Actions

Work Header

Price

Work Text:

Will didn’t talk about money. It ruined the mood. One thing all of his clients had in common was the desire not to be reminded that they were his clients.

He let them do the talking, not to him, but to each other. At this stage of his career, he accepted only those with references from previous clients, only those who knew how much to pay, when to pay it, and what to expect for their money — and what not to expect.

He looked over the nervous, slightly sweaty man beside him and hoped he hadn’t made a mistake. It wasn’t that Franklyn seemed likely to demand sex at the end of the night. It was more that Franklyn seemed to want something that Will couldn’t provide.

Franklyn’s gaze strayed once again to a man seated a few rows forward — smooth hair, tailored tux, cheekbones that stood out even from this angle. Franklyn wanted to be here with him. Failing that, he wanted this man to be jealous. Will watched the way this stranger sat so straight, so completely wound up in the music, and he wasn’t sure it would be possible.

“You know him?” he murmured to Franklyn.

Franklyn blinked at him, caught. “Who?”

Will just smiled and waited.

Franklyn dropped his gaze to his hands, twisted together in his lap. “Hannibal Lecter. My psychiatrist. He loves this. The opera.”

Will made his smile conspiratorial. “Are we putting on a show for him?”

Franklyn flushed. “No! I just couldn’t come alone. You can see that, right?”

Will nodded and touched Franklyn’s hand. He wondered who he’d end up feeling worse for at the end of the evening, Franklyn or this Hannibal Lecter.

Intermission came with champagne and small talk and, inevitably, an introduction.

“He’s my psychiatrist,” Franklyn said again, this time to the woman who stood beside Hannibal, looking down at Franklyn with wary amusement. Her smile tightened when Franklyn shook her hand, probably too hard. He’d ground Will’s bones together earlier in the evening, a surprisingly strong grip, palm hot and damp.

“And this is my friend, Will Graham,” Franklyn said, looking up at Will hopefully.

Will leaned into Franklyn’s side a little and smiled at Hannibal. He didn’t offer his hand until it was clear Hannibal wouldn’t offer his. And then he did, just to be difficult.

Hannibal took it, and his grip was impeccable, a well judged pressure, not too hard or too long. Ditto the smile that went with it, which conveyed polite attention and no warmth at all.

“Politicians must hate you,” Will said.

Hannibal’s cool smile grew a shade cooler. “And why is that?”

“I bet you didn’t even have to practice in the mirror.”

A pocket of silence formed around them. Franklyn was staring at him. Will, in an out of body way, was staring at himself. He wasn’t rude. People paid him to be charming, to ease their way, to play the perfect partner and reflect their light.

“And I suspect you did,” Hannibal said.

The silence grew louder. Apparently Hannibal wasn’t often rude either. Will liked that, and he liked the honesty. “Every move I make,” he said and then he smiled. “Most people need the practice.”

Franklyn, to no one’s surprise, agreed, but so did Hannibal’s lady friend. “Social graces must be learned,” she said. “They are seldom inborn.” She gave Hannibal a sardonic look.

Hannibal responded by raising his champagne glass to her. “Some learn and some are taught. I also had dancing lessons.”

It was as neat a deflection as Will could’ve managed himself. Everyone laughed, and the tension eased. Hannibal and his friends drifted away.

Franklyn clutched Will’s arm. He was breathing quickly through his nose, and he looked flushed. “He’ll think we’re dating. Do you think he will?”

“Will you tell him we are?”

“I should tell him the truth, shouldn’t I?”

Will laid a hand over Franklyn’s. “Tell him whatever you want to. I won’t give you away.”

Franklyn looked up at him with a raw gratitude that was painful to see. Will got him another glass of champagne.

\*

Two weeks later, Will’s business phone rang while he was making dinner. Will almost didn’t pick it up. But he did.

“Hello? Will Graham.”

“Mr. Graham. This is Hannibal Lecter. We met at the opera. Franklyn told me a little bit about you at our next session.”

Will tilted his head to hold the phone in place against his shoulder while he loosened the fish he was frying and flipped it in a sizzle of fat. “He told me about you too.”

“I wonder how much of what he said about either of us was accurate.”

“Couldn’t say. Did you call for a reason, Hannibal? My catfish is almost done.”

“You have quite a reputation. Most people specifically mention your impeccable manners.”

“I’m not on the clock,” Will said. “And I hate cold fish.”

“Sensible.” Hannibal paused, and the pause turned into a full stop.

Will listened to his silence and felt his hesitation. He didn’t think Hannibal hesitated often. He liked that in the same way he’d liked his rudeness. “Do you want to hire me, Hannibal?”

“What if I prefer you off the clock?”

“Then you’re out of luck. I don’t date.”

“I see. And how much would the pleasure of your company for dinner cost me?”

"Franklyn must've told you."

"He quoted me a figure, yes. He tells me you don’t discuss it.”

“I don’t discuss it because most people don’t want to. They want the illusion. If you want to talk about it, we can talk about it.”

“When your fish isn’t getting cold.”

“Exactly.”

“On Friday? Around seven?” Hannibal said.

Will agreed and took down his address. He hung up and ate his fish and greens and baked potato and wondered if Hannibal would hand him the money himself. That would be a change. He’d never had anyone pay him for honesty before. Hannibal must need it pretty badly.

\*

Friday afternoon, Will stood in front of his closet and wondered what to wear. Usually, the event dictated it, or his client’s preferences. What would Hannibal prefer? Will was finding that hard to get a fix on. On the one hand, Hannibal’s tastes were on display for anyone to see: fine clothes, fine food from what Franklyn had said, and he had a fucking Bentley, so there was that. Usually, Will would’ve dressed to match. But that didn’t seem to be what Hannibal wanted from him.

Honesty. How much honesty was Will prepared to give him? That was a new currency, and one he wasn’t entirely comfortable with. Was it really even what Hannibal wanted, or did he only want someone who would challenge him? Will had had a few like that. This felt different.

He went for something fairly bland in the end, dark pants, red shirt, some mousse in his hair, done. If Hannibal wanted something else, he shouldn’t keep it all bottled up so tight. Maybe Will could uncork him this evening.

He parked down the street and walked the last block to Hannibal’s house. He wanted to see it coming. Lights in the windows, vertical like it had shot up out of the ground, rising well above the houses around it, though not so wide. Angular. Like the man himself. A house with cheekbones and a smirk.

Hannibal opened the door in a white shirt rolled up to his elbows and a white apron that covered him to the knees. Unstained. Of course.

“Will. Please, come in.”

Will followed him into a kitchen set like a stage with a dozen tiny bowls of prepared ingredients and the star of the show in a roasting pan on top of the sprawling iron-grated gas range, golden brown and shiny.

“Duck?” Will asked.

“Duck. Brined with star anise and rubbed with ginger butter. It only needs to rest while I prepare the rest of the meal. Please, sit.”

Will sat in a leather chair in the corner. Hannibal brought him a glass of wine and an envelope full of cash. Will didn’t count it, and Hannibal noted him not counting it with a small nod.

“An interesting profession.”

“Not so different from yours,” Will said. “I listen a lot. Talk about their feelings.” He shrugged. “Try to give them what they want.”

“Did you talk about Franklyn’s feelings?”

“Didn’t have to. It was pretty clear he brought me along to impress you. I couldn’t deliver on that one.”

“On the contrary.”

“You weren’t impressed with Franklyn.” Will took a sip of wine, red, darker than blood. “But I guess he got what he really wanted if you quizzed him about me after.”

“And what is it you think he wanted?”

“Your attention,” Will said. “Are you going to give him a referral?”

“What makes you think that?”

Will got up and walked the perimeter of the kitchen. “He makes you uncomfortable. Not uncomfortable. Irritated. No, not that either.” He thought for a second. “He stomps on your boundaries and you can’t even be mad at him for it because he doesn’t know any better. Whatever emotion that is.”

“Do you speak so of all your clients?” Hannibal asked.

“I don’t usually speak of them at all. But Franklyn’s already told you everything I could and more.”

“He couldn’t tell me about my boundaries.”

“No,” Will said. “But that’s not me telling you about Franklyn. That’s me telling you about you.”

“Is that a service you often provide?”

“Pretty often, yeah. I usually sugar coat it more than that. But you seem like you can take it raw.”

“Normally, I wouldn’t take it at all.” Hannibal pulled a loaf of fresh bread from the oven and then started assembling salads with watercress and about twenty kinds of herbs in them. Will leaned on the counter and watched.

“You know I don’t have sex with my clients,” Will said.

“Franklyn was very clear on that point, yes. He was eager to assure me that he did not desire you sexually.”

“Should you be telling me that, Doctor?”

“He gave me permission. I think the idea of being discussed between us excited him.”

“And what about you? Do you desire me sexually?”

“I am aware of the terms you have set out. My physical desires or lack of them have no bearing on our evening.”

“Which desires are you indulging then, Hannibal? Why am I here?”

“What do you offer your clients, besides uncomfortable truths, if not that?”

“Companionship. Understanding. Someone to spill their secrets to if they have any. Someone to lie to if they don’t. Someone to believe them, to comfort them, to hold them. Whatever they need.”

“Most people don’t know what they need.”

“I’m good at figuring it out. Part of the service.”

Hannibal looked up from his salad, now scattered with pomegranate seeds like drops of wine. “You seem to be having some difficulty with me.”

“You’re hard to read,” Will said. He stole a pomegranate seed and crunched it, eyes on Hannibal’s face. He’d expected annoyance but got an odd softening instead. “You’re not hurting for people to eat your cooking. But you obviously enjoy it, or why bother doing it for me? Like she said in the movie, I’m a sure thing.”

Hannibal tilted his head slightly. “The movie?”

“Pretty Woman? No, right. Fellini’s more your style, or Ingmar Bergman. But nothing at all recently because you don’t own a TV.”

“Very nearly a crime in this country.”

Will held up his hand. “Also guilty.”

“What do you do with your evenings when not insulting strangers at the opera?”

“I don’t know that what I said to you was an insult. Only if you take it that way, I guess.”

“I haven’t yet decided how to take it. More wine?”

“More wine,” Will agreed. He held out his glass, and Hannibal topped it up. “I read a lot. Tie fishing flies. Fix boat motors. Take care of my dogs.”

“You have a large number of them.”

Will frowned. “I know I didn’t invite Franklyn over to my place.”

“I have an exceptionally acute sense of smell. Your clothes are free of dog hair and you showered before you came. It is clear take care of your house and belongings. For the scent to be so strong despite these facts, you must have more than a few.”

“Seven.” Will ducked behind his wine glass, flustered, almost embarrassed, for the first time in a long time. He let the silence stretch too long. “Is it bad?”

“No. Natural scents seldom bother me. Your cologne is much worse.”

Will was startled into laughter and saw his amusement reflected in the restrained curve of Hannibal’s mouth. “I was wondering on the way over here how much honesty you really wanted from me. How much I wanted to give. Or get in return.”

“Tit for tat,” Hannibal suggested. “So neither of us will get more than his fill.”

“Can my first tit be what the hell I’m doing here? You can’t be that hard up for—“ Will stopped and frowned. For what. Something that acquaintances and opera cronies and dinner guests didn’t provide. Something more than honesty. You could pay a shrink for honesty. “—entertainment,” he finished, but he thought: friends.

Hannibal slid a knife into the duck and carved away slices of rich, dark meat. “You aroused my curiosity. The prices you command are high. Higher than mine.” He flicked his gaze up briefly, mischief in his eyes even as his knife cut to the bone. “And everyone I have spoken to seems to feel they are justified. Shall we?” He picked up their plates.

Will carried their wine glasses through to the dining room while Hannibal carried their plates. They settled in their chairs. There was a shallow pottery bowl in the center of the table. It had been filled with large teeth and surrounded by a forest of mercury glass candlesticks.

Hannibal regarded him, eyes lit by candle flame. “You give people what they want. That suggests that this is what I want. And although it was not what I envisioned, I do find myself satisfied.” He met Will’s eyes on the last word and there was more than reflected fire in them.

The back of Will’s neck was hot. He found himself tongue-tied for the second time in one night. He took a bite of duck instead. The flavor filled his nose and mouth, deep with spice, and it sent another pulse of warmth through him, nearly as carnal as the first.

Dangerous. He didn’t get attached and he didn’t get involved. And he should get out of here. He could cut it short after dinner. Say he had to get back to his dogs, that he hadn’t planned for a longer evening. Block Hannibal’s number. Back to normal, no problem.

He made himself smile and let it be a shallow, surface-only thing. He knew Hannibal would pick up on that. “Glad I could help,” he said. “Anything else you want to ask me?”

Hannibal’s fork clinked against his plate as he cut a bite. He brought it to his mouth, which looked red in the candlelight and red from the wine. “Perhaps there is something I want to tell you,” he said.

“What’s that?”

Hannibal looked down the dining room table, so dimly lit that it stretched away from them like a dark road. The change in position put out the fire in his eyes and left them shadowed black from edge to edge. A silence followed. Hannibal reconsidering maybe.

“You can tell me,” Will said. To his surprise, whatever it was, he wanted to hear it.

“You realize I’m not from this country, of course.”

“I did guess, yeah.”

“And although you are, you know the experience of being far from home.”

Will nodded. If there was anywhere he could call home, it was a long way from here.

“Do you ever wish to go back?”

“Sometimes,” Will said.

“But you haven’t.”

Will followed his gaze down the table. Nothing there that he could see. Just wood and candlesticks and empty space. “I guess I’m afraid that what I remember wouldn’t be there. It’d all be different.”

“And I haven’t gone back because I am afraid it would be the same.”

“Bad?” Will asked.

“Bad, yes.” He looked back at Will. “It seems unwise to sum it up in one word. But if I were to do so, that word is as good as another.”

Usually Will was a better listener than this, willing to wait, to sit, to be silent until the words came. Now questions teemed at the back of his mind and he had to smother them all. He was sure Hannibal could tell. That was embarrassing too. He was supposed to be a professional.

“And what you left, was that good?” Hannibal asked.

“A lot of it was,” Will said. “Growing up was pretty good. Hard sometimes. But growing up’s always hard. Even if you’ve got it easy, it’s always hard.”

“Did you? Have it easy?”

“In some ways. My dad was great. Not a lot of money, but we managed.”

“My family had a great deal of money and managed very poorly. When did you begin in this line of work?”

Will hesitated. Sometimes he would make stuff up. Nothing outrageous, but usually people didn’t care that much about the answer anyway. He wanted to tell the truth now, and that felt dangerous. “I was a cop in New Orleans. Got stabbed. Came up here, got a forensics degree, tried to join the FBI. They wouldn’t take me.”

Hannibal was looking at him full on now, distracted from his past. “I understand their requirements are rigorous.”

“Especially the psych screening. I didn’t measure up.”

“Because of what allows you to do the work you do now.”

“Yeah. It was a favor to a woman in one of my forensics classes the first time. She hooked me up with someone else after that. It was easy. Easy to do, easy not to get attached.” He paused. “I did it with killers in New Orleans. I worked Homicide. Highest close rate in the city.”

“Do you regret leaving?”

Will stalled with a sip of wine and then another. “Sometimes. But it messed me up. Pretty bad. So sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.”

“Sometimes I regret the things that happened in my home. And sometimes I do not. Sometimes I believe it to be the ideal course of events. The best of all possible worlds. Who might we be otherwise, without pain to shape us? If we regret the pain, we regret our selves. And I would not change what I am.”

“Me neither,” Will said. “Still would rather not have gotten stabbed though.” But he saw Hannibal’s point. If he hadn’t, he might still be down there, still be working cases. Still be waking every night with nightmares, scared to go back to sleep and not sure who he’d be when he woke up.

Hannibal was looking at him like he knew all of that. Maybe he did.

“Is there anyone you’d rather be?” Will said.

“No one.”

“Must be nice.”

“Who would you be? If not the policeman or the escort or the FBI agent?”

“I don’t know. Maybe no one. Maybe just who I pretend to be. The guy who’s got all the moves and got it all figured out.” Will glanced up as a thought struck him, and one corner of his mouth twisted up. “Maybe I’d like to be you.”

Candlelight reflected off the stem of Hannibal’s wine glass as he paused with it halfway to his lips. “An intriguing thought. If you were me, who would I be?”

“The obvious answer is me.”

“Obvious.” Hannibal took a sip and rolled the wine around his mouth as he had the word. “Yes, it is. When would suit you?”

Will pressed his thumb hard into the engraving on the handle of his silver fork. His heart felt strange in his chest, almost painful. “To do what?"

"Hire me, of course."

Will stared at him, searching for any sign that this was a joke, though he knew it wasn't. "Hire you to be me."

"So that you may take my place, yes."

Possibilities streamed across Will’s mind like blown leaves. He shook his head. “I don’t have that kind of money to spend.”

“You haven’t asked me my rates. Perhaps I don’t value myself as highly as you do yourself.”

“I doubt that.” Will made himself take a bite. He had to swallow twice. “Okay. How much?”

“One hundred.”

“An hour?”

“For the night," Hannibal said.

“That’s crazy.”

Hannibal looked at him over the rim of his glass, mouth distorted and widened by its curve into something pinker and more lush. “But I have no experience. You’ll have to be patient with me.”

“Assuming I agree to do this.”

Hannibal only looked at him, not quite smiling.

Fair enough, Will thought. They both knew he was going to say yes.

\*

Will had assumed they’d go out. Parade themselves. Be seen. He’d even picked out an event, an art opening for a painter who did surreal landscapes that reminded Will uncomfortably of his own nightmares.

But a few days after they’d agreed on a date, he got a key in the mail. It took him only a second or two to understand. He was going to be Hannibal: this was, of course, the key to Hannibal's house.

Their evening shifted and focused on the screen of his mind. Of course he would cook. He would cook because Hannibal would cook, because it was both a joy to him and a method of control practiced on his guests. He had practiced it on Will, and now he was inviting Will to practice it on him.

To be Hannibal was to cook, to control. What else?

Will stared blankly at his clothes again. To shape the world to his pleasure and for his pleasure. That was what Hannibal did. That was who Hannibal was.

Will found a tailor. He got a suit fitted. Not custom made, no time, but fitted to his body and for his body in colors and patterns that pleased him. Him. Not his clients.

When he pulled it on, he felt different. He’d had suits both fitted and bespoke. But not for him. As he looked at himself in the mirror, he wondered if Hannibal did anything for other people.

And Will wondered if he truly did anything for himself.

\*

The lights were out when he arrived at Hannibal’s house. Will let himself in with the key. The house was empty. He could feel it as he moved through its rooms. Hannibal would arrive later, ring the doorbell, be admitted only as a guest. Will’s guest.

The possessive moved through him and over his tongue and he shaped his lips around it. His. Bought and paid for. The whole night.

He switched on the lights in the kitchen and stood in the center of it, turning to see everything. Being alone there felt like going through Hannibal’s underwear or his medicine cabinet, a theft of intimacy. It made heat settle in his stomach. It made his toes curl in his shoes.

He found a loin of pork in the gleaming steel refrigerator. He pushed a ginger and garlic and soy marinade into it with his fingers, kneading and stroking and picturing the moment when Hannibal would put this same flesh into his mouth.

The sun sank outside, and he lit up the house, waiting.

\*

Hannibal arrived shortly before the meal was ready. Will greeted him wearing a white apron, shirtsleeves rolled up to his elbows, and Hannibal looked him over like the meal had already begun. He stood in the doorway, a petitioner, waiting to be allowed inside.

Will stepped back and gestured him across the threshold.

“Good evening,” Hannibal said.

Those were the only words spoken between them until Hannibal had followed Will down his own hall, through his own baroque dining room, and into the throbbing heart of the kitchen. There, Hannibal paused and laid his palm on the counter next to a drop of oil and a dot of juice from the meat.

“Pork?”

Will nodded.

“With ginger and garlic, I believe.”

“And a few other details.” Will poured him a glass of wine. He held onto the stem even when Hannibal had cupped his hand around the bowl.

A flicker of something dark passed behind Hannibal’s eyes and then he dropped his gaze with a half smile. “Thank you.”

“Of course. You’re my guest. I want you to—“ Will paused, turning words and intentions in his head like waves tumbled shells. “—enjoy yourself tonight.”

“Is that what you intend to pay me for tonight? Enjoying myself?”

Will watched Hannibal’s lips press against the rim of the glass and red liquid pour between them. “Is there something you’d prefer I pay you for?”

They looked at each other until Will had to turn away to take dinner out of the oven. Hannibal didn’t answer in words, but Will felt they had agreed on something in the moment. Something that might last longer than one evening.

Hannibal watched his hands as Will carved the meat.

In the dining room, Will sat at the head of the table.

Hannibal sat next to him. His gaze drifted over the silver candlesticks Will had found and the centerpiece Will had assembled from curled rams’ horns that served as a nest for three small skulls. All those and much more had lain in lined drawers in the sideboard.

Hannibal glanced at the drawers before he spoke. “A nest of death.”

“So’s the meal. Any meal. We eat death and we get life. That’s how it works.”

“This meal in particular perhaps.”

“Oh yeah?”

Hannibal glanced down at his plate and then gave Will a small smile. “We are both awake to that particular exchange. Death pays for life. What pays for joy?”

“Or what does joy pay for?” Will suggested.

“The obvious answer is pain or sorrow, but the world is not always so simple. Joy can pay for joy. Pleasure can pay for pleasure.”

“And pain just buys you more pain.”

Hannibal dipped his chin and lowered his eyes in agreement. He brought the first bite of meat to his mouth.

Will watched him taste, watched him chew, and watched him swallow. And Hannibal watched him watching.

\*

After dinner, Will poured them cognac and sat on the sofa while Hannibal wandered the room, looking at his own art and artifacts. He stopped in front of a butterfly pinned in a glass case. “What sort is this? I’ve never seen one before?”

It was only luck that Will knew, a case in New Orleans, a butterfly collector found dead, covered in his collection. “A Palos Verdes blue. One of the rarest butterflies in the world.”

Hannibal shot him a look that bordered on true surprise. “Indeed. And how did you acquire it?”

“Estate sale back in New Orleans. The collector it belonged to was killed. His wife sold off the collection and almost everything else before she moved north." All true. Will had even bought something at the sale -- a book, not a butterfly.

Hannibal lowered himself to sit on the arm of the sofa. "And you chose the rarest specimen, not the most beautiful."

Will hadn't, but clearly Hannibal had. "Don't we always value rarity above beauty?"

"This is a rare night. For both of us."

Between them, clear as a crystal wineglass and sharp as Hannibal’s knives, hung the knowledge that one night wouldn’t be enough.

Hannibal rose gracefully and turned toward the piano. “May I play for you?”

“Please do.” Will followed him over and sat next to him on the bench.

Hannibal rested his fingers on the ivory keys and then began to play, something soft and lilting that moved and swirled like water. He spoke over it. “There is a still a great deal of the night before us.”

“Are you suggesting something?”

Hannibal laid a hand on Will’s thigh and continued the melody with the other, apparently without missing a note.

Will watched the spread of his fingers over the keyboard. “That’s not on the table. You know that.”

“It’s not on the table for you. I make my own rules.” He let a chord linger and fade. “I would enjoy it. But of course the final decision is yours.”

Will felt as if the decision had been made before they met. Every interaction with Hannibal had been inevitable, and if Will had believed in fate that’s the label he would have stuck onto this strange, backwards relationship. Since he didn’t, he had no words. Instead, he took Hannibal’s wrist and stood and drew him toward the stairs.

Hannibal’s bedroom looked like an art installation, down (or up) to the full moon in the round skylight overhead like an eyeball floating in dark fluid.

“What do you want?” Hannibal asked.

“Stop,” Will said.

“Have you had enough of this pretense? But if we are once again who we are, then you will refuse me.” Watery moonlight flowed over the angles of Hannibal’s body. He was still, shadowed, face immobile and unchanging.

“Then let’s not be anyone.”

“Not ourselves, not each other,” Hannibal said, musing. “Our instincts then. I am a great proponent of instinct.”

Will usually shoved his down as hard as he could whenever they presented themselves, but now he let them take over and he reached for Hannibal. Hannibal reached back.

They met in the middle, hands on forearms, close, breathing, leaning. Warm air on Will’s cheek and a wordless whisper in his ear.

“I don’t—“ Will started. He meant he didn’t understand. Why Hannibal, why now, why so suddenly and against all logic, and the word love presented itself to him for the first time. Love and logic, two L words seldom found together.

He had his hand on Hannibal’s bony elbow, and it didn’t matter anymore. He kissed the stubble on the underside of his jaw and smelled the warmth of his skin and nothing mattered at all.

They undressed calmly down to the last stitch. When it all lay on the floor, Hannibal reached for him and pulled him onto the bed. The coverlet was cool silk, gray or seeming gray in moonlight. A sea to hold them up.

Hannibal’s lips burned on his throat and chest. Will rolled on top of him and had the whole of his body for a moment before Hannibal parted Will’s legs and rubbed his palm against his cock. Will caught his breath in a gulp and that was all he could feel: that touch and the air in his lungs. He was perilously close already, close to falling, close to flying.

“I want, Hannibal, wait—“

But Hannibal had moved down his body to lick at the head of his cock with small noises of hunger, with wet swipes of his tongue that made Will shake. He still couldn’t bear to come alone, and so he twisted his body around and felt blindly down Hannibal’s stomach, between his thighs, and found his goal.

Hannibal’s cock was thick and hard and Will took it in his mouth and was filled. He sucked. Hannibal matched the rhythm of his mouth. Will imagined their bodies as a reflection of the moon above, curled around each other on a sea of silk.

He sucked hard, and Hannibal matched him, and Will felt himself drift. He was Hannibal. They were each other. They were no one, and that was the best of all. Tremors built in his stomach and thighs. He heard someone cry out, muffled by flesh. His hips jerked, or Hannibal’s did, one of them was coming, or they both were, and Will opened his eyes wide and stared up at the moon.

Fingertips still numb and heart still pounding, he found himself turned so they were face to face and gathered viciously close for a handful of seconds while Hannibal breathed in his ear. Grip and breath eased. Will pressed himself closer into his arms.

“How much to stay with me?” Hannibal murmured. “For the week, the month, the year?”

A few of Will’s clients had made offers like this before. Will had turned them down without thought or hesitation. He hesitated now. “You think the rules have changed?”

“I think you could deny me every night and I would still want you to stay.”

“What are you asking? You want me to move in?”

“Yes. Be mine. Name your price.”

“Everything you’ve got,” Will said. He wasn’t talking about money. He knew Hannibal wasn’t either.

“You already have it.”