with a sweet vibrations. Will Graham was filled with a silent, warm calm that left his muscles feeling lose, his body on the good side of light.

*

He found Hannibal’s door locked- and decided it was to be expected, considering the hour and the fact that he was appearing unannounced. He unlocked it himself, slipping inside, closing it, heard the air alive with the sound of his Harpsichord. He didn’t hear Hannibal play either of his instruments nearly enough- and he would muse, later, when there wasn’t speckles of blood on his shirt, that perhaps he would have the opportunity to now, once they shared a home.

He followed the sounds of the music, the cooler slung over his shoulder, until he was stepping into the sitting room and Hannibal was looking up, raising his eyebrows in shock as the music suddenly stopped.

“Will,” he said, standing up, “I wans’t expecting you.” He had taken only a few steps away from the Harpsichord when he could clearly see the look on Will’s face- the faintest of quirks to his mouth, but the deepness of his eyes, grey and swarming , a mass of clouds stuck in endless turbulence. He took in the blood on Will’s shirt- faint, and when Hannibal spoke, his voice was deep. “William, what have you done?”

“I brought you something,” he whispered, lifting his shoulder that held the strap to the cooler. Hannibal eyed it, then slipped past Will, walking towards the kitchen. Will turned and followed, setting it on the counter, opposite Hannibal, he had his hands resting on the cool surface. Will nodded, and carefully, Hannibal unzipped it, pulling the cover back. “It was my turn to provide the meat,” Will admitted, a devilish glint in his eyes, and Hannibal glances up at him, just in time to see him move, see him walk around the counter, wrap his arms around Hannibal’s waist, press his face into his hair, mouth at the back of his neck. “Next time, I’ll be sure to properly clean and wrap it. I just didn’t want to wait.”

Hannibal reached down, covered Will’s hands at his waist with his own, clutched them, felt something silent vibrating through them. Power. “You should have told me,” Hannibal whispered, shifting, managing to turn so he could face Will, reached up to hook his arms around his neck. “I would have cooked us a midnight dinner.”

Will chuckled, accepted the kiss Hannibal gave him, the way his mouth moved in a sweet rhythm that Will could grasp and feel and memorize. “You are a mess, beloved,” Hannibal admitted against his lips, “Should I worry?”

“No,” Will admitted, pulling back, daring to reach up and slid his fingers through Hannibal’s hair. “No, no one will know a thing. Trust me. You’d be proud.”

“I’m always proud of you, William. I have huge faith in you, I always have.”

Will openly shivered, leaning in to kiss Hannibal, harder this time, pushing his tongue past his lips and into his mouth. It took a moment for him to realize the sounds he was hearing, the gasp and soft moans, were coming from Hannibal and not him. Hungry suddenly, he begged for more, stroking his tongue along the points of Hannibal’s teeth, coaxing his tongue to slide along his. Hannibal shivered, and Will was pulling away, grabbing his wrist, nearly dragging him from the kitchen. He expected Hannibal to protest, as they tore up the stairs, but there were no words spilling from his lips, even as Will threw the door of the bedroom open and tugged him inside, stopping by the bed and daring to press his hands to Hannibal’s shoulders, properly shoving him down onto the mattress.

He crawled over him, hands working quickly on the buttons of his shirt. One of the best aspects, he reasoned, of catching Hannibal off guard so late was his casual dress. It made it easier to undress him.

Once he had it opened Will leaned down, mouth on the crook of Hannibal’s neck. He nipped at the skin, licked a trail along the curve of his shoulder, while one of Hannibal’s hands ran along his side, gripping onto his shirt. Will bit down gently on his shoulder, made Hannibal shiver, then directed his mouth down to his chest. One of his hand slipped between them, palmed at Hannibal through his pants while he closed his mouth around one nipple, teasing it with his tongue and the sharp of his teeth, making Hannibal mewl in a way that had Will so hard he was dizzy.

Hannibal arched, and Will pulled himself back, straddling Hannibal’s thighs and reaching down to fumble with his pants. The older man arched up enough to slip his shirt off and tossed it away, watched as- once Will had his pants open- he was reaching up to open his own shirt, tossing it away with a smirk painting his divine face. When he leaned down again, he rolled off of Hannibal to lay next to him, mouth trailing kisses down along his stomach, until his hands were clutching cloth, pulling it away. Hannibal arched his hips, and his cock was free- mostly hard and in a moment resting against Will’s tongue. Hannibal gave a groan, tipping his head back, losing himself in the wet heat of Will’s mouth.

Will was clutching at Hannibal’s hips, tasting the salt of his skin, of his excitement, breathing through his nose in shallow breaths because his blood was running so hot it was threatening to sear right through his veins. He wanted to devour Hannibal, to have him fully inside his belly, resting up beneath his ribs, locked in the chambers of his beating heart. He wanted his voice in his head-

I already have that.

Will pulled off, heard Hannibal groan his protest, and was tearing the rest of his clothing off, standing off the bed to let it all drop to the floor, then working on his own. Hannibal propped himself up, watched, dared to run a hand down his body and grasp himself, eyelids fluttering as he stroked, his gaze never leaving Will.

Will growled, nearly throwing himself over Hannibal and rolling them along the bed, until he was beneath the older man, skin to skin, kissing him fiercely. Will was all opened mouths and probing tongue and cannibal-filed teeth, sharp and unrelenting against Hannibal’s lip. The psychiatrist’s head was spinning, leaving him dizzy as Will ran his hands down his body, grapped where he could to keep them close, pushed his hips up so that their cocks slid together and had Hannibal gasping.

Hannibal felt more like Will in those moments than he did himself. A shiver ran through him as Will grabbed at his ass, got a handful of flesh, and kneaded it as his kisses trailed along Hannibal’s jawline, his cock smearing a wet streak into Hannibal’s stomach. Hannibal contorted, pushed himself into Will’s hand and then rocked back against his cock, the friction sending his breath out in a rush. He heard Will chuckling, and for a moment, he could have been hearing himself.

Will rolled them over, disentangled from Hannibal and roughly turned him onto his stomach, pressing his body over him as he mouthed at the back of his neck. His cock slid along Hannibal’s ass, made the man groan and push back against it, and Will’s breath was lost, his mind in a fervent fever, knowing this was different, this wasn’t like any of their prior intimacies.

The fact that he was thinking about breaking Hannibal open was proof enough of that.

He slid down along Hannibal’s body, mouth on his spine, kissing at the hidden knots and loving the way flesh fell over muscle, over perfect bone. “You’re beautiful,” he whispered at the small of his back, thinking of the skeleton inside Hannibal’s body, of the sweet way it was wrapped in muscle in flesh, of the mind that nestled deep in his skull and gave each element life.

Hannibal was beautiful and terrifying, and everything Will ever wished to love.

He dug his teeth gently against the flesh at the base of his back, made Hannibal arch up just enough, and then moved down further, parting flesh before Hannibal could protest, and pressing his mouth against his hole. The older man gave a sudden cry- a break in the silence that was filling the room except for their breaths, and Will smirked against muscle, wanting Hannibal was undone as he had ever been.

Wanting Hannibal to be open, to be liquid that he could drink down, consume and adapt and become. Hannibal was a part of him, Hannibal was his, and Will felt like it needed to be shown. As he teased the muscle he let his thumbs stroke small circles over Hannibal’s ass, felt the man beginning to quiver. He moved one hand down, slipped it between Hannibal’s thighs and grasped his cock, pleased at just how hard he was, and stroked along silken skin, feeling Hannibal shudder.

He pushed his tongue into his body, and that was the moment the last strings of control seemed to shatter. Hannibal cried out- and Will realized the words tumbling from his lips weren’t English. He smirked, tormented his body further, fucking him with his tongue until Hannibal was trembling all over, and Will could tell from the weight of his cock, the amount of precum slicking his hand now- that Hannibal was so close it must have almost hurt- his body strung up between the fine lines of pleasure and pain that left him blind with a nameless need.

Will pulled away, much to his own dismay as to Hannibal’s audible disapproval, and reached for the bedside table, fumbling his hand through it and coming back with a small bottle of lube. He was shaking, as he slicked two of his fingers and them against Hannibal’s entrance. He expected Hannibal to pull away, to protest-

Instead Hannibal pushed himself back on those fingers, and Will’s mind spun off into an imploding galaxy all its own. His breath hitched at the tight heat, his hand moving without his mind telling it to. Hannibal moaned, fisted his hands in the sheets, and Will leaned over him as he fucked him gently, kissing along his spine again.

“Beautiful,” he was whispering, even as he pushed a third finger in and his own cock jumped. His Hannibal was everything in that moment that Will had ever been- beautiful and open and waiting. Will finally was allowed the privilege of seeing him like this, of causing the fall of something so divine-

The enormity of that wasn’t lost on him.

“Open up for me, Hannibal,” he whispered, kissing into the groove of his spine, “Let me in.”

“You are already inside, William.” His voice had a huskiness to it, his accent thick on his tongue, and Will’s stomach tightened unbearable. He pulled free, Hannibal voice heavy in his mind, settling along his brain and squeezing. He was already inside.

He was already inside Hannibal in exactly the same ways Hannibal had managed to squirm inside him.

Will slicked his own cock, then pressed the head to Hannibal’s hole, hesitating for only a moment before he pushed slowly in. His eyes rolled back in his head, heat and tightness all too much for him to handle. There was a knot at the base of his spine that tightened already, and Will was blinded by it all. He didn’t move, he let Hannibal’s body relax around him- but then Hannibal was pushing back, moaning, and Will couldn’t stop himself. A snap of his hips, and he was pulling out and then pushing sharply inside him, loving the cry that filled the air.

Will grasped at Hannibal’s hips, tried to steady himself as his mind began to bleed static. Hannibal was moaning to him, for him, was looking back over his shoulder, breath being forced from his lungs with each thrust. Will let go of his hips, reached for him, pulling him up so Hannibal’s back was pressed to his chest as they rocked sweetly. He wrapped both his arms around the man, one hand grasping his cock and stroking, the other running along his thigh.

Hannibal dropped his head back, gasped out Will, and Will leaned down, pressed his mouth to Hannibal’s shoulder and dug his teeth into flesh, felt skin give to the sharp points and Hannibal was shuddering around him. “Mine,” Will whispered into the wound, his tongue laving over the punctures, tasting copper and salt, the very life that rushed through Hannibal’s veins. “Mine.”

His hand ran up form Hannibal’s thigh, over his stomach, through his chest hair, and up over Hannibal’s throat, so exposed. He grasped it loosely, didn’t cut off air but held him as Hannibal lifted his head, felt him swallow. He nuzzled against his hair, breath hot against Hannibal’s ear-

Mine.”

Hannibal cried out then, body convulsing sweetly around Will’s cock, and Will felt the sticky heat of his orgasm along his knuckles, pressed his forehead to Hannibal’s shoulder as he gave his own cry, giving in to the heat and the want and the utter need and filling Hannibal until he had nothing left to give him, until he had seared his brand inside Hannibal’s very body.

He released Hannibal’s throat, held him tightly against him, not wanting to pull from his body. His lover was pulling gasps of breath into his chest, and when he tried to untangle from Will, the younger man let him, but whimpered when he pulled free from Hannibal’s body. Hannibal reached for him, pulled him down to the bed and wrapped his arms around him, seeking out his mouth and kissing him in a way that had Will’s mind cloudy. He entangled their legs together as Hannibal nearly clung to him, mouthing words against his lips.

Will missed most of them, in his haze, in the heat that was simmering in his mind. But he began to catch a few, heard My beloved and felt his chest constrict. He rolled so he was partially laying on Hannibal’s chest, the man’s hands running along his sides, to the slight curve of his hips, and for a moment Will could think they would go again- that Hannibal was take what was his.

Will would have let him- would have welcomed it. The fever in his mind was cooling, the high from presenting Hannibal with the fruits of his labor. He felt like a man made of static, but that had an oddly calming affect.

The kisses slowed, until they were simply laying there, Will’s hand stroking along Hannibal’s chest hair, his eyes drifting to the tip of the bite mark he had left on Hannibal. He blushed, for a moment, because he had felt so alive and so completely unlike himself then, as if he had to mark Hannibal’s body with teeth and tongue until there was nothing left but his brand, until the world was forced to see that Hannibal belonged to him.

He wondered if that was what Hannibal felt like- had felt like for so long, from the moment he decided to sink his skilled fingers right into Will’s brain and pull the fibers free of his head, entangle the two together until there was no end nor beginning, just a mess of two beating hearts sharing one breath, one thought, one existence. Until they had taken up residence into one skull, one home.

Hannibal was pulling away, getting up. For a moment Will thought to ask if he had been too rough, if he had done it right, but bit his tongue to keep quiet. Hannibal seemed fine- but there was that nagging moment of possible failure. Will had never fucked Hannibal, not in all these months, had never thought to do it.

But Hannibal was smiling at him, leaning over the bed and kissing his mouth softly. “I have to attend to the lovely gift you’ve brought me,” he whispered, “But I will be back. Would you give me another gift and stay as you are?”

Will swallowed, nodded, didn’t miss the heat in Hannibal’s eyes, or the way his fingers curled into Will’s hair. His turn was next, and he was aching for it, for Hannibal to bruise flesh and whisper his love into fevered skin. It was fair- and Will could see now, that’s what this was. The platform Hannibal had once stood on had crumbled, and he lay on the cold ground just like Will- neither above the other, neither one free of the other’s desires. Hannibal’s fingers were inside Will’s brain, deep, touching the nerves he wanted- but Will had returned the favor, had stripped Hannibal of his skin and sucked on nerve endings to make him malleable, bendable. He held Hannibal’s strings, but he kept the slack great-

There was no need for either to try to break the other- they shared a common mind, common desires. They lived as one.

Chapter Text

Will sighed against the soft light filtering in through Hannibal’s curtains, early morning- so early that normally Will would scoff at the hour, but he had slept on and off, and was held against Hannibal’s chest in a tender way that made it all seem alright. He shifted, felt Hannibal’s arm tighten, and trailed his fingers over his chest lightly.

“Go back to sleep,” Will whispered, “I’ll be quiet on my way out.” As much as he didn’t want to, he knew he had to disentangle himself, leave soon. He had to shower, to make the drive to Wolf Trap for the dogs, and then to the lab. Even if he were to call Alana or Beverly for a favor, it would still require him getting up soon in order to make it to the lab when Jack wanted. And he didn’t want to call either of them- he relied on them too heavily, too often.

His stomach tightened at the thought that soon, soon, he wouldn’t have to.

“What are you thinking about?” Hannibal brushed his hand along Will’s curls, tilted his head and kissed his forehead, and Will smiled.

“That it will be nice to wake up like this every morning- without the rush.” He shifted closer, turned and pressed an open mouthed kiss to Hannibal’s chest. His lover smiled.

“It will,” Hannibal admitted, “And it is the near future, Will. The paperwork will not take my lawyer very long. And he is already setting up appointments with a few possible buyers for the house.” Will pushed himself up, quirked an eyebrow.

“Really? That was...fast.” Hannibal just smiled at him, his hand running along his spine now.

“I would rather not put this off. I miss you when you are gone, William.” He leaned up, brushed his mouth sweetly along Will’s. “There is just a bit of...clean up that must be done before I allow anyone to see the house.”

Will didn’t need Hannibal to elaborate- he knew exactly what he was talking about. He thought about Hannibal pulling the plastic down from the room, carefully discarding it, bleaching everything and then filling it with scattered boxes to make it appear like storage. He imagined him disassembling the table where Hannibal had pinned him down and joined the two, where Will had accepted the invitation to be a part of even the most secret aspects of Hannibal’s life.

“I can help,” Will offered, “It’s the least I can do. I know I’m going to need your...help, with my house. I don’t have a clue what I’m doing, honestly.” He laughed, almost nervous, and Hannibal was kissing at his jaw, smiling into his stubble.

“My lawyer will handle it,” he whispered, “You need not worry about a thing, dear beloved. Not a thing.”

*

Will had barely stepped into the lab when Beverly nearly walked into him. Instead of apologizing, she grabbed his arm, spun him towards the door. “Good thing you’re here on time,” she whispered, “We’ve got a hot one. Jack is already en route. He wanted me to drive to your house and get you.”

“Saved you the trouble,” Will admitted as they climbed into her car. “Did he give you any details?” Will hadn’t been braced to walk into another body- he’d expected to spend the day still working over the last, trying to connect their faceless killer with Tiffany, with both her victim and the new killer’s victim. Apparently, he was being denied that privilege.

The drive was one similar to what he had taken that morning. Will was sure at this point, he could make it to Baltimore in his sleep. Beverly had fought with the radio for a time, trying to find something to fill the silence, and had stopped while the news was being broadcast to yell at the driver in front of her for slamming on his brakes. Will caught the announcer mid sentence,

“-so badly burnt she was nearly unidentifiable, except for the placement of her car at her home. Authorities say it seems there was a fuel leak which ignited when she started the car. The locking mechanisms appear to have malfunctioned. Police say there is no cause to assume foul play, simply just a string of unfortunate events-“

Beverly switched it again, grinning when she finally found something she wanted, then proceeding to yell at the car in front of her again. She never looked over at Will, never saw the small, satisfied smile on his lips, the gleam in his eye that his plan had gone over perfectly, that his gifts to Hannibal had left him in no risk what so ever.

He was sure Hannibal would be pleased.

*

Will was seeing a pattern in the apartments they were visiting, in the location of the victims. Nothing was ever one the nicer part of town, yet he’d seen worse. They always seemed to be the worst the complexes had to offer, and Will would bet anything that the two bodies he was staring at had criminal backgrounds-

Specifically, some sort of violence against women.

Jack had been waiting for them, had cleared everyone out of the apartments. He’d left Will and Beverly alone, Beverly herself waiting a moment, taking in the carnage, before she too turned to leave. Will reached out, caught her by her wrist and held her still, shaking his head.

“You can stay,” he whispered, knowing that where he was going would be deep, would be red and thick and taste of copper and iron. “Just...don’t say anything.” He squeezed her wrist, left the rest unsaid- unless I go too deep.

It was one thing to lose himself in his own mind, or even Hannibal’s. It was another to slip into someone else’s mind and forget who he was, forget everything about the world except what they saw, felt, took in and internalized. He didn’t want that. And he feared he might end up teetering at the edge of that fine point.

He let go, and Beverly stepped back, away from couch, the space that would be a living room, except that really the front of the apartment was simply one large room, the kitchenette cut off by a short counter.

Will closed his eyes, inhaled, felt the pendulum slip down from his skull, slide cool down his throat, and swing within his chest, heavy with each thud of his heart. When he opened his eyes, the men were each in one piece, standing on either side of him, waiting- waiting for his command.

“I came with them willingly,” he began, “They’re intoxicated. I can smell it coming off them in thick, nauseating waves. They think I am too- I’m small, I’m prey. They want to victimize me and I’m using that.” He looked at one, and the man turned, looked down at him with hard, predatory eyes- cruel eyes, eyes that saw a thing to be used and torn apart, then cast away. Eyes that saw trash in bright, pretty wrapping.

“He tries to grab me,” Will whispers, and the man reaches out, turning, grabbing him by his bicep and shoving him violently to the couch. Will stumbled, fell onto his knees, face pressing to the cushion, yet his heart did not race. He knew he could be pushed around, had anticipated it, braced himself for it. Instead he stayed still, heard the man laughing, exchanging words that he didn’t need to hear to understand.

Discussing him- her, the girl he was in that moment, how he- she was worthless, a pretty fuck and boy, they hoped she liked it rough. Will gritted his teeth against the insults, the word whore loud and clear-

You’ll like it precious, we promise.

His stomach flipped, his hand running along his thigh, pressing against his pocket. They were there, his only chance at sweet release from them, he had one shot on each otherwise he would be the victim, he would become everything they deemed his future was- he had one moment to change it, and it had to be perfect.

“They both grab me,” he whispered, each wrapping large hands around his biceps, lifting him onto the couch, turning him violently. One grabbed his shirt, pulled on it, began to tear it- he heard the buttons spring free, get lost in the old, faded carpet. He felt stubble on his neck and a hot tongue tracing a thick, slug like trail up his neck, smelled stale cigarettes and beer and sharp, sour sweat. The other had a hand between his legs, pressing in and snickering, muttering about a wet little cunt, and Will was losing his nerve, wanting to run, to put the world between him and these disgusting maggots of men. He bit at his tongue until he tasted blood, felt the burn of bile in his throat as his earlobe was sucked on, flexed the fingers of his hand pressed between a large, solid body and his thigh.

He needed to move, and he couldn’t- that little bit he needed was taken from him. Suddenly his limbs felt heavy, suddenly there was a crack in the picture he was painting- and there was a third man, with steel eyes and black hair, appearing in a space between the wall and couch that did not exist, leaning over and wrapping his arms around Will’s neck, running them down along his chest. He smelled expensive, and it overwhelmed the sour, vile scents of the men on either side of him, as they faded into washed out gray, as the room wavered.

“Just relax,” he whispered, his voice hot and wet, making the air around Will’s head humid, “You’ll be okay soon, Will. You’ll see.”

He wasn’t Will- not in this, no. No he was nameless and faceless, a woman he had never seen but he was learning- but he was not Will. He was not supposed to be Will.

This wasn’t what he was supposed to be seeing.

His limbs were immobile, not because he was pinned but because his body felt dead around him, a lead shell that he could not navigate. His thoughts bouncing inside his head, unable to migrate to nerves, unable to break into his skin and express themselves in movement. He whimpered, a broken sound he had heard himself make once.

“This goes better if you’re quiet, Will.” The man’s hands reached up, wrapped around his throat, began to tighten. “It always goes better when they’re quiet.”

Will closed his eyes, squeezed them so tightly shut that his head began to ache. In his skull there were voices screaming, a woman’s cursing at him, commanding him to move, to get up and fight back, and Hannibal’s, calling his name over and over and over again, and one more, screaming wordlessly until vocal cords snapped and his throat flooded with blood.

It was his own voice.

Will realized the screams weren’t only in his head, they were escaping him wordlessly, a screeching wail like a dying animal- like a broken animal with nothing left to lose. It shocked his body to life, and he reached up, grasped onto the wrists as they were pressed into his hair, tore the man from the space that didn’t exist between the wall and couch, hurling him over his body and onto the floor. He landed with a loud thud, and Will lurched off the couch, was on him, sinking his hands into his hair and lifting his head, smashing it down onto the worn carpet that was suddenly colorless. Everything was draining of color.

Motherfucker,” Will spat, staring down into a face he had seared into his memory and yet wished to forget. The lips quirked up into a smirk.

“You want it,” he said, and Will pulled one hand form his hair, arching back and punching straight into his jaw, pulling back and repeating. Teeth gave and a mouth filled with blood as the skin of Will’s knuckles tore. “I can just tell with you, Will.”

“Don’t say my name!”

The man laughed, blood staining his teeth, one missing and leaving a bloody-black hole in his gum. Will snarled, tore at the man’s shirt, digging his fingers into skin. Flesh parted as if Will’s fingers were tipped with knives, and he tore and skinned until ribs were exposed. He could see a heart beating, lungs filling, compressing with laughter, a laughter that was thick and heavy, a worm settling into his brain and making him want to vomit.

He grasped his ribs, pulling them apart to a sick, bone shattering crack, an inhuman strength Will did not possess anywhere except in this washed out reality he was crafting. Laughter was still falling from blood lips, even as Will reached in and grasped his lungs, tore them free and wrung them together in his hands, tossing them away as if they were trash.

He laughter was still there, echoing against the bone of his skull, grating at him as he grasped the still beating heart in front of him and tore it out, holding it in his hands. Separated, it was still beating.

“You can’t kill me,” the man said, snarling now, “I’m inside you.”

Will growled, snarling back at him, lifting the heart close to his face and smelling thick, iron-rich blood, and a faintly sweet sickening dampness, a decay that was there and yet was not. A disease.

“Then I’ll carve you out,” Will spat, “After I eat your fucking heart.” He opened his mouth wide, dug the points of his teeth into the pulsing muscle, felt it beat with life against his tongue as he tore in, as it burst into his mouth and flooded him with the bitter taste of rot.

Suddenly, shattering the image, the washed out portrait with no color except the beating heart in Will’s hands and mouth, a voice was screaming at him, screaming Will, and there was something grabbing him, pulling him back, away from the body, away from Matthew’s laughter, until suddenly it was gone, simply gone, and he was tumbled back away from the blood soaked carpet, falling on top of Beverly as she landed on her back, her breath escaping her in a pained gasp.

He shifted, tried to roll off of her, but she was locking her arms around him, following suit until they lay on their sides. She held him tightly, and when she spoke, her voice seemed....frightened.

“Are you there?”

Will swallowed, licked his lips. The taste of iron and decay was gone. “Yeah,” he whispered, and forced himself to sit up, Beverly following as he pulled himself from her arms.

“What the hell happened?” Her voice had an uncharacteristic waver to it, but it was devoid of any anger. “Jesus I thought you were going to dive right into the scene, and you were muttering to yourself. I couldn’t even tell what.”

Will sucked his lips into his mouth, said nothing. He tried to push Matthew back to the recesses of his mind, back somewhere that he could drown and be forgotten. He had been, for some time. Will had managed, had done so well- and yet, putting himself in the position that young woman must have been, it had triggered a relapse, had brought the man back to life and had left Will wanting to kill him all over again, with his own hands. This was personal.

“It...I...I got lost in it,” he finally admitted, “It stopped being a scene and morphed into...something real.” Beverly frowned, reached her hand out and touched his arm. Her hand was warm, it was living and real and Will wanted to press his mouth to her palm and drink down her very life.

“What did you see?”

Will wouldn’t look at her when he said, “Him,” and Beverly knew. She reached for him, pulled Will back against her as he slumped down, sliding into the carpet, his back of his head resting on her chest. Her arms went around him, one hand pressing to his forehead, fingers flexing in his curls, and Will felt the air humming with something warm, something living and breathing that came from her.

A form of security. Not what he would feel if Hannibal were to hold him in this way, but similar. A sort of love.

“He’s the nightmare that followed me out of my dreams,” Will whispered, felt Beverly’s hand splay on his belly.

“Don’t think about him,” she whispered, “Collect yourself and we’ll get Jack-“

“I didn’t finish,” Will admitted, “Reconstructing the scene.”

“It’s not worth it,” Beverly whispered, lowering her head, “not if you’re going to react like this.” Will realized he was shaking, and he wondered when that had started. His heart was racing suddenly, against his ribs, banging painfully, and he tried to sink further back into Beverly. “We have evidence, we can work with that.”

“Then I’m useless.” Will reached down, pressed his hand over hers. “My mind is all the good I am, Beverly. Let me do this.” He wans’t asking her permission, he knew that, she knew that. But he wanted her approval. Beverly sighed, leaned her forehead down to rest in his curls.

“You’re doing it from here,” she whispered, “I’m not risking you trying to dive into an open body again.” Will didn’t argue, just closed his eyes, smelled sunflowers in Beverly hair as it draped over him, and tried to focus on the way her fingers twitched against his stomach, under his hand. The way her heart was beating a steady, elevated rhythm.

Will put himself on the couch again, pressed between two solid sour bodies, felt his fingers flexing against his thigh again, needing to rise to his pocket. He got his chance when one of them men leaned over him, sucking on his neck with a sick, wet sound that made his stomach roll. In that moment he grasped one of the syringes in his pocket, slid it out and popped the top off, before tugged his arm free and slamming it into the back of the man’s neck, dropping the plunger and forcing air into his vein. He choked, and Will knew his heart was stopping- it would look just like a heart attack-

Even if when he was done there would be no question that none of this was natural.

He shoved the man’s weight off him, just as the other noticed something was off. In that moment Will was pulling the other syrgine from his pocket, flicking the cap off and jabbing it into the flesh of his throat. He grinned as he pushed the plunger in and took his second life within seconds.

He didn’t move right away, instead sat there, glancing from body to body. This wasn’t his first kill, this girl’s, no, she had done in the man Will had been forced to look at with his genitalia in his mouth. She had done this before, but two was an accomplishment.

Finally he got up, walked back towards the door where she had dropped her purse. Inside it was a carving knife, sharpened and resting in a leather sheath. He carried it back with her, settled on the carpet between the two large bodies, looking at them. He had a shake in his body, felt ill at how close they had been. He wanted to take the knife to his throat and skin the section one had licked, his saliva thick and still drying. He covered his mouth with the back of his hand to keep from vomiting.

“You were disgusting in life,” he whispered, “I’ll make you disgusting in death. I’ll break you down to your base components, until you are nothing that can hurt me, or anyone else.” Then, with no finesse, no real plan, Will lifted the knife over his head, stabbed down into one man’s side, sawing through flesh and tissue and watching him bleed onto the carpet. He cut to his rib, then reached in, blindly pulling things out, emptying him from the side. It felt good, there was an excitement in him, from taking everything that made this man human and defacing him down to pig status.

He was smiling as he worked.

He left the innards in a pile on the carpet, turned to the other body, and stabbed into his gut, slicing him open and emptying him as well. Will let everything mix, not caring what belong to who, until they were empty and he was setting the knife on the arm of the couch, and dragging the bodies up onto it, leaving them in sitting positions. Once they were both placed properly, he picked up the knife again, cutting a clear hole in the one man so his empty gut could be seen, and turning the other to face him slightly so she hole she cut in his side was visible.

Then, grinning, he tossed the insides around the room like massive flesh confetti, laughing to himself. How small these men looked if he just examined their insides, strung out now, staining the faded and thin carpet reds and pinks. He walked back to them, tilted his head, sucked on his teeth. Their faces were too human still, too much, and Without hesitation Will shoved the knife in one man’s mouth, tearing through cheek and sawing until until he was an inch from his ear. He did the same to the other side and watched the way the back of his head fell back- and suddenly, he no longer looked human.

He did the same to the other man, before the took the knife to their eyes, pulling them free and leaving the carnage behind, walking over to the kitchenette.

Will’s eyes snapped open, a sharp inhale following as he broke back to the present, felt Beverly around him and smelled her sunflowers and warm cotton, felt her hand running along his stomach. She wasn’t speaking, but he felt her breathing into his hair. He looked across from them, at the remains of the scene, the gutted men, their insides strewn around the room. They were empty now, trash bags not even worthy to hold the waste that was their insides.

“What did you see?” Beverly whispered, and Will didn’t move from her embrace.

“Retribution,” he whispered, grabbing her hand from his belly and lifting it to his mouth, pressing lips to palm and breathing her in. He felt stapled to her, to the present, this moment, and it was good, it kept the chill of Matthew’s fingers far from his mind. Still, he let go of her hand and pushed himself up, away from her, making his way to the kitchenette.

As he expected, four eyes sat atop a piece of paper, staring up at him. He held the gaze until Beverly was behind him, cursing, excusing herself to get a camera. He heard the apartment door open, heard her yell for one, held the gaze even as she returned, snapping a few shots, before she set the camera aside and used tweezers to settle them in an evidence bag. Will reached for the note, holding it in gloves hands, but he could see in his mind his faceless woman writing it with her finely boned fingers.

We see what they are. We are fate. We are judgement. We will make everyone see.

Will swallowed, handed the letter off to Beverly, who read it over quickly.

“What do you think is going on here?” she whispered, and in that moment, Will had no answer for her. His mind was a wash of too many things- he was deep in this woman still, seeing red and sinew, and yet he was feeling cold fingers on his skin, ghost of someone long dead by his command, by the extension of his hands through Hannibal.

“I don’t know,” he admitted, and Will knew he would have to have a better answer soon, or this would never stop.

Chapter Text

Beverly had driven Will across Baltimore herself. When Jack had tried to stop her, she had snapped at him like a rabid dog- something Will had never seen before. Maybe his face changed when Jack look, maybe he saw something Will had tried to keep down, but Jack didn’t fight back after that- simply said he expected to see Beverly back at the lab.

She told Will not to worry about the dogs. She told him not to worry about anything, even as she walked into the waiting room with him, and didn’t hesitate the knock very loudly on Hannibal’s office door. Will racked his brain, trying to piece together Hannibal’s schedule, the time- was their a patient there- would Hannibal be annoyed?

When he opened the door, however, he looked curious if anything. Upon seeing Beverly, and then Will, the curiosity changed to concern, and instead of inviting them in, he walked out himself, straight to Will, reaching for him to press his palms to his cheeks.

“You appear a ghost,” he whispered, and Beverly was watching. Will didn’t mind- her eyes were comforting- that had seen into him for a moment, when he’d admitted who he had seen-

He’d fallen into a killer in her arms. She’d been a voyeur to his work, his imagination’s curse- and he couldn’t help but feel as if something was opened between them now. He wondered what she saw when she looked at him now. Were the seams of his person suit showing? The one he had been learning to wear properly from Hannibal?

Did she see Hannibal’s?

Hannibal was staring into Will’s eyes, probing, and Will didn’t know if he could hide what might be there- if anything was there to hide at all. He let Hannibal lead him into the office, Beverly following, but steered away from the chairs he had once sat in, opposite Hannibal, begging for the man to open his mind for his use. Instead he settled down behind Hannibal’s desk, and was quiet.

Hannibal watched, a hand on the back of his own chair, and Beverly slid up next to him, her arms folded. She, too, was watching Will.

“Something happened,” she admitted, “This morning. At a scene.”

“Tell me,” Hannibal breathed, sure Beverly could hear the concern he made no attempt to hide. Seeing Will shaken, now, was unnerving, in ways he had never anticipated.

“He was trying to...to set up the scene, but his own memories got in the way.” She watched the way Hannibal watched Will, he felt her eyes, but Hannibal did not feel the need to shake them off. Beverly had earned over time a special privilege among them- as Alana had. They were allowed to see more of him than he would allow most. “He...he thought about Barker. I had to grab him, he was going to dive onto the corpses. I don’t exactly know what he saw but...but it wasn’t good.” Her frown deepened. “I wanted to get him out of there at that moment, but he wanted to stay and finish his reconstruction.”

“You were there while he did it?” Hannibal turned to Beverly, and she nodded. Strange, Hannibal knew that Will still preferred his reconstructions to go on in solitude- with his company being the only exception.

“I think he was worried,” she whispered, “It was pretty...brutal. Two victims this time. Guess it was a good thing I did stay. We ended up sprawled on the floor while he finished.” Hannibal raised an eyebrow, watched Beverly’s cheeks tinge slightly- something he wasn’t sure he had ever seen. “I promise it wasn’t anything-“

Hannibal raised his hand, silencing Beverly. “Ms. Katz, you may relax. You are Will’s friend- and dare I say, his closest. I trust you with him, and that you won’t cross whatever boundary line rests between the two of you.” He smiled at her, yet it felt forced. He wanted more than anything to move over to Will, to have the office for just the two of them.

Perhaps he let it show, because Beverly was nodding, then, “I’ll leave you to him. I already told him I’d take care of his dogs. Keep him over night. Just make sure he’s okay, Hannibal.” With that, she turned and slipped out of the office, pulling the door shut tightly behind her, leaving Hannibal blissfully alone with Will.

He made his way over to Will, who turned the chair, though he didn’t look at Hannibal. The psychiatrist dropped down to one knew, between Will’s legs, running his hands up his thighs as if the friction could drag him out of his thoughts.

“Will,” he whispered, “look at me.” A moment passed, and then Hannibal added, “please.”

Will turned his head then, eyes a mess of grays and glossy, as if he had a thin film of tears he refused to let go. Hannibal felt his chest tighten painfully. “I’m sorry,” Will whispered, slumping back, his head tilting back so he stared at the ceiling.

“What for?” Hannibal leaned closer, wanted to crawl onto Will in that moment and drag him back to the surface.

“I was...I was okay,” he whispered, “for a while. I thought I’d pushed him down. I thought I had gone passed this.” He swallowed, Hannibal watched his throat bob. “Christ Hannibal, is he ever going to go away?”

Hannibal leaned up, along Will’s body, speaking into his throat as he kissed gently. “Someday,” he whispered, “He may fade so that you can’t recognize his face, his voice, his hands. Someday. But there may always be something of him, Will. And I regret I cannot cut that out.” Hannibal nuzzled along Will’s collar bone, prompted the younger man to lift his head and receive a kiss to his jawline. “As vile a thing as he was in life, you rectified it, dear Will. You took an important step with him.”

“By having you kill him?” Hannibal reached up, grasped Will’s hands and tangled their fingers together, leaning back enough that he could examine one.

“It was a joint effort, Will,” he whispered, eyes flicking over the contours of bone under flesh. “My hands were your own. Your voice was all there was in my head that evening- echoing like a symphony. I would have done anything you told me to.” He pulled a hand closer, kissed along Will’s knuckles, and Will shivered.

“I tore him apart,” he murmured, “with my bare hands. I cracked his ribs and I tore his lungs out but he kept laughing.” His eyelids dropped, heavy, and Hannibal turned his hand over, released it to kiss his palm sweetly. “I ate his heart. It was rotten- but I was willing to eat it.” Hannibal’s lips closed over his wrist, and Will let his breath rush out, ending in a whimper. “I want to rip him open again and again. I- Hannibal, I wish he was alive so I could kill him again.”

Will gave a choked sob, and Hannibal released him, only to pull him into an embrace, stroking his hair. “I as so in control,” Will whispered, inhaling Hannibal’s cologne, the soothingness of his warmth.

“You still are,” Hannibal whispered, “You are, dear William. Remember that calming control you felt when you set a woman on fire.” He smiled against Will’s hair as his lover stilled. “I heard it on the news- and I knew it was you, beloved, without needing to be told. Clever boy, covering your tracks. You are in control now more than ever, my darling.” He kissed curls. “I do admire your courage. Taking such a step without my even knowing, just to please me. You are a wonder, dear William.”

Will closed his eyes, let Hannibal hold him, the silk of the man’s tie brushing along his face, smooth, warming from his flesh. “I don’t feel as if I’m in control,” he admitted, and Hannibal’s mouth moved against his hair, speaking softly, low and deep.

“You are,” he whispered, “you just have to acknowledge the control for what it is, Will. You have to put a face to it, a name, and acknowledge its existence inside you. Then you’ll feel it.”

Will said nothing, just stayed within Hannibal’s arms, silent, focusing on the steady sound of his heart within his chest.

*

Will calmed himself at Hannibal’s, slipped into the rhythm he found in his home. It was strange to think that this space would disappear soon- close enough that Will could say soon.

He was standing in the kitchen as Hannibal cooked- he had offered to help, but Hannibal had wanted him to relax. He was treating him like a teacup, one that if shattered could not be glued back together, could not reform.

“Let me do something,” Will whispered, but Hannibal only shook his head, leaving Will to frown. He walked away from him, into his small wine room, and pressed his hand to the basement door. When he tried to knob, he found it unlocked, and he shot a glance back at Hannibal. “It’s unlocked?”

“Have a look.” Will pushed the door open, stepping down the stairs carefully. He flicked the light on when his feet hit the floor, looked around a room that he didn’t recognize suddenly. There were no plastic sheets, no table, nothing except a clean, well bleached floor, a few boxes that he was sure Hannibal had settled down there for aesthetics only.

It was a regular basement. It was a defaced canvas.

Will clicked off the light and turned, bonding up the stairs. He crossed the kitchen in a few strides, standing right next to Hannibal. “What happened?”

“You knew it had to go,” Hannibal whispered, not looking at Will. “And my lawyer has a few clients interested in a look through the house. It had to be soon.” Will frowned, reached out and grasped Hannibal’s wrist, pulling him away from the stove, forcing him to drop his spatula on the counter as he turned.

“You’ll have it again,” Will whispered, stroking his thumb along the inside of Hannibal’s wrist, “I promise. I won’t take that from you.”

“What do you think you’re taking, Will?” Will sucked on his teeth for a moment.

“Your own small sliver of Eden,” he whispered, “your workshop- or, at least part of one. Your world, Hannibal. You showed it to me, and suddenly it...it had to go. I promise, I’ll give it back to you.” He leaned his forehead against Hannibal’s, and for a moment Hannibal felt their skulls opening, fusing- locking them together as the one being they were. “I want to watch you work.”

Hannibal pulled away at that, shot a quick look at the food in the pan, then slipped around Will, opening a drawer within the counter against the wall.

“Let me show you something,” he whispered, pulling out his Rolodex, and cradling it a moment, before he brought it over, setting it on the counter next to Will. Will looked at it a moment, began flicking through the business cards, raising an eyebrow.

“Who are they?” he asked, and without hesitation, Hannibal replied,

“The rude.”

Will looked back at the cards, and it sank into his skull that these were possibilities. He looked back at Hannibal, who was smiling.

“The next time you’re feeling particularly feisty, William,” he whispered, his hand drifting to his lower back, “Just remember, there is always a name waiting.” He leaned in, nuzzled his hair, still smiling. “And I am always willing to put on a show for you, my love.” Will turned, looking up, caught Hannibal’s mouth in a kiss, and felt him more than he heard him whisper, “Or watch a show of your own design.”

Will swallowed the promise down greedily, finding his hunger was far more directed at Hannibal himself than anything he could be cooking-

Until he realized, when Hannibal broke away, and he saw the recipe card laying on the counter, that it involved kidney- and that finally, Will truly had provided the meat for their meal.

*

Will felt grass beneath his feet- cool and wet, and when he breathed in the air was chilled, fresh like the night. He was home, Wolf Trap home- the home that would soon become just a house, just a patch of land isolated in a solitude that would migrate with him, would crack and allow the presence of others, yet remain soothing. Will breathed in deeply, looked up at the night sky, the patches of stars that gleamed like fresh eyes.

“Beautiful, aren’t they?” Will didn’t look- he knew the voice, the one his mind had created for Julie that he was sure would be disturbingly accurate. He heard her walking along the grass, soft footfalls, and only dared to look when she was close.

Her smile was soft, framed by her pretty face and gold waves. She was naked- but Will was used to that, used to her split body and the way her belly opened like a book form time to time, allowing him glances at the pages within her. He was used to her mutilation, because it had come as art at the skilled hands of a truly talented sculptor. He admired her, despite the irritation her presence caused, because Cat had crafted her and presented her in a way that he admired.

“Imagine them red,” she whispered, “bright and shining- but red. Glistening from someone’s insides. You see the galaxies inside everyone, Will. You connect constellations where everyone else sees simply stars.” She smiled more, reached out, placed a hand against his chest. “You finally see Will, after all this time.”

He finally studied her face, the set of bones under muscle and skin, the canvas that had allured Cat so much, that he understood. He might not have cut her open just to see what was inside- but he could understand what Cat had done. He could appreciate it-

He had let her get away for a reason.

He reached out, touched her face, ran his thumb along her cheek and felt the bone shifting under the skin, reforming. He watched as she reconfigured, as slowly her cheek bones became defined, her eyes dark pools of wine he wanted to drink down.

“Yes,” Will was whispering, “I finally see. I see you for what you are.” A phantom of desires, a ghostly spectral of needs and wants he had suppressed for so long, he had only dared to half embrace until recently- until he had taken life and given it to Hannibal as a gift. Something inside him that had slept for far too long, that has blossomed slowly-

That now rested inside his ribs in full bloom, smelling of sweetness- of sugared blood and honeyed marrow. “You’re what I kept down for so long,” he murmured, as the face became recognizable, as it smiled at him in a way that traveled up to those beautiful eyes. “You’re that voice that echos inside my head at night, the fingers that slip into veins and pry them open wide enough for your breath and blood to invade. You’re the only thing I’ve ever wanted-“

He stopped for a moment, leaned closer, his other hand finding the waist in front of him, and breathed against a mouth he knew like he knew his own, “You’re Hannibal.”

The mouth he kissed was Hannibal’s, the body pressing against him and enveloping him in his arms was Hannibal- the scent his cologne, the taste his tongue. The girl that had stood before Will dissolved, and the voice that whispered to Will was accented perfectly, “I am many things, dear William,” he whispered, his teeth dragging along Will’s lower lip. His hand pressed to Will’s belly, fingers splayed, “I’m everything you kept locked within for so long, beloved.”

“Everything you pulled out of me,” Will whispered, head feeling a little heavy from Hannibal’s kissed.

“Yes, but everything I took you gave, and gave willingly.” His other hand pressed fingers into the base of his spine with bruising force. “I never gave what you did not offer. I never took without your permission. Everything you have become, you have always been.”

“I’ve become you.” Will pressed his mouth to Hannibal’s, seeking warmth, his tongue and breath and the life he pushed down his throat. Hannibal pressed his fingers into his stomach, dragged his tongue along the fine points of Will’s teeth.

“You and I are one and the same,” he breathed, and Will had heard it before, in Hannibal’s voice in his head, after Wendy’s death. It rang true, and suddenly Hannibal’s mouth felt different, there was stubble brushing Will as he kissed along his jaw, to his ear-

“I was always you.”

The face that pulled back was no longer Hannibal, but Will himself- a mirror image, smiling a devilish grin that made Will’s blood run hot. Without much thought he raked his hands into the other Will’s curls, dragged him closer and crashed their mouths together, sucking on his tongue and feeling teeth on his lips, their bodies being pressed flush together. There were hands on Will’s sides, his own, this duplicate’s, and the moans that mingled were a perfect harmony.

Will tugged on his hair, his fingertips brushing a set of bone-hard bumps within his skull. He pulled away, breathless, and felt something pushing on his skin, pressing up from his shoulders and spine. He groaned, eyes rolling, and the other Will was holding him as skin ruptured, as piercing black points erupted and rose from bone, a thicket of antlers stemming like spines from his back. His mirror image was smiling, hushing him, his own thicket sporting up from his skull, ebony and glistening like greased bone.

“It has always been you,” the other Will was whispering, as Will’s thorns crept around them, encasing them in a cage of black-bone, forcing them to remain pressed together. Above them, the antlers that had stemmed from the mirror-image Will were cascading down, entangling with Will’s and creating a bone net so that neither could leave. “That voice inside- it’s Hannibal, but it’s you. Darling boy, you are nothing more than your own design.”

Will’s mouth was being pried open then, a tongue invading, and he accepted the kiss- hungry for it, felt the antlers turning in on them, poking with sharpened tips. Will found the pin pricks made him shiver, and hands were clutching onto him.

“Don’t deny me,” he whispered to himself, biting at his own lip- unsure if he was biting or being bitten, unsure which Will he truly was. “You did for far too long, darlin’. Let me breathe.” His lip was sucked into the other Will’s mouth, pierced with teeth points so that the kiss tasted faintly of copper. “Feed me and let me live.”

Finally Will reached out, clutching onto himself, tangling his hands in his own hair again and feeling the thick base for the antlers- a heavy ebony-bone crown, a walking cage-

No, not a cage. A shield. You don’t wear skin, you wear bone. Will groaned, eyes rolling back in his head, and the scent in the air was blood and flesh and Hannibal’s cologne, all stemming from him, from not only this mirror image but from his own body, and the voice inside his skull was a harmony of himself and Hannibal, whispering to him sweet boy over and over again, until Will was drowning in it all, suffocating on his own voice but laced with Hannibal’s accent, felt sharp bone pressing through his skin and into his ribs, piercing both manifestations of himself and tangling in with ribs, until he was nothing but a part of this bone sculpture.

Then there was black, and the feeling of hands in his belly, clawing out and reaching for the cool night air, stemming from a fever inside his body that had burned for so long it had felt simply natural.

*

Will hadn’t awoken screaming, nor tossing, nor in a cold sweat. He’d woken up pleasantly tucked into Hannibal’s arms, the older man breathing into his hair in sleep. Will had smiled, pressing back into him, enjoying the embrace, reaching down to stroke his fingers over Hannibal’s hands, and wondering how he could explain such a thing to him. As Hannibal’s embrace tightened, Will let his eyes slip shut, deciding maybe he didn’t have to. Maybe Hannibal didn’t need to be told about every image that appear inside his head-

He was sure that, somehow, Hannibal knew regardless.

*

When Will walked into the lab the next day, he found Beverly sitting at his desk in his classroom, papers laid out carefully. She was watching the door when he walked in, and he checked his watch, thinking perhaps he had set his alarm incorrectly and had arrived later than anticipated.

“You’re not late,” she said, “I just got here early. Alana is taking your pack for a walk as we speak.” Will smiled his thanks to her, walking over, settling on the corner of his desk and leaving her to keep the chair, looking at the papers spread out. Photos taken form the crime scene, along with photos from the autopsy. In all, a rather grisly affair. “Want to know who they are?”

“I’m sure I don’t,” Will said, reaching down and pushing a photo of the two gutted bodies along his desk, “But enlighten me.”

“Roger Finn and Alex McManus,” she said, “both have done time- Alex for mostly drug charges, but there were two assault charges- on ex girlfriends. Roger is a nastier story. Two counts of rape, and frankly enough assault charges that he should be wrapped around a bullet.” She was frowning, and Will didn’t like the way it pulled on her face, but it left a depth to her near black eyes that he found intriguing. Her threat to the dead man didn’t go unnoticed.

“They fit with our other victims.” Beverly nodded. “We’ve got to go over everything they took from the scene. I hope they dusted the entire fucking apartment for prints, there’s no way this girl didn’t leave something behind.”

“So you’re convinced it’s a woman?” Will nodded, and he was happy when Beverly didn’t argue. “Okay, we’ll get down to evidence and see what they took-“ She was cut off when the door opened, and Jack walked in, offering the two a controlled smile. It was the kind Will didn’t like to see.

“Good to find you both. Will, I need you to make a run to Baltimore for me.”

“What?” Will stood from his spot on the desk. “Jack we’ve got a hot case, I can’t, unless I’m heading back to the scene-“

“I put in a call to Bella’s friend, Dr. Mallick. She’s been mulling over the information I gave her, and I’d rather have you evaluate her opinions in person than over the phone.” Will’s frown deepened. “While you’re there, if you feel the need to return to the scene, you can. Beverly will remain here and can work over the evidence, though there have been agents going through it since we left the scene.”

“You took a lot?” Jack smiled more- this one, slightly real.

“We took damn near everything that moved.” Will returned the smile- liking that Jack seemed to be on his thought wave.

*

Will was rather pleased to not have to confront the woman in her neat, overly organized office. Instead, she met him on the campus grounds of John Hopkins, wheeling herself next to him as he walked, a folder of papers settled on her lap. Her smile told Will she was enjoying the sun, and not to ask if she preferred them to be stationary.

“Jack must see some interesting cases,” she offered, “I do wish he’d ask for my help more. I’d love to see the insides of them. Do some work with the minds behind these atrocities.”

“They’re not atrocities to whoever is doing them,” Will said, his hands in his pockets, “They’re a necessary action. They’re not art, but they’re not wasteful. It’s like setting a mouse trap. Necessary death.”

She stopped, and Will stopped next to her. She handed him to folder from her lap, and he took it, opening it up and flipping through it. “A thorough comparison given the facts I was allowed between your first girl and this new one. Also a comparison of her two kills. It’s safe to say any man with a criminal history of violence against women is a possible target- but I expect you knew this already.” Will nodded. “Jack told me they took a lot from the scene.”

“Anything that moved,” Will responded, not looking up.

“You’re bound to find something. I’m sure there will be prints from many women. These two probably had a thing going- who knows how many women were prayed upon until this one stood up.” She folded her hands, the grey streak in her hair gleaming in the sun. Will looked up, and the creases around her eyes and lips made her seem rather friendly- different from his first meeting with her. He hadn’t forgotten her curiosity to him. But then again, Will knew there were a lot of people curios about him and the way his mind worked.

He was only interested in quelling the curiosity of one.

“I think there might be more,” Will admitted, “More women. I don’t know how many, but I think it’s more than the two- or they would have killed together. Maybe they only work one at a time. But I don’t know how they decide to stop. Tiffany was killed-“

“She committed suicide.” Anne reached up to adjust her glasses. “The report listed an overdose as cause of death, no foul play.”

“That’s what it says on paper,” Will corrected, “not what I believe. Jack believes enough to let me take the case.”

“What makes you think it wasn’t suicide?”

“Someone else was there.” Will tucked the folder under his arm, reaching a hand up to run his hand through his hair- hot to the touch with the sun beating down on him. “The table in front of her was too clean- someone had wiped it down, to avoid a ring from the condensation on their glass appearing. And there was a glass missing- she had four accounted for. Three in her cupboard, and the one in front of the body. The set should have had five. Someone took it with them to avoid leaving evidence behind- but they left a gap as evidence instead. Someone Tiffany trusted had a drink with her, and made sure Tiffany was dead before they left.”

Anne was silent for a moment, before she unfolded her hands and smoothed them along her thighs. “You’re a clever man, Mr. Graham,” she said with a smile, “Clever indeed. Very few people would have caught onto something like that. Perhaps your theory has some validity then.” Will sucked on his teeth, didn’t like the condescending hint within her voice. “Your cleverness is intriguing in and of itself. I still wish you would have a conversation with me about it. Perhaps over coffee?”

“The only person allowed inside my head is Hannibal,” Will reminded her, pulling the folder out from under his arm to fidget with it, trying to think of a way to end the conversation. Whatever Jack wanted him to get in person, his brief conversation would have to due. He wasn’t going to be subjected to mental prodding.

“And Dr. Lecter is a lucky man for it. I hope he thinks of the rest of the psychology community and writes on you someday.” Will frowned openly.

“That would be a breach of trust. Hannibal wouldn’t do that.” Anne sighed.

“It’s a shame. I’d love to finally meet Dr. Lecter- he’s a thing of wonder, I do hear. So very talented in every field he pursues. But I’m sure you know that just as well as the rest of us. Your affair with him, I’m sure, has shed light on that.”

My...affair? “It’s not an affair,” Will pointed out, “it’s...a relationship. An affair is something casual and temporary.” Will left unsaid that what he had with Hannibal, that bond- it was for life, for beyond life. He didn’t question it at this point, didn’t care if he seemed crazy considering that he and Hannibal had only a few months together so far.

He was with Hannibal for life.

“Dr. Lecter never seemed the type for that,” Anne admitted, “I’ve heard of some of his affairs. Why, I remember when he was instructing Dr. Alana Bloom, there was always talk of an affair there. I don’t know if it happened or not, but the students wondered. Bloom is a lovely woman, he would have been crazy to turn her down.” Will was grinding his teeth as she spoke without realizing it- for a moment a flash in his head of Hannibal’s hands on Alana’s slim waist, running up to trace her curves, filling his head. A spark of jealous ignited in his chest, down to his gut, and he worked to keep it down. It didn’t matter, none of that mattered, it was the past.

Will couldn’t let himself forget he had almost pursued something with Alana- would have, had she been willing to have him. He couldn’t blame Hannibal if there had been something, not with Alana, not with a woman whose charm he understood, and understood so well.

“Whatever affairs Hannibal has had in the past don’t concern me,” Will said, “Nor do they concern the case, and thus our conversation. Thank you for your time, Dr. Mallick. I’ll take this report to Jack, I’m sure he’ll be very pleased.”

Anne nodded. “Anytime. I’m always more than happy to help out a friend. And to get an insight on such lively cases. My door is always open to Jack- and to you as well, Will Graham, should you ever feel like a conversation.”

Will did nothing but nod his goodbye, walking briskly away from her and towards his car.

*

The car itself was stifling, but the AC felt musky, so Will opted to roll the windows down as he drove off the campus. He didn’t look at the file he had been given, he didn’t expect to find anything in there much worth his time. It seem Dr. Mallick had been thinking more along the lines of Jack’s initial thoughts, which did not interest Will.

They weren’t correct, and while he wasn’t about to let himself be conceded, he knew he was right about this. He knew something was running afoul.

He made his way across the city, to the apartment complex that still housed police tape and the crime scene. He knew it would be cleaned up soon, the tape would be taken down, and suddenly it would become just a series of rooms where no one had to know two men were gutted. But for now, it still held the ghost of bodies, two dead, and one living.

It was the living ghost Will was concerned with.

He let himself in, walking the few steps into the room and then dropping down onto the carpet, staring into the space that was the living room, at the countless stains on the carpet and couch. They were old, rusty by now, and the air smelled of stale, used blood. Will inhaled, the dust of it coating his tongue, and flexed his hands at his sides, crossing his legs and leaning his elbows on them.

“You touched something,” he whispered. “You left something behind. Somewhere.” He closed his eyes, not daring to slip into this girl again, but attempting to picture her, a walking shadow. They had searched the garbages, had found no syringes- but the autopsy had shown it appeared the men died from cardiac arrest. Will’s theory was viable, then- oxygen forced into the veins mimicked the affects of a heart attack.

“You would’ve been filthy,” he whispered, “when you were done.” Unless she wore a plastic suit like Hannibal, which Will doubted. This killer wasn’t as sophisticated, as practiced. She was a novice too- she was simply a passionate novice.

Will saw her, from where he sat behind his eyelids, carving up the men, throwing piece about because they didn’t deserve to be full-human, yet their insides didn’t deserve respect. Rotten from the core. Caked in blood, he watched her make her way to the bathroom, nudging the door open with her shoulder, turning on the tape with her elbow. The soap she used was a lost cause, as was the towel as she wiped the water off her arms.

But her clothing was bloody still. She couldn’t leave as she was, someone would notice. She detoured then, empty syringes heavy in her pocket, the knife left back with the bodies to be shoved into her purse when she was ready to leave. She covered her blouse with her hand, opened a drawer, rummaged inside for a shirt to wear.

Will opened his eyes then, pushed himself up, and went towards the bedroom to the left of the bathroom. She could have gone into either, and Will knew he’d have to inspect both.

This bedroom was a mess, as expected. He carefully stepped over objects, grabbed an old t-shirt off the floor and used it to open the drawers. Clothing was stuffed inside, and Will couldn’t be sure if it had been touched or not. Frustrated, he moved to the other bedroom and to the dresser, pulling the drawers open and rummaging through. He was opening the second to top drawer when he saw it, jutting out from the thrown about t-shirts.

Hand still wrapped in the t-shirt, Will pulled the knife out. Large, hefty, it wasn’t even sheathed, just thrown in. It would have damaged something, and Will suddenly could see her, finding it, pulling it out and tossing the sheath away to examine the blade, wondering what it would have been like to use a knife belonging to one of the men to gut them.

Will set it back in the drawer, then turned, hastily throwing clothing off the bed, and making a small, happy cry when he found it, black and seemingly inconspicuous, left forgotten.

The sheath. Will knew it was a long shot, but if she had touched it without the protection of her bloodied blouse, he might have a finger print. He couldn’t be sure a print would do much good, but it was something when he was grasping at nothing.

He wrapped it in the shirt and carried it to his car, calling Jack as he started the engine. “Jack, listen,” he said, “I have something. I don’t know if it’s going to give us shit, but there’s the possibility that there’s a print on it.”

That seemed to be all Jack needed. He told Will to get his ass back to the lab, and Will gunned his way down the highway, his stomach turning with excitement.

Chapter Text

Once Will arrived back at the lab, he ran his way down to evidence to hand the sheath off for printing. Both Jack and Beverly were waiting, and all three held their breath as it was dusted, before the tech grinned and pulled a print off. Jack grinned, reaching over and slapping Will on the shoulder, and Will wanted to give a small cry of joy- but he knew there was, quite obviously, the chance it belonged to one of the men. They would have to wait until it was run through the system.

“Here,” he said as it was being entered in, holding the folder out to Jack. “Dr. Mallick’s write up. Maybe we won’t need it now.” Jack took it with a smile, before the tech called out to him, turning the screen of his computer around.

“Got a match, sir,” he said, “Loni Acker. Looks like she was printed when she was younger from a breaking and entering charge, nothing recent though, not since she was a teenager.”

“Address?”

“Baltimore, sir.” Jack grinned, but Will felt his heart remaining eerily calm. She was just a link in the chain, a center piece to the puzzle. He needed a corner, or to see the chain as a whole. He needed more than one girl.

*

Jack didn’t bother getting a key from the superintendent of the building, he left an agent to explain the situation, and ahd the door knocked right off its hinges. He was on a trip, of power and knowledge and the ideal that he was closing a case, and Will followed him into the apartment with his own gun drawn, feeling far less sure.

The lights were all off, and they moved in dimness, Jack directing agents with his hand. Will didn’t think it necessary, he didn’t think the girl, if surprised, would be as dangerous, not to them- but he again kept his mouth shut.

It was only when her bedroom door was kicked opened and her body was found slumped on the bed that Will felt compelled to speak- and it was only to quickly say, “Don’t touch anything,” to the agents that seemed a little shocked. Jack had lowered his shotgun, and Will holstered his gun, Beverly doing the same. She walked over to the girl, reaching to check for her pulse, even if they all knew the verdict. A moment, and then Beverly shook her head, and Jack was growling.

“Son of a bitch!” Jack yelled. “Son of a fucking bitch!”

He stormed out of the room, and Will motioned for one of the agents. “Call it in,” he said, “this is a scene now. I don’t want anything missed, get Price and Zeller up here. The best we’ve got.”

“Sir?”

“And if Jack disagrees, send him to me.” Will kept a level stare at the man, who finally nodded and stepped away. Next to him, Beverly was watching.

“Look at you go,” she whispered, “taking charge.”

“Someone has to. Jack needs a minute.”

“Yeah well, if someone told me a few months ago you would step up and take it, I would’ve had them committed.” Will looked over at her, and Beverly offered him a smile. “You’ve changed a lot recently, Will.”

“For the better?”

“I haven’t decided yet.” Beverly’s eyes were honest, and she reached out, took his hand and gave it a firm squeeze. “Mostly for the better. Hannibal has done you a world of good, Will.”

Will smiled, and could only think he had done far more good than Beverly would ever know.

*

Cause of death had been an over dose, as Will expected from the half empty glass of water and pill bottles on her nightstand. First glance would rule it as a suicide, but Will knew it wasn’t. At this point, Jack agreed completely- too much of a coincidence.

“Whoever is doing it to these girls is someone they trust,” Will said to him as he watched Brian, Jimmy, and Beverly move around the room. “And they have an agenda.”

“What are they gaining by killing these girls?”

“Security. A well kept secret.” Will folded his arms. “They’re dying when we’re catching on, Jack. They’re a loose end being tied up.” Will clicked his tongue. “Someone is telling these girls what to do.” Jack’s eyes slid over to Will, then back to the scene being processed.

“You think there’s an orchestrator to all this?”

“Of some sort, yeah.” Will shifted, leaning back against the wall. “Someone is picking these girls off for a reason. Probably don’t want us getting one alive, or we’ll get them. Which means there will be another one, and soon. We’ll have a body within a few days is my guess.”

“Think this person is choosing the victims?”

“I think so. But they’re not faking the girls’...enthusiasm for it. Whoever this person is, these girls trusted them, agreed with them.” He watched with a tilt of his head as Beverly snapped away with her camera. “There’s a connection between Loni and Tiffany, and the same link will exist with the next girl.”

“You think it will be another woman?” Will nodded.

“I know it will be, just like I can tell you the general description of the next victim. It’s a pattern Jack. We’re just missing a few strands.”

*

“What do you and Hannibal talk about?” Bedelia was studying Will, very carefully. He knew, she made no point to hide it. He liked her all the more for that.

“You could ask him,” Will pointed out, leaning back in his chair. The afternoon sun was streaming in through her large windows, bathing the room pleasantly. A wonderful shift to his afternoon the previous day, stuck inside that apartment with a dead lead.

“I’m not concerned with how what you two discuss affects him. My interest is with you, Will.”

“Cases,” Will said without flare, and Bedelia raised an eyebrow.

“Cases?” He nodded. “You discuss your work?”

“Yes. We always have. He’s the wall I need to bounce my thoughts off of.” Will closed his eyes for a moment, and for a brief second, he was in Hannibal’s office, opposite him- staring at a Hannibal he had thought he’d known but truly hadn’t. Existing as a Will Graham had thought he had been sure of, but hadn’t been. Not truly.

“Like this current case you are working on? The one you shared with me at the start of your session?” Will fidgeted. It had almost felt like a betrayal to discuss a case with Dr. Du Maurier and not Hannibal, but she had asked about his work and he had been forced to give her an answer. He had chosen truth to save his lies for when they counted the most.

“We’ve discussed it briefly,” Will admitted, “Other things have been more prominent.” Like how it feels to cut a woman open and know he’s going to grin like a child over her insides.

“Such as?”

“The move.” Bedelia nodded.

“Yes, I would expect such a large change would take up much of your conversation. Let us go back, Will. Aside of cases, before your now changing residential arrangements, what did you and Hannibal discuss?”

“We have talked about his patients- or what we can of them. Obviously not much. I...I don’t know.” Will reached up, rubbed along his jaw. “Off the top of my head, I just don’t know. There’s a lot of silence, really, but I don’t mind that. We don’t need words, and I’m content just being in his presence.” Bedelia gave him a nod, and Will wished he could open a door into her skull and watch her brain turning. She was thinking, he knew- formulating, crafting her own judgement that she would alter as the evidence was presented. She was, to her credit, fair in that respect.

“What do you and Hannibal do together?”

Will tapped the fingers of one hand along the chair, his other hand falling to his lap. “We live our lives,” he admitted, “with each other in the room. It probably sounds crazy, but I think that’s what we need. He might read a book, and I’ll read over case files. I might tie some flies, and he might draw. We’re content being able to look over and see the other there, in our space.” He sighed. “It works, for me anyway. Hannibal has never complained. And of course we do talk, and we have gone out from time to time. And there’s his cooking- he’s letting me help a little now, at least.” Bedelia nodded her affirmation, and he knew she was filing this into her budding conclusion. Will smiled, debated for a second what he was going to say, then decided to hell with it all, he was going to have a little fun. “And then there’s the sex.”

Bedelia raised her eyebrows at that, and Will fought down the urge to blush. He’d started this train of thought, he had to keep it on the rails- and blushing wouldn’t help with that. “Intimacy is something important in your relationship, then?”

“Isn’t it usually?” Bedelia didn’t respond, and Will thought about it. “I mean, it’s not the most important thing. But...I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it.”

“You are still in a state of your relationship where physical intimacy will feel a more pressing matter than most others.” She smiled. “And Hannibal is an intimate man. I’m sure you know his romantic past enough to judge that.” Will sucked on his lower lip, thinking he really didn’t- he didn’t ask, Hannibal didn’t offer. But it was the same with Will, not that he had much to share. It was still mind blowing to him that someone as gorgeous as Hannibal could look at him and see something pleasing. “Tell me the difference between an affair and a relationship, Will.”

“An affair is temporary. It has a short course, and is physical in nature.”

“And what is a relationship?”

“Something with...a longer shelf life.” Will leaned against one of the chair’s arms, regarding Bedelia as he watched the gears of her mind clicking behind her crystalline eyes.

“But can a relationship not be temporary as well? Are there not relationships that have a set life, and at a point they must be terminated?” Will clicked his tongue, nodded his agreement. “Talk to me of your relationships, Will.”

“I don’t have any to talk about. Nothing serious has ever come up in my life...until now.”

“Affairs, then?” Will shrugged.

“I guess. I might not have thought of them as such, but they fit that definition better than a relationship.” He frowned. “What about you, Dr. Du Maurier? What about your affairs?”

Bedelia gave a gentle, brief laugh, folding her hands in her lap. “We aren’t here to discuss me, Will.”

“No, but an inch for an inch.” He smiled, and Bedelia pursed her lips.

“I have had my own share. Brief affairs suit me. Short term engagements remain fresh and refrain from becoming dull. I haven’t felt much of a need to find someone who I would want to secure something more long term with.”

“You sound like Hannibal,” Will admitted, “It’s your voice, but those are his words. I could see him using the same exact reasoning. He’s passionate- he loves and he loves hard, but he is a man who enjoys experiences.”

“Yet here you are, in what you consider a relationship with him.” Will smiled softly, running one hand along his thigh.

“I guess I just bring a lot of experiences to the table. You and he are startlingly alike, doctor. Perhaps you can enlighten me as to why he would choose something prolonged with me, over a short lived affair?”

Bedelia unfolded her hands, ran them along the arms of her chairs, studying Will. Thinking. Will liked when she thought. Truthfully, he simply liked her, more than he had anticipated.

“You fulfill a need Hannibal has neglected for quite some time. You offer the opportunity for a routine that is not boring, one that has the repeated offering of new experience. Hannibal is a curious man, yes, but he is a man looking for a sense of stability as well, for someone who offers an understanding. Do you think you understand Hannibal, Will?”

“Yes.” Will didn’t hesitate, and he believed his answer. He didn’t understand everything about Hannibal, he didn’t know everything about the man- but then again, who could ever know everything about another human being? But he knew what he was given and what he had dug up, and he understood it. He understood a part of Hannibal no one else did, and that was enough to give Will a soothing confidence in their relationship.

“I would agree,” Bedelia offered- not what Will was expecting. “I would argue you seem to have a better understanding of him than the rest of the world.”

“You have a rather good understanding of him.” Will knew Bedelia was missing large chunks, but from what Hannibal gave her, she understood him perfectly. It was startling.

“I understand Hannibal almost intimately in some aspects. And in others, he is a stranger. He wears a very well tailored person suit, and allows me to see what he decides appropriate. I would argue, Will, that you do the same.” Will raised an eyebrow, and opened his mouth to question her, than shut it again, replaying her entire statement in his head.

Almost intimately. She understood him so well, she very much shared Hannibal’s view on intimacy, Will knew- and suddenly, he was clicking pieces together in his brain.

“You had an affair.” It wasn’t a question, and Will didn’t need her to answer to know the truth. Something in her eyes gave it away, but when she gave a small nod, it was more than he expected.

“I would not even call it that,” she offered, “There are more vulgar terms for it.”

“One night stand?” Bedelia laughed, honest, and Will liked the sound.

“Yes, you could say that. If you have an interest in the details though, Will, you will have to ask Hannibal. I believe disclosing even this much is over stepping a boundary.” She smoothed out her skirt, and Will studied the way her hands moved. He felt oddly calm over it all- curious, but nothing more. There was no burning in his gut, no anger tickling behind his eyes. It was a past event, one before his time, one he could not change- and one that did not change where he stood with Hannibal right now. “Does this knowledge make you feel anything, Will?”

“Curiosity,” he admitted. If he were to close his eyes, he could see it- through Bedelia’s own. Hannibal sitting where he as now, her carefully settling onto his lap, the sounds of lips sliding together mingling with the rustling of clothing- not being removed, simply adjusted. Hannibal would never see much of her body, nor she his- it was almost like a business transaction, yet Will felt a power there, something between them, in the air. There was no denying an intimacy between the two who were so mentally well matched.

“Do you feel jealousy, Will?”

“No.” Will leaned forward, offered Bedelia a controlled by genuine small smile. “No, I don’t. What Hannibal and I have, it isn’t threatened by a past affair, or the opportunities for future ones. I can’t fully explain it,” he admitted, “but we know what we are too each other- and that’s enough.”

Bedelia smiled at him then, standing up and offering him a glass of wine, as Will expected. He accepted and watched her leave, curious what she truly thought he and Hannibal were to each other.

*

He drove straight from his therapy not home, but to Alana’s. He realized, pulling into her driveway, that it was rude to just show up unannounced, but reasoned she did it enough to him that he could return the favor. He grabbed the papers off his passenger seat and walked up to her door, ringing the door bell. Inside, her heard Applesauce give an excited bark, and a minute later when the door opened she rushed out, circling around him and sniffing in a way that made him give an honest laugh.

“Will,” Alana said, “Uh, hi.”

“Hi.” He bent down, gave Applesauce a good pat, before straightening up. “I hope this isn’t a bad time.”

“No...would you like to come in?” He nodded, and she stepped aside, allowing him in. He slipped past the door frame, noticed a set of shoes not in Alana’s size as she closed the door, and smiled softly.

“Have a guest?” She followed his gaze, and her cheeks tinged.

“No, uh...Bev left them here.” She rubbed at her arms, then gestured towards the living room, and Will took her suggestion, making his way in and settling on the couch. She settled next to him, at a respectable distance, and he held the handful of papers out to her, causing her to quirk one eyebrow.

“Your article.” She looked at it, than at him, and slowly took it, leafing through the pages. “I added some input, like you asked.”

“T-thank you,” she stammered, glossing over each page. “I figured you just weren’t going to do it.”

“I wasn’t,” Will admitted. Because I can’t say what I want to about Cat’s work to the public. “But I decided it was worth it. For you.” She looked at him, smiling, and leaned over, placing a soft kiss to his cheek.

“You’re a sweetheart,” she whispered, “And it looks like you’ve added some interesting points. Calling her work art...it’s brass, Will.”

“It’s honest.” Will knew he couldn’t go into the depth he’d like to- couldn’t praise Cat in the ways she should be, but he could at least acknowledge that in her eyes, she was creating masterpieces- he just couldn’t openly agree with it. “She viewed what she was doing art- we should acknowledge that.” Alana nodded.

“I don’t disagree. Thank you again, Will. I have a journal that’s been dying for this, I’ll fix my draft and send it tomorrow. I’ll make sure to get you a copy-“

“You don’t have to-“

“-after all, your name will be on it too.” She smiled, taking his hand and squeezing it as she set the article aside. “Maybe you should consider publishing more often Will. I’m sure it’s less stressful than the field. And it pairs well with teaching.” Will laughed, leaning back into her couch and not answering, nor pulling his hand away. Her palm was warm, he liked that.

“I like my field work,” he admitted, “even if I don’t always enjoy who I work it.” He ran his thumb along her knuckles, sucked on his teeth for a moment, and then dove in, “Can I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

“Did you ever have an affair with Hannibal?” Alana’s face went slack, and Will averted his eyes for a moment, not sure he could handle her’s. He tried to pull his hand back, but she clutched at it, covering it with her other hand as well.

“Will-“

“Forget I-“

“-Did someone tell you we did?” He stopped, forced himself to look up, then back down at her hands clasping at his.

“Someone said there were a lot of rumors about you and Hannibal, back when he was mentoring you. They expected it was fairly likely.”

“Do you think it happened?” Will sighed.

“I don’t know. I don’t know if I exactly care, per say. I just...I just want to know. It doesn’t change anything between Hannibal and I, or you and I. But I’d like to be in the loop.” Alana smiled, squeezing his hand.

“We never did,” she admitted, “I’m sure it crossed both our minds, but it never happened. And obviously, it won’t. I wouldn’t do that to you-“

“Nor would Hannibal.” They both smiled, and Alana nodded.

“Exactly. He’s crazy about you, Will.” She pulled her hands back, extending one arm along the back of the couch. “I’ve never seen him like this with anyone.” Will’s smile broadened, and he didn’t doubt her words at all. He knew Hannibal was infatuated- just as he was, as well. And he knew it wouldn’t have mattered if he and Alana had had an affair- nor did it matter that there had been something between Hannibal and Bedelia. None of it mattered, because none of it compared to what Will and he had now- and Will knew this.

He was oddly comfortable with it all. Hannibal was his, completely his, and no one could change that. Not now, not ever.

“So when are you expecting Beverly?” Will teased, grinning as Alana’s cheeks tinged pink.

She looked at the clock, then admitted, “In about forty-five minutes.” Will laughed, feeling light, and figured he had a few minutes to spare to try and pry details about the two from Alana, before he left her to her own sort of bliss.

Chapter Text

Will could have brought up his questions about the affair- and the affair that never happened- to Hannibal that night when he called him, but he didn’t. He’d rather discuss it with him in person- and felt no anxious pressure to have it over and done with. It was simple curiosity, and nothing more.

Hannibal had made him quite the curious man.

He had asked a favor of Hannibal though, and once his day at the lab had ended, and he was packed within his car to the sounds of happy pants and whines from the dogs, he was glad he had. While any car trip with all the dogs was always a new type of chaos, he knew it was worth it- and something he needed to do, for their sake.

He drove into Gaithersburg, Maryland in the late evening, and found a car waiting for him in the driveway, outside the house he would one day soon be calling home. He got out, recognized the young woman leaning against the hood, and smiled at her.

“Thanks for this,” he said as he opened the back door, and the dogs began clamoring out, excitedly. He slammed the door shut and opened the front passenger door to let the two smallest out. “I’m sure it’s an inconvenience to come out here so late just so I can let my dogs run around.”

“It’s not a problem at all.” She smiled and reached down, patting the dogs as they came to greet here, and moving from her car to walk with Will around the house, out towards the fields behind it. The dogs fanned out happily, sniffing around, tails wagging.

“I don’t think I ever gave a proper introduction,” Will said as he stuffed his hands in his pockets, “but I’m Will.”

“Hazel,” she offered with an incline of her head, “and Dr. Lecter gave you quite an introduction when he set up the walk through. He’s very fond of you, I have to say. I mean, I don’t know him, but from what I could see. It’s pretty obvious.” She laughed, almost nervously, but it was sweet. “I’m pretty excited this house is going to a couple like you two. I spent a lot of time here, as a kid with my grandfather, and it’s got...memories, and something else. Just a general reverence, I guess. I wanted it to go to someone who wouldn’t just look at it as a house, but turn it into a home.”

Will smiled, a gently curve of his mouth. “Hannibal is my home,” he admitted, his chest tight and hot and his belly alive in a way that made him miss Hannibal so badly and yet love the excitement of that next visit. “Where ever he is will always be home to me. But,” he stopped, looked back at the house, “If I had to choose a place to settle him, to anchor my home, it’d be here.”

Hazel smiled at him, folding her arms under her chest and looking back at the house as well, even as one of the dogs wound his way around her legs playfully. “You two are the perfect couple,” she admitted, “You’ll build a wonderful family here.”

The word family made Will’s chest tighten even more, and he didn’t think of Abigail or Wendy- he thought of Hannibal, only Hannibal, and that he was right. The two of them constituted a family, and they were enough. They would always be enough.

*

By the time Will arrived at Hannibal’s that evening, it was late. Common sense would have dictated he spend the night at his own home, and come visit Hannibal the following evening, but Will hadn’t seen his lover in days, and that was weighing heavy on him. Alana had agreed to check on the dogs in the morning, so that he could go straight from Hannibal’s to the lab, which helped, but Will couldn’t wait until this was over and there was no longer this wide separateness.

He let himself in, re-locking the door, was greeted by the striking sounds of Hannibal’s Harpsichord. Smiling, he made his way into the house, found him concentrating on the movement of his fingers as the sweet melody drifted along the air to caress his mind.

“Composing, or playing someone else’s piece?” Will asked, and Hannibal stopped, looked up at him an offered him a smile.

“An old piece of my own design,” he admitted, and slid along the bench. “I did not hear you come in.”

“I can be quiet,” Will teased, settling on the bench next to Hannibal, who smiled so sweetly Will’s chest was tight again, as the man leaned in and kissed his cheek.

“I would argue you cannot.” Will blushed, laughed, and felt Hannibal reaching for his hands, taking them and setting them up on the keys.

“Hannibal no,” Will said, “it’ll sound like a dying animal.”

“Try for me.” He settled Will’s fingers on keys, leaning in, brushing his cheek along Will’s jaw. “This first,” he whispered, pressing on one of Will’s fingers, “and then these two.” He pressed two more, smiling, inhaling to smell the scent of the evening, the dogs, the wind in Will’s hair, on his skin, and loving in. “Go ahead.”

Will did as he had been instructed, felt Hannibal’s lips just under his ear. “Slower, darling,” he whispered, “Like this.” He pressed Will’s fingers, and when he lifted his hands away again and Will repeated, it was in the correct tempo. “Good, keep doing that.” He poised his own hands over the keys, pressing down gently, playing against the gentle rhythm of Will’s simple key strokes, and Will found he was smiling, pushing his leg over to brush their thighs together, making Hannibal chuckle. “Not so difficult is it, Will?”

“I wouldn’t call three notes playing,” he admitted, messing himself up with his speech and faltering in the tempo. He cursed, pulled back, and Hannibal slipped an arm around his shoulders, kissing his cheek once more, fingers toying with the collar of his shirt.

“Given time, you will play just fine.”

“I don’t know if that’s really the case.”

“We could try the Theremin, if you believe it would be easier for you.” Will laughed, shaking his head.

“That would be worse.” He licked his lips. “How about I just teach you to play the Harmonica? I think that would be the best solution.” Hannibal chuckled, and Will turned to him, running one hand along his thigh gently, affectionately. “You don’t have to stop playing because I’m here.”

“No, I do not. But I do when you have that look about you that tells me there is something on your mind.” Hannibal let one hand fall over Will’s on his thigh, pinning it carefully. “What troubles your thoughts?”

“Nothing is troubling me,” he admitted, “Just... a curiosity.” The corner of Hannibal’s mouth quirked up.

“You are picking up my habits.”

“It’s mutual,” Will pointed out, “You don’t fold your clothes before sex now.” Hannibal laughed openly at that.

“Only when I have been missing you rather passionately.” He lifted Will’s hand from his thigh, kissed his knuckles, and Will smiled. “Now, speak to me.”

“You had an affair with Dr. Du Maurier.” There was no question, Will knew it was true, yet his voice was light- curious indeed. There was no threat or anxiety, and that more than the statement took Hannibal aback. He raised and eyebrow, hesitated a moment, then answered,

“Yes.” He kissed Will’s knuckles again. “Although affair gives it more life than it deserves. One evening Will, that was all.” He flipped Will’s hand over, kissed his palm. “Did she tell you this?”

“Yes.” He felt Hannibal’s mouth on his wrist, tongue darting to test his pulse, and fought down the hitch in his breath. “She wouldn’t give me details- she said that was for you to give.”

“And she is right.” The words were just a mumble against flesh as Hannibal began his ascent up the sensitive skin of Will’s inner arm. “Do you want details?”

Will sucked in his breath as Hannibal reached his elbow, the sharp points of his teeth brushing the all too tender flesh. If he closed his eyes he could see it, and he was sure that within a reasonable degree what he saw was accurate.

“No,” he finally whispered, “Not right now. I don’t need them- just needed to know it happened.” Hannibal slipped further up, pressed his mouth to Will’s neck, and Will felt himself dissolving, slowly, melting into his hold and his touches. “Did you have one with Alana?”

Will knew the answer- he believed Alana, and he knew Hannibal would back her story up, but it came out a question still. Hannibal stopped kissing him, pulled back to give him a level stare.

“Who gave you the idea that Alana and I had an affair?”

“A woman Jack knows,” Will offered, “A friend of Bella’s, she teaches at John Hopkins and has been helping him with some profiling. Dr. Anne Mallick. She said she remembered rumors about you and Alana, back when you were mentoring her.” Hannibal gave a small nod, still holding Will’s gaze.

“Do you believe we did?”

“No.” Will inhaled deeply. “I wasn’t sure when she brought it up, but I asked Alana, and she said you didn’t. And I believe Alana, I know you’ll say the same thing, and I will believe you too. Even if you had, it wouldn’t change anything, Hannibal.” Will reached for his hand, rubbing his thumb along his knuckles. “I just want to know.”

“We never did.” Hannibal leaned closer, was watching Will’s lips. “I would be lying if I said I did not consider it, but it never came to fruit- nor will it now.”

“I know it won’t.” Will reached for Hannibal, slipped an arm around his shoulders and buried his hand into the back of his hair, tugging him closer and breathing against his lips, “You’re mine now.” When he kissed him, Will was all open mouths and tips of teeth, and Hannibal moaned against his tongue and fought him for the control, taking it only to lose it the next moment as Will pulled himself closer, tugged on Hannibal’s hair with enough force to make the man groan. The sound reverberated in Hannibal’s chest, ricocheted in Will’s skull, and Will wondered if they’d bother trying to make it to the bedroom, or if Will would be grasping the keys of the Harpsichord and singing his own sort of song to the accidental melody.

*

Will stretched out, on his back in Hannibal’s bed, eyes fluttering open. Against the soft, typical near silence of the dark of the room, he heard a melody rising. He looked towards the bedside table, saw the clock read nearly one AM, and furrowed his brow, wondering what Hannibal was doing up at this hour playing his Harpsichord. With a sigh, he sat up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and standing, hunting in the dark for his underwear. He found them, grabbed Hannibal’s red sweater and tossed it on against the coolness of the late night, and made his way from the bedroom to the stairs and down them.

He hesitated once he made it to the living room, watched Hannibal playing from a distance, the way he moved with his eyes closed, as if the melody had seeped its way into his veins and told his fingers where to move, and when. The sounds themselves were pleasing- sweet and strong, and Will folded his arms, wanting to curl back up in bed to the melody and lose himself to sweet dreams encased in the sounds.

Hannibal hit a note, and his face changed. He stopped, abruptly, and grabbed a pen, altering the note on his sheet with a look of concentration. In that moment, Will felt like an outsider, as if he was trespassing where he shouldn’t be, and he considered turning and making his way back to bed, when Hannibal looked up and turned, eyes catching him and holding tightly.

“Will,” he whispered, “I’m sorry, did I wake you?”

“Yeah,” Will admitted, “but it’s okay.” He walked over, glanced at the empty spot on the bench, and Hannibal gave it a gentle pat in invitation. He sat down, looked at the sheet music Hannibal had written on. “Are you composing now?”

“Yes. It’s a piece I wrote many years ago. I always find something that needs altering whenever I play it.” He looked fondly at the paper, and Will saw a sadness leaking out from his pupils, dark and heavy into his irises- a tiredness to his face that made him look older- or perhaps his age, Will couldn’t be quite sure in that moment.

“Why at one in the morning?” He wanted to ask something else, but Will wasn’t sure what, so he stuck to the logical question. Hannibal shrugged one shoulder gently.

“I found myself restless.” Will frowned, sliding closer to Hannibal until their thighs brushed, and reached out, trailing his fingers along Hannibal’s.

“You could have woken me up.”

“You have to be up early to get to Jack,” Hannibal reminded, “you need your sleep, beloved. I apologize, I will stop until morning. Let us get you back to bed.”

“Why were you restless?” Will wasn’t about to let this drop- there was something in Hannibal that didn’t feel right. “Did something upset you?” Hannibal smiled at Will’s genuine concern, reaching over and brushing his fingers along his cheek.

“Remarkable boy,” he whispered, “You care far too much.” He leaned forward, pressed his mouth to Will’s forehead, his hand slipping back into his curls and gripping. Will closed his eyes for a moment, felt Hannibal exhale against his skin as he pulled back. When he opened his eyes again, Hannibal’s eyes were wet, glossy, and he was trying to turn away, his breath escaping in a small sound. Will reached for him, wrapping his arms around him, his chest tightening quickly. Hannibal never cried, yet in that moment that seemed like exactly what he was about to do.

“Hannibal,” Will whispered, stroking a hand along his back, “darlin’, talk to me. What’s going on?” Hannibal took a deep breath, a steadying breath, but when he spoke his voice didn’t match his body- he sounded smaller.

“I had a sister,” Hannibal whispered, and Will stared. Hannibal had never offered up any family history, and Will had not asked. He knew Hannibal knew enough of his own from their therapy sessions, and he just assumed because Hannibal never spoke of them that he had nothing more to admit to than his parents death and his growing up with an uncle and aunt.

He had never once even breathed a word of a sister.

“Had?” Will whispered, and the word felt foul in the air- as if Will’s voice wasn’t meant to be heard, as if he shouldn’t exist in this moment. This was a private space, a personal cut in time meant for Hannibal only, and Will was invading, infecting.

“Once,” Hannibal continued, “She’s dead.” Will felt a coolness sinking under his skin then, gripping bone like icicle fingers and clutching, clutching. “Her name was Mischa.”

Will nodded, his mouth moving in the faintest of whispers before he could stop himself, “Mischa.” Hannibal choked then, gasped, and let Will pull him into an embrace, slumped into his arms and whimpered once, only once, before he grew silent. “I’m sorry,” Will whispered, for saying her name, for interrupting his moment, for her death, for everything. He wanted to apologize for all of it.

“She was so small,” Hannibal whispered, “Still is, inside my mind. Precious and innocent- the only one of her kind.” He looked up at Will, and he realized that sadness made Hannibal seem younger- yet grief made him seem older. His face, the lines were accentuated, but his eyes were those of a small boy- a lost child, a hurting child, and Will clutched him even tighter and kissed his hair, whispering his love brokenly.

“I’m sorry,” Will whispered again, “I- I didn’t know.” Hannibal was pulling away from his embrace, and Will released him reluctantly, watched him reach for the sheet music and lift it off the Harpsichord.

“I composed this years ago,” he whispered, “for her, in her memory. There was a lullaby my mother used to sing to us, that Mischa-“ he stopped on her name, his voice wavering for a moment, his accent thicker than Will had ever heard, “-she never quite remembered. She would hum a tune half our mother’s and half her own. I tried to capture that, I heard her voice in my head for so many years. And yet every time I play, I hear something that is not right.”

“It’s beautiful,” Will started, “What I heard. I’m sure she’d...like it.” Will didn’t know what to say- wanted to ask how, how how how, but knew he couldn’t. That was something Hannibal had to offer. “What made you...pick it up now?”

“You.” Will looked away, feeling ill suddenly, and wondered what he could have done to cause a sadness in Hannibal such as this- but Hannibal was gripping his chin, turning him to stare right into his dark eyes. “You, beloved. And your talk of family. I never thought that word would have a meaning again- not without Mischa. And yet, I find myself redefining the term with you as the single definition.” He smiled, true, hinted with sadness yes but with an appreciation that made Will choke. “You have given me a new life, Will. And I...I thank you for it.”

Will said nothing, accepted Hannibal’s arms around him, the way his fingers played with his wild curls. He curled up against his chest, inhaled his scent until he was dizzy. Beneath his ribs, he could hear the steady thump of Hannibal’s heart.

“When they took her,” Hannibal whispered, “I could not do anything. I was a boy, cold and terrified. I promise, dear Will, this time I will never let another harm my family.” He squeezed Will tighter, and Will said nothing, yet Hannibal must have sensed his question, must have known his curiosity that Hannibal himself had bred into Will, because he continued. “No one will ever eat your heart, darling. Except me.”

Will clutched at Hannibal’s shirt, and behind his closed eyes he saw a young Hannibal whom he wanted to gather up in his arms, with bloody lips and dead eyes, and Will knew, he knew, without hearing the rest. He saw snow and smelled chilled blood and it was enough.

Will took another breath, Hannibal’s heated sweetness, and heard the ever steady beat of his heart, closing his eyes and allowing himself to slip into Hannibal in silence, to curl up in his arms in a way Mischa no longer could, never would again.

Will was all Hannibal had, in this world, and he knew it as much as the doctor did by the way the older man clutched him so tightly.

*

Typically, when Will got up earlier to make the drive to Quantico, Hannibal got up with him. However, when he stepped out of the master bathroom and into the bedroom, the older man still lay in bed. Will smiled to himself and dressed quietly, brushing his wet hair back with his fingers and crossing the room, leaning down to press his mouth to Hannibal’s hair. When he pulled back, his lover was staring at him, awake.

“Sorry,” Will whispered, “I tried to be quiet.” Hannibal stretched, sitting up slowly.

“Give me a moment,” he nearly mumbled, “I will make you some coffee.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Will sat on the edge of the bed, reaching for Hannibal’s hand and covering it with his own. “Stay in bed, I have to get going anyway.” He leaned in, kissed Hannibal’s cheek, then chuckled. “I was thinking, while I was in the shower.”

“Hmm?”

“And I came to the conclusion that maybe you should throw a dinner party- you know, one final one before our move. I do know hwo you like them so much.” Hannibal quirked up an eyebrow, and Will knew the question. “Only, I’d have to ask that you keep the menu very...basic. If the Ripper makes an appearance, Jack will pull me off the case, and I don’t want that.”

“If I were to have a party, you would have to be in attendance for the entire evening, dear Will. Could you handle that?”

“For you, I think I can.” He smiled sweetly at Hannibal, lifting his hand and kissing at his knuckles, thinking Hannibal in the morning was the most beautiful sight he had, and ever would, see.

*

Will had spent a day with his case work, papers strewn about his desk, reading over criminal records for the victims, rereading the letters that had been left behind- daring to close his eyes and reinvision scenes.

Yet he was getting nowhere. Something was still missing, and he knew he needed the next girl in order to see it. He needed another murder, and that would, to most, be unsettling.

He was making his way to his car when he heard his name being called- and turned to see Alana waving him down, beckoning him over to Beverly’s car, where she had the passenger door open. He slammed his own shut, papers inside, and walked over, not even getting the chance to greet her before she was speaking.

“Get in,” she said, “Jack just called Beverly, told her there was a fresh scene for you two.”

“Where is he?”

“At the hospital, with Bella.” Will nodded, saying nothing and asking no questions as he climbed into the back seat, giving Beverly a nod in greeting as Alana hopped in and pulled the door closed, and Beverly tore off towards the high way.

*

Will wasn’t shocked to be back in Baltimore. He wasn’t shocked to be in a rundown apartment complex. He wasn’t shocked to be staring at a small set of joined rooms that constituted a mediocre living space that smelled of blood- although this was fresh. This was raw and heated and new.

“This just happened,” he whispered, looking at the drops of blood on the carpet as Beverly snapped a picture. Next to her, Alana was yelling for everyone to clear the scene, to get into the hallway. “When was it called in?”

“Not even five minutes to Jack calling Beverly and us getting in the car,” Alana admitted, “This is a few hours old, max.” She reached out, placed her hand on Will’s shoulder. “Beverly and I will be in the hallway-“

“No.” Will reached up, placed his hand over hers, squeezed once. “You two can stay. Just hang back.” He pulled away, heard the click of Beverly’s camera, and made his way towards the bedroom, where he was told the body had been found.

He pushed the door open, was met with darkness, the overwhelming scent of blood and entrails, and tried to breathe through his mouth but could taste it.

He closed his eyes, focused on the echo inside his ribs, felt time shifting inside his skull, until he was reset, until he was back at the doorway with this man, large and looming, grinning down at him with a hand around his bicep, leading him into the apartment.

Will didn’t hesitate. He pulled syringe from the bag he held, jabbed it into the man’s back, plunging the liquid in, hearing him give a sharp cry and jerking away. He pulled it out, gritted his teeth, but then stumbled, barely able to catch his balance.

“I inject him with a high dosage of a neuroleptic,” Will whispered, “It takes affect within moments. He will grow dizzy, confused, before passing out. Yet- he will try to escape.” He watched the man turn, make his way towards where Will knew the bedroom was, and he followed, hanging back a few steps- stalking like a lioness, sleek and prepared with her precise movements.

The man stumbled onto his bed, collapsing with a groan, and Will grinned. He dug into the bag at his side, pulling out the knife- standard, he knew, at this point, whoever was choosing this girls had an equation to the way their attacks had to work- and tapping the flat of it against his hand.

“It’s early enough that we could have been seen,” Will whispered, “So I’ll have to be quick. Be a dear and open up for me- or I’ll have to get rough. Like you always did.”

He grinned, didn’t waist any time sticking the knife an inch into the man, below his belly, and cutting along, grabbing skin and tugging, slicing, until it was free like a flesh curtain, and Will was cutting at the man’s insides, the air hot and heavy, specks of blood on his cheeks, his shirt.

He opened his eyes, looked back and found Alana watching him with uneasy eyes. He turned back to the room, staring at the body that had been positioned into a sitting position, legs folded, arms stapled to the wall, the flesh of his belly rolled up like a scroll and stapled just under his ribs. Spilled onto his lap were his entrails.

Will walked around the body, heard Alana and Beverly rustling at the door, then the click of Beverly’s camera. Alana flicked the light on, bathing the room in a faded pale white, and Will blinked to adjust to it.

This close, he could see the man’s eyes had been removed, where stapled to the stump that was once his tongue and hung over his lip, dangling.

“He looks like an idol,” Beverly whispered, “Sick as that is.”

“That was the intent,” Will muttered, stuffing his hands into his pockets for a moment, before he left the room, handing it over to Beverly to investigate. He followed the speckles of blood on the carpet, saw a few on the kitchen floor, a smear on the refrigerator.

Tugging on his gloves to make sure they were secure, he was careful to avoid the smear on the handle and opened it, found sitting on the top shelf a plate with a pink hunk of meat settled on the center, a piece of folded paper tucked beneath it.

“Beverly!” he called, not turning back, and heard her steps. She peered over his shoulder, breath escaping her, and snapped a photo the moment he moved. Once she was satisfied, Will lifted it from the fridge, setting the plate on the counter. Another set of pictures, and he was pulling the paper free of the tongue, just in time to hear Alana cover her mouth and try to muffle her gasp as she saw the severed muscle.

Will unfolded the paper, read it over once, twice, then passed it to Beverly, who read it as well. She was quiet, and Alana was leaning in, reading it out loud from Beverly’s hands.

“You think you can beat fate, Mr. Graham? Leave the work of justice to us, or meet our hands early.” Alana looked at Will, frowning. “They’re targeting you directly.”

“No,” she said, “No, they’re just calling me out. They’re spooked because I know something.”

“And what is that?” Alana was staring at him, eyes wide, scared- for him, he knew. Beverly seemed oddly neutral, and Will wondered if perhaps she was thinking that this girl had far more to fear in him than he in her.

“They’re not working alone,” he whispered, “They know I know someone is orchestrating all of this. They knew, and it’s scaring them.”

Chapter Text

Will was beginning to dislike his now frequent trips to Baltimore. He was killed the engine of his car at John Hopkins, he gritted his teeth and wished, wished so badly, that Jack had sent Beverly on this. Or had asked Alana. Anyone but him.

He was only thankful his company wasn’t Dr. Mallick today. Despite her being rather courteous, her fascination with Will was just too much for him- it made him think, with unease, of Chilton, and how he wanted nothing more than to get a peek inside Will’s head. He was sick of feeling like a freak show oddity.

The name on the office door read Dr. Diane Mays, and Will knocked once, heard a call for him to enter. He slipped inside, the office chilled by an air conditioner that made him nearly shiver at first, heard the gentle click of the door, and saw Diane seated at her desk, eyes scanning over her tablet. She looked up and offered him a smile, her teeth seeming near blinding compared to the dark of her skin.

“Mr. Graham,” she offered, “Come, sit. Good to see you again.” Will sat down in the chair opposite her, pulling it closer to the desk so he could lean his hands on it. “Agent Crawford sent me images of the notes found with your bodies. Very interesting.”

“Jack told me you study religion and the...psychotic mind.” Diane smiled again.

“I do. My dissertation was a study on Christianity and its provocative nature in murder. I also have a book published with a more general look at religion and the psychotic mind. Not enough people want to look at the two in comparison.” She set her tablet aside. “Your killers have an interesting choice in Laima, I have to say.”

“Tell me about her.”

“She’s found in mythology from both Latvia and Lithuania. Often associated with childbirth, marriage, and death.”

“Seems like an odd grouping,” Will admitted, and Diane shook her head.

“Not if you stop to think about it, Mr. Graham. Women bring life into this world, it only makes sense that they would be associated with the end of life as well. She who creates will also destroy.” Will said nothing, wasn’t sure he had anything to offer to that, and Diane continued. “In Latvia she and her two sisters were seen as the Fates, much like in Greek mythology. In Lithuania, she can either be singular or there can be three of her, but she still has a fate like role.”

“Hannibal told me this,” Will offered, not wanting to be rude, but not wanting to sit through an extended conversation and gaining no new knowledge. Diane’s fingers tapped once on her desk.

“I apologize,” she said, “It makes sense you would have gone to Dr. Lecter as well with your questions. He is Lithuanian, is he not?” Will nodded. “Ah, then yes, he would have told you this already. I wouldn’t doubt that the good doctor has seemingly endless knowledge.” There was a note of a condescending tone to her voice, something Will stored away, not to be forgotten. “Laima’s functions are considered identical to those of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. Did he tell you that?”

“No,” Will admitted, and Diane’s smile grew smug.

“Lakshmi is a wife to the god Vishnu. She is considered the goddess of wealth, prosperity, and love.”

“So are these girls really channeling her, and not...Laima.” Will stumbled for a moment over the word, felt not as if he was discussing a case but a fantasy novel.

“They are Laima, and her sisters. Perhaps there is a Lakshmi, you just haven’t met her yet.” Will focused on her, watched her reach for her tablet and bring it to life, glowing under her finger tips. Something felt very wrong in that moment to him. “Agent Crawford informed me you think these girls are acting under the command of someone else?”

“Command, persuasion, something of the sort,” Will admitted. He wasn’t sure how he felt about Jack sharing that knowledge- it left a bad taste in his mouth. “They’re getting orders from someone and they’re carrying them out. And them someone is ending these girls when they get sloppy.”

“We all get sloppy at one point, we either make a simple mistake or we allow something like emotion to get in our way. Tell me Will, have you met a killer who hasn’t?” Will didn’t like her saying his name, he decided. Typically being Mr. Graham to anyone made him feel alienated, isolated like a spectacle, but at least here it allowed him to feel detached, in case she too decided to pry where he didn’t want her to.

Will thought of Hannibal. He hadn’t gotten sloppy- and could Will consider it any sort of failure that he had opened himself to him and let Will see inside? Surely it hadn’t left Hannibal in a worse off spot than before- if anything, Will was a companion, and a small screen of security against the world. Someone to watch his back, should the need arise.

Had Cat let her emotions get in the way? Her intrigue, perhaps, as she had slowly left hints of herself behind for Will. But again, it hadn’t led to her capture. She was still free, out there somewhere, Will knew. Sometimes when he scrolled through the news on Hannibal’s tablets, he hoped to hear of a murder that matched her artistic flare. Sometimes he hoped for a glimmer that she was still working, still creating.

“I’m very short on subjects to interview for my field of interest, Mr. Graham,” Diane offered up, breaking the silence. Will was glad to have his mask back. “If you catch these girls, I’d appreciate the chance to interview them personally.”

“That will be up to Jack,” Will said, “Put the request in to him.” Diane nodded.

“It’s a shame there aren’t more around to interview. I can pull as many parallels as I want, but there is nothing like a live killer speaking of their immersion within any sort of religion. There was one those few months ago- Richard Blake, I remember reading about him.” Will felt the scar on his thigh throb suddenly, and instantly knew he didn’t like where this was going. “You remember him of course, Mr. Graham.”

“Hard to forget,” Will pointed out, “When I have the scar to remind me of his attack.” Diane gave him a small smile, and he hated it.

“Didn’t Dr. Lecter kill him?” Will reached up, pulled his glasses off, staring at her with dark grey eyes that reverberated with a desire to silent her- possibly by tearing her tongue out with his bare hands and nails.

“Yes.” The word was a near hiss. “He was a patient of Hannibal’s. He broke into his home, was coming after me. Had Hannibal not acted, I wouldn’t have this scar on my leg- I’d be six feet under and cold.”

Diane’s dark eyes had a gleam to them as she quirked her lips up in a half smile. “Fortunate for you Dr. Lecter was there. How dearly you must rely on him.”

Will didn’t like her tone, her eyes, the way the words hung in the air. In that moment, he felt threatened, and slipped his glasses back on, lest she see the murderous intent within his eyes without his filter up. He wondered what she would taste like after Hannibal was done with her.

*

“It was unnerving,” Will said, walking around the kitchen, wine glass in hand, as Hannibal wrote down in his precise, careful handwriting the list of dishes he wanted to serve. “The way she spoke- she was threatening me.”

“Could it have been in your head, beloved?” Will stopped, looked at Hannibal, and then laughed, shaking his head.

“Calling me crazy doctor?”

“Considering that you may be feeling a little paranoid,” Hannibal corrected, looking up at him for a moment before returning to his list. “You have made little progress on your case, we are about to embark on quite a change in course for both our lives- and you are forced into interactions with people who make you feel a spectacle. Your nerves may be getting the better of you, Will.”

Will sighed and took a long sip of wine. “Maybe you should judge for yourself. Both her and Dr. Mallick are just dying to meet you. And probably study the way we interact.”

“Are you suggesting I invite them?”

“I’m suggesting you fuck me into oblivion on the Harpsichord and let them eat up that interaction.” Hannibal jerked his head up, but Will was grinning, and he couldn’t help but laugh, shaking his head at his younger lover.

“You are something terrible, William.”

“Invite them, and you’ll see. Besides, even if I am paranoid, at least you’ll have someone to talk head science with.” Hannibal reached out, curling his hand into Will’s hair, cupping the back of his head.

“Very well. But do behave yourself, Will.” Will nodded, leaned in and accepted the kiss Hannibal offered him, before leaving him to continue his plans.

He made his way out to the living room, settling down on the bench at the Harpsichord, thinking it would be very strange to see this room empty soon. After the party, Will knew Hannibal had plans to begin moving his things. He would be signing on the house within the next coming days, for all Will knew the same day as the event. It was strange- it had all happened so quickly- Will had barely started to pack. He’d thrown some things into boxes, but that had been it. Nothing was labeled, nothing made sense- not that there was time, anyway.

There wasn’t even time for him to be sitting here. They were running through security footage back at the lab of the apartment complex still, security for buildings around it. A crime in the middle of the afternoon meant someone had to have seen something. He should be there, but Jack had told him to go home and let the techs handle it. Jack, with tired eyes that told Will he hadn’t slept long, Jack who, when Will asked of Bella, had said nothing, had cast dark eyes down- Jack, who perhaps was reevaluating his own priorities, and at the same time doing it for Will as well.

Will wouldn’t disagree with the chance to get to spend an evening with his own family- or at least the human portion of it. Part of him couldn’t wait to curl up with Hannibal and have the dogs laying about. He wasn’t sure he would get that again until they moved.

He finished off his wine and set the glass aside, running one of his fingers along the keys, careful not to apply pressure and make a sound. There was no sheet music out, and Will wondered if Hannibal had packed it all away. He wondered if Mischa’s song was settled in with other sheet music, or if it had a special place, would be carried by hand into the home.

Will wanted to hear Hannibal play it- play all of it. He wanted to hear the ghost of this girl he had never met, this girl who lived inside the person he loved most. This girl who had once been Hannibal’s family- his predecessor in the role.

He wanted to know Mischa, and he could only do that through Hannibal.

Will pushed down on one of the keys, closed his eyes and listened to the sound ring through the air. He pressed another, then another- liked the crispness to the sound. When he opened his eyes and turned, Hannibal was watching from the doorway, smiling at him. He could have told Will he could learn- like he usually did. He could tell Will how easy it would be if he taught him, and Will could laugh and say he was, and never would be, cultured enough. They could have the same exchange they had had many times before, and it would be welcome.

Instead, Hannibal watched, didn’t speak, didn’t offer, and Will pressed along keys curiously, slowly, until his hand fell away to rest on the bench. Only then did Hannibal walk over and settle down next to him, and when Hannibal placed his hands on the keys, Will mimicked him, looking at him through dark lashes and soft curls, and finding Hannibal had the faintest hint of a smile to his lips.

For love, Will knew he would do a lot of things he had never anticipated.

*

Will dumped his arm load of assorted, miscellaneous items into the box at his feet and shifted things around, until he could get it closed, and tapped it shut, pulling the Sharpie from his pocket and hesitating a moment, before shrugging a shoulder and writing stuff on the box.

This was the fourth box of its kind.

He wasn’t good at packing, and he knew it. And it was difficult when it was simply odds and ends items going away- his clothing was left untouched. He wasn’t even exactly sure when he would be moving into the house, he just knew soon. And soon was enough to give him a little panic.

He was stuffing books into a box when there was a knock at his door, and a moment later the screen door opened, then Beverly was opening the main door, stepping in. The dogs rushed her happily, and she stopped to pet them and coo at them happily, giving Will a chance to stand up and rub the dust and sweat off his hands and onto his jeans.

“You look lost,” she said, looking down at two of the boxes labeled stuff before laughing. “Oh god Will, you have to be a little specific.”

“It might all just get shoved in the basement or something anyway,” Will said, shrugging, wondering where it would get shoved if Hannibal took over the whole basement. Will wasn’t complaining about that prospect. “I mean, Hannibal’s going to decorate the whole house I’m sure. We haven’t discussed it much. I just...leave it to him.”

“When is the move?” Beverly plopped down on Will’s bed, picking up one of the books left there in a pile and flipping through it.

“Dunno. Hannibal closes on the house tomorrow.”

“Same day as his little party? How cute.” Beverly tossed the book down. “So where’s your porn stash? You’ve gotta pack that, I’m hoping to get a peek.” Will rolled his eyes.

“There is none, you’re going to be very disappointed.”

“Not even a few snap shots of Hannibal? You strike me as the guy who would like to have a physical copy under your pillow.” She stretched out on his bed, reaching under his pillow and huffing a sigh when she found nothing. “C’mon Will, gimme something to work with.”

Will rolled his eyes, grabbing some of the books off his bed and shoving her leg playfully off a few more. “Sorry Bev, you’ll just have to use your imagination.” He dumped the books into the box. “What are you doing here anyway?”

“Hoping to get you out to get some pizza and beer with me,” she admitted, “Alana is working on a guest lecture she’s giving in a few weeks and wants a nice night in. Preferably without me distracting her.”

Will grinned, turning and folding his arms. “Now that distraction is something I wouldn’t mind hearing about.” He winked at her, and Beverly burst out laughing, pushing herself up, her long hair pushed around her shoulders in tufts from Will’s pillow.

“You can’t use my own tricks on me,” she teased, standing up and brushing her fingers through her hair to tame it. “Alana has a thing for face riding-“

Will held his hand up, shaking his head, laughing harder now, to the point that his ribs hurt. “Oh god Bev don’t, she will kill us both. Just. Stop.” Beverly grinned sheepishly and he helped her up. “I’ll get a damn beer with you, just stop.”

“You really think ‘Lana is that scary?” Beverly asked, shaking her head when Will held his keys up, signaling that she would drive.

“I think she could be,” Will admitted, “if provoked. And you are definitely provoking.”

“Oh I’m sure you could handle her.”

“That’s your job.” Beverly laughed, stopping in the doorway and turning, arms braced on the door frame.

“Oh bite me, big boy.” Will smirked, and in a quick movement grabbed her, lifting her up and tossing her partly over his shoulder. She laughed, good and loud, and held on as he carried her out of the house. Will couldn’t see, but the darks of her eyes had a glimmer to them of trust- and Beverly could forget the glimpses of something dark and seething she had seen inside Will. She forgot, pressed along him as he laughed with her, warm and rich and true- that she had feared she was seeing the birth of a monster.

*

Hannibal tucked his drawings, safe in a portfolio, into the box and, deeming it full, folded it closed yet did not seal it. He settled it aside, with a few others, and contemplated taking them with him tomorrow when he went to sign the paperwork for the house. The sooner he started moving things in, the easier it would be in the end.

He would have to convince Will of this as well.

He left his bedroom- where he was choosing the keep the few boxes he had packed, out of sight from the rest of the house until after his company had left the following evening- and made his way downstairs, into the kitchen. He poured himself a glass of wine, checked his watch, and thought of calling Will, to hear his voice. He had been absent from the house recently, except for the brief visit he had been allowed the other night, Jack softening a bit in his own plunge into despair over Bella.

Hannibal had extended an invite to Jack, of course, and had personally called him to offer in his calm, smooth voice, that if Bella felt up to a visit, she of course was welcome. Hannibal would do anything to accommodate for her comfort. That night, Jack had given Will the opportunity to leave to lab early and spend a precious few hours with Hannibal. Kindness, Hannibal knew, paid off- although he had been sincere. Bella was a beautiful woman and he rather enjoyed her company. He hoped, for her sake as much as Jack’s, that she had the strength to enjoy what was left of her life, if just for a few precious moments.

Hannibal pulled his phone from his pocket, and found he had a text from Will.

Out with Beverly for some drinks. Call you later?

Hannibal felt a moment of confusion as to how Will seemed to know he had the desire to hear his voice in that moment. The text was less than tne minutes old. He smiled, replied with a simple, Please do, and left his phone on the counter, gathering up his wine and walking out into his living room. He settled down at the Harpsichord, took a sip of wine before setting it aside, and looked at the sheet music he had left out. The untitled song stared back at him, sang softly in his mind not in the notes of the Harpsichord, but in Mischa’s small, soft voice.

He sighed, lifted the papers carefully, and set them aside. For the first time in a long while, he had no desire to play her song. For the first time, he did not want to dwell on Mischa in his private time. He took a deep breath, then set his hands to the keys, picturing a few notes in his mind he had strung together during the day- when his patients had become exceptionally dull and he retracted into his own mental palace to listen to the sounds echoing off the bone walls inside his skull.

He played the few notes, frowned, and tried again, this time changing the order of the final two. Satisfied, he repeated, again and again and again, until he was satisfied it truly did sound pleasing, before he reached for a blank piece of sheet music and wrote them in. He settled the papers and pen aside, took another drink, and set his fingers back to the keys, testing notes for their smoothness in the melody, frowning and beginning again, before he would find a few he liked, write them in, and play the melody clip as a whole.

In his mind, there was a pair of blue-grey eyes staring out through his own. There was a warm body seated next to him, holding a wine glass they would share and smiling, watching the way his fingers worked. Will sat as a ghost and breathed the air Hannibal breathed, watched his hands worked- always watched his hands. Whether he was playing music, sketching, or cutting into flesh, Hannibal knew Will watched his hands.

Even when they were busy working over Will’s body, he had caught him glancing.

Hannibal realized he was smiling, thinking of Will, and casually wondered how often that happened. Shaking his head, he reached for his wine and took a sip, thinking he would like to have this piece completed by the time he and Will were moved into the new house. He’d like the christen it with a melody dreamt up alongside visions of his lover, to see the blush creep onto Will’s cheeks when he told him he had inspired him so much that he had begun writing music for him.

Perhaps than he would show him some of his drawings, to cause that blush to travel down Will’s neck, creep along his collar bone.

Hannibal sighed, and settled his fingers back along the keys. It had been a long time since he had felt this inspired, since another human being had caused him to want to create so heavily beyond the kitchen. Not since his darling Mischa had anyone ever penetrated Hannibal’s core so very deeply, so smoothly, and settled in to live out the rest of their memory’s days within him.

The importance was far from lost on Hannibal, and he found himself itching to hear Will’s voice again, to have him by his side. Against the sounds of the Harpsichord ringing through his still, sleeping house, he promised himself he would never be separated from his darling beloved- not for any true length of time again. He welcomed the changes they were making within their lives, and would embrace him openly, warmly, just as he did Will, with a gentle kiss to his curls and the feeling of his breath against his neck.

Chapter Text

Will had his hands in his pockets as he looked over Beverly’s shoulder, at the printed stills from the security cameras. There were four different women who fit the profile they had set up physically for their killer- she would be in her twenties, mid to late. A few years older than Bradley Madison’s victims. That had been chilling, for Will- to think back to him and his desecration of those young women.

It had been satisfying to remember putting a bullet in his head. He just wished he could have used his hands.

“We’ve got some techs working on IDs for them,” Beverly offered, “Now that we’ve weeded through everything. We can go to the complex,if you want, and ask around. Or I can go, and you can sneak out early.”

“Why would I need to leave early?” Will asked, stepping back as Beverly stood up.

“Well, aside of your posh-ass boyfriend hosting us all tonight, and you needing extra grooming time-“ she paused to laugh as Will frowned, “-isn’t he signing for the house today?” Will nodded. “So...don’t you want to be there?”

“He can handle signing his name,” Will said with a laugh, “I’m not too worried about missing this moment. Trust me, he understands I want this case closed, and closed yesterday. Let’s go together.” Beverly shrugged a shoulder and gathered up the photos, the two making their way out the door and to Beverly’s car.

*

Will and Beverly met with the apartment’s superintendent, who hadn’t been here during the crime. Sadly, he didn’t recognize any of the girls, but did offer that some of the other residents might. Will was hoping as much.

The first few apartments were either empty for the day, or the occupants knew nothing. Will was glad everyone was cooperating though- he knew they must have been shaken, but he was sure Beverly’s startlingly warm smile was helping. He was even trying his best to be charming- hoping he didn’t use all his charm up by the time the party began that evening. Hannibal would gut him over it.

Will knocked on the door they stood in front of, Beverly holding the photos in one hand. There was a pause, the sound of footsteps behind the door, before it opened, a young woman cradling an infant in her arms as she leaned it against her body to prop it open.

“Hi,” Beverly started, offering up a nice smile. “I’m Agent Beverly Katz- and this is special investigator Will Graham.” Will raised a friendly hand. “We were wondering if you had a minute.”

“Is this about what happened the other night?” Beverly nodded, and the woman managed to push some of her blonde hair back behind her ear, shifting the child as she woke softly. “Of course I do, then.”

“Thanks.” Beverly held up the images. “Would you look at these and tell me if you recognize any of them?”

“Certainly.” She moved her hand to take them, then stopped, shifting the baby. She looked at Will, and a slight blush to her pretty cheeks, asked, “Would you mind holding her for a minute?”

“Me?” She nodded, and Will looked at Beverly for help. She offered none- only a bemused smile. With a sigh, Will carefully took the child into his arms, cradling her close, somewhat awkwardly, as the woman took the pictures, flipping through them very slowly, studying the faces. Will took the time to look down, was met by a set of startling, dark blue eyes. The baby looked up at him, wide awake, and for a moment Will was terrified she was going to start wailing.

Instead she reached a small hand up, grasping at the air, and when he raised an eyebrow she giggled. The woman looked up at the sound, then smiled.

“She likes you,” she said, flipping to the last picture, before going through them again. She stopped on the third, tapping it. “Her. She looks familiar. I was bringing Josie back from a doctor’s appointment the last time I saw that creep.” Creep Will knew, meant the victim. “Someone was walking into his apartment before him, a little blonde thing. I think this looks like her- it was hard to tell, I barely saw her. She peeked her head out for a minute to make sure he was following.”

“What were you doing, after that? If you don’t mind my asking,” Beverly added, and the woman smiled.

“Not at all. I sat in Josie’s room rocking her with some music playing. She likes classical music- I don’t know where she gets it from. I thought I heard a little ruckus, but I didn’t think much of it. With the way this complex is, noise is normal.” She sighed. “It was probably...” She waved her hand, and handed the pictures back to Beverly. “I hope I was a little help.”

“You were, thank you.” Beverly looked at Will, cradling the baby much more comfortably now, smiling down at her. He felt her eyes, looked up, and blushed a little, passing her back to the woman who held her close, kissing her forehead tenderly.

“You’ll make a good dad, one day,” she said with a laugh. “Josie is fussy, doesn’t like much of any one except me.” Will didn’t say anything, and Beverly thanked her again, looking at Will as they walked. They made it to the stairwell and half way up, before he finally sighed heavily.

“What?”

“Good dad, huh?” She was grinning. “Better tell Hannibal to get a bun in your oven.” Will threw his hands up, groaning, and Beverly just laughed all the way up to the next flight.

*

Will stood in Hannibal’s bedroom, adjusting his jacket. The dark green plaid had been all Hannibal’s choice- in fact, everything Will was wearing had been his choice- down to his underwear and socks, even. Plaid suits were a thing of Hannibal’s world, and Will turned, looked at himself from the side and wondered if he could possibly pull it off.

Downstairs, he knew Hannibal was instructing the servers and cooks he had hired for the event. Will had arrived later than he meant to- he’d taken the dogs to a Doggie Daycare for the next two days- for the night of the party, and the following so he could, he hoped, spend a quiet evening with Hannibal. But getting them there had left him covered in dog fur, sweaty, and an absolute mess by the time he finally got to Hannibal’s. With a huffed sigh, Hannibal had nearly dragged him to the master bathroom for a shower, and had left his entire outfit laid out nearly on the bed.

Green plaid. Will rolled his eyes, but couldn’t help but think there was something charming about it. Hannibal had let him forgo a tie- instead, the silky black shirt Will wore was unbuttoned just past his collar bone, giving him freedom to breath. He wasn’t a fan of ties. He raked his hands back through his curls, dry now, and was contemplating what to do with them when Hannibal slipped inside, silently letting his eyes cast over Will.

“Turn around for me.” Will jumped- hadn’t heard Hannibal, and whirled, quickly, to face him. Hannibal smiled, walked over and wrapping a hand around the back of Will’s neck, pulling him in closely for a sudden, rough kiss- the kind with teeth dragging along Will’s lower lip, followed by Hannibal’s tongue tracing over his own teeth. He groaned, ran his hands up Hannibal’s chest, felt the man’s hold on his neck tighten.

“Careful,” Will breathed, as he pulled back, “Or I’ll need a second shower.” Hannibal chuckled, releasing his neck to card his fingers through Will’s hair, once, before grabbing his wrist and taking him back into the bathroom. He opened his cabinet above his sink, dipping his fingers into some gel, and beckoning for Will to tip his head. Will did, with a roll of his eyes, and Hannibal carefully pushed his curls back, allowing one to delicately fall over his forehead. When he was content, he washed his hands, closed the mirror, and pulled Will from the bathroom before he could take a look.

“Look at yourself,” he instructed, gesturing towards his full body mirror. Will sighed, turned to flick his eyes over his reflection- and stopped. His breathing slowed, and in that moment, it seemed like the room turned to slush around him, moving slowly, heavy, allowing him to wade through it at his own pace. He took in the expensive suit- Hannibal had purchased it for him, taken his measurements himself, and Will didn’t want to ask about the price tag. He knew better. He ran his hands along his sides, tilted his head, glanced through his thick lashes, and it struck him, in that moment, exactly who he looked like.

Hannibal. He looked like Hannibal.

“What have you done to me?” Will whispered, in almost awe, and Hannibal reached beneath his arm, around from the back, resting a hand on his belly as he kissed at Will’s neck.

“All I’ve done is show you your inner desires, beloved,” he murmured into his skin, “Shown you the monsters that were sleep deep inside.”

“Cut me open,” Will murmured, “You could study the anatomy of a monster.” Hannibal smiled into his neck.

“What I wouldn’t give to cut you open, here,” he whispered, running a finger along Will’s belly, “To study what makes you so darling, beloved.” Will smiled, tilted his head back and found Hannibal’s mouth for another kiss. While the words should have been gruesome, there was a clarity of affection in them, a need to know Will so deeply that no one could ever dream of knowing him as intimately. He didn’t fear that Hannibal would gut him one day- Hannibal would never hurt him, just wish to know and own-

In a way that Will understood, a way he wanted to know and own as well.

“Come downstairs soon,” Hannibal whispered, pulling away, and he disappeared, leaving Will alone in the bedroom. Will took another moment to turn to his side, run his hands down his belly and smooth his shirt and jacket, giving a wicked half smile, his eyes glimmering, free of his glasses for the night.

The smile looked nearly identical to one he had seen Hannibal flash before.

*

Will stood, close to Hannibal, as he chuckled and spoke with a woman Will had seen from time to time- dark, sleek bob- older, with scarlet lips and alert, judging eyes. Will said nothing, served instead as a place holder next to Hannibal, tried to follow along, a champagne glass in his hand, half empty. He’d snuck into the kitchen to down half of it quickly, Hannibal finding him and frowning. Will claimed he needed a little liquid courage- Hannibal could only roll his eyes.

Will was watching the door way, and excused himself quickly when he heard a laugh he’d recognize anywhere. Hannibal didn’t get the chance to even touch him before Will was gone, excusing himself through the crowds. Beverly and Alana appeared just as he broke through, grinning at them, and Beverly opened her arms, giving him a tight hug in greeting.

“Look at you!” she said, leaning back and eyeing him. “Hot damn you clean up well, Graham. Alana look at this stud!” Will laughed, reaching out to twirl some of her long black hair around his fingers and tug playful, making Beverly smirk in a dark way, raising her eyebrows. “Do it again, Graham. I dare ya.”

“Oh lord,” Alana muttered, reaching up to pinch the bridge of her nose. “Please, you two, we’re in public. Hannibal will have you both on a platter if you ruin his party.”

Will laughed, thinking how true Alana’s words were. He released Beverly’s hair, giving Alana a brief hug in greeting, smiling at her.

“You both look wonderful,” he said, loving the way the deep blue of Alana’s dress played with her eyes. “Come on, come get a drink. Make it look like I can play a good co-host.”

“You sound like this is a game show,” Beverly said, walking with the two, tugging on the sides of her own purple dress- the back an extreme length compared to the front. Will didn’t think he’d ever see Beverly in a dress again. He was rather pleased she hadn’t donned heels and instead wore sleek, flat boots. It made him feel a little more comfortable. He finished off his champagne as Beverly and Alana took a glass, and set his empty one on the tray the gentleman was holding. The man smiled at him, giving him a respectful nod.

“Do you need anything, Mr. Graham?” Will shook his head, feeling strange knowing the staff Hannibal had hired were probably watching him- realizing, in fact, that the whole room was probably watching him, through the corners of their eyes. He didn’t grace Hannibal in public as often as was expected- in fact, he rarely ever did. And not like this.

He tried to fall into conversation with Alana, about how the article they had worked on together would be published soon- she would make sure he got an electronic copy of the journal. Beverly seemed intrigued- but Will was sure she remembered the case. They remembered the ones that got away, and Cat- she had gotten far away, he was sure.

Will felt a hand on his back, and smiled as Hannibal leaned in, giving both Alana and Beverly charming looks. “Good evening,” he said, “You both look lovely. I hope Will is being a good host.”

“You trained him well,” Beverly said, raising her champagne glass to Hannibal before taking a sip. Alana only smiled in agreement, before Hannibal was looking past.

“Excuse me,” he said, “I’m afraid I have so many people to welcome that conversation is hard to hold.” He kissed Will’s cheek quickly, leaving them for a moment and walking towards the entrance way, calling out to someone in his smooth, accented voice.

“Ever the gentleman,” Beverly said, “Will, you’ve got quite the catch here. Behave yourself.” He chuckled affectionately.

“And you’ve got one with Alana. Don’t go fucking it up, Bev.” Beverly laughed openly, loudly, and Alana blushed, trying to hush them, a quick, Will, we’re not coming from her mouth when she was interrupted suddenly.

“Well Dr. Bloom, I should have expected you here.” All three turned, met Hannibal as he walked side by side with his most recent guest- Dr. Fredrick Chilton. Will felt his stomach drop, and suddenly wished that server would come back. He’d ask for a shot- or three.

“Dr. Chilton,” she said, ever polite, smiling at him, “What a...pleasant surprise.”

“Let me get you a drink, Fredrick,” Hannibal said, patting his shoulder before departing. Will said nothing to him, quickly turned and followed Hannibal, leaving Beverly and Alana alone with the man. Hannibal walked through the room quickly, back into the kitchen, and when Will burst in behind him, he exclaimed, rather loudly,

“What the hell Hannibal!” The staff in the kitchen raised their heads, and Hannibal turned as he took a fresh glass of champagne before it was even set on a tray. “Why is Chilton here?”

“Because he is a colleague,” he said, walking over towards Will, “It would have been rude not to invite him.” Will huffed his breath, but let Hannibal take his hand, guiding him back out of the kitchen.

“You know how I feel about him. He just wants to worm around in my skull for a while.”

“I would argue most people want to peek behind your eyes and skull, beloved.” Hannibal smiled when they returned, hanging Fredrick the champagne, which he accepted with an audible thank you, and took a sip. Hannibal turned for a moment to Alana and Beverly, releasing Will’s hand, leaving him oddly isolated with Chilton.

“I suppose you haven’t changed your mind about coming back for a visit,” Chilton asked, “As I said before, we’re woefully short on information about anyone with your...gifts.”

“No, I haven’t,” Will said, “The only one allowed inside my head is Hannibal.”

“Shame he doesn’t share what he finds.” Will frowned, narrowing his eyes as Fredrick took a sip of champagne.

“So how is Dr. Gideon?” he asked, “still claiming to be the Chesapeake Ripper?” He watched Chilton swallow suddenly, pulling the glass from his lips, and knew he’d struck the right nerve. Chilton was surely sensitive over the whole ordeal- but with Gideon locked up and the Ripper still killing, there was simply no way it could be him.

Plus, Will knew exactly who the Ripper really was- inside and out.

“We’re lucky Dr. Gideon is claiming anything at all, considering you shot him.” He swirled the champagne in his glass. “Lucky for Gideon- and for my staff and myself as well, as he is a rather interesting man to study- that you’re a terrible shot, Mr. Graham.”

Will gritted his teeth, saw a flash in Chilton’s eyes, and for a moment imagined wrapping his hands around his throat and forcing the light to go out. Permanently. The thought made him smile. “Don’t worry, Dr. Chilton, my aim has improved...considerably.” He reached up, tugged on his jacket to straighten it for a moment, caught the quick flick of Chilton’s eyes to his hands, and the V of flesh his shirt exposed. “But it doesn’t matter. I prefer to use my hands.”

Chilton took a long sip of champagne, seeming uneasy suddenly, and Will felt powerful in that moment, so much so that his heart skipped a beat, he felt his blood pounding through tight veins, the sounds in the room seeming to still, to silence. Over it all, he heard Chilton’s breathing-

He could imagine stopping it. And it felt good.

He said nothing to Chilton, turning to see Hannibal had slipped away, was in conversation with a couple, smiling at them. Beverly and Alana had disappeared. Will made his way quickly to Hannibal, resting a hand on his shoulder. Hannibal turned, mid-laugh, and smiled at him, reaching up to take his hand. Will leaned in close, whispering to him, “I’m stepping outside for a moment,” and squeezed his shoulder, then pulled away, slipping through the crowd. Behind him, he heard the woman asking Hannibal in a polite and intrigued tone, Is that your lover we see so little of?

*

Will walked around the house, quietly, inhaling the warm, fresh air, the sounds of the party muffled within the house walls. He slipped his hands into his pockets and walked along the grass, following the road, reason he could take a few minutes, then turn, walk back, and not be missed. After all, this was Hannibal’s gathering , he was simply an ornament for the evening.

Not that he minded. There was something oddly joyous about the perplexed looks he got from some of the guests- as if they didn’t understand how Hannibal had chosen him for an affair- let alone anything serious. There had been a few that lingered a bit too long- and Will wondered if they would be just as interested when he was in flannel, covered in dog hair with messy curls.

Something, he presumed, only Hannibal could love so strongly about him, despite that it came from a world entirely Will’s, where Hannibal was only a stranger. Or, had been. He was a visitor now- had dared to spend nights in Will’s forests, and now- now it seemed things were merging, mingling together to create a sort of hybrid existence for the two.

Will reasoned that’s what their home would be like.

Our home.

He stopped, shivered, excited suddenly, his heart beating rapidly in his chest. He closed his eyes and inhaled, seeing behind his eyelids Hannibal in the morning with his coffee, standing on the back porch letting the dogs out. Will hearing them barking and waking up to it, Hannibal crawling back in with him and tasting like coffee when they kissed, after the dogs had come back in. A bed they shared, not one where one of them was always a visitor.

There was a small snap behind him, and Will’s eyes snapped open, his fantasies stilling, receding to be visited later. He spun, quickly, saw a body in the dark- faded and obscure from where they stood, but watching him- he could feel it.

“Hello,” he called, hands still in his pockets, worrying at the lining. He was weaponless, should he need something, and would have to resort to his bare hands. He felt bad, in that moment, thinking he might get the suit Hannibal had bought him bloody- mess up his hair that Hannibal had been so proud of. Ruin the whole evening. He’d have to hide the body, sneak into the house unseen to clean up and change. Get Beverly or Alana to tell Hannibal he was ill-

Will stopped his train of thought, wanting to laugh at himself over it. There was no real reason to think he’d have to murder someone tonight. He waited, as his visitor emerged, slim in the dark, dressed in head to toe black- made it hard to see her until she was a little closer, until he could make out the red of her painted lips, the splotch of color peeking up along her throat, speckled on her collar bone-

“Cat,” Will breathed, and the woman smiled, resting her hands on her hips.

“Hello Mr. Graham.” Her lips pulled over white teeth and she flashed him a smile, just like she had back in the studio, when she had seemed so harmless. Before Will had known she’d been creating human sculptures.

Before he had let her get away.

“You shouldn’t be here,” Will whispered, worrying suddenly the world could hear even his thoughts. He took a few steps closer. “You shouldn’t even be in this country.”

“I wasn’t, for a while,” she admitted, “Canada. I speak French, it was easy to blend in. Good cover up make up for my tattoos, a rather expensive blonde wig- no one had a clue.” Her smile broadened. “I’ve had a plan to run ready since I knew I was going to kill Julie. It was all ready to go- I just needed a reason to make the jump.” She folded her arms. “What is your plan, when you have to run?”

“Why would I need to run?” Will felt her eyes, far too blue, boring into his own, searching for something. Plucking at him, pulling on threads until she had the ends she wanted. Pulling him apart.

“Aside of letting a serial killer go? I’m sure you have your own closet full of freshly made skeletons. And what about that...partner of yours?” She raised her eyebrows, and Will’s breath came out without him meaning it to- a rushed exhale, and she knew, he could see it. “He’s terrifying, Mr. Graham.” Her eyes spoke volumes then, wide and light, and Will could only smile.

“If only you knew.” She sighed, shifting her weight. “So why are you here, Cat, if you find him so terrifying? What do you want?” Not that Will wasn’t glad to see her, relieved to know she was alive. He had no personal stock in the woman, but her work was a breath of fresh air- like Hannibal’s, in a sense, as it lacked the pathetic inpatient of amateurs.

“I want to thank you,” she admitted, “For what you did, giving me a head start. It was all I needed. You gave me my life and my freedom, Mr. Graham. Plus, you’re one of the few people who can understand what I’m doing- your empathy, it’s a beautiful thing. I wouldn’t want to lose touch with that.” She reached out, offering her hand, and Will, hesitating a moment, took it yet didn’t shake, but gave it a gentle squeeze, and her smile was back. “Thank you, Mr. Graham. For what you’re doing.”

“And what, exactly, am I doing?”

“Creating art from flesh, just like your good doctor, the Ripper, is.” Will went cold, pulled his hand back, tried to stammer out his question, but Cat was raising her hand, pressing a finger to her own lips. “I can see it, Mr. Graham. Saw it in you, too. But him, he was something terrifying, like his eyes could pull my skeleton right up through my mouth and leave me a husk. You’re lucky to have someone like him on your side- better to have a monster’s love than his disgust.”

“You think Hannibal is a monster?”

“I think we’re all monsters.” She smoothed down her black jacket, hands needing to move. “You, me, your Chesapeake Ripper. I could sit and watch everyone on the street, and they’re all monsters, Mr. Graham. Each and every one of us has it in us, that want to pull something apart, to examine someone’s insides. We all have the capacity to act on it, too. You just need to find the right key for the lock.” She looked back, over her shoulder, at Hannibal’s lit house, briefly. “I say he’s terrifying, but had you and I not had our small...understanding, I’d say you’re even more.”

“Why is that?” When Cat looked back, her eyes were crisp, clear blue and so startling Will felt dizzy.

“Because you’re hold the mad dog’s leash.” This time, Will’s hands fidgeted, slipping back into his pockets. “I saw how he looked at you- with...reverence. You’re something holy to him. You could break him, if you wanted. Very easily, and I don’t think he’d stop you. Besides, with your empathy...you’re the perfect copy cat. You could go to a scene of your own design and no one would ever know. You can be endless, Mr. Graham.” Will thought on her words for a moment, and decided she was almost accurate.

In his mind, there were two, and together, they were endless, eternal.

*

Hannibal was smiling at Alana fondly, one of her hands on his arm. Across the room, Beverly had left to greet both Zeller and Price- Hannibal had, at the last moment, extended an invitation to them as well. They seemed rather awe struck to be in his home, and there was something endearing about that.

“Thank you,” Alana was saying, watching as well, “I’m sure they will make Beverly feel more comfortable. This is a little out of her element.”

“She and Will are quite alike, then.” He was smiling fondly, noticing the way that, while Zeller had his arms folded over his chest, defensive against the room while listening to Beverly, he seemed to lean, just slightly towards Price, into his small expanse of space. From time to time, his eyes would begin to drift towards the older man, then away, catching himself. It was intriguing.

“Where is Will?” Alana asked, and Hannibal shrugged a shoulder, gracefully.

“I’m sure he has not gone far.” He looked past her, then patted her hand once, before pulling away. “Excuse me for a moment, Alana.” She nodded, and Hannibal felt her watching him walk away, before her eyes drifted back to Beverly. He would have liked to acknowledge how she looked at the other woman- the sweetness that melted into her irises, spread down into the pores of her skin and forced her lips to quirk every so slightly. But she would have denied it- he could smell the denial on her, still, over whatever she and Ms. Katz were. Her confessions to him in Will’s kitchen felt like a lifetime ago, but were still fresh in Hannibal’s mind.

He accepted a fresh glass of champagne from a server, taking a quick sip along his short walk, before he stopped and smiled at the two women who had just entered.

“Good evening,” he offered, “You must be the good doctors my William has been working so closely with. Welcome.” He extended a hand down, and Dr. Mallick took it happily, before it was offered and accepted by Dr. Mayes.

“So good to finally meet you, Dr. Lecter,” Anne said, folding her hands back in her lap. One of Diane’s hands was resting one the handle of her wheelchair. “I have read so much of your work and heard so many great things, it’s quite an honor.” Hannibal smiled, charming, and felt Diane’s eyes as they lung to him- hard, despite her attempt at a facade of friendliness. He tucked the knowledge away.

“We will have to find some time to have a proper discussion then,” he offered, “It’s always a pleasure to have a good discussion with a rational mind.” He turned to Diane, keeping his charming smile. “Will tells me you have a fascinating field- religion and the psychotic mind. How very intriguing.”

Diane’s smile was something wicked, Hannibal decided, bright against her dark skin, lovely yes- but there was something there. He wondered if Will had seen it. “Yes, it is. There’s a severe lack of subjects I get to interview though, which is a shame. The last prime subject would have been Richard Blake.”

Hannibal felt the jab, as if she had taken a knife and slipped it right in between his ribs. He kept his composure- but for a moment, his eyes burned, and her’s lit up. She had seen. “I can safely say you will not be getting an interview with him.”

“Yes, it’s really quite a shame.” Hannibal busied his free hand by smoothing down his jacket. He wanted to clench it around her throat.

“I have my notes on him, still. His family has given me permission to do with them as I wish- I had thought perhaps to write a small paper on him, but I see they would be far more useful to your field. Perhaps you can stop by my office sometime, we can review them together.”

“How generous of you, doctor. I would love to.” She extended her hand again, and Hannibal took it, felt the way her nails dug slightly into his skin. Compared to her, Anne’s hand, when he received it again, was a lovely, calm juxtaposition.

*

Will folded his jacket carefully as he pulled it off. He was terrified to look at the clock, to see the time- was thankful Jack has given him a grace period the next day and to simply come in when he was ready. Will’s mind exhausted wouldn’t be much good to him.

He worked his shirt open, heard the gentle sounds of Hannibal brushing his teeth in the bathroom. He pulled that off, folded it as well, and was opening his pants when Hannibal returned- looking absolutely different in his pajamas. Something about seeing the so put together man like that always made Will feel warm, in the pit of his belly.

“You survived quite well,” Hannibal said, walking over and kissing Will’s cheek, one hand running down his side, along the waist of his pants, where they had slipped down his hips. “My parties are not nearly as terrifying as you thought.”

“Oh it was terrifying,” Will whispered, looking up at him, kissing his jaw. “But the champagne helped. And having Beverly and Alana to retreat to- and honestly, Brian and Jimmy. I’m sure your invitation meant the world to them- and I’ll get to hear all about it tomorrow.”

Hannibal chuckled, pulling away from Will and making his way into bed. “Your friends are always welcome, William. After all, they are a part of my world now.” Will smiled, stepping out of his pants and tugging his socks off, leaving him in just his underwear. He set the clothing aside, made his way to the light switch to flood the room in a soothing darkness, before he returned, crawling into the bed and accepting Hannibal’s open arms, snuggling in close and placing a kiss to his collar bone.

Will smelled Hannibal’s cologne, faded in with the scent of his skin, and it made his body go lax. He hadn’t had as much contact with the man that evening as he had wanted- it was hard, when Hannibal was being pulled in every single direction and trying to divide his attention so perfectly between everyone. He had received a few sweet kisses, scattered through out, and Will had felt all the eyes in the room on him with each one. Something about that had been pleasing.

Still, he hadn’t had the chance to tell Hannibal about his surprise visitor. For a moment, he entertained not bothering, simply falling into sleep and forgetting it- but it felt wrong, not sharing everything with Hannibal always felt wrong.

“I had a visitor, when I stepped out for a minute,” Will offered, and Hannibal mumbled oh? into his hair, settling into his own fatigued comfort. “Yeah. Cat.” Will felt Hannibal’s body shift, his head raise, and looked up at him, in the dark.

“Intriguing.” Will laughed.

“She’s terrified of you, darlin’.” Hannibal’s lips quirked up at that.

“A serial killer whom you let escape returns suddenly, and your only interest is in what she thinks of me?” Will laughed, low and quietly.

“No, just stating a fact. I can feel it in you- you get tense when you think someone else has an interest in me. She’s only fascinated by my empathy- I understand her. She likes that. Don’t forget, I understand you too, Hannibal. You gave me that gift, you let me know you...see you.” Will leaned up, kissed Hannibal’s jaw, the corner of his mouth. “And I love what I see, Hannibal. Don’t ever forget- of everyone I understand in this world, I’ll always choose you.” He felt Hannibal’s arms tighten around him, then his mouth, warm and sweet on his, and Will kissed him slowly, drank down all of it and pressed his own affection up into Hannibal’s mouth, wanting him to choke on it the way Will did himself. “I love you,” he whispered into his lover’s mouth, squirming to get closer, entangling with him so that, for not the first nor the last time, Will had no idea where he ended and Hannibal began. He had no desire to know.

He’d whisper, later, before sleep, to Hannibal what Cat had said about monsters- about all of them. How they all had it in them, just had to open it up. He knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Hannibal was his key, and as he tangled his hands in his hair, as Hannibal rolled him onto his back and laid over him, a comforting weight to pin him into the mattress, he hoped he unlocked everything inside him- every dark desire and clawing need. He hoped Hannibal made him free one day, for all of it, so Will could see and choose what he wanted and what he didn’t.

He hoped he could do the same for Hannibal. He hoped he unlocked some of the chambers deep within him, let the man walk the halls of his mind he had left boarded up for so many years.

Chapter Text

“Your beau throws a hell of a party, Will,” Jimmy said as Will walked into the lab, finding him, along with Beverly and Brian, settled at a table, drinking coffee. Will smiled at that.

“Glad you had some fun. It was nice to have a few friendly faces there. I don’t quite fit in with Hannibal’s...usual company.” Beverly stood up, emptying her mug and then setting it aside on the counter, to wash later.

“Will sweetie,” she teased, “You are his regular company now.” Will opened his mouth to comment, then closed it again. He had no argument for that.

“Do we have anything on an identification?” Beverly walked around the table, taking his arm in hers.

“We’re waiting on a few calls. Walk with me to Jack’s office, he called in the request for us to every hospital in Baltimore, along with the PD. He’s hoping she got herself banged up, like the first one did.” They left Brian and Jimmy to finish their late morning- or, Will reasoned, by now early afternoon- coffee, and walked the halls together, Beverly holding his arm tightly. “So, I didn’t get to ask at the party- do you and Hannibal officially have a house?”

Will grinned, keeping his steps in time with hers. “As a matter of fact, we do. Hannibal signed for it that morning. He’s already contracted someone to remodel the damn kitchen, as well. Once that’s done, we can fully move in- but not a moment before, according to him.” Will lifted his chin when he spoke, trying to impersonate the way the words would have fallen from Hannibal’s lips, and Beverly burst out laughing.

“Of course! Your boyfriend would have to have an up-to-date, five star kitchen. How long is that doing to take?”

“Not that long, honestly. Hannibal has contracted some movers to get some of the larger things from his home and move them. His Harpsichord, basically.” Will sighed. “This means I’ve got to get my ass packing. He’s going to murder me when he finds out how little I’ve done.”

They stopped outside Jack’s office, and Beverly was grinning at him. “So take a few days off, have him come over one of them, and the two of you do it together. Maybe give him a little reward after.” She winked, and Will blushed, laughing at himself and her as she opened the door and they stepped into Jack’s office.

Jack was absent, his desk vacated, and Beverly sighed. “Maybe he got a call from the day nurse,” she offered, and Will said nothing, thinking of pretty Bella Crawford, confined to a bed, struggling to breathe. Jack had called Hannibal before the party and informed him he wouldn’t be able to make it. Will knew that meant Bella was in bad shape. He wondered how long she had left for this world, reasoned not much- and that bothered him, angered him. He’d barely met the woman, but Hannibal held quite a respect for her. That was enough.

Jack’s phone began to ring, and Beverly shrugged a shoulder, making her way over and picking it up, “Hello, Agent Katz speaking.” She leaned her hip against Jack’s desk as she spoke. “No, Agent Crawford has stepped out, family emergency I believe. Is this about the identification he requested?” She smiled. “No, no you can share with me, I’m on the case. Let me grab a pen.” Beverly grabbed for one on Jack’s desk and a scrap of paper. “Alright sir, I’m ready.” Beverly scribbled quickly, smiling, dropping the pen when she was done to tuck some of her hair back behind her ear. “Thanks a lot for this, this could be the break we’re looking for.”

Beverly hung up the phone, tucked the paper into her pocket, and grinned at Will. “Baltimore PD. One of the officers recognized the girl- said his daughter knew her, back in college, met her once or twice. He called his daughter and got her name, and they tracked down her address for us.”

Will grinned, his heart leaping in his chest suddenly. This was it- this was what they needed. So long as she was alive, they could crack this case wide open. And if they did that, Will was intent on requesting some time off to get his move in order.

It couldn’t have come at a better time.

“Let’s take a field trip, Bev,” he said, and they made their way for the door, quickly.

*

Will was climbing into Beverly’s car when another pulled up right next to it, and Alana’s door opened, her eyes glancing over them. “Going somewhere?” she asked, stepping out, and Beverly leaned out her open window.

“Field trip. We might have the address of our last killer. Wanna observe, darling doctor?” Alana blushed, Will saw it, but she pulled open the back door and climbed in, barely having it closed when Beverly was peeling out, determined to make good time. They were on the high way when Will noticed Alana’s cheeks were still tinged pink, and she was avoiding his eyes in the mirror.

It was cute, how she tried to hide Beverly’s blatant attention. Will knew what it was like, and wondered if this was how they had all seen him, when he tried to hide what was going on between him and Hannibal.

That felt like a life time ago.

*

Hannibal was sitting at his desk, sketching quietly. His last appointment had left about ten minutes prior, and he wasn’t expecting one until much later. He reasoned he could have used the time to return home and do some packing, get the move in order, but he had had a sketch sitting, partially finish, for far too long. His mind was still fatigued from the little sleep he had gotten after the party, and there was something pleasing about slipping into the mental slowness of letting his hand do the thinking.

When he closed his eyes, he saw Will just as he liked, standing under the sun in the field behind his house. The light caught his curls and his eyes just right, gave him a glow- and the heat left a faint pink haze to his cheeks. He smiled, opening them again, returning to the image on his paper, taking his pencil to Will’s curls to gentle bring out the shine.

There was a knock at his door, and a moment later, it opened, as his head lifted. A quick glance at the clock affirmed for him that he wasn’t expecting anyone.

Diane walked in, smiling at him, hands in her pockets, the sleeves of her slim cut button down rolled up to her elbows. Following behind her were two young women, in their twenties, Hannibal reasoned.

“Hello Dr. Lecter,” Diane said, as she stopped a few feet into his office. “I apologize for dropping in unannounced. I wanted to thank you, in person, for the lovely time I had last night.”

“It was an honor to have you as my guest.” Hannibal set his pencil down, fingers ghosting along his scalpel, holding it as he stood up and slipped it up into his sleeve. “I seem to be patientless for the moment, would you care to have a look at Richard Blake’s records? If your...company is not in a hurry.”

“These are some of the girls I’ve worked with over the years,” Diane said with a smile, “They would be delighted to look over his records with us, if you don’t mind.”

“Not at all.” He walked around his desk, making his way towards the ladder up to the next level, listening intently. She was quiet, he would give her that, but he heard the faintest tap of shoes, and when he reached the ladder he turned, ducking low and bracing his arm out, connecting it with one girl’s stomach, sending her spiraling back to the floor. There was a small black object in her hand, and he realized as she groaned and sat up, ready to push back up and try again, that it was a taser.

He looked at Diane, who was smiling still, folding her arms over her chest now and cocking her head, her teeth too white and suddenly seeming like porcelain bullets.

“Nothing too personal, doctor,” she offered, “But your boy toy is just getting too close, too curious. He’s too good to leave fully functional. And I can’t think of a more satisfying way to maim him than to do it through you.”

Hannibal gritted his teeth, turned a moment too late and felt a jarring shock to his side, as the other young woman who had come with Diane stuck a taser in his side. She grinned down, her dark hair pulled back in a sleek ponytail, and crouched down to get a better look at his crumpled body on the floor.

“Not so scary, doc,” she said, “I don’t see why Diane thought you were dangerous-“ Her words ended in a scream as there was a gleam of metal, and then Hannibal was lunging, his scalp shoved into her bicep, knocking her off balance. She fell back, tearing it out and covering the wound, her taser forgotten on the floor.

Hannibal pushed himself up onto his knees, every nerve biting with the shock, and made to reach for it, when a pointed heel connected with his side and toppled him over. Diane stood over him, shaking her head, one hand rummaging in her purse, pulling out a sleek, small pistol, and aiming it right at his head.

“That’s enough of that,” she whispered, “Dr. Lecter, I think it would be best if you didn’t maim my girls. See, Sophie there has a job to do, when we’re done with you. We have her first victim chosen and everything. I can’t have her too banged up to do the job, now can it?” Hannibal was glaring up at her, and he missed the other girl standing, her wild blonde hair in tangles. “Now take a little nap, doctor- I promise when you wake up, you’ll enjoy a nice change of scenery.”

The remaining girl stuck a taser in his side again, and the shock fried Hannibal’s nerves, plunging the room into a cold, biting blackness.

*

The superintendent of the building unlocked the apartment for Will and his companions, when they knocked and there was no answer. They found it empty, and Beverly openly cursed, sucking on her teeth in annoyance. The superintendent said she thought she had seen the girl, Mary, leave maybe an hour prior.

“Any idea where she went?” Beverly asked, but the woman was shaking her head. Will took a quick walk around the apartment, stopping in the kitchenette and opening one cabinet with his sleeve. There were pill bottles inside- regular things like aspirin, cold medicine-

And tranquilizers. Very high dosage tranquilizers. Easy to crush up and put in a drink, if desired.

“Beverly,” he called over, and she quickly crossed the room, eyeing it. “Call Jack. Let him know what’s going on, and get an APB out on this girl. We don’t need a warrant to search her apartment since we were let in, but I still want one before we touch anything else. To be safe.” He walked away as Beverly was pulling her phone out, excusing himself to the hallway and rummaging for his phone in his own pocket.

He knew Hannibal didn’t have a patient right then, and he was eager to let him know they were so close- this girl just needed to be alive. He clicked on his name, held the phone up and listened to it ring once, twice, three times.

He tapped his foot, confused when it clicked the voice mail. He hung up, wondered if Hannibal had gone home to pack, and tried his house number. That rang, rang, and rang until his answering system kicked on, and Will hung up, frowning. Weird.

He dialed Hannibal’s cell phone again, just as Alana stepped into the hallway, raising her eyebrow. “Hannibal?” she asked, knowing Will so well.

“He’s not answering. Home or cell.” Will felt a sudden jolt of panic go through him, though he couldn’t explain why. There was no reason to think anything was wrong with Hannibal, simply that he was unable to answer his phone. Perhaps he was at home and had been too busy to answer, perhaps a patient had come in for an emergency. Will hung up, tried his cell one last time.

“I’m sure he’s just busy,” Alana said, and Will opened his mouth to answer when the phone picked up to a rustle of something, a sharp clack as it fell off the desk, landing on the floor. Will hurt a quiet, shit before the line went dead. It hadn’t been Hannibal’s voice- but a young woman.

Will stuffed his phone into his pocket, giving Alana a frantic look, the kind that shot through her and into her all at once, filled her veins with ice.

“We need to go to his office,” Will said, and then he was running, running down the hallway for the stairs, taking them two at a time. Inside his mind, the pieces were sliding into place, clacking as they locked, as he cursed himself for being so stupid and thinking this case could exist in a separate world. Richard Blake had crossed both he and Hannibal’s worlds, managed to exist and try to destroy in both- Bradley Madison had crept out of Will’s world and back into Wendy’s, and she’d paid with her life for it. There was no reason this should be any different.

He was tugging on the door to Beverly’s door and cursing when he realized she had the keys, of course, when she and Alana burst out of the apartment complex, looking confused.

“What is going on?” Beverly asked, hitting the unlock button, and Will scrambled in.

“We need to go,” he said, his voice frantic and straight through his tight throat. “We need to get to Hannibal’s office. I think I know where our girl is.”

Alana and Beverly looked at each other for a moment, then rushed for the vehicle, Alana barely closing her door by the time Beverly was backing out, tearing off into the road and driving as fast as she could to cross the city.

Will kept calling Hannibal’s cell phone for the entire drive. There was never another answer.

*

Hannibal groaned, his world engulfed by the black behind his eyelids. He furrowed his brow, his body aching from the shocks the taser had sent to his nerves. Above that, there was something else, a burning fire in his arms, a wetness on his skin.

He opened his eyes, only still to find blackness. He licked his dry lips, the blindfold finally registering with his senses. He moved his head, trying to listen for a sound, and the burn in his arms became an aching sting, the wetness, blood.

Someone was bleeding him.

He struggled, but his arms were pulled taught. The hardwood floor pressed against his bare back, hurt with the way his shoulder blades dug back into it. He heard footsteps, walking around him, and his legs scrambled, trying to push his body up, fight against the binds. The movement jarred his arms and he hissed his breath out, the wounds biting. There was laughter, then-

“He woke up.” His upper lip twitched, exposed his teeth for a moment, before there was another set of footsteps. They circled closer, until they were right behind him- he could feel body heat-

And then a hand in his hair, tugging painfully, and a rope around his throat, tight. “Help me,” came this new voice- Diane, Hannibal recognized it, and the other footsteps moved- stepped carefully over the rope tugging one of his arms, he could tell by the slight change in stride- then the rope tugged, and he craned his head back, gasping. It slackened barely when it was secured, and then there was silence.

He knew they hadn’t left, he could feel their eyes. They were watching him bleed out, slowly, and smiling about it. Hannibal’s breathed huffed out his nostrils, his brain racing through the possibilities he may have under his fingers tips, but it was hard to focus. He was beginning to feel light headed.

How long had he been bleeding? How deep were the wounds- how much blood had been lost? It was hard to tell, he couldn’t feel it pooling against his sides yet, but he couldn’t tell for certain. Nor could he determine how long he had been unconscious. A wave of what would have been panic for anyone else, for him was a mild distress, waved over him, and his stomach tightened, throat closing for a brief moment. Inside his head, there was one word, over and over and over again, and thoughts of his own agency began to die away.

Will.

*

Will was leaping out of Beverly’s car before she had even stopped moving, running up the steps and into Hannibal’s waiting room. He grabbed the door, throwing it open without a knock- hoping against hope that he’d find Hannibal sitting with a patient, get a swift and stern scolding, and have to apologize for his paranoia later. He hoped-

Yet he was denied.

Will found an empty office. He stepped in, the room seeming to creak around him, echoing his every foot step. He walked towards Hannibal’s desk, found his phone laying on the floor. Without much thought, Will picked it up, looked at his call log and saw his name there in an endless stream. He set it atop the desk, looked off towards the ladder to the loft, and froze up, muscles turning to wire as his breath rushed out.

Something on the floor, something discolored. He crossed the room, crouched down and looked at the dark red smears, as if someone had tried to wipe up the pooling blood in a hurry. He could smell the copper, the iron, metallic and heavy, and his heart seized up as he considered that it could be Hannibal’s. Along his spine, cold sweat clung to skin and his shirt uncomfortably.

That’s when he heard it, a breath. A single, soft exhale, and Will was straightening up, eyes scanning the room. He was alone, or so it seemed. He wasn’t convinced. He turned towards the ladder, caught the slight smudge on a wrung, and knew. Without hesitating he grabbed them, hoisted himself up to the loft in a few quick movements, and looked down the row of books, towards the curve along the contours of the room. He walked, carefully, his footsteps sure, towards the bend, hands clenching, unclenching.

He was three steps away when there was a blur, a rush of movement, and a heave medical tome was flying towards him. It smacked him in his forehead, sending him stumbling back, knocking his vision off balance. It was skewed, blurry, and he reached a hand up to his forehead, pressing it to the gash there the impact had left, feeling blood sticking to his palm. He gritted his teeth, a growl echoing up his throat as she came into view, running at him, gripping something in one of her hands. Will jerked his body towards the railing, so she skimmed right past him, and then threw his weight into her, slamming the both of them into a book shelf. The books tumbled down, crashing into his shoulders, one smacking her head, her arm.

“Will!” It was Alana’s voice, from the door, but he didn’t have time to respond. The girl was clawing towards him, just missing shoving whatever she had in her hand into his side. He grabbed at her arm, lifted it and slammed it into the shelf. Her grip loosened and her treasure clattered to the floor, Will kicking it away. It was a taser.

“Who the fuck are you?” he asked, showing the sharp points of his teeth. “And where the fuck is Hannibal?”

He heard footsteps rushing across the room, then the collective stop when Beverly and Alana found the blood on the floor, the ladder.

She laughed, a rushed, breathy sound, and Will dug his nails into her wrist.

Where is Hannibal?” He was screaming now, he felt the sound straining up form his throat. When she still didn’t answer, he pulled her arm back, slamming it against the edge of the shelf until he heard bone crack and she was howling, choking on her scream. He heard his name being screamed again, Beverly or Alana he wasn’t sure, and the sound of shoes on the ladder. “Talk,” Will growled, leaning in close, loving the streaks of salty tears on her face. “Or I break your other arm.”

She stammered a sound, and he grabbed her, flipped her around and bashed her head against one of the shelves, skin breaking and blood trickling down one of her temples, much like his own. Will felt it, hot and sticky, but the pain was pleasantly absent. There was only adrenaline, there was only a wild fear. He grabbed her arm, squeezed the break and she screeched, wild.

“Where is Hannibal Lecter!”

“They t-took him,” he whimpered, and Will eased the pressure on her arm. A few steps back, Alana was staring, wide eyed and horrified. He looked over at her, eyes black as tar, the blood on his face seeming like fire. She took a step back.

“Took him where?”

“Took h-him home.” Will began to squeeze again, and she sobbed.

“Where is home? Your home? Your apartment?” He recognized her, now that he could see her face, turned to the side, staring at Alana, and Beverly now. The girl they had been looking for.

“Diane’s home,” she whined, “O-only place f-fit for her plans.” Will looked over at Alana and Beverly, the former frozen in a state of shock, her eyes showing him all the terror coursing through her body. He loved and hated it, in that moment. The terror, it made him feel powerful, made him feel alive, made him feel like he could bottle it and use it to find and protect Hannibal.

He hated that it was coming from Alana. His chest grew tight despite his blood racing.

Beverly was moving, coming over to them and forcefully pushing him off the girl. She didn’t glare at him, however, she grabbed both her hands and pulled them behind her back, making her sob as her broken arm was jarred.

“You’re going to take us there,” she hissed, “Or I’m going to let my friend here go batshit on you. You’ve got his boyfriend, I think he’d love the chance to gut you, cunt.” Her hold tightened, and Will leaned in, grabbing a fistful of the girl’s hair and pulling, snarling like the wild dog he felt he was, Beverly holding his leash tightly in that moment. She glanced at him, and her eyes were black as his-

Hannibal meant something to her, as well. He meant Will’s sanity, and Will was so deep inside her ribs, burrowed into a nest all his own, she would give almost anything to keep him, and keep him sane. Sane enough to walk freely in her world, anyway. In that moment, that wildness he was showing, the animalistic power and oddly controlled rage as he threatened and hurt but did not fully destroy- she liked it, she liked it on him, in him, of him. She liked it, and she didn’t have the chance to question why.

The girl was nodding, and Beverly jerked her off the book shelf, turning her. Alana was still watching, frozen, and Will made his way over to her, taking her arm. She didn’t recoil form his touch, just looked up at him.

“We need to go,” he said, his voice urgent, shaking because he could show his fear to her. “Hannibal’s in danger.”

She grabbed his hand on her arm, squeezed it as they walked quickly to the ladder. Beverly held the girl while Alana and Will descended, then waited above as the girl climbed down, slowly, unable to use her broken arm.

“She said Diane,” Alana whispered, and she caught a flash of Will’s white teeth again.

“I knew she didn’t feel right.” He reached up, dug the heels of his hands into his eyes until he saw white sparks behind his lids. “Fuck she felt so wrong but I ignored it. I thought it was just...I was just...”

“Paranoid?” He nodded.

“That’s what Hannibal suggested, originally.” His lip twitched, and he reached for the girl when she had her feet on the ground, grabbing her good arm and dragging her towards the door. Alana followed, Beverly running to catch up when her own feet his the ground, digging her keys out and having the car unlocked by the time Will got there. He crawled in the back seat, wrapping his arms around the girl and holding her, almost like he would hold a lover, until one of his hands crept up and wrapped loosely around her throat. They were still alone in the car when he whispered, “If I think you’re lying to me, I’ll strangle you without a second thought. Got it?” She nodded, and he kept his mouth close to her ear, breathed on her sweat slick skin. “If Hannibal is harmed, just no there’s no fucking level of hell that could be worse than what I will do to you.”

The girl swallowed the lump in her throat, just as Beverly and Alana were climbing in, slamming their doors, and Beverly was backing out. Will’s hand still on her throat, and fear coiled tight and painfully in her belly, the girl gave her first set of shaky directions to bring them out of the heart of the city, towards Diane’s home.

*

Hannibal felt lucid, his mind was spinning, but everything was black. He had no sense of up nor down, left nor right, all he knew was his sides were sticky now, the blood from his arms had pooled along his body, and the rope around his neck made it hard to breath. He arched his head back more, trying to get a mouth ful of air, and a wave of dizzying nausea swept over him. He fought it down, got his hair, but for a moment lost time, lost himself, blacked out and then came back when the pain in his arms pulsed.

He was alone, in this room. The women- Diane and the other girl, he thought it may be the one he stabbed, if he could place her voice- were gone. He didn’t no where, he didn’t no for how long. For a moment, he could entertain the thought that he might die here, alone. It was rather embarrassing, to have been taken the way he was. He shouldn’t have let the one girl get her taser into him, not for a second shot. His aim should have been true on this girl, he should have gotten her thigh, not her arm. She should have bled out on his floor, just another death in his office like Franklyn, like Tobias.

He worried he was going soft. He had been subdued as of late- because Will was so focused on this case, on the very people that now had Hannibal bleeding out to an inevitable dark, cold end, so focused that the Ripper’s work would have only tore his focus, severed him from the case because of Jack’s obsession. And Hannibal had wanted it, yes, wanted to cut into a body and turn them into something worth while in his kitchen- but Will’s sanity seemed a higher priority-

And their life, the prospect of it. For a time, putting his focus into creating a home for he and Will had been the outlet he needed, something to construct. A place for their family to truly begin.

Family. It had replaced that aching need in him, the desire that clawed up from his belly and out into his finger tips, made them twitch for the scalpel, made his mind convulse at the common social courtesies many forgot. Family had replaced his over whelming desire to turn the mundanely rude into a dinner served for two, and openly recognizing this made his heart seize up.

Hannibal had to give attention to the prospect that he may never have his family, as a whole, in that home he had found for his beloved Will. He may never wake up knowing Will was in a space assigned to him, in a world shared by two- a mad, mad world that tasted sweet and left him craving it, endlessly.

Hannibal had to entertain the fact that he would die here, and never see his beloved again.

He thrashed, tried to, but his blood loss left him weak, his body aching from the taser shocks. He gasped for a breath, and it came out as a strangled sound, as a fresh, hot wave of blood left his arms, as some of it crept under his back in his movement. He fell still, panting, nostrils flaring, and the ache in the pit of his gut hurt far worse than the burning sting along his arms, than his nerve endings from the shocks.

He didn’t give a damn about the rest of the world around him, but he was not ready to say good bye to Will. Not now, not when everything had only just begun, when someone had finally seen him, understood and known him, and embraced all that they saw. Not when Will was honestly so in love with him that he held affection for even the beast sleeping inside him that lived for the controlled, clean cut carnage and the way it tased when paired with fine wine and set with spices. Not when Will had a beast inside him that fit so well to Hannibal’s- now that his eyes were open and he understood, saw and loved.

Hannibal’s eyes were hot beneath the blindfold, wet, and he would have cursed himself for the cracks in his person suit, the broken stitches where his overly hot emotions were seeping out from, but he couldn’t. In his mind he saw Will, he tasted and felt and heard and smelled him, and silently, he let out one sob at this irrevocable loss.

It wasn’t, nor would ever be, his own life he was mourning losing. It was simply Will, in his every perfection, in his every existence.

*

Diane’s house, from the outside, looked pleasant, large for one person, but not beyond her means. Granted, Will was sure she had plenty of funds from her position teaching at John Hopkins that it wouldn’t have mattered.

“Call it,” Beverly was saying to Alana, who was scrambling for her cell phone. Will had thrown the door open and dragged the girl out with him, his gun holstered at his side. He was happy he had grown accustomed to wearing it while at the lab, to be safe. Beverly had her own drawn, and was telling Alana to wait in the car, not to leave no matter the circumstances. She was unarmed with no training- Will understood Beverly’s concern for her. He shared it, as well.

They stalked up to the door, and Will placed his hand over the girl’s mouth, pressing tightly to keep her from screaming. She squirmed, her nostrils flared, but she was quiet. Beverly tried the knob, found it unlocked, and opened the door, aiming her gun inside. They were met by a pleasant sitting room, lit only by the far windows and the light streaming in the door. Will forced the girl to walk in, behind Beverly, whose eyes were scanning the room with a cat like attentiveness.

“Where is he?” Will whispered, and the girl shrugged. They took a few more steps in, out of sight from the door, from Alana where she sat, tense in the car.

They turned, towards the stairs, and Will removed his hand, asking again, “Where is he?”

“I don’t know,” the girl croaked out, “I don’t know, they didn’t tell me!” She was sobbing, and Will moved to cover her mouth again, when they heard it- footsteps, a gentle patter- and then she was at the top of the stairs, looking down at them, smiling her too white smile.

“I wasn’t expecting guests,” Diane offered, “I would have cleaned up.” Her shirt had speckles of blood over it, a large stain along one side, smeared as if she had leaned over something bleeding and it had dragged onto the fabric. Will knew without any clarification that it was not her blood. He tense, ready to bound up towards her, but there was another girl, by her side, holding a pistol and aiming it down at them, meeting Beverly’s own aim. Diane’s eyes flicked to the girl in Will’s grasp, and his free hand was at his side, caressing his gun but not drawing. “Honestly, Mr. Graham, you weren’t ever supposed to be here. I was going to deliver your little darling right to your front door- it would have saved you the trip.”

“Where’s Hannibal!” Will screamed, “I swear if you’ve touched him-“

“You’ll do what?” Diane bared her teeth now, and the gun that had been pointed to Beverly flicked to him, for a moment. “I don’t fear you, Mr. Graham.”

“You should.” He drew his gun, quick, and pressed it to his captive’s temple. “Give me Hannibal, and I might let her keep her skull in tact.”

Diane laughed at that, cocking her head. Next to Will, Beverly was tense- he knew he was calculating if she could fire first. She was fast, a good, clean shot- he had faith in her, if she chose to act. Part of him hoped she did- but only on this nameless, nearly faceless girl.

Will wanted to rip Diane apart himself.

“You created quite a mess, Mary,” she said, looking directly at the girl, “I had hoped I would get one more use out of you, before your time was up. I see I made a terrible miscalculation.” She looked at the girl next to her, and there was a single, loud gunshot, shattering the air. The girl jerked in Will’s grasp, and Beverly fired in response. Time slowed, isolated Will from the rest of the world, his gun suddenly heavy in his hand as he looked, stared into the red christening mark on his captive’s forehead, the spot where the bullet had lodged itself inside her head. She stared with wide, dead eyes- trusting until the end in the woman who had passed the death sentence with her own mouth.

Will let go of her, and her body dropped to the floor, limp and worthless. He felt nothing, in that moment, nothing at all as the sounds suddenly flooded back to him, his gun falling from his hand. Beverly was half way up the stairs, Diane and the girl had fled. He followed, Beverly turning right, following a trail of blood. She had shot someone. Will knew her aim was true.

He pushed past her, threw his shoulder into a closed door where the blood ended. The door gave under his force, and he stumbled in, felt the barrel of a gun press right into his forehead. The other girl was grinning down at him, her teeth bloody. He could see she had bit her lip. Her weight was supported by one leg- the other, bleeding. Beverly had gotten her in her thigh. He would have, had he been thinking, given her credit for standing on it, for still focusing.

As it were, he had not a thought or care for anything in the world except finding Hannibal.

“You shoot him,” Beverly said, aiming her gun at the girl’s head, “I blow your brains out.”

“So be it,” she sneered, “It’s worth it, taking you out so we can continue with what we’re doing.” Will looked up at her, into her eyes, and held them, staring with endless black, no gray, no blue, no humanity left in him, it was all locked away in that moment.

What stared up was a monster, and for a moment the girl lost her breath, her hand shaking at the rawness in his eyes. Will took that moment and used it, threw himself down and grabbed her legs, dragging her down to the floor. She fell, her arm jerking, the gun firing off into the wall and falling from her hand. Once she was down, Will was on her, grabbing her head and smashing it back into the floor, once, the sick crack that filled the air so utterly pleasing that he smiled to himself.

He wanted ot press his fingers into her eyes until they leaked out around his thumbs. He wanted to try and claw into her belly with just his hands. He wanted to hurt her, because she had surely hurt the only thing he had ever truly loved.

But he stood up, leaving her there, Beverly saying nothing. There was no judgement in her eyes, she gave him only a nod- the girl was unconscious, that was enough. She picked up the dropped gun and put it in her holster, and they were back in the hallway, heading down it. There was a bathroom door open, and then one door, closed. Will, without much thought, threw his weight into it, pushing on it until the old lock gave with relative ease and it opened for him, causing him to stumble, fall down to the hard wood floor with a thud, his breath rushing out. Behind him, Beverly filled the doorway and gasped, her gun lowering without her mental recognition.

Will looked up from the floor, his own eyes widening, his heart stopping suddenly, painfully in his chest. In the center of the small room- a guest bedroom, so utterly plain and harmless otherwise, lay Hannibal. He was naked, from the waist up, his arms outstretched, rope tied so tightly around his wrists that they were beginning to tear into his skin. One rope led to the bed, around one of the short legs, the other a heavy, old oak dresser. There was a rope around his neck, leading into an open closet and tied to a rod inside, between a few dusty, musky pieces of clothing that hadn’t been touched in some time.

Will swallowed, felt like the world was liquid around him, time had stopped and gone sluggish. The room seemed to be in black and white, except for the red that had stained Hannibal’s arms, had pooled around him. His head was arched back, and for a brief moment, he looked as if he had been left as an offering to a god, and Will wondered if it was the very same god who caused those church collapses Hannibal loved so.

“Hannibal.” It was a broken sound, Will’s voice, cracking, shattering on his own lips, and then the color rushed back, time was moving, and Will was scrambling forward and his hands and knees, slipping in Hannibal’s blood as he pulled himself up next to him, tore at the blindfold and pulled it away to find only his eyelids, not the gorgeous burgundy that had bore into him endlessly so many times. He touched his face, choked, and this time his name came out a broken sob.

“Fuck.” It was Beverly, her own voice wavering, but she felt years away from Will. He stroked Hannibal’s cheek, his own growing wet, quickly, knowing he should be looking for a pulse, he should be acting, but he felt unable. He felt as if he was glued to this spot, left to only touch Hannibal with the silent, soft reverence he deserved. He felt he was looking at the dead.

Then, as if knowing, knowing Will was there somehow, in the dark recesses of his mind, Hannibal’s eyelids fluttered. He looked up with glossy eyes, barely seeing from blood loss, and Will choked on his cry, cupping his face for a moment. “Hannibal,” he breathed, his tears dripping down onto the man;s collar bone. “Oh god, look at me Hannibal. Look at me, I’m here.”

Hannibal focused, tried to at least, but said nothing. Will reached out for his wounds, covering what he could, applying pressure to try and stave off as much bleeding as possible.

“Hold on darlin’,” he whispered, “Fuck Hannibal, stay with me.” Beverly crossed the room, heading over to the bed and working the knot free, releasing one of Hannibal’s arms. Will drew it closer, to cover more of his wound, as she went and removed the other. She had tucked her gun into her waist line, and could hear Will whimpering quietly, broken words to Hannibal as he pulled both arms closer, pressing his palms over the wounds. “Don’t leave me, Hannibal. Don’t go.”

The world was lost to Will, in that moment. There was nothing except Hannibal, bloodied and broken, and Will felt like he was trying to claw to him, find his mind and hold it, beg for him to stay. Not to go, not to leave him. “I need you,” he whispered, hunching over Hannibal and sobbing, “Fuck Hannibal, I can’t live without you.”

Will heard the footsteps, but he didn’t move. He didn’t life his head. For a moment, the beast in him had died- had died with Hannibal’s, and he was left a shell, a husk. The footsteps, however, revealed not an enemy but a friend- and Alana filled the doorway, gasping and reaching up to cover her mouth.

“Hannibal,” she murmured, just as Beverly untied the last rope, and crossed the small space, crouching down to remove the rope from his neck.

“Did you call it in?” Alana nodded. “Call again. We need ERT. He’s bleeding out, Alana. Shit.” Beverly dared to touch his hair, brush it back from his forehead, and Will looked at her. Their eyes locked, and she saw the most intense fear she had ever seen in them. His world was breaking, and the pieces were being taken from him, in that moment. He was clinging with cut, bloody fingers to the last remnants of it. “Call it again.”

Alana had her phone out, had stepped into the room, giving the address and demanding ERT. One victim, bleeding out- yes, he had lost a loot of blood. He was conscious but not very responsive.

Beverly stood up, walking over to her and was about to take the phone when the silence around them finally broke.

“I guess you found your present early.” Three sets of eyes jerked to the doorway, and Diane was there, tapping the barrel of Will’s gun in her hand. She must have gone back downstairs and retrieved it, from where he had dropped it. Will cursed himself, but didn’t bare his teeth at her. He tightened his hold on Hannibal’s arms and whispered mentally for him to live. “You could have saved me so much trouble if you just let me deliver it. I promise, I would have brought the blood, at a later date.”

She was smiling, and it was hideously white in that moment. Beverly’s hand twitched towards her gun, but then Diane was pointing Will’s gun at her, tssking. “Sorry agent Katz, I’ll need you to keep that gun in it’s holster. You really have caused quite a mess. So much to clean up. I’ll have to figure out where to put you all. How to stage this. Thankfully, there’s no evidence to tie any of you to me, no one knows you’re here, I’m sure.”

She never heard Alana call. She thinks she stormed in without even a remote plan. Will wondered if perhaps she really saw herself so in control of all of this.

“I think I’ll show the world your true colors, Mr. Graham. Make it look like you killed Dr. Lecter yourself, before taking your own life. Crazy to the end- you are so unstable, Mr. Graham.” Her smile was menacing now, wicked and cruel, and Beverly’s lip twitched, before she reached for the gun in her holster. She knew she could hit her, and hit here where it would count.

She hadn’t anticipated Diane having any true experience with a gun. The woman didn’t hesitate, pulled the trigger and the bullet seared it’s way through her body, jerking Beverly back a step before she crumpled to the floor, the gun clattering from her holster and far out of arms reach as she reached up to clutch at the wound, her own blood quickly staining her light shirt, so bright it could have glowed through Alana or Will’s eyes.

“Beverly!” It was Alana, her voice nearly shrill, and she dropped down with bruising force to her knees, pulling the woman into her arms and cradling her, one of her hands pressing over Beverly’s as the blood rushed out, between the cracks of their fingers.

“I learned how to shoot as a kid,” Diane said, “My father thought it would be smart to raise his daughter knowing how to defend herself. He was a good man, unlike the filth that infects the world now.” She turned back to Will, who looked up at her through wild eyed, dark lashes, curls slick and sticking to his forehead. “He doesn’t look so good, Mr. Graham. Might want to say your good byes now. Then be a dear and put that sick mouth of yours around this barrel. It’ll be the best thing you’ve ever tasted.”

Will gritted his teeth. She was laughing, focusing on him. If he moved, she would shoot him, he knew. He wasn’t that fast, and she had proven her aim to be true enough. He turned to Hannibal instead, ignoring her- sure that, if he could waste a few moments, perhaps their help would finally arrive. It was already past when he expected something, and Alana’s second call must have been heard.

“Hannibal,” Will whispered, and those glossy eyes were looking at him, “I’m right here. You’re not alone. You’re never going to be alone again, you hear me? I see you, Hannibal. I see you, and I love you.”

Diane’s foot tapped, but she was enjoying Will’s sorrow, the way it poured from his body. She could drink it down, or let him drown in it. Either would suffice. She just wanted to see him hurt, and Will- he knew this. He read her, he understood her, he saw through his open eyes, and he gave her what she wanted, while calling Hannibal to him. While waiting, gambling on forces out of his control to come and put a bullet through her head.

Ignored and cast out, Alana was still holding Beverly, who was trembling- bleeding more then Alana thought she should be. She wondered what had been torn, what had been broken inside her, and she pressed her mouth to her hair, squeezing her eyes shut for a moment, the tears spilling down her cheek.

Don’t die on me.

Just hold on.

I love you, you can’t leave me.

Universal thoughts from the broken, had Alana and Will been inside each other’s heads, they would never know what thought belonged to who, if they did at all. In that moment, they both saw the world they had grown to care for left in broken splinters.

Alana opened her eyes, glared at Diane’s back, and suddenly the tears were hot, like fire on her face, inside her skull. Suddenly, the world she had so religiously viewed in her blacks and whites was tearing, the seams bulging, merging the two. Suddenly everything was grey and red, and nothing mattered except that Beverly was bleeding in her arms. And the cause, the reason, was in front of her, with her back to her. Alana’s hand slipped lower, felt the butt of Beverly’s own gun in her waist, and wrapped around the object, tightly.

Will turned from Hannibal, looking up at Diane with his wild eyes. “You could have just gone for me,” he whispered, “You could have left Hannibal alone.”

“We wanted to weaken you,” she admitted, “You rely so heavily on Dr. Lecter, without him you would simply destroy yourself. You would fumble the case, tamper with evidence in your misery, and probably lead the FBI in the wrong direction. My girls and I would be safe to continue our work as we so pleased, and you- you would kill yourself, Mr. Graham. Very slowly.”

“You were the Lakshmi the whole time. When I stared at you in your office, and you- you told me exactly what it all meant. You told me it was you.”

Diane was laughing then, a gentle roll of her shoulders as she did so. “If you think I’m the true Goddess here, Mr. Graham, you are a fool.” She opened her mouth as if to speak more, but the words were never birthed. All that filled that specific space of time was a sudden gunshot, ringing out, and then a second. Diane went rigid, before her arms lowered, her gun tumbled from her hand, and when she tried to smile, there was blood in her mouth, on her white teeth.

She dropped to her knees, crumbled down on the floor to lay in her own pooling blood, and behind her, Alana stood, feet braced apart, holding Beverly’s own gun and staring with wild, crystalline eyes. She was trembling, but Will couldn’t tell if it was rage, fear, or simple adrenaline- hot in her tight veins. Slowly, she lowered her arms, and looked at him, directly into Will’s eyes, one framed by the dried blood from the wound on his forehead. She saw the black, she saw, because he allowed her, for a moment, to see the monster, the beast inside that had wanted to do what she had done- but slowly, so slowly so that she had felt the pain she had inflicted on Hannibal, on Beverly now- on both he and Alana.

Alana saw it, and she swallowed down its dilution, let it curl inside her belly. In the distance, there was a ringing, a sound that threatened to break the heavy silence in the room, the sudden understanding between Will and Alana, the mutual desire to destroy that which had tried to take from them.

When Will broke the eye contact to look back at Hannibal, Alana moved back to Beverly, dropping the gun and falling to her side to hold her. She was in shock, and Alana bloodied her hands again by covering the wound, while Will hung over Hannibal and spoke to him, whispering his name and his broken mantra of pleas for him to stay- that he was nothing without Hannibal.

Serenading with them was the piercing sound of sirens as they closed in on the isolated world the four now shared.

Chapter Text

Will was spinning, swimming in the air around him, unsure if his feet were on the ground or if his head was crushed into the tiles of the floor. He grabbed at the arms of his chair, squeezed his eyes shut and tried to tell himself he was sitting, he was up right, he was alive and he was here.

Here, being the hospital. Here, being a damn waiting room while Hannibal was being pumped full of fluids and stitched up. Here, being not at his side, where Will felt compelled to be.

A hand covered his, and he looked over, eyes slitting open and taking in Alana next to him. She met his half gaze, and didn’t offer a smile, only her knowing eyes. Her grip tightened, and he didn’t pull away.

“He’ll pull through,” Alana whispered, and Will sucked on his tongue. “He wouldn’t dream of leaving you, Will.” He said nothing, but flipped his hand, accepted her’s again so their palm pressed together, a mess of heat. He was still looking at her when Jack broke into the small bubble that had encased the cracked, remaining pieces of their world.

“You two alright?” It seemed a pointless question, Will knew without a doubt both he and Alana were so far from the concept of alright, but Jack was looking at the bandage on his forehead, so Will just nodded.

“Physically, yeah,” he said, and offered no more. It wasn’t needed.

“They’ve got the girl that survived back in an interrogation room. She’s not talking. I hate to...do this, but I need you two to make statements, so we can wrap this up.”

“She’s got nothing to lose at this point,” Alana whispered, taking her hand back and folding them in her lap. “Diane is dead.” There was a silent I made sure of it that hung in the air, that Will heard without it being said. He watched Alana more closely as she spoke. There was a dark fire slowly smoldering in her eyes. Something he recognized, that desire to do made to those who deserved it, who took from you. It was a sort of self preservation, one he had embraced fully- with Hannibal’s help. “She has no one else she can harm. You can only help herself by talking.”

Will clicked his tongue, nostrils flaring. “Jack, has any of this gotten out?”

“You mean the media?” Will nodded. “We’ve tried to keep it contained, but they’re buzzing everywhere. Beverly and Hannibal’s names have been kept out, but they flocked when they heard sirens.” Will stood up then.

“Did the address air? Did they show the house?”

“No real way to avoid it, sadly.” Will frowned, creating deep lines in his face. He looked tired, years older. Hannibal’s blood was stuck to his shirt in dry stains. Alana thought to touch one, to make sure this was truly happening. She thought to touch Will again, create that connection that seemed to suddenly be crackling between them. His eyes, it had begun there. The darkness, the maw she saw, the way she let the darkness seep into her, claw inside her belly. It flared now, hot.

“Diane wasn’t it.” Will reached up, rubbing his jaw. “She wasn’t leading this.”

“You got her,” Jack argued, “Who else could have been?”

“There was someone who didn’t get their hands dirty.” If you think I’m the goddess here, Mr. Graham, you are a fool.

“Someone telling even Diane what to do?” Will nodded, and Alana stood up, unsure who she managed to stay upright. It felt as if the world was spinning. “Someone who had knowledge about the case- who knew when we were too close, and could tell her to cut a girl out of the equation.”

“Someone we let in,” Will growled, and he was looking at Jack with hard eyeds- eyes that could have been dead. There was nothing there but a need to destroy. “Jack, get an arrest warrant for Dr. Mallick. And do it quick, before she catches word of this and flees the country.”

Jack stared at the two, and instead of arguing, pulled his phone out and walked away, speaking quickly as he paced the hospital waiting room, barking orders in a voice that boomed authority- yet, he had been unable to hold Will’s gaze for more than a moment.

Those eyes with nothing behind them were terrifying even to him.

*

Will and Alana waited, waited out on fried nerves until Jack told them that Dr. Mallick had been found at her home, unaware, and was on her way back to Quantico. With a heavy voice, he admitted he wanted them both there.

“I know you feel obligated to stay,” he said, “But Beverly will be fine.” He was looking at Alana, speaking directly to her. And he was right, Will knew. They had removed the bullet, had her stabilized, and she would, undoubtedly, wake up soon.

When Jack turned to Will, he said nothing. But his eyes asked Will if he would sit here and wait for Hannibal to die, or if he would act on the forces that put him in such a predicament.

Only Alana’s hand on Will’s shoulder reminded him that he hadn’t already crossed the line to that reality, where there was no Hannibal and he was alone. Alone and misunderstood, once again. A world where the finest China, the perfect teacups, shattered along the floor and dug into his bare feet, let him trailing blood as he wondered from room to empty room of Hannibal’s home, waiting for music, for the smell of his kitchen, for his perfectly accented voice to call out to him.

He wasn’t there. Alana squeezed, and he knew he wouldn’t ever let himself be there. Hannibal wouldn’t let him go there. Hannibal wouldn’t leave him alone.

Jack left them, would be waiting in his car for them. Five minutes, that was all they were getting. He wanted to barely be behind Dr. Mallick. He didn’t want to give her time to think.

Will accompanied Alana to the room they had Beverly in. There was a nurse in by her bedside, taking notes, and she looked up when the two filled the room.

A moment later, Beverly looked up too.

Her eyes were dark, tired, but open and seeing. She gave a small smile, and Alana made a small choked sound, a happy sob, and ran across the room, pressing her arms around Beverly’s waist in the bed and pushing her face to her chest, bent down like a broken post and holding tightly, as tightly as she could. The nurse had taken a step back, seemed about to chastise her, but Beverly was shaking her head, smiling, pulling an arm from under the blanket to stroke Alana’s hair.

When Alana looked up, Beverly was smiling so sweetly the world seemed to shatter around her. Will had stepped into the room, closer, could see the smile, and his own heart seized up over it. “Hey ‘Lana,” Beverly offered, her voice quiet, “Good to see your pretty face again.”

Alana’s mouth quivered, and she leaned up, pressing her lips to Beverly’s in a breathy, rushed kiss- the kind that heated the air around them, radiated passion into their veins, and Alana’s cheeks were wet, as she silently cried into the kiss.

“Don’t scare me like that,” Alana whispered, taking one hand from Beverly’s waist and stroking her dark hair back. “Ever again, you hear me?” Beverly nodded, pushing her forehead to Alana’s, her smile weakening- her eyes wet but not spilling over. “Promise. Promise me.” Alana’s breath caught, and Will felt suddenly as if he shouldn’t exist in this room. This was something private, raw, that he was witnessing, and he shouldn’t. “Dammit, promise me, Beverly.”

“Promise,” she breathed, tangling both her hands in Alana’s hair. Will watched the first tear roll down her cheek, and she caught Alana’s mouth in another kiss. “Promise,” she whispered again, into her lips, and Alana shook and held her as tightly as she could.

The nurse had moved back, stood with Will now. He looked at her, gave her a little nod, and turned, walking himself out, having his own good-bye to say.

Unlike Beverly’s room, which had the curtains cracked, Hannibal’s was cast in darkness. The only sounds were the machines hooked up to him, monitoring heart rate, breathing. Will’s footsteps echoed within it, trapped inside the space, worming their way inside his own skull. He left the curtains closed and sat on the edge of the hospital bed, his hand reaching over, freezing just over Hannibal’s- hovering. As if he couldn’t touch, shouldn’t touch, didn’t dare.

“I have to go,” he whispered, settling his hand on his own thigh. His throat felt tight, his words were quiet, forced. “Go away for just a little while. I...I have to help make sure everyone involved is brought to...justice.” The word felt hallow, rang without truth. Whatever justice Anne would get wouldn’t be enough. The short death Diane experienced wasn’t enough.

None of them were hurting even a fraction of what Will was in that moment.

He tired to inhale, his breath hitching, and Will realized his cheeks were wet. He wiped them on the back of his hand, frantically, sick to death of crying. His eyes burned endlessly.

“When I come back,” he whispered, and stopped to try and breathe again. “When I come back, Hannibal, let’s talk. Let’s talk about the house. There’s so much to-“ he broke off again, a sob, a whine escaping, and his words were now broken as the tears flowed true, “to plan.” He dropped his head down, sobbed to himself and Hannibal’s soft breathing, finally dared to reach out, cover his hand with his own, squeeze it gently. “Fuck, Hannibal,” he muttered, tears falling down, landing on his thigh, soaking into his jeans. They had stains from Hannibal’s blood. He’d never changed. He wasn’t sure he would, would ever clean the blood off. It was Hannibal’s. It was precious.

He looked through his lashes at his face, set in stone, peaceful, and leaned over, his free hand brushing along his hair, brushing it back off his forehead. “Until...” Will trailed off, not sure what to say. Later, tomorrow, morning- when would it matter to Hannibal, when would he wake up and see him? He’d lost so much blood, there was talk, murmurs of brain damage, if anything. He could go comatose if it had been worse than they thought.

“Until forever,” he whispered, his lips ghosting Hannibal’s forehead. “I love you, Hannibal.” He choked on the words, kissed his forehead again, sob into his mind and wondered if Hannibal heard him, would be concerned over him. He whispered his love again, squeezed his hand, and then tore away, making himself walk from the room, a shaking mess.

The hallway moved in slow motion as he walked away. The nurses, patients, strangers- they moved and didn’t touch and seemed stuck in thicken sludge. Will passed them all, stopping at the doorway to Beverly’s room, filling it and saying nothing. Alana was sitting on the bed, stroking her hand, looked over when she heard him. The smile on her face disappeared, but she motioned for him to come in. Beverly turned, her smile falling away as well, and as Will walked, slowly, she watched Alana stand and cross the small gap to him, wrapping her arms around him and holding him.

He buried his face in her neck, and quietly, alone with the two of them, Will cried. Alana rubbed along his spine, kissed his curls, and he clung to her, held on, because she was real and there. From the bed, Beverly watched. Will looked up, saw her over Alana’s shoulder, and his sobs slowed, quieted.

Her eyes were black. They were angry.

“Will,” she whispered, and he pulled away from Alana, moved over to her- took her hand and kissed her knuckles, because at least she was here. She was among the living with him then, in the stream of consciousness that ran with bruising force against his chest. Her voice was hard, had an edge to it that could have cut right through flesh. She squeezed his hand, so hard he felt the bite of her nails. Without taking her eyes away, she whispered, “No matter what happens, make sure she hurts.”

Will wasn’t sure if his own wishes were making him see something in Beverly that moment, but when he turned and found Alana, her own eyes had a darkness, shared among the three of them. A rage, a need for vengeance.

If they couldn’t get Anne by the books, Will realized he would take her himself. And he would make no attempt to hide it- not from Alana or Beverly. The thought was thrilling, and terrifying- and he wondered what they would think if they could step inside his mind palace in that moment, find the rooms of artistically mutilated bodies, find images of Hannibal’s basement and the sound of his plastic suit-

Hannibal.

Will wondered what Hannibal would think of this, of their eyes. He wondered if the man would tell him he was delusional, seeing what he wanted in his friends, the support he needed and usually got from Hannibal. He wondered if he would see it too, and how far into his embracing inferno he would take them.

*

Alana held his hand, until Jack’s car parked and the engine died at Quantico. She stroked his knuckles until they separated to get out of the car, and Alana looked him over, frowning.

“You should change,” she offered, taking in the massive amounts of blood on Will’s clothing. Jack had stopped, was watching, but keeping silent.

“No,” Will whispered, looking at her from behind his glasses,”No, it’s Hannibal’s...”

Alana choked silently, and wanted to hold Will again. But as he stood there, suddenly she wasn’t sure he needed it. He was squaring his shoulders, lifting his head- his only shield the glass around his eyes, but he wouldn’t need it soon. Something was unfolding inside him, swallowing up the pain, the fear. Replacing it with something heated and sharp.

“I want her to see it. See what she took from him- from me.” Absent mindedly, Will rubbed a blood stain on his shirt, by his belly, as if he wanted it to seep into his skin, to keep Hannibal inside him. Alana nodded, once, and the three made their way inside then. Jack took them right to the interrogation room where Dr. Mallick sat, hands folded on the table. The chair that normally sat for the guest had been moved.

“She hasn’t asked for a lawyer,” Jack said, “Let’s keep it that way. Alana, Will...I know this isn’t easy, but I think you two could get something from her. Don’t be stupid.” He stared at Will, and Will returned the look from behind his glasses, hard as stone. Jack looked away first. “If it gets to be too much, come out.”

Neither spoke, and Jack motioned towards the door. Alana got there first, opening it and walking in, Will trailing slightly behind her. Dr. Mallick looked up, tilting her head to the side and offering a smile.

“Dr...Bloom, I believe?” Alana nodded. “Ah yes, we met formally at Dr. Lecter’s last night. A pleasure to see you again, and good to meet the woman behind the name.” Her smile was charming, calm, and Will focused on the white of it at first. “Perhaps you can enlighten me as to why I’m here, I’m afraid little as been explained.”

Alana moved to the other chair at the table, opposite Anne, and gripped the back, not sitting. She kept her eyes focused on her. “You’re associated with a Dr. Diane Mayes, are you not?”

Anne nodded. “Yes, of course. You met her as well. Diane was a student under me, and has been a dear friend for many, many years.”

Alana nodded, swallowed once, and then spoke in a calm, controlled tone. Will wanted to congratulate her on it. “This afternoon, she, along with two other young women, abducted Dr. Lecter from his office. One of these women was our suspect in a murder case. When she was found, Dr. Mayes had...had bound Dr. Lecter and was bleeding him out. She intended to kill him, and when my associate Agent Beverly Katz and special investigator Will Graham,” Alana stopped to motion to Will, and Anne’s eyes finally flicked to him. She was hiding behind her own glasses- Will knew the trick, had mastered it. But her mouth had fallen into a straight line when she took in his bloodied clothing. “She attempted to have us killed. She shot Agent Katz, and would have shot and killed both Mr. Graham and myself if I-“ Alana broke off for a moment, looked down at her knuckles, how they were white from gripping the chair. She didn’t relax her hold, but when she looked up, her eyes were blue fire, her voice was low. “If I hadn’t shot her.”

Anne’s hands unfolded on the table suddenly, palms settling flat against it. “You shot Diane?” Her voice had a hitch, and Will drank it down, across the room. He picture her ribs seizing up tightly, crushing points into her lungs, crippling her heart, as his had when he found Hannibal, broken and bloody and damn near dead on the floor. He hoped she was hurting, like he was- stuck in the limbo of not knowing if her loved one was alive, or dead.

“Twice,” Alana whispered, tilting her head down slightly. “Dr. Mayes is dead.”

Anne’s hands slipped to her lap, tugged at her skirt. She looked away, at the wall, composing herself, and then, when she looked back, her lips were pulled back to expose her teeth as she yelled,

“How dare you!” She jerked forward, slammed her hands down on the table. “How dare you take a woman as gifted as Diane from this world!”

“She shot my girlfriend!” Alana retorted, loud, and Will realized, in the depths of his mind, that was the first admission of their relationship. Alana had, to this point, denied it, denied it as being anything more than friendship, then maybe a small affair. Even in the hospital, she hadn’t said it. He was sure, behind the glass, anyone watching was making note, as well.

Alana ripped the chair away from in front of her, sent it clattering loudly to the side, where it fell, skidded to hit the wall. The metal clang echoed in Will’s head, but still he stayed back, watching, taking in and consuming it all. Biding his time.

“She tried to take the most important person from me.” Alana slammed her hands down on the table, causing Anne to jerk back. “I watched the woman I love bleeding out in my arms. I watched my best friend and mentor hanging by his neck near death. I watched his lover and my friend trying to pull him back in vein. I watched my world crumbling- and you know what? Shooting her felt good.” Alana raised her head, looked down at Anne, and Will could feel the energy crackling off of her, alive and pulsing like it did from him, from Hannibal. Alana was truly alive in that moment. “I liked shooting Diane.”

“You’re a monster.”

“You’re the fucking monster!” Alana leaned forward again, her hair falling over her shoulders. “You and Diane, what you did.”

“We did what you couldn’t.” She straightened up. “We protected women, by taking care of the men that had harmed them. You and the damn FBI couldn’t even catch a man mutilating our young girls. Fresh minds, ready for the world, and he tore them down.”

“Bradley Madison.” It had been the first thing Will said, and Diane looked back at him again, taking in the blood on his clothing. Will looked up and let the light catch his glasses. “You did this because of him.” It wasn’t a question, it didn’t need to be. Anne stared at him steadily.

“No,” she said, “No, we’ve been doing this well before him. We turned it into a show because of him. We wanted these men to all be afraid- to feel the fear these girls felt, every time they left the confines of their home.”

Will stalked forward, pulling his glasses off and setting them on the table. He stood next to Alana, with his bandaged forehead and bloody clothes, his eyes black and blue, and he swallowed this woman down in front of him. He let her see, inside, what waited, what had been birthed and raised with Hannibal’s loving help.

He saw blood in her mouth as he punctured her, over and over again. Tiny slits into her body, to let her blood slowly. He watched her choke for air as he had one hand around her throat. When she had drowned on her own blood, Will would saw her into pieces and leave her thrown about the city for the authorities to find.

“Why Hannibal?” he asked, having Diane’s answer in his mind- and curious, if Anne had more to add. Plus, he knew anything else she said would only continue to count against her. He wanted that, for the moment.

“Because you were close.” Her lip twitched, once. “You were too close, looking in the right directions. My girls, they were too sloppy when you can get inside their heads. I needed you off this case, off it completely. But targeting you- it wouldn’t have been ,satisfying. I wanted you to hurt and slowly destroy yourself. You- you needed to fall apart by losing the one thing you rely on the most.”

“Hannibal.” It was Alana who whispered his name, seemed to fade suddenly, like a ghost. It was alright, she had done her part- Will was ready to take over for her spectrum and give her peace. He was ready to let his claws sink in.

“Diane was going to send him to you, deliver him right to your door.” She leaned back in her chair, one hand reaching down to ghost along the wheel. “Then periodic after, send you his blood. As little forget me knots.”

Will’s stomach turned. Not in disgust, but in hatred.

“She promised me she could handle this.”

“You underestimated me,” Will whispered, “I made the connections before you could sever them. Your downfall was deciding to ever step out of the shadows.”

“Our downfall is men like Bradley Madison, who got away with so many murders before you managed to put a name and details to his face. What he did to those girls-“

“You did no better!” Alana was seething next to Will, her words venom straight from fangs she had kept hidden for far too long. “You took in these girls’ trust, and then you used them. You threw them away like trash.”

“They knew what they were getting into.” Anne frowned. “They were all former students of mine. I knew they were capable. When they lost that capability, yet...Diane saw to it that they were taken out of the equation. But I never humiliated them by exposing them in such ways.” Exposing them in such ways. Will laughed, a bark that echoed in the room, a crack like lightning.

“Exposing them, like their insides are something private and precious,” Will whispered, “So it was better to abuse their minds and use their trust? Mental anguish in the end cannot add up to physical, is that it?”

This time, Anne had nothing to say. Will imagined it was because he had cut her tongue out and stuffed it down her throat. He didn’t need it as a souvenir like Bradley had- there was nothing fascinating about her lies. She was just as bad as him, even if she felt safe behind her facade of righteousness. She ruined girls just as he had. Except she loved them first. That hurt even more.

“We’re done,” he whispered, looking at Alana. She nodded, and he grabbed his glasses, leaving them off as they walked out, leaving Anne to sit alone in the cage like room. They looked at Jack, and Will said in one clear, sharp sentence, “Was that enough for you?”

Jack nodded.

“Good. Now take me back to the hospital.” Alana put her hand on Will’s shoulder, whispering that she would. Her car was here. He didn’t fight her, followed her out of the building and towards her vehicle, his glasses folded and resting in his chest pocket.

They stopped by the passenger door, Alana turning to lean against the car, looking into Will’s eyes. She had felt his, boring into her, he knew. He’d wanted her to. “You said killing her felt good.”

Alana licked her lips, looking up into Will’s eyes. She didn’t touch him, and he didn’t touch her, but she felt his weight then, pinning her down. Pressing for an answer, for the truth of it all.

“Doing bad things to bad people,” she whispered, remembered Beverly saying the same thing, once, tucked into her home as they talked about Will. As Alana brushed the notion off as absurd and sick, terrifying. “It...it feels good.”

“Your world isn’t black and white.”

“It was.” She looked down, focused on one of the blood stains on Will’s shirt. “It’s red now.” When she looked up, she did reach out, placed her hand on his chest, felt the thump of his heard against his ribs. “Is this how you’ve seen it, the whole time?”

He gave her a smile, a broken, tired smile. “No,” he whispered, “There were grays with specks of white, flakes of black, everything shadowed in a red cloud. But now?” He hesitated. “Now the red is bright, and sometimes, Alana...sometimes it’s blinding.”

She nodded, didn’t ask for more, but didn’t pull her hand away. Her eyes were understanding, seeing, taking in something. Will gave her glimpses, fragments- he gave her the truth of Bradley in his eyes, but kept hidden away that which was most private- that which he did for Hannibal, and Hannibal alone. That which he did for himself.

“Maybe they deserve it,” she finally breathed.

“Maybe someone needs to do it.”

“But that doesn’t have to be you.” She looked up, and her eyes had a wet gloss to them. “It doesn’t always have to be you Will. You’ll destroy yourself.”

“Do you feel destroyed, having taken a life?” Alana’s breath hitched.

“No,” she admitted, “No I feel...powerful.”

“A quiet calm, an iron force beneath your finger tips.” She nodded, and Will reached up, cupped her cheek, stroking a thumb along it. “Your heart should race, but you feel oddly calm when you think about it. You feel light, lighter than her dying breath.”

“Y-es.” Alana held his gaze, then looked down, at his throat.

“We’ve all got it in us,” he whispered, leaning closer. Had this been another time, another place- another expanse of reality, Alana might have thought he meant to kiss her. She knew he didn’t. “The capacity, we’re all willing. Something just has to spur us. You need the right key.”

“Will?”

“We’re all monsters,” he whispered, thumb moving over her cheek. “Each and everyone of us. You have to find it, embrace it- learn how to let it meld with what you are.” She reached up, covered his hand with her own, saw so much inside his eyes, so much she had feared she might see one day- that he might cross that line, go over the edge, fall into his empathy and never find himself again.

Except, it felt as if Will had found himself for truly, the first time.

And Alana, staring into it, wasn’t afraid.

“Let’s go,” she whispered, turning and giving his palm a kiss. Gentle. “We’ve got people waiting for us.”

Will released her, let her slip by, climbed into the car and leaned his hot forehead against the window. He closed his eyes, and he saw Beverly waiting for Alana, wondered if she would see in the doctor’s eyes that Alana had crossed a border- had brought her love to light. She had given it a name-

And it was Beverly.

He exhaled, and the image changed to a dark room, silent room, with nothing but the beep of a heart monitor, the echo of his own breaths. In the dark, Hannibal waited. Waited like he didn’t deserve to- he should have been in the light, with dark, intelligent eyes, and that smile that crept up to his eyes when Will looked at him just right.

He was alive, but it felt as if he was dead. And Will, he teetered on the fine line of sanity as he waited to see which side he would fall down- which side Hannibal would wake up on- among the living, or the dead.

*

He did not follow Alana back into Beverly’s hospital room. She gave him a slight, silent nod, and was gone, and he continued on, his body feeling heavy and tired around him. When he slipped into Hannibal’s room, it was still dark, silent. Empty, except for that echoing beep that set the rhythm for his own heart.

Will pulled a chair up almost against the bed and fell into is, groaning, sure his body was about to betray him, to break in two and leave him a pool of consciousness on the floor. He leaned forward, covered Hannibal’s hand with his own, and squeezed.

“Hey darlin’,” he whispered, the left corner of his mouth twitching up, slightly. “I promised I’d be back.” He shifted, wanting to get closer, wishing he could curl right up in the bed with Hannibal, into his side. He stayed firmly in the chair. “She confessed- after she heard Diane was dead. Dr. Mallick will be locked up. Not the...justice you deserve, but it’s something.” He leaned closer, cocking his head slightly, feeling isolated from the world in this small room. Feeling he could be free. “I would have ripped her apart for you. I thought about it. Cutting little holes into her, letting her bleed out slowly while I took her breath, let her breathe just before she was gone, only to do it again and again. I’d cut her up and scatter her all over Baltimore for the FBI to find. That’s the justice that should be done.” He bowed his head for a moment, before pushing himself up so he could lean over Hannibal properly, pressing his mouth to his forehead again. “Wake up,” he whispered, “wake up and tell me that would’ve made you proud.”

Will broke into a fresh, burning set of sobs, and fell back into his chair, exhausted beyond his years.

*

Will was in blackness, a heavy, warm heat with no light. He was barely aware of his own body, shocked more at the lack of anything around him. He was aware, somewhere in the back of his mind, that he was dreaming- but dreams meant hypersensitivity, meant nightmarish figures. Dreams meant images and feelings, dreams meant seeing to the point of being overwhelmed. This was a heavy nothingness, and it was far more startling.

Will clawed in it, reached but couldn’t see his own hand. He tried to open his eyes, couldn’t tell if they were open or closed, and grasped at the nothingness around him. Was he falling? He wasn’t sure. There was nothing beneath his feet, he couldn’t tell if he was suspended or floating or falling endlessly. It felt as if his senses had been diluted, almost muted.

He continued to reach out in the nothing, opened his mouth but gave no sound. He barely breathed at all, and his limbs were heavy, aches. Everything ached. He grabbed a fistful of warm, liquid air- grasped again, again-

And then, there it was, a pressure back, a twitch and someone was grabbing him, holding him, something was laced between his fingers, and Will plummeted, fell hard and fast through the blackness and lost his breath, eyes snapping open the moment he would have impacted with the ground he could not see.

He lifted his head from his chest, his neck screaming at him, a mess of knots. He groaned, blinked, looked down at his hand, resting on Hannibal’s bed, his fingers laced with Hannibal’s.

A pressure back, a twitch and someone was grabbing him, holding him-

He looked up, at Hannibal, and found a set of dark eyes watching him. Will’s own widened, and a smile twitched at the corners of Hannibal’s mouth.

“Hello Will.”

His voice was hoarse, had a tired rasp to it, but Will’s heart was racing regardless, as if it were the first time he had ever set foot in Hannibal’s office, the first time the man had smile at him in Crawford’s- as if they had just shared their first kiss, or Will had finally given himself to Hannibal. His heart raced like the moment he discovered he was the Chesapeake Ripper, yet he know, down below it all, it didn’t change what was here.

He stood up, his chair behind shoved back, and leaned over Hannibal, both hands bracing on the hospital bed. When he kissed him, it was light, and Will was choking. One of Hannibal’s hands reached up, slowly, and curled into his hair, gripping it affectionately.

“I...I thought,” Will stammered, pressing his forehead to Hannibal’s, “They said that you might...not wake up...so much blood.”

“You should know,” he whispered, his voice still hoarse. It sounded as if speaking was almost painful, but Hannibal pressed through it, locking eyes with Will in a way that, once upon a reality that seemed eons ago, would have been impossible. “That I would never leave you, beloved.”

Will nodded, his cheeks wet. He didn’t know when he had started crying, but Hannibal’s hand uncurled from his hair, wiping the tears away. His forearms were wrapped completely in bandages, seemed far too white in the dark of the room.

“Come here,” Hannibal whispered, shifting over slightly, creating a slim space on the bed. Will looked at him for a moment, before pulling back, kicking his shoes off, and slipping into the hospital bed on his side, curling right up against Hannibal, one of the doctor’s arms going around his shoulder- moving slowly so as to not dislodge any of the cords attached to his body.

“The nurses won’t like this,” Will whispered, thinking in the back of his tired mind that he should have gotten one, told someone Hannibal had woken up. He was far too in shock to think clearly though, and all he knew that curling up against Hannibal felt like heaven in that moment.

“Do you care?” Will shook his head, and Hannibal turned, kissed his curls, smiling. “I thought of you, dear Will. The entire time.” His voice stayed quiet, it was fading slightly. Will didn’t expect Hannibal to be awake much longer, not for now. He squeezed an arm around the older man, over his waist, and Hannibal kissed his curls again. “Thought how losing you was far more tragic than losing life.”

“You can’t lose me,” Will whispered, pulling his hand from Hannibal’s waist and resting it on his chest. Through the thin hospital gown- which Will could muse on the oddity of seeing Hannibal in it later- he could feel the man’s heart, slow, steady, beneath flesh and muscle and bone. “I’m a part of you, Hannibal.” He pressed his face into the crook of his neck, kissed the skin he found. “Just like you’re a part of me. We’re just one person, split into two bodies.”

Hannibal held Will tighter, said nothing now, although he wanted to say everything. Share every thought with this remarkable boy, every craving and desire and fear. He pursed his lips, but could not force the words. His mind was heavy, the corners black, his consciousness ebbing.

Hannibal heard Will whisper that he loved him, felt his mouth on his jaw, the scratch of his stubble, and that, for this moment, was enough. He would sleep, dream perhaps, and there would be other moments to open up to Will in ways he knew were not necessary, for Will was undoubtedly right.

They were one consciousness, one being, one existence, split among two separate designs of flesh and blood and bone. Whatever Hannibal was feeling, thinking- Will knew, somehow. The threads that connected them were tight, let the unspeakable pass between them. And that, that was enough, in this moment when Hannibal was weak and tired- when Will was exhausted. When both were willing to let sleep over take them for the next endless set of moments.

Will knew when Hannibal slipped back, when his grip went loose, yet his arm stayed locked around him. He smiled, closed his own eyes, and decided to hell with everyone else, let the nurses come in and find him curled up into Hannibal. It didn’t matter, none of it did.

What mattered was that Will could close his eyes and sleep, and know that, when he awoke, he would look into Hannibal’s burgundy eyes and find them staring back, seeing and allowing him to be seen in that way he only allowed for Will. What mattered was that, in this stretch of reality that Will had claimed as his own, Hannibal was still alive, and would remain so. Will would make sure of it, do anything to protect him, in this life or the next.

Hannibal was family, and Will- Will would bleed his bones dry for family.

Chapter Text

Will nestled deeper into Hannibal’s side, the sun light from the fresh morning streaming in through the open curtains. Eyes closed, he inhaled along Hannibal’s skin, mumbled something, felt a hand stroking along each knot of his spine, and sighed. He couldn’t see past his eyelids, but he felt Hannibal’s eyes on him, tangling in his curls, and it made him smile.

He stretched his legs, bunching some of the sheets in his toes, felt Hannibal’s hand still running along his spine. Every now and then when his arm brushed Will’s skin, he felt the puckered scar along his forearm. Will felt it again and his eyelids fluttered open and he dared to look up, smiling at Hannibal, who was looking down, watching him.

“Morning,” Will said around a yawn, and Hannibal shifted so he was partially sitting up, sinking his free hand into Will’s curls.

“Good morning,” he returned, “Did you sleep well?”

“Now that the dogs don’t feel terrified and the need to try and crowd in our bed,” Will said with a laugh. The first night in the new house, all seven of them had sprawled on the floor, which wasn’t anything strange to Will. But their breathing- and snoring, Will noted- had left Hannibal restless, and thus, left Will restless as well. The new environment had been a big change for the pack, and had left both Will and Hannibal exhausted come morning.

Will still teased Hannibal over Buster jumping up in the bed and Hannibal not chasing him away. He’d have to convince him to stop playing favorites.

But now, a few nights in, the dogs had relocated back downstairs rather happily. There was a small room that could have been used as a play area for children that Will had taken over, moving his old couch into it- despite Hannibal insisting they could have purchased something new, and turning the room over to the dogs. So far, they seemed to understand it was the only room where they were allowed on the furniture.

Will rolled over, onto his belly, and settled on Hannibal’s chest, toying with the ashen curls on his chest, smiling lazily. It felt good, to wake up with him. To wake up and think he was home and not worry about the dogs miles away or Hannibal making a drive to Baltimore. It was good to have a space they could share.

“What are you thinking?” Hannibal whispered, carding his fingers back through Will’s tussled curls.

“That it’s nice to have a home,” Will whispered, eyelids fluttering at the soothing touches. He turned and caught Hannibal’s wrist, just above his scar, with his lips. “You know,” he whispered, sliding his eyes back as Hannibal continued to tease his hair, “We haven’t even christened it yet.”

Hannibal laughed, Will felt it rumbling in his chest, moving up to vibrate inside his own body. He loved it, would bleed for that feeling.

“And what if Beverly and Alana arrive early?”

“They won’t,” Will breathed, leaning down and pressing his mouth to Hannibal’s neck, tasting the salt of his skin and rocking down against him, once. In just his underwear, Will knew it was blatantly obvious to Hannibal just how much Will liked his own idea. The hand in his hair stilled, gripped, tugged gently, and Will whimpered, pressing down against Hannibal and nipping at the skin of his neck. “Please Hannibal,” he whispered, “Don’t say no to me.”

Will lifted his head, only to have Hannibal guide him in for a kiss, slow and heavy, pulling small sounds from Will’s chest as he grasped for Hannibal, ran his hands over any flesh he could find. When Hannibal’s tongue traced his lower lip, Will moved to try and push back, only to have his lips sucked into his lover’s mouth and nipped playfully. He gasped, and Hannibal was smiling into him.

“I would deny you nothing, dear Will,” he whispered, before rolling them over and pinning Will down into the soft sheets. Will smiled, stuck between a laugh and a moan as Hannibal dipped his head and traced his tongue along his collar bone, down lower to wrap his lips around one nipple. Will bucked, the laugh-moan ending in a rushed breath, and one of Hannibal’s hands was stroking along his waist, the soft flesh he found there. Will closed his eyes against it all,slipping into the warm black and pink behind his eyelids and focusing on the feel of Hannibal’s tongue as he slipped lower down his body, kissed along his navel, nipped the flesh just above the waistband of his underwear.

Will fidgeted, lifted his hips as Hannibal dragged the fabric down his legs, tossed it off the bed and returned, kissing a path up one leg. He stopped over Will’s scar, kissed it gently, and Will felt his stomach tighten, thinking he and Hannibal were both marked now by the horrors his work at the FBI had dragged in. It was tempting, so tempting, to shut that door forever- to be the monster but not to hunt them.

His mind went blank as Hannibal pushed his thighs apart more, sucked on the tender flesh of his inner thigh, turned his head and kissed the base of his cock next, stealing Will’s breath. The younger man arched as a hand wrapped around his length, stroked slowly, dragging the precum beading on his head down his shaft. Hannibal kissed at his lower belly as he stroked, careful to let his lips only ghost the base of Will’s cock, and no more.

Will wanted to protest, to call him a tease and watch the way Hannibal would smile over it. But he didn’t, he let Hannibal touch him as he pleased. He reveled in the fact that Hannibal would touch him at all, would love him in a world that had, previously, given Will nothing so remotely whole as love. If Hannibal wanted to take his time, Will was more than happy to obliged him this morning, with the warm sun flitting in through the window and the heat of Hannibal’s body settling over Will so perfectly.

Will sighed Hannibal’s name, squirmed around and pushed gently into the touch. Then Hannibal’s lips were gone from his belly and his mouth was hot on the head of his cock, wrapping around Will and slowly- painstakingly slowly- he was swallowing him down, reaching his hand up and splaying it flat over Will’s belly where his lips had been. Will cried out, softly, tipped his head back, opened his eyes to stare up at a ceiling he would see hundreds, thousands of times in the future. Staring up at the birth point of a room that was his as much as it was Hannibal’s.

“Hnnn, Hannibal, you’re t-too,” he gasped, felt Hannibal’s tongue swiping over the head of his cock, “good at this.” Hannibal chuckled around him, and the vibration nearly made Will lose his mind. When he pulled off, the air felt cool, settling on Will’s wet length.

“What sort of lover would I be if I did not know you, Will,” he whispered, “and what you like.”

“Oh? You know what I like?” Will propped himself up on his elbows, smiling, teasingly- and he saw Hannibal’s eyes light up over it. With a swift movement, he was grabbing Will’s hips and turning him, Will going along with it, his erection digging into the sheets. Hannibal wasted no time, grabbing his ass and kneading the flesh, before parting it and running the flat of his tongue up along his hole. Will cried out, scrambling, reaching for something to hold onto, the world suddenly falling away. Hannibal did it again, and again, before the tip of his tongue traced along the muscles, and Will wrapped his arms around a pillow, burying his face into it.

“See,” Hannibal breathed, exhaling agaisnt the wetness he left against the muscles. “I know exactly what you like, beloved.”

“No,” Will whined, “Don’t stop.” Hannibal laughed, nipping at the supple flesh in his hands before tonguing Will again, loving the breath his lover exhaled. He pushed his tongue inside him, fucked him gently with it, until Will was squirming beneath him to the point that Hannibal had to hold him down. His cock was heavy, hanging between his thighs, flushed and needy. Smiling, Hannibal pulled away from his hole and released his ass, kissing at his lower back and wrapping his hand around Will length, stroking him in long, calm motions.

“Nightstand,” he breathed, and Will was reaching, straining, nearly pulling the draw out as he fumbled for the lube, passing it back to Hannibal. When their fingers brushed Will choked.

Hannibal had two slick fingers inside Will before the man could breath, and he buried his face into the pillow, biting at it to muffle his cries. Hannibal laughed, moved them expertly, heard the muffled noises growing louder.

“I want to hear you,” he whispered, curling his fingers, and Will all but screamed into the pillow.

“Do you w-want the dogs to come rushing in?” Will forced out, turning his head, spreading his thighs more. Hannibal smiled, shaking his head, and Will returned the smile, the two managing to laugh. That felt right, Will decided. Laughing, despite a moment before he had been screaming into a pillow-

It felt right because he felt comfortable, with Hannibal.

Hannibal kissed the curve of his ass, stroking along his thigh, over his scar once, twice, as he moved his fingers, and then Will was pulling away, whining at the loss of contact, but turning to face Hannibal and leaning into his lap, fumbling with his pajama pants. The doctor let him, watched as Will freed his cock and then had it in his mouth, tipping his head back and closing his dark eyes as Will swallowed him so far down he had not an inch left to give.

Will, too, knew what he liked.

Hannibal reached back, pushed his fingers back into Will, who raised his ass and tried to smile around Hannibal’s cock. The gentle press of the points of his teeth had Hannibal groaning.

Hannibal pushed a third finger in, knew Will was beyond ready by the way he was rocking his hips. “How do you want it?” he asked, his free hand gripping at the sheets as he felt the points of Will’s teeth again- gentle, just enough to know they were there. There was something intimate about it, a trust deep in Hannibal’s belly.

“Lemme on top,” Will breathed, after he released his cock, and Hannibal smiled, crawling back on the bed and laying flat on his back. He arched slightly as Will rubbed a slick hand along him, then helped steady him as he crawled over, guiding Hannibal’s cock into his body with a rushed, pleased breath.

“Fuck,” he groaned, dropping his head as he rested down against Hannibal’s body, his lover’s hands running along the curves of his hips- forcing himself to stay still, not to move until Will was ready. It was hard, with how tight he was around him, hot and waiting. But Hannibal was patient-

His train of thoughts shattered when Will moved, leaning his hands onto Hannibal’s chest for leverage and riding him roughly, gasping for breath with each thrust into his body. Hannibal tipped his head back, exposed his throat, and Will was leaning down, sinking teeth into skin with bruising force and leaving Hannibal to cry out, holding Will’s hips steady as he thrust up into him. Hannibal growled, Will lapping at the tender flesh almost apologetically, almost, mewling into it as Hannibal pulled at the flesh of his ass, exposing his hole.

“Harder,” Will breathed, loving the way Hannibal could be relentless with him, yet somehow, beneath it all, tender. A loving brutality, that was what rested in Hannibal’s hands, in the strength of his body.

Hannibal wrapped his arms around Will, rolling them over, pulling out only so he could get up on his knees. Will whined, spreading his thighs wider, arching and crying out loudly as Hannibal pushed back into him, fucking him harder, just like he’d asked.

“God, fuck,” Will groaned, “Come here.” He reached up, wrapped an arm around Hannibal’s neck as he leaned down, meeting him part way up for a kiss. Hannibal’s thrust slowed, but struck deep still, rubbing all of Will’s nerves in just the way he liked. He clutched at skin, the crook of his elbow pressed to the back of Hannibal’s neck, his other hand reaching out, grabbing one of Hannibal’s arms. His palm pressed against one scar as they kissed, as he pushed his tongue into the doctor’s mouth and tasted the excitement there, ran along teeth and loved the sharpness he found.

He rubbed up along the scar, puckered and pink and still healing. Eventually it would tighten, fade to white, but it would remain with its twin forever. Marks not of some crazed killer who thought to strike at Will through Hannibal, but as a brand for all the two had gone through. Will thought the same of the scar on his thigh- not a bite from Richard Blake’s knife, but a reminder of a span of time in he and Hannibal’s life. In the beginning, before he knew, before he saw.

Hannibal pulled back, pressing into him again, and Will felt dizzy. He stared up at the man over him, inside him, wrapping his legs around the backs of his thighs to keep him close. He didn’t see a killer, looking up into those burgundy eyes. He didn’t see a cannibal, nor the Chesapeake Ripper, nor Dr. Lecter-

He saw Hannibal. Simply Hannibal. Just the man who loved him. The rest was there, buried inside him, mixing and mingling yes, but it didn’t matter in that moment.

Will rubbed his palm along one of Hannibal’s scars again, feeling a tightness in his belly. The corners of his vision were going white, hazy, but he didn’t want it to be over.

“Slow,” he whimpered, “fuck Hannibal, not y-et.” He tipped his head back, fell flat onto the mattress, and Hannibal laid over him, pressing him down into it and sliding along him, moving only slightly inside him, choosing instead to frame Will’s head with his arms- the man’s curls tickling his scars- and to kiss him, slowly, explore every bit of his mouth as Will whimpered and clawed at his back with dull nails. He grasped at flesh as Hannibal tried so hard to keep his movements gentle, to keep them both riding along that edge before either tumbled over.

Will sucked Hannibal’s lower lip into his mouth, before releasing him from the kiss, ducking his head and pressing his mouth to the bruise forming on Hannibal’s neck. The older man shuddered, hissed, “Will,” in warning, and Will sucked on the tender flesh, only to have Hannibal tear away, grab his thighs and pushed them up, towards his belly, driving into him roughly again.

Will arched back at screamed at the sudden change, eyes rolling back in his head as his cock jerked, a wet trail on both his belly and Hannibal’s too from his excitement. He reached down blindly, wrapped a hand around himself, felt Hannibal’s fingers digging into his thighs with bruising force.

“Not, without y-ou,” Will breathed, twisting his fist around the head of his cock and swearing he saw the back of his skull. Hannibal was panting, low groans escaping as Will pulled him in tightly, help him, and then he was gasping Now and Will arched his back off the bed, crying out so loudly if he hadn’t been so enthralled in that moment, he would have heard the dogs suddenly barking, thinking something was the matter.

He stroked himself well past his point of orgasm- until his body was dry and the evidence was a pearly mess on his stomach- until Hannibal had left his insides hot and slick, was leaning over him gasping for breath, but still inside. He grabbed Will by his chin and pulling him in for one more kiss, the kind that was all tongue and left Will in such a sensory overload he was sure he would pass out.

When Hannibal pulled out of him and rolled onto his back, Will whined, shuddered, stared up at the ceiling trying to catch his breath. When he glanced next to him, Hannibal was in the same state, his hair pleasantly disheveled, a smile on his face that made him look years younger.

“Did we christen the house to your liking?” he asked, arching an eyebrow, and Will grinned.

“I’m not sure. We might need to do it again, to be safe.” Hannibal laughed, his arm reaching up, resting against his forehead.

“You won’t walk, Will.”

“Who said I’d be getting fucked, darlin’.” Hannibal laughed, couldn’t help it, felt warm all over in his post orgasmic bliss, hearing Will’s accent slipping out affectionately. He was about to roll over, throw an arm over Will and bury his face in his hair, when the door was suddenly pushed open, and a wave of concerned furry bodies rushed in, surrounding the bed, whining at them, pawing up. Will burst into a fit of laughter, pulling the sheet over he and Hannibal to the waist, feeling a need for modesty around the dogs. “Fuck we startled them,” Will managed to get out, sitting up and leaning over the side of the bed, patting who ever he could. He felt the bed shift, assumed Hannibal was getting up to shower, and turned to watch, only to find him straightening up from leaning over the bed, Buster in his arms, cradled like a child. “Hannibal!” Will exclaimed, laughing, and the man looked at him through his light lashes, mocking an innocent smile. Will saw right through it, could tell he was on the verge of laughing. He threw his hands up in surrender, getting up from the bed and walking towards the master bathroom, knowing full well Hannibal was watching him go, and making sure to have an extra sway to his hips as he walked.

*

Will knew Alana and Beverly had arrived before they rang the door bell. The dogs erupted into a chorus which he hushed quickly, and met them at the door, opening it and smiling at them, receiving a one armed hug from Alana, who was holding Applesauce’s leash in her other hand. She slipped in with her, letting her off it to to greet the other dogs, and Will pulled Beverly into a full hug, his hands pressed along her spine.

“How are you feeling?” he asked, closing the door as she stepped in and slipped her shoes off, leaving them next to Alana’s.

“Not too bad. Physical therapy is a bitch, but hey, I’m still alive.” She shrugged, and let Will slip his arm around her waist, squeezing her.

“Alana would be a mess if you weren’t. So would I.” Beverly nodded, glanced at Will’s eyes for a moment, free of his glasses, into them.

“If I weren’t here, at least I know you two would get justice for me.” She slipped a little closer to him, feeling almost magnetized to Will in that moment. “Bad people deserve to have bad things done to them. At least we all seem to agree on that philosophy.”

Will smiled, and the dark in his eyes was harmless- to Beverly, anyway. It was beautiful, in a way- a long shadow that stretched across a hot day, gave her a moment of coolness. It was pleasant, because it couldn’t hurt her.

Will didn’t ask if Alana agreed with this- only walked Beverly into the house, to the kitchen, where Alana was sipping orange juice from a champagne glass and laughing with Hannibal. Beverly walked around the counter, giving the man a hug, which he returned, and telling him he looked good for being near death. The two shared a laugh over it, and Alana glanced at Will over her glass. He caught her eyes, gave her a smile, a knowing smile, she she returned.

She’d seen it in him, just as Beverly had. She saw, she accepted, and she didn’t fear.

And Will saw it in her, had when she recollected killing Diane. He wondered if Alana’s world was still red. Part of him hoped it was. Part of him hoped her eyes were open now.

“I’m starving,” Beverly said, accepting her own glass of orange juice from Hannibal, who began gently pushing her around the counter.

“Have a seat,” he said with his charming smile, “brunch will be on the table in moments. Will? Would you?” He gestured towards the plates on the table, and the younger man nodded, staying as the women left to have a seat at the table, and helped Hannibal plate the food. Hannibal smiled next to him, chuckled as Will gently swayed his hip into Hannibal’s, dared even to playful shove the younger man away.

It was peaceful, in that moment. In the kitchen that Hannibal had designed with his own hands, so much like his own- in a world long left behind. It was peaceful because it was their’s Will realized, their space and their chunk of time and their life. Their own reality that they crafted and molded with their hands, that they controlled. That they would keep, forever.

He carried the plates out, setting them down in front of Beverly and Alana, before staking his own seat next to the head of the table, where Hannibal sat. They fell into a bout of welcome, friendly conversation- of Beverly laughing loudly and Alana blushing, Hannibal’s charming smile. Will breathed it in, kept it in his ribs and inside the bone arena of his skull, tasted it with the points of his finely honed cannibal teeth, loved it down to the depths of his belly.

For a moment, Will dared to think of the blood that had been shed, to get to this point. He saw Hannibal lying lifeless on the floor, Beverly crumbled in Alana’s arms. He felt the despair heavy in his chest, and he let it settle there, for a moment, before reaching over, resting his hand atop Hannibal’s. The man looked down for a moment, then at him and smiled, and Will smiled back, everything dissipating inside him, gone in that flash of affection.

Will had Hannibal. He had Beverly. He had Alana. He had a home with the only person who had ever understood him, down to the marrow in his bones, who trusted him enough to open up in the same way, displays secrets hidden under ribs and in the backs of skulls. He had a family- Hannibal, the two of them never needing more. But, Will could admit, glancing at Alana and Beverly, that he had more. His searching for that other existence to pull into the equation, missing Abigail and trying to replace her with Wendy- it hadn’t needed to happen, if he had realized that his family had been whole all along. They were four, two separate existences that complimented each other so well, and Will knew he would do anything, anything, for anyone sitting at the table with him. They were his blood, and he would defend them with his every last breath- yet he hoped he wouldn’t have to. And for a spell, for a stretch of time, he didn’t think he ever would need to. Not in this home, where everything was a calm sort of beautiful, not with Hannibal’s hand warm under his, with three charming smiles and a mutual understanding between them all, unspoken but there, that whatever was behind all their eyes could exist, would exist, no matter what they did.

Will exhaled, slowly, because this was everything he could ever want, ever need. Because the world had slotted into place perfectly, and he was alive. He was, and knew he would be, alright.