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Will doesn’t think, in all the months that he’s known him, that he has ever seen Hannibal look uncomfortable before. Whether that is down to indifference to even the most ghoulish of sights or his ability to feign that indifference, Will isn’t sure. What he is sure of now is that Hannibal is hovering on something, his lips minutely pursed as he regards his appointment book. Behind him, the fire cheerfully crackles, illuminating the cavernous office with a honeyed glow. Perched on the edge of his desk, Will takes in his countenance for a second, head tilted as if trying to identify a scent.

“You seem upset, Doctor,” he observes, succeeding admirably at keeping his voice neutral.

Hannibal raises his chin, face smoothing.

“What makes you say that, Will?”

“Well, you’re staring at your appointment book like you wish it would combust, and it smells like furniture polish in here. I’m guessing your last patient was… emphatic,” he decides that covers the most ground. By the fine lines creasing around Hannibal’s eyes, he can see he was right.

“Patient confidentiality-”

“Who am I gonna tell? Not exactly the town gossip.” Will points out. “Besides, I’m intrigued about whoever is so nuts they’re stressing you out more than I am.”

Hannibal gives him a flat look of reproach, and then relents.

“My patient has taken to coincidentally arriving at social engagements I attend.”

“Ah. He’s not crazy, he’s clingy.”

“Not something I’ve found you to be guilty of yet. Last night, my patient sought me out at the opera, and introduced me to his friend.”

“I’m guessing that… perturbed you.”

“Seeing patients outside of my office is a part of life. It is when it consciously becomes a part of their life that it becomes a concern.”

“It’s not the first time?”

“It’s not the first time. He has never approached me before last night, but he has a particular scent.”

Will doesn’t let himself smile at the way Hannibal pronounces ‘particular’, but he wants to. He wonders if he has a particular scent, too. He’s intrigued by Hannibal like this, shaking off unwanted advances like gum off the bottom of a polished brogue. It’s rare Will has seen him take an active dislike to people- this patient must be a doozy.

“Sounds like you’ve got a secret admirer.”

“He is becoming less secret by the minute. In his session just now, he let slip that he would be attending a fundraiser on Friday that I am also obligated to make an appearance at. I do not feel I can defer my agreement in good conscience- the host is a dear friend of mine, who already finds my efforts at maintaining our friendship to be subpar.”

“Someone finds you subpar?  I have no idea how that can be possible. You’re conscientious to an excess.”

“I am going to assume from your tone that you mean that as a compliment.”

“Please do, Doctor.” Will thinks about the predicament Hannibal faces: deterring unwanted advances without damaging his patient’s therapeutic progress, and his feelings. He must be feeling quite harried, to be sharing it with Will: it’s eating into session time- not that Will minds: he’d rather talk about this than waking up with mud around his ankles.

“I do not know that his interest in pursuing me is anything outside of friendly, but some of our discussions in therapy suggest he has been wrestling muddled feelings of sexual and platonic interest in others for some time. I get the distinct impression his fascination with me is the same.”

“So you need to find a way to let him know that you’re not interested in your patient-doctor relationship… losing the ‘patient-doctor’ part.”

“Well put, Will. Unfortunately, he is not an easy man to gently disengage. I have been subtle so far.” He moves toward the fireplace, using a long iron poker to stir the white-hot coals, sparks coalescing into the air. Will is fascinated by the flickering light casting an array of animations over his face.

“Perhaps it’s time for non-subtle,” Will suggests.

“I have to be careful that I do not accuse him of anything,” Hannibal explains, setting the poker back in place. “It would be easy for him to suggest his ardency had been misinterpreted.”

“And make you look like a creep instead, or a narcissist. So you need something non-subtle, and non-verbal.”

Nodding gravely, Hannibal gathers his notes and comes to his chair, bringing with him the faint scent of char. Before he sits he pauses, eyes rising to the ceiling in evident thought. Will practically sees the moment the idea occurs to him, like low-scudding cloud clearing to allow the sun passage. He looks at Will, and the warmth of it makes him squint in understanding.

“You should take a date to your fundraiser.”

“Yes, perhaps you’re right. It would be improper to invite someone under false pretence, mind, and for my patient to understand, the evidence would need to be… compelling.”

“Perhaps an ex-girlfriend,” Will says, unsure why the thought makes him feel flat and remote.

“That would be incredibly inappropriate.”

“A friend then. Someone you can explain the problem to. You could take-”

“You,” Hannibal interjects.

The words belly-flop into silence. Will’s mouth opens, and then closes, and then opens again.

“I’m…”

“My friend,” Hannibal says easily.

“Your patient.”

“We have already established that is not the case.”

“I work for the FBI, this isn’t-”

“The sort of thing a teacher at Quantico Academy should be doing in his spare time? I would consider it an innocent enough diversion, after all, you are simply coming to a fundraiser with a friend. Not all of your time has to be dedicated to death- you might even enjoy yourself.”

Will has no doubt he would, and he’s not sure why that makes it seem like it’s off-limits to him. Lately he’s been feeling so consumed by death that the thought of emerging the tangled thicket of antlers he’s been lost in for weeks, even for a night, is a little frightening.

“Alana would have a fit if she found out- and she will: you’re in the society section every week.”

“We can tell her it’s a serious exploration of our relationship. Then, we can say it didn’t work out.”

“Jack would make me see another shrink.”

“Jack would not be able to find a shrink who could in good-conscience approve you for the work you do for him, especially not with my input; he knows that.”

Suddenly, Will gets the feeling that Hannibal has put more thought into this than he’s letting on. He decides it would be gauche to test the idea, but once it’s there, it makes the whole thing seem somehow more… appetising. Another thing Will does not allow himself to examine too closely.

“You want me to pretend to be your date so that your patient will stop bugging you.”

“It seems a harmless enough solution. I do not have to confront him, we will be in an environment where he cannot make a scene, and your attendance with me- going public as it were- will appear a fairly serious step in a relationship, giving it nuance and weight.”

Will bites back the million other reasons it’s a terrible idea. He doesn’t want it to be a terrible idea. Part of him finds the whole thing entirely too intriguing. A bigger part wants to spend some time outside of his world and immersed in Hannibal’s instead, colour and light and elegant distraction. The thought makes him wet his lips.

“Your sexuality doesn’t seem to be an area of concern,” Hannibal observes, tone neutral.

“You thought it would be.”

“It’s admittedly a generalisation, but given your background yes, I would have thought you more tightly tethered to traditional attitudes.”

Will bares his teeth a bit at that.

“My Catholic, Southern father wasn’t a homophobe, Hannibal, and neither am I.”

Holding his hands up in surrender, Hannibal ducks his chin.  “An incorrect assumption. Forgive me, Will.”

“You are forgiven. What about you, it won’t be weird that you’re taking a guy?”

“I have a reputation as a patron of the unconventional. It won’t be weird at all.” 

“If this blows up…”

“It won’t.” He says it with enough conviction that Will believes it instantly.

“I’m not fighting him in a fountain for your honour,” he warns. Hannibal’s still face comes alive with his effusive smile. It puts Will in mind of a bust in a museum breaking from the marble, and makes his heart do something strange and uncomfortable in his chest.

“With any luck, it won’t come to that,” Hannibal says.

*

The fundraiser is black tie. Will doesn’t know what to do about that. He spends a day worrying about it- about this whole mad thing- before he calls Hannibal and asks his advice. He tells Will it’s too short-notice to have anything custom made- a notion that makes Will laugh sharply enough to wake Buster on his lap- but that his tailor has some excellent off-the-hanger options she should be able to adjust.

“It still seems pretty last minute,” Will says uncertainly, chewing on his lip. He stands up to go inside, whistling the dogs, pointing them all onto a muddy towel by the door to take the brunt of the mud and snow they will undoubtedly track in. Inside, the house is a cold husk, and Will quickly moves to turn on space heaters. “And I’m not exactly a dream customer.”

“You’re right. Let me accompany you. Marianne is more inclined to assist those she knows well.”

Will wrinkles his nose at the thought, immediately suspicious. He rubs his hands together, blowing on them a bit while the dogs pile themselves around the closest heater.

“Sure you don’t just want to come pick my suit?”

“I’d have thought you’d appreciate some input.”

“You thought right.”

“Let me call her and make an appointment. I’ll send you the details.”

He does, about twenty minutes later, via text.

Tomorrow evening, 7.00pm. Perhaps dinner afterwards? Abigail will be in attendance also.

Will stares at his phone for a few long minutes and tries to think of another time he’s felt more stupidly, shallowly pleased about anything in his life. 

Dinner sounds good.

*

In actuality, the fitting is Will’s idea of hell. The tailor’s shop is uncomfortably high-end, nothing has a price on, everything he tries on is tight, and Marianne looks at him like he’s tracked Poor Kid in on the carpet the entire time. Hannibal suggests a number of things for him to try, but then finds a reason to reject every one. Outside of finding the shift in their relationship a little disorienting, Will is struggling not to be surly just in the face of his discomfort.

“This is fine, isn’t it?” he asks Hannibal, adjusting his shoulders within the confines of another jacket, scowling at himself in the mirror.

“The blue was better,” Marianne interrupts.

“The blue made me look like a bank teller,” Will argues. He looks to Hannibal, asking him to weigh in.

“The black would be perfectly serviceable. Elegant and timeless.”

“But?”

“The blue suits your colouring, and would distinguish you somewhat.”

“I don’t want to be distinguished,” Will complains, “and if I’m going to spend a small fortune on this thing, I want to be able to wear it to more than charity events.”

If Hannibal finds the mention of money crass, he doesn’t show it.

“You will be able to utilise it in the event you become a bank teller, I suppose.”

“You’re wasted as a psychiatrist, honestly.”

Face haunted by the spirit of a smile, Hannibal gets up, going back to the rack and rifling through the- to Will’s eyes- mostly identical suits. “The cut of these won’t be suitable for most events you might need them for, in any case. I advise you disregard the notion of recycling and instead find something you will be able to think of as a memento.”

“A memento of a night I spend pretending to-”

“Like people, yes, Will,” Hannibal interrupts, “but humour me, just this once. If it is too loathsome, I promise not to make you endure it again, darling.”

The pure warmth in his voice- not to mention the petname- brings Will up short; makes him think of the crackling fire in the office and flying sparks. Belatedly, he looks at Marianne and realises that she will probably be servicing most of the attendees for Friday. Better not to out Hannibal as having a fake date.

“Fine,” he says, and takes the suit Hannibal hands him. In the changing room, he studies his reflection, and finds the suit less offensive than most he’s tried. It’s a finer fabric than the others, silk in a shade of forest green so dark it’s almost black when it catches shadows. He opens the door to show Hannibal and catches the pleased quirk of his lips; a slight lightening of his dark eyes.

“Agreeable?” Hannibal asks.

“It’s fine.” He’s keen to leave- to get back to the relative comfort of Hannibal’s home, at Hannibal’s table, with Abigail. They need to collect her. Will shakes away the mental comparison of a divorced father collecting his daughter for visitation with his new partner. “Just tell me I don’t have to try anymore.”

“No, but Marianne will need to take measurements.”

Reason enough to call it a day. Will takes a breath, and nods.

“Okay. This one.”

*

Friday evening arrives faster than it has any right to do so, and Will is rushing by the time a false security breech has delayed his departure from Quantico, speeding to the tailor shop to collect his suit before hurling himself back in the car. His phone is ringing, automatically connecting to the hands free. Will presses accept before he puts the car into drive, teeth chattering a bit where the cold has settled into his seat.

“Graham.”

“Hello, Will.” Hannibal has that voice on again like he had at his fitting, suffused with fondness. “How are you?”

“I’m trying to cram two hour-long journeys into one. I got held up at work.”

“You have your suit?”

“I do.”

“Come and get ready here.”

“At your place?”

“Yes.”

“I need a shower, I haven’t shaved, I don’t have-”

“Cologne? Probably a blessing. You can use my shower, and I daresay I could find you a razor as well. Are the dogs accounted for?”

“My neighbour is feeding them.”

“All the more reason, then.”

Will searches for another reason to protest and can’t find one. He makes a turning to divert his route.

“All right. I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”

“I’ll have a drink ready for you, darling.” He’s joking again, Will thinks, and it makes some of the tightness in his chest subside.

“You know how to treat a guy.”

At the house, Hannibal does indeed greet him with a drink, exchanging it for Will’s coat and ushering him down the hall toward the stairs. The house engulfs Will in heat.

“The master bath has linens and a razor waiting.”

“Thank you so much.”

“It’s my pleasure, Will.” Hannibal gives him that smile again, and Will feels his own stretched wide as he goes upstairs to shower.

When he’s ready- or as ready as he can be, already just-buzzed on the rocket fuel Hannibal calls wine and trying not to fidget too much with his cuffs, he goes downstairs with his jacket slung over his arm.

Hannibal waits in the amniotic gloom of the study, nursing his own drink as he reads, his hair gleaming in the light. There’s a fire lit, the fierce brightness of it catching on polished shoes, dancing in his eyes. Will can’t decide what looks different about him until he clocks that Hannibal is wearing black: a velvet dinner jacket and dark shirt, the contrast to his usual making him appear mink-like and somewhat intimidating. He looks up at Will and studies him in turn. What he sees Will isn’t sure, but his hand goes incrementally tighter on his glass.

“Quite pleasing bone structure, under all that stubble,” is all he says. Will finds himself smiling.

“’Quite pleasing’. That’s one of those compliments I’ll probably stack in the back-hander pile.”

Hannibal rises, smooth as a sailing ship, and comes to him. He takes Will’s jacket off him and flicks it straight, holding it up for Will to slide into. Will feels his fingers fuss at his lapels, straightening and smoothing them as he turns back around. It takes Will a moment to realise he’s holding his breath.

“What is it, Will?”

“It’s just- this, tonight… people are going to think you have horrible taste in men.”

He sees from the brief blankness on Hannibal’s face that he thought that was going to go in a different direction, and that the quick twist back into humour tests his thespian reflexes. He ignores the brief stab of dismay at the realisation that Hannibal has every reason to assume Will is more likely to be flatly pessimistic than make a joke.

“I disagree. You can be an incredibly charming companion when the mood takes you.”

“Another one for the pile. Don’t think I’m not keeping tallies.”

Hannibal keeps his hands on him for a moment longer, their eyes meeting. His crinkle at the corners, inexorably warm. “If you’d like me to tell you how beguiling you are, Will, you only need ask.”

Will’s ears turn abruptly pink. He’s not sure he minds Hannibal’s method acting, in fact he’s fairly confident he doesn’t, but it’s occasionally hard to puzzle out.

“No thanks, I know exactly how beguiling I am,” he snorts, then shakes his head. “Are you… does your tie match my suit?”

“It does. I thought it a nice detail. The car will be here soon, are you ready?”

He obviously doesn’t want to excavate that fact any further, which is a shame because Will does.

“Sort of. I’m not wearing cologne, is that a problem?”

“Not for me.”

“Should have guessed.”

Hannibal watches him drain the last of his wine and takes the glass, along with his own, through to the kitchen. Even from the depths of the house, Will hears the car pull up outside.

*

The fundraiser is being held at the Baltimore Museum of Art, and Will has never felt like he fit in anywhere less in his life- it’s almost comic book bright in comparison to the dull chrome and white of the crime lab, a garish contrast of life and death that makes him uneasy.

As Hannibal shakes hands and air-kisses cheeks, Will watches people mill about between paintings and sculptures, dressed in fine eveningwear and the flush of high-society living. The noise rings up to the vaulted ceilings, wrapping around the pillars like smoke. Will clutches his glass like it might hold him upright against the tide of noise and feeling. His eyes move over the room without prompting, profiling the tiny ways people lie to one another. There are already visible clouds around more desirable patrons, peacocking displays of wealth and extravagance, all whilst diligently ignoring servers around them. A string section plays on a bandstand, the sound high and sweetly jarring. One of the instruments sounds like it might need a tune up- or a new player.

Possibly unfairly, Will finds himself disappointed in Hannibal. All of this seems shallow and contrived- not things he’d ever considered him, for all his aestheticism.

If he notices, Hannibal doesn’t comment, but he does wrap his hand around Will’s wrist delicately, the other on his back. It effectively hauls him back out of his mind, and for one gut-dropping second, Will thinks he’s going to ask him to dance. He simply leans in and murmurs against his ear.

“My patient is here. Small, portly, slightly amphibian in face.”

Distracted by his relief, it takes Will a moment to decode that information, and then he sees the man Hannibal refers to.

“Dark hair. Sticky looking.”

Hannibal visibly stifles a smile.

“Most astute. Here, let me introduce you to a few people.” 

Will straightens up, bracing himself. All in all, the faces are unremarkable, and he lets Hannibal name and contextualise them before nodding his greeting. It’s easy enough to lose himself in the role, and to let Hannibal steer him both physically and conversationally. Will sips his drink, and smiles, and laughs at the odd terrible joke. All in all, it’s an easier mindset to slip into than the ones he’s used to. No one seems to expect anything more from him than this, hanging off Hannibal’s arm and beaming it him. It’s a nice enough distraction, genuinely easy.

The final introductée is a woman he recognises on appearance alone: she’s been photographed alongside Hannibal at these gatherings before.

“Will, this is Elena Komeda, a close friend and inspired writer. Elena, this is Will Graham.”

With her high sternum and delicately thin arms, she reminds Will strongly of a plucked bird in a dress, proffering her gloved hand for him to bow his nose to the way Hannibal had.

 “Ah, so this is the young man I’ve heard so much about. It’s good to meet you, Will.”

 “And you.” Will bites his lip, but it’s too late to stop himself from asking, “Hannibal mentioned me?”

“Mentioned you? Oh, at least twice. Of course, in his book that’s somewhat akin to hiring a skywriter.”

Huh. Will elects not to torture Hannibal by looking to him for confirmation.

“He tells says you’re the host for the fundraiser. Such a beautiful venue,” he offers instead.

“Art inspires generosity,” Mrs. Komeda says secretively.

She directs her questions back to Hannibal, then. “I have to say, Hannibal, I was a little hurt to think you’ve been avoiding me in the name of a better offer, but now I can’t say I blame you.” Her beady eyes flick over Will, tone just delicate enough that it doesn’t quite make Will want to hit her.

“I would certainly never avoid you, Elena, but I plead guilty to the charge of distraction.”

“And a distraction I’m sure he is. What a striking young man you are,” she says to Will, “then again, we knew you must be something special to have him hooked.”

“He certainly always finds a way to leave me speechless,” Hannibal agrees, his hand slipping to Will’s waist again. He cuts Will a sidelong glance, visibly caught out.

Unsure what to do to fight down the bewildered laughter rising in his throat, Will smiles and drains his glass, hoping to be excused from the conversation through disposition. Mrs. Komeda has other plans.

“Hannibal, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you like this,” she enthuses, touching fondly at his arm with one of her spindly hands. “How did you two even meet? How long have you been together? Tell me everything.”

Hannibal bounces it to Will, eyebrows quirking minutely.

“Uh- a mutual friend introduced us a few months back,” Will supplies. He knows from her expression that it won’t be enough information.

“It was a professional setting, and Will found my methods a little unorthodox at first,” Hannibal fills in, voice going conspiratorial, “he’s made me work very hard for his approval, ever since.”

“And so he should. You’ve been set in your ways far too long, Hannibal. It’s about time someone pushed you a little.”

“Oh, that he does.”

Will isn’t sure what the look in Hannibal’s eyes is until he feels him squeeze on his side again. He turns into him slightly, allowing himself to enjoy the novelty of not wanting to cringe away from a touch, just for a minute.

“It’s not entirely true what they say about old dogs and new tricks,” he tells Mrs. Komeda, slipping easily into the rhythm of her gossipy, frou-frou syntax. Beside him, he feels a single breath of laughter from Hannibal, then his lips against his cheek. Despite the shock, Will’s eyes flutter closed at the contact, heart giving a painful thud at the barely-there brush of Hannibal’s nose against his ear. Then his voice, startling him back to reality.

“He keeps me humble.”

“If ever such a thing could be true, I’d believe it now,” Mrs. Komeda smiles. “We need to have dinner sometime, darlings. My husband would love to catch up with you Hannibal, and you must bring your young man, too.”

Hannibal glances at Will, who tilts his chin, eyebrows raised. Whatever you like, dear to an external audience. In reality: Another fictional date, huh?

Expression just short of beseeching, Hannibal turns back to Elena with a smile. “We would like that very much.”

Will shows Hannibal his teeth when she is finally distracted by another couple starting a discussion about foreign policy. Temporarily excused, Will expects Hannibal’s grip to relax but he doesn’t notice him backing off any. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees the reason: Hannibal’s patient lurking nearby, talking energetically to another patron but never failing to mark Hannibal’s movements with his gaze. It is quite alarming, all things considered. Will slips his hand into Hannibal’s, palming his empty off on a passing busker and accepting a fresh glass. When he’s tipped back half of it, he finds that he has Hannibal’s attention, and makes good use of it.

“She’s heard about me, huh?”

“I have mentioned you in passing.”

“Doesn’t sound like it was in passing.”

He thinks he can see the barest hint of colour starting to creep up Hannibal’s neck from beneath his trim collar. He gives Will a single, baleful blink.

“My work for the Bureau is the source of much intrigue among many of my associates.”

“Save it, you’ve been gossiping about me, haven’t you?” Will aims for accusatory and instead somehow strikes coy. “Mrs. Komeda certainly seemed to be unsurprised to find me here.”

“I had of course informed her you would be my plus one as a matter of courtesy. She was curious. You are fascinating to many outside of myself, Will.”

He turns his face away from the words like he’s been slapped. “Yeah, I’m not much interested in how fascinating other people find me.” He’s been there before. Lovers and friends ‘fascinated’ by the more morbid facets of his personality – later disappointed to find them unalleviated by love alone.

“Just how fascinating I find you, then?” 

Will looks back to find Hannibal focused intently on him again, Bordeaux eyes warm and pleased. He thinks of Hannibal’s careful handling all night; the way he’d helped him into his jacket and smoothed it down his shoulders with a featherlight brush of his fingers- the fingers still comfortably laced between his own now. Will glances over his shoulder.

“Your patient is still watching you, y’know.”

“I am aware.”

“He must be pretty confused by what he’s seeing right now.”

“Will you allow me to clarify the situation for him?”

He hesitates only a moment, before giving a shrugging nod: in for a penny.

“Thank you, Will,” Hannibal says, in a manner so business-like that Will bristles slightly. He hadn’t thought too closely about the evening in this context- though it would be a bare faced lie to say it hadn’t crossed his mind- but he’d expected at least a discussion. Instead, Hannibal cups his face gently in his warm hands and leans in without further preamble.

The brush of his lips against his is light at first, testing, and he draws them together in earnest when Will doesn’t recoil. One press, barely there, and then another with more intent. Will has never been kissed quite like this. It’s somewhere between publicly acceptable and entirely too intimate in its tenderness, his head filled all at once with the scent of Hannibal’s autumnal cologne and the warmth of his body. Without his permission, Will’s own hand is gripping at the lapel of Hannibal’s dinner jacket, heat rising through him at the easy slide of their lips. Like everything Hannibal undertakes, it’s effortlessly lovely: firm and controlled and sweet.

When Hannibal pulls back, he keeps hold of Will’s jaw, blonde lashes lowered as he collects himself. Will can almost see the effort it requires; forcing a mask back on that doesn’t quite fit. He’s distinctly flushed in himself, unable to take his eyes off Hannibal or to bring himself to pull back from his hands- the hands that have fed the warmth in him all night- or possibly since they met- as if Hannibal were kindling one of his fires.

“Not bad,” he jokes breathlessly.

“For an old dog?” Hannibal gives him a clandestine smile.

“I didn’t think I’d get away with that for long.”

“If you can trust me to do nothing else, Will, always know that I will hold you accountable for your actions.”

“I can believe it.” Will smiles at the way Hannibal manages to even make his warnings sound devoted. They’re close enough that the sudden, irresistible impulse to tip their mouths back together is impossible to curb. Will panics too late about taking that jump, but Hannibal doesn’t let him fall, sighing into the kiss with his thumb stroking gently under the cut of Will’s cheek. Something flares in Will. They part again, but this time Hannibal turns his nose into Will’s jaw and stays there, inhaling.

“Another action for me to hold you accountable for, Will.”

“I’ll save you the time and plead down now.”

Hannibal breathes a laugh.

“Always a wise choice when caught in flagrante, though an insanity defence isn’t out of the question.”

It’s an out if he’s ever heard one. Will examines him out of the corner of his eye.

“I think a jury would decide me compos mentis, at least in this instance.”

“That’s reassuring.” And that’s an understatement. He looks remarkably pleased.

Will allows the evening to tumble over inside his head as if tossed by a wave, churning the silt from the bottom of his mind. A fragment of light refracts through the water, cutting out a pattern. When Will looks again, the same light shines on Hannibal’s face, reflected from the chandelier ceiling.

“I was under the impression you’d been laying it on pretty thick for your friends…” Will starts, slowly, “but you haven’t been laying anything on at all, have you?”

It’s the simplest solve he’s ever had, but somehow the most difficult to swallow.

Tilting his head, expression ringing with austerity, Hannibal smiles.

“I very seldom do, but I found embellishments to this scenario to be particularly unnecessary.”

A flicker of enjoyment at ‘particularly’ again. Will doesn’t know if he sets him up to say it. “So when Mrs. Komeda said you’d mentioned me…”

“She was referring to my candid inference to you as an object of my affections, yes.”

Will’s breath stalls in his chest. Before he can summon any kind of reply, Hannibal’s attention is diverted. The small man whose eyes have followed them for the duration of the evening has finally made himself known.

“Doctor Lecter,” he greets, voice vibrating with nerves, “so nice to see you again.”

“Likewise, Franklyn,” Hannibal says graciously, hand tightening fractionally in Will’s. “Are you enjoying the party?”

It’s all empty, no interest behind his eyes as he listens to Franklyn’s rattled response. Will can’t tear his gaze away from him, memorising the ticks and tells. It takes him a moment to correct himself: Hannibal doesn’t consider Franklyn a nonentity, he’s repulsed by him, regarding him like a mangled earthworm on the sidewalk, still roiling in the rain. He doesn’t angle back from him, but it’s a near thing.

Finally, a chink in the armour when Franklyn turns to Will, an undoubtedly clammy hand eagerly extended.

“Forgive me for my rudeness, I’m Franklyn, I’m one of Doctor Lecter’s patients.”

Will forces himself to accept the handshake and instantly regrets it. Hannibal’s hand remains open for his returning fingers.

“Hi, Franklyn.” Between them, he and Hannibal let the silence grow awkward, until Franklyn’s eyebrows raise despite his smile.

“How do you two know one another?” He prompts. Will feels a stab of pity, but if Franklyn is asking for immolation, he’s sure Hannibal will be only too happy to provide.

“Will is my partner,” Hannibal interjects smoothly, with a touch more indulgence than Will thinks he might typically allow himself. “He finally agreed to meet some of my friends, though I have to admit I’ve relished the opportunity to keep him to myself for a while.”

“You’ll have me to yourself again shortly,” Will murmurs, playing along. He fixes Hannibal with a look that is guaranteed to make Franklyn feel as uncomfortable as he does. It’s worth it to watch Hannibal’s polite smile grow teeth.

“Franklyn, please excuse us,” he tells him, “Will has recently agreed to move in with me, and we haven’t quite mastered the art of containing ourselves yet.”

“You know how it is,” Will chimes in. He has the unkind thought that Franklyn probably doesn’t even as he fights to keep from glaring at Hannibal for his second blatant lie of the evening.

Visibly flustered, Franklyn can only nod. “It’s- yeah, of course. Congratulations, that’s wonderful news.”

“Thank you,” Hannibal gives him that still smile again, the one that makes Will remember the way Hannibal had beamed at him in his office; how it had obliterated his barriers for a moment. He’d like to see it again, before the night is out. “Now, if you’ll excuse us, Franklyn- Will has endured more than his fair share of hand-shaking. I must get him home.”

They extricate themselves from the awkward goodbyes and start to wind out from the crowd, still hand in hand.

*

The ride home is quiet, but not uncomfortable. Will thought it would be - that the novelty would wear off, or that the annoyance would come rushing in. So far, though, nothing to indicate Hannibal is anything less than serenely pleased with himself.

When they arrive back at his house, Hannibal opens the door and lets Will enter first, taking his coat and jacket and smiling at him kicking off his shoes.

“You told Franklyn I’d agreed to move in with you,” Will half-accuses, though it sounds silly and infeasible to him now, a few drinks down and addled by Hannibal’s attentions.

“I am testing a theory. Some devoted patrons of practical magic believe the universe complies with demands through the power of language,” Hannibal explains. “As far as I can tell, it was surprisingly effective in the first instance.”

It takes Will a few lagging thoughts to realise that he’s not only joking, but also regarding Will with a familiar, daring warmth.

Hannibal is flirting with him.

“Sounds like an interesting theory, Doctor. Worth exploring. What other half-truths have you posited in the hopes they would yield fruit?”

“I told Jack you would be spending the night with me,” Hannibal whispers, carefully crowding Will against the wall, careful not to disturb the edge of the frame adjacent to them. “And that he was not to call you.”

Will is almost- almost- too distracted by the thought of Hannibal instructing Jack in anything to register the other half of the sentence.

“I’m spending the night, huh?”

“Are you?”

“God, this is so – ridiculous,” Will curbs himself against swearing, shivering when a hand tracks down his chest. “Yes, I’m staying. Kiss me.”

A magic all of his own, Hannibal does, as deeply and thoroughly as he hadn’t allowed himself to at the museum. Long, searching turns of their mouths become gentle nips and exhalations, and Will opens up to Hannibal’s tongue, a soft moan escaping as he tastes his upper lip and teases him with gentle sucks.

“Take me upstairs,” Will says, failing at demanding and hitting a note of pleading instead. Hannibal holds his gaze for several seconds, and then does as he’s bid.

Will has never seen Hannibal’s bedroom. It takes him a few long seconds of staring before he’s able to pull his attention back to Hannibal’s actions- careful hands sliding the jacket off his shoulders, moving to his tie.

“There’s more art in here than there was at the gallery.”

“It’s important to me that my home is filled with things to entice the mind and command the senses.”

“Is that red mirror over your bed meant to look like an eye?”

“If that’s your interpretation, perhaps we can discuss it in therapy next week.”

“Let’s not.” Will could do without Hannibal cataloguing any of his associations in the next minutes. The thought gives him pause, but it’s quickly swept aside when Hannibal unbuttons his shirt and slips his warm hands in to cover his ribs. Will returns the favour, and then continues, undressing Hannibal until they’re both in their shorts and he has to kiss him again to expel some of the nervous energy rising inside him; drown it out with the sensory noise of Hannibal’s touch and scent and singular presence inside Will’s mind.

The bed is all laid out in dark blue and impossibly crisp cream. On his back, Will is transfixed by Hannibal over him, stripping him out of his underwear and letting his disciplined surgeons hands glide up Will’s bared thighs like he’s mentally incising the muscle from bone. For his part, Will can only bow up into the heat of his palms, sighing at the way they fit to his hips like they were manufactured purely for this purpose.

“S’nice,” he murmurs. Hannibal doesn’t reply for a long moment, visibly cataloguing Will’s body with his crimson-flecked gaze. He’d feel uncomfortable under the scrutiny if it wasn’t so ineffably Hannibal- unblinking, unfettered intrigue. The kind he’s always shown him, even from the moment Will sat beside him and wished him viciously removed. Will glances up and gets a wave of vertigo at the feeling of the other eye above them, crimson too, like it’s somehow an extension of Hannibal.

“How long have you wanted this?” He asks, because he can’t help himself- can’t be proper for even one minute of his miserable life.

“Since I saw you,” Hannibal murmurs.

“Fuck- Hannibal, I’ve told you things that would give anyone else nightmares.”

“I have an unbridled capacity for acceptance. I am not disturbed by your horrors because I have first-hand knowledge of your qualities.”

“Of which I have two.”

“Not true, and not fair. You are a singular creature, Will, you must know by now that my admiration for you is almost exclusively stoked by the brilliance of your mind.”

“Almost?” He doesn’t mean to whine on the end of it, but Hannibal’s hands are travelling again, long fingers sheathing his filling cock, his other hand gliding over his tremoring stomach.

“You’re surely not angling for compliments.”

“I’m- I’m not, I’m just-”

“I am above all else an aficionado of beauty. You are not lacking it in any measure.” He gives Will a gentle squeeze as he strokes him from root to tip, startling another choked sound out of him. “What about you? I hadn’t noticed anything to indicate you had romantic inclinations before tonight.”

“Please,” Will gasps, “I have indulged you so many things I would never let anyone else see- you- barged into my room to bring me breakfast, I was in my underwear-”

“You looked delicious. What else did you do?”

“- Jesus, I said yes to this, didn’t I? And I let you touch me- you touch me a lot-”

“I do rather, don’t I?”

“Oh, god- keep doing that.”

Hannibal complies, thumb of one hand working little circles against the rounded tip of Will’s cock, teasing at the rim of his foreskin. The other delicately circles the base of his cock, somewhere between stroking and massaging. If he cranes his neck, Will can see the hard outline of Hannibal’s own erection straining the neat lines of his boxers, a dark blot blooming on the charcoal cotton like so much ink. It’s gratifying to see him unmoored from his usual restraint, eyes hooded with shadow, hair disrupted from its usual style, the soft fold of his stomach on show. He’s delicious too, Will thinks, remembering these same hands guiding knives, pencils, scalpels.

“When did it first solidify?” Hannibal asks, pulling him sluggishly away from his wool-gathering with another drag of his wrist.

“Oh- I- shit, I don’t know.”

“You keep your mind in as much order as I do. Tell me.”

“W-when we- when we went to Abigail, when she woke up. You were so gentle with her. I was so grateful and,” his voice stutters into nothingness in the wake of another few teasing strokes, but Hannibal compels him to continue with his gaze, “it made me see you as something else.  When you said you felt paternal toward her…  it’s not just that, but I felt… pulled toward you.”

Seeing the way Hannibal had so briskly but carefully steered Abigail through her traumatic first days had made him think that maybe, just maybe, he could do the same for him, like the way he’d guided him around the room at the fundraiser tonight, never letting him come knowingly untethered. It’s the first time in his adult life he can remember wanting to rely on someone else to put him back together. As it is, he’s taking him apart.

 He’s still working Will carefully with his hands, brow knitted in concentration- or preoccupation.

“What is it?” Will asks breathlessly, rocking up.

“Not important-”

“Just tell me.”

“It was an observation, not one I’m entirely sure you will enjoy. It can wait until…”

“I’m not discussing us hooking up in our next therapy session. Tell me.”

“You have complicated feelings toward your own father,” Hannibal says, keeping his tone clinical, “it stands to reason you would find me attractive when I was exhibiting what you interpreted as desirable paternal behaviours.”

Will’s body reacts to the words even before he can. Hannibal doesn’t flinch when he recoils.

“I should have let you wait until session,” Will mutters.

“Perhaps. I did try to warn you.”

“I don’t have- daddy issues, Hannibal.”

“You needn’t sound so alarmed. Many people’s psychosexual associations are born of their first physical-”

“Don’t finish that sentence.”

“I apologise.”

“Just. Do you know how gross and reductionist it is to tell me it stands to reason I like you because I- what, because I can see that you care for Abigail? Because, by extension, I felt I lacked care as a child, and saw a substitute for that in you? You don’t know anything about my childhood.”

Hannibal leans over him now, quieting him with brushes of his hands against his stomach and ribs before he gently cups his jaw.

“Are you so horrified because you have had similar thoughts yourself?”

Will doesn’t meet his eyes, but his face heats. Hannibal presses a single, sweet kiss to his lower lip.

“We all look for understanding in our potential beloveds, Will. It’s something we crave as human beings. But it can be uncomfortable, as well as unburdening, to be understood.”

“Well you sure as hell made me uncomfortable just now. I don’t know about unburdened yet.”

“Perhaps you’ll allow me to attempt unburdening next.”

Hannibal’s eyes search his face again. Annoyance ebbing slightly, Will lets their eyes meet.

“You can try.”

“You can be yourself with me, no need for pretence,” Hannibal murmurs, “you must know that whatever you tell me, however you feel- I will never deny you understanding, Will.”

Despite the heat lingering in his face, Will feels the weight of Hannibal’s truth. He has understood him from the very beginning. Will didn’t want him to at first. He’s not entirely sure he was ready to be quite as thoroughly understood tonight, but it’s a secret, sordid pleasure to know how closely Hannibal must have observed him, and heard him.

“The next time I ask you to share your thoughts with me in bed, will you do me a solid and tell me you’re thinking something normal?”

“Shall I tell you I was imagining how you taste? That’s also true.”

“Yeah, that- that’d be more appropriate.”

“Noted.” Hannibal draws him into a gentle kiss, thumb stroking at the point of his chin. “If you will, I’d like to compare my thesis with the results of practical research.”

“Is that your way of saying you want to suck me off?”

“Do you object?”

“If it stops you calling out my issues, then by all means.” He’s feeling a little less prickly now, and Hannibal’s expression of pure devilry helps trigger a flash of returning heat. Watching the appetitive curl of him over Will’s body is rousing. He swallows Will into his mouth without further stalling and the hot, hollow-cheeked suction arrests Will anew.

“Oh, God,” he mumbles at the ceiling, breaths hitching. Hannibal’s fingers are still idly toying at the root of his cock, but the languid strokes of his tongue on each bob of his head streamline Will’s attention, sending the muscles in his thighs into shakes, his toes curling against the sheets. He gives into the impulse to twine his fingers through Hannibal’s hair, knuckles straining and breaths staggering at the reflexive swallow it triggers around him.

The neat pleasure of it is almost too concentrated, such a sudden departure from weeks of uncertainty that Will’s head swims. The sounds coming out of him are loud enough he should be mortified- long, rough ‘aah’s that tail into swears- but Hannibal’s breaths are lit with harsh liquid sucks, and Will can only savour the way they follow one another like percussion.

Hannibal looks like art; like every filthy dream Will has had but better, lips shining and flushed, lashes lowered. The wet, obscene stretch of his mouth around Will is incongruous with his usually contained poise. The opportunity at seeing him like this a need that devours Will whole, making him greedy for any sensation and visual stimuli he can glean from the moment. Ever the gentleman, Hannibal gives it to him, sucking him in long, urgent swipes, his eyes on Will’s through the silver fall of his fringe.

When Will’s voice breaks with the sharp snatch of his hips though, the cusp of his orgasm bright and threatening, Hannibal pulls back before he can meet it.

“Shit,” Will says, because he can’t think of anything more articulate. 

“Very encouraging.” His voice is low and rough, a punch to Will’s gut more crude than any touch of his clever tongue.

“C’mere, take those off and let me touch you.”

Hannibal obliges him, shoving his shorts down and off with as much grace as Will expected before he kneels over his waist, cock weighing heavily, already dripping and flush. Will can’t hold back a groan at the sight of him, cupping him in his hands and letting the head slide between his fingers as he strokes, tight and slow. He’s thick and so hard, thrumming with barely restrained energy. Will aches at the sight.

“This is- Jesus, Hannibal. I need you inside me,” he says, with more conviction than he thought himself capable of. The pulse of Hannibal’s cock is answer enough, but he nods, arching into the cradle of Will’s fingers.

“You’ve done this before.”

“Of course I have.”

“Supplies in the bedside,” Hannibal murmurs. Will lets him lean to retrieve them, kissing the smooth skin of his side and sighing at fingers tangling in his hair. Hannibal sits back on his haunches to kiss him, enticingly bare, the muscles in his thighs and calves keenly accentuated in the lamplight. Crouched over him like this, he reminds Will of something for a second, like a vision from a dream or waking nightmare.

“Let me go on top.”

They shift easily, rucking the sheets and disrupting Hannibal’s gratuitous throw cushions. Will reaches behind himself to stroke Hannibal when he’s settled in his lap, thoroughly enjoying the peek of Hannibal’s jagged little teeth digging into his lower lip as he opens the cap of the lube; liberally coats his fingers and swathes cool slick between Will’s thighs as his fingers search and press. In with two at once with Will’s eager encouragement, stretching him just this side of too-quick.

He adds more lube and spends a while alternating between deep strokes and twists of his wrist. It’s a maddening, torturous process. Will bucks down and circles his hips until he gets the right angle to relieve the ache, brows shooting up and his thighs tensing with it.

“There?” Hannibal beckons carefully inside him. Will can see his smile through the slit of his eyes when he gasps, twitching from the oversensitivity.   

“There.”

He convulsively shivers when Hannibal exploits the admittance without mercy, working a third finger into him between rhythmic touches to his prostate. Will could stay here forever, Hannibal’s thumb snug against his perineum as he opens him up wider and wider with every stroke, all the while watching Will, dark eyes shining with adoration.

Will’s own hand still lingers on Hannibal, fingers twitching against his skin in the same pattern as those inside him. Despite his firmness, Hannibal is gentle, soothing him with peppered kisses and murmured encouragements.

All at once, it’s enough, and he hisses from the need. “Hannibal- please, can we…”

Not bothering to answer, he kisses Will’s chest and lets him ease back down on his knees while he rolls the condom into place. Will’s too overstimulated to vocalise how good it is to watch him, but Hannibal’s eyes meet his as they move into position and he knows he doesn’t have to.

Despite how well stretched Will is, Hannibal still feels impossibly big when he first sinks down. It’s a sapid, fulfilling sensation, and Will thinks incoherently that he’s missed it. He rolls his hips, working himself up to easing further, and smiles when Hannibal shudders.

“Will…”

“I’m okay.” He throws his head back, savouring the warmth of Hannibal’s breath against his throat where they’re so close; his arching hips beneath him. He’s going steady, waiting for Will to open up before he nudges his hips upward.

“Oh fuck- Hannibal-”

“All right?”

“So good,” he breathes, driving his hips down and forward, drawing him deeper until he can feel Hannibal’s hips jutting against the backs of his thighs. The act of taking him into his body, taking the groans and breaths from him with his flesh, is almost sacramental here in the shrine of Hannibal’s bed, the rest of the room devoured by darkness. Despite everything, all Hannibal’s instigations and assumptions, it still feels distinctly like Will is the one fucking him- an exchange of power that ebbs and flows with the oscillations of their bodies.

It’s slow at first, the air between them damp with fevered breaths and the rising heat of skin. Hannibal cranes up and bites at the flesh of his lip, tongue flicking over Will’s gaping mouth to soothe as they wind more tightly together, gripping at one another. Will feels thoroughly held, Hannibal’s fingers pressing white marks into the flesh of his back, teeth pinching stinging lines of electricity down his throat as he pulls Will down again and again. It’s heaven to be so completely occupied by him, body and mind. They drive together over and over, the sounds of their flesh making short, sharp slaps. A ragged gasp escapes between their mouths every now and then, piercingly raw.

Hannibal’s hand wraps around his cock, and Will cries out and shoves his hips down hard enough that he feels himself leaking. Hannibal thumbs the drop up from the underside of his cock and sucks it off his skin, watching Will intently.

“Your fucking mouth,” Will breathes, gaze gone focused on it, hips grinding, “looked so good around my cock before.”

“I’ll forgive your appalling language in light of the compliment.”

“I mean it, I’ve never- I don’t think I’ll ever stop thinking about it.”

“If you can wait, you can have it again afterward.” He sounds completely matter-of-fact, like he hasn’t triggered another shuddering little flood. Will sees the sweat gathering on Hannibal’s collarbones at the same time he sees the challenge in his words. Hitching up on his knees, he tilts his chin up, holding out his hands. Hannibal laces their fingers, keeping his gaze as Will starts to ride him in earnest, clenching down when Hannibal rocks up to meet him. It tears the breath out of Will to see the moment his gaze goes unfocused and dazed, leaning back harder into the blackwood headboard to free the momentum of his hips. He feels so close to him, closer than he’d have ever thought he’d want to, sharing breath and sensation on an endless loop of feedback.

They’re sweat-drenched and trembling together when Will feels Hannibal starting to falter, the muscles in his stomach tensing and relaxing in increments. He can practically smell his closeness, salt sharp and keen. Seizing it and wrenching it close, Will slaps their hands back against the headboard as he brings Hannibal off with his body, savouring the pure power of it. Hannibal looks into his eyes and gasps while he shakes apart inside him, jaw going slack even as the rest of him draws tight.

“Yes, show me,” Will urges. Hannibal is gorgeous like this, flushed and bright-eyed and glowing with perspiration. He buries his face in Will’s chest, breathing through the last of what he’s feeling.

Easing one hand free to stroke through Hannibal’s hair, Will keeps rocking on him in tiny increments, kneading at the knot of tenderness inside him with Hannibal’s cock. When it’s too much, Hannibal grips at his hips and eases him off with a sound that makes them both grunt, sliding himself further down against the pillows.

“Enough- come here.” He guides Will up his chest by his thighs and wastes no time in swallowing him into his mouth. On Will’s rough moan, he pushes two fingers back inside him without ceremony and sighs when Will arches back for more.

“Fuck- Hannibal-”

At this angle he can’t keep from rocking between the two points of sensation, engulfed by his own desire. His hands drop from the headboard, white knuckling in Hannibal’s hair. Seeing him like this, choking on his cock and visibly delighting in it, Will is straining in seconds.

“Hannibal,” he breathes again, jaw dropping at the pressure zeroing in on that spot inside him. The suction around his cock gets tight and hot, tied off with a swallow, and he moans low in his chest. “I’m- Hannibal-”

An answering hum vibrates around him, though Hannibal’s gaze is encouragement enough. Will lets his thrusts go fast and sloppy as he watches himself disappearing into the wet seal of Hannibal’s lips. His fingers match his pace, and when Will comes it’s clenching around them, watching Hannibal’s nose press against the skin of his groin as the fevered heat in him floods from the corners of his mouth.

He’ll be ashamed of himself soon, but for now, panting and shedding waves of relief, Will feels only pleasure. Hannibal lets him sit back on his chest and wipe at his mouth, lips flushed as they curl into a smile.

“Sorry,” Will mumbles.

“Don’t be. You’re beautiful when you take what you want.”

“God, you make it sound like a dungeon scene.”

Faint, fond disapproval in Hannibal’s tone. “I did no such thing. Lie down.”

Will does, sinking into the sheets like he’s made of lead. “Yeah yeah. First daddy issues, next BDSM.”

“Contain yourself,” Hannibal says, slipping out of bed briefly to dispose of the condom, leaving Will to hoard the warmth left behind by his skin. He watches Hannibal return from the en suite through the slit of his eyes, smiling when he pauses in front of the fire, starting to lay paper and wood to start it off. They don’t speak, and Will doesn’t ask him why he’s doing it: he’s known Hannibal long enough to understand when someone has an associative dislike of the cold.

Eventually, when the fire is snapping to life in earnest, devouring all that Hannibal can feed it, he sets a guard in front of the grate and comes back to bed, turning off the lights. Will scents sap and smoke on his fingers when Hannibal touches his cheek. He leans up to kiss him before settling back into the sheets. His eyes linger on the fireplace for a time, watching sparks pop off the damp parts of the wood.

He’s starting to ache already, not pain but the evidence of hard exercise. It’s good, especially when Hannibal shifts beside him, their bodies touching at almost every possible point. Despite having fucked and been fucked to within an inch of his life, Hannibal still looks serenely put together, dishevelled hair somehow boyish instead of sordid.

“I never thought I’d see you like this,” Will murmurs, reaching out to trace his fingers through the greying hair on his chest. “I could imagine it, but it wasn’t like the real thing.”

“Had you imagined it?”

“Yeah, a few times. Didn’t you?”

Hannibal pauses, thoughtful.

“Yes, though I had mentally cordoned you off, somewhat.”

“Ouch- why?”

“I believed you would not be interested in me,” Hannibal says with a faint shrug, “I had seen the way you looked at Alana, and the way she looked at you, and I felt it would be unwise to injure myself with unrealistic notions of fancy.”

That isn’t the answer Will was expecting. He takes a moment just to linger on how horribly grateful he is for Hannibal, then, unassuming right up until the point he couldn’t help himself- and not, apparently, because of Will’s questionable mental health.

He doesn’t address the Alana thing- it’s simultaneously too complicated to discuss it and tasteless to do so.

“So when you asked me to come to this thing- if I’d have really just been playing along, you would have been okay with that?”

“Of course I would, Will. First and foremost, you are my friend and colleague, and I only have your comfort and best interests at heart.” He bites his lip, eyes sliding down to Will’s chest, where his fingers whirl over his sternum. “Though I confess I much prefer this outcome.”

“Me too,” Will says. He rubs his eyes, mind ticking sluggishly over the last few days. It seems more like the plot of a haphazard romance novel, not the crime-thriller Will has been living the last year. He thinks of the suit fitting, and dinner, and suddenly threads onto a look Abigail had given him over the table.

“Abigail… does she know how you- about my being an ‘object of your affections’?”

“She is a teenage girl, I imagine she knows a great many things about secrets and matters of the heart. More than I do, in any case.”

“Is that a yes, Doctor?” Will has gotten straight answers out of real life murderers with less wriggle work than this.

“I get the impression she has been waiting for me to say something to you for quite some time, yes. She confided in me that she thought we might have been more than colleagues when we met.”

“Jesus.” Will rubs his hands over his face. “Will I ever know about my feelings before other people do?”

“I’ll do my best to forewarn you if anything pertinent comes up.”

“Thanks.” He can’t help but smile. Hannibal looks simultaneously younger and more tired in the diffused light, and Will bends to the urge to touch his cheek. “And thanks for this. I… it’s not often I can relax enough for this kind of thing.”

Hannibal doesn’t tie him up in words this time, he simply leans and kisses him, stroking down his chest in soothing elliptical motions.

“I think you and I have more in common than you give us credit for.”

“Yeah, maybe.” Will stifles a yawn, colouring when Hannibal’s smile turns adoring. “Sorry. I haven’t been sleeping great recently.” That brings another rush of uncertainty: the thought of sweating through Hannibal’s pristine sheets is enough to steep him in cold dread. He should go, but it’s too late for that, he said-

“Will. You’re worrying.”

“I’m going to disturb you in the night, do you want me to take a guest room-?”

“I certainly do not.” Hannibal arranges them carefully so he’s banked against Will’s back, bleeding out heat and feeling better than he has any right to. “If you wake, you can relocate to the guest room if that’s what you prefer.”

His hand glides over Will’s belly, gentling with the press of his lips against the side of his neck.

“I just- I get terrors, nightsweats…”

“Do you want my permission to go now, or for me to persuade you it’s all right to stay?”

Will looks into the ceaseless dark, eyes unable to pick out the details of Hannibal’s room while they’re still accustoming to the change.

“I want to stay,” he says. It’s more difficult than he thought to tell the truth. He’s not sure who he’s shielding his desires from, Hannibal or himself.

“So stay. Wake me, if you’re in distress. It can be easier to remedy these things when you’re not alone.”

Will thinks of the way Hannibal makes it sound: easy. Maybe it could be, with him.

“Okay,” he murmurs. He’s exhausted, physically and mentally, and thoroughly satisfied. The rosy blush of the fire murmurs against the edges of his vision, making his lids heavy. Before he falls asleep he feels Hannibal kiss his shoulder again, and imagines the brush of his lips yielding sparks.