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Bluebeard's Wife

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Will opens his eyes slowly, squinting against the sunlight streaming in through the bedroom window. Fuzzy from sleep, he doesn’t quite recognise the room that he’s woken up in. Someone is sitting across from him, watching him sleep. Will blinks rapidly, pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes to try and dispel the vestiges of whatever strange dreams it was that has followed him into consciousness, and looks again.

His body is sitting across from him in a chair, legs crossed, and hands neatly folded in his lap. He doesn’t recognise the expression on his own face; it seems unnaturally still, the thoughts behind his eyes are tightly leashed. He can’t read his own face.

‘Will,’ the other Will Graham says.

This is freaky, even for me, he thinks. Now he’s literally talking to himself in his dreams.

‘Will,’ the doppelganger says again. ‘Can you hear me?’

Will ignores him and looks around the room. It’s almost familiar though he’s sure he hasn’t stepped foot in a bedroom like this. It’s a room he’d imagine Hannibal owning; one of many likely bedrooms in his frankly ostentatious house. Come to think of it, maybe manor would be a better description. Lecter Manor. It had a certain ring to it.

‘Don’t be alarmed,’ his other self continues, ‘You are safe here.’

‘I’ve had weirder dreams than this,’ Will snorts, before frowning. His voice sounded strange. He puts his hand to his throat and coughs slightly as if trying to dislodge whatever seemed to be playing havoc with his vocal chords.

He tries again.

‘Time to wake up.’

Again his voice is strange; warm and lilting with an accent decidedly not his own.

What the fuck?

The other Will Graham watches his carefully, lips pressed together in a thin line.

Will crawls from the bed, realising that he’d been lying upon the covers dressed in a pair of suit trousers that Special Investigator Graham has absolutely no business wearing. He rushes through an open door to the ensuite bathroom, straight to the mirror hanging over the sink.

The world shifts beneath his feet and his stomach lurches unpleasantly.

Will Graham might be staring into the mirror but it’s Hannibal Lecter’s face that stares back.

The other Will Graham appears behind him in the mirror, and Will spins round to face him.

‘What the fuck is happening?’ he demands.

‘Calm down, Will.’ The clone puts up his hands as if to placate him.

‘Don’t tell me to calm down!’ He turns to glare at his reflection, and Hannibal’s proud, angular face glares right back. Will shuts his eyes and grips the sides of the sink turning his knuckles white. He wants to wake up and make this go away.

It feels so real.

‘I’m having a breakdown,’ he whispers to himself. ‘I’m having a fucking breakdown. Jesus.’

‘Will, it’s me; Hannibal.’

Will pauses and stares at the Will Graham before him.

The hysteria that’s been building in his chest over the last few minutes suddenly erupts and he’s laughing maniacally, only to be treated to a look of concern flashing across his own face.

‘I’m in your body, you’re in my body. What part of this doesn’t seem like a dream to you?’

‘I thought the same thing at first.’ Hannibal, in Will’s body, says mildly. ‘But now I am not so certain. What’s the last thing you remember?’

Will frowns, rubbing his temples with Hannibal’s broad hands. He closes his eyes and tries to fight through the fog lingering in his brain, searching for his last memory.

‘I don’t know…Being in your kitchen maybe?’

‘You’ve been in my kitchen several times. What else? Anything specific?’

‘We talked. We had tea...It smelled weird. You-’ Will pauses, images swimming to the forefront. ‘You said it might help with...something. Stress maybe? And then...’

‘Nothing?’

Will shakes his head. ‘Nothing.’

His companion frowned. ‘Here is what I remember: you came to ask for my advice, on a case I believe. When you arrived it was clear you had not slept nor had a decent meal in quite some time so I persuaded you to stay for dinner. I offered you a tea that soothes anxiety.’ Hannibal hangs Will’s head slightly in embarrassment. ‘I did not anticipate how sensitive you would be to the effects.’

‘You remember all that?’

‘I awoke sometime before you did. It gave me time to remember some things and,’ he smiles a little, ‘You left a message to say you would be coming over.’

Will isn’t really listening. He’s trying to stem the rising tide of anxiety and despair that threatens to overwhelm his carefully constructed barriers. He had known his own mind was becoming less and less reliable but now he doesn’t even have his own body to keep him anchored. His heart lurches in his chest and he closes his eyes tightly, struggling against the feeling.

Hannibal is beside him now though he keeps from touching him; as if aware that Will is teetering on the edge of something that could swallow him whole if he’s not careful.

‘Will.’ The doctor gentles his voice and, even without looking at him, Will struggles to accept that this isn’t just another in a long line of visceral waking nightmares. Hannibal isn’t in his body; Will is talking to himself, losing his mind.

Dissociating.

Hannibal gives Will a few moments more and then very gently takes his wrist - his own wrist - and guides him towards the kitchen. Will’s body, Hannibal’s current person-suit, is jittery and Hannibal suspects that the profiler’s over reliance on caffeine is to blame. Best to satiate the body’s craving now so he can think more clearly.

‘I think it would be wise to cancel our engagements for the week. You cannot see my patients and I likely could not teach your classes.’

Will snorts, a highly inelegant sound coming from Hannibal’s regal features but the doctor lets the matter slide. It wouldn’t do to dwell on such minutiae right now.

‘Teaching isn’t all that hard. I give a presentation based on my notes, try to get them to ask the right questions, grade papers. A monkey could do it.’

Hannibal gives him a close-lipped smile. ‘Still, I doubt that I would be able to do so for long without arousing suspicion.’

Will twists Hannibal’s features into a grimace. ‘How long do you think this is going to last?’

‘There’s no way of knowing.’

Will makes a face and glares, as if to say ‘not helpful.’

‘It could wear off in a few hours, perhaps once the tea has left your system completely. Assuming it is the tea that caused this. Or it could take days, weeks…’

‘What the hell did you give me?’

Hannibal gave a slight shrug which, on Will, lacks its habitual grace. ‘I suggested camomile and lavender for sleep but at the time I suspected a stress ease would be more suitable. Skullcap, cinnamon bark, and liquorice root. It relieves tension and promotes relaxation.’

‘You gave me something with skullcap in it?’

‘Contrary to its rather alarming name, skullcap has been used in traditional herbal medicine for centuries to treat tension and insomnia. I wouldn’t poison you Will.’ Hannibal shoots him a poisonous look from behind sea-green eyes. ‘I’m not an amateur.’

‘I’m sorry. It’s just...if it isn't the tea then what else could it be?’

‘I don’t know. That we are experiencing a shared delusion is not outside of the realms of possibility.’

‘Great. Folie à-fucking-deux. Fantastic.’ Will grimaces. ‘So, whose delusion is it? Am I sharing yours or are you sharing mine?’

‘I suppose that would depend on how often you think about entering my body.’

Will is struck dumb by the comment. He can feel a flush climbing up his neck. There are points of high colour on his own cheeks, the ones facing him, as Hannibal clears his throat.

‘It probably doesn’t matter whose delusion it is, if it is a delusion. At some point it will break. We just have to make do until then.’

‘How exactly?’

‘Call in sick or take annual leave. I will put myself on leave and arrange an alternative therapist to see to the needs of my patients. We should probably avoid contact with those in our lives who might notice something is wrong...or different.’

‘Pretty easy, I spend my entire life avoiding people. There’s only Alana and Jack. Beverly, maybe. They’re the only ones who’d notice a change. And my dogs…’ Will trails off.

‘Will we end up living each other’s lives?’

‘It won’t come to that,’ Hannibal assures him. But the worry pinching the face he's wearing is less than reassuring.

 


 

It’s a long drive to Wolf trap so Hannibal won’t be back tonight. He’ll have to spend the night alone is Hannibal’s house. The thought of it makes Will unaccountably nervous.

Now that he's had time to adjust to what's happened, Will turns himself to examine his new face in the mirror with a mixture of curiosity and trepidation. It’s strange to wear his friend’s face - both intimately familiar in that he’s spent a lot of time looking at this face, but utterly alien. He blinks and watches Hannibal’s face blink back at him in the mirror. It’s a strange, heavy face - strong features which are relatively unmarked by age and experience. Rather, time has been gentle and washed it perfectly smooth like a piece of sea glass by the tide. Heavy eyelids fold over eyes that faintly disturbed Will with their absence of light but are, upon closer inspection, just a deep maroon which in the light of the bathroom reminds him of dried blood.

He slowly undoes his tie, sliding it from around his neck. He unbuttons the shirt with care, imagining Hannibal doing this himself before bed; attentive. He catches the gaze of the face staring back at him and holds it - lets himself float there for a moment, trying as hard as possible to emulate Doctor Lecter’s thinking. He was always so difficult to gauge; one of the few people whose thoughts weren’t immediately apparent to Will.

The gaze is steady, eyes dark and intent. Will feels a yearning in his gut

He peels back the shirt before coming up short - surprised. Hannibal has a hairy chest. Hairier than he'd imagined. Not that he's imagined it. At all. Curious, he runs his fingers through the greying strands from pectorals to abdomen, pausing to press the flat of his palm against his belly. The warmth of it is comforting. There is strength there that he attributes to the feeling of fullness, of a hunger well satisfied. His body is content.

Shrugging out of his shirt, he pauses to wonder what Hannibal did with his days laundry, before laying the crisp linen over the back of a chair in the corner.

Next the belt, swiftly unbuckled and set aside. Again he imagines how Hannibal would undress himself at the end if a long day, how he would treat his possessions, and ends up carefully rolling the belt up and tucking the tail through the middle. He sets it on the chair along with the shirt.

He’s getting a little nervous now, like he's seeing something he shouldn't be seeing. Peeking behind the curtain. Unzipping the pants with trembling fingers before the mirror makes him feel lewd like he's putting on a performance which, he supposes, he is. Stepping out of the pants he finds he’s wearing dark, tasteful boxers and he shucks those too before standing naked before the mirror. His gaze skips over his body nervously, looking everywhere but his crotch.

Strong, lean legs, dark thatch of hair between his legs that Will can see in his peripheral vision - he’s too shy to look directly. Lecter is more muscular that he’d anticipated. Strong. The expensive suits disguised a broad frame, and muscles earned from hard use rather than to be aesthetically pleasing. Will wonders what the doctor does in his spare time that keeps him in such good shape.

He wants to examine the rest of Hannibal’s body but loses his nerve at the last minute and steps into the shower instead, feeling flushed. His eyes close as the hot water hits his skin, soothed for a moment. The feeling doesn’t last for long - he feels hyper aware of his current form - every drop of water hits a hitherto unknown part of his body; a permanent reminder that this body isn’t his and he's unfamiliar with its eccentricities. The nape of his neck tingles, a band of sensitivity that stretches all the way around his throat like a collar, barely felt. The perpetual dull ache in his shoulder that Will thinks of as an old friend is conspicuously absent and it strikes Will that this is because Hannibal has never been stabbed in the shoulder. He rubs a hand over it absently, feeling for the scar that isn’t there.

He reaches for soap and scrubs himself thoroughly, chasing away the phantom aches that he usually carries with him. He uses far too much soap and the scent irritates his nose. He stays under the water until he can rid himself of most of the excessive suds, a little thrilled at the sensation of his hands gliding across his chest, the insides of his thighs. His cock hardens and Will’s breath stutters in his chest. He runs his fingertips over the broad length of it curiously, then drags his hands away feeling guilty and ashamed. He shouldn’t touch Hannibal’s body like this. It feels like an invasion of privacy. Even though Hannibal isn’t present, it is still his body. Showering is one thing – touching himself is quite another. Will is distracted by for a moment with thoughts of Hannibal touching himself in the shower and turns the shower on cold, forcing himself to stay under the water until his blood has cooled a bit.

Drying himself off, he wanders into Hannibal’s bedroom. It’s decorated in dark, masculine colours. The bed is large (much larger than Will’s) with a dark wooden headboard. There are small framed paintings either side of the bed and a round mirror above the headboard like a porthole in a ship which Will quite likes.

In front of the fireplace is a small table with two little armchairs and Will can’t help but wonder who the other chair is for. The hardwood floors are softened by thick rugs and Will is amused to see that Hannibal’s obsession with antlers includes his bedroom too - there are spiral horns decorating the mantelpiece.

The space is as bizarrely stylish as the rest of the house but cosier, warmer, more intimate. Will feels guilty for even being in here but Hannibal had insisted that he sleep there, as he would be sleeping in Will’s bed for the night in Wolf Trap.

After indulging his curiosity a while longer – opening the wardrobes idly and running a hand over the teal futon with its long cylindrical cushion that sits at the end of the bed. He can see that the fireplace is well maintained – not merely for decoration then; Hannibal must light a fire in this room in the winter.

His phone vibrates on small table besides the bed. Will opens the message and laughs; it’s a photo of the inside of his closet with the caption: ‘Is this the extent of your wardrobe?’

‘Yes.’ Will types back. ‘Problem?’

The reply comes quickly.

‘The situation is worse than I feared.’

Will sniggers.

‘How are the dogs?’

‘They sense something is wrong but they seem to have settled now.’

The thought that the dogs are distressed unsettles Will. If he was stuck in Hannibal’s body long term, how would they cope? Would they adjust and forget anything was ever amiss? How would he adjust - pretending to be the psychiatrist for the rest of his life? He can’t very well move Doctor Hannibal Lecter to the middle of Wolf Trap Virginia, nor would he be able to bring the pack to Hannibal’s Baltimore home without arousing suspicion. He feels his heart sink as he resigns himself to not being able to see his furry family any time soon.

‘I hope the accommodation is to your satisfaction.’

Before he can feel too sorry for himself Hannibal sends him a picture of Buster, curled up on his lap, ‘The company is more than satisfying. Are your sheets of a sufficient thread count?’

The bed is luxurious, and the sheets are deliciously soft against his skin. He is neither too warm nor too cold, the mattress neither too hard nor too soft. Will amuses himself with Goldilocks metaphors for a moment before replying, ‘I can certainly see the appeal. They feel very nice.’

They smell nice too, of Hannibal’s detergent and some other faint, masculine scent that Will associates with the psychiatrist. He inhales deeply and the scent settles him. He feels his eyes start to droop and sends a final message.

‘Call me tomorrow.’

‘Of course. Goodnight Will.’

Will is asleep within moments of his head hitting the pillow.

 


 
When Hannibal arrives at Will’s house, he approaches it with an air of curiosity. He makes a slow circuit of the property before entering, examining the house from each angle.
He can hear the dogs scrabbling about inside and he hastens towards the door before they can do any damage.

The front room is much as Hannibal imagined – from what he’s gleaned of Will’s personality, he craves solitude, quiet, tranquillity. A respite from the world and from his work. The cool stone fireplace comes as no surprise then, nor the forest painting on the mantel. Bookcases line the walls on either side of the chimney and there’s even a piano in one corner, to which Hannibal raises an eyebrow. He hadn’t known Will was musical. He taps a few keys experimentally and winces – out of tune. The fly fishing equipment, now that he had expected, as well as the rods and the boat motor which stood in the corner, clearly in the process of being mended.

He’s curious about the bed in the corner of the room and the chest of drawers with their neatly organised contents; carefully folded underwear and rolled up socks. There’s a bedroom in the upstairs of the house but it’s clearly not well used, despite the fact that it’s attached to a small bathroom. Clearly Will values proximity to his pack rather than the bathroom.

Making his way downstairs he frowns – the dogs are wary of him, anxious. Despite the fact that he’s wearing Will’s body like a suit, something about him has clearly distressed them. He lays down on the bed and allows them to approach him, curling his hands into their fur, soothing them as they refamiliarise themselves with his scent.

He can’t deny the anxiety lurking in his chest – he’s unhappy about leaving Will in his house unsupervised, despite the fact that he’s taken care to protect his most important secrets.

He will have to do something about it.

 


 

In Will’s dreams, he finds himself at the entrance of a vast palace. The foyer is stunning; a mix of Byzantine mosaics, Norman architecture, and Arabic arches. Will looks down and sees beneath his feet the intricate mosaic of a skeleton outlined in gold. He passes a great staircase where great bronze statues of ancient warriors stand and Will knows instinctively that if he touched one, it would recite the great epics; Homer, Sophocles. He walks on, down long corridors and through great rooms; airy, high-ceilinged, furnished with beautiful and strange objects that are well-lit and spaced apart like treasures in a museum.

Everything is fearfully and wonderfully made and the scent of gardenias lingers in the air. After what seems like hours of wandering he realises that there’s music playing in the corridors: classical, though he can’t name the piece.

On and on he wanders past statues, tapestries, art, through halls, under archways, and past stained-glass windows that paint the floor in technicoloured light. Behind closed doors there are snatches of conversations in languages he barely recognises; German, Russian, French. He tries to open one but it’s locked fast.

Eventually Will senses that he's being followed; the strange echoing steps of a large creature behind him but whenever he turns around the corridors are empty. Turning a corner, he's confronted by a huge mirror stretching from floor to ceiling. He sees himself there - Will Graham – a familiar face with similarly familiar tired eyes. He reaches out to touch his reflection and lets his eyelids fall shut.

The pendulum swings, gold and bright behind his eyes.

When he opens them again, the ravenstag towers behind him in the reflection. It’s the size of a horse, coal black with thick feathers along its flanks. An impressive set of antlers crown its brow reaching almost to the ceiling, ending in razor points. The creature leans in and snorts, its breath landing hotly against Will’s neck.

Smelling him.

 


 

The next morning Hannibal heads over to Baltimore after asking a neighbour to keep an eye on the dogs, and meets Will at the house. Leaving someone alone in his home makes his skin crawl with anxiety - he wonders how Will stands it; perpetually drowning in stress and waking up every morning drenched in sweat.

Will has been sulking for most of the day. Not only was he frustrated by Hannibal’s frankly ridiculous wardrobe, the coffee machine was overly complicated and he’d been too out of sorts to figure out how to make coffee with it.

‘I need some coffee,’ Will grouches.

‘No you don’t,’ Hannibal says firmly. ‘I am not addicted to caffeine. Your craving is psychosomatic.’

‘Psychosomatic doesn't stop the sensation of withdrawal,’ Will answers snippily.

Will follows him around the house idly, leaning on surfaces, slouching, trailing his fingers over vases and across picture frames, as Hannibal goes through his daily routine of chores. Hannibal tolerates this for as long as he can before giving in, ‘I’ll make us some coffee.’

He sets about making coffee with freshly ground beans in a complicated balance syphon that Will thinks would look more at home in an alchemist's laboratory, before serving in tall glasses.

‘I had really weird dreams,’ Will says after a moment appreciating the coffee. ‘I was in a palace only it was huge and made of different architecture. Lots of the rooms looked like museums and there were greek sculptures and staircases and classical music playing. I’ve never seen anything like it.’

Doctor Lecter smiles. ‘I believe you’ve found my mind palace.’

Will frowns. ‘Your what?’

‘Mind palace. It’s a mnemonic system - a memory aid. Information is keyed to objects in the rooms. It was built according to rules discovered by Simonides of Ceos, although Cicero did eventually elaborate on them some 400 years later.’

‘Right.’ Will’s eyebrows are raised. ‘Uh, how many rooms are there?’

‘A thousand, I think.’ Hannibal shrugs nonchalantly before smiling. ‘With miles of corridors between, and hundreds of facts attached to every object in every room. I would estimate that there must be about 100’000 memories hidden in its details. It’s vast, even by medieval standards. I go there sometimes just to walk around. It’s a pleasant respite.’

‘The foyer is the Norman Chapel in Palermo; severe, beautiful, and timeless, with a single reminder of mortality: a skull graven in the floor.’

‘Yes. I’ve seen it.’ Will pauses as if considering his next words carefully. ‘So, it’s your memories. You memorise things and put them there.’

‘Yes.’

‘Are there...people there?’

Will would swear he could feel the air between them freeze over and it’s perversely fascinating watching his own face contort itself into a discomforting mask of emptiness.

‘I didn’t see anyone,’ Will says quickly. ‘I just wondered how that worked.’

‘There are some.’ Hannibal says after a moment, chewing on his bottom lip for a moment. ‘I doubt you will see them.’

Will hums thoughtfully again the rim of his cup. ‘There was a stag.’

‘A stag?’

‘Yeah. I’ve seen it before when I,’ he gestures vaguely, ‘when I wasn’t you.’

A silently raised eyebrow indicates he should elaborate.

‘It’s huge; black with feathers along its sides with giant antlers. It followed me through the corridors but whenever I turned around it wasn’t there.’

‘Interesting,’ is Hannibal’s only response.

‘I saw it in a mirror,’ Will continues, ‘and it came close to me and sniffed me. Then I woke up.’

‘There’s nothing like that in my memory palace. I suspect you brought it there all on your own.’

Although it’s jarring watching his body speak, the cadence to the voice is so comfortingly Hannibal that Will feels himself relax for the first time in days.

‘Figures that the only monsters there would be my own.’

‘Perhaps not all,’ Hannibal concedes before continuing cautiously, ‘There are rooms in my memory that even I no longer visit; where the rules of logic and ordered space do not apply. Tread lightly there, Will.’

Will scrubs a hand across his face, suddenly tired. ‘I feel like Bluebeard’s wife.’

‘Married against your will to a murderous misogynist?’ Hannibal quips. ‘I can certainly see the connection.’

Will huffs a laugh. ‘All these locked rooms in your head...I'm scared I'll open a door I'm not supposed to…’ He trails off.

‘And Bluebeard will come and get you?’

Will feels embarrassed. Hannibal thinks for a moment.

‘In the vaults of our hearts and brains, danger waits. All the chambers are not lovely, light and high. There are holes in the floor of the mind, like those in a medieval dungeon floor- the stinking oubliettes. Nothing escapes from them quietly. A quake, some betrayal by our safeguards and things trapped for years fly free, ready to explode in pain and drive us to dangerous behaviour. Best not to go poking around too deeply.’

There’s a solemn faraway look in Hannibal’s eyes and Will suppresses a shiver that starts to creep along his spine. After a moment, the other man blinks as if to banish unwelcome thoughts and changes the subject.

‘Have you had breakfast?’

Will shakes his head. ‘I uh, didn’t want to go poking through your cupboards.’

He glances at the locked door at the back of the kitchen which has fueled his curiosity since he'd discovered it that morning. Not only was it locked in the usual fashion of doors but it boasted a combination padlock as well. He suspects it only leads to a larder or perhaps a cellar for Hannibal to store his junk like any other human being. Still, he's curious about it.

‘I’ll make us some.’ Hannibal's words break through, distracting Will from thoughts of the door for the time being.

In a very short time, Hannibal has assembled a light breakfast of sausage and scrambled eggs which Will recognises as being the very first meal the two of them had ever shared together and smiles. Hannibal catches the smile out of the corner of his eye and interprets it correctly.

‘Taste is not only biochemical; it’s also psychological,’ he says nonchalantly.

‘You’re recreating the first meal you made me. To…put me at ease?’

Hannibal shrugs – an unusually elegant gesture on Will’s usually tight shoulders – and smiles. ‘Perhaps.’

‘I appreciate it.’

‘Appreciation is in the eating. I would not have my body waste.’

They eat in a comfortable silence, Will delighted at having access to Hannibal's sensitive pallet, Hannibal grumbling to himself about the dangers of scalding ones tongue repeatedly on Quantico coffee. ‘I called in sick with the bureau.’

Will arches an eyebrow and Hannibal gives a small smile. ‘It went about as well as you might expect.’

‘Jack not too keen on losing his best agent from active duty for the week?’

‘Not keen at all, no. Despite my assurances about needing time off. He was...rude.’

Will snorts. ‘He gets like that. The words raging bull come to mind.’ Then, more kindly, ‘He just wants to make sure things get solved and he knows I can help by looking. Or you can rather.’

‘Does he often emotionally manipulate you into giving him what he wants?’

Will flashed a tight, false smile. ‘It's his favourite tactic.’

‘Cover has been arranged for your classes but he insists on you- me- seeing a body this afternoon.’

‘Want me to come?’

‘Yes, I think that would be wise.’ Hannibal looks relieved. ‘But first, there’s a list of appointments that I- you- will need to cancel.’

Will wrinkles his nose slightly at the thought of extraneous telephone calls but sees the wisdom in making them. He is currently in possession of Hannibal’s voice after all; the least he can do is use it for avoiding further (undoubtedly unpleasant) social interactions.

‘Right. You got a list?’

Hannibal fidgets for a moment with a slip of paper from his pocket before passing it to Will. Most of them are simple patient appointments, although right at the bottom of the list is the one that no doubt had Hannibal squirming.

‘Alana?’ he asks, finding himself caught halfway between bemusement and jealousy.

‘A simple cooking lesson, nothing more.’

‘Cooking lessons?’ Will repeats, disbelief colouring his voice. ‘Right. I’ll bet that’s what you say to all the girls.’

Hannibal looks affronted and Will is delighted by the way his facial muscles dance to pull the expression - aristocratic disapproval coupled with an honest-to-God pout. Hannibal doesn’t dignify WIll’s comment with a response.

Phone in hand he shuts his eyes briefly, imaging how Hannibal would make his apologies, what idiosyncratic turns of phrase he might use, before taking a deep breath.

‘Good morning Alana, sorry to bother you. I’m calling because, through some misfortune, I must postpone our dinner engagement - I'm feeling quite unwell and I would hate for you to end up sharing in my misery.’

‘Oh no. Are you okay? Can I bring you anything?’ Alana’s voice is solicitous and warm like melting chocolate.

‘No, no that’s quite alright. It's not serious, I assure you. Nothing a week of bed rest won't cure.’

‘Oh, well if you’re sure…’

‘Yes. I’ll be sure to call on you when I’m feeling more myself.’

‘Okay, speak to you soon. Bye, Hannibal.’

‘Goodbye, Alana.’

Setting the phone down Will raises an eyebrow at his companion.

‘I do not sound like that,’ Hannibal huffs.

 


  

‘Will,’ Jack’s voice booms across the clearing, lifting several heads of the forensics team.

‘Jack,’ Hannibal says, drawing the word out as if tasting it on his tongue. ‘I’m not feeling quite myself, I’m not sure how much help I will be to you.’

‘Not feeling like yourself is what you do, isn’t it?’

Hannibal narrows Will’s blue-green eyes at this. ‘Right.’

A scowl fixes itself on Crawford’s face, as if displeased with the actions of a petulant child. ‘Is there going to be a problem, Will?’ Are you going to cause a problem, is what lingers in the air between the three of them.

Hannibal bares Will’s teeth in an enviable imitation of Will’s least gracious smile and shakes his head. ‘I should be fine. Though I would appreciate not being dragged to a crime scene when I’ve requested sick leave.’

‘Just don’t vomit on the evidence,’ Crawford says, flicking a hand towards the police tape.

Hannibal and Will duck under the tape and are quickly approached by Zeller. ‘Someone’s been busy - two bodies. Or bits of bodies.’

‘No heads,’ Price interjects, ‘Two bodies minus two heads.’

‘To prevent identification?’ Hannibal queries, peering over Price’s shoulder to the shallow ditch he’s kneeling besides.

‘Why bury them all in the same place though? And they’ve all got their hands - what about fingerprints?’ Zeller’s leaning over Price too now, gesturing.

‘Are two bodies enough to warrant an FBI investigation? Or are there others?’

Price gestures with a gloved hand to the small cluster of uniformed police officers standing beyond the corderend off area. ‘Local police asked us to take a look. They’ve had two other similarly headless cases but they didn’t appear to be connected before now.’

Will stays back, not at all confident that wearing Hannibal’s body will protect him from the pendulum. From seeing.

In the car to the crime scene Will had tried his best to explain his process to Hannibal. Of course there was no guarantee that Hannibal would even be able to access Will’s empathy, let alone use it to evaluate the killer’s motives. ‘The evidence explains the leaps I make. I just...let them sit in my mind and my imagination does the rest. Time reverses, the pieces assemble themselves…’

Zeller nudges Price meaningfully. ‘We’ll get out of the way so you can do your thing.’

Hannibal eyes the mangled body dispassionately, the limbs dumped artlessly amongst the undergrowth without any care for presentation or design. Hardly worth his time, or Will’s for that matter. He closes his eyes and thinks of how the profiler tried to explain his process on the journey over. He senses Will move to the side of him - close enough to lend help but far enough away as to not seem suspicious. Oddly, Hannibal finds a small measure of comfort in his proximity as Will’s body is still largely alien to him and he has little idea of what to expect from this process, if anything at all. After a seemingly endless moment of standing with his eyes closed and breathing slowly he begins to feel foolish. What if this doesn't work? Is Will’s gift of empathy so innate that it has less to do with his brain chemistry and his abundance of mirror neurons and more to do with Will as a person; as a being outside of his physical shell?

Then a golden pendulum swings behind his shuttered eyes and Hannibal flounders with the sensation of time unspooling itself, of desires that are not his own but so strongly felt.

Images coalesce around him - he feels himself discarding the body parts hastily and without care amongst the foliage. They are meaningless to him now, merely left over scrap carrying shameful, secret lessons inside them. Punishments. Seeds buried deep within. But the important pieces he has kept, wrapped carefully and stored in the trunk of his car to be transported...somewhere.

He looks down to his feet again and there’s a head in the shallow grave - Garrett Jacob Hobbs smiles at him - sightless eyes glowing in the light of his torch.

‘See?’ he hisses.

Hannibal jerks away from the image - the wrongness of it jarring him out of his trance.

‘What did you see?’ Will’s voice comes to him through the fog of apparition; soothing.

‘Hobbs,’ Hannibal murmurs, ‘His head in someone else’s grave.’

Will eyes him ruefully. ‘Sorry about him. He seems to have taken up permanent residence in my head.’

‘You have been dishonest with me about your mental state,’ Hannibal chides.

‘Good thing you’re not my psychiatrist.’ Will quips, thin lips stretching in a smirk. Hannibal eyes the expression thoughtfully - the profiler doesn’t have the control over his facial muscles that Hannibal has spent decades perfecting. The playful expression shifts on the face before him and suddenly he’s looking a younger version of himself.

If Hannibal were a lesser man he might be unsettled by being confronted with the ghost of his past self.

Crawford beckons them both over expectantly. ‘Well?’

‘He might be keeping the heads,’ Hannibal says without preamble.

‘And? How is he choosing them; what’s the motive?’

Hannibal shrugs easily, ‘Difficult to say without knowing more about the victims.’

Jack harrumphs to himself looking dissatisfied with the answer. Will decides that he might as well take advantage of being the respected psychiatrist in the room and says, ‘Perhaps it would be wise to look over the two cases Agent Price mentioned? They were missing heads too.’

‘Local PD are sending the files over. We’ll get in contact if we find anything.’ Crawford turns on his heel and stalks away, dismissing them without another word.

‘You need a ride Graham?’ Beverly Katz calls over, clocking the fact that Hannibal and Will had arrived together in Hannibal’s car.

‘No, thank you Miss Katz.’ Hannibal answers without thinking and it isn’t until Will raises an eyebrow at him that he remembers who he’s pretending to be - Agent Will Graham, ill-tempered profiler extraordinaire.

Katz blinks a few times at the apology before shrugging. ‘Suit yourself.’

Moving back towards Hannibal’s car Will murmurs, ‘Careful. You’ll give me a reputation.’

‘The reputation of someone with manners? Heavens forbid.’

Will snickers. ‘It’ll definitely give Freddie Lounds something to chew over. She’ll think I’ve had a stroke.’

At the mere mention Freddie’s name Hannibal feels a tidal wave of disgust and hate roil in his belly like hot tar and he has to stifle the very real real urge to vomit. His own thoughts about the journalist meet Will’s subconscious in a violent cacophony of raging thoughts: Unethical. Vulgar. Garish. Invasive. Unforgivable. Parasite. Rude.

The depth of Will’s feelings startle Hannibal, making him wonder how often Will might have fantasised about killing her. At what point might Will lose himself in the maze of a killer’s mind and never find his way out? He recalls what Will said the last time he and Lounds had run into each other.

It’s not very smart to piss off a guy who thinks about killing people for a living.

Perhaps Hannibal ought to take this golden opportunity to nudge Will a little more firmly in the right direction...

 


 

Be bold, be bold, but not too bold…lest your heart’s blood should run cold.

I watch the spot where I arranged to meet Jennifer Swift. She arrives and buys a coffee while she waits for me to arrive. Over the next hour she messages me three times and calls once. When she leaves, I follow her.

When she reaches her home I come up behind her and hit her on the back of the head. When she wakes, I have her bound in the back of my truck. This is her punishment for the questions she asked me. This is the price for seeking forbidden knowledge - she is just like the others.
I take the key from my pocket and take the tape from her mouth. She struggles but when she opens her mouth to scream I place the key on her tongue and force her jaws closed. She tries to fight me but the struggle only forces the key down her throat - she is choking.

I look into her eyes as she struggles to breath; swallowing the key - the key marked in blood old blood - until it settles in her belly like a tainted seed. Now that it’s safely inside her i tightened my grip and squeeze the remaining life out of her.

Now I can complete her punishment. I take my tools and remove her head, wrapping it carefully in a plastic sheet. What is left is useless to me now and I will dispose of it accordingly. The head I will keep, and store carefully away in my basement - alongside the rest of them.

My beautiful wives.

 

Hannibal thrashes into wakefulness, his body is racked by feverish sweats, terror tightening his chest tightening with terror so much that his breath struggles to leave his lungs. It’s been a long time since he’s experienced a nightmare.

Part of Hannibal sets itself apart and observes with a clinical curiosity the effects of the night terrors on Will’s body. So, Will’s brain is haunted by his casework. Hardly surprising. But it’s the sensation of the dream that Hannibal is surprised by. He felt. He was. He became. He felt the desperation of a man cursing his wife for being so careless, the anguish of having lost her, the cold determination to punish those who poked and pried at his secrets, opening doors they shouldn’t have. In his dreams there had been love, attachment, betrayal; things he hadn’t felt since…

He closes his eyes tightly against the onslaught of agony that lances through his chest in response to memories that had lain untouched for so many years. The memories shake themselves loose of dust, unfolding like a flower inside him. Mischa.

In an attempt to distract himself he gets out of bed to find Will’s phone and sends a message to Jack Crawford.

Killer might be using lonely heart ads. Killing dates who show up - triggered by adulterous wife? Might have forced them to swallow objects.

Will Graham’s mind truly was a marvelous thing - taking fragments of information and evidence and spinning them into a semi coherent web. In another life time, Will might have been dubbed a seer or a saint, blessed with true sight. He might have been placed in a holy temple, waited upon by slaves and handmaidens, to be visited by the rich and poor alike desperate for his wisdom. Or he might have been branded a witch - drowned in a lonely English lake or hung from a gallows at Salem.

Hannibal will have to be very careful with him because Will Graham is exactly the kind of creature that might be able to catch the Ripper; to gather together all those tantalising wisps of negative space from different kills to form a coherent portrait of the Chesapeake Ripper and see Hannibal Lecter’s true face. The very thought of it makes Hannibal smile to himself. The thought of being truly seen, truly understood, not just by a protege or a simpering copycat but by an equal. For the first time in many years, Hannibal Lecter finds himself tempted by the idea of a partner.

He wanders into the bathroom and examines his new face in the mirror. Will does look particularly pleasing like this - flushed, wide-eyed and shaken from his dreams. Perhaps inhabiting his body might not be so much of a trial after all.

 


 
The doorbell rings again insistently, this time with an accompanying knock-knock-knock. Will approaches the door cautiously having been woken mid-nap from his exploration of Hannibal’s mind palace - leaving him out of sorts.

‘Hannibal. Hi.’ Alana Bloom is standing on the front step with a faintly eager smile on her face and a Pyrex bowl of soup under one arm. Will blinks at her owlishly for a few moments, long enough for the smile to waver slightly. ‘I wasn't sure if you'd been up for cooking or going out for groceries so I brought you some soup.’ She waits expectantly for a few moments as Will thinks furiously about how Hannibal would handle this. Is there a formula for turning away company without being rude? A half depreciating, half insulting, archaic turn of phrase to prevent unwanted guests from stepping over your threshold?

‘How thoughtful of you,’ he says finally, smiling and taking the proffered soup and beckoning her inside.

‘How do you feel?’

‘Much better, thank you,’ Will smiles, guiding them both to the kitchen where he sets the soup on the counter besides the stove. ‘I'm sure the soup will do wonders.’

Alana blushes prettily at the compliment and Will begins to sense a trap. ‘Well, if it’s not any good then you only have yourself to blame for cancelling my cooking lesson. How am I supposed to improve if you won’t teach me?’

‘Ah, I’m sure you don’t need my guidance. You seem to do marvelously well on your own.’
Will winces to himself. Marvelously? Wasn’t that laying it on a little thick? Although Alana doesn’t seem to think so, soaking up the praise like a flower drinking in sunshine.

Desperately trying to avoid the pitfalls of food-related flirtation Will steers the conversation to safer territory.

‘How are your patients?’

Alana waves a hand dismissively. ‘Oh, fine. It’s same-old, same-old really. I teach more now so I’m not seeing as many patients privately as I used to.

I’m covering a few of Will’s classes since he’s sick this week as well.’

‘Oh dear,’ Will allows mild indifference to colour his voice. ‘Yes I’ve had to reorganise seeing my own patients since few of them wished to be seen by a different therapist even for one session.’

‘You poor thing.’ Alana goes to put a comforting hand on his shoulder but Will steps quickly out of the way and changes the subject.

‘I’m helping WIll with a case at the moment. I accompanied him to a crime scene yesterday.’

‘Oh? Alana looks a little perturbed by the change of subject.’

‘Jack seems to think the case is linked to a string of murders targeting users of something called The Tinder’.

Alana bursts into peels of laughter while Will does his best to keep his face straight; pretending to be Hannibal is turning out to be rather fun. ‘It’s just Tinder Hannibal.’

Will smiles. ‘Ah, of course.’

‘It’s a dating app,’ Alana continues, ‘You click on photos of people you like and then meet up with them. It’s the lonely hearts ad for the new generation.’

‘I wasn’t aware,’ Will gives his best approximation of an oblique Hannibal smile. Alana meets his eyes shyly, and moves to place a hand over his. Will stills, staring at the delicate fingers tracing along the bones of his hand.

‘Alana, you are very dear to me…’ he says carefully. The skin around Alana’s eyes tightens briefly.

‘Is there someone else?’

For fucks sake. Will isn't equipped to be fielding questions about Hannibal’s romantic life. How was he supposed to put her off without ruining things between her and Hannibal? The silence goes on a moment too long as he scrambles for something to say to her.

‘I would not want to lead you on in hoping for the possibility of something that may never materialise.’

‘Of course.’

A strained silence falls across the two of them. Alana’s eyes are distant as she gathers her bag and keys. ‘I better be going.’

‘You are welcome to stay for some tea,’ Will attempts, awkwardly, ‘Share the soup with me.’

Alana’s smile is tight. ‘No, no, you eat it. Keep your strength up. I'll see you soon.’

‘I look forward to it.’ Will manages with a wan smile that must look suitably pathetic for Alana to pat his arm gently before taking her leave.

 


 
The sting takes a lot less time to organise than Hannibal would have anticipated. Once the victims are identified and the connection about the dating app has been made, it’s a matter of hours before Crawford and his team have narrowed down the suspect pool to just one individual.

Sitting in the van with Crawford, Hannibal muses over his conversation with Katz at Quantico; the similarities between this crime and those of French serial killer Henri Desire Landru who had used lonely hearts ads to seduce women and gain access to their assets, before killing them and dismembering their bodies. He killed 10 women in 5 years that way. ‘They called him Bluebeard,’ Katz had delivered with relish.

The name does have a certain appeal to it, Hannibal thinks, but in reality Landru was a hack; a man out to make quick money out of the lonely and desperate. It hadn’t been about the kills, which themselves had lack any attempt at artistry as far as Hannibal could tell. There was no design behind them. He sniffs.

Crawford had demanded Will accompany them on the sting and when Crawford made demands, he expected Will to follow them. Hannibal is beginning to find Jack more tiresome than entertaining now and if he doesn’t get himself out of Will’s body soon he might have to find a way for WIll Graham to get away with murder. It wouldn’t be difficult but it would scupper his original plan to have Will sent to BSHCI.

When Crawford leaves the car with his gun drawn, Hannibal follows him, drawing his weapon distastefully; a gun was no way to kill someone. He can see himself in his peripheral vision - Will off to the sidelines playing the dutiful psychiatrist. Before they can even approach the house - the killers home address - there’s shouting from inside.
A gunshot goes off, glass shatters, and there’s pandemonium amongst the collected officers and FBI alike.

Crawford is shouting orders and the SWAT team reassembles itself and breaks down the door. Hannibal is still trying to determine where the shot came from when he sees a flash of light from the top floor window and their suspect opens fire. Hannibal ducks and shelters behind the van, thankful for Will’s cop instincts which kick his body into movement before Hannibal makes a conscious thought.

Amidst the roar of gunfire and shouting, part of Will’s memory whispers submachine gun to Hannibal. He decides to stay out of the way - it’s not as if he really cares about the outcome here; one way or the other the suspect will end up dead. It was a matter of luck how many officers he took with him.
A sudden scream of pain turns the breath in his lungs to ice. It’s his voice.

Will has been shot.

Leaning around the corner of the van he sees his own body crumpled on the ground, quickly swarmed by officers calling for EMTs. A distant part of him - Will’s brain perhaps - makes calculations about the likelihood of survival and remembers the old pain of being stabbed in the shoulder as a homicide cop. Hannibal shakes his head - trying to free himself of the other man’s subconscious - and lets himself settle into the only true thing he understands; wrath.

Will Graham belongs to him. He belongs to the Chesapeake Ripper. And only the Ripper had the right to take Will’s life away from him.

Hannibal rises to a crouch, the noise of his surroundings fading to a low hum. He watches for the suspect to lean forwards through the window, focusing his fire on the other officers. He aims his gun for the suspects head, brings his full focus to bear on the angle of his weapon, adjusting for the tightness in Will’s shoulder from the old stab wound, and fires. Six times.

Will’s body remembers the feeling of shooting Hobbs, emptying bullet after bullet into that monster’s shell. Hannibal remembers the sensation of every one of his kills - the pure, overriding intent at ending life.

Every bullet hits their mark.

Hannibal barely has time to take a breathe before darkness swims across his vision and he fades from consciousness.

 


  

At 15:07 Dr Hannibal Lecter receives a shot to the shoulder whilst assisting the FBI arrest Harvey William Steinbeck, suspected of killing and dismembering 8 women.

At 15:10 Agent William Graham fires six shots at the suspect. The shots land on his torso and upper arms. One shot finds his head.

At 15:11 Agent Graham loses consciousness.

At 15:15 Steinbeck is pronounced dead by agents on the scene.

 


 

‘This is a cause for celebration,’ Hannibal produces a bottle of wine with a flourish and returns Will’s easy smile. ‘Something pink I think.’ The psychiatrist is practically dancing with joy at being back in his own body - an experience that he will have to put great thought into - but for now, he will simply enjoy the feeling of being home.

Will shrugs, ‘I defer to your expertise, doctor.’

They share wine, and clink glasses. ‘Cheers.’ The wine is light and sweet.

Will looks at Hannibal, consideringly. ‘You're surprisingly strong Hannibal.’

‘Oh?’ Hannibal seems to think on this for a moment and smiles. ‘Are you asking me about my work out regime?’

‘No.’ Will clears his throat uncomfortably. ‘Maybe.’

Hannibal smiles indulgently, ‘Thank you for taking good care of my body whilst it was in your possession.’

‘Oh. You're welcome.’ Will raises his glass to him but keeps his eyes on the man in front of him. He only realises he’s been staring when Hannibal says, ‘What?’

‘Nothing.’ He fidgets, ‘Your sense of smell is...crazy.’

‘Thank you.’ Hannibal looks pleased.

‘I'm sure I was missing so many nuances,’ Will continues. ‘It was too much sensory input for me to keep a track of and sort through.’ He huffs a laugh. ‘It gave me a headache.’

Will holds the glass to his nose for a moment, trying to catch the subtle fragrances that had spoken volumes when he’d been Hannibal. Now the scent is muted. Colourless.

‘Alana came onto you by the way. While I was...you.’

‘Really?’ Hannibal seems genuinely surprised and somewhat curious. ‘What did you do?’

‘She didn't get the response she wanted.’ The profiler shrugs uneasily, focusing intently on his wine glass. ‘I think I probably fucked it up for you.’

‘No matter,’ Hannibal says carelessly. ‘Was it painful to refuse her advances given your interest in her?’

‘What? No. I mean, I kissed her but I think I was just trying to get that look off her face when I told her I thought there was something trapped in my chimney. She looked at me like I was nuts. Something to be pitied.’

‘There is nothing pitiable about you Will.’ Hannibal voice has all the firmness of bedrock, jarring Will out of his spiral of self-pity to stare at him.

‘I too had trouble adjusting to our dilemma,’ Hannibal admits, ‘Your mind is a marvel Will. Your empathy is quite magnificent.’

‘Oh.’ Will isn’t quite sure what to do with that information.

‘As well as the rest of you.’

Hannibal fixes him with a shrewd gaze and Will can feel the blush rising in his cheeks. He thinks about Hannibal’s body in the shower - technically, he muses, it was his body at the time since he was the one operating it. He thinks about the time he spent in front of the mirror, fascinated by the untold story mapped in Lecter’s flesh. Strong lean legs, shoulders broader than he was used too and, most surprisingly, the hair that forested Hannibal’s chest.

Of course he can't also help but think of the doctor’s cock. When it had been his cock he’d kind of gotten used to it. But now it was back with its rightful owner (as it were) Will can't help but think about holding it in his hand again. The idea is infinitely more appealing now that Hannibal has control over said cock and is watching him with a sly look that suggests he's followed the exact train of Will’s thoughts.

Will clears the dryness in his throat and lets himself imagine, very briefly, what Hannibal might have thought of his own body during his sojourn there. The image of Hannibal toying with Will’s cock the way Will had guiltily played with his makes Will shiver with the kind of lust that grips hold of your belly and squeezes it tight.

‘You’re looking at me like…’ He swallows. ‘I feel like a deer being sighted in a hunter’s scope. Like I should be running.’

‘Will,’ The doctor places his glass on the table next to him, settles his elbows on spread knees, and brings every ounce of his attention to bear on Will Graham. ‘I am an excellent hunter. If you run, I will catch you.’

Will gives a shaky exhale of breath, feeling a little giddy. He looks up at Hannibal under his eyelashes.

‘Do you promise?’

Hannibal’s smug smile morphs into something altogether hungrier, sharper, more feral.

‘Would you like a head start?’

Will nods, shakily. Swallowing his wine he puts the glass aside and gets to his feet, blood thundering in his veins. Hannibal watches every movement carefully.

‘Thirty seconds Will.’

WIll backs away hastily, scrabbling at the handle of the door behind his back. He jerks the door open and rushes down the hallway. Reaching the front door he pauses for a moment, opens it, slams it shut and then spins on his heel to take the stairs at a run, keeping light on his toes to minimise the noise.

Sprinting down the upstairs hallway he pauses uncertain for a moment, when a pair of strong arms clasps him from behind. Hannibal had approached so softly that the soles of his feet must be made of velvet, like those of a tiger.

‘That wasn’t thirty seconds,’ Will splutters with an undignified yelp
‘I cheated.’ The words are hot on the shell of Will’s ear sending hot shivers shooting along his spine. ‘Did you imagine us like this Will?’

‘Maybe a little,’ Will admits. There’s a sharp bite on his ear lobe and he gasps into it, revelling in the heat of Hannibal’s mouth on his flesh. ‘Ah- yes. Yes I thought about it.’

‘Did you experiment? Did you learn what my body enjoys?’

‘A bit.’ Will squirms in the tight hold, embarrassed but also too aroused to make any real effort to escape.

‘And what did you learn?’ Hannibal purrs into his ear.

Will says nothing for a few moments and then, ‘You smell different when you're...hard.’

‘Arousal has a particular smell,’ his captor hums, ‘though everyone’s scent is unique. I am glad to have my olfactory sense back - I felt lost without it. It was akin to being blind.’

He buries his face in Will’s neck breathing him in deeply. ‘Your scent is delectable.’

Will shudders. Hannibal drags irrevocable hands down his chest, pausing at the waist of his jeans as if considering, then cups Will’s burgeoning erection firmly.

Will is consumed with want. All that time spent in Hannibal’s body examining it in the mirror and touching it in the shower is nothing compared to the feel of that body against his own; the weight of it pinning him. He wants to explore the tender, hidden places of that body - the ones he’d prevented himself from examining too closely. More than anything he wants Hannibal’s pleasure - to be the cause of it. He wants that desire reflected back at him, to be reborn in that hungry gaze.

‘Please.’

‘Please..?’

‘I want…’ He struggles with the words for a moment. ‘I want you.’

‘You have me.’

Hannibal spins him until they’re facing each other, and pushes him backwards towards the wall.

Will’s laugh shudders out of his chest - nervous excitement is making it difficult to breath.

‘You’re being a little forward doctor,’ he chides as deft hands pull his shirt open, untucking it from his pants. ‘You haven’t even kissed me yet,’

Hannibal comes up short at that. Will tilts his head to one side baring his throat. The pulse thrumming beneath the skin there calls for Hannibal to him to taste. He presses close to the younger man's throat, mouth hovering bare millimetres above the skin. There’s an intake of breath as he flicks his tongue over the pulse point, the scent of Will’s arousal filling his senses. Pleased, he skims his lips along the delicate line of Will’s neck imagining the myriad ways he could end the man’s life right here if he wanted to. But he doesn't. Instead his teeth are on the right side of gentle as he bites into the proffered neck. He’s quick to soothe the bite with lips and tongue, pressing damp kisses along the column of Will’s throat and along his jaw but bypassing the gasping mouth entirely. Will gives a mewl of frustration and squirms in the doctor’s grip. He arches meaningfully against the body pinning him, ‘Get on with it.’

Hannibal’s chuckle rumbles deep in his chest like the purr of a jungle cat, setting Will’s heart racketing in its cage.

‘As you wish.’

He nudges Will to turn so he can slide the sleeves of the shirt from his arms and as he does so Will uses the opportunity to slip free and him past, fleeing through the first floor corridors trailing laughter behind him.

Will slips out of his shoes as he goes, opening doors at random, cutting through rooms and doubling back on himself. He’s become familiar with Hannibal’s home now - his manor - so he eludes Hannibal for a few minutes longer than he might otherwise have done. He has a destination in mind but it depends whether Hannibal captures him first. Having stripped himself of shoes and socks and undershirt he pauses at the threshold of Hannibal’s bedroom. He unbuckles his belt, ears straining for the sounds of pursuit, before slipping quietly into the room. He leaves the door wide open and drops the belt there as an invitation.

Hannibal’s eyes his disheveled state appreciatively from his position leaning across the back of one of the two small armchairs that sit before the fireplace.

‘What a bold and comely creature you are,’ he drawls, detaching himself from the shadows to stalk closer to Will, coming to a stop a foot away.

Will feels giddy, drunk on Hannibal’s attention. He thumbs open the button on his jeans and bites his lip, keeping his gaze on the doctor’s face without quite meeting his eyes.

The whisper of the zipper seems inexplicably loud in the quiet room; an obscene counter to the sound of two sets of lungs expanding and contracting as one.

Will lets the jeans settle on his hips for a moment before sliding them off altogether. Hannibal makes a low noise of approval, approaching to draw his palms down Will’s chest and giving a firm, abrupt shove. the younger man collapses back into the bed with an ‘oof’ of expelled breath. Hannibal slides forward, draping across Will's body and pressing him down into the mattress. Will lets his legs fall to either side of Hannibal’s body, revelling in the sensation of a fully-clothed Hannibal against his bare skin. He grips the other man’s jaw, his eager mouth demanding a kiss that starts soft and slow before Hannibal is nipping at his bottom lip with sharp teeth, sucking it into the heat of his mouth. Hungry hands map the seams of his body like a tender butcher, tracing along lines of his muscles in appreciation.

Will squirms, arching against Hannibal’s touches and wrapping his legs around the other man’s meaningfully.

‘Come on,’ he urges with a drag of nails down Hannibal’s back, grabbing at the suit-clad backside.

Hannibal sucks harshly at the join of neck in response; a part of Will that has always been highly sensitive and now it felt as though Hannibal were branding him there like a mark of Cain. Hannibal seems to ignore Will’s ecstatic sounds of approval in favour of moving away from his neck to place sharp kisses along the entire length of his body, detoring to pay close attention to dusky pink nipples and elegant hip bones. If he had to choose a favourite body part Hannibal might have chosen Will’s hips with their delicate curves that fit so pleasingly into his palms, letting him dig his thumbs into the shallow dips between the bone and his groin. He wonders how much force he’d need to pull Will apart at the seams here and settles for dragging Will’s thighs apart.

Will shudders and twists in his grip like an eel on a line. Hannibal traces the crease when the other man’s thigh meets his groin, drinking in the musky scent of his arousal and tasting his rapidly increasing pulse with his tongue. Will has his hands wrapped tightly in Hannibal’s hair, straining, caught between pressing his lover closer and pulling him away from that vulnerable spot. If Hannibal sank his teeth in right here at his femoral artery, tearing away flesh and gristle, Will would be utterly helpless - he’d bleed out in Hannibal’s bed before he had the chance to do anything about it. Will likens the thought to putting one’s head in a lion’s mouth and expecting it not to bite down. For some reason that makes the delicate press of Hannibal’s teeth all the more exhilarating but he’s distracted from those thoughts when Hannibal moves to suck lightly in his cock through the fabric his boxers.

‘Fuck,’ Will hisses. Hannibal lifts his head and looks him in the eye while runs nimble fingers under his waistband and tugs the underwear down. Incredibly, Will feels his cock stiffen even further under Hannibal’s gaze and he’s unable to tear his gaze away as Hannibal drags his tongue over the head, flicking along the slit before swallowing him whole. Will makes a violent, entirely involuntary sound. Lecter’s mouth is hot and incredibly tight on his cock, lips gripping firmly, tongue sliding over the head as he clamps down on the shaft. Will gives a groan that seems wrung out from the very depths of his belly and he spreads his legs as wide as they can go, beckoning Hannibal closer eager for more of whatever Hannibal was willing to give him..

Hannibal pulls off wrapping a hand around his length, Will bucking helplessly into his touch chanting, ‘Fuck, yes, ahh, Hannibal, Hannibal…’

‘Yes Will?’

Deft fingers dance down between Will’s legs, along the crease of his arse to press lightly at his entrance.

‘Do you like this?’

‘Yes,’ Will babbles, pressing back against the touch desperately. ‘Just take your fucking clothes off and fuck me already.’

The other man chuckles, drawing away and flipping Will’s body over with overly-casual ease. Will huffs, settling himself on his knees and looking over his shoulder to watch Hannibal divest himself of his clothing and reach for the bedside drawer where Will knows (from his initial explorations) condoms and lube are kept. Despite his current position, the very act of Hannibal reaching for lube to fuck him with makes Will’s cheeks redden.

Hannibal settles behind him again, broad hands spreading his buttocks to rub a slippery finger down the cleft of his arse. The initial press of a finger slick with lube still takes WIll by surprise and Hannibal soon adds a second, his other hand sliding along Will’s cock, twisting tightly at the head.

Hannibal’s touches are torturously slow when Will demanded (and then begged) for harder, faster. Hannibal would not be hurried, seeming to take great pleasure in Will’s increasingly desperate exclamations, his body shuddering under Hannibal’s touch, sweat gathering in the small of his back.

When Will thinks he won’t be able to last much longer the finger are withdraw and he feel the blunt head of Hannibal’s cock against his entrance.

Hannibal lowers his head to whispered hotly against his ear, ‘You are mine now.’

‘Yes,’ Will agrees - desperate and eager beneath Hannibal. ‘Please.’

There’s sharp pressure as Hannibal pushes past the ring of muscle and then there’s an abrupt meeting of hips against the skin of WIll’s arse. Hannibal takes a few moments to calm himself before pulling out and thrusting back in; gently at first before Will thrusts back harshly against him in response to his slow pace. Hannibal breathes deeply and sets up a steady rhythm, hard and deep into Will, the obscene sounds of flesh meeting flesh filling his ears. He tightens his grip on Will’s hip and wraps one arm around his torso to heave him up against the trunk of his body, holding him upright and he presses into Will’s in short shallow thrusts. Will’s fervent moaning increases tenfold, barely stringing words together now in favour of helplessly moaning and gasping in Hannibal’s arms. He can barely hold himself upright and so lets Hannibal take his weight and he fucks him.

Hannibal can smell when he’s close and wraps a hot hand around Will’s stiff cock.

‘Could anyone else do this to you Will? Is there anyone who understands you like I do?’

Will, seemingly incapable of speech, shakes his head, eyes rolling up under their lids as he chases his approaching orgasm.

‘You belong to me now; I’ll ruin you for anyone else. No one else can make you feel like this Will.’

The sounds falling from Will’s mouth aren’t really words but he nods and thrusts up into Hannibal’s guiding hand and back on his cock emphatically, as if to signal his agreement.

‘My Will,’ the doctor licks the sweat from the side of his neck with a quick tongue. ‘Say my name. Scream it as you finish.’

‘Hn...ah...Hannibal,’ Will complies, the pressure in the pit of his belly building and building until he thinks he might burst apart at the seams. ‘Hannibal, Hannibal…’ he moans over and over and over again until he’s so overcome with pleasure it’s almost painful as he comes over Hannibal’s grip, shortly followed by the sensation of Hannibal emptying himself into Will. They stay there for a few moments, intimately conjoined, before Hannibal pulls out with a groan and Will collapses forwards onto the bed.

Later, once Hannibal has disposed of the condom and gently wiped Will clean of cooling sweat and come with a warm flannel, Will asks, ‘Who is the second chair for?’

Hannibal looks towards the fireplace with the small table and two chairs set before it and mumbles, ‘Guests.’

Will fidgets for a moments before he persists. ‘But who usually sits there?’

‘There is no usually.’ Hannibal’s voice is a steady rumble in Will’s ear that has his skin prickling with goose-flesh. ‘There is rarely and then there's you.’

‘There's condoms in your bedside cabinet,’ Will points out.

‘I know.’

‘Do you...are you seeing anyone now?’

‘I prefer to be prepared than to be caught short. There is no one else.’ Hannibal strokes a palm down and over his belly as if to soothe Will of his sudden anxieties. ‘Though I am pleased I will not have to compete with Alana for your affections.’

‘Would you? Have competed?’ Will asks, almost shyly though he'd never admit it to himself.

‘Strenuously,’ Hannibal assures with a deep purr.

Sometime later when he feels ready for sleep Will whispers hesitantly, ‘I don't...stay with people much. I have nightmares; violent ones. I can get very sweaty.’

‘I know,’ Hannibal says simply, pressing a kiss to his temple. He goes to the bathroom, returning with a soft towel and lays it upon the bed between them.

He wraps an arm around Will, laying like a great felled oak at Will’s back. Will falls asleep to the sound of Hannibal’s heartbeat like the steady crash of waves in his ears and dreams of blood stained keys and hands that refuse to come clean.