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All That Glitters

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The tavern is quiet. This is not typical of the night before the Holy Day. People like to come in and drink their fill, especially as the nights grow darker and longer, and beasts from the oceanside become braver – or more desperate, depending on who you ask.

"They are merely searching for food! You'd do the same!"

It is on this quiet, lackluster night, that Sir Hannibal Lecter visits. He takes a seat at a table where there is already another man – a man of the cloth, if the rich robes and full belly are any indication. The holy people never suffer famine and starvation, always kept well-fed and watered like prize stallions under the gentle hand of the capitol.

The man smiles, and he has only the front four of teeth on top and bottom, and the gaps make him look like a braying ass. There is a sag to his left cheek and a subtle greyness about his eye, and a glint of metal on the innards of his mouth to keep the skin in shape.

He grins at Hannibal and waves over a barmaid for a flagon of ale – ale which Hannibal has no intention of drinking, but he does not refuse. He tilts his head, raises one hand and rests it atop the edge of the table. His fingers drum, in a line, once.

"Hannibal," the man says, as the maid brings a flagon and disappears to the paltry offering of coin the rest of the patrons may offer. As she goes, Hannibal slips her two coins, which she takes with a smile and cups his hand with both of hers. She has always been working on the nights he comes. "It is good you are here."

Hannibal tilts his head, as the maid brings another cup, this one of wine. Hannibal's favorite. He smiles at her and passes her another coin, and she winks and hip-checks him before she leaves. Hannibal's smile fades as he regards the holy man again, and sips his wine.

He drums his fingers again.

The man sits forward, fingers laced and shoulders hunched up in urgency. "I'm sure you've no doubt heard – there is a beast in the mountains around this village." Hannibal presses his lips together, and says nothing. "They say it is a demon of flame, a dragon!"

Surely, a terrifying thing to hear. Hannibal raises a brow.

The man huffs, brows coming together and upper lip lifting like geldings do when asking for sugar treats. "We have asked you here to slay the beast."

Hannibal's brow lowers back to its normal place, and he sets his cup of wine down. He looks around the tavern – it is an unassuming building, with thick wooden beams every ten feet to hold up the room, and strong wood across the ceiling, and a roof of thatch – hay and mud. The floor is dirt flattened by years of feet, the chairs and tables and benches dark, gleaming wood from those trees which grow at the bottom of the mountain.

Carved atop every branch is a dragon's head.

He hums, and looks back at the holy man. "Why?" he asks.

The man's eyes flash, darker than the wood in the low light, and he hisses so hard that Hannibal thinks his cheekpiece might simply fall out. Was it a war wound, he wonders, or perhaps something dealt in a much less exciting place? It is hard to imagine any man of the cloth around steel and blood. "Why?" he demands.

Hannibal nods, once. He drums his fingers and sips his wine.

"Because the capitol has commanded it be done, that's why!"

At that, Hannibal smiles. "We are very far North, Bishop Chilton," he says. "One might argue the might of the capitol has long-left this place, and in its absence, dragons return."

Chilton eyes him, with the same beady look a rat might give a mousetrap. He huffs, and stands, and throws some coins onto the table for the maid.

"Walk with me."

Hannibal nods, finishes his wine, and stands. They leave the tavern and emerge into the chilly air – there is a hint of snow, thick clouds forming within their exhales. Hannibal's horse is just where he left her, unbothered by the ragged children pawing at the feathers around her hooves and tugging at her long mane. She is a thick-legged and sturdy creature, intelligent and black as the shadow of the mountain.

Chilton grabs his arm and points. "Look there," he says, and Hannibal lifts his gaze, eyes narrowed as he sees, close to half-way up the mountain, a single orange point of light. From this distance it appears small, but the fact that he can see it at all is a testament to its size. Indeed, there is smoke as well, and it rises in a thick plume to join with the low-hanging snow clouds.

"That is the dragon's dwelling?" he asks.

Chilton nods, his fingers curling with childlike anxiety in Hannibal's cloak. Hannibal shrugs him off and takes a small step away. "They say it is coming closer every month," he says. "They say the beast has begun flying down to the fields at night, to hunt for flesh."

Hannibal raises a brow. "Have any livestock gone missing?" he asks.

Chilton hesitates, and then says, "Yes."

Hannibal growls, and pulls out a thick knife from the leather brace around his forearm. He grabs Chilton by the front of his robes and turns him, shoving him into his horse's flank. She gives a soft whicker in protest, but does not move, and Hannibal fits the knife to beneath Chilton's jaw, across where his pulse rushes heaviest.

"Do not lie to me," he snarls. "The capitol has asked for my hand in this because the village is turning to Paganism."

Chilton blinks at him rapidly, pawing without grace at Hannibal's arm and gaping like a fish. Hannibal watches him, looks between his brown eye and his grey one, before he nods to himself, steps back, and sheathes his knife.

His mare shifts her weight, sending Chilton stumbling forward, and the man fixes his thick collar and swallows, narrowing a glare Hannibal's way. "Am I wrong?" Hannibal asks. "I have seen the idols, seen the field that is covered in charred grass. The dragon comes and the people welcome it and that makes the capitol angry, does it not?"

Chilton rubs at his neck. "It is not my place to question the Holy Father," he replies with a snap of his teeth. "But we are all loyal servants to the capitol, are we not, my old friend? I am sure you would do nothing that would be perceived as treason."

Hannibal glares at Chilton, and puffs out an aggravated breath through his nose. He looks back up, to the glow of the fire, and wonders how the dragon manages to maintain such a flame without setting the entire mountain alight.

"I will seek out this dragon," he finally says. Chilton lets out a sound that is very much like relief. "Do you have any witnesses who have seen the beast? I must know as much as I can, so that I am prepared."

"Yes!" Chilton says. "Are you staying at the inn? I shall have him visit tomorrow morning."

"Wonderful," Hannibal replies, and nods. He turns to his horse, unties her from the resting post, and smiles when she nudges him with her broad forehead, her soft muzzle touching the cradle of his hand. Her tail swishes harshly at her flank like she's trying to get Chilton's stench off of her. "Have a good night, Bishop."

 

 

This village is a common stop for people who want to venture the mountain pass between the capitol and the eastern towns, where the oceans are. Merchants of trade, for spices and slaves and exotic animals, have all seen the innards of this inn, and when the capitol was here, the place was very much alive. Now it slumbers like a hibernating bear.

The inn is owned by a woman named Molly. She has a son, a boy, a wretched little thing that barely has the energy to breathe some days. Upon one of Hannibal's first visits, her husband got into a drunken fistfight with him, lost spectacularly, and had to use a walking stick for several months. The second time he'd visited, the husband had come at him again. Hannibal had not allowed him a third chance.

She smiles in warm greeting when she sees him, and it is nice to finally see her without bruises on her face and around her wrists. She hands him the key to his usual room – it is the last one on the top floor, with a window that allows one to leave if one doesn't mind a steep drop into a pile of hay. It also allows Hannibal a spot to monitor his horse, for she is easily his most prized possession and most loyal companion, and he pities any foolish man who would try to harm her.

There is a knock on his door, just past midnight, and Hannibal rises, and goes to answer. He inches the door open just enough to peer through, and sees the barmaid, her blue dress damp with rain, her hair falling in thick, dark waves and her gentle face highlighted from the soft glow of a candle in her hands.

She smiles at him, and he returns it and steps back to allow her to enter. "Good morning, Alana," he says.

She laughs, and sets the candle down on a little table by the window. The glass is closed, but the flame still dances to and fro as if stirred by a breeze.

"Is it morning already?" she asks, shrugging off her grey veil and folding it around her hands, setting it down beside the candle. She sits on the little writing desk in the corner, her feet swinging like a child on a too-high bench as Hannibal returns to his bed, which while not lavish is more than comfortable, and regards her. "I swear, every night flies by faster than the first."

He smiles, and sits back until his shoulders hit the wall. She fixes him with a look, her blue eyes shining in the candlelight. "So," she says, and rocks her feet again. "You're here to kill the dragon?"

He purses his lips and shrugs one shoulder. "Per the Bishop's command," he replies.

She swallows, and looks down at her knees. "I see."

Hannibal tilts his head. "What do you know of the dragon?"

She lifts one dainty shoulder and tosses her hair. "I know he has been here as long as this village has," she replies. "Some of the elders view him as a protector. A guardian. Some of them think he is a monster and want him to leave. But would you ask the mountains to leave? The trees and rivers?"

He smiles. "So you would rather he stayed."

She sighs. "I only know that there is war, and there is plague, and there are all kinds of horrors in the world, and yet they have never touched our village. So, too, has the dragon always resided. And he never takes too much – an occasional sheep or cow, but he eats the old animals, and the sick ones. He has never hurt a living soul that did not try to hurt him first."

Hannibal tilts his head, and sighs. "Nevertheless," he murmurs. "Perhaps if the beast is intelligent enough, I may have words with him. But I cannot disobey the capitol."

She presses her lips together, and fixes him with a look that seems more sad than anything else. "I know," she murmurs, and then her mouth widens in a teasing, mischievous smile. "Maybe you can convince the dragon to eat the Bishop instead."

Hannibal laughs. "Do not let just anyone hear you talk like that."

"I trust you," she says, and nudges his knee with her toe, before pushing herself to her feet. "Well, I will let you rest. Have a good night!" She takes her shawl and candle and leaves, and Hannibal closes and locks the door behind her, before returning to his bed. The window is angled so that he can still see the beast's hearth, and he sighs, drumming his hands on his thigh.

 

 

The next morning, Molly brings him a breakfast of bread and cheese, and Hannibal is sitting in the main room of the inn when Chilton brings in a man. He is dark-skinned and large, and Hannibal recognizes him as the local jail guard. He tilts his head when the man sits opposite him, Chilton hovering like a bad smell between them.

"Sir Lecter," Chilton says with a large smile and a nod. "This is Jack Crawford. He is the only one who has gotten a good sighting of the dragon in the last months."

Hannibal raises a brow, finishing his bread with a slow swallow, and fixes his gaze on the man's face. "Pleasure to meet you, Mister Crawford," he says, and offers his hand.

Jack shakes it. "Jack is just fine," he replies gruffly. He sits back. "What do you want to know?"

Hannibal smiles, and from his bag he pulls out a notebook and piece of lead, opening to a fresh page. "How large is the beast?" he asks.

Jack huffs, and looks up in thought. He rubs his large hand over his scruffy face and says, "As large as two coaches put together." Hannibal presses his lips together, nodding. "Easily thrice the length of a horse from nose to tail."

"And is it snake-like?" Hannibal asks.

Jack looks to him, frowning in confusion.

"Does it have wings?" Hannibal clarifies.

"Oh. Yes," Jack nods. "Two. Big ones." Hannibal nods. "And it's black and blue, and feathered."

Hannibal pauses, and looks up. "Feathered," he repeats.

Jack nods. "Like a raven," he replies. "And has a thick mane of feathers behind its head, and down its back. And its wings are feathered too. They…" His voice goes soft, high in memory, almost wondering. "They glisten."

Hannibal has not come across a feathered dragon before. He hums, and notes it down. "Would you say it's a dense creature? Or more lithe?"

Jack hums. "It is a slender beast, I'd say," he replies with a nod. "I have seen pictures of great fire drakes, when I was a young man, in the capitol. This beast is not like those. They are metallic, and breathe only flame, but I have not seen this dragon breathe fire once, and it moves in the night silently, and the moon is in its eyes."

Hannibal considers this, sighing internally. Villagers always have had wondrous imaginations, but flights of fancy do him no good. "I have been told it eats livestock," he says, and Jack nods. "Have any villagers gone missing to its appetite?"

"Oh, no!" Jack says, shaking his head. "No. He does not seek to eat us. He only takes old cattle, or sheep that have strayed from the flock." He stops, considering, and says, "Truthfully I do not think a man could fit in its mouth. It has a dainty head. Angular."

"There are some of its kin that live mostly off fish," Hannibal says, and closes his book. "But, Mister Crawford, I will tell you that there is little a beast will not eat, if it's hungry enough. Even horses will eat meat if they need it."

Jack blinks at him, and Chilton's face is pale. He reaches out and squeezes Jack's shoulder. "Is that all you need, Sir?" he asks.

Hannibal nods, and shakes Jack's hand. "Thank you for your time, Mister Crawford. Have a good day."

"And you, Sir knight," Jack replies. He stands and allows Chilton to usher him out, and then the man returns, brushing his hands down his robes like touching Jack made his hands dirty. "So, do you require more information?"

Hannibal shakes his head. "I will need supplies," he says, standing and pocketing his book. "A week's worth of rations, for myself and my horse. And I will visit the smithy for a hook."

"A hook?" Chilton repeats, head tilting.

Hannibal smiles, and nods. "Please see it arranged and have it brought to my rooms. I will leave at midday."

 

 

The blacksmith is a tall man named Francis, with a permanent snarl in the shape of a deformity at his mouth. His eyes flash with recognition when Hannibal enters, and they clap each other on the forearms. "The famous beast slayer returns," he says. He is a soft-spoken man, with a voice that does not match his frame.

Hannibal nods to him, and turns away, looking to the array of hanging tools and weapons on display. Most of Francis' shop is dedicated to ironworking for construction, and shoeing horses. From behind him, an apprentice scurries, a waif of a boy with large brown eyes and a somewhat feral look to him. Hannibal does not recognize him.

"Hannibal, meet Randall," Francis says, and they exchange nods. "Randall, see him well attended to. We must provide him with anything he asks."

Randall nods, and shifts his weight, wringing his hands together, and Francis disappears from the front building, to the back where the forge is. "What do you require?"

"Do you have anything that resembles a spear, but is curved at the end? Like a fishing hook, perhaps?" Hannibal asks.

Randall presses his lips together, his brow creasing, before he nods. "One moment," he says, and then turns away, heading to the back of the shop. In his absence, Hannibal looks around, his eye catching on a glint of metal. He moves towards it and shifts a pile of leather to one side, seeing a wickedly-curved dagger with a golden dragon's mouth as the hilt, the mouth of the dragon parting to unleash the blade. He picks it up, admiring the serrated edge on the outside of the dagger. This is a weapon meant purely for killing, for piercing small and gutting with one smooth stroke.

"Sir," Randall's voice calls, and Hannibal turns. In Randall's hand is a long metal staff, and at the end of it is a hook pointed sharply to the side. Hannibal tilts his head and takes it. It is surprisingly light, and the reach is long.

He smiles. "Perfect," he says, and then nods to the dagger. "I will take both of these things."

Randall nods, smiling. They settle on a price and Hannibal leaves with his weapons wrapped, and goes to his horse, securing them behind the saddle. She nudges him with her muzzle, tail swishing, and he smiles and pets under her thick mane, before he takes her reins and leads her back to the inn.

In his room, just as he'd asked, are rations of dried meat and bread wrapped in cloth. He gathers his things and returns the key, bringing everything down to secure along with the rest of his weapons, clothes, and waterskin. It will be a long ride, but the sky is bright and welcoming, the storm having passed by in the night, and the vibrant color of the trees promises an abundance of natural water for him to refill as he needs.

Chilton emerges from the inn and nods to him. "God go with you, Hannibal," he says.

Hannibal huffs, rolling his eyes, and mounts his horse. She tosses her head with a high-pitched whinny, turning towards the road that leads out of town, towards the mountains. "I daresay, Bishop," he murmurs, "that there is no God where I'm going. None that would travel with me, anyway."

He clicks his tongue and his mare snorts, jerking into a smooth canter, and anyone who is in the road quickly moves to one side to allow him to pass. On the outskirts, he spies Alana, and she waves slowly, her fingers curled and a sad look on her face.

Hannibal smiles at her, and turns his eyes up.

 

 

He reaches the foot of the mountain just before nightfall and sets up camp. The trees are less dense, here, but there is no wind, which is a small blessing. He lights a meagre fire and lets his mare graze on a long rein. She knows better than to wander. The sky darkens rapidly here and he sighs, wrapping his cloak and thick blanket around himself and putting his back to a tree, his eyes on the soft candle lights of the village just below, sitting nestled in the valley.

Sleep comes to him within the hour, trusting his mare to warn him if anyone meaning harm approaches. In his dreams, he is in a field – this dream is familiar as an old friend, and he sighs. The grass is tall enough to reach his hands, and he brushes his fingers through it as he moves, seeking what he will always find in this dream.

The lake shimmers beneath starlight, black and glistening like blood under the moon. He approaches the lake and crouches, cupping his hands and sipping at the water, and waits. After a moment, below the surface, he spots the glint of a little, single orange fish. The fish bobs and weaves like it's chasing the bubbles of its own breath, sparkling beneath the lake whenever it comes close enough to the surface.

He smiles, watching it, and then the fish abruptly darts away. Hannibal frowns, standing, for this isn't normally how the dream goes. He stares into the lake and – there. Just a few feet away, he sees something moving, something blacker than the lake, with long coils like that of a serpent. There is a deep rumble he feels in his boots, and the flip-splash of a tail. A long tail, wreathed in feathers blue and black.

Then there are two moons in the lake. Hannibal leans in closer, and they blink at him.

 

 

Hannibal surges to awareness with a startled gasp, unsheathing the knife he always keeps tucked against his arm, and rolls to a ready position, prepared to fight off whatever had woken him. His eyes scan the trees, and see nothing.

From a few feet away, his mare looks at him, and snorts.

He huffs, straightening, and sheaths his weapon. It is not yet dawn, nor close to it – the sky is very dark, black with only pinprick breaks for the stars and the moon. He sighs, running his hands through his sweaty hair, and regards the smoking remnants of his fire with annoyance. It has died, now, and the air is very cold.

Above him blazes the beast's fire, and it is bright enough to see over the trees like the rising sun. And – strange, he thinks – it carries down through the dense trees, like the light of it is unbroken by shadow, by mountain and forest, and it's almost as though the dragon is lighting his way.

It feels welcoming.

He looks to his horse, who has gone back to grazing, uncaring for the thoughts and troubles of men. But she does not seem worried. He clicks his tongue and her ears cant towards him. She snorts and lifts her head, walking over.

He gathers her reins, packs up his camp, and pours water out onto the smoking embers of the fire. The hiss of them seems to echo, and he mounts her again, beginning the trek up the mountain road anew. It is barely able to be called a path, only navigated by deer and the men who hunt them, and the going is slow, but the firelight does not dim for a moment – only, it seems to grow brighter and even feels warm against his face.

 

 

By the time he has crested the first rise of the hill, dawn has come, and with it the chorus of morning birds, the scurry of rabbits, squirrels, and smaller creatures. Hannibal is tired, but urges his mare on, wanting to cover as much ground as he can before the sun sets again. He eats as he rides and only stops to relieve himself and fill his waterskin from a river.

The next dusk, he turns up a hill and crests it, only to find a barren plateau. It is obvious that he has reached the source of the fire, and he halts his mare immediately, backing her into the trees and dismounting. She blusters at him, as if demanding why they stopped, and he tuts at her. He puts his sword across his back, along with the hook, ties the dagger he bought to his belt, and secures his knife.

He pats her neck and pushes her away. "Stay close, darling," he tells her, and she huffs, and rolls one eye at him like a petulant child. But she knows not to stray too far, and she turns and trots to a patch of grass that appears to her liking, and immediately begins to graze.

Hannibal eyes the plateau. Whatever this used to be – earth or stone – it is now a flat, blackened patch of ash and the smoldering ruins of wood, of metal. He sees bone, and cracked skulls from animals. Sees the ribcages of cattle and sheep.

He steps closer, and lifts his head. There is no cave here, nowhere he could think of for a dragon to hide, but in this place he is open and exposed, and he draws his sword slowly, ready to fight if need be.

He approaches the pile and nudges it with his boot. There are several smaller skeletons here, too – regurgitated fish heads, squirrel skulls, mashed bones that look like they may have been rabbits at a time. Nothing suggesting humans, nothing at all.

"Interesting," he murmurs, remembering Jack's words. He looks up again, eyes narrowed to the face of the mountain. The trees rustle in the wind, here, whispering to each other, and Hannibal cannot help the feeling that he is certainly being watched.

The black firepit is almost as long as two men laying down. There must be magic involved, he thinks, that keeps it burning so brightly with so little fuel.

He sighs through his nose and whistles, turning when he hears the clop of his mare's hooves. He nudges his shoulder to her cheek and she whickers, shaking her large head. "See anything I don't?" he asks her. For this is certainly a place of dragons, but it is not the beast's nest. He doesn't imagine it goes far, however – if it is a protector of the village below, it will want to keep the village in its sights at all times.

His mare snorts, and lips at his hand in answer.

He sighs, and sheathes his sword, and gathers her reins. "Come," he tells her, and leads her back into the trees – far enough that they will not be immediately seen, but close enough that should the beast emerge, Hannibal will notice. He ties her loosely to a tree so that she can pull it free and run if she needs to, and settles down. He does not light a fire, and keeps his sword out and braced across his knees, his back to a tree and his eyes on the blackened patch of stone.

 

 

He does not have to wait long.

Less than an hour past nightfall, he hears movement. There, ahead of him, blacker than black, moves a shadow. He pushes himself to a crouch, moving forward slowly, one hand still holding his sword and the other blindly feeling out, so he doesn't hit one of the trees.

Then, suddenly, there is light. It shines like a falling star and is almost blinding, and very sudden. A whorl of flame descends on the fire pit and flares out with a hiss, encompassing the plateau. Hannibal stands, his eyes wide, for he does not see the dragon.

He clenches his fist tight around his sword, and peers out from the nearest tree.

There is not a dragon, but a man. Or perhaps 'man' would be too generous a term – he is certainly male, and the fire illuminates human features, but there is certainly no ignoring the other parts of him. He is naked, glowing golden in the firelight, and the fire shines off of a pair of thickly-feathered black wings that shimmer as though made of liquid metal. There is a wreath of feathers around his neck and shoulders, covering him like the hood of a cloak, and smaller, downy markings on his chest and stomach, down his legs, and they could be feathers or scales, Hannibal is not sure. His hands are large and clawed, his feet subtly arched up like he's standing on his toes.

He is an enchanting sight, and almost certainly the creature Hannibal is looking for.

The man's eyes are white, and he parts his jaws, revealing large teeth shaped like those of a cat, and there is a glow in his mouth of white fire. His wings shift, fanning the air and sending a gust of heat towards Hannibal, and down the mountain, and Hannibal watches with wide eyes as he steps into the fire. It does not burn his human flesh, nor his feathers, and he sighs, tilting his head up and running his hands through thick, dark hair. He turns, and Hannibal sees a tail jutting from the base of a spine covered in more blue-black scales, long enough to wrap around his leg and still touch the ground, and there is a thick plume of feathers at the end.

The same as were in his dream. Indeed, this scene feels dreamlike, as the stories his mother would tell him of nymphs and demons and all things magic.

The dragon sighs again, shifting and kicking at one of the blackened shells of a cow carcass, and sits. His wings flatten out behind him, and though the fire does not hurt him, so too do his wings not seem to do anything to impede the heat and light. It is as though the flames glow through him, lighting him up from the inside.

The dragon curls up into a thick ball and covers himself with one of his wings, the other stretched out behind him, and they are large enough to fully encase his human form, curled up like a newborn, and the feathers of his tail provide a pillow for his head, and he closes his eyes.

Fascinating. Hannibal has never seen a dragon capable of shifting like that. He prowls forward, mindful of disturbing the creature. The flames are almost too hot to stand, and he is sweating as he crouches down a few feet away.

He sets his sword on the ground and pulls out his notebook and lead. It would be a shameful opportunity to waste, not drawing this thing before he kills it.

The dragon shifts, humming, and Hannibal freezes. But it does not open its eyes, does not stir.

Still he is startled, when he hears a voice; "See something you like?"

He almost drops his lead and grabs for his sword, ready to fight if the dragon should attack him. But it does not move. Its voice is pleasant, startlingly soft, and Hannibal isn't sure he should have even heard it over the roar of the fire.

In his silence, the dragon opens one eye, and shows an iris as blue as clear mountain lakes in sunshine. His wing twitches, baring his body again, and he sits up and regards Hannibal with a cool, calm look, head tilted.

His nostrils flare, and he blinks. "You have gold on you," he says.

Hannibal smiles, and thinks of the dagger. "Yes."

The dragon licks his lips, shifting to hands and knees, then up until he's kneeling on his haunches. It is no secret that dragons lust after precious stones and metal. His wings fan behind him lightly, then settle into a lazy slouch. He tilts his head and prowls to the edge of the fire, but does not leave it. Hannibal tightens his hand on his sword.

"What is your name?" the dragons asks.

"Hannibal," he replies. "And yours?"

The dragon smiles, showing his large fangs again. "Will," he says, a happy chirp. He moves until he is cross-legged, uncaring for his nudity, and his wings settle in a large black cloak behind him. "And what brings you up here, Hannibal, with gold and steel and things to draw with?"

Hannibal blinks at him. "I was ordered to kill you."

At that, Will laughs, his eyes shining with mirth and with firelight. "That's a shame," he replies. "I don't get visitors very often."

"I've just said I mean to kill you, and you call me a visitor?"

Will grins at him, wide and sharp. "You said you were ordered to, not that you mean to. I have never heard of a warrior who would rather draw a beast than pierce it." And, Hannibal is sure, he is right. "But," Will adds, and lifts one clawed hand, finger extended like he is ordering silence, "you would not survive my fire, and it will last all night. So what would you like to do in the meantime?"

Hannibal frowns, and shifts his weight, mimicking Will's sitting position. He sets his book in his lap and his sword at his side. "Do you often engage your enemy in conversation before attacking him?" he asks.

Will huffs, and rolls his eyes. He moves, like he's uncomfortable, his tail swishing rapidly to one side as he lays down and pillows his head on the feathers, the long black arch of the tail covering his hip and spreading across his chest. He brings one wing forward, licks his palm, and absently pulls at his shining feathers.

"Who says I mean to attack you?" he asks.

Hannibal laughs. "Don't be naïve, Will."

"Of course, forgive me," Will says with another roll of his brilliantly blue eyes. He grins, lashes fluttering. "You're obviously the expert."

Hannibal tilts his head, and grabs his lead again, absently sketching the lines and ruffles of Will's body. Will hums, gaze low-lidded, and watches him do it. His lips part, showing his teeth and his tongue, and then he licks his lips.

"You are quite unique," Hannibal says. "I have never seen a feathered dragon before. Nor one who could mimic the shape of a man."

Will grins, like this is a compliment, and Hannibal has seen a lot of things, but there is a certain loveliness to the way Will's teeth shine with his fire. His lashes flutter again and he licks his palm, returning his hands to prune and groom himself as Hannibal continues to sketch.

"Tell me, Hannibal," he purrs, "have you met many of my kind?"

"Their guts certainly met my sword, yes," Hannibal replies coolly.

Will huffs, and rolls onto his back, his wings flaring out on either side of him. "I see," he replies, just as flat. "You know, there's some that say befriending a dragon brings good luck and fortune."

Hannibal smiles. "Who says?"

"Oh, you know." Will waves a hand vaguely up at the sky. "People."

Hannibal hums.

Will rolls onto his side again, fixing Hannibal with a gaze so sharp he feels it in his stomach, and he lifts his eyes to meet Will's. They reflect the fire like mirrors, shining, and Will smiles close-lipped and fond. "You look like someone in dire need of a friend."

Hannibal tilts his head, raising a brow. "Sounds like you're projecting."

Will shrugs, carefree. "Perhaps. I'll admit it gets lonely out here. Up here. No one but food for company." He smiles, slow and wide, then, and his eyes rake Hannibal up and down. "I'm sure you can relate."

"I'm not sure what you mean," Hannibal says.

Will laughs. "Don't be naïve, Hannibal," he purrs, and Hannibal huffs, rolling his eyes. Will sits up abruptly, suddenly enough that Hannibal startles, reaching for his sword. "Tell you what," Will says, and kneels forward again. "I'll make a deal with you."

"A deal?" Hannibal repeats. "I thought your kind too vain for deals."

Will grins at him. "You're the expert," he says with a laugh. "Would you like to hear my terms?"

Hannibal sighs, and gestures for him to proceed.

"Stay here with me," Will says, rocking forward to his hands and knees, his wings fanning the air in a move that Hannibal thinks means excitement. "I will not harm you, and you will not harm me. For seven days, you will remain here, and I will show you all sorts of wonderful things. If, at the end, you decide that your duty to your master outweighs the benefits of my friendship…. Well, I suppose my gut and your sword will have a conversation."

Hannibal tilts his head. To live with a dragon is an opportunity of a lifetime.

"What if it's the reverse?" Hannibal asks. "What if my companionship does not soothe your loneliness?"

Will smiles. "Then I will let you leave. We part as friends." What a strange, interesting creature he has stumbled upon. "What do you say?"

Hannibal considers this. It's a stupid idea. A very, very stupid idea.

"What would you require, in exchange for my companionship?" he asks.

Will's eyes are dark, now, still shining like moonlight off a lake. He looks over Hannibal again, his tail curling tightly around his thigh. "I see a wildness in you," he murmurs, finally, tilting his head, his nostrils flaring as he takes a deep inhale. "Something I would like to find the origin of. To bring out, if I can." His tongue snakes out, long and split like a serpent – and Hannibal blinks, for his tongue was certainly human earlier – before retreating behind his sharp teeth.

"What do you say?" he asks.

Hannibal looks down at his notebook. There is already a likeness of Will, laid out prone like a maiden on her wedding night, his wings a simple set of lines, his tail slowly gaining detail. His eyes, Hannibal senses, will take a long time to perfect.

He looks back up. "I accept," he says.

Will's grin is wide and joyful, and his purr is loud and shakes the ground. "Wonderful."

Chapter Text

Hannibal wakes to a heavy thud, the squelching slick of something spilling against his hands and face, and his mare's sharp, blustering whinny. He shoves himself upright and finds that the place where Will's fire had been burning is now black and cold, and in the center of it is a dead stag. The innards of the animal have been split apart, its guts splayed out like an exploded bag of river mud. He huffs, wiping his hands, and looks up as a shadow falls across him.

It is Will. He is still half-human, his feathers shining a brilliant ocean-blue as he snaps his large wings out and lands, daintily, on the tips of his toes, his tail snapping in a thick coil for him to maintain his balance as he lands. Still, he goes briefly to all fours and pushes himself upright again like he's gearing for a sprint.

He turns to Hannibal and grins, showing sharp teeth.

"Morning!" he says, and gestures to the stag. "I brought breakfast."

Hannibal rolls his eyes, standing, and retrieves his sketchbook and lead from the growing pile of viscera, before the pinkish ooze can stain and ruin it. He brings the book to his bags, along with his sword, and when he returns he finds Will standing in front of his mare, his eyes shining as she meets them, both of them locked in a battle of gazes, unblinking.

Hannibal smiles, and approaches the stag's body. He takes his smaller knife from his wrist brace, ready to start cutting and hewing as he needs. "If your intention is to intimidate her, you will find yourself staring all day," he says.

Will hums, and tilts his head. He reaches out, clawed hands cupping her whiskery chin, brushing along the corners of her soft mouth and over her muzzle. "This is one of the flesh-eating horses, is she not?" he asks, almost absently. "They breed them in the East."

Hannibal nods. "She is one of them," he replies. In the East, warriors bred their horses to survive off of flesh as easily as grass, so that they might feast on the corpses of fallen warriors in places where there was no flora, or where all the fields had been burned to the ground. "One of the last."

He pushes at the stag's limp forelegs, pleasantly surprised to see that Will's cuts had been precise and well-done; there is no harm done to the organs that would ruin the meat. In fact, the stag is fit for roasting. He turns when his mare blusters, finds her nudging Will sharply, lipping at his wing, and he laughs, and his tail bats at her shoulder playfully.

He turns, and grins at Hannibal. "I think she likes me," he says.

And Hannibal thinks he may be right – his horse has always been a distrustful creature, only immediately welcoming to Alana and children that wander near her, though even then they are usually met with indifference and resignation rather than playful attention.

He turns away and digs his knife between the flesh and skin of the deer, at its belly, slicing a clean cut that he can then fit his fingers in, pulling the skin away. Will hums, striding over and sitting down on his haunches, watching him struggle for a while with low-lidded, shining eyes.

"Do you always eat so much?" Hannibal asks after a long silence, when he has the flank and shoulder of the stag exposed.

"Mm? Oh." Will lifts one shoulder in a shrug, his eyes on the animal. "No. I'm actually not hungry at all, but I figured what you both don't eat, we can store or give to the wolves."

Hannibal pauses in his task, and fits Will with a raised eyebrow. "There are wolves in this forest?" he asks, for he had seen no trace or track of them, has never heard them howling, and the village people have never mentioned their presence.

Will smiles, wide and sweet. "Well-fed ones," he replies happily, his wings fluttering in that same excited gesture. He rests his elbows on his knees and scratches at the small patch of blue-black feathers on his belly. "They like me, too. I don't think all of them are wolves. They live on the other side of the mountain, with me."

Hannibal blinks at him. He has never, ever in his life, heard of a dragon that keeps pets.

He turns his attention back to the deer, looks up and smiles as his mare plods closer, nudging curiously at the fresh meat. He bats, gently, at her cheek. "Later, darling."

Will grins, and stands, fanning his wings and kicking up a small flurry of dust and fallen leaves. He looks behind Hannibal, his eyes shining and dark, before he bites his lower lip. Hannibal doesn't pay him much mind, focused on cutting out all he can from the deer's meat, until he has a huge pile by his side, the meat thick and pink and creating a large pool he knows will attract other meat-eaters.

He stands after a while, and pulls a bag from his mare's saddle. He sets it down and begins packing the meat into it, wincing at the soft squelching noises, and when he is done, Will smiles at him. "Are you ready?" he asks.

"Unless you intend to eat breakfast here."

Will laughs. "No," he replies brightly.

Hannibal nods, reattaches the bag, and swings himself up into his saddle. His mare grunts, nosing at the carcass again, and after a moment Will bends down and picks it up, hauling it over his shoulders as though it weighs nothing. Hannibal blinks, marveling at his strength, though he supposes he shouldn't be surprised – Will is a dragon, after all.

Will's tail snaps to one side, curls around his thigh, above his knee, and he starts to walk to the right, into the trees. Hannibal clicks his tongue and his mare follows, head low and docile as she walks after Will. Will navigates the treacherous path with all the agility of a mountain goat, uncaring for the extra load on his shoulders. The shine of the stag's blood leaks down his bare skin, into his feathers, though he pays it no mind.

They walk for almost an hour, circling the edge of the mountain, before Hannibal asks, "Why do you sleep so far from your cave?"

Will turns, and looks at Hannibal like that was a foolish question. "I can see the town from there," he replies plainly, and shrugs, the stag's body moving with the motion. "I like to watch humans, with their little fires. And I like to think they find comfort in my presence."

Hannibal huffs, unable to hide his smile. "There are some that are frightened, living in the shadow of a dragon."

"I do not think this is so," Will replies. He jumps up onto a higher, narrow path cut into the cliffside, and Hannibal frowns up at him, watching as he skirts the loose shoal and the treacherous path with ease. His wings are flared out and low, helping him to balance. "Would you stay in a place that frightened you? Many generations have passed, their inheritances and their legacies from down the generations like vines on a wall. If anyone wanted to leave, they could."

He looks down, and fixes Hannibal with a wide, fanged smile. "I do not compel them to stay. And," he winks, "I was here first."

Hannibal thinks of Alana's words, and smiles. "But you have never tried to make friends."

"I have friends," Will replies coolly, and jumps back down in front of Hannibal's mare.

Hannibal considers that, but does not pry. They round another corner and come to a similar plateau, this one narrower, only enough room for Hannibal's horse to stand and for Will to dump the stag's body at the edge. Hannibal dismounts and Will goes to the side of the cliff, looking down past the steep, sharp decline, where there are tops of trees that hide the ground.

He cocks his head, and puts his fingers in his mouth, whistling sharply. Then, he kicks the stag's carcass down the slope. Hannibal watches, his head tilted, as he hears below them the sounds of barking and low, canine growls. The wolves.

Beside him, his mare blusters in outrage, and Hannibal rolls his eyes but fishes out a piece of the meat, letting her eat it from his hand. She nuzzles him in thanks, and he pulls the bag over his shoulder. There is, opposite the cliff, a single shard of black – an opening to a cave. Will grins at him and gestures for him to follow.

It is too narrow for his horse, and has a low ceiling – an ideal protection from rain and wind, he thinks. Will's wings pull in tight to his back and he flattens himself sideways, prowling into the cave, and Hannibal follows. It would be almost impossible, if anyone were to hunt the dragon down, for them to overwhelm him with sheer numbers. He thinks of being trapped in this little walkway, of being roasted alive if Will breathed his fire down it, and shivers.

The tightness lasts for several paces, and then abruptly flares wide into a dark chasm. Hannibal blinks, able to feel the absence of walls, of closeness, but his eyes cannot adjust, the darkness does not yield to his expanding pupils or allow him to see.

Then, Will's jaws part, and he looses a bright jet of flame. Like the plateau, it catches on a blackened spot just ahead of them, fanning out and coming to the borders of what appears to be a repurposed trough for feeding pigs.

Hannibal blinks, his eyes widen, and he almost drops the bag of meat in his shock. He has been in many a creature's lair, found it lacking any kinds of comforts – even dragons, with their riches and beds of gold, usually have a hearty pile of corpses and burned stone to accompany their presence.

Will's lair has no such things.

There are high walls, rising up like a dome to the ceiling, carved roughly like a great beast had hewn it themselves. Within the walls are shining mineral lines, glittering shafts of silver and iron ore that fall as rain on glass down to the floor. Will's nest, in a corner, is piled with cloaks, with feathers, with a startlingly low amount of gems. Hannibal sets down his bag of meat and steps close to the fire. The dome itself is no larger than a house, certainly not large enough to fit the great metallic drakes that live further South. The air, though cold, warms quickly in Will's fire, and he notes that though it is a great flame, it creates no smoke, and the air remains crystal-clear.

He wonders, absently, if the characteristic mound of kills in similar monsters is, rather, at the bottom of the cliff.

He creeps closer to Will's nest, curious, and finds that it is inhabited. There is a dog, a brindle mutt with triangular ears and long, soft-looking fur. It stirs as he approaches, lifts its head and fixes him with dark, intelligent eyes. It barks, once, the sound echoing.

"That's Winston," Will says, startlingly close. Hannibal jumps, and turns to look at him. Will is smiling, absently picking at the plume of feathers around the end of his tail. The dog barks again, tail wagging wildly, and stands, trotting over to Will. He jumps up and Will's smile widens, petting the dog, before he pushes it away. "I think he was an old sheepdog. He's a smart animal."

Hannibal nods, absently, watching the dog shake himself off and trot out towards the entrance, disappearing from sight. Will sighs, and flops down onto his nest, wings sprawled out and body reclined in a comfortable pose. He rolls onto his side, tail swishing like an agitated cat, and fixes Hannibal with a look.

"Sit down," he purrs, smiling. "Stay a while."

Hannibal huffs, and unbuckles his belt, letting his sword and knife fall by the nest pile. He shrugs off his cloak and sits on it, just shy of the mound of soft blankets. They appear to be mostly animal pelts, the occasional snap of shimmering silk and fine cloth buried between warm furs, thick grey skins that look like those of bears and wolves.

"Were these products of your hunt?" he asks, petting down one such pelt, that is warmed from the fire and from the heat he imagines Will holds in his chest, to hold such a flame. He lifts his eyes to see Will half on his stomach, splayed across his nest like a cat amidst rafters, head cocked as it watches the skittering of mice.

He blinks, his eyes shining and his pupils momentarily growing wide, perfectly round. On their border, his blue irises shine as diamonds underwater, and glow as the rest of him does.

He smiles, and shows Hannibal his large, predator teeth. "Yes," he replies. "They hardly had need for them anymore."

Hannibal hums, and pets over the pelt again, before he comes across a bulge in the nest, something hard and curved, and he frowns, pulling the furs back until he reveals the tip of a brilliantly-shining rock. It has a pearlescent sheen to it, silvery-green like old moss on steel. He makes a curious noise, loud enough to draw Will's attention, and the dragon sits upright as Hannibal flattens his hands around the rock and pulls it free of the nest.

It is, he realizes as he holds it up to the light, not a rock at all, but an egg. He can see, in front of the glow of the fire, the subtle shadowy outline of a fledgling dragon curled up within, delicate wings and thin tail twitching in response to the sudden light.

Will's shadow falls across him, and he reaches for the egg. He does not yank it away, but the look on his face suggests that Hannibal would do well not to touch it again, if he valued his life. Hannibal bows his head, makes a silent gesture of apology, and Will's expression softens. He turns, and lifts the tip of the egg to his mouth, kissing it, his wings fanning the air around it restlessly before he climbs back into his nest and buries the egg once more in the dark, warm space beneath the furs.

"Yours?" Hannibal asks, when Will sighs in something like relief.

Will turns and looks at him, his eyes paler, now, like they hold moonlight in them. "No," he replies. "And yes. I killed her father, so she's mine now."

Hannibal considers this. "Is that typical behavior for your kind?"

Will huffs, sits down and settles himself rather ungraciously, his legs splayed wide and his back bent, elbows to the ground like a toddler between his knees and chin resting on his cupped hands.

"I have never seen a dragon egg before," Hannibal adds, when Will merely blinks at him.

Will smiles, blowing out a breath through his nose. "No, I imagine your interest in our innards is bloodier than birth." He pauses, and lifts his gaze up in thought. "Though birth is fairly bloody. Or so I've been told. Not as bad as the females of your kind – they suffer tremendously in comparison to the men."

Hannibal laughs, and thinks of Alana, and has the fleeting impression that she and Will would probably get on rather nicely. "So," he says, and holds out his hands, gesturing to the cave, the fire, and the nest. "We are here, with an agreed week to become friendly with each other." Will hums, tongues the edges of his teeth, and sets his sights on Hannibal again. "Where do you propose we begin?"

Will grins at him, straightens, and pushes himself up from the nest. He goes to the fire and hauls the bag of meat up, the bottom of the fabric wetted and red, and he holds it out in offering.

"How about breakfast?"

 

 

Hannibal cooks his own meal in Will's fire, and Will eats the pieces of meat they share raw, occasionally tossing a scrap to one side for Winston to eat when the dog returns. It is a comfortable meal, the silence only broken by the crackling of Will's fire, though there are no logs and no source of things to burn where he lit it. Winston quickly settles – Hannibal notices he is laid over the spot where Will buried the egg, keeping it warm – and Will sighs after a while, his belly protruding in a curve from his meal, and curls up at the bottom of the nest next to Hannibal.

"We will need someplace cold, to store the rest," Hannibal says.

Will hums, like this is no trouble. He takes the bag – significantly lighter now, Will has quite the appetite – and takes it towards the entrance of his cave. There is a hollow there, into which he places the bag. Will returns to the nest, shaking his wings out and flopping down with a huff, his tail twitching as he runs his hands through the feathers on the tips of his wings, pulling them in front of him to groom with licks to his palm and strong fingers tugging through them.

"Are there many feathered dragons?" Hannibal asks, wiping his hands on his trousers and settling back.

Will shakes his head. "No," he replies, though he does not sound sad about it. "We are a small and reserved population, only coming together to seek mates and rear young, and then separating again." He lifts one shoulder and licks his palm again, his eyes on his feathers as he returns to the task of grooming them.

"When was the last time you saw one?" Hannibal asks.

Will blinks, his brow creasing in thought, and he lifts his eyes, letting out a considering hum. "I suppose…" He huffs a small laugh. "I suppose my father was the last one I saw, as I reached maturity. That was several lifetimes ago for men."

"And you have been here ever since, with only food and wolves for company?" Will nods. "No wonder you are lonely."

Will makes a sound, and shows his sharp teeth. "There is a difference between being alone and being lonely," he says with a sharp look Hannibal's way.

Hannibal smiles at him, until Will's expression softens as well. He stands, brushing himself off. "I'm going to go unburden my horse," he tells Will. "It is unfair to her, that I am so comfortable."

Will nods. "The wolves won't bother her," he tells Hannibal. "They know better than to go up against such a fine animal."

Hannibal tilts his head, wondering if Will is telling a joke. He smiles, and goes outside, finding his mare just as he left her, waiting patiently like she is tied to a post outside of the tavern. He takes off the saddlebags, first, and leaves them by the entrance. Winston trots out after a moment, sitting beside them, on guard for his master's friend. Hannibal takes off her saddle, then her bridle, and she works her jaw loose and blusters, shaking her head with a wild slap of her mane.

He cups her broad cheeks and pets down to her muzzle. "You are safe here," he tells her, and she whinnies, ears forward, huffing another heavy breath. "Wander and eat to your heart's content."

She nods, like she understands – Hannibal has always felt that she does. She nudges his chest and it feels like a 'Good luck', and Hannibal smiles as she turns away, seeking grass. He gathers his things and carries them inside, pausing by the bag of meat Will left. Though it is strange, and impossible, he thinks, given the presence of Will's mighty fire, there is a cold spot here. He can feel it through his boots.

He leaves his things to one side, between the entrance and the nest, and covers it with his cloak and his sword before he returns to Will. He finds the dragon huffing in aggravation, picking at the drying blood and viscera that leaked onto him from the stag. He has one arm pulled behind his back, trying to work his fingers through the base of his wings, his expression tight with annoyance.

Hannibal cocks his head. "Would you like some assistance?"

Will's eyes snap up to his, his irises shining brightly. He presses his lips together, and nods. "Please," he replies. "I can't reach everywhere and I can feel…" He trails off, snapping his jaws in another aggravated huff, and throws his arms up in despair. "I normally don't get dirt in them. It's very annoying."

Like a knotted piece of fur or hair on an animal. Hannibal understands.

He spreads his hands out and goes to Will. "Tell me how to help."

Will nods, and rolls onto his belly, his tail flattening between his legs. There is a shine to Will's feathers, here, brilliant and blue-black, like oil on a lake. Hannibal kneels in his nest at the side of Will, one of Will's wings pinned tight to his back, the other flared out wide.

"You have experience grooming your horse," Will says, his head turned and hands pillowed beneath his cheek. Hannibal nods. "This is no different."

No different, except Will is a dragon, and Hannibal doesn't think there has been a single man in the history of humankind that has been allowed this close. Hannibal's fingers flex, and he leans over Will, planting one hand in the thick mane of feathers that covers his shoulders. Will shivers, eyes going heavy-lidded, as Hannibal works his fingers into the base of Will's closest wing, digs in with nails and drags down to correct the grain of them.

They are butter-soft in his hands, slick like water turned semi-solid, and warm to the touch. Hannibal stares openly as Will's feathers ruffle and rise, as though aching for his touch. He tugs at the bottom of the base of Will's wings with his other hand, drags one to the other until the thick, smaller ones start to ease down into their proper place.

A few feathers come free, but Hannibal is not troubled by this. Birds shed, and lose feathers as they molt, and grooming an animal always brings hair and fur that is not meant to be there anymore. There is no pain on Will's face, just slack-jawed calm, his lashes fluttering as Hannibal combs his fingers through his feathers and carefully pulls each one back in place.

In Will's human form, his back is bare between his wings and his tail, just smooth skin colored golden by sunlight. But, as Hannibal works, he sees a sheen growing on them. Slick trails of honey-colored oil start to ooze from Will's wings, running down his back, dipping in the hollow of his spine and slicking his flanks.

Hannibal tilts his head, raises his coated fingers and sniffs, curiously. It doesn't smell like anything in particular – vaguely sweet like the scent of baking cake. He licks his fingers, tentatively, and the oil tastes like honeyed scones.

"What is this?" he asks.

Will shivers when his hands return, wings fluttering sharply, and tail curling, twitching between his calves. "Wing oil," he murmurs, soft and slurring like he's drunk. "Helps keep them clean."

Hannibal nods, accepting that. Once the downy feathers have been corrected, he turns his attention inward somewhat, finding remnants of hard knots, caked oil and little beads of dirt and sweat that have not been removed. He can't help thinking that Will must not have been cleaned here for some time, for there is much more than just deer blood and the usual level of dirtiness. There are pieces of wetted ash, shards of bone from sleeping in his fire pit, and crumbs of dirt that Hannibal can tell have been there for a while.

He works meticulously, his hands slowly growing soaked as he grooms and combs his fingers through Will's wings. This is the experience of a lifetime, he knows that, and cannot deny the visceral throbs of pleasure he feels when he works out a particularly stubborn knot of feathers and Will heaves a distinctly relieved sigh.

Hannibal is not sure how long he grooms Will for, but there comes a point where he must admit the task has moved onto the basic need of cleaning, and he is simply petting Will. The base of his wings and the thick cover at his shoulders shines like the rest of him, now, slick and clean, and yet Hannibal does not stop. He turns his attention, now, to learning which parts of Will that Will likes having touched. Which touches make his shoulders roll, which ones cause the muscles in his back to flex and rise. Will's tail is coiled up tightly now, sitting over his thigh, the feathers at the tip brushing along Hannibal's leg.

Will is purring – it is a low, pleasant sound, and reminds Hannibal of big cats. His eyes, heavy-lidded, are blackened and very dark, wide-pupiled. Hannibal tilts his head and runs his nails down Will's wings, then cups the underside of them and slides inward.

Will stiffens, his breath catching and his eyes flaring wide. He does not protest, but watches Hannibal, and Hannibal's eyes are not on him, still focused on the meticulous task of making sure he has gotten all the knots and dirt out.

He finds, on the underside of Will's wing, beneath the thicker thatch that coats the upper ridge, another hard knot of slick dirt. He huffs, wondering how he could have missed such a large clump, and digs his nails around it, giving it a firm and gentle tug.

Will's reaction is immediate – his free wing tenses up and flares, every muscle in him tightens and then releases, and he rolls down against his nest with a high-pitched whine, his teeth bared and fire glowing behind them.

Hannibal stills immediately, on alert – for Will wants to be his friend, but causing him pain would trigger an instinctive, violent response. Will trembles, growling weakly, but he is purring too.

His fire does not come.

Cautious, but curious, Hannibal brushes his fingertips along the nub again, breathing out heavily as a flood of oil leaks out from it and Will slams his hands down on his neck, claws curling and tugging, and he lets out another sound that is…not pain. Definitely not pain.

"Does it feel good?" Hannibal breathes.

Will gasps, and nods. "No one's ever touched there before," he replies, sucking in a huge lungful of air, only to have it pushed out of him when Hannibal touches the oil gland again. "Ah, fuck, fuck…"

Hannibal withdraws his touch, petting down a less sensitive part of Will's wing, allowing the dragon to recover and regain his breath. Strange, he has never seen a beast tremble like this.

He tilts his head. "Would you like me to…continue?"

Will whines. "I would…very much like that," he replies, and lifts his head. Dragons rarely feel shame, and Hannibal does not see it on Will's face now – he sees something hungry, something fierce and focused like a predator staring down its prey. Will's cheeks are flushed, pink in the firelight, and his tail twitches and curls around Hannibal like an embrace. "If you're willing."

Hannibal is more than willing. "It will be easier to groom you on your back," he says, and Will bites his lower lip, but nods. He rises to his hands and knees and folds his wings, rolling over, and they splay out again. Though it is a gesture Hannibal has never seen, he can't help liken it to the wanton spread of a woman's legs, desperately seeking a man between them.

Will stares at him, and Hannibal rises when Will reaches for him, pulling him over his hips. Hannibal settles as Will shifts his weight, grunting as he gets to a position where there is less pressure on his tail. Hannibal slides up, resting more on his belly, and is pleased when Will gives a weak sigh and nods his thanks.

He smiles, leaning down, planting his slick hands on either side of Will's head. "You are a very trusting creature," he murmurs, cocking his head to one side. "I could do grievous harm, knowing where you are vulnerable."

Will laughs, and shows his teeth. "And I would eat you for it," he replies plainly, in a way so calm that Hannibal laughs as well. He settles more of his weight on Will's lower stomach and puts his hands in the underside of Will's wings, dragging in. Will's shoulder feathers curl into his chest, mimicking hair on a man, and trail down his stomach in a thin line. When he breathes in, his ribs stand out starkly.

Hannibal finds the glands again, one on each side of Will, and he presses just beneath them, working up in small circles. Will's lashes flutter, then close, he puts his hands on Hannibal's thighs and digs in with his claws. They pierce but the hurt is small, mere pinpricks through his clothes.

Hannibal keeps touching him, measuring the shuddering inhales, the way Will's mouth goes limp, lips parting, showing his teeth and the glow of his fire. His eyes burn, brilliant with firelight and moonlight, blue-silver as he stares up at Hannibal, gasping.

Hannibal tilts his head, presses his lips together, and tugs with his nails and Will arches, snarling, his hands running down Hannibal's thighs and back up in a rake of claws.

Then, something.

Hannibal feels an insistent press between his legs, and pauses, rising up onto his knees to see a sudden, pink opening in Will's flesh. He did not let his eyes linger long on this part of Will before, but there is bulge there like any reptile, and now it is parting. From the slit of it, Hannibal sees the fat, wet head of a cock emerging as he pets Will's oil glands and gets him slick.

He smiles, a knot of pleasure low in his belly when he sees how much Will is affected. He is not immune himself – he would dare any man to have such a beautiful, dangerous creature pinned at their mercy and not feel pleasure at that.

He tugs again and Will moans loudly, his cock emerging another inch, and then another. His cock is shaped vaguely like a human's, but darker, not blush-red but bluish, the head of it the same pink as Will's lips. And it is large, and thick, and Hannibal sits back, watching as it emerges from its sheath, long enough to touch between Hannibal's thighs where he is sitting on Will's stomach, and then an inch further.

He pulls his hands away and Will gasps, pawing greedily at him, grabbing Hannibal's hips and rutting up in an instinctive grind. "Fuck, I'm sorry," Will growls, though he doesn't sound sorry at all. Hannibal is enthralled, and slides back to Will's hips, careful with his weight so he doesn't crush the base of Will's tail.

He presses his lips together, and wraps a hand around Will's cock, finding that where it's largest his fingers cannot connect at all. It is ridged, the flared head and the first half of the shaft resembling the handhold of a sword, though the grooves are less pronounced and soft to the touch. Below the ridges, Will's cock is swollen and harder, and Hannibal fists it, testing, and finds there is very little give to it.

Will moans at the touch, his eyes closed, his jaw clenched and nostrils flared wide. He tips his head back, growling to the ceiling as Hannibal drags his wet fingers down to the base, testing where Will's cock meets his sheath. It is fleshy and wet on the inside, the soft, dark pink of fresh meat.

"Hannibal," he breathes, and Hannibal looks up to him, finds Will staring with wide, dark eyes, his pupil overtaking almost everything. "Please."

Hannibal smiles, cupping Will's cock and letting it rut up between his legs. He leans over Will, puts his free hand into one of Will's wings and finds his oil gland again. Will stammers, his wings fluttering with arousal, his cock twitching and spilling a thick drop of pearly-white onto Hannibal's fingers.

"Did you think this would happen, when I offered to groom you?" he asks. Not upset – no, this is far too delightful a development for that.

Will moans, and shakes his head. "I didn't think you'd find them," he replies, and he is being honest, Hannibal can see it. "You are – fuck." His hips roll, arching up, his untouched wing thrashing and splaying wide on his nest. "You are a determined man."

Hannibal huffs a laugh, and bows his head to watch the pink head of Will's cock rutting up. He circles his fingers around it, tightening to hear Will moan. "You have no idea how determined I am," he murmurs. Will growls, helpless and trembling, his chest heaving and he is sweating, now, fire glowing in his mouth as Hannibal strokes his cock.

Will paws at his clothes, hissing when his hands prove uncoordinated. He tugs at Hannibal's trousers, hard enough that he will surely rip them if he keeps going. Hannibal huffs a laugh and releases Will's cock, sinking his hand beneath his clothes and pulling his own free. His own cock is smaller than Will's, just over half the size, but Will groans when he sees it, swallowing harshly like his mouth is watering.

He wraps a hand around Hannibal's cock, stroking with a warm touch and Hannibal growls, tipping his head back, and tugs on Will's feathers in answer, his hand returning to Will's cock. He rolls his hips, seeking friction for both of them, and Will whines, surging upright and wrapping his arms around Hannibal.

He rolls them, plants his hands beneath Hannibal's thighs and folds him up, driving his cock against Hannibal's belly. Hannibal gives a soft sound of encouragement, quickening his hand as Will snarls, snaps his teeth just shy of Hannibal's shoulder, his wings flared up high in dominance.

It exposes the underside of his wings and Hannibal reaches up, finds an oil gland again and touches firmly, circling it and causing more oil to drip down his arm. Will moans, trembling, fucking forward again and Hannibal cannot help but think that if Will were inside him, he would be undoubtedly split in two.

"Fuck," Will growls, and he wraps a hand in Hannibal's hair, yanking his head up, and kisses him. Despite his teeth, despite his fire, Will's lips are warm and unbearably soft, and his tongue is human when Hannibal gasps and he licks behind Hannibal's teeth. Hannibal releases his cock, clutching at Will's soft, unruly hair, slicking Will's oil through it as Will shudders against him.

Will pulls back with a gasp, shivering, his hand covering the bulging hardness at the base of his cock and squeezing while Hannibal works the head. He goes still, growling, and tilts his head back as he comes, spilling hot and thick over Hannibal's cock, his hand, onto his clothes. His wings snap out wide, shaking as well, and the sight of him, the knowledge of having brought such a creature to desperation, makes Hannibal's stomach sink in, his breath heave.

He comes when Will snarls, spitting a small jet of flame up into the air, and Hannibal gasps, palming his cock and Will's as he finishes, adding his own mess to Will's. Will shivers, and his purr returns, strong enough to make both their bodies ricochet with it. Hannibal watches as Will's cock starts to retract, his sheath taking the large bulge, the ridges, then the pink head disappearing with a wet sound.

Then, he is just scales and feathers and trembling, pink flesh. Will collapses over Hannibal, purring, rubbing his slick hands and his face over everywhere he can touch. It is affectionate, cat-like, and Hannibal smiles, high on his own release, and pets Will's hair and trembling wings as Will shakes for him.

Will lifts his head, blue returned to his irises now, and kisses Hannibal brazenly, and his mouth tastes like meat and ash, like smoke from a fire. It's not wholly unpleasant, but there leaves no room for argument over the subject of just what, exactly, Hannibal is kissing. Of who he is kissing. Who he just allowed to mount him and mark him with seed.

Will is wet, his flanks soaked with his oil, his wings shining. He lets Hannibal unfold, pets his aching hips and his thighs, and sighs when their lips part, a smile on his face.

"Well," Hannibal huffs, and brushes his thumb along the corner of Will's mouth. "That was a happy accident."

Will hums, and then he laughs, his wings fluttering with joy. His tail curls around Hannibal's leg and tugs him, so that Will can cover them both with his wings in a thick, sweltering cocoon of honey and flesh.

"Nothing you decide is an accident," he says, playful and purring. His wings flex as Hannibal pets through them, smearing their seed and Will's oil. He will likely have to be cleaned again. Hannibal doesn't mind that thought in the slightest.

"No," he admits. "I suppose not." He could have, after all, left his curiosity unsated, or pulled away from Will, but he hasn't. He doesn't want to, still.

Will nudges his cheek, licks over his jaw and down his neck. "I would like to keep having happy accidents with you," he murmurs.

Hannibal smiles, and cups Will's nape as the dragon purrs, and shivers, and presses down on Hannibal with his full weight. It is a gentle smothering, a protective gesture that Hannibal is sure is instinctive for Will. He bends his knees and cradles Will's hips as Will pets down his thighs.

Hannibal sighs, and drags his fingers through the mess Will left on his belly. Tastes it, and finds it tastes the same as Will's oil – a faint, somewhat salty aftertaste, but similar. His stomach clenches, another part of him fiercely curious.

"That sounds delightful," he murmurs, and Will smiles, lets out a happy chirp, and his wings tighten, shielding them from the firelight but still very warm. It is a comforting warmth, and Hannibal sighs, and lets his eyes close, his face tucked into Will's feathered shoulder. Sleep has never been an easy thing for him, but under Will is comes easily, his mind placated and lulled at the sound of the dragon's purrs.

Chapter Text

Hannibal wakes in a cocoon of soft feathers, obscuring any light as he blinks awake, sighs, and stretches. Below him, the silks and pelts of Will's nest are comfortable and soft against his cheek, the dragon's arm warm around his waist, their legs entwined, and Will's tail wrapped over his thigh and tucked under his hand.

Will shifts behind him as he moves, letting out a grumbling purr, and nuzzles Hannibal's neck. His wing parts, and Hannibal winces at the cascade of soft light that illuminates his den. There is a single shaft of it from the entrance, but the walls shine with daylight also, as though the sun is peeking through a dense canopy above their heads.

Will sighs, rolling onto his back, and Hannibal turns with him as Will shifts his weight and flares his wings, the farthest one stretching to the wall and butting ungraciously against it, feathers rumpling. He yawns, scratching absently at his belly, and then turns his head and gives Hannibal a wide, toothy smile.

Hannibal returns it, strangely endeared at the sight of Will, soft and shining in the low light. He is a beautiful creature, his wings and feathers shimmering with oil, his eyes bright as though lit from behind. Will turns back towards him again, his tail sliding down Hannibal's thigh and coming to rest around their ankles.

"Good morning, Will," he murmurs, and because there is no reason not to, he reaches out, gently brushing his thumb along the ridge of Will's cheekbone. Will's lashes lower, and he lets out a loud purr, turning his head and nuzzling into the touch.

"Mornin'," he purrs, and stretches again, feline and fine. "Sleep well?"

"Very, yes," Hannibal replies. "Thank you."

Will smiles at him, licks his lips, and rises to a sitting position. His pupils dilate and then form slits, before he blinks and they revert to their normal size. "Me too," he says happily, wings settling with another flutter around his waist. Hannibal pets, absently, at the ridge of his wing where the feathers are thickest. Will shivers, lashes low, and fixes him with a hungry gaze. His nostrils flare, and his head tilts.

"It rained last night."

Hannibal hums, sliding his fingers through Will's feathers, down towards the tips where the feathers grow large and stiff. Will's fingers clench, then flex wide, his tail twitches and curls in his lap. His eyes flash, and Hannibal smiles, before he has mercy on Will and sits as well.

"I should go check on my horse," he says mildly.

Will nods, and smiles at him, tension forgotten. "I'll go with you," he says happily, pushing himself to his feet. He goes over to the bag of meat as Hannibal fetches his cloak and sword, throwing his cloak over his shoulders and fastening his belt around his waist. Will returns with two pieces of meat, and throws one into the air, spitting a jet of flame out so that, by the time it falls back into his hand, it is brazed and dark on the outside.

Hannibal lifts a brow when Will offers it to him. "Do you often show off for your friends?" he asks.

Will grins at him, preening. "Only for the ones I like," he replies with a wink, and then tips his own piece back, swallowing it whole. Hannibal takes his piece gingerly, mindful of burning his fingers, and bites the first half off as they walk out of the cave.

They emerge into bright sunlight, the air heavy with lingering rain, and Hannibal looks around, not seeing his horse anywhere nearby. He does not worry, though – he knows enough about his mare to know she is a capable beast, and as afraid of a fight as he is. Will's dog is sitting outside the cave, and rises with a soft bark, tail wagging wildly as he jumps up to nose at Will's chest.

Will laughs, petting the dog's head, before he moves away and lets him go. Hannibal begins down the path headed towards the blackened place where Will sleeps. He finishes the rest of the meat as they walk, and Will jumps up on the little ridge above on which he'd carried the stag, grinning down at Hannibal when he looks up.

"How long have you lived here, Will?" Hannibal asks, for nothing else to do.

Will hums, brow furrowing in thought. "Many lifetimes," he replies. "I was here before the village, I think."

Hannibal blinks, his eyes widening. "…How old are you?" he asks.

Will grins at him. "Young for my kind," he replies with a wink. Hannibal rolls his eyes, and Will jumps down in front of him, turning and pressing a hand to his chest. His head tilts. "Does that bother you?"

"Should it?" Hannibal replies.

Will tilts his head, presses his lips together, and frowns.

"I don't know," he says honestly, and shrugs. His wings are hung low, brushing the ground, and his tail is wrapped tightly around his calf. His fingers fidget and he bites his lower lip, looks down, brow furrowing. "I don't…know a lot about humans. When I asked you to stay with me, it's because I wanted to learn, just as much as I wanted to teach you."

"Do you think there is much we could learn from each other?" Hannibal asks, genuinely curious. Will's frown deepens, his lips press together again and he breathes out, harshly. "I don't think humans are particularly fascinating, especially to creatures like you."

"Why?" Will asks, eyes lifting. "Because you live short lives and cannot fly? Why should that make you any less interesting?"

Hannibal considers this. "I…suppose it's because I have never found my kind interesting," he replies honestly, cupping Will's hand and lifting it, kissing his palm. Will's eyes brighten with mirth and he purrs, and lets out a happy laugh.

"And mine?" he asks, pressing closer, his tail unwinding from his leg to brush against Hannibal's, curling in between his thighs. "Am I interesting, Hannibal?"

"Utterly," Hannibal replies, his fingers tightening around Will's as Will hums, and tilts his head. The dragon emanates warmth, burning from within from his natural fire, and even on the frigid, wind-struck side of the mountain, Hannibal is not cold.

Will smiles, showing all his teeth, and drags his claws down Hannibal's jaw, to his chin, before he parts from Hannibal abruptly, and turns around to continue down the path. Yet, his tail tugs at Hannibal's leg, encouraging him to follow before it drops behind him. "I find humans an admirable sort," he says.

"Admirable," Hannibal replies, brows lifted, for of all the things humans are worthy of, he couldn't count admiration amongst them.

Will nods, scratching absently at the back of his neck and over his shoulders, cleaning and grooming his feathers into place as he goes. One of them parts from him, bent almost back on itself, and he huffs and flicks it away so it falls in a gentle cascade down the mountain.

"You are a very determined species," he adds with a shrug. "You figure out what is safe to eat, or how something is safe to eat, even if it means cooking it in a very odd way. You tame any animal you can and use it for your own gain – horses, dogs, bulls, so on. And," he turns around and throws a grin Hannibal's way, "you are all heavily invested in picking the biggest fight you can, whether it's with something like me, or with each other."

Hannibal's lips quirk in a smile, and he rushes forward the few steps that separate him and Will, and Will freezes instinctively to keep his feet. Hannibal uses that to his advantage, curling his fingers gently through the thick cluster of feathers at the base of Will's wings, where he is sensitive and slick, and tugs Will against him.

Will sags against his chest with a heavy gasp, lashes low over his shining eyes, his lips soft and parted. He moans weakly when Hannibal coaxes his fingers deeper, and lets one wing go, reaching beneath and flattening a hand over Will's bare chest, pressing them closer until the base of Will's tail is tucked tight against his legs.

"Do you think we are so unevenly matched?" he growls, teeth to Will's ear, breathing in the scent of honey and oil on his glistening skin and feathers. Will's hair is soft against his cheek and he turns his head, buries his nose in it, and strokes down Will's flank as the dragon trembles and snarls in his embrace.

"I could burn you alive," Will replies, though it is not said as a threat. His stomach is tense when Hannibal's hand sinks down, determined to keep Will rutting against him. Hannibal smiles, and, testing, parts his jaws and sucks at the thin patch of skin below Will's ear. The reaction is immediate – Will tilts his head to one side to give him more room, and his wings flutter and flatten, allowing Hannibal closer to his back. His tail twitches and curls between Hannibal's legs, wraps around his knee and squeezes, and Will's hands reach and grab at Hannibal's hips, urging him closer.

Hannibal lets out a soft, pleased sound, once again warmed to the bone at the idea of having such a powerful creature yield so readily to him. Will's submission is temporary, he knows that, and for it, it is all the richer. He lets go of Will's wing and wraps a hand in his hair instead, cradles and cups his nape, and bites.

Will snarls, his skin turning suddenly very warm against Hannibal's tongue, his lips, his teeth. He draws back to see Will panting, fire glowing in his throat, ready to be let loose, and Will swallows, turns, and wraps his wings around Hannibal, pulling him in tightly.

"You are a very determined man," he growls, pawing at Hannibal's cloak – though there is no intention to bare Hannibal here, he is ravenous and desperate, and Hannibal doesn't doubt for one second that all it would take is a little bit of eagerness on his part to get Will to take this further.

He smiles, cupping Will's warm neck as the dragon settles and growls against him, before Will pulls back, his eyes shining like the rocks in his cave. He wipes a hand over his mouth, huffs, and rolls his eyes when Hannibal grins at him.

"Perhaps I ought to rethink my offer of friendship," he mutters, and Hannibal huffs a laugh, following Will as they begin their trek again. The path winds around and Hannibal spies, a little way below, the edge of Will's plateau where he sleeps. The wind changes and brings with it the scent of old, charred wood, blackened bones, and the smell of the forest.

As well, rain.

"There'll be a storm tonight," he says, though he cannot see any clouds near or far. Still, the wind is strong up here, and he is sure it could gather up quite a bluster with some haste. They finish the long walk on the narrow path and Will stretches his wings, his arms above his head, and lets himself fall lax with a sigh. Hannibal can see no sign of his horse, but he does not worry – she is a capable animal and he's sure she has found some sweet grass or small animal to her liking, and will be content to ignore him until he calls for her.

"Oh!" Will says, his eyes shining and his smile wide. "That would be a treat. We must go flying if it rains."

"We?" Hannibal repeats, brows lifting.

Will smiles at him. "I am perfectly capable of carrying you," he says, and his wings flex and arch up as though proving how strong he is. Hannibal doesn't doubt him for a moment, and though he has yet to see Will as a true beast, he's sure it wouldn't be much different than being on a horse in terms of placement.

"I would have thought it unpleasant. The rain is cold up here," Hannibal says instead.

Will grins, and his tongue snakes out, long and forked, before it's reined back in behind his teeth. "Not with me," he says, the words a purr.

Hannibal considers this, before he nods – he supposes Will would be the expert. "I wonder," he says, and Will turns to him, lashes low and smile wide, "will you let me see your real shape? I would like to draw it."

Will's eyes flash, his tail twitches and curls between his legs, and he presses his lips together. One wing comes forward and Will tugs at the thicker feathers, the gesture surprisingly modest. It's a curious reaction, for he has never known a dragon to be shy.

Then, Will nods. "Alright," he says, and he goes to his large patch of blackened earth. He parts his jaws and blows out a bright jet of flame, igniting the charred ground until it leaps up as it did the first night they met. Hannibal goes to the edge of it, as close as he can stand, and sits down cross-legged, pulling his notebook and lead out.

Will steps into the fire, and breathes out deeply, his nostrils flared wide and his wings twitching as though in fever. His claws curl, and he kneels down, and closes his eyes. Hannibal watches, rapt, and there is a heavy cracking sound as Will digs his nails into the sides of his face, working his jaw down with a sharp snap, until it resembles that of an unhinged python.

He pulls at it, grunting, and from behind his lips emerges those that are black, and finely scaled like a snake. His teeth jut out, the muzzle of his dragon form emerging, his face splitting and fraying apart and Hannibal has seen a man skinned alive, he has seen a man torn to shreds by knife and sword and fire, and he watches, wide-eyed, unable to look away.

Will's flesh melts from him, now, touched and blackening in his fire. His wings snap up, heavy and wide and shimmering, and he falls to his bloody hands, snarling as his muzzle splits through his nose and forehead, and from the center crease emerges the sharp snout of a dragon. Then, his horns, which are like pale pearls and are coated in blood.

His shoulders roll and he makes a strange convulsing gesture, like a dog trying to shake itself of a harness, and his back widens abruptly, the skin on his chest splitting. His feathers fall out, revealing long, sleek black limbs, and white claws the same shimmering color of his horns. His back arches, and his tail snaps to one side, his knees bending backwards and splitting apart to make way for his hindlegs.

His head slides out slowly, and Hannibal cannot help liken it to a horse giving birth, forelegs and then nose and then long neck. He arches up and his shoulders, his flanks twitch, ridding himself of his flesh which immediately becomes charred and blackened by the flames.

He has a mane of feathers around his head, just as Jack described. They flare out and then flatten, and he has a small string of downier feathers that run down the back of his neck, to his shoulders, which are coated in a similar mane like that of the lion emblem of the capitol. He is sleek everywhere else, fine scales melted together like a serpent, and his feathers begin again at the base of his wings, and run down between them, to his tail which still holds its thick plumage. He is a black and blue beast, shining with the innards of his human skin.

Will snarls, snaps his heavy, cat-like teeth together until they slide into place and settle, and shakes himself off of the rest of his skin, fanning the air with his wings until his fire kicks up into a bright glow.

Hannibal is breathless.

Will's eyes, when they open, are bright and moon-like, shining just like the ones in his dream. He lets out a low rumble, stretching his wings and his tail, and Hannibal finds that there is not a single thing Jack told him that is not true.

"Beautiful," he breathes.

Will looks at him, delicate nostrils flaring wide. Despite his impressive stature, he is a lithe thing, with none of the large barrel-chests or guts of his fire-drake cousins. He holds himself with the pride of a stag, his horns jutting out sharply behind him, and meant, Hannibal thinks, for streamlined flight and for fishing.

Hannibal's hand moves over his sketchbook, capturing the outward lines of Will's dragon shape as Will shakes himself off again and settles with another heavy bluster. He blinks down at his fire, rumbling again, and then from his mouth comes another stream of light, this one white and blue like moonlight and water, and it coats the flames. A jet of cold comes with it and Hannibal shivers, pulling his cloak around him as he is suddenly robbed of the fire's warmth.

Will's eyes are heavy-lidded, and he rumbles again, and sits on his haunches like a cat at a window, wings slumped low and tail wrapped around his hindlegs.

Hannibal stands, and Will lowers his head, which is the same general shape and size of Hannibal's mare. Hannibal cups his wet cheeks, breathes in the scent of cooling flesh and fresh blood, and smiles when Will presses his muzzle to Hannibal's chest and purrs.

"Can you speak, like this?"

Will lets out a quiet, happy trill, the mane of feathers around his head flaring, peacock-like, and he gives a subtle shake of his head. 'Yes' or 'No' questions, then. That is easy enough. Hannibal pets down his cheeks, finds his scales warm and soft as lambskin. There is nothing sharp about Will, like this, save for his teeth and horns and impressive-looking claws.

"You're beautiful," Hannibal says again, because he cannot think of another word that does Will justice. Will purrs, and shows his teeth in a wide smile. Hannibal returns it, and brushes his fingers down Will's lips, lifting his upper one so he can see his wicked-looking teeth. They are serrated at the back edge, meant to cut and rip.

Will parts his jaws, allowing Hannibal to see his tongue, which is serpent-like now, and forked. Hannibal carefully touches his canines, pets into the corner of Will's mouth, his other hand sliding up to test the material of Will's horns. They are smooth and solid like marble, and cool to the touch.

Hannibal smiles at the feel of Will's tail feathers brushing against his thigh, and the dragon lets out a pleased rumble, fanning the air delicately in a move that Hannibal thinks is distinctly happy. Hannibal's smile widens, and he releases Will's mouth, combing instead through the thick feathers at the back of his head. Will has small divots within them, and when Hannibal parts his feathers he sees the soft give of Will's ears, a delicate flash of pink flesh within.

He runs his hands down Will's neck, finds that he is not all-black, here. There are some scales that appear blue, midnight and navy, likely to help him blend in when he flies and fishes. Some, still, are white as well to further help him. He goes to Will's shoulder and finds the second set of feathers, and feels a pulsing heat between Will's collarbones, where his throat turns soft and hollow.

Will's wings flutter again, his claws flex, and Hannibal pauses.

"I'm not going to harm you, Will," he says.

Will rumbles again, but settles, and Hannibal knows why. He pulls at the thick feathers covering Will's chest and sees, shining there, the pale blue fire stone that Will has – the thing that ignites the oil in him and allows him to breathe fire. He has never been able to see a live one up close, but has driven his sword through many.

He pulls back so he can see. It's no larger than the palm of his hand – much smaller, certainly, than some of Will's cousins have – but it is beautiful, and shines as the innards of his cave. Within it, light moves, like reflections off water.

He breathes out, and pets Will's feathers back in place. His hands are slick with oil and blood and he wipes them on Will as the dragon settles, visibly relieved that Hannibal did not harm him in a place so vulnerable.

Will's tail wraps around Hannibal, tugging him to his flank, and his wing lifts and pulls back so Hannibal can see his flanks, see more smatterings of white and blue scales, test the give of his belly versus his ribs and the power in his hindlegs. He is beautiful, utterly so, and Hannibal does not think he could spend a week admiring Will like this and be satisfied.

"Does it hurt, changing shape?" he asks.

Will turns his head, sighs, and nods, once.

"I am sorry," Hannibal murmurs, and pets through the ridge of feathers along Will's back. "I don't wish to cause you pain, even for my own curiosity."

Will bares his teeth in a smile, and rolls his eyes.

Hannibal grins at him, and runs his hands to the base of Will's tail, which he notes has lengthened and thickened somewhat to accommodate his larger shape. Will purrs for him, and settles on his side, wings splayed out vulnerable and trusting, exposing his belly and the soft undersides for Hannibal's touch.

Hannibal watches as Will nudges him, and then licks at his notebook.

He shakes his head. "Later," he replies. "If I may."

Will hums, blinking once, and settles with another sigh, curled up like Hannibal has seen his mare do when she feels particularly safe. He contents himself with continuing to touch Will, admiring the soft give of his scales, the heat of him warming Hannibal's hands and chest as he presses close.

It is natural, he supposes, that his hands would find Will's wings again, soaking into the sweet honey-like oil he produces as he idly grooms the feathers free of blood and viscera. Will starts to purr, his breathing heavy and slow, and Hannibal smiles to himself, pleased beyond measure at seeing such a powerful, wonderful creature place so much trust in him.

Will's nostrils flare, and his tail twitches, curling up tightly, as Hannibal's fingers sink in deep, seeking his oil glands again. Hannibal pauses, fingers flexing, as Will opens his eyes and fixes Hannibal with a look that seems expectant. Considering.

Hannibal smiles at him, and withdraws his hands, wiping them on his cloak before he retrieves his notebook. Will settles again, purring loudly, a small plume of smoke coming from his flared nostrils as he watches Hannibal, as he sits down and begins to sketch.

"Will it hurt to change back?" he asks idly, as he turns to a new page and begins to dedicate it to a likeness of Will's wings.

Will huffs, and shakes his head a little. Hannibal supposes if it's anything like his shift from man to beast, it's easier to emerge from a larger husk than a smaller one.

"Do a lot of your kind shapeshift?" he asks.

Will shrugs.

"I imagine it's a strange feeling. To almost be able to blend in. If you could hide your wings and your tail you might walk among us." Will hums. "There are creatures that can change their shape completely." Another hum. "Have you tried?"

Will shakes his head, and shrugs again.

Hannibal smiles, and continues to sketch. He might fill his whole book with images of Will and still not find it enough. The day creeps on for them, and Hannibal draws Will, capturing as much likeness as he can, before suddenly Will's eyes snap open, and he lifts his head.

Bares his teeth in a snarl, his eyes fixed over Hannibal's shoulder.

Hannibal rises immediately, drawing his sword and turning to put himself between Will and whatever it is he'd heard. Which is, he knows, absurd to do, since Will is a dragon and much more capable of defending himself from an intruder.

Will growls, rising to his feet, and Hannibal sees what he sees – it appears to be a single person, walking towards them through the trees, the snap of twigs and leaves beneath their feet and lack of clinking metal suggests it is not a soldier, but Hannibal cannot think of any other reason a person might venture this way.

Then, Will abruptly gentles, and lets out a high-pitched trill of greeting, and Hannibal frowns, lowering his sword when he sees it is Alana, emerging from the trees. She is wrapped in a thick grey cloak, and he did not recognize her with her hair tucked back like that, but as she comes into the light he sees it is her.

She stops, and looks just as surprised to see him.

"Oh," she says, and her cheeks color a pale pink, a delicate flush.

Hannibal sheathes his sword and tilts his head. "Hello, Alana."

She smiles at him, and then her eyes move from his, to Will, behind him. "Hi!" she says, and waves, and Will lets out another happy sound, and crawls from behind Hannibal, his wings fluttering in joy as she reaches out and touches his forehead.

"You two know each other," Hannibal asks, though it feels less like a question and more a statement of disbelief.

"In passing," Alana says. Will purrs quietly, his tail brushing down her arm, before he sits back and curls up between them like a watchful cat. "And you're not dead. That's good."

"No," Hannibal says. "Not quite dead yet."

She smiles, and gives him a sheepish nod. "I told you," she says quietly. "Some of us aren't afraid of him."

"How often do you visit up here?" Hannibal asks, and bends down to retrieve and pocket his notebook and lead.

"Not as often as I'd like," Alana replies. "I used to come up here when I was a child all the time, until my parents passed and I took over waiting in the inn." Will makes a soft sound, his wings flexing and settling at his sides, and Alana smiles at him. "But he has a good memory."

"You never told me," Hannibal says.

"What would I have said? 'No, don't hurt him, he's my friend'? You'd have called me mad," Alana replies with an arched brow, and Hannibal cannot deny that he likely would have. "And if the Bishop or anyone else knew, they'd do the same."

At that, Will's upper lip twitches, and he growls.

Hannibal looks to him, and then sighs, his gaze meeting Alana's again. "Why are you here, Alana?"

"You've been missing for too long," Alana replies, her expression turning serious and sad. "The Bishop is calling for an army from the capitol. He said if you had fallen they would have to take this mountain by force. He means to come up here, and drive the dragon out."

Hannibal's head tilts, and he looks to Will, curious why Alana does not mention him by name. Perhaps Will has never shown Alana his human skin, never spoken to her. Will blinks at him, tongue snaking out, and wraps his tail tight around his body. The gesture makes him seem impossibly small.

"We cannot allow that," Hannibal says.

Alana nods. "I came here to see if you had fallen. But since you are here, it…" She trails off, frowning, and looks to Will. "How are you still here?"

"Will and I have come to an understanding," Hannibal replies.

She blinks at him. "Will?"

Will chirps, and grins at her.

"He speaks to you," she says, her eyes wide.

Hannibal nods, but does not want to risk revealing Will too soon. "An ability I sense is not common," he says, and Will chirps again, tail twitching. "It comes in…imprints. But I have promised not to harm him, and him not to harm me, and I suppose we are simply moving along from there."

Alana huffs a somewhat shaky laugh, and touches her forehead. "This is insane," she says. Then, she sucks in a breath, shrugging it off. "But it's good you're here. You can warn him what's coming. The Bishop will not be persuaded to leave him alone." She pauses, and turns to look at Will. "You're in danger."

Will's nostrils flare, and he huffs, shaking out his wings. That particular gesture needs no translation.

Hannibal presses his lips together, and meets Will's eyes. "What would you have us do?" he asks Alana, looking to her again.

She shrugs, helplessly. "I didn't even know you'd be here! I have no plan whatsoever. But it will not be long before the army shows up from the capitol, and if they tried to march on the mountain, hundreds might die. Will might die, and I don't -." She pauses, and swallows harshly. "I care about him, Hannibal. There are those in the village who want him to stay here. I want him to stay here."

Hannibal smiles, and Will lets out another happy trill, his claws flexing against the stone.

He nods, and goes to her, embracing her gently. "I won't let anything happen to him," he promises, and she nods, swallowing harshly, and tucks her hair behind her ear. "You must go, before they notice your absence. Here." He whistles, sharply, and Will's head perks up, nostrils flaring as the sound carries through the trees. If his mare is nearby, she will hear. "Take my horse. She knows you, and when the soldiers come you will travel much faster on her."

Alana nods, her face pale, and not moments later Hannibal's mare emerges from the trees, blustering, careening to a sharp halt at Hannibal's side. He smiles at her, and pets her sweaty neck, sees twigs and bracken in her mane and tail, and blood around her hooves and mouth.

He leads her to Alana and helps Alana onto her back. Without a saddle and bridle, it will be a rougher ride, but he trusts his animal to remain sure-footed and not to throw his friend. Alana wraps her hands tightly in her mane, and looks between Hannibal and Will anxiously.

Will rises, and slithers over to her, presses his muzzle to her thigh and breathes out warmly. She smiles at him, and pats tentatively at his head, before Hannibal's mare jerks and blusters, turning away with the press of Alana's heels.

"God be with you both," she tells them. Hannibal gives her a thin smile, and she laughs, rolling her eyes. "Sorry. Force of habit."

"Be safe, Alana," Hannibal murmurs. "And remember – as soon as the army is here, come find us again. We must be ready."

She nods, presses her lips together, and then clicks her tongue, and Hannibal's mare snorts, head tossing, and starts the trek back down the mountain. Hannibal is sad to see her go, but she's an intelligent beast and Alana knows to care for her, and when her task is done, they will find each other again.

When Alana is out of sight, Will growls, and spits fire onto his charred patch again. He crawls into it and, unlike his shift from man to beast, the reverse is much cleaner. He ruts against the ground like a snake shedding skin, and from the husk of his scaly body, his large ribs and angular head, he crawls and pushes himself to his feet with a snap of wings and teeth.

Hannibal tilts his head, and eyes the remnants, and thinks that maybe it was not cows he was seeing, so much as leftovers from where Will changed shape.

"That wretch," Will spits, and Hannibal's attention is drawn back to him. Will's eyes shine, brilliant and blue and angry. He shows his teeth and spits another jet of flame onto the pyre as his dragon body burns and melts into another layer of ash. "I will have his head! I'll eat him alive!"

Hannibal can understand the sentiment. "What will you do?" he asks.

Will rounds on him, and there is fire in his mouth, behind his teeth. He is not coated in blood, but dry and glistening with oil, like his human shape sits inside the chest of his dragon form and waits to emerge.

"I ought to burn him alive," Will snarls, his claws flexed, his tail curling and uncurling like an agitated cat. He turns away, and then back, and meets Hannibal's eyes. "If it were only him, I'd go down there right now and smear his guts all over this fucking mountain."

Hannibal smiles.

"Even in your anger, you still consider the innocents," he says.

"Should I not?" Will snaps. "They have never harmed me."

"I just find it interesting, is all."

Will growls, shows his teeth again, his wings flat to his back, flaring out, and then down again. He looks at Hannibal, considers him, sharp and long. "Will you help me?" he asks.

"Simply tell me how," Hannibal replies.

Will's nostrils flare, and he lifts his chin. Prowls closer, and touches Hannibal's chest. His eyes shine, his head tilts, considering, calculating. "You would betray your own kind, for my sake," he says. "It wasn't long ago you were prepared to kill me at this man's command."

"Circumstances have changed," Hannibal replies. "I could not possibly harm you now."

Will's eyes flash, and he smiles. It's a sweet smile, in the same way poison is sweet in a goblet of wine.

His hand slides up, cups Hannibal's neck, and his tail wraps around Hannibal's leg, behind his knee, pulling him closer. Hannibal's hands settle on Will's flanks, and flatten, seeking his warmth. "I will not have my home taken from me, Hannibal," he says. "And I will not flee."

"Then the only option is to fight," Hannibal replies.

Will presses his lips together, and he breathes out, heavily. "It would be better to kill him now," he says. "Before the army arrives. But they are coming, aren't they? I can't stop them now. And it's not their fault – they are simply obeying orders."

"If we all obeyed orders, you and I would be dead," Hannibal replies.

Will smiles. "I suppose," he replies, quietly, head tilting again. His thumb brushes Hannibal's jaw, to the dip beneath his lower lip, and he's warm, warm to the touch, and smells of ash and honey in a taste that is thick and sweet on Hannibal's tongue.

He sighs. "Perhaps there is another way."

"What way?" Hannibal asks.

Will hums, and lifts his eyes. Leans in, and nuzzles Hannibal's exposed throat, and his lips are soft, the press of his teeth sharp. Despite knowing Will promised not to harm him, Hannibal cannot help how his hands tighten on Will, ready to push him back.

"I have never tried to walk as a human," Will says quietly, his voice thrumming in his chest, ricocheting in Hannibal's skull. He pets Hannibal's jaw again, down over his rushing pulse, and his tail tightens around Hannibal, his wings flutter and settle at their sides. "If it's possible, we can do this quick and quiet."

He pulls back, and smiles. "Will you help me?"

"Why not just ask me to go?" Hannibal asks. "I can kill the Bishop."

Will blinks, and his smile widens. "Would you do that for me?" he asks sweetly. "He asked you to kill me, and yet here you stand. I'm not fool enough to rely on the kind of man whose mind is too sharp to cling so stubbornly to duty."

Hannibal smiles, not even offended by Will's words. He pets up Will's flank, and wraps a hand in his hair, tugging until Will gasps, his lashes low, pupils big and black in his iris.

"The difference is night and day," Hannibal replies. He leans in, until their foreheads touch. Their noses brush, and Will swallows. "Ask it of me, and I will do it."

Will smiles, and leans in, claims Hannibal's mouth in a kiss that is soft and chaste and yet burns. "No," he purrs. "I will not part from you now. Besides, as you said, it does not solve the issue of the army. No," he says again, and shakes his head, his hand sliding back to rest over Hannibal's heart. "We must do this my way."

Hannibal breathes out, heavily, and wants to ask, he wants to know. But he cannot find the words. Will trusted him, and now he must trust Will, and Will has lived here for longer than Hannibal's ancestors have roamed the earth, and he is sure if anyone could bring down someone like the Bishop and the armies of the capitol, it would be him.

"You're the expert," he says instead of anything else.

Will grins, slow and wide, and tugs Hannibal into another kiss.

Chapter Text

Despite the sweetness of their last conversation, by the time they return to Will's den, the dragon is in a blackened mood. His tail twitches, agitated like a cat, the feathers on his wings and shoulders are puffed up and ruffled. He spits into his trough of fire to warm the place and ward away the promising chill of the oncoming storm, and then goes to his nest.

Hannibal sighs, inwardly, and fetches some more meat from his bag. "Are you hungry?" he asks, and when he receives no answer, he simply takes a piece for himself, slides it onto the end of the golden dagger he purchased, and crouches by the fire, holding his arm out to let the meat cook.

Will is sitting on the edge of his nest, his knees pulled up, his elbows resting against them, arms flat to hold up his chin. He stares, black-eyed and growling to himself, into the fire. His wings shift restlessly, his tail a tense coil around his ankles.

Hannibal cooks his meat, and eats it, before he returns his knife to its sheath, sets it and his sword belt, boots, and cloak by his saddle, and goes to join Will.

Despite his dark demeanor, Will shifts easily to allow him space to climb into the dip made by their bodies the night before. His eyes shift, past Hannibal, to a rise in the nest where the egg is buried, and kept warm. He sighs, releasing a plume of smoke from the corners of his mouth, and then sighs again, low-lidded eyes darkening, jaw slackening, when Hannibal pulls one of his wings into his lap and begins to groom him.

It has always been a calming thing, for him to clean and wash his mare. To pick at clumps of mud and flesh from her thick mane and dark hair, to see her gleam like a polished piece of obsidian. Will's feathers promise the same shine, slick to the touch as Hannibal combs the excess oil through them, picking out those that break away, combing others back into place.

Finally, Will sighs, and looks forward again.

"Here's my plan," he says.

Hannibal makes a soft sound – attentive, ready to listen.

"I will go to the village tonight, before the army is there, and I will slaughter one of their cattle. Or a pig, whatever I can find." Hannibal hums. "You will come with me. We will cause such a scene that the townspeople will know I'm there."

His head tilts. "You will not try and walk as a human?"

Will hisses, and shakes his head. "No. I will not allow that wretched man to scare me into hiding."

Hannibal nods. "The Bishop will hide," he says quietly. "He is a cowardly man."

Will lets out a quiet sound, his tail shifting, uncurling to press the plume of feathers into Hannibal's hand. Hannibal smiles, and turns his attention to Will's tail instead, massaging the thick muscle just above the feathers and correcting the long, black plumage back into place. Will is calming under his touch, feathers beginning to lie flat, and his smile widens.

"The army is coming," Will murmurs. "It will not be stopped, and if the Bishop's master deems it so, they will not be deterred, and will send more men. They will overrun the place."

His claws flex, digging into his thighs. He turns his head and meets Hannibal's gaze, unblinking, eyes shining like moonlight on water.

"You will kill the Bishop," he says. Hannibal presses his lips together. "And I will break the face of the mountain, so that no human can get to my cave." Hannibal's head tilts, and Will smiles, though it's somewhat sad. "There is only one way to get there. If I make it impossible, then they cannot hurt me, and I will burn any man who tries before he breaches the forest."

Hannibal presses his lips together again, swallowing harshly, his eyes dropping to where his fingers are buried in Will's tail feathers. He is silent, and nods, once – it's a good plan, and means the least amount of innocents will die because of the orders of cowardly men. And it means Will's safety – he is a dragon, after all, and can fly to and from his den without trouble. He need not walk to his plateau, and can move around his mountain with ease regardless of how difficult it is to climb.

And yet.

Will lets out a soft, cooing sound, and turns. His tail pulls from Hannibal's hands and he moves to his hands and knees, crawls up the nest and takes Hannibal's chin in gentle claws, forcing his gaze up.

His head tilts. "Speak," he says, softly.

Hannibal sighs, cups Will's wrist, and turns his face to nuzzle the dragon's warm palm. "It's a good plan," he says, quietly. "I suppose I'm just…sad at the idea of our friendship ending so soon."

Will's lips tug down at the corners, and his wings shift restlessly behind him. "Why do you say that?"

Hannibal laughs. "Will, I'm not a dragon. I cannot fly. If you mean to make your mountain impassable by any man, you must include me among them."

Will blinks, and then he smiles, huffs a breath and shakes his head. "Oh, Hannibal," he purrs, and brings his other hand up, cradling Hannibal's face. "Did I not tell you I won't be parted from you? It is only for the sake of stopping the army. Rocks can be shifted, paths re-hewn once we are safe." He leans in, rests their foreheads together, and shakes his head again. "I can carry you wherever we desire to go. I have no intention of leaving you, or of you, leaving me."

Hannibal sucks in a breath, the warmth of Will piercing his chest, spreading through his heart and lungs. He meets Will's eyes, parts his lips when Will's lashes go low, and his tail slides along Hannibal's belly and comes to rest on his thighs.

Will smiles. "Did you really think I meant to cast you aside?"

"Forgive me," Hannibal murmurs. "I think I still consider myself enough like my kind to assume I would share their fate."

"But you're not like them, are you?" Will says, his voice lowering to a soft growl, something that rumbles in his chest and makes his eyes glow. In the firelight, his cave shines in brilliant blues, and they coat Will like liquid moonlight, like oceans and deep underwater caves. They say the promised land overflows with milk and honey, and Will holds both, pale as he is, sweet as he is.

Will's wings flutter, and he lets out a soft purr, sliding his hands into Hannibal's hair. He tilts Hannibal's head back, rears over him, shifts his weight and settles on Hannibal's lap, his tail resting heavy between Hannibal's thighs, and he leans down, claiming a kiss. His mouth is warm, the tease of his fangs a sharp promise, and Hannibal shivers, grasping at him eagerly.

Will's purr grows louder, vibrating in his chest, his wings twitching and flaring up as Hannibal's hands drag up his flanks, finding the slick mess of feathers at the hilt of his wings and burying there. He gasps, groaning into Hannibal's mouth, lashes fluttering at the touch. His fingers tighten in Hannibal's hair, and his tail wraps beneath Hannibal's knees, coiling tightly, flexing strong.

He breaks the kiss, his mouth red and warm, and growls, nuzzling Hannibal's jaw. "The moment we decided not to kill each other, we changed. You're marked, Hannibal, marked as mine. If we met another of my kin, they would know it." Hannibal shivers, heart rushing and neck flushing under the heat of Will's mouth. He likes the sound of that.

Will purrs, and drags his claws down to rest over Hannibal's chest. "I have allowed you to see the barest parts of me," he whispers. "Touched me, where I am most vulnerable." And Hannibal knows that, he knows – Will's fire stone, his oil glands, his cock have all been bared to Hannibal's hands, the dragon in his arms purring and lax like a wildcat, showing its belly.

"You would have me do the same," he breathes.

Will smiles, purrs, and licks over his pulse. "If you're willing."

Hannibal trembles beneath him, sweating, burning from the inside. He swallows. He nods – definitely willing. Not just from the simple idea of reciprocity, but he wants it. He wants Will, to touch him, to taste him, wants to feel the heat and strength of him when he's at his most animal.

One hand slides through the feathers coating Will's shoulders, grabs the nape of his neck, fingers tightening in the soft curls there. Will gasps, growls, and presses his hands down, further still, to Hannibal's belly.

He bites, gently, at Hannibal's neck, and snarls, "Lay back."

Hannibal obeys, breathing heavily as Will shakes his wings out, rolling his shoulders. He slides back on Hannibal's legs, his eyes black and blistering with heat, fire shining in his mouth. He swallows it back, purrs as Hannibal lifts his hips, allows Will to unfasten his trousers and pull them down, pushes at his tunic to bare his stomach and chest. He sits up, just long enough to pull the garment over his head, warmed when Will gives him a pleased smile in answer.

Will sits, for a moment, simply regarding him, taking him in. There are scars on Hannibal, from old wounds, old fights both against man and beast. He hums, tilts his head, and lowers his cheek to the hair spreading across Hannibal's chest. Purrs, and nuzzles it, his hands flattening widely on Hannibal's hips to keep him down.

"Do all men have hair, here?" he asks, and Hannibal has to laugh at the innocent question.

"Not all," he replies, and curls a hand in Will's hair, gently petting him as the dragon purrs and rubs his cheek over his heart. "Some grow it when they're older, some always have it, some never do."

Will hums, and his tongue snakes out, forked, curling around one of Hannibal's nipples. "I like it," he says, wings fluttering in pleasure. He tilts his head, drags his nose across Hannibal's chest, up to his collarbone. Places a kiss, where it juts.

"And…here?" he asks, sliding one hand in, resting on the thickening swell of Hannibal's cock, Upwards, just a little, to where his pubic hair is.

Hannibal huffs. "All humans grow hair there, once they come of age."

Will grins at him, a joyous gleam in his eye. He rises up, licks his lips with a tongue now-human-shaped, and wraps a hand around Hannibal's cock, head tilted as it swells further, blushing a dark red in his warm grip. Hannibal sighs, pleasure coiling absently in his stomach, though Will does not stroke him, isn't guiding his arousal any higher. Will's thumb brushes along the tip of his cock, his eyes dark. He looks ravenous.

He slides back further, a rumble in his chest, and leans down, nosing at Hannibal's pubic hair. Breathes deep, eyes closing, and tilts his head, lets his tongue curl around Hannibal's cock, long and wet, and licks the bead of precum from the slit.

Hannibal gasps, for Will's mouth is very warm, lit by his fire, and the threat of his fangs do nothing but entice.

He licks again, humming at the taste, parts his lips and sucks a wet kiss to the shaft, his fingers sliding down to feel how Hannibal's cock twitches, pulsing in his hand. Hannibal growls, tugging on his hair, gently encouraging him to take more.

Will's eyes flash up, his smile spreads out slow and wide. He doesn’t ask if this is something humans do – he probably doesn't care. Dragons aren't the kinds of beasts that submit to moral reprehension, or social dictation. Hannibal has seen plenty of brothels in his time, seen women and pretty boys on their knees for men, submitting to such violation. He always found it somewhat distasteful, one-sided in such a setting.

Will, though, Will is looking at him like nothing would please him more.

"You don't have to," he still says, for the sake of propriety.

Will huffs a laugh, his exhale warm. His eyes close with another flutter of lashes, his shoulders rolling up, wings arched high, and he parts his jaws and takes Hannibal into his mouth. Hannibal feels no threat of teeth, nor the overwhelming burn of fire – just Will, unbearably warm and soaking wet. He groans, tipping his head back, clenching his jaw as Will takes him all the way in with no trouble.

Will hums, cheeks hollowing, sucks in a large breath through his nose where it's buried in Hannibal's hair. He spreads his hands out on Hannibal's thighs, wings trembling, tail thrashing wildly from side to side. He sucks, and Hannibal can't help the way his hips rise, seeking more, as Will takes him deep into his throat. He doesn't spasm, doesn't gag, merely lets Hannibal rest there for a moment, until Hannibal, overcome by the need for motion, tugs on his hair again.

Will snarls, nostrils flared wide, and lifts his head, sinks down again. Hannibal spreads his legs wider, allowing his shoulders room, trembles at the feeling of Will's slick feathers against his thighs. Will's wings drape over him, covering his knees and feet, encasing him in damp heat. He sucks again, wraps his long tongue around Hannibal's shaft, and pulls up with a throaty growl, lips parting from Hannibal's flesh with an audible smack.

"Will," Hannibal gasps, aching for another taste of that clenching heat, his heart rushing in his chest. He feels flushed all over, utterly consumed by the heat of Will. He may burn to ash beneath the dragon's touch.

Will smiles at him, lips pinked and cheeks flushed with pleasure. His eyes, black and wide, rake over Hannibal again.

Hannibal wet his lips, tugs on Will's hair, and pulls him into a kiss. It's passionate, and rough, and Will nips his lower lip to get them to part, slides his tongue into Hannibal's mouth and licks behind his teeth. Falls, rutting between Hannibal's thighs, and Hannibal can feel Will's cock emerging from its sheath, slick with natural lubricant to help him penetrate, heavy and ridged and bulging at the base.

Will snarls, and rests their foreheads together. "This will be easier on your stomach," he says.

Hannibal nods, and Will lets him roll before he is on Hannibal again, purring loudly, rubbing his forehead against Hannibal's shoulders. Will's chest and flanks are slick with oil and Hannibal shivers, closing his eyes and bowing his head to his fists as he feels Will gather some oil on his fingers, drag them between Hannibal's legs.

He huffs. "Dry," he mutters.

Hannibal chokes out a laugh. "Men don't get wet like women do," he replies. "We'll have to use your oil."

Will's wings flutter in pleasure – he is very excited at the idea, Hannibal can tell.

"Mm," he murmurs, and licks over the nape of Hannibal's neck. "But first."

He pulls back again, his hands flattening tightly on Hannibal's hips, warning him against moving, and Hannibal sucks in a breath when he feels Will's warm tongue lick between his legs – over his balls, up through the slip of sensitive skin, and then into him, where he's tight and dry. He trembles, groaning, rutting his straining cock against the soft pelts beneath him.

Will's tongue is insistent, powerful, as he licks into Hannibal, growling in pleasure to see Hannibal shake when he does it. Outside, there is a rumble of thunder, and it sounds like Will's purr. Will presses deep into him again, clawing at Hannibal's hips tight enough to raise little red lines, and Hannibal moans, grits his teeth. It feels good – he has never been touched here, never had the inclination, but Will's tongue, his mouth, feels like rapture. Will fucks in again, wets Hannibal with saliva, and then he pulls back. Slick as Hannibal is, as eager and wanting as he is, one of his oil-wet fingers slides in easily.

Hannibal tenses, instinctively, the intrusion not entirely welcome since his body has never felt it before. He has felt the introduction of food, of wine, of steel, but never this – and, he must admit, he's wary of Will's claws.

But Will doesn't hurt him. He rubs his cheek against Hannibal's back, licking over the sheen of sweat, purring in delight. Hannibal clamps down around him, shivering as he feels Will's cock slide between his legs, and he's reminded of its size, how unyielding the base of it is, and another tremor runs down him, half anticipation, half tension.

"Relax," Will purrs, and rears up, nosing at his neck until Hannibal yields, and shows his throat. "I promise it'll feel good."

Hannibal growls.

Will laughs at that. "Do you think I am completely innocent?" he asks, his voice bright with humor. Before Hannibal can answer, he works another finger in, and Hannibal falls silent. "When I lived in my father's nest, I saw many a mating season come and go." A shiver runs through him, then, and Hannibal tilts his head to see Will's face slack, lashes low, smiling at the memory. "You should have heard them – to see a mating pair in flight, to hear when they finally joined." His wings flutter, and rise, snap out wide. Will is ruffled, now, instinctively trying to make himself bigger, assert himself as the dominant male, and Hannibal is enthralled to see it.

Still, that was dragons with their own kind. Hannibal is not a dragon.

As though sensing his thoughts, Will's eyes flash, and he smiles, leaning down to kiss and nuzzle Hannibal's shoulder. "You'd make a beautiful dragon," he purrs, like he's in awe, and his free hand slides up, cups Hannibal's heaving ribs, drags in like Hannibal has wings, too, and oil glands to exploit. "Perhaps you'd be black, like me. Or gold. Oh, yes." He shivers, jaw going slack, and bares his teeth against Hannibal's soft flesh. "You'd be beautiful, absolutely breathtaking, more than you already are."

Hannibal can't help but smile, warmed and placated by Will's awed whisper. Will trembles, his fingers curling down, and Hannibal's breath hitches, a sudden spike of warmth in his belly as Will touches a sensitive place inside of him. It feels good, to be touched there, like slipping into a warm bath after a hard day's ride.

Unbidden, he moans, lifting his hips to seek more of it, chest flat to the nest.

Will's eyes flash, sharpen with understanding. He smiles, and turns his fingers to touch there again, and Hannibal rewards him with another tremor, neck to spine, his mouth slack and his fingers fisting tight in the pelt beneath his cheek.

Will growls, working in a third finger, and Hannibal is wet, now, wet as a woman, and he reaches below his belly to fist his cock, working himself back up to full hardness, until he's leaking there, too. Will's nostrils flare, his upper lip twitches, and he brushes his fingers over that sensitive spot again just to hear Hannibal moan.

"Hannibal," he snarls, eager now, aching with desire. Hannibal shivers, tensing in his shoulders, as Will bites down – lightly, but it burns, fire in his mouth. Hannibal moans again, louder now, and spreads his legs, working his hips back onto Will's fingers. Will slides a hand into his hair, jerks his head up and kisses his flushed neck. "I'd chase you," Will says, dark with promise. "If you flew from me, I would follow. I'd hunt you over leagues, through the worst of storms, until you allowed me to mount you."

Allowed. This is Will, asking. Hannibal needs to grant him permission.

He lets out a weak sound, and slides his hand to Will's, in his hair. Laces their fingers together.

"You've caught me," he breathes, and turns his head to meet Will's black eyes. "Mount me now."

Will's wings snap out, and then fall around them both, encasing Hannibal in darkness. He pulls his fingers out and lets Hannibal's head go, flattening his hands to Hannibal's flanks. Digs in, with his nails, and slides up his thighs. His tail falls against Hannibal's back, weighing him down, so only his hips are risen, allowing Will the perfect angle.

Will's cock, when it breaches him, burns. Will is large, the flared head of his cock spreading Hannibal apart. Hannibal groans, trembling, baring his teeth as he feels Will push into him. Will snarls in answer, his teeth at Hannibal's sweaty nape, licking along his hairline. He feels the drag of Will's feathers all around him, feels the weight of his strong tail, the hard knot of his fire stone between his shoulder blades. It burns, lit up for Will to breathe flame, and Will digs his claws in, punctures delicate flesh, and pushes.

Hannibal has never seen a mated pair in flight, but he's heard stories. He recognizes the instincts in Will, now – the need to wrap himself around his mate, to dig in with claws and teeth, forcing her submission. The need to wrap a female in his wings and breed her before the freefall, where there is only a certain amount of time before they will go crashing to the earth.

Will's head pushes in, and Hannibal is intimately aware of every ridge as it forces his sensitive rim apart. He's alight with sensation, and groans when Will's cockhead brushes along that sensitive place inside of him, and then past it. Each ridge meets tender, spasming muscle, forcing sensation against that place, and oh, oh, oh -. Hannibal fists his cock tightly, groaning in pleasure and pain mixed together. He feels split in two, like his bones are having to part to make way. Feels, against his knuckles when he grips the head of his own cock, a bulge in his belly as Will forces his way inside.

Will snarls, drags his claws down, bites Hannibal's neck to hobble him. Hannibal is trembling, groaning in a bastardized mix of pain, relief, desire. Will is a blistering heat behind him, utterly consuming, and then Hannibal feels the bulge at the base of his cock – a knot, his brain supplies no other word – to tie them together and ensure his breeding instinct is satisfied.

Will's chest rumbles with a purr. He unsheathes his teeth from Hannibal's neck, presses his forehead against his sweaty shoulder. Ruts back, gasping, an animal snarl caught in his throat, and then forward again. Another delicious press of the ridges of his cock, and Will is leaking from his sheath, staining Hannibal's thighs, uses the slick to wet his cock as he pulls back and thrusts in again, bulging Hannibal's stomach and tenderly battering his sensitive flesh.

Will lets go with one hand, slides it into Hannibal's sweaty hair. Groans into his ear, licks the arch and bites down gently.

"Mine," he snarls, and Hannibal cannot deny it; there is no other way to feel, covered and mounted by a beast such as Will. Will ruts again, a graceful roll of his hips that pierces Hannibal in two, drags agonizingly against his rim and that spot, and Hannibal clenches his eyes tightly shut, the heat in him blossoming, rushing down. It feels like fire.

"Oh, yes, that's it," Will snarls, as Hannibal starts to tighten. He fucks in again harshly, tightens his fist in Hannibal's hair, and bites down on the back of his neck. "Yes, that's it, let it take you." Hannibal makes a sound, not unlike a whine, pitiful and strangled in his chest before it can take wing.

Will's hand slides to Hannibal's belly, flattens over his stomach, low, as Hannibal tightens his hand and strokes. He purrs, pressing deep, it aches inside, so much, and yet Hannibal knows Will has yet more to give.

"Hannibal," he gasps, a low rumble. He flattens himself to Hannibal's back, moans as Hannibal's ass tightens around him, spasming uncontrollably. Hannibal moans, buries his forehead to the pelts, arches up and pushes back. Will immediately rears up, cups his hips, helps him move, muscles finally giving, relaxing enough that it doesn't hurt anymore, no more than a delightful ache. "Yes, that's good, that's good, fuck."

New heat flares between them, the soft roar of Will breathing his fire, and Hannibal's heart stutters, goes still. He comes with a rough snarl, stroking himself through it, every muscle going tight and rigid. Will gasps, sliding a hand up his back, claws curling in, and in a brief moment of weakness, of laxness, he ruts in, forcing his knot past Hannibal's rim, into his body. It puts pressure on that sensitive spot and Hannibal groans, muffles a curse to his own forearm, stomach sinking in. Will's hand goes back to his stomach, finds the bulging line of his cockhead inside Hannibal. He rubs over the spot, purring loudly as Hannibal works himself through the aftershocks.

"Fuck," Will snarls, and then he's coming, flooding Hannibal with heat. Hannibal is panting, and lets his cock go, pulled to his hands and knees though he doesn't know if he can maintain his own weight. Will's tail falls away, curls under him instead, keeping him upright. His wings flare, allowing Hannibal a wash of comparatively cool air, and he sucks in a breath, shivering as his body tightens around Will's knot. It's pulsing inside of him with every aftershock, and Will's hands are gentle, petting his bleeding flanks, the back of his neck, his aching hips.

He tugs, working Hannibal back so he's sitting on his heels, his knees pressed to his heavy stomach, and flattens himself over Hannibal, purring and nuzzling him with unrepentant joy and relief. The feathers on his shoulders and chest are wet, and Will's hands are slick with oil as they cup Hannibal's chest, thumb his nipples, caress his collarbones and down his heaving flanks. Will's hips twitch, rabbiting thrusts to coax his knot to move, testing the seal of Hannibal around him, and Hannibal moans, oversensitive, stuffed full.

He reaches back and palms Will's hip. "Be still," he rasps, and Will obeys immediately, pushing himself upright so they're not quite so in danger of being smothered. Hannibal rubs his hand over his face, wipes his other one clean on the pelts, sets his fists to the nest and tries to catch his breath.

His back burns from the heat of Will's fire stone, his lungs ache, his insides feel battered to pieces. But oh, there is satisfaction there, too, a gentle undercurrent of pleasure that is Will's purr, the stretch of his knot, the way his warm hands pet over every inch of Hannibal he can reach.

Will's tail wraps around his knees, brushing fever-warm, and Hannibal sighs, smiling, and pets an absent hand through the feathers.

Will's purr crests, rising and falling like a breath. He cups Hannibal's hips.

"Relax," he whispers, and Hannibal nods, gasping still as Will carefully works him until his knot pulls out. It's a brief sting, a ragged ache left behind, and then the undeniable flood of semen pouring out of him, staining his thighs. Hannibal shivers, swallowing harshly, and turns when Will guides him around.

Will cups his face, kisses him with no less passion than before. He smiles, and Hannibal smiles back, and Will's wings flutter in pleasure to see it. He's sweaty, too, his hair flat on his head, his eyes bright, cheeks flushed a lovely, dark pink.

Will's lashes go low, and he leans in, kisses again. Hannibal's neck hurts under his touch, but it's a good ache – one he eagerly welcomes, and would see done again. Will slides into his lap, purring, ruffled wings shining with oil.

"We can't call that an accident," Hannibal says, laughing.

Will huffs. "No," he replies, and shakes his head. He sighs, alight with joy – dragons feel no shame, there's no reason for Will to be embarrassed or coy, no matter how unnatural the rest of the world would think what they just did was. As a result, Hannibal is not ashamed either. Nor should he be, he thinks; he would challenge any human not to feel distinctly pleased at rendering a mighty beast so…human.

Will smiles, and kisses him one more time, before he sighs again. "Rest," he murmurs, petting Hannibal's hair from his face. "I'll get you some water, and something to eat." His eyes flash, another gleam of anticipation sparking in them. "You'll need your strength for tonight."

Hannibal laughs, and pulls Will closer. "I'd rather you stayed close," he replies. Will grins, gives a little pleased trill, wings fluttering and curling around them both.

"Alright," he replies, happy as ever to remain. They roll onto their sides and Will wraps Hannibal up in his wings, nosing his neck with another pleased purr. Despite his protests, Hannibal is tired, and sore, and Will's warmth is comforting now. He shivers, pressing eagerly against it, and closes his eyes.

 

 

He wakes, to pelting rain and the crack of lightning. Will hums, kisses his chest, and rises.

"It's time."

Hannibal nods, rolling upright, and winces at the soreness in his thighs, his back, his flanks, his neck – and, most notably, between his legs. He swallows it back, grabs his shirt and trousers, and dons them as Will goes to the flickering fire. It's much lower now, but still warm. Hannibal rises, dresses, and goes to gather his cloak and sword.

Will returns with more meat, breathes onto a piece and hands it to Hannibal, swallowing the other raw. Hannibal smiles, and takes it with a grateful noise.

He shifts his weight, and winces.

Will notices. "Sore?" he asks. He isn't smug about it, but neither is he concerned. Hannibal supposes he wouldn't be.

Hannibal merely nods, and slides his dagger into his belt.

Will hums. "The flight down will be short," he promises, a hand on Hannibal's shoulder. Hannibal blinks – though this was Will's plan, he hadn't actually taken into account that it would mean Will would be as a dragon, and the fastest way to get down to the village would be through flight.

He smiles. "Dragon slayer to dragon rider," he teases.

That gets a reaction – Will rolls his eyes, shoving Hannibal playfully.

"My saddle and bridle should fit you. You and my mare are about the same size."

Will raises a brow, haughty, and lifts his chin. Narrows his eyes. "Let's not get ahead of ourselves," he mutters, though Hannibal can tell he's still teasing. He grins, unable to hold the stern look for long. Then, his lashes lower, and he presses close. "Though, maybe…"

Hannibal looks at him, brows lifting.

Will grins. "Maybe, when all's said and done, I'll let you mount me. In the more…intimate sense of the word."

Hannibal's breath catches. He blinks, and blinks again, and Will laughs, and leans up for a kiss before he can reply.

"Come now," Will says, and takes Hannibal's hand, leading him into the storm. "Time for us to show this Bishop the wrath of the old gods."

Hannibal smiles, and follows.

Chapter Text

Will walks him out into a chilling downpour of rain, thunder and lightning rolling and cracking above them like two cats at play. Hannibal shivers, cold despite his cloak, rain slicking his hair to his face and dripping down his clawed neck, gathering in his clothes. Will doesn't seem to feel the cold – he lifts his face to the sky, and lets out a laugh, wings fluttering in anticipation when another streak of lightning colors him silver and shining.

Then, Will goes to his hands and knees, and Hannibal watches, breathless, as his jaw unhinges, his skin splits again. Watching Will change shape the second time is no less amazing than the first, and he is rapt, wide-eyed, watching Will's tail trash, his claws rend his flesh apart to bare soft, sleek black scales, his jaws split apart and reveal his muzzle, his horns burst from his head. He changes slowly, like the last time, slithering as a dragon from what remains of his human body.

He stretches, arching high like a cat, wings snapping out and fluttering as the rain soaks him and makes him shine. He shakes himself off like a dog, and Hannibal laughs, raising his hand to shield his face from any wayward splattering of blood or flesh.

Then, Will turns to him, his eyes large and glowing silver, pupils wide and round. He bares his teeth in a smile, pulls his wings back, and tosses his head, gesturing for Hannibal to climb on. Hannibal goes to him, pets his hands over Will's scales and finds that, indeed, he is very warm. Warm enough that, Hannibal thinks, he might be comfortable even in such a heavy storm.

Will bows down with a rumble, eyelids clicking at he blinks, and Hannibal fits his foot into the crease of his foreleg, digs his hands into Will's feathers and tugs himself up. There is a small gap, between the base of Will's neck and where his shoulders give way to his wings, where there are no feathers, and Hannibal sits there, grimacing as his sore body protests being spread around Will's body.

Will huffs, turns his head and grins.

"Alright," Hannibal says with a roll of his eyes, and pulls his hood up over his head to protect his face when Will takes flight. "There's no need to act all smug about it."

Will chirps, wings fluttering, and rises to all fours. His wings spread out and he surges forward, powerful hindlegs gathering beneath him, and Hannibal tightens his thighs around Will, clutching at the mane of feathers along the back of his neck, as Will pushes himself into the air. His wings snap out, pushing down with a powerful beat, and he tucks them in, uses the sharp slope of the mountain on which he feeds his wolves to gather speed and catch the air. His wings snap out just before they hit the trees and Hannibal gasps, the force of it pushing him low to Will's back as Will wheels around, gathers height, and not even the cold rain or the promise of thunder can stop Hannibal's chest swelling with elation.

This is something he knows no man has ever experienced – not in his lifetime, and maybe never will after. The forest and mountain spreads out darkly beneath them. Hannibal finds that he is able to tuck his heels around Will's forelegs, securing his place as Will curls his legs up to give him something to grip, and he loosens his thighs, leaning into the natural curve of Will as he starts a slow circle around his mountain.

The village comes into view, almost invisible save for a small cluster of flickering lights. On nights like this, people stay inside to wait out the storm.

Will rumbles, his jaws parting, and Hannibal gasps as he feels a sudden surge of heat between his legs, under his hands. Will's neck lights up with an orange glow and he roars, spitting a huge jet of flame that makes the trees look white. He roars again, and Hannibal's eyes widen as, below them, under the rumble of thunder, he hears a howl.

Will snaps his teeth together, purring, and corrects his course with a sharp turn, plummeting down towards the set of fields outside the village proper. Hannibal winces, burying his face in Will's warm, slick feathers as they descend, and what turned into an overnight ride is finished in a matter of minutes, as Will's wings snap out with an audible crack, sending rain flying. He beats his wings, growls, and touches down on his hindlegs first, running a few paces before he settles.

Hannibal straightens, dismounting with another grunt. Will has landed in a field where they keep the cattle, and the animals flee from him with a bellow of panic, to the very edges of the field. Will turns his head, butts his muzzle against Hannibal's chest and Hannibal cups his smooth cheeks, warming his hands despite the rain.

Will's tail curls around him, and he rumbles quietly. The wolves are still howling.

Will licks at his shirt, letting out another pleased chirp, feathers ruffling and wings fluttering with anticipation. Hannibal smiles, curls his fingers behind Will's jaw, and kisses his forehead.

"When it's finished," he murmurs, and Will blinks at him, "what would you have me do?"

Will blinks again, lifting his head and eyeing the cows as they frantically pace around the edges of the field. He grins, blowing out a breath of smoke, and bobs his head down to their feet. Hannibal's head tilts. "Bring him here?"

Will nods.

"As you wish."

Will nuzzles him again, lids low over his bright eyes. He lifts his head, rubbing his soft cheek against Hannibal's, and turns away. Hannibal follows suit, drawing his sword, and pushes his hood back from his face.

He marches towards the village, and hears Will give another load roar, and another jet of flame lights the sky at his back.

 

 

It is not difficult to find the Bishop. He is, at heart, a man of hedonism despite his claims to serve a pauper God. He always takes residence in the finest house, which was once a place of worship to the new God, but since the village's return to Paganism it has fallen into some disrepair. It sits on the far edge of the town, and as Hannibal passes, he sees frightened faces peeking out from their windows, able to hear Will as he roars.

He passes the inn, smiling when he sees his mare in the livery beside it. She snorts at him, ears perked forward, and he goes to her, petting over her soft cheek. "Hello, darling," he says, and she snorts again, lipping at his shirt. There's blood around her mouth, and behind her, Hannibal sees a lamb that is on its side, torn open at the gut. "You've been busy."

She whinnies, high and sharp, and there is a burst of light as the door to the inn opens. Alana rushes out, shivering in the rain and clutching her cloak around her shoulders. She freezes when she sees Hannibal.

"It's happening now?" she asks weakly.

Hannibal nods, and steps back. "Stay inside," he tells her, and she nods, fleeing again. He opens the gate to the livery, so that his mare may follow him, and she does, head hung low and snorting as she falls into step at his shoulder.

He enters the Bishop's house, and it is dark on the inside, lit only with a few flickering candles in the center of the first room. Hannibal presses his lips together, grips his sword, and prowls inside. He finds the Bishop in one of the upper rooms, staring out with abject horror as another jet of Will's flame lights up the sky.

He turns when the door opens, his eyes widening. "Hannibal!" he cries, and goes to him. "Hannibal, the dragon is here!"

"Yes, I'm aware," Hannibal replies smoothly. It is then the Bishop seems to notice his drawn sword. He frowns, and shows his forward-jutting teeth. "You called for an army."

"We feared you were dead," he replies. But Hannibal knows this already. "You must go out and slay the beast, before it gets away!"

Hannibal shakes his head, lips thinning out. He steps forward, and the Bishop scrambles back, eyes widening further. "What are you doing?"

"Something that should have been done a long time ago," Hannibal mutters. He grabs the Bishop by his fine robes, yanks him forward, and slides the tip of his sword between his ribs. It's quick, and clean – far more merciful than Will would have been, or that Hannibal feels the man deserves. He blinks at Hannibal, gurgling quietly, blood rushing out of his mouth, and Hannibal hums, twists the blade, and idly thinks that Will's fire is a much more pleasant heat than that of blood.

"Shh," Hannibal says, as the Bishop clutches at him, trying to get away. He smiles, and holds him steady, pressing his sword in deeper. Killing is a pleasure all its own, and he doesn't deny that it's viscerally satisfying to see such a wretched man bleed out and die in his arms. "It's alright. You'll be going to your God, remember?"

He cannot answer. He spits out another hot gush of blood, his fingers weakening, and Hannibal sighs, pulling his sword out. The man's body slumps against him with another ragged sigh, all air expelled, and Hannibal ducks his shoulder and lifts him onto it, wincing as his sore body protests the movement, turning and carrying him back out of the house, his sword dripping blood in his other hand.

He finds his mare waiting for him, and she snorts, and seems pleased that this time when the Bishop is near her, he's dead. Hannibal hoists him over her back, sighing when she tosses her head.

"I know, darling," he says, and pets her shoulder. "The rain will wash it off. Come."

She snorts, and follows him again. Alana is outside, and she looks at Hannibal with wide eyes, her hand covering her mouth with a gasp as she sees who, exactly, his mare is ferrying. "Hannibal," she breathes, and goes to him despite the rain. "What did you do?"

Hannibal shakes his head, clicking his tongue so his mare doesn't go back to the dead lamb, following along instead. She whickers, pressing her soft muzzle to his hand, and he wipes his sword on his cloak before sheathing it.

"I've wanted to do that for a long time," he says. She doesn't protest, but Hannibal supposes she, still, is not exactly used to the sight of dead bodies. There's no need for it in a place like this – this is a resting point between capitol and shipyard. Nothing interesting happens here save for Will and his mountain. "Will has a plan, to hold back the army and stop people coming here and trying to hurt him." He gestures to the body. "This was part of it."

She swallows, but walks with him, shivering in the rain. If anyone else notices them pass, they keep to themselves. There is no love for the Bishop here, and Hannibal is a familiar enough face not to instinctively raise alarm. They walk through the central street, and then come to a halt by the field where Will landed.

Strewn across the road, from one side to the other, is pieces of a cow. Not just the animal, Hannibal notices, but evidence of Will's dragon carcass. He frowns, tells his mare and Alana to remain where they are, and prowls forward to investigate. It is utterly dark, and he can hear low snarls of animals, but cannot see them without the light of the village guiding his way.

Then, a streak of lightning parts the sky, and he sees.

There are wolves, a huge pack of them, prowling around the scattered pieces of flesh. They are huge beasts, thick-furred and wild-looking, their muzzles wet and red, their feet coated in mud and blood from the feast. They take up the entire road, and Hannibal sees that there is not just pieces of cow, and dragon, but human as well. Curling hair he recognizes, shining black feathers.

There is a roar, above them, and Hannibal lifts his eyes, widens them when he sees fire. A huge, great swath of flame etched into the mountain like a scar on flesh. Will's shadow swoops above it, and his belly lights up, fire stone sparking the oil in his gut as he breathes another huge jet through the trees. Hannibal knows Will's fire can withstand rain and weather, burn without fuel.

Alana gasps.

More animals are fleeing from the forest, large stags, rabbits, squirrels. Winston comes barreling out of the trees, barking loudly, and the wolves raise their heads. They seem to know him, though, and do not bother him as he darts across the road and down it, fleeing towards the mountain pass.

"What is he doing?" he hears Alana whisper.

Hannibal swallows. "He's going to bring down the mountain."

Just as he says it, another flash of lightning illuminates the air, and Hannibal sees the trees start to fold. High above them, shy of Will's plateau, the dragon dives and claws at the slope, tearing off huge rocks and sending them hurtling down. He is creating a line, and burning the trees above it.

He is, Hannibal realizes, making sure none of his friends are trapped up there with him.

Hannibal smiles, and turns, going back to his mare. He hauls the Bishop's body off of her and lifts him, taking him towards the wolves. One of them, the alpha, the biggest and most bloody, looks at him, ears perked forward, muzzle crinkling in a snarl. Hannibal smiles at the wolf, and throws the body onto the ground amidst the rest.

The alpha snaps its jaws, tilting its head to one side, and licks its muzzle. Hannibal backs away with a small bow, and grins as his mare trots forward, eager to share in the feast. The wolves must know her, for they make room without snapping. She is, after all, the biggest of all of them.

There is a heavy, sharp crack, and Hannibal looks up as a landslide spears through Will's fire, covering the flames with cold, wet rock. It is too far away to pose a threat to the village, but the pass cuts through the mountains, and will undoubtedly make the place impassable for a large army.

Hannibal turns to Alana, finds her staring up at the mountain with wide eyes, her hands covering her mouth. He goes to her and tugs her cloak more securely over her shoulders, though it is soaked through and likely not providing much warmth. "You must go inside, now," he says.

She nods, and lifts her face, pale in the darkness. "What's going to happen?"

Hannibal smiles, and pulls her into a warm hug. "I think you will not see me for a long time," he murmurs into her hair. She shivers, embracing him tightly. Her hands tighten in his flanks and Hannibal resists the urge to wince, feeling Will's lingering claw marks. "But I will keep Will safe, and he will keep me safe, and he has told me he intends to remain here, and keep watch over everyone who lives here."

She nods, pulling back with a soft sob.

"Will you…need someone to care for your horse?"

Hannibal turns, smiling as he sees the black shadow of his mare amongst the wolves, playfully tugging a piece of meat with one of the yearlings. "If she comes, then yes, but let her wander." He sighs. "She's been good to me, and deserves to live freely."

Alana nods. "Be safe, Hannibal," she says, and embraces him one more time. "May all the gods' good graces and all the luck follow you, wherever you go."

"And with you, my dear friend," he replies. She nods again, wraps herself in her cloak, and turns away, hurrying back towards the inn. Hannibal lifts his face, sighing and cold in the rain. Will's fire is dying down, now, and he cannot see Will's shadow flitting over the trees. Even the thunder, close as it is, covers the sound of Will's roar and the shift and slide of the mountain as it collapses and blocks the pass.

He thinks he will still be able to reach the plateau. He goes to his mare, whistling to her, and she bucks her head up, ears forward, and shakes her mane as Hannibal pets over her neck.

"You must take me one last place, darling," he tells her. She blinks at him, and snorts, and he wraps a hand at her withers and hauls himself onto her back, uncaring for the blood and the rain clinging to her. He digs in with his heels, directing her towards the mountain. "Let's go."

 

 

Winston joins them, after a time, panting and a dark golden-black as his shadow falls into step beside his mare. Hannibal slows as he reaches where Will has torn the mountain to shreds, the scent of burning wood sap and wet mud clinging. He dismounts her, and cups her face.

"Go," he tells her. She blinks at him again, nuzzling his chest, soft nostrils flared wide from the long run. But she snorts, after a moment, and fixes Hannibal with a dark, intelligent eye. Nudges him in what feels like a 'Good luck', and turns away. She nips at Winston's scruff, urging him to follow, and the dog barks, tail wagging, and disappears with her into the trees.

It is difficult to climb up, in a way it wasn't before. Mud is still falling in heavy rivers, the rock shifting beneath his feet and parts of the climb almost impossible, but he manages, and hauls himself up to Will's plateau. Sees that Will has torn the little path to shreds as well, so he cannot go to Will's den.

So he sits. He sheds his belt and leaves his sword to be swallowed by the rain. He has no need for it anymore, though he keeps the dagger and the little knife tucked into his arm guard. He pulls his cloak tight around him and huddles up with his back against the mountain, looking skywards to find any trace of Will.

None comes. The storm is beginning to calm, and the grey light of dawn is peeking over the edge of the mountains to the East. With it comes a wave of gentle warmth, and Hannibal sighs in relief, rubbing his pink fingers together and blowing on them.

Will comes for him when dawn becomes day, a whoosh of air and a heavy landing as he staggers to a halt near Hannibal on the plateau. Hannibal lifts his head, sees that Will is silty with dust and fallen rock. His scales are greyed-out, his eyes white and shining as the moon, smoke billowing from his mouth. He shakes himself off, snapping his wings out, and turns, meeting Hannibal's eyes.

Hannibal smiles, and Will grins back at him, and lowers his forelegs for Hannibal to climb on.

He does, shivering with gratitude when he finds Will is still warm, a soothing balm for his thighs and hands as Will straightens, and pushes himself into the air again. This trip is quick, merely to get to his den, and as Hannibal dismounts him Will is shaking with exhaustion, his jaws parted in heavy pants as he tries to catch his breath.

Hannibal pets over his soft cheeks, smiling when Will's tongue snakes out to brush along his arm. Though Hannibal is cold, and desperately wants to dry his clothes and burrow into Will's warm nest, he remains as Will changes back, emerging from his dragon skin to his humanesque form again, slick with oil.

"Is it done?" he asks.

Will breathes out, collapsing into his arms, barely strong enough to stand. Hannibal gathers him close and helps him into his den. Will is trembling, his breathing unsteady, eyes barely open, and Hannibal guides him to the nest, laying him down and covering him with one of the pelts.

"Will," he murmurs, petting his hair from his face. Will gives a soft noise, but doesn't otherwise move. "Darling, can you spare some fire? It'll help."

Will's eyes slit open. He lets out a ragged moan, pawing weakly at one of the furs. He gathers it into a bundle and coughs on it, a single trickle of fire spilling from his mouth. But it takes, burning brightly, and Hannibal gathers it and sets it in the trough, knowing it will soon grow and light and warm the den.

He sheds his sodden cloak and clothes, shivering despite the growing heat, and crawls into the nest with Will. Will flinches, whining in gentle protest, his wings coming forward to wrap around Hannibal in a tired series of twitches.

He buries his face in Hannibal's neck as Hannibal embraces him, petting the feathers on his shoulders as they warm up together.

Will sighs, as his shaking begins to abate. "The Bishop?"

"Fed to the wolves," Hannibal replies.

Will's lips twitch in a smile. "Good," he purrs, and doesn't otherwise move. "I asked them to keep watch for me, for a while." He sighs. "I need to rest."

Hannibal nods. He imagines changing so many times, flying so long, exerting himself so much has ruined Will greatly. "Rest, Will," he coaxes, petting his hair as the dragon's eyes flutter closed again.

 

 

Will sleeps for almost three days, only stirring long enough to allow Hannibal to feed him by hand and make sure he drinks water. He doesn't know if Will needs to eat or drink that often, but it feels like the right thing to do. Will's fire burns through it all – when it begins to ebb, Hannibal pulls another pelt from the nest and adds to it, and the den is warm and flooded with golden light. He eats the rest of the meat from the stag on their first day together, and spends the rest of his time after his notebook has dried with sketching Will, both from memory and in sleep, where he's soft and sweet and burrowed in his nest. By the time Will wakes, his notebook is full, and he smiles at the thought of filling more.

Will stirs with a sleepy groan on the eve of the third day, and Hannibal looks up, finds Will's eyes dark, lashes fluttering as he blinks and stretches. He moans again, melting into his nest, and then reaches out with an impatient whine when he finds Hannibal too far away to touch.

Hannibal stands, eagerly going to him, and allows Will to wrap him in his wings and arms, tail coiling around Hannibal's hip and settling at the small of his back. He smiles tiredly, cups Hannibal's face and draws him in for a kiss.

"How are you feeling?"

"Better," Will purrs in reply, and kisses him again. "The army?"

"I have been keeping watch, and seen no sign of them," Hannibal replies. "If your demolishing of the mountain did not stay them, the wolves will have."

Will hums, blinking slow like a contented cat. He smiles again, pressing closer. "You did well," he murmurs, and Hannibal's chest is warm at the praise. "No innocents harmed?"

"None," Hannibal promises, and takes one of Will's hands, kissing his wrist.

"I could smell his blood on you," Will says. "Though I would have loved to devour him myself, I think it's fitting that you were the one to do it." He laughs. "And he would make a fine meal. Fat religious men often do."

Hannibal huffs, and doesn't doubt it.

Will's wings flutter, cling for a moment, and then he pushes himself upright, stretching his arms above his head until his shoulders pop. He goes lax with a sigh, and Hannibal sits with him. Will presses his lips together, his eyes falling to the gleam of the golden egg, which has been bared since Hannibal had to take so many pelts and silks to keep the fire going.

His claws flex, and his head tilts. He prowls over to the egg, lifting it into his hands. Presses his nose to the shell and breathes in.

He frowns. "She's going to hatch soon."

Hannibal nods.

Will's frown deepens, and he looks at Hannibal in consideration. He sets the egg down, pulling what remains of the furs around it to keep the fledgling warm, and sighs. "There is a place," he says slowly, "where my kind takes our children to hatch. It's by the sea. We teach them how to fish, before we teach them how to hunt."

Hannibal nods again.

Then, quietly, "You should take her there."

Will's eyes flash to him, his wings flattening tight to his back and his tail giving a displeased twitch. "Would you not come with me?"

Hannibal blinks. "Would I be welcome there?"

Will smiles, and moves from the egg, prowling into place above Hannibal's thighs. His hands flatten on his shoulders, curling gently, and he leans in for a kiss.

"You're mine," he murmurs, lashes low. "I have marked you as such. We are not like your kind, Hannibal – we do not hold to the restrictions of men, and may mate with who we like." Hannibal shivers, unable to stop himself smiling. "But I know I never asked this of you. To be her father, with me, is more than being friends. And having happy accidents."

"Will," he breathes, and holds him tightly. "I could think of no greater honor."

Will blinks, and then smiles wide, showing his sharp teeth. He gives a happy little chirp, wings fluttering with joy. For they are this; bound together by blood and fire, mutual curiosity and mutual satisfaction. Will surges forward, claims Hannibal's mouth in a warm kiss, and lets out another happy laugh.

"You'll like it there, I think," he says, eyes glowing. His tail curls between Hannibal's legs, his hands flattening on his flanks. "The sea is beautiful, and there are forests all around it. It's warm, and the sunsets are like nothing I've ever seen."

"Sounds like paradise," Hannibal replies.

Will smiles, pleased, purring. He wraps his wings around Hannibal and embraces him tightly.

"Forgive me if I'm wrong," Hannibal says after Will grants him another long kiss, "but dragons tend to give their intended gems, or jewelry, no?"

Will blinks at him, eyes flashing with intrigue. He tilts his head. "That's true," he murmurs, sounding unsure.

"I have little to offer," Hannibal says. "Except this."

He pushes Will from him, and rises, going to the golden dagger that sits gleaming atop his cloak. He kneels down and takes it in hand, before rising, and returning to the nest. He offers it out to Will, who gasps, and takes it with shaking hands.

"You're giving this to me?" he asks weakly.

Hannibal smiles, and nods. He takes Will's hands and kisses his knuckles. "And all that comes with it."

"Hannibal, this isn't -." Will stops, and shakes his head. "I need you to understand. Mating flights come and go with the seasons, it's not permanent. This is…more. This is for life."

"Though mine may be shorter than yours, I happily give it," Hannibal replies. "If you'll have it."

Will's eyes shine, and he swallows, and wraps his fingers around the handle of the dagger tightly. He clears his throat, fire shining in his mouth, and nods. Nods again, and again, and then leans forward and cups Hannibal's nape, bringing him into a kiss that burns.

"I'll find something for you, too," he breathes, ardent and joyful. "Something perfect. It may take a while, but I will."

Hannibal laughs, and Will sets the dagger down, pulls him into the slick heat of his wings, and covers him completely. "You're the expert."