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Hannibal tipped the last of the cubed chicken into the pot and slid the whole thing into the oven, straightening up to look through the window to where Face was still standing out on the decking, his back straight, his hands deep in his pockets and his eyes on the distant mountains almost lost in the deepening evening. He sighed, thinking, not for the first time in the month since Sophia had died, just how drawn, how strained, how damn sad he looked; his beautiful boy, who, despite everything that had happened to him in his life had always been so upbeat, so positive, was now drowning in a sea of despair, and it seemed that there was nothing that Hannibal could do to save him.

Of course things had been bad straight after that dreadful morning, just as Hannibal had expected them to have been. Face had wanted to stay strong for Sosa, had wanted to do everything perfectly for Sophia. It was almost like he was just out to prove himself, both to Sosa and the rest of the world who had doubted his ability to parent, but then also to Sophia, make the last thing he ever did for her in his role as her daddy as flawless as he could, and of course he wanted to do all of that on his own.

The breakdown when he'd gone to bed that first night, when he’d found Sophia’s muslin in his bed, had been a chink in his otherwise perfect armour, and the comfort he'd let Hannibal give him that night as he sobbed and then slept was never allowed again. Not during the meetings they’d had with the undertakers, the ones that Hannibal had attended despite Sosa's hostile glare, not when he’d run the gauntlet of Sosa and her parents who’d objected to him moving the entire service and burial to Los Angeles, not even in the service itself when he'd insisted on carrying the tiny white coffin down the aisle alone.

Hannibal's eyes misted over as that image came back to him once more, one of the most striking and heartbreaking pictures he knew he would ever see. Face had looked beautiful in his deep blue suit, no black for a baby he'd decided, white shirt in sharp contrast to the dark, and the pink tie, the same shade as the tiny dress he'd chosen for his daughter to be buried in, a splash of colour in the sea of neutral shades.

The church was silent and sombre and packed to the rafters with people from all walks of life, almost all of whom had never even had the chance to meet with Sophia in her far, far too short life. There were more faces from the Army than Hannibal could even begin to count and he’d been touched that so many people who had heard of the tragic turn of events in DC would take time off and travel long distances to support Face and Sosa in their mourning.

The sound of the doors at the back of the church creaking open had punctured the heavy silence, and Hannibal, along with the entire congregation, had twisted in his pew to see Face standing there, strong and steady, silhouetted by the bright sunshine behind him, holding the coffin in his arms.

No one spoke. No one moved or made a sound as he walked, tall and dry eyed, down the central aisle, eyes fixed on the crucifix on the wall in front of him the whole while, the plain white coffin with the little pink, ribboned posy adorning it, firmly in his arms. Hannibal watched in silence as he passed and could see the absolute raw agony in his eyes, knew how every step he took was its own brand of torture, but also knew that he needed to do this, needed to feel that he was doing everything he could for Sophia, right up until he couldn't possibly do any more.

He'd placed the coffin at the front of the silent church and turned to slide onto the first pew, next to Sosa and her parents who all sat there with their tears and their handkerchiefs and simply made Hannibal's blood boil. Of course he’d wanted to be the one sitting next to Face through this, he'd wanted to be able to touch him, offer him whatever comfort he could through his presence alone, but here he was instead, sitting in the pew behind, watching as his poor, devastated boy lifted his arm to let Sosa and her crocodile tears slide underneath.

Father Magill did a wonderful job with the service and Face held things together beautifully right up until it was his turn to read the tribute he'd prepared for his daughter to the assembled mourners. Hannibal knew what was coming at this point; Face had asked him to read the words he'd prepared and offer suggestions for ways they could be improved. Hannibal had gone into his bedroom and read the two sides of printed A4 in private, knowing that he'd be in tears by the time he was through. He didn't offer a single suggestion for alterations, just handed it back to Face and told him it was perfect and realised that, never in their entire shared life together, had he heard Face be so open about his feelings, let his emotions show so clearly, and it was hauntingly, agonisingly, beautiful.

So, as Face stood in front of the packed church and read about how blessed he had been to have had such a wonderful person in his life, even for such a very short time, how he would do it all again tomorrow if it was the only way he could have to meet her, how he hadn't realised how much love he could give until he'd held her in his arms that very first night – there was hardly a dry eye in the whole place.

It was only when he'd reached the part about how he would always wonder about her, about what her favourite food would be, her favourite colour, about whether she would prefer baseball or football, ponies or dogs; about who her first boyfriend would be, her best friend, her chosen profession, her wedding dress, it was only at that point that he stuttered to a halt, his shoulders heaving, one hand tight over his mouth, clamping the sounds of distress inside, eyes shut tight, refusing to let the tears out, the other hand gripping his words as if his life depended on it. There were audible signs of sobbing coming from the rest of the church, and Sosa had her face buried in her father's shoulder and Face stood all alone, at the front, trying so hard to hold himself together.

Hannibal was on his feet before he'd even realised it, striding confidently up to the front, coming up behind Face and taking hold of a shaking shoulder, squeezing it tight as he jammed their bodies together, chest to back, not caring what anyone else saw or derived from his position, and then he continued the words, taking up where Face had left off, filling in for him until Face hauled himself back together and raised his head to finish off the last few lines himself.

They walked back to the pews together when the eulogy was finished, but Hannibal guided him into the second row this time, letting him slide in between him and Murdock, knowing that the two of them pressed up against him like they were would be the only comfort he would allow.

The hotel down the road from the church and the orphanage where Face grew up, had put on some food, and most people went there after the service to offer their condolences and talk amongst themselves. Face was swallowed up almost as soon as he arrived and Hannibal spent almost the whole of the next hour searching for him before he realised that he wasn't in the hotel at all. He followed his instincts and walked back along the road to the church yard, finding Face, as expected, sitting at the foot of Sophia's freshly covered over grave, and crying, for the first time since the day Sophia had died, quietly to himself.

Hannibal sat behind him, not caring about the dust and grime he was getting all over his new suit, just caring about holding on to his boy, trying to stop him from shuddering apart through all of this.

Slowly, Face’s silent tears dried and they stayed in silence for a while, both just staring at the place where the carefully chosen headstone would soon go and trying to ignore the huge pink flower-teddy with the 'Mummy's Angel' ribbon on it that was actually larger than the grave itself.

“I need a mission, boss,” Face eventually whispered as the light began to fade and Hannibal sighed into his hair.

“You need a rest, kid,” he answered softly. “A chance to get over all that's happened this last month or so.”

But Face just shook his head. “No, I need a mission. I need to get out there again, move on from this. I know Father David will look after her here, I need to think about something other than this for a change,” he waved a shaking hand at the grave in front of him and Hannibal let out another sigh. He knew that this was the way that Face usually dealt with stress, by ignoring it and going out on a job as if there was nothing wrong, but what else could he do here? Face was certainly entitled to some compassionate leave, but the rest of the team, no, so what the hell would the kid do on his own? Hannibal knew the answer to that, knew it would involve bars and heavy drinking and fights with Marines and dubious hook-ups and how in hell's name would Hannibal be able to concentrate on his mission knowing what he'd left behind to happen in his absence?

No, the lesser of two evils was definitely for Face to come with them on their next mission, which, according to what Russ had told him when he'd left straight after the funeral to fly back to Benning, was going to be next week. He straightened up instead of responding to Face's words and pulled an unresisting Face up with him. They didn't go back to the wake, though, Hannibal felt that Face had had more than enough of that for one day, instead he took him back to the hotel they had been staying in, pulled them both into the huge bed together and held him as he lay, stiff as a board, pretending that everything was okay.

So, they'd gone on their mission, a nice easily sabotage run, quick in, quick out, and Face was fine, they all were, just absolutely fine. But there was no spark, no finesse, no laughter, no banter and absolutely no jazz, it was just fine. And that's when Hannibal realised that the whole trauma of losing Sophia had damaged them all. Within an hour of getting back to base, while the team were still unloading even, Hannibal had gone to Russ and told him that they needed a month off, all of them, and without a pause, Morrison agreed.

Which is how Hannibal found himself in the kitchen of this rental property, high up in the Rockies, about to spend two whole weeks cocooned up here, just him and Face. It had seemed like a good idea when he had rushed the arrangements through, two weeks here for the two of them to sort through all the issues they still had to face, then two weeks with the rest of the team on board as well, trying to find that spark that had been lost along the last few months.

Face hadn't objected, he hadn't done much of anything really, had been a complete shadow of his former self. Sosa had been to see him, was waiting for him in the office when they got back from their last mission, and as Hannibal was standing, hidden by the vending machines outside and waiting to file the necessary paperwork to mark their return; he'd heard their conversation in every private detail. He'd heard Sosa asking after Face, asking how he was coping before launching into how very hard she was finding it to move on. He heard her telling him how much she missed him, thought about him, how she realised, finally, how much she loved him and Hannibal’s blood ran cold.

Then came the kicker, as she told him how losing Sophia had made her realise how much she really did want to try at being a family with him, how maybe they could try again, have another baby, but a planned one this time, maybe even get married. Hannibal had been on his way out of the office, paperwork all signed and sealed, but now he froze, wanting, no needing to know how Face was going to respond to this.

There was a long pause, and then, finally, just as Hannibal's heart was threatening to leap out of his throat Face answered. He was using the tone of voice that Hannibal couldn't read unless he could see his expression as well, the flat, emotionless one that he'd perfected for when he wanted to keep his cards very close to his chest. He told her, no, that he wasn't ready for that, didn't know if he ever would be, that he needed to get over losing Sophia before he even considered something like that. She'd instantly turned cold on him, accused him of playing with her feelings, leading her on for all of these weeks and then Hannibal had heard him sigh, a bone weary sigh of someone who has just about had all they can take, and he'd turned and walked out. Hannibal had stood still, behind the banks of vending machines, intent on making sure that neither of them ever knew he had been privy to their conversation, but he looked up, just as Face rounded the corner at the door and their eyes met and Hannibal realised that Face had known he was there all the time and he just wasn't sure what that actually meant.

A minute or so later, Sosa followed him, slamming the door behind her just a little more forcefully than was really necessary and calling Face some colourful names under her breath. As soon as she had gone, Hannibal had followed her out and made straight to wake Russell up and ask for their leave.

But nothing more had happened between him and Face. They shared a bed whenever circumstances allowed, but often didn't even touch, never mind do anything more intimate. The kiss from the night Sophia had died was never repeated and Hannibal was left wondering just what was going on, what Face wanted from him, what he really needed and more importantly, what Hannibal should actually do about it.

It was on the long drive up to the mountains in Hannibal's beaten up old Jeep, that he finally decided. What was important here was Face, not him. Face and not rushing him, forcing him into something he didn't want and that would ultimately destroy any relationship they would ever have together. He'd told Sosa that he wasn't ready for anything yet, what Hannibal didn't know was how true that actually was, whether it was designed to throw her off his scent, whether it was what he genuinely felt or whether it was a message for Hannibal who he knew was listening, a way of letting the old man down gently. No, none of that was clear in Hannibal's mind, so as Face sat silently, pretending to sleep in the seat beside him, he decided that it would be safer to leave it all to Face, to wait and see how the kid wanted this to go, and he himself would do nothing.

But back in the kitchen, watching as Face stood so dejectedly on the decking, he began to doubt his own plan.

Pushing those thoughts to the back of his mind for now, Hannibal went to the ice box and pulled out a couple of beers which were now nicely chilled. He popped their lids and slowly made his way outside into the cold nip of the late afternoon and taking his time to just admire Face as he always did when he had the discrete opportunity. He was about five paces away when Face finally turned and yet again he was taken aback by how dreadfully sad the kid still looked and his heart broke all over again.

He held out a beer, “Here you go. Dinner's in the oven, should be about-” he stopped midsentence as Face stepped right into his personal space and took both beers from his hand, placing them on the glass table to their right.

“Boss,” he whispered his voice so low it went straight to Hannibal's groin. “I need you. I need you so much, please love me.”

The words were barely out of his mouth when he leaned in and kissed Hannibal firmly and surely on the lips and Hannibal certainly didn't need asking twice. He kissed back, his hands sliding into the messy hair at the back of Face's head, holding him still, keeping him close and marvelling at the way it felt like they had been doing this for years.

But it wasn’t enough for Face and he reached down, grabbing Hannibal’s hands and pulling him along as he tracked backwards across the decking, heading for the huge glass doors and the room that lay beyond. Hannibal let himself be tugged inside, through the open plan living area and right into the master bedroom with its huge bed and incredible views across the mountains.

Before he even knew it, he was being pushed onto the bed, Face’s mouth still fused with his and his fingers, desperate, scrabbling fingers, trying to unfasten both pairs of trousers at the same time.

“Hey, hey, hey,” he soothed; taking Face’s shaking hands in his own and bringing them up to kiss gently. “Take it easy sweetheart, we have all night, we have two whole weeks here, there’s no rush.”

Face looked up and Hannibal felt his heart sink at the look of desperate anguish he saw there. He didn’t say anything but Hannibal knew what he was feeling, knew that he’d got himself so worked up, so taught and wound and, yes, desperate was the right word, that they didn’t have all night at all, they barely had minutes before Face collapsed in on himself like a house of cards.

This wasn’t what Hannibal had ever wanted for his first time with Face, wasn’t the way he’d envisioned it – the physical act of love being the only thing that was going to stop Face from pitching headlong into despair. He’d wanted them to take their time over this, to know that they were doing it for all the right reasons, and not just because feeling an orgasm was different for Face from feeling distraught.

But looking into Face’s hollow eyes, permanently edged in red, his pale skin and sunken cheeks, he realised that he had very, very little in the way of options. To turn Face away now, like this, well, he knew it would be the end of any type of friendship for them forever. Instead he forced out a smile, tried to make it as genuine as he possibly could when he really just felt like crying for the boy, and reached out to cup Face’s cold cheek. “I know what you need,” he whispered. “I know how much you need to feel something warm and different. I can give you that, I can give you the release you need, and in turn you need to give me your patience.” Face blinked, confused.

“I want us to wait until we make love fully,” he continued, praying this came off alright. “When we do that, I want it to be gentle and slow...” he thumbed the soft skin under an eye. “I want it to be perfect for you, you deserve everything to be perfect, but right now you don’t want gentle and slow, do you?” Face flushed and looked away.

“Don’t,” Hannibal whispered, chasing his face and leaning in to press a quick kiss to his lips. “Don’t ever be ashamed of the way you feel, the things you need. Let me love you now, let me show you what you mean to me, and later, when you’re ready, we can do the rest. Alright?”

For a long, heart stopping moment, Face didn’t respond, didn’t reply, didn’t move and all Hannibal could feel was the pounding of his own heart in his throat, but then that bent head lifted and Hannibal watched as a single, silver tear broke over the damn and ran quickly into Face’s stubble. “I’d like that,” he whispered back, his voice dry and broken, “and I’m sorry, boss, I’m so sorry. I do love you, I just-”

Hannibal leant in to kiss him again, silencing his self depreciating words before they even got going. “I understand,” he reassured him. “And we do he have all the time in the world, to do whatever we want, whenever we want. Okay, kid?” Face nodded and wiped the trace of his tear off his cheek. Hannibal smiled at him, “Come here then, beautiful,” he whispered and their heads dipped together to kiss once more.

This time it was Hannibal who manoeuvred them around, got Face lying up on the bed, back in the mound of pillows, before he finally broke the kiss. He pulled back and noted Face’s heavy breathing, the flush to his pale cheeks and dilation of his eyes and felt his own erection twitch in his pants. “I’m gonna suck you off,” he whispered and smiled as Face’s eyes rolled back into his head and his lids closed as he let his head thud back into the headboard. “You like the thought of that?”

Face nodded silently.

“Okay,” Hannibal’s steady hands went to Face’s jeans and he popped the button, “You mind being naked?” he asked gently, and this time there was a silent shake as Hannibal got to work.

It actually took less than thirty seconds before there wasn’t a stitch of clothing between them and Hannibal was knelt on the bed at Face’s side, watching his chest rising and falling, watching the way his lids fluttered over his closed eyes and watching his beautiful hard cock as it twitched and jumped under his heated gaze.

“Oh, Face,” he whispered, palming his own cock gently. “You are stunning; the most gorgeous thing I have ever set eyes upon.”

Face opened his eyes, he looked far from convinced, but then his gaze dropped onto Hannibal’s hand and the way it was stroking and squeezing his throbbing erection. He reached out a hand and slid it over Hannibal’s fingers, lending his grip and making Hannibal sigh in pleasure as a crystal clear drop of precum oozed gently from the slit in Face’s untouched as yet, but heavily swollen cock head.

As the two hands slowly, slowly jacked Hannibal off, Hannibal himself noticed the standing drop of precum, like a tiny silver jewel, on the tip of Face’s cock and he leaned in to cautiously lick it off, treasuring this first intimate taste of his boy.

“Yes!” Face hissed and thrust upwards, his erection only finding empty space as Hannibal had already pulled back.

Seeing Face’s eagerness, however, he was straight back, bending to lick at the smooth warm flesh he was holding steady at the root with his fingers as Face opened his eyes and watched, breath frozen in his throat. “Oh boss...” he gasped as Hannibal’s tongue swirled around and around the heated tip.

That was all the encouragement that Hannibal needed, leaving one hand joined with Face’s where they were both still lazily stroking his cock, he bobbed his head and took the leaking length in his mouth, swallowing it down as far as he could reach. Face’s reaction was spectacular, a deep groan and a tightening of his hand that almost brought Hannibal over the edge instantly. He rode it out though and set to work giving his beautiful boy the most spectacular blow-job that he possibly could, using every technique he’d ever seen or used before, removing his own hand, and Face’s, from his cock, to help his concentration, and keeping his eyes open, straining upwards so that he could watch as Face moaned and writhed above him.

It didn’t last long, just as Hannibal increased the suction on the swollen cock head, just as he coaxed his tongue down to flick over the prominent underside vein, he felt the balls in his hand tighten and lift and then Face stiffened and started to jerk and shudder even before Hannibal felt the hot salty pulses of come fill his mouth.

He swallowed them down, even though swallowing was something he’d never really got into before, and used his tongue to milk every bit of pleasure from Face before the cock in his mouth finally began to soften and he let it slip out, kissing it lovingly before raising his eyes to where Face lay slumped, his eyes cat-like slits, his chest rising and falling in exaggerated gasps.

Their eyes met and Hannibal held his breath, hardly daring to hope that he’d navigated through that particular emotional mine field with them both still relatively whole.

“You’re still hard,” Face whispered, the words from his exhausted lips probably the last that Hannibal had expected to hear. He glanced down, his own erection forgotten out of concern for Face and realised that was, indeed, the case.

“It doesn’t matter,” he started, “I just-”

But Face cut him short, “Come on me,” he murmured, and Hannibal had to swallow – hard.

“Face – I-”

“I want you to,” Face continued, “I want you to make me yours.”

Hannibal knew what Face wanted really, and also knew that he was making the effort to go along with Hannibal’s wishes. So if that was the case, then how could he possibly say no?

He knelt up at Face’s side and took hold of his cock in his hand, stroking it self-consciously until Face reached out and rested a hand on a lightly furred thigh. “Beautiful,” he breathed, eyes fixed on the swollen length in Hannibal’s fist and that was Hannibal gone. His grip tightened, his pace quickened and with two minutes he was pumping his fluid all over Face’s chest and stomach, watching with wide open eyes as the odd fleck splattered onto the side of his boy’s face.

As soon as he was done, he flicked his gaze back to Face’s eyes, breathing hard, wondering if he’d over stepped the mark and found Face smiling at him, a gentle, peaceful, happy smile, the likes of which he hadn’t seen since the night Sophia was born.

“This will be okay you know, boss,” he whispered as his eyes slid shut. “Me and you, we’ll be okay,” and then just like that, right in front of Hannibal’s eyes he drifted into sleep.

For a minute, Hannibal didn’t move, he stayed exactly where he was knelt at Face’s side, cock in his hand, and ran his eyes over the evidence of the strangest love-making session he’d ever, ever had. But then he noticed something else, from a person who had spent the last month sleeping next to Face, hardly daring to touch but watching, as he twisted and turned and muttered and grimaced and cried out in his sleep, he noticed that he was still, and quiet. Further inspection proved that he was indeed sound asleep this time, the tiniest hint of a smile still on his face, his features slack and relaxed, his fingers gently open at his sides.

Smiling to himself, Hannibal eased off the bed and went in search of a wet flannel acknowledging that maybe Face was right – maybe they were going to be okay now.