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The Chesapeake Bay

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"And here we have the producers and showrunners of the hottest new show on NT America: Freddie Lounds and Doctor Frederick Chilton. Welcome!"

"Thanks Amanda." Freddie is a beacon of orange and metal, dressed in a flashy pantsuit the color of burned bronze and gold, a white blouse, her ringlets falling in a heavy mane around her face. She clashes wonderfully with Chilton's lavender and peacock-blue suit. "Happy to be here."

Amanda, the host, smiles at them. She tucks a strand of her long brown hair from her face and leans on the white interview table, one leg folded over the other, and puts her chin in her hand. "So, Miss Lounds -."

"Freddie, please," Freddie says. "Though I think 'Freddie' and 'Frederick' will get confusing after a while!"

She laughs, high and sharp.

Amanda smiles, plastic, unwavering. "Freddie. You and Doctor Chilton have caused quite a stir with your new show. The Chesapeake Bay is about to begin its second season, right?"

"That's right," Chilton says, sitting forward. Neither of them will be denied the spotlight for long. "We had such a great success with our first set of candidates, and people wanted more." Freddie smiles at him, very widely.

"What's the premise of the show, for our viewers who may only just be hearing about it?"

"Well," Freddie says, putting a hand on Chilton's arm that looks friendly, but is certainly a warning; "There are so many reality shows nowadays where the drama and tension comes from the interaction of the contestants. But there is no real depth to it. We wanted to expand on the existing formula, really get outside the box and watch it collapse."

Amanda laughs, brow creasing. "Sounds ambitious."

"Oh, it is," Chilton says, smiling wide and slick. "The idea is this; everyone has a secret. Something they would never confess to anyone else. Modern psychology would tell us that these secrets shape how people behave. We wanted to take a group of brilliant people who are all hiding something, and see if they can remove the smoke and mirrors and really get at the essence of each other."

"So, it's like a murder mystery dinner meets reality TV."

Freddie smiles. "Something like that. All of our contestants are well-educated, incredibly insightful, and proven to have excelled in perception tests we gave them. They each, all, have a secret as well. Some of them mild, some of them more serious."

"I don't suppose you can tell me?" Amanda jokes.

Chilton laughs, his smile a thousand watts. "Oh, that would ruin the game!" he says, good-naturedly. "But the key note is that these secrets are fundamental to the identity of the person. It follows, therefore, that they would be unable to hide it. So if a contestant's secret is found out, they lose, and are evicted from the house."

"I have a cast list here from the first season," Amanda says, shuffling her papers absently. "But there's a new character you're bringing, is that correct?"

"Not quite new – people have seen him before," Freddie says. "Doctor Lecter agreed to be host to us for our second season, and has given us his cabin on the bay to film the next part of the show. He will also be acting as M.C. and resident psychiatrist to the contestants. If they need to vent, or talk, without giving themselves away, he's there to give them that. We think it would help counteract the isolation and paranoia aspect of the contest."

"People want to share," Chilton adds. "It would ruin the game when keeping your secret is key."

"Well, I'm excited to see the favorites returning. Doctor Bloom and Mister Graham were the fan favorites for the first season, but only one contestant was outed, isn't that right?"

"That's right," Chilton says with a nod. "Mister Tier, and his penchant for dressing up in animal costumes and behaving like a beast. He didn't last long."

"Mister Graham is remarkably perceptive," Amanda says. "He noticed it first, didn't he?"

"Yes, he was credited with Randall's discovery," Freddie says with a nod. "We're very lucky to have found him." Her head tilts, and she grins. "Is he your favorite, Amanda?"

Amanda laughs, blushing. "Well, I wouldn't want to get in the way of any potential blossoming romance on the show!" she teases. Freddie laughs with her, like they're two girls on a night out gossiping about boys they like. "I suppose I'll just have to wait for my chance."

"It's a dynamic cast," Chilton says, sitting forward. He will not show it, of course, but any mention of Mister Will Graham is known to make the ladies – and a few noted gentlemen – swoon. He unbuttons his lavender jacket and settles a hand on his thigh, the picture of ease. "We've brought in a new contestant to replace Mister Tier – a Mister Brown. He worked at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane."

"Wow!" Amanda says, wide-eyed. "I can't wait to see how he fits in with the rest of the cast." She smiles, and turns away from Freddie and Chilton as the transition music plays. "Be sure to tune in on Thursdays to NT America and catch The Chesapeake Bay, airing at 7/8 Central."

 

 

"Will! Oh, great, great. Glad to see you. Come on in."

Will rolls his shoulders, tries to ignore the grating, over-bright smiles of Freddie and Chilton as they wave him to their table. The trailer is small and the table is very large, only giving him enough room to skirt it and try and sit. He manages, wedging himself into the overstuffed chair. They are still smiling at him – Freddie, with her big bright eyes and shark-tooth smile. Chilton, smarmy as ever, head tilted like he's been let in on the best joke in the world and would love someone to ask him to tell them the punchline. For a price.

"What's this about?" Will demands, running his hands through his hair. Being with Freddie and Chilton makes him feel itchy – Chilton is the kind of man Will used to know, and Freddie, well, she's her own kind of predator. A burgeoning sociopath for whom the ends always justify the means.

"Can we get you anything?" Freddie chirps. "I can have Miriam get you water, or something stronger?"

Will winces, and folds his hands together on the table. Fixes her with an unimpressed look, and raises an eyebrow. "What do you want?"

"We have teensy, slight problem," Freddie says, nodding her head from side to side like her neck is a see-saw. Will frowns at her, and his fingers tense. "Apparently word's gotten out about your little secret."

"My secret," Will repeats.

"The, ah, camera stuff you used to do," Freddie says with a vague wave of her hand – one thing Will likes about Freddie, though that list is short. She doesn't care what your sins are, what your past is. She only cares about the end result. Everything else is a stepping stone.

Will frowns at her, and then his eyes widen. "Seriously?" he demands.

"I guess one of your clients recognized you," Chilton says, with an air of careful judgement Will is sure he cultivates specifically for Will. "The internet forums for the show have exploded. We've managed to shut down enough gossip about it, and no one has posted a link to the actual site if it still exists, but it's out there now."

"Fuck," Will growls, sitting back and huffing in annoyance when he can't push back his chair. He turns to glare at the wall, and then shakes his head and runs a hand over his mouth. "Well, I guess that's it then. I'm off the show?"

"Not exactly," Freddie says. She folds her hands together and leans her elbows on the table.

Will frowns at her.

"No one in the house knows about it," she says. "We've vetted everyone already. Now, I know, people can talk, but we were really liking your plays with the other contestants. Surveys have you as one of the favorites. We can't just let you go." Will doesn't like how she phrased that at all. "So we decided to go for another angle."

"Another angle," Will repeats, and is starting to feel very much like a parrot. "What other angle?"

Chilton smiles. "Hannibal," he says.

Will can't fight the way his upper lip twitches, and his brows lower as he glares at Chilton.

"Look, we really loved the whole 'big brother protector' thing you had with Alana," Freddie says, grinning. "The 'I'm legally allowed to carry a gun, no one messes with her' schtick? Goosebumps." She gives a little shiver that ends with another chirping sound. "But we can't run the risk of people figuring out your secret before it's time. As the host, Hannibal is not allowed to divulge anything. So, we need you to work on your relationship with him."

"There is no relationship," Will growls. "I hate the guy."

"We know, and it's delightful," Chilton says, his smile wide. He idly runs his fingers in a circle along the table, tracing an old watermark from a glass. "But people talk, Will. If the internet and the TV outlets run too hot with your…extracurricular activities, the other contestants might start paying attention. We contracted you for another ten episodes and if they figure it out too soon, we'll both lose out."

"So, what?" Will demands. "Ex-roommates? He ran over my dog? What?"

"We want you to pretend to be ex-boyfriends."

Will blinks, and sits back. He gapes, struck mute at the borderline manic gleam in Freddie's eyes.

"You want my secret to be…homosexuality?" he asks, weakly.

"Shouldn't be too hard, if the rumors about this old website of yours are any indication," Chilton says mildly, but the way he's smiling makes Will want to wring his neck.

"Okay, first of all," Will hisses, sitting forward and jabbing an accusing finger towards the other man, "ignoring the fact that you have no fucking idea what it is I used to do, what I did and sexual orientation are not the same thing. Secondly," he adds, looking to Freddie, "if everyone else figures it out and accuses me correctly, they have a right to be right. I'm not going to fake a relationship or an ex-relationship for the sake of your fucking show. Thirdly." He hisses the word. "There is not enough money in the world to convince me to pretend I was in love with Doctor Hannibal fucking Lecter."

Chilton lets out a soft huff of laughter. "Oh, Will, Will, Will-y Will," he sing-songs. "The foundations are already in place. You wouldn't believe what people are saying about your chemistry."

"Nuclear bombs are chemistry too, Chilton," Will growls. "You wanna set off a bomb?"

"Think of it as another one of your videos," Chilton says with a dismissive wave. "I've heard they were quite in-depth. Very immersive."

"Yes!" Freddie says, snapping her fingers and wagging them Chilton's way. "Exactly! It's just another video, and we are your adoring patrons." She spreads her hands out in a welcoming gesture, but her smile has fangs. "What do you say, Will?"

Will is silent, and fuming.

Chilton leans forward. "Will," he says sternly. He has about the same level of intimidation as a boiled egg. "You signed a contract. Ten more episodes. Or you'll have to pay back all the money the studio spent on your food and housing, plus any cancellation fees."

Will winces. He remembers. He rubs the back of his neck and leans back, until his hair touches the wall. He blinks up at the watermarked, stained ceiling, and heaves another sigh. Closes his eyes and tells himself the money from this gig will get him enough that he can get his house in the woods and finally escape to the seclusion he's always dreamed of.

"Fine," he growls. He straightens and sees Freddie beaming at him.

She claps her hands together, and stands. They have more room behind their chairs, Will notes with venom. He struggles to his feet as well and shakes her offered hand tightly, shortly. Chilton's, the same. "Always a pleasure, Will. See you in the house!"

"Yeah," Will growls, and leaves the trailer.

 

 

Will hates everything about the cabin. He hates that people are calling it a cabin – it's a Goddamn mansion, seated right on the edge of a cliff that's basically asking for someone to get too drunk and fall over it. The front of the building juts, sharp and angular, forward, and there is a giant wall of glass between the kitchen area and patio, and within, he can see wide leather couches, a welcoming fireplace – and, upwards, another row of doors where he and the other contestants will no doubt be sleeping.

There are a few of the crew setting up the cameras and testing sound quality. Once they're done, they will disappear, leaving only the contestants and Doctor Lecter within – he will be the only one with access to the outside world, in a case of emergency or to call Freddie and Chilton if someone's secret is figured out.

Will doesn't like that. He doesn't like the isolation, the implicit power imbalance in placing his fate and future in someone else's hands. Last season they'd rented a series of hotel suites, which were more like frat houses along the southern edge of the bay, but Freddie and Chilton are cheap at the core after they have the contestants in their claws, and Will imagines the hotel's sponsorship was severed quite abruptly the night Randall dragged a clutch of dead rabbits back to his room and tried to eat them raw.

Really, it's a wonder he made it as long as he did on the show.

"If you're considering entering any time soon, may I suggest the front door?"

Will tenses up immediately, flinching in surprise and lifting his eyes, drawing their focus forward so he is not staring into the house, but at his reflection – or, more accurately, the reflection that has appeared at his shoulder. He turns on his heel and glares at Hannibal, finds him smiling and looking remarkably pleased with himself for having caught Will off-guard.

"You need a bell around your neck," Will says, folding his arms across his chest. He lifts his chin when Hannibal merely blinks at him, expression placid and friendly enough. It sets Will's teeth on edge – everything about Hannibal sets him on edge: his fancy, clashing suits that somehow don't look ridiculous on him like they do on Chilton; his easy demeanor and ability to seamlessly ingratiate himself to anyone he meets; his apparent skill at literally everything he tries his hand at.

Either he's a con-artist, pulling the classic hustle to fool everyone to thinking he's nicer than he really is, or he's a genuine peacock, and Will has never seen someone take such great delight in every interaction – it feels plastic, and fake, and Will doesn't like feeling as though he's talking to a doll.

Finally, Hannibal seems to realize Will isn't going to say anything else, and he straightens, lips flattening to a neutral line. "You're the first to arrive," he tells Will, and Will winces. Of course he is. "Would you like to take the tour?"

"Do we have room assignments, like last time?" he asks, shouldering his duffle bag and tucking his laptop case under his arm as he follows Hannibal around the side of the house, through a little patch of grass and driveway and through the front door. Inside, the whirr of drills and distant men shouting instructions to each other can be heard, and Will wonders how cavernous this place really is, for the back of it is hidden by trees and not immediately visible from the road, and it must comfortably house almost ten adults for an extended period of time.

Hannibal shakes his head. "You are free to choose whichever one you'd like."

"The one farthest from yours will be fine."

Hannibal pauses, and regards him, his eyes bright with mirth. "Miss Lounds and Doctor Chilton informed me of the new terms," he says, and Will grits his teeth, and nods to himself, and wonders if Hannibal even offered a protest, citing that a relationship with Will would be unethical, if they were to be patient and psychiatrist during the show's filming. He tilts his head. "One mustn't run the risk of being too obvious, Will."

Will blinks, and works his jaw to one side so his molars grind, off-center. "Obvious?" he parrots.

"Such a stark separation could be read as an admission of guilt," Hannibal says. "Your obvious dislike of me and desire to avoid me may be taken a certain way."

Will lifts his chin, nostrils flaring at the amusement on Hannibal's face. He's toying with Will, baiting him like one might put a taser to a bull's hide and then release him into the ring.

"I apologize," he says through gritted teeth, following Hannibal up the stairs. "I normally try and make a better effort to hide my feelings. Though I'm sure your keen insight would have seen right through me."

Hannibal laughs, as carefree and amiable as ever, and Will can't remember ever seeing the man frowning, ever seeing him angry. His fingers curl around the bottom of his laptop case and he wonders, in the same self-destructive way people want to reach out and put their hands in the middle of an open fire, if Hannibal is even capable of anger.

If it would be obvious, like his mirth, or something cold and calculating.

Hannibal leads him down the hallway. There is a window in the middle of the far wall, shadowed with the silhouettes of tree branches which gently sway, and the window is frosted glass, preventing a clear view out of it. There is a slight turn at the end, just two feet of space large enough for someone to hide, and a single black door.

Hannibal pauses by the window, and gestures to it. "This one will give you the most isolation," he says.

Will frowns at him, and opens the door. The inside of the room is comfortably decorated, in the same way a showroom might be – sparse, lacking any personalization, but in the wake of that, Will is soothed. He enters the room, and there's just enough space for him to take three strides, to the bed pressed to the farthest corner, head away from the door. There is a window opposite the bed, similarly frosted, similarly shadowed, Will suspects to stop people being able to climb the close-knit trees and peek in.

The bed itself is covered in a light blue duvet, white sheets and pillows. The wood is dark, and one of the walls is an accent of summer sky blue, the floor a light, sandy laminate. It's a clean-looking, soft space, and Will wants to mention how blue is an instinctively soothing color, promoting trust and security, and the psychology of putting the head as far away from the door as possible, so that the person in the bed sees it open before the intruder sees them.

There is a closet, behind the door, inset into the wall where there is two feet of space outside it. Then, a second door, and Will opens it and sees a tiny room, white-tiled and white-painted, with a toilet and a shower wedged inside, just big enough to fit a grown man.

He huffs, and turns off the light, fixing Hannibal with a raised eyebrow. Hannibal has his hands in his pockets, the picture of nonchalance, as if this is the standard room for any of his guests.

"My own en suite, huh?" Will asks, dumping his laptop case and duffel bag on the bed.

Hannibal hums, and smiles. "You're a private man, Will," he says, and Will lifts his chin because Hannibal's tone sounds judgmental, but Will has been around him long enough to know Hannibal rarely judges anything deemed an eccentricity. Indeed, he seems to delight in the abnormal, find pleasure in the unique psychologies of men, and is enthralled by the fact that Will doesn't like him.

"Aren't we all, Doctor Lecter?" Will replies. "Isn't that the point of the game?"

Hannibal gives a small, approving nod. "Come," he says, and turns away. "I will show you the rest of the cabin."

It's not a cabin. Will wants to spit that. He refrains, resigning himself to having to bear Hannibal's company until everyone else arrives. The last season, they all dined together in one of the hotel's conference rooms, and Freddie had given a speech. There will probably be something like that this season, too, to recap Randall's voting off the show, his potential replacement, and how it works so everyone remembers the rules.

"This is another bathroom," Hannibal says, gesturing to a door on their right as they pass. "The rest of these rooms are bedrooms, and mine, at the end here," he adds, and nods to the first door, to the right of the top of the staircase. Will hides a smirk, strangely proud to see that, despite his paltry protests, Hannibal did, indeed, put him as far away from Hannibal as possible. "I have an en suite as well. Down here," he says, leading the way back down the stairs, "we have a laundry room, a pantry, and Mister Zeller was very specific about requesting a game room."

Will raises a brow, and Hannibal turns, smiling at him, and nods to an open door. Will steps through, wincing at the harsh shaft of sunlight as it arcs in from a skylight in the roof. They're just underneath where Will's bedroom is, and he narrows his eyes at the ceiling, takes in the men on ladders running wire and bolting cameras in the corners of the room.

There is a pool table, set up, with a rack holding four cues next to it, mounted on the wall. Beside that, a bar running in an arc around a corner where the plaster fades and the wall is brick. It looks like an old speakeasy, and the shelves are lined with bottles of liquor Will can't even pronounce.

His other eyebrow joins the first, and he looks at Hannibal. "Let me guess," he says. "You studied the specific chemistry of mixing alcohol while getting your Doctorate and learning your fifth language, and you make the best fanciest cocktails in the world."

Hannibal tilts his head, and fixes him with an amused huff, like a babysitter might look at a toddler's tantrum, knowing their parents will be home soon and they won't have to deal with them anymore. Will lifts his chin, refusing to back down.

"I've been told I make a dangerously smooth cosmopolitan," he finally says.

Will laughs – he can't help it. He rolls his eyes, folds his arms across his chest, and blows a wayward curl from his face as he brushes past Hannibal and out into the hallway again. Hannibal follows him, to the main room, and Will plops himself down on one of the couches, spreading his arms out wide along the back of it, and brings his feet up to rest, one ankle crossed over the other, on the shiny wooden coffee table.

Hannibal's eyes drop to his feet, and darken with disapproval, but he moves past Will, knocking his knees into Will's legs and Will huffs, letting his legs drop so Hannibal can pass him, and settle himself on the perpendicular couch.

Will tilts his head back, blinking up at the high ceiling. He imagines, when night falls, this space will appear intimate, under a cloak of shadow. Wonders if Hannibal is the kind of person to use only firelight to guide his way when the air grows dark. He scratches at his chin, wipes his thumb across the corner of his mouth, and lolls his head lazily to look Hannibal in the eye.

He smiles, slow and wide. "Come here often?"

Hannibal smiles at him, and folds one leg over the other, ankle to opposite knee, mimicking Will in his slouching posture, though all he does is rest his elbow on the armrest, and looks like he could summon a glass of wine in his hand with nothing more than a thought.

"I spend the occasional summer here, yes," he replies. "I much prefer the ambiance of the city."

"I can tell," Will says, and looks up again. Sighs, and pushes his shoes off with his toes, putting his socked feet back up on the table. He looks for another flash of disapproval, but it seems Hannibal is more accommodating without the threat of dirt staining his furniture. "You city folk always try and bring the city with you. This place is a Goddamn mansion."

Hannibal huffs a small laugh, gives a conceding nod. "I prefer to be comfortable."

"Jimmy and Brian are gonna make this place a party house," Will tells him, rolling his eyes. "And Bev, of course." He pauses. "I think the three of them are having an affair."

"Oh?"

"Mm."

"Why haven't you said anything?" Hannibal asks, giving away neither agreement or rejection of the idea. It is, after all, part of the game. "If you're right, that's three people evicted right away, and less competition for you."

"Because I like them," Will replies with a shrug. "But if they make it more obvious, someone will notice."

"Like Alana?"

Will tenses, and lifts his upper lip.

"She's smart," he says, shifting his weight, curling his toes. He watches them wiggle under his black socks, and rolls his wrist, rubbing the inside of it over his scruffy jaw. He looks to Hannibal, tilts his head. "Does she talk to you a lot?"

Hannibal smiles. "I'm not at liberty to say," he replies.

"I stand by what I said."

Hannibal shows his teeth, the sharpness of them lining up, vaguely threatening. "I remember," he purrs. "It's not often I'm threatened with violence simply for having friendly conversations."

Will hums. "Do you know my secret?"

"I know the one Miss Lounds and Doctor Chilton want you to pretend to have, but the original one that got you on this show? You have never told me."

Will smiles, and shows his teeth in return. "Aren't you curious?"

"Terribly," Hannibal admits. "But I prefer secrets be shared organically, between friends."

"Yeah, of course you do."

"I'm a therapist, Will. I'm used to people placing their trust in me, because they believe I can help them. And I want to help them." Will huffs, and looks away. "Of course, this is based on the assumption that everyone's secrets here would require some kind of therapy, which is not the case. An affair, for instance, is hardly cause for medical intervention."

Will is familiar with this approach; by pretending Hannibal does not care, and doesn't mind whether Will opens up to him or not, he lowers the bait and dangles the hook, inviting Will to share. It's the oldest trick in the book, combined with extended silences. Lesser men would feel the need to fill them, but Will enjoys quiet.

Besides, it is hardly completely silent, with the sounds of work going on around them.

Finally, Hannibal sighs, and straightens, pushing himself to his feet once he realizes Will isn't going to say anything more. "I'm going to make some coffee," he says. "Would you like some?"

"Sure," Will replies, for he will admit, Hannibal is an excellent cook. Of course he is, the man is good at Goddamn everything. The few meals he prepared for them during season one were delicious and eagerly devoured.

He stands, and follows Hannibal to the kitchen, watching with distaste as he pulls what looks more like a chemistry set than a coffee maker from the wall, and begins the brew. There are three bar stools along the kitchen island and he takes a seat at one, glad that, despite the relatively open plan, there appears to be a sound-deadening barrier created within the low ceiling, and the whirr of drills and knock of hammers is quieter.

There is a door, in the corner, between two sets of cabinets and a wine rack. He nods to it. "What's through there?" he asks.

Hannibal looks. "That will be where I will conduct therapy sessions, with whoever needs it," he says, and turns to Will to regard him over his shoulder. "An invitation that is open to you, as well, of course."

Will hums, pressing his lips together, and leans his elbows on the counter, fingers laced and chin resting on his knuckles. "Observation is a double-edged sword, Doctor Lecter," he says.

Hannibal smiles at him, and turns away. "We all have secrets, Will," he replies. "Perhaps, if you are curious, you might jump at the opportunity to discover some of mine."

"I don't find you all that interesting," Will says, head tilted, eyes eager to catch another roll of tension, another wound to Hannibal's pride. Hannibal is the kind of man Will knows well, soaked with arrogance and self-confidence. The kind of man who could stand to be taken down a peg or two.

Hannibal huffs a laugh, and doesn't turn. But Will hears his smile. "You will."

 

 

Beverly, Brian, and Jimmy arrive as one unit, in a minivan with the NT America logo on the side of it. Obvious. Will rolls his eyes at their lack of subtlety. They greet him with familiar, welcoming smiles, and he helps them unload their stuff, not surprised in the slightest when they all pick rooms close to each other, on the second floor.

Then, Franklyn shows up, and one of his suitcases is packed entirely with food. Will can smell the smoked sausage, the sweating cheese, from a mile away. He wrinkles his nose and makes Franklyn carry that, and Franklyn picks the room closest to Hannibal's. Will isn't surprised by that, either.

Francis arrives in the late afternoon. He's a charming man, in a rough sort of way. He's an avid fan of art and has a scar on his upper lip, which constantly shows one of his canines. He kept to himself during most of season one, spending most of his time in Randall's or Hannibal's company. Once Randall's secret was revealed and he was evicted from the show, Will found himself wondering, often, if there was a kindred spirithood between them – if, perhaps, Francis' secret brushes along the realm of Randall's.

If that's the case, he will be the next easiest to figure out.

"It's the heaviest kind of schadenfreude," Will murmurs, sipping at his coffee. The others are making themselves at home, and Francis went for a walk down the cliffsides a little over an hour ago, since technically none of them have to be in the house until the first, official dinner, marking the start of the filming process. They will all live here for ten weeks, or until there is only one of them left, whichever comes first. Will bristles at the thought of having so many people in such a confined space for so long.

Hannibal replies with a hum. He drinks his coffee black, or at least brews it so it's smooth going down. "How do you mean?"

"I mean, this whole thing," Will says with a wave of his hand. He wishes he had anyone else to talk to besides Hannibal. "Do you think, after the show aired, Randall went back to his normal life, and resumed his normal job, and no one recognized him, and knew what he liked to do in his free time?" Will doesn't judge, of course not, God knows he's done far worse and certainly not for the sake of his own pleasure. "This show has the potential to ruin someone's life."

Hannibal smiles at him, brows rising. "Would your secret ruin your life, Will?" he murmurs. "The real one?"

Will huffs, rolls his eyes, and sidesteps the question. "It allows people to judge, without knowing the full story, the full psychology behind it all. Opens the door to questions society isn't ready to hear the answers to."

"Like identifying as an animal."

"There's a certain freedom in that, don't you think?"

"I find it fascinating, yes," Hannibal says with a nod. He smiles, and sips at his coffee, dressed comfortably in suit pants and a soft-looking red sweater that he has pushed up to his elbows. It's the most dressed-down Will has ever seen him, makes him appear softer and vulnerable, and isn't how he'd been dressed when Will arrived. He wonders if it's for his sake, or perhaps Franklyn's, that poor sweet soul. Men like Hannibal show their teeth and make the sheep nervous.

Will presses his lips together, eyes Hannibal carefully. "The sessions in your office aren't recorded, right?"

"It was a stipulation of the contract, yes," Hannibal replies with a nod. "I would never betray doctor-patient confidentiality, and as you said; the allure of this program is the final reveal. It ruins it for the audience, if they already know the ending."

"Shakespeare would disagree with you," Will says, smiling.

At that, Hannibal blinks, looking surprised. He straightens, leaning against the counter, cupping his clear coffee mug with both hands. "Are you a fan of classical works?" he asks, and sounds terribly curious. Will wonders if he's the first person to have ever regarded Hannibal with open dislike, to remain stubbornly resistant to Hannibal's charm. The cat must be so curiously pleased, to see a mouse smart enough to evade its claws.

"I'm a fan of stories," Will replies, shrugging one shoulder.

 

 

Alana arrives last. Will greets her with a smile and pulls her into a hug, and she hugs him back just as tightly, her eyes bright with pleasure at seeing him. He takes her suitcase and helps her carry it inside. There is just one room left, opposite Will's, and he brings her bag in, setting it down by the bed. Her room is decorated similarly to Will's, but purple where his is blue.

"It's great to see you," she says, shrugging off her coat, revealing a modest but flattering black and red dress that goes to her knees and dips down to reveal her throat and the center of her collarbones. She runs her hands beneath her hair, flipping it out, and sighs. "How've you been?"

"Just great," Will replies. "And you?"

"Good," she tells him, her eyes glittering, and she lifts her hand to show him her left ring finger. "I got engaged."

Will's eyes widen, and he grins, stepping forward and taking her hand so he can admire the shine of the diamond, the silver band. Around the diamond are sapphires, the stones bright and glimmering, dark blue like the ocean at the bottom of the cliffs.

"Holy shit, congratulations," he says, and lets out a low whistle, nodding in appreciation of the ring. "Who's the lucky guy?"

"Her name is Margot," Alana says, and Will blinks at her, and smiles. "We were dating when I came on the show last season, and I guess she got all broody while I was gone."

"Ten weeks is a long time," Will concedes with a nod. He lets her hand go and she hums, idly playing with her hair, admiring the ring on her finger. "But I'm seriously so happy for you." He has never met Margot, but trusts Alana's instincts and her judgement enough to know that whoever she chose for a spouse would be a lovely person. Certainly of a finer pedigree than the likes of him. "You'll have to tell me all about it at dinner."

"Oh, I can't," Alana says. She takes her ring off, biting her lower lip, and sighs, slipping it into her bag. "Margot's my secret."

Will blinks, and frowns. "Alana," he murmurs, worried and warning.

"Her brother's an asshole," Alana explains. "He's…a real piece of work, I don't mind saying that." Will swallows, and looks up to the blinking red light of the camera in the corner of Alana's room. It's angled so only the door is visible, affording her enough privacy to change clothes and sleep without being watched – but, if she were to take anyone to her bed, it would be caught on film and undoubtedly used. "If he found out about us, I think he would do something to hurt her, and I can't let that happen until I'm done with the show and can get her away from him."

Will bites his lower lip, folding his arms across his chest before he can stop himself. "Why are you telling me this?" he murmurs. "I'm the competition."

She smiles at him, and pets his arm. "Because I trust you," she says, and Will winces, because he wants her to trust him, but realistically, she shouldn't. None of them can afford to, not yet. "And," she adds, smile widening and eyes bright with playful slyness, "she's only part of the secret, so even if you were to report me, you wouldn't win."

Will tilts his head, brow creasing. "Well, I'll have to keep it to myself and find out the old-fashioned way, I guess," he says, grinning when she laughs.

"You're on, pretty boy," she says, and pulls out a sleek, black shawl, wrapping it around her shoulders and pulling her hair free. "Shall we?"

 

 

Between the couches and the wall of windows leading to the porch, there is a large dining room table, placed high enough to stand at, and encircled by a ring of high, sleek-shining chairs. It is next to a piano, and there is a tray of a veritable hoard of wine. Each place has been set – Hannibal, at the head of the table, Alana to his right, and Will next to her. On Will's right, Beverly, Brian at the other head, Jimmy across from her, then Francis, and Franklyn takes the seat at Hannibal's left, the chair creaking as he shimmies into it and scoots himself close to the edge of the table.

Will doesn't like feeling closed in like this. He doesn't like that his back is to the windows, where anyone could creep up and stare at them through it without being noticed until it was too late. The sensation brings with it memories of shadow, the distinctly sharp feeling of being hunted, of being watched. There's a reason Will's site was taken down, well before his depleted savings and increasing sense of paranoia had driven him to cautiously entertain the idea of coming on the show.

After all, with everything recorded and monitored, Will is possibly safer here than he is anywhere else.

The wine Hannibal provides for them is a rich, very dark red, like blood in moonlight, almost black. The meal is, per Hannibal's announcement, sliced and roasted venison, covered in a whiskey glaze, and tastes of pure smoke and heat when Will takes a bite of it. Coupled with wild rice and a cluster of roasted autumn vegetables, Will admits, sourly, that Hannibal has once again provided a wonderful meal.

"We're all going to gain twenty pounds, with Doctor Lecter cooking for us," Beverly says around a mouthful of rice.

Hannibal smiles at her, and takes an inhale at his wine glass, before he drinks. "I believe in the calming power of indulgence," he replies. "Once Miss Lounds and Doctor Chilton arrive to make the announcements, the game officially begins."

Francis lets out a soft hum, slicing a clean bite of venison and eating it. He chews, swallows, and says; "I heard the network doesn't want to make a season three. They want to extend it, until there's only one man standing, if at the end of ten weeks there's still too many of us left."

Will frowns, and sees Alana's expression similarly concerned. "Really?" she asks weakly.

Francis nods, his eyes dropping from her. He has trouble maintaining eye contact with women, Will has noticed. He swallows back the urge to ask about Francis' mother – he's not the psychiatrist, after all, though what he used to do for a living made him very good at reading people.

He sees Hannibal eyeing Francis as well, and imagines he's thinking the same thing.

"Well, let them," Brian says, raising his glass. "I could definitely get used to this."

Will winces, and resists the urge to mutter something damning under his breath. It's probably quite a neat arrangement, living rent-free in a nice, secluded house, with the two people he's sleeping with under the same roof.

He sighs, rubbing a hand over the side of his neck, and turns his attention back to his meal.

There's a knock on the door, and Will looks up. The rest follow suit, and Hannibal rises with a smile, wiping his mouth on his cloth napkin and skirting the table as he heads for the door. Muted greetings are exchanged, and when he returns, he has Freddie and Chilton in tow.

"Hi, everyone!" Freddie chirps, opening her arms wide as though expecting them all to rush to her arms like children. Will swallows, the meat suddenly feeling sour, and takes a drink of wine. "So glad you all got here alright. Is everyone excited? We're excited."

Silence, soft nods, meet her words. Chilton clears his throat and steps forward.

"The rules from last season apply to this one," he says. "Anything and everything is recorded, except for sessions with Doctor Lecter. The theory box is also in his office, so, when you think you have uncovered one of your housemates' secret, you will write your theory and place it in the box. Only Doctor Lecter has the key to his office, so you will need to make sure he's with you when you place it."

Will frowns, fingers curling around his fork.

"We're also introducing the red phone," Freddie says, grinning. "Doctor Lecter's office has a phone it in, where people can make calls and reach you while you're in the house. It's a one-way phone, so no outbound contact will be allowed. It will also, because of its location, be unmonitored."

"We have cameras set up in every room and hallway," Chilton finishes. "Nothing in the bathrooms, of course, and there's nothing on the patio because of the weather."

Will raises a brow. It's certainly much more freedom than they were given last season. Perhaps they are relying on the inclimate weather and implicit nature of the bathrooms to ensure nothing secret is exchanged there. Of course, the cameras in the hallways and inside will show them if anyone pairs off and enters an unwatched room together.

"If someone submits a theory, we will collect it and review it with each of your files. If it's incorrect, you will receive no answer. If you're only half-right, we'll come back and announce that one of you is in danger of being revealed, but will not name any names. If the theory is correct, or close enough, then the revealed person will be evicted from the house," Freddie says. "This is another thing we're changing – there was a lot of blowback after Randall's secret was revealed, and we think it best, this time, if the person is given a choice. So, we have forms here…" She gestures to Chilton, who opens up the black leather satchel slung across his shoulder, and pulls out a set of papers. "It's a disclosure agreement. If you sign it, you give permission for us to publicize your secret and allow whoever revealed you to discuss it amongst the remaining people in the house for the rest of their time on the show."

Will's stomach turns, and his eyes flash to Alana, who is watching Chilton with wide eyes as he hands her the contract. Then Will, then Beverly, going around the table. Will blinks down at it, eyes widening when he sees the number in the second paragraph.

"Ten grand just for signing this?" Jimmy says, giving voice to Will's surprise.

Chilton gives him a thin, slick smile. "The show is very popular, Mister Price," he says with a condescending pat on Jimmy's shoulder. "And it's because of all of you; how you interact with each other, and your willingness to expose your darkest truths to America. We would see that well-rewarded. It will be added to your payout upon eviction, or if you win the game."

He returns to Freddie's side, and looks to them all expectantly.

Franklyn coughs. "You want us to…to sign this right now?" he asks, voice a high squeak.

"Yes," Freddie says.

Alana looks at Will, wide-eyed, and Will knows why she's worried. Or at least, half of why she's worried.

He clears his throat, and sets his contract down by his plate. There's a pen clipped to each one, ready for their signature, and he uncaps his pen, reads through the short sheet – it's a promise for the ten thousand dollar down-payment, and consent that, should he be revealed and evicted, his secret is allowed to be discussed at length and included within the final release of the show.

He signs at the bottom of the page. "I'm sure we can trust each other to handle our secrets with tact," he says, and looks to Alana. "Regardless of what they are."

She breathes out, and offers him a weak, thankful smile, and signs. Beverly, Jimmy, and Brian follow suit. Francis, after.

Franklyn, to Will's surprise, is the last one hesitating. His forehead shines with sweat, his upper lip pink and bitten as he sucks it between his teeth, worrying it until there blooms a milk mustache of blood and anxiety. They watch him, and his eyes lift, go to Hannibal, who is sitting back, distancing himself from the sheep, cradling his wine glass to his chest.

Then, Franklyn's eyes dart to Will.

Will smiles at him, and tries to sound encouraging and soothing, though he has little experience with either thing; "Just because it's secret doesn't mean it's shameful."

Alana nods, and reaches across the table to touch Franklyn's hand. "You can trust us."

Franklyn presses his lips together, shudders, but signs it, and Chilton slides in like the strike of a cobra, snatching it away before the ink is even dry. He gathers the pens and places the papers back in his satchel.

"Miss Lounds, Doctor Chilton, a word?" Hannibal asks, his eyes sliding from Franklyn to the pair of them. He stands, and follows them out to the front door, shutting it behind them and blocking off their conversation.

The air is crackling with tension, a sour shadow of malcontent that hands over the group. Will's fingers flex, and Brian takes a long sip of wine. Beverly clears her throat and scratches at her wrist. Finally, Hannibal returns, a cordial smile on his face.

"It seems, Francis, that what you heard was true," he says by way of announcement. "They intend to offer each of you a sizeable incentive for staying on after ten weeks, if the game extends that far."

Alana swallows, loudly, and pushes herself to her feet. "I'm sorry, excuse me. I'm afraid I'm not feeling very well," she says with an apologetic smile, and Will frowns, watching her go. Her food has barely been touched, and Will notices that she hasn't touched her wine glass.

He blinks, suspicion curling. He rises as well, and pursues her, uncaring for how it makes him look. If anyone suggests he's sleeping with Alana, they'll be wrong, so it doesn't matter. He knocks on her door twice, softly.

"Alana?" he calls.

"Come in," she replies, and Will opens the door to find her pacing, one hand fluttering over her stomach like she's going to be sick, the other rubbing the back of her neck. She stops when she sees him, her eyes wide and very, very dark. "I can't stay here that long, Will," she says, and Will closes her door behind her, stepping close so they can speak in whispers. "I can't leave Margot that long."

Will presses his lips together, dips his eyes down, and then back up. He tilts his head. "You're pregnant, aren't you?" he asks.

She gapes at him, openly, but flushes and, with a guilty wince, nods. Will swallows, lifting his eyes to the white ceiling, and rubs both hands through his hair, cradling them around the back of his neck. "How far along are you?" he asks.

"Just a week or two," she replies. Will huffs, closing his eyes, and flinches in surprise when she suddenly hugs him, clinging to his back. He wraps his arms around her instinctively, burying his nose in her hair, his hand at the back of her neck. She lets out a weak noise. "I'll start showing, after a while. I can hide it for a little but, if I get evicted too soon, I won't get any of the payout. And if Mason hears about this from anyone…"

Will closes his eyes, nodding. Despite the fact that the show is filmed, and cut together and edited the week before it airs, evictions and conversations regarding the reveal were done in real-time, last season. Will has no reason to suspect it won't happen again, and if Mason recognizes Alana, or puts everything together… Though he doesn't understand why she's worried, to know that she is, that is enough.

After all, Will is intimately familiar with how savage men can be.

"We need to switch rooms," he says, pulling back and putting his hands on her shoulders. "Mine has a bathroom attached to it. You'll be able to hide morning sickness, for a while."

She blinks at him, and her face melts into a grateful smile.

"You should also see if Doctor Lecter would be willing to give you things to help with nausea. I'm sure he can prescribe medications, and Chilton and Freddie can get them to you discreetly if necessary."

She gazes at him, wide-eyed, and shakes her head once, wondering. "Will, you're…" She clears her throat, her eyes wet, and wipes a hand over her mouth. "Thank you, so much. For understanding, for wanting to help me. I don't know how I can repay you."

Will shakes his head. "I'd rather keep a friendly face in the house as long as possible," he replies with a sharp-edged smile.

She laughs, like she knows he's full of shit, and they part when Will sees her shaking stop. "Doctor Lecter is a friendly face," she tells him.

Will rolls his eyes, glad as she starts to pack up what little she had removed from his suitcase, ready for them to switch rooms. If they hurry, they can do it before dinner is over, and no one will be the wiser, except Hannibal. But he doesn't count – he's not allowed to discuss the contestants with each other, after all.

"Maybe to you," he mutters, folding his arms across his chest.

She frowns at him, folding up one of her dresses. "Has he been anything but pleasant to you? He's always pleasant with me."

Will hums, gritting his teeth. "That's because he's chivalrous and believes in treating beautiful women well."

She smiles at him, head tilted, and packs a pair of shoes. "You both do that, you know."

"Harbor an attraction to beautiful women?"

"Flirtatiously change the subject. You have that pathology in common."

"Ah," Will says, smiling, "so you admit he flirts with you."

"Are you jealous?" Alana asks, one eyebrow arched, a playful smile on her face. Will huffs, and shakes his head, rubbing his nails across the back of his neck.

"I promise, Alana, if I was romantically attracted to you, I wouldn't be half as good a friend."

She is silent, for a moment, long enough that Will lifts his eyes and meets hers, finds her expression considering, his brows lifted like she just told a joke that Will didn't understand the punchline to. "What?" he demands.

"I just -. Never mind," she says with a shrug, and zips her suitcase. Will frowns at her, but decides to let it go. He opens her door and checks the hallway, hears only muffled conversation and clinking plates and glasses coming from downstairs. He steps forward, shielding the sight of her, and gestures for her to carry her bag to his room. He follows, and takes his own stuff, having left it unpacked, and drags it to her room instead, settling his things on the bed and meeting her in the hallway.

She smiles at him, and squeezes his shoulder. "I appreciate this, Will," she tells him. "Really. You're a great friend."

Will returns her smile, eagerly opening his arms to her when she hugs him. She smells like raspberry shampoo, vanilla in her perfume, fruity and pleasant to his nose. He lets her go, and takes her hand, squeezing gently.

"Ready to head into the fray?" he asks.

She grins, and gestures down the hall. "Lead on, fair knight."

 

 

That night finds them all gathered in the game room, Will perched on a black leather couch in the opposite corner of the bar, nursing a beer as he watches Jimmy and Francis get into a playful argument about where the white ball is allowed to go after being hit into a pocket. Beverly is across from him, her socked feet up on the little round table between the two couches, tapping feverishly at her phone.

He lifts a brow. They aren't given cell service or wi-fi here, as part of the rules. Revelation must be done through observation alone. "Candy Crush?" he guesses.

She looks up, just for a moment, and shakes her head, returning her eyes to her screen. She tilts the screen, and gives a huff of frustration. "It's called 'Dark Box'," she says. "You have to turn on all the lights but how you do it changes every time and it's not just a question of tapping, or whatever. You have to think outside the box."

Will raises an eyebrow. "Not getting enough of that on the show?"

She grins, and nudges his knee with her foot, before apparently giving up on her game and locking her phone, tossing it to her side with a sigh. Behind her, in a little reading nook, Alana and Franklyn are speaking in low, hushed voices. Brian is at the bar, a collection of glasses around him, Hannibal behind it, watching him get progressively drunker with ever-growing amusement. Brian is a quiet drunk, apparently, and Will wonders what he might be slurring into his hand and into his drink as the night goes on.

Will has a headache. The low lights are harsh behind his eyes, and there are so many people, and so much noise. He has spent the last six months between finishing the filming of last season and this one in a blessed pool of solitude, in his little house in the middle of a field on the less developed side of Wolf Trap, and after that time so much stimulation is enflaming him.

He sighs, and tilts his drink towards Beverly, who takes it with a nod of thanks. He stands, and runs his hands through his hair, lifting one in a passive 'Goodnight' before he leaves the game room. The door closes behind him and he sighs, soaking in the relative quiet. He doesn't want to go to bed yet, would not want to lay awake at night and listen to everyone drinking and laughing – though, he notes, he is no longer sleeping directly above that room. Small blessings.

He goes to the coat closet by the door and pulls his on, zipping it up tight and buttoning it for good measure. He pulls the collar high, tugs the sleeves down so they graze his knuckles, and heads to the patio. Outside, the wind is chill, biting, and the night sky has made everything very cold.

He shivers, and closes the door behind him.

There is a single, wide table made of cast iron, intricately shaped to resemble ivy. It is large enough to sit ten people around it comfortably, though there are only four chairs. Will drags the one closest to the cliffs, out, to the very edge, and sits up on it, curling his knees to his chest to try and shield him from the wind.

He looks down, and looks out, wrapping his arms around his shins and digging his exposed fingers into the opposite sleeves of his coat, burying his mouth against his knees so that his exhale warms him. Still, the wind is persistent, dragging nails across his cheeks and digging into the nape of his neck. It's fitting, he thinks, that Hannibal would own a place such as this – subtly pervasive, chrome and leather in a forest, the wind and the ocean steadily eroding the cliffside away.

He closes his eyes, sighing. He knows Alana's secret, but he will keep it for as long as he can, until it becomes too obvious or until she is the only one left in the house, besides him. He suspects Beverly's, Jimmy's, and Brian's. Of course, if he's wrong, he will receive no answer and will have to guess again. None of them are married, it's hardly the most scandalous thing in the world, but it is a secret.

Which leaves Francis and Franklyn, neither of whom he is familiar with enough to know where to start. Franklyn seems like such a sweet, wayward soul; too eager for affection, perhaps, and not the most interesting person in the world, but that's hardly the point of the game. Francis, well, he was friends with Randall, which might hint at something, but Will, again, doesn't know where to begin with them.

Randall had been nice, too. Charming, and eager to make friends. A pack animal to the bone. It was this desire for connection, this wayward snap of neurons that had led him on moonlight walks, at times. Convinced Will, during a regular bout of insomnia, to follow him. It was not careful dissection of his words, nor observations like Alana's wine, that had given Will his answer. No, it was the glint of bone in moonlight, the sharp flare of red turning black as he'd chased down and torn a rabbit apart. The way he'd snarled at Will, wild-eyed, teeth bared, that had given him his answer.

He shivers again, pressing his lips together, and opens his eyes to see Hannibal pushing the sliding glass door to one side. He huffs, glaring half-heartedly towards him, sure that the illumination from inside is showing Hannibal his expression.

Hannibal smiles at him, and he has two small glasses of wine in his hand. "May I join you?" he asks, already approaching Will, coated and gloved. He wraps his foot behind one of the legs of a chair, dragging it towards Will with a screech of iron on concrete.

Will grits his teeth, but accepts the offer of wine, cradling it behind his knees. It smells fruity, of blackberries, and he takes a drink, humming at the smooth flavor. He knows there are no cameras or microphones out here, so they can speak freely.

Hannibal sighs, settling in place, and doesn't seem to feel the cold. His face is lifted, openly accepting the bite of the wind and the chill in the air, bathed in moonlight as she casts her light from above the sea. Will looks at him, looks, and hates how comfortable he seems.

"Brian finally call it a night?" he asks.

Hannibal opens his eyes, and smiles at him. "Beverly took him to his room," he says, and Will huffs, rolling his eyes. "I thought it best to shut down the bar for the night."

"Probably wise," Will murmurs. He takes another drink, and then realizes. He lifts a brow. "But not for us, huh?"

"You're far from the same level of intoxication," Hannibal replies. "I don't think a small indulgence will tip you over the edge."

Will huffs, and shakes his head. "No," he says. He turns his gaze away, out onto the ocean, listening to the call of gulls, the gentle crash of the waves against the rocks below. Even Hannibal, in his silence, is not unobtrusive to Will's need for quiet. He sighs again, and sips at his wine. It's delicious, of course, he would expect nothing less.

Hannibal shifts, beside him, his sigh mixing with Will's in a cloud of vapor. "I would like to speak plainly, Will, if I may," he says.

Will tilts his head, eyes sliding over.

"I do not understand your dislike of me. Whether I made a bad first impression, or have caused you some offense or slight, I would feel remiss if I did not at least attempt to mend this imposed rift between us."

Will swallows harshly. He looks down at the dark blood-color of his wine, swirling it around in his glass. "I think you are arrogant," he says, and meets Hannibal's eyes. "I think you are very proud. And I have no love of psychiatrists."

Hannibal seems to consider this, neither showing offence nor pleasure at Will's words. "Too many have tried to pick your brain in the past, I imagine."

Will growls. "See? You're psychoanalyzing me."

"We are both creatures of observation, Will. I can't turn mine off any more than you could turn yours off," Hannibal says, and now he does smile. "Again, I deeply apologize if anything I have said, or any of my behavior, has rubbed you the wrong way. I would like to make amends."

Will shivers, biting his lower lip, and drops his gaze. Hannibal's eyes are piercing, his face shadowed, and he makes Will think of monsters. "Aren't we supposed to hate each other?" he asks, rasping the words. "My new secret is that you and I dated."

Hannibal hums. "Yes," he says, considering. "I can see why Miss Lounds and Doctor Chilton suggested such a thing."

Will frowns. "Why?"

"Well, there are certain ways to read chemistry, Will."

Will winces. "You read the tabloids?"

"Occasionally. Though you are a fan favorite, there are some who see your treatment of me as, well, they use the term 'abusive'." He laughs. "I wouldn't think you had that much power."

Will huffs, lifts his chin, and ignores the incensing jab. "So there are some people who think there's already something going on between us," he says. Hannibal nods. "What, am I some asshole who broke your heart and now you have to bear the pain of seeing me every day?"

"The theories vary," Hannibal replies mildly. "And the tabloids don't go into much detail; they seek to titillate, and entice people into watching the second season." He sips his wine. "But there is a lot of free work published about us – fans of the show, who like to write about hypothetical relationships forming."

He grins at Will, toothy and wide. "And there is a lot of such work written about us."

If Hannibal's intention is to make Will uncomfortable, he's certainly succeeding. Will lets out a high, offended sound, and finishes his wine, clenching his fingers tightly around the stem of the glass. "I see," he says tightly.

"You are a brilliantly insightful person, Will, and one of the smartest people I have ever met. I consider a lack of friendship with you to be a great loss."

Will growls, fingers curling, and wants to snap his teeth. He grinds his jaws together and stands with a huff. "None of this is real, Doctor Lecter," he hisses, and gestures to the house behind them. "It's all fake, alright? I have bigger things to worry about than whether or not you're my friend, and I would think a man like you would feel the same."

Hannibal regards him, placid and calm, before he sighs, and stands, and takes Will's glass from his tight grip. "Yes, well," he says, and finishes his own glass, lacing his fingers around both stems, "if you ever change your mind, and wish to talk about any of these grand worries of yours, my door is always open."

He turns, and walks inside. Will snaps his teeth together with a harsh click, turns with a snarl, and stares out to the ocean. Waits, counts, until the illumination from the kitchen lights turns off and throws him into darkness.

He shivers, folding his arms across his chest, and finally must submit to the persistent claw of the wind. He ducks inside, face flushing immediately as the warmth embraces him, eager and welcoming. He sheds his coat and hangs it, and then goes to his room.

As he passes, he hears soft moans and the creak of bedsprings from Beverly's room. He huffs, and rolls his eyes.

He'll put his theory in the box tomorrow.

Chapter Text

The window in his new room is, apparently, angled just right to get the first shaft of dawn's sunlight streaking in through the pale, parted curtains, and right in the backs of his eyes. He groans, rolling to his belly, and buries his face in the pillows. He had sweated during the night, as his sheets are damp in a slightly-wider silhouette of his body, but not so much that he's still wet and cold with it. He sighs, bats impatiently at his phone on the bedside table, and lifts it up so he can check the time.

Ten in the morning.

He stretches out, groaning as his back pops in quick succession, always stopping at that hard-to-crack spot right between his shoulder blades, and pushes himself to his feet, climbing off the bed. It takes him a moment of disorientation to remember that he no longer has the en suite bathroom, and he sighs, shrugging his shirt over his head and pulling on a clean one, and a pair of jeans over his clinging underwear.

For good measure, he raises his middle finger to the video camera in the corner of his room.

He goes downstairs, barefoot and wild-haired, and finds Franklyn and Francis at the dining room table, playing what appears to be a game of 'War'. Brian has his head on the table, a damp towel with a baggie of ice sitting on top of his head, and a large glass of water clasped in prayer-shaped hands. Beverly and Jimmy are on the couches.

He doesn't see Hannibal, or Alana, anywhere.

He follows his nose, finds scones – probably freshly-baked – and a jar of raspberry jam and another bowl of clotted cream, still-cool. His mouth waters, and he slices open a scone, sees the crumbling center rich with dried apricots, a deep mottling of yellow and orange. He spreads jam on one side, a generous dollop of cream on the other, and carries his plate to the dining room table.

Brian groans at the squeak of his chair and Will gives him an apologetic smile when he lifts his head, clutching the bag of ice. "How you holdin' up?" he asks.

Brian blinks at him, bleary-eyed, and drops his head down in answer. Will huffs, rolling his eyes, and takes a bite of his scone. He catches Jimmy and Beverly watching Brian with wary, worried frowns from the couch, swallows his bite and thinks Brian was probably in no state to be anyone's lover last night.

He's also, Will is pretty sure, an alcoholic. This isn't the first time he's drunk himself to the point of uselessness.

Behind him, a door opens, and Hannibal and Alana exit his office. Alana looks like she's trying to hide an upset, dabbing under her eyes, her cheeks flushed. Will's eyes narrow as Hannibal settles a hand on her shoulder, and gives her a gentle smile.

"Come," he hears Hannibal say. "Eat something. There's plenty."

Will's eyes drop to Brian again. If Brian is an alcoholic, Hannibal must surely know that. That's a pretty significant breach of ethics, to provide alcohol in such ready supply. A sour, angry feeling coils up in his gut, and he stands, abandoning his breakfast as he meets Hannibal in the kitchen.

"May I have a word?" he demands.

Hannibal blinks at him, his eyes looking Will up and down, taking in his rumpled hair, the sheen of old sweat on his neck, the dark circles under his eyes. He presses his lips together, and nods, gesturing towards his office door.

Will growls, and leads the way in. The innards of Hannibal's office are comfortable and cozy, one wall lined with bookshelves made of dark wood, their spines weathered and old. There are two thickly-padded leather chairs, facing each other, and next to one of them is a small glass table with a box of tissues on it.

Will whirls on Hannibal as the door closes. "Do you know?" he asks.

Hannibal blinks at him, and sighs, his hands sliding into his pockets. "Care to be more specific?" he asks.

"Don't play that fucking game," Will hisses. He wants to pace, wants to snap his teeth together and grind them until his headache goes away, but he forces himself into stillness, steadies his hands, and gestures to behind Hannibal. "You know Brian's an alcoholic."

Hannibal tilts his head, and lifts a brow. "Is he?"

Will's eyes narrow. He turns, spies Hannibal's desk – on it, the theory box, black, lacquered wood shining. Beside it, the red phone, the classic rotary kind. How ridiculous. He wonders if it was Chilton or Hannibal who argued harder for the aesthetic.

"I understand confidentiality," he says tightly. "But there's keeping secrets and then being reckless, Doctor."

"And you believe I am being reckless, by giving a troubled man a way to forget his troubles, if only for a little while."

Will shows his teeth, turns and meets Hannibal's eyes, and Hannibal watches him steadily, unafraid and unaffected. Will wants to see him crack, wants to be the one to crack him. Perfect, controlled Doctor Hannibal Lecter.

Hannibal inclines his head behind Will. "If you have a theory, Will, I encourage you to share it."

Will's fingers curl, and he presses his lips together, turning around again. Beside the theory box is a single notepad. Atop it, a list of their names – they have to identify themselves when submitting a theory, so they can be credited with the right or wrong guess. It all counts for or against them. They are only allowed to submit one theory per day.

Will tears a sheet off, and circles his name. He writes, below it, 'Brian is an alcoholic'. He folds it in half and slips it into the box.

Then, after a moment of hesitation, he takes another page. This time, he circles Alana's name, and he forcefully gentles his hand, ties his 'L's and 'T's into a larger loop, slants his writing and, mimicking Alana's hand as best he can, he writes 'Beverly and Jimmy are having an affair'.

After all, that much can be proved.

He slips the second sheet in and sets the pen down, turns to see Hannibal watching him with thinly-veiled amusement. "Now, Will, who's being reckless?"

Will smiles at him. "I won't tell if you won't," he murmurs. Hannibal huffs a laugh, and steps to one side, gesturing to the door.

"After you."

 

 

Will finds Alana in the reading nook during the afternoon. The air is warm and humid, and she's dressed in flannel pajamas, a blanket tucked around her lap, and reading a thin book pressed to her knees. She looks lovely like that, approachable and innocent, and she looks up when Will enters the room and offers him a welcoming smile.

She gestures for him to come over, and pats the seat next to her. Will collapses against it with a sigh, leaning his head against the wall and slouching, legs out in a wide sprawl.

She puts one leg over his and he draws his heel back, holding her weight.

"Get to the bit where Dumbledore dies, yet?" he asks, scratching at his jaw.

She rolls her eyes and closes the book, then promptly hits him in the arm with it. Will laughs, catching the cover, and doesn't recognize it. "What this?"

"It's a really cool story about language," Alana says. "Do you know what a pangram is?"

Will huffs, and shakes his head.

"It's when a sentence uses every letters of the alphabet. The story takes place on this remote island, where people worship their founder who came up with a pangram, and his statue is in the town square, but because it's so old, letters start falling off. As the letters fall off, they decide it means they're not supposed to use them, and as the story progresses, the author stops using those letters too." She smiles, seeing Will attentive. "It's a fascinating exercise in language."

"How to communicate, without saying anything at all," Will says.

Alana shrugs. "In a sense."

"How does it end?"

"I don't know, I haven't gotten there yet, but they just lost the letter 'S' so I sense it's about to get crazy really quickly."

Will grins at her, and folds his arms across his chest, leaning against the wall again. "Hey, Alana?" he asks, and she hums. "I know we haven't known each other all that long, and feel free to hit me again if I'm outta line, but…do you need any, you know, help?"

She looks at him, and Will keeps his eyes on the ceiling.

"With your secrets. With the brother."

She raises an eyebrow, head tilted, and lets out a soft, amused sound. "How would you help, with that?"

Will shrugs one shoulder, rubbing his thumb against the corner of his mouth. "I got no problem kickin' a guy's ass if he deserves it," he replies. "And I have an open carry permit, still. Could freak him out a little, get him to back off."

"Will!" Alana gasps, her eyes wide – though, Will sees, she's not altogether repulsed by the idea. Her eyes dart to the cameras, and Will understands. It wouldn't be good to speak so openly about the threat of assault, especially if something unfortunate did happen to Mason.

"I just mean, with anything else," Will says after a moment. "Hell, you can take my consent bonus if you want. I don't need it."

"That's a lot of money, Will," Alana murmurs hesitantly.

Will shrugs. For his plans, the payout from the contest will be more than enough. Freddie and Chilton are nothing if not generous with their incentives. "The offer's there," he tells her, and smiles when she leans against his shoulder, sighing. "Did you manage to ask Doctor Lecter about medication?"

She nods. "He says he can prescribe a sleeping aid for me, it has the side effect of helping with nausea," she says. "He also said he'll stock up on mint tea – apparently mint is good for it, too."

"He would know," Will says darkly. He knows everything.

Alana sighs. Will feels her lethargy sweeping over him, and closes his eyes, leaning his head against the wall. The drape of her leg over his means they're sharing the blanket, too, and he's warm and lax under her weight, at her side. He turns his head, kisses her hair, and takes the book from her limp hands, setting it to one side as she curls up closer and falls asleep beside him.

 

 

Freddie shows up for dinner that night.

Will is tense, his heart hammering in his throat as she approaches the table. Always one for theatrics, she and Chilton adopted the practice of symbolically giving an evicted person a 'trophy', like a participation medal, and 'Thanks for playing, have a nice life'.

"Hi guys!" she chirps. "This is really exciting. We already have our first correct theory!"

Nervous eyes dart around the table, but Will is quiet, and focused on her. Her hair shines in the warm lights, the fiery mane of curls that she has to deflect attention away from her sharp eyes and shark-like smile.

She grins at each of them, and then her eyes land on Brian. "Mister Zeller," she says, her voice high with fake sympathy, and she puts a hand on his shoulder. "Unfortunately, your secret has been discovered." She hands him the little figurine in her hands. It is a blood-red 'CB', and Will suspects there's some lofty symbolism to the scarlet letter in there somewhere. Brian's expression is one of utter dejection, and he stands, taking the trophy from her. "Thank you so much for playing. Pack your things, you'll be coming back to Baltimore with me."

There is little flare, little pomp, and Will is glad for that, because if she had tried to draw it out he might have reacted very badly. Brian goes upstairs, to his room, and once he's disappeared from sight, Beverly clears her throat.

"Who revealed him?" she asks.

Freddie smiles, and puts a hand on Will's shoulder. Will growls, resisting the urge to shrug her off. "Our golden boy here did," she says, and digs her nails into his shoulder so that he can't push her touch away. Will glares at her hand, then down at his plate.

Francis, across from him, grunts. "Of course he did."

"It was pretty fucking obvious," Will growls in reply, and, lacking any other proper target, he narrows his eyes at Hannibal, who sits at the head of the table in his normal space. "And this place isn't where someone like him needs to be. He needs help, real help, not to be cooped up with a bunch of strangers with unsupervised access to alcohol."

Jimmy stands, like Will physically pushed him, his dark eyes sharp under his furrowed brow. "He's not an alcoholic," he says. "He's got a handle on it, he just -."

"Jimmy, please," Beverly says, and puts a hand on his arm.

Freddie clears her throat. "Well, actually, Miss Katz, Mister Price, you two will have to come with me as well," she says. "Your secret was revealed today too."

Beverly's eyes widen, and she looks accusingly at Will. "Fuck you, Graham," she hisses.

"Actually," Freddie says, clicking on the 'ct', "Doctor Bloom is the one who submitted her theory about you two."

Alana lifts her head, her eyes wide. She swallows, and her eyes dart between Beverly and Jimmy in rapid succession.

Below the table, Will's knee brushes hers. Play along.

"So you both need to pack your bags as well, and you'll be joining me and Mister Zeller on the trip home," Freddie says. They both give short, sharp nods, aggravated but calmer, for they won't be openly hostile to someone like Alana. They leave the table, and Will knows the car ride home will be a chance for them to provide exit interviews that will be taped for the show as well. He winces, and hopes they are not too cruel, too rash, with their words.

Freddie gives him a pat on the shoulder, and goes to the stairs as the three of them return, Beverly following Brian following Jimmy. Will swallows, and can't meet Brian's eyes, as Freddie wishes them all a good night and leaves the building, the three of them in tow.

Alana breathes out, loudly, and rubs a hand over her face. "Wow," she says.

"Not even done with our first week and already our numbers have halved," Hannibal says mildly, his eyes on Will. Will wants to turn away, to hide, a strange feeling of shame he hasn't felt in years creeping up the back of his neck.

But this is better. Brian can get help, away from Hannibal's influence. And Beverly and Jimmy, well, they can be together if they want. He doesn't much care.

"Were they sleeping together?" Franklyn asks, his eyes wide.

Alana clears her throat, and looks to Will. "Looks like it."

Hannibal's eyes burn on him, sharp, so sharp. Will's chest clenches, and he sets his knife and fork down. "Too much excitement for me," he says, and stands. "Good night."

"Sweet dreams, Will," Hannibal says, and Will's shoulders tense up, and roll, but he doesn't let himself stop; continues, to the stairs, and up to his room.

He crawls into bed and takes his laptop from the foot of his bed. There's no internet access here, but that's okay; he kept everything saved on his computer, buried deep in hidden folder after hidden folder. He looks up, to the camera pointed to the door, and pushes himself, heels in the sheets, to the corner under the camera as tightly as he can, so that he's out of sight.

Until three years ago, Will sold his body to strangers for money. Nothing as risky as prostitution, he would never trust strangers to lay a hand on him, but he would make videos, and take requests. He hasn't done it for years, and lived off of his savings before desperation and a starving bank account had pushed him to apply to this show.

With the earnings he makes here, he'll be able to finally run away from it all. He can buy some land, cheap, in West Virginia or further west, deep in the middle of the woods, where no one can bother him. A place he can finally just be in the peace, and quiet, of nature, and not care for anyone looking at him too harshly, or having the slick slide of other people's mindsets invade his brain and tamper with his dreams.

He opens the file that is the raw HTML of his old website. Waits, biting at his thumbnail, as it loads, and displays for him;

How do you like your boy?

He smiles to himself.

There's 'Sweet'. Will hums, rubbing his hand over his neck, remembers the feel of soft lace and satin against his thighs. Those that went to that part of the website liked their boys young, effeminate, and beautiful. Will didn't do sexual things for these videos, just sat and streamed himself, live, trying on pretty outfits, made himself blush when receiving all kinds of debasing, dirty compliments. These kind of men were harmless; they wanted to shower pretty boys with praise, wanted to tease him and make him squirm. Wanted to pretend he was a virgin, that he would be wide-eyed and wanting at the sight of their mediocre dick pics and protruding beer guts. They liked to be voyeurs, peeking at his thighs and watching him pet himself, too shy to touch himself for them but eagerly drinking in their fantasies and promising he'd do whatever they wanted, if they were gentle.

Then, 'Dirty'. One of Will's personal favorites. The tamer side of Will's sexual appetite, where he'd touch himself when they told him to, use his fingers and toys to spread himself open, beg for whoever was watching to fuck him and fill him up. These men could be savage, could be degrading. They'd call him a whore, call him a slut – things that, even now, makes Will's throat feel tight. He can't stand hearing those words, nowadays, even when said in self-deprecation, or as a joke. These videos were one-offs, where Will would take requests, and every Friday he'd do a livestream for the more confident patrons.

'Obedient' usually got wildly out of hand. People like the idea of seeing a man on his knees, desperate, submissive. Sometimes they wanted to see him collared, or bound, fucking into his fists with cuffs around his wrists. Will did a lot of things he regrets for those videos, before he knew any better.

'Bruised'. Will's absolute favorite. These are the ones where he bleeds, where he cries. It's a powerful catharsis, being so badly injured, so strung out, that all he could do was tremble and sob. He had a friend, back then, a woman, who would whip him and beat him and choke him, her face always out of line of the camera. There's one video, where she'd fucked him with a strap-on while spanking his ass purple, and Will still gets hard whenever he thinks about it. He hasn't spoken to her for three years, and hopes she's doing okay.

Then, there's 'Bossy'. This channel was for the men who weren't powerful, who weren't strong. They wanted a pretty plaything that would tell them what to do. They wanted someone cutting, and cruel, and Will liked doing that; he liked calling them names, sneering at them as they batted in irreverent, garbled key-smashes in the chats. He would touch himself and make them beg for his cock, for his hands. He doesn't picture men like Hannibal would go to chat rooms like this, but it's a fun thought right now, with his brain soaked in venom and his tongue sour in his mouth.

There's 'Dark'. This one has knives. This one has blood. This one has a video of Will sucking off his own gun and Will always, always comes when he pulls the trigger and hears it click.

The last one, the darkest shade of black on his website, is 'Mine'. This one was for special clients, the high-rollers, who were willing to pay any sum of money Will asked for, for one night with him, for one realization of their deepest, darkest fantasy. These clients, he made contact with. He would speak to them on the phone, chat with them online, text them at four in the morning if they wanted him to. These ones wanted him all to themselves. For these ones, Will would tailor a specific video, just for them, and email it to them directly. The 'Mine' section only went to a single page:

"What should I call you?" Then, "Tell me how to reach you", with an option for a cell number or an email address.

It is this channel that got Will into trouble.

There was one man who wanted to scare him. Will is used to fear play, fantasies of non-consent, even hypnosis, though he'd never tried it. This kind of man is a sadist, a burgeoning sociopath. This kind of man, well, Will charged very highly for the likes of him.

He'd asked Will to call him 'Stranger'. Easy enough, and more common than one might think. But he'd taken it too far. He would call Will, in the middle of the night, during his livestreams or making his other videos. He would breathe into the phone, snarl low, angry, possessive things in Will's ear, and hang up before Will could say anything in reply. This man had demanded to know where Will was going, who he was meeting with. He threatened Will's friends, his family.

There was nothing Will could do, really – there was enough stigma around sex work that he knew whatever help he did get from law enforcement would be half-hearted at best, if not outright dismissive. And threats were just threats, Will knew better than anyone that until there was direct action, his hands were tied.

He sighs, his stomach abruptly turning sour, and closes his laptop with a huff, tossing it to the foot of his bed. He flops down, curled up in the corner, his eyes on the door, the white trim of the ceiling and floor. In the window, shadows prowl, trees shaking in the wind, a little tap tap on the edge of the window that sets his teeth on edge.

He's glad he swapped rooms with Alana.

 

 

He waits, until he hears everyone has retired to bed, and rises, pulling a sweatshirt over his head and socks on his feet, and pads out to the staircase.

He freezes when he sees, reclined on one of the couches, Hannibal is sitting. The other man meets his eyes, his smile wide and pleased like he had an internal bet on whether Will would emerge or not. Will swallows, knowing he's been caught.

There are two glasses of wine sitting on Hannibal's coffee table.

Will growls, contemplating just turning around and marching back to bed, but at least this room is well-illuminated, and Hannibal, though he's cloaked in shadow, is a Devil Will knows.

He goes down the stairs, shaking off his thoughts, and sits down with a huff. He takes the second glass of wine and raises it to his lips. It's white, this time, tart and borderline sour, it doesn't taste very good at all. He winces and sets it down again.

"I prefer red," he says.

Hannibal smiles. "I'll remember that."

He sits comfortably, knees set shoulder-width apart, heels to the floor, back settled against the thick cushions. Will sighs, bringing his heels to the edge of his couch, setting his chin on top of his knees, and picks absently at the ankle of his socks.

"Trouble sleeping?" Hannibal asks after a moment of companionable silence.

Will huffs. "I've always been more of a night owl," he replies.

Hannibal seems to consider this, and takes a drink of his wine. "There's a theory that says people who are more awake at night have a greater inclination towards creativity," he says, and Will tilts his head. "A vast, more active imagination."

"I guess ghosts and demons are easier to imagine at night."

"Is that why you can't sleep?" Hannibal asks, and Will winces, internally, and buries his nose in his knees in a petulant motion. He runs his hands through his hair and drags his nails down the back of his neck, sighing heavily.

"Can you do me a favor?" he asks, and lifts his head to meet Hannibal's eyes, finds his head tilted, attentive; "Can you just…talk to me like a normal fucking person? Just for one night? Stop trying to screw into my grey matter and uncover all my deepest darkest fears."

Hannibal's eyes brighten with amusement. He hums, sipping at his wine again, and folds one leg over the other. Will's eyes drop, and he sees, beside his wine glass, a very slim, dark sketchbook.

"What would you like to talk about?" Hannibal asks.

Will's teeth grind together, and he stands. "Forget it."

"Will, please." Will stops, turns to see Hannibal has lifted his head, no longer tilting as if asking some question with only his silence. He does not lean forward, doesn't reach for Will, but the light shining in his eyes feels like a soft plea; "I apologize. I would very much like to remain in your company for a while longer."

Will huffs, breathes out through his nose, and sits again. "Do you have any red?" he asks, nodding to the overly-tart offering of white.

Hannibal smiles, and stands. He moves to the kitchen and in his absence, Will leans forward and takes his sketchbook. He opens it, thumbing gently through the first few pages, appreciative of the thickness of the paper, the sharp etchings left in pencil and ink on each one. There are buildings, life studies of fruit and trees, and -.

Hannibal's shadow falls across him, and Will shivers, lifting his head. Hannibal hands him a glass of red wine, and doesn't seem bothered by Will's breach of privacy, the implicit lock and key of a closed book.

He sits. "I learned to sketch as a young man," he says. "I studied the work of many artists during my time in Paris, and Italy." He has, too, swapped out his white wine for red, and Will hums, cradling his glass close, and takes a sip, sighing at the fullness of the flavor on his tongue. It's syrupy and faintly sweet like cranberries and orange. Much better.

Will swallows. "There's, um." He tilts the page he stopped at, looks at Hannibal's chin, for he cannot meet his eyes. "There's a lot of sketches of me in here."

Hannibal grins. "Don't let it go to your head," he replies. Will huffs, and keeps turning the page. Hannibal seems to be incredibly focused on his face. Some of the sketches are abstract, barely more than outlines and shading, one so detailed it's like it might even turn and blink at him if he stares at it long enough. "I have sketched every one of the contestants, though I confess you and Alana have occupied most of my attention."

Will's brow creases, a strange defensiveness building up in his chest. "Alana?" he repeats.

Hannibal nods. "You share similar facial features that I'm interested in perfecting," he replies, either not noticing or brushing past Will's bubble of tension. He drinks his wine and Will mimics him, breathing in when Hannibal does, drinking when Hannibal does. "You both have hooded eyes, strong jaws, similar lips. Though," he laughs, and Will raises his eyes, "I don't think I'll ever get your hair quite right. It's quite unruly, and possesses a movement I don't think paper could ever capture."

Will blushes very darkly, and closes the book, setting it down. Hannibal's tone is not flirtatious – no, it's much lower, much more assured than that. Past the point of flirtation, straight into seduction. He shifts his weight and tries not to think of what kinds of things men like Hannibal would ask for from men like Will.

"Is there anything you're not good at?" he gripes, trying to calm the shake of his hands and cling to the sharpness of his tongue, the soft ever-present sting of offense that Hannibal conjures in him.

Hannibal smiles, wide enough to show his teeth. "I daresay I'm not good at winning your affection," he replies, and takes another drink of his wine, head tilted to bare his neck. Will's eyes drop, damning him, surely, and he swallows and sits back, knees to his chest and bowl of the glass against them.

"It drives you crazy, doesn't it?" he whispers. "Not even that I don't like you. Just not knowing why I don't like you."

"I freely admit, as a man who seeks to understand and learn as much as he can, I find it perplexing," Hannibal replies with a nod. Then, he smiles. "Though, at the risk of sounding too much like a psychiatrist again, part of me wonders if you're simply clinging to this animosity out of pride."

"Pride," Will repeats, his eyes on the fire. He lifts his chin. "I seem like a proud man, to you?"

"Without a doubt," Hannibal says, and Will's eyes slant to him, narrowing. Hannibal's smile widens, and he leans back, resting his free arm along the back of the couch, the picture of ease. "There is some aspect of you, curtained, I think, that seeks to be seen."

Will's eyes narrow further, darkening to a glare. "I'm not so desperate to win your favor, Doctor Lecter," he growls, and then huffs, thinking of Franklyn. "Not like some people."

"Ah, then why are you here, Will?" Will blinks at him, and drinks more wine. "Why are we sitting here, in this room, instead of in our beds, trying to find solace in sleep? Why did you come onto this show, except to flaunt your keen sight and your brilliant mind?"

Will hums, and then smiles. "Why aren't you in your bed, Doctor Lecter?" he asks.

"I am a solitary creature, Will, just like you," he says, and Will wants to grin, wants to pick at the obvious thread in Hannibal's words, seeking agreement, seeking connection. "But we are also, in our breeding and blood, pack animals by nature. There's no shame in seeking the company of like-minded people."

"And you believe we are like-minded."

"More than you think," Hannibal says, and smiles. "Or, perhaps, more than you'd like to believe."

Will goes tense, and Hannibal sighs, finishing his glass of wine. He leans forward, setting it down by Will's abandoned white. "Thank you for indulging me, Will," he says, and stands. "I've left the bottle on the kitchen counter. Feel free to help yourself."

Will nods, absently, his eyes back on the fire. He forces himself not to watch Hannibal move, not to measure the sleek gait as he goes to the stairs, ascends them, and forces himself not to look up as Hannibal's bedroom door closes.

He sighs, fingers curling around his glass, and stands, edging closer to the fire. The burn of it coats his arms, seeps into his clothes, and he sits in front of it, like the flames might hold the answers to the meaning of life.

Outside, the wind rages, and Will hears the tree branches creaking, tapping against the glass. He shivers.

 

 

Chilton and Freddie come the next morning, during breakfast.

"Hi everyone!" Freddie chirps, shark-like smile on her face. "We have a surprise for you!"

Alana turns, and Will lifts his eyes, wincing at the brash color of Chilton's salmon-pink suit, his gold-crusted tie. Chilton grins at him.

"We've brought two new contestants to the show," Freddie says, clapping her hands together. "Well, one contestant, and a very special guest. Due to the sudden depletion in our pool, Chilton and I decided that the issue is that you are all too familiar with each other. To make it more interesting, we wanted to spice things up and add some new players!"

Will frowns, and looks at Hannibal. Though the man's face is impassive, his eyes betray a flint-strike of surprised intrigue.

"Let us introduce Mister Matthew Brown," Chilton says, and like he was waiting for his cue, a man emerges. He is a plain-looking man, tall and muscled, with short-cropped brown hair and deep brown eyes. Will tilts his head, taking in his state of simple dress. Though he emerged from the outside, he wears no coat, and his cheeks have not flushed from the sudden heat. "He will be a new contestant, and has a secret, just like the rest of you. Matthew, please, make yourself at home."

Matthew smiles at them, and then his eyes land on Will, and turn very, very sharp. Will's stomach clenches, and his chest feels cold.

Matthew nods, and grabs his bag, taking it upstairs to claim a room. "We are also bringing Doctor Bedelia Du Maurier to the show," Chilton says, and from behind him emerges a blonde, elegant-looking woman, her hair styled in artful curls down one side of her neck. Her face is angular, she's older, refined and poised like an empress awaiting a portrait to be painted in her honor.

"Another psychiatrist?" Franklyn says, voice high.

Freddie nods. "She will be playing a very special role," she says. "Doctor Du Maurier will hold therapy sessions, just like with Doctor Lecter, only hers are mandatory." At those words, she looks at Will, sharp and bright. Will fights the urge to growl at her. "Everyone will be required to sit with her for an hour, every other day. Unlike with Doctor Lecter, she will actively attempt to uncover your secrets as well, and be able to submit them just like any of you can. But." She pauses for emphasis, grinning, "Doctor Du Maurier will also be able to give out clues, and hints, about yourselves to your opponents."

Will does growl, then, his hand tightening around his fork. "So she's a snitch," he says.

Bedelia looks at him, looks at him down the bridge of her nose, and smiles, closed-lipped and faint. "If that's how you'd like to see it," she replies airily, lifting her chin. Will tries not to sneer at her, but isn't sure how well he succeeds. "I look forward to speaking with all of you," she adds, and takes her bag, climbing the stairs to claim the last free room.

"This is insane," Francis growls at Will's side. Will nods in agreement. "You can't just throw in extra people and then someone we're literally going to be forced to confess our secrets to."

"Now, now," Chilton murmurs, hands wide in a placative gesture. "That's not it at all. You have to speak with Doctor Du Maurier, it's true, but her sessions will be in Hannibal's office, unrecorded and off the record. It's her job to figure you out, and it's up to you as to how easy you make that."

Will stands. "May I have a word?" he growls, and Freddie grins at him, gesturing for him to go to the door. He stalks towards it and whirls on them both. "So which secret am I gonna be hiding from her?" he demands, gesturing upwards.

"Will, we've been watching the tapes," Freddie says, smiling. "Now that you're all in the house, your risk of discovery from one of the contestants is pretty low, but you've been spending an awful lot of time with Doctor Lecter lately."

Will huffs, folding his arms across his chest.

"We think you should go back to the cam secret," Freddie adds. "It'll be more of a challenge, and suffice to say I don't think a relationship with Doctor Lecter will remain secret for much longer."

"What the Hell is that supposed to mean?" Will demands.

Freddie tilts her head, arches one thin, red eyebrow. "Will," she says, and puts a hand on his arm and he glares at her, wonders if he could kill her just with a look. "Come on. Late night wine and fireside talks? Isolated conversations on the patio where no one can hear you? Your interactions have more chemistry and flirtation than I've seen in actual love interests."

Will growls at her, yanks his arm away, and runs a hand through his hair. "There is no chemistry," he hisses, and wonders how he can suddenly and so viscerally hate a word.

But… "I'll go back to the other secret," he says, relenting. At least, this way, he doesn't have to pretend to have dated Hannibal, or pretend to hate him, or love him, or whatever – God, he needs a drink. "You're sure she doesn't already know about it?"

"She passed a polygraph," Chilton says with a shrug, and Will blinks at him.

"What is this, the fucking FBI?" he scoffs, folding his arms again. "You didn't make me take a polygraph, or any of that shit."

Chilton grins at him, slick and wide. "Because we know you're a liar already, Will," he replies. Will presses his lips together, fixes his glare somewhere just past Chilton's shoulder. "Just like everyone else in this house."

Will frowns. Wants to ask, but doesn't. He rolls his shoulders and shakes his head, sharply. "Well," he says, a single, sharp snap of his teeth, "thank you for your time." He turns and walks back to the dining room table, finding everyone just where he'd left them, but now Matthew and Bedelia are at the table as well. Hannibal has brought out two fresh plates of food for them, and Will tilts his head.

Either Hannibal made extras, or he knew they were coming. But his expression at Freddie and Chiton's announcement had seemed surprised, and almost irritated, like someone had shown up a party unannounced.

Considering this, Will goes back to his seat.

"Good luck everyone!" Freddie says brightly, clapping her hands together. "We'll be providing Doctor Lecter and Doctor Du Maurier with session schedules, and they'll be publicly available on a sheet in the front entrance, so we can make sure no one overlaps. We'll see you guys soon!"

With that, they leave, and Will sits down with a huff. He takes a long, long pull of his coffee, and grimaces, a half-thankful smile, when Alana pours him another.

Francis and Matthew are watching each other like two dogs in neighboring yards, sizing the other up. Then, Matthew straightens with a bright smile, apparently the one to try asserting his dominance first; "It's great to meet you all!" he says, sweet and low. Will's shoulders roll, he frowns, because -. "I'm afraid I know all your names, but I don't have any faces for them. Except, of course," he nods to Alana, "you must be Alana. A pleasure to meet you."

Alana smiles at him. She has always been the most tactful and patient of the group. "Nice to meet you as well, Matthew. Are you local?"

"Oh, I've bounced around. Military brat, you know how it is," Matthew says with a wave of his hand. "But for the last few years I've been at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane."

Will huffs, lifting his head, lifting his mug. "Which side of the bars?" he says.

Matthew blinks at him, and then huffs a laugh. "You must be Will," he says, softer now. His eyes dip, rake Will over in a way distinctly predatory, and Will wants to tense up, to hide away, but he's borne far worse from more dangerous men and he won't let himself be cowed. Won't let any of those at the table see him cowed. "It's so nice to finally put a name to the face."

Will's brow creases. A strange way to phrase it, for should it not be in the reverse?

"I'm Franklyn," pipes a voice to Will's side, and Franklyn reaches over the table to extend his hand. Matthew takes it, though his eyes keep sliding to Will. "Great to meet you."

"You as well. Which leaves…" Matthew looks at Francis. Stares him down. "You must be Francis."

"Were you briefed on your housemates before joining us, Matthew?" Hannibal asks coolly. He sits reclined, relaxed, but there is a dark shadow in his eyes and he has the aura of someone distinctly displeased. "Or, perhaps, Miss Lounds and Doctor Chilton provided some information to you."

"Only names," Matthew replies with a smile. His eyes slide to Will again and Will's stomach clenches up, wary of the way Matthew keeps looking at his neck. His fingers curl tightly around his coffee cup and he takes another drink.

"So, the Hospital for the Criminally Insane," Alana says, after a long moment of uncomfortable silence. "I imagine that's grueling work. Were you a doctor?"

"One of the nurses," Matthew replies, smiling and taking a bite from the steaming steak slices Hannibal provided. "I worked the night shift, fed them dinner and tucked them in at night."

Will tenses again, swallowing harshly. There is something very familiar about Matthew, but he can't quite put his finger on it.

"Why, then, did you decide to come on this show instead?" Francis asks. Will is glad to see Francis seems to harbor a similar amount of distrust and animosity towards Matthew – there is potential ally ship there, and allies are hard to come by in a situation like this.

Beside Matthew, Bedelia eats only vegetables, and nurses her water, looking between them all like a cat deciding which mouse she will chase first.

Matthew smiles. "I saw the first season," he says, and looks at Will again. Really looks at him, and the sour, uncomfortable knot in Will's stomach grows tight, bristles. "I couldn't resist the opportunity to apply for season two once Mister Tier was evicted. It all seems so fascinating, and I thought I'd like to give it a shot."

"Not a lot of people have the ability to dissect the nature of people's secrets," Hannibal says, still with that frosty tone that makes Will feel like he just stepped out onto the patio. His eyes lift, and land on Bedelia, and Will sees her smile, faint and airy like she is a patron of the arts looking upon a fine collection. That knot in his stomach grows claws, prowling up his spine. "Do you believe your job gives you such insight?"

"Freddie and Chilton seem to think so," Matthew replies with a dismissive wave of his hand. "But even if I don't win, or I'm discovered, I am so curious to experience it for myself."

Will's hand trembles. He almost drops his cup.

"Curious?" he repeats, rasping.

Matthew smiles at him, slow and wide and Will's heart stutters. "Of course," he purrs. "There's something satisfying in playing a game for the sport of it, wouldn't you say, Will?"

Will stands, abruptly, and rakes a hand through his hair. Matthew's eyes flash, and his chin lifts, and the show of his teeth is like watching a tiger smile. "I -. Excuse me," he mutters, rushed, and he bolts from the table and goes to Hannibal's office. Here, he won't be watched, he won't be seen. He hurries in and shuts the door behind him, leaning against it heavily. His heart is hammering, and his blood is rushing in his ears.

It can't be, it can't be -.

And yet.

The sport of it.

"I want to hunt you. I want to see your fear."

There's no way, absolutely no way Matthew Brown is…

There's a knock on the door and Will flinches, flees to behind the desk. The door opens, and Hannibal appears, striding in and closing it behind him and Will sags, hands planted, head bowed. He can't breathe, the room is too small, too intimate, and Hannibal's presence too large and imposing.

"Will, are you alright?"

Will shakes his head, sharply. "No, I -."

Hannibal comes to him, and Will flinches, but can't flee before there's a warm, soft palm on his forehead, under his hair. Hannibal ducks his head, checks his eyes, his other hand flattening over Will's neck to measure his pulse.

He breathes out. "You're shaking," he says. His touches linger, and he tips Will's head up, measures the gasp of his seizing lungs and the unsteady pound of his heart. "Elevated heart rate, spiked temperature…" He lets Will's forehead go and cups his face. "Are you alright?"

"No," Will whispers again, shakes his head and pulls away from Hannibal's gentle touch. "No, I -. I have to get out of here."

He found me, he's found me.

So glad to finally put a name to the face.

"I have to get away from him."

Hannibal lets out a soft, concerned noise, and though he is not obvious with it, the way he moves blocks Will from the exit. "Will," he says, firm, that psychiatrist voice that Will hates so much; "Tell me what's going on. What's wrong?"

Hannibal doesn't know Will's past, his secret, and Will doesn't want to tell him. Doesn't want his head to tilt in that annoying, questioning way. Doesn't want to see Hannibal's eyes flash, calculating, dissecting the obvious and inevitable perversion of Will's life that led him to that kind of work. Doesn't want the way Hannibal looks at him to change.

He shakes his head again and runs both hands through his hair. "Just…. Just trust me on this," he says, weakly. "Matthew's dangerous. He can't stay here." I can't sleep with that man under the same roof.

And he thinks of Alana – sweet, tender Alana – vulnerable Franklyn, thinks of the way Francis had looked at Matthew like he'd sensed it too, and Bedelia's wide smile when Will had stood and fled the table. Matthew is dangerous, and obsessive, and he's the reason Will took his site down in the first place and tried to disappear before desperation and famished funds had brought him to this house.

Hannibal tilts his head. "If Matthew is dangerous, you must tell me why," he says calmly.

"I can't," Will replies. Then, "I don't want to."

"Do you know him from somewhere?"

Will swallows. "You could say that."

For rather, he does not know him, not like that – but he knows his voice. Knows the kinds of things he wanted to do to a man – a boy – like Will. Knows his penchant for violence, his desire to hunt and his predatory inclinations. Knows how he reacts when those desires are rejected. Will trembles, his heart hammering and hands shaking, and he lets out a low, desperate noise.

"Please," he whispers, and looks to Hannibal. "You have to help me."

Hannibal nods, his expression distant, his hands in his pockets, the epitome of control in the face of Will's frantic panic. "Tell me how."

Will licks his lips. He doesn't know how to defend himself in a situation like this. His instinct is to run, but he has a contract and obligations and if he leaves the show before his time, he's absolutely fucked. And he can't leave Alana alone here, he wouldn't leave her to the mercy of that monster.

His only chance – he realizes this in a sharp moment of clarity, washing over him like jumping into an ice-cold river – is to find out Matthew's secret, and have him evicted. But that will be difficult, it would require him to be alone with the man, and he can't possibly do that. He could out Alana, get her out of here and flee after, but that still leaves Francis, and Franklyn, and Franklyn is too soft and Francis is too much of a wild card for him to know how they will react. And it doesn't mean Matthew won't find him, paint himself as the concerned friend and confidante, and it won't let Will off the hook, contract-wise. Freddie and Chilton might give his information away, and then Will is back to square one.

He cannot run. He can't hide. So he has to fight.

"Will," Hannibal says again, snapping Will back from his whirling thoughts. He has taken a step forward and Will shivers, for he's standing so close, heat and strength and control and Will doesn't know how he can bear it – he would be shaking, too, in the presence of someone so obviously distressed. Hannibal's eyes, dark, are fixed on his face. "I want to help you, but I can't if you don't tell me how."

Will breathes out, crosses his arms, and nods, once, sharply. "I need to get him evicted," he says. He leans back against the desk, back making the theory box tilt and slide, and Hannibal hums, lips pressed together.

"Then you will need to find out what he's hiding."

Will grimaces, setting his teeth on each other's edges, and flexes his fingers into the crook of his elbows. He drops his eyes. "Right," he says, softly. Ideas, or at least shadows of them, are building up – possibilities, alliances, trades of information. He sees this house as a battleground, now, and there are two generals. On one side, Bedelia, who seeks to put an end to all of them, and on the other Hannibal, who cannot share anyone's secrets, who Will finds pretentious and arrogant and yet.

"You can't tell me, though," Will says. "If Matthew tells you his secret."

"That is correct," Hannibal replies with a nod. He tilts his head, considering, "But you are a very observant, brilliant man, Will. I'm sure if anyone could figure out what Mister Brown is hiding, it would be you."

Will's upper lip curls, and he huffs. "Yeah. I have some ideas."

"I'll confess, Will, I am dreadfully curious, both about your reaction and this prior relationship you had with Mister Brown."

"Don't tell me you're jealous," Will snaps, grinning off-kilter and wide. He feels calmer, now – a plan means an order, means attacks and counterattacks, and he's a little fuzzy on the details right now but it's forming, and it will leap from his imagination in a spring of intuition when the timing is right, Will is sure.

Hannibal lifts a brow, smiles that smile that is more a bulge of his cheeks and a lift of his chin, than any real movement of his mouth. "Is there something I ought to be jealous of?" he asks, placid and serene, and Will's eyes narrow because Hannibal is teasing him.

"Wouldn't you like to know," he mutters, and unfolds his arms, pushing himself away from the desk. He approaches Hannibal and Hannibal, when it comes to the absolute last moment when he has to surrender the way to the door to force Will to push past him, turns to one side and allows Will a view of the door.

Will passes him, hand on the frame, and then turns and looks at Hannibal over his shoulder. "Promise me you'll keep an eye on him?" he asks, licking his lips when Hannibal replies with a hum. "I don't want him near Alana, or really near anyone, but her most of all."

Hannibal smiles at him. "Because she's pregnant?" he asks. Will sighs. "Or because she's your friend."

"Why can't it be both?" Will demands, turning and glaring at him.

"Because there are different pathologies behind each reason," Hannibal replies coolly. He seems delighted to have held Will's attention for this long. "And…" His head tilts, "You showed no surprise when I told you she was pregnant, which means you already knew. So either you figured it out, or she told you – two branches which, again, mean two different sets of circumstances." He smiles when Will's shoulders roll and Will gives a huff of complaint. "It wasn't that long ago you threatened me with violence if I showed Alana any undue attention."

"That threat was towards everyone," Will says. "You're not special just because you're the one I said it to."

Hannibal laughs. "Of course. Forgive me for assuming."

"You assume a lot of things," Will says, and though he tries to make his tone cutting, he finds it comes out altogether softer than he'd meant it. He turns more fully, regards Hannibal face to face and finds him still standing tall and controlled, unaffected as though he and Will are comfortable, old friends, simply sharing a pleasant conversation. His eyes are uncharacteristically bright, though, the lines around them soft with delight when Will looks at him.

And when he does, Hannibal hums, and shrugs one shoulder in a carefully calculated, cavalier movement. Everything about how he moves is precise, like the motions of a choreographed dance he has been doing all his life. If he were taken by surprise, would he go stiff, coils and springs snapping like a cheap robot toy, or would he explode into a vision of movement too fast to register at first?

"Psychology is a science, Will," he replies. "It is based off a hypothesis, and then trying to prove or disprove it. For instance." Hannibal moves away from him, goes to the desk and pulls the theory box back into place, and then he turns. "We have a premise that Matthew Brown is dangerous. You assert this to me, and now, what? Am I to prove or disprove your theory?"

"It's not a theory," Will replies, eyes narrowing. "I know he is."

"And how do you know he is?" Hannibal asks, spreading his hands out in another practiced, helpless gesture. Will growls, folding his arms again. "What is your proof, where is your research?"

"Is it so hard to just believe me?" Will asks.

Hannibal smiles at him, proud and pleased. "Ah, well, you see, that depends," he replies. "Because I have a theory of my own."

Will's chin lifts. "About me?" he asks, though he already knows the answer.

Hannibal's smile widens, showing teeth, and he brings his hands in front of him, lacing his fingers together loosely, and braces himself back against his desk. "I believe that you are, if not a pathological one, then at least a very, very good liar. I believe you like to invent stories, and create scenarios that are so vivid and so detailed, you are able to convince almost anyone that they are real." Will blinks, and then his eyes widen.

He tries to school his expression, and clears his throat. "So, what, you think I'm delusional?" he demands. "That I'm just making shit up for the sake of drama?"

"Are you?" Hannibal replies. His tone is neither apologetic nor judgmental – it contains a flatness that reminds Will of the frosted glass in Alana's bedroom. Shrouding, hiding dark things from sight but in its presence, everything is more frightening.

"I wouldn't lie about this," Will says.

Hannibal regards him for a long, long moment, up until the point Will is just about ready to cuss him out and leave, and then he nods, and sighs through his nose.

"I believe you," he says.

Will frowns at him.

"You do not owe me any of your secrets, nor anything more than a gut feeling," Hannibal says, and straightens. "If Matthew Brown makes you feel unease, it is my duty and obligation to help you understand why, and to help you overcome it."

For a moment, Will is frozen, and then black, hot understanding sweeps over his head and clouds the back of his eyes.

"Are you treating me like a Goddamned patient?" he snarls. His voice is loud, much louder than he intended it, but he doesn't care. Let the whole damn house hear. Hannibal tilts his head, that maddening fucking smile on his face, and Will advances on him. "So you do think it's all in my head, or that I'm just making it up?"

"It would certainly make for some exciting television," Hannibal says coolly. "And you spoke with Miss Lounds and Doctor Chilton shortly before your outburst. They could have asked you to pretend, just as you were asked to pretend with me."

Will stares. He can only stare, somehow breathless, his heart hammering and his shoulders tensed and low. His hands curl to fists at his sides and he has to do some very quick math, measuring the statistics and weight of the satisfaction he would feel throwing a punch, versus the likelihood that Hannibal would press charges, to the possibility of Hannibal giving as good as he got. He could bear a black eye, a bruised jaw – he's done far worse for far less.

He works his jaw to one side, and breathes out, heavily, through his nose. "Fine," he growls, and turns away, heading for the door. "I don't care if you believe me or not. I'll just figure it out myself, and fuck you very much."

"Will, please -."

But Will ignores him, flings the door open hard enough that the handle slams into the back wall, and stalks up to his room. He can feel Hannibal's eyes on him, feel Alana's eyes on him, as he ascends the stairs and marches to the farthest room away from Hannibal's – forgetting for a moment that this is now Alana's room. Whatever. He's sure she won't mind.

He slams the door closed and plops himself on the floor at the end of her bed, his knees pulled up, staring at the door.

Three, two…

The shadow of two legs darkens the entrance, heels on the hallway, and Will sighs. "I'm in here," he calls, rubbing his hand through his hair. The legs turn, crisscrossing each other, and then Alana pushes open the door and regards Will with wide eyes.

"Will," she breathes, almost like relief, like she half-expected him to be tearing the place apart. He sighs, and rubs his hands over his face as she approaches him and carefully kneels down in front of him. She puts her hands on his knees, her chin on her knuckles, and offers him a small smile that reminds Will of puppies.

"Come on," she says, and rocks his knees from side to side, her tone like she's encouraging a child to talk. "Come on, talk to your buddy."

Will can't help smiling. He sighs, heavily, and reaches out to gently cradle her face, wrap his fingers in her hair. She blinks at him, but doesn't pull away.

"You don't think I'm delusional, do you, Alana?" he asks, and hates that this is exactly the kind of thing a pathological liar would do.

She frowns at him, brow creasing, and shakes her head. "I think you're a little weird," she says, and Will huffs a laugh, rolling his eyes. "But, I mean, we all kind of have to be to get on this show. But I don't think you're suffering any delusions. Why?"

Will sighs through his nose. "If I told you to stay away from Matthew Brown, you'd trust me, right?"

Her frown deepens, and her head tilts. She kneels up and puts her elbows on his knees instead, folding her hands under her chin, her knees sliding between his feet and Will smiles, spreads them, to let her kneel on him. It's a familiar, intimate position, but it also hides their mouths from the cameras.

"Why?" she whispers, leaning in. "Do you know something?"

Will presses his lips together, swallows harshly. "Not for certain," he replies quietly. "But if he is who I think he is, I mean…. I know him. I knew him. He's dangerous."

She frowns. "Freddie and Chilton wouldn't put us in isolation with a dangerous man," she says weakly. "Would they?"

Will lifts a shoulder. "If they asked the wrong questions, it wouldn't have come up."

"Ugh! You're killing me, Will!" she says, shaking her head. "Come on, you know my secret, you have to tell me."

Will sighs. He tilts his head back, resting against the wall, and rubs both hands over his face.

In the wake of his silence, she says, "It is really that shameful?"

Shameful? No, that's not the word. He shakes his head and sighs heavily, upwards. "I'm not ashamed of it," he says, slowly. "Shame isn't, it's not the right word. It implies that I feel the need to justify it, or that it's something I didn't want to do and would rather forget, and none of that's true. I did it because I was good at it, because I liked doing it, and it was fun, and then when it stopped being fun, I stopped, but Matthew -."

He stops, wincing.

Alana is looking at him with dark, dark eyes, considering, calculating. Too sharp for her own good – Will's said it before and he stands by it. She straightens, and pats his knees. "Well," she says softly, "when and if you ever want to talk about it, I'm here." Will nods. "And if you think I should give Matthew a wide berth, I trust you on that, too."

He smiles at her, relieved to the bone. "Thank you," he murmurs, and thinks it's so nice, really damn nice, to be trusted, to be believed, without having to prove he's someone worth trusting and believing in. How rare it is, to find a friend like her.

He sighs, and shifts his weight and she pushes herself to her feet, then hauls him upright. "Sorry for commandeering your room," he tells her. "I forgot it wasn't mine, for a second."

She hums. "You wanted to get as far away from Hannibal as possible," she says.

Will flushes, and turns away.

"I guess I wasn't exactly subtle," he growls.

"Look, Will." Her touch lands, gently on his arm and he turns to look at her, finds her gaze dark and sincere. "I don't know what is going on between you two, but if there's someone here that's making you nervous or uncomfortable, Doctor Lecter is meant to be our confidante and friend. Someone we can talk to."

Will winces. "I can't…talk to him," he says, rubbing the back of his neck. Her eyes are too sympathetic, the crease in the corners of her mouth too soft as she presses her lips tight and thin and her brows draw together. "I mean, sometimes I can. Sometimes it's easy. But I just…"

"I get it," Alana says with a single nod. "Relationships are hard and hanging around with your boyfriend -."

"What?" Will says, whirling on her.

Alana blinks at him. "That's your secret, isn't it? You and Doctor Lecter are having an affair." Her head tilts. "Well, I should say had an affair. Clearly it's not going well."

"Alana, that's not -."

"Look, you're keeping my secret, and I'm going to keep yours. I don't care that you're gay, Will, I don't care that you're a little weird. I consider you my friend, and so I want to help you, and if that means keeping a low profile around this Matthew guy while we figure out what his secret is, then I'm happy to do it."

Despite his nerves, and despite how on-edge he feels and how totally off base she is, he smiles, and pulls her into a gentle hug. He presses his face to her hair and inhales deeply, closing his eyes when she clutches him back.

"You're the best, Alana," he breathes, squeezing her one more time before pulling back. She grins at him, wide and pretty, and pats his chest.

"I know," she replies. "Now, I don't want to go back down there because if Franklyn tries to talk Hannibal into one more tyromancy demonstration I'm going to scream. And Francis and Matthew are in the game room. So you're going to stay up here with me and entertain me."

Will huffs a laugh, and nods. "Yes ma'am," he says. "I have a pack of cards in my bag, and I downloaded a bunch of games on my laptop before coming here."

"Ooh, what games?" she asks, following him into his bedroom across the hall. He turns on the light and shuts the door and she flings herself onto the bed, grabbing his computer and pulling it into her lap. She taps on the trackpad and purses her lips. "Mm…I wonder if I can guess your password."

"I assure you, you can't," Will replies, rolling his eyes. He pulls off his socks and shoes and, after a moment, tugs on her heels, setting them on the floor. She crosses her legs as he flops down into place beside her.

"What about 'HannibalLecterSucks'?" she asks, and winks at him. "Or maybe 'IWishHannibalWouldSuckMyDick'…" Her fingers tap along the keys, pretending to type the words.

Will rolls his eyes. "It's actually, 'My friends are all pushy as Hell and have no idea what they're talking about'," he says. "No spaces."

She pokes him, harshly, in the side, and he yelps to the sound of her laughter. "Come on," she says, pushing his laptop into his lap.

He rolls his eyes, and enters his password quickly, and freezes when he sees that he hadn't closed down his website from having it open before. He hurriedly taps to the home screen but she sees it, and he winces when she gives a curious sound.

"What was that?" she asks, too-politely.

Will clears his throat, drumming his fingers on either side of the trackpad. "Nothing," he replies.

"Nothing," she repeats, and he looks at her to see her eyebrows arched, unimpressed. "Looked like something. A big something."

Will sighs, and runs a hand through his hair. He presses his lips together and, after a moment, brings the site back up. "This is…my secret," he tells her, shifting his weight nervously. She blinks, her eyes wide, and looks to the laptop screen again. "Years ago I was a – well, I'd make videos for people, depending on their requests. I was, ah, pretty popular."

"Will, I'm sure it's nothing I haven't seen before," she says gently, patting his arm. "So you were a camboy. It's nothing to be ashamed of."

"I'm not ashamed of it," Will snaps, harsher than he'd meant to. But he sighs, and shakes his head. "This is why I know Matthew's not a good guy."

"Was he a client?" she asks, wide-eyed.

"Yeah, I guess you could call him that," Will says, wincing. He shakes his head again. "I never met him – I never let them put their hands on me, that wasn't my gig. But I'd…" He clears his throat. "The ones for darker shit, I'd have them get in contact with me first, leave a phone number or email address. Then I'd reach out to them and get a feel for what they wanted, what kinds of things they wanted to see. Matthew was one of them and he…took it too far, I guess."

Alana frowns, and lets out a worried noise. "Will, if he knows who you are, and what you did, and if he's dangerous, you should report him to Freddie and Chilton immediately."

Will shakes his head. "It wouldn't matter," he says. "I can't prove it, he's probably changed his number and deleted all traces of the thing, and I won't -." He stops, snarling, "I won't give Chilton the satisfaction of looking through this site for my shit. I bet he'd love that."

He looks at her, finds her expression heavy with understanding and resignation. "Then what can we do?" she asks.

Will sighs. "I need to figure out what his secret is," he says quietly. "If I can get him evicted, then it's no blood no foul. But that would require me to spend time with him alone and I don't know if I can bring myself to do that, knowing what I know."

"If I can ask…and feel free to tell me to go fuck myself if I'm overstepping, what kind of things did he want?"

Will huffs a laugh, and runs both hands through his hair, sighing heavily. "He wanted to scare me," he says, and closes his eyes, trying not to think about the sound of him, breathing over the phone. Tries not to remember how it had felt to be up at night, listening for any crinkle of footsteps over dry leaves, tries not to remember how he'd listened, breathless, for the sound of his front door opening, or for someone breaking in through his window. Matthew hadn't gotten that far, he's sure he never figured out where Will actually lived, but the possibilities had been endless, and Will has always had a very active imagination.

"There's this thing people can do – consensually, of course – where one of them encourages a feeling of fear in the other. Of being…hunted, and preyed upon." He opens his eyes and blinks up at the ceiling. "That's what he wanted. He wanted me to think he was watching me, that he would hurt me if I didn't do anything and everything he asked. But he threatened me too, well, I guess I'd say it hit a little close to home. I didn't get the impression it was just a game, for him – I felt like he wanted to hurt me, and that he would the second I let something slip and he figured out how to get to me."

"That's awful," Alana says, touching his arm. He sighs, and looks at her, forcing a smile.

"I'm sorry I freaked out at dinner," he murmurs, flattening his hand over hers. "And I don't want you to worry, or be afraid."

"I'm not worried about myself," she replies, her brows coming together, her lips pressed into a thin line. "But I genuinely think you should talk to someone about this. All this anxiety won't be good for you, and I'm not letting you drop dead of a heart attack because your creepy stalker is here when it could have been taken care of."

He smiles, and then sighs, and closes down the website page. "Alright, freeloader, go nuts with the games," he says, and hands the laptop to her.

She smiles, though it's strained. "I'm serious, Will," she says. "I know you don't like Doctor Lecter, though why I have no idea because he seems perfectly nice, but he's a good therapist and a really amazing conversation partner. I think it'd be good for you to talk to him."

Will winces, remembering just exactly how their last conversation had gone. He sighs through his nose. "He called me a liar," he says, and knows that's not exactly fair for him to say, but he's still angry at it and doesn't want to let it go; "He said I like to make up stories, and that Chilton might have chosen Matthew on purpose to get a reaction out of me, for more drama."

Alana hums. "Well," she says. "Would you?"

He blanches. "Of course not!"

"Then that's all that matters," she says primly, and smiles. "You don't have to justify yourself to anyone, and you definitely don't have to prove yourself to anyone, but if it bothers you that much all you can do is keep an eye on Matthew. He'll give himself away eventually."

She sighs, and puts a hand over her stomach. "We all do, one way or the other."

Will nods to himself, and looks to her hand. "How've you been feeling?" he asks.

She shrugs. "Nothing to complain about yet," she replies, and opens up his search bar, loading up the folder of games. "Doctor Lecter got me some mint tea, and I've been drinking that. I think it's helping, but I haven't really been feeling any morning sickness."

"That's good."

She hums. "What's this game?" she asks, clicking on a colorful icon and pulling up the loading screen.

Will smiles. "It's basically glorified Farmville, but with dragons and shit," he says.

She laughs, and fixes him with a wide, fond smile. "Nerd."

"You got me."

Chapter Text

Alana goes to bed soon after, and Will is left alone. He sighs, sleep evading him once again, and closes his laptop, getting out of bed and leaving his room. He half expects Hannibal to be there, again, on the couches with a bottle of wine for them to share, but he sees nothing except the porch lights, illuminating the outside and coloring a little of the innards. It somehow makes the house seem smaller, and much more foreboding.

He goes downstairs, sighing, and opens up a bottle of wine, drinking straight from it. His attention is caught when he sees a light coming from the playroom, and he swallows. Prey instinct tells him to ignore it, to go back to bed and just try and drink himself into a dreamless sleep, but a sharper instinct says No. It would be stupid to be left unawares and caught by surprise, if Matthew is a nighttime prowler as well.

He creeps towards the game room silently, puts his hand on the door frame and peers in.

Franklyn is there, much to his relief. He has a set of cards laid out in front of him in what looks like a game of Solitaire, frowning down at his stack as he shuffles the remaining cards for the draw pile. Will enters and Franklyn's head snaps up.

"Oh, Will! Hi," he says.

"Hey," Will replies, taking another long pull from the wine bottle. "Mind some company?"

"Of course not. Please, have a seat," Franklyn says, and gestures to the seat opposite him. Will smiles and plops down, arms and legs splayed out wide so he takes up as much space as possible, and he puts his foot up on the corner of the table. "Would you like to play a game with me?"

Will hums, and thinks of what he's seen Francis play with Franklyn. "You know 'War'?" he asks.

Franklyn nods, and gathers all the cards together, shuffling them before he deals out two matching piles. Will sets his wine bottle down and sits forward, taking his stack and leaving it face down. It's not the first time he has seen Franklyn playing cards, though normally Francis is his partner.

Franklyn throws down his first card. A three of diamonds. Will puts down his – a five of spades. He gathers both and tucks them to his discard. "You always up this late?" Will asks.

Franklyn sighs, and shakes his head. "Couldn't sleep," he says, and puts his next card down. King of hearts. Will's is the Queen of diamonds. Franklyn takes the pair and starts his own second stack. "Ace high or low?"

"High," Will replies, and lays down the nine of clubs. Franklyn, the ten of clubs. He takes that pair as well and Will sighs, swigging from the bottle of wine again. He doesn't pay much attention to the taste, but it's sweet, just how he likes it.

"You're up this late, though," Franklyn says, and Will lifts his eyes to meet the man's dark ones. He senses no guile, no fishing for information. Not like talking with Hannibal at all. "I hear you sometimes, wandering around. Or I assume it's you."

Will hums, and puts down his card. Three of hearts. Franklyn's, the two of spades. He collects the pair. "Always been more of a night owl," he replies coolly, and then offers a smile and takes another drink of wine. "Alana told me you're into tyromancy – what is that?"

"Oh, it's divination with cheese," Franklyn says, grinning widely. Will already knew that, he's heard Franklyn ramble on about it before, but conversation comes more easily when he's drunk and he's in no mood to keep playing in silence. "Helps you see the future."

"Oh?"

"Yeah," Franklyn says with a nod.

"So you know who's going to win this game?" Will says, teasing.

Franklyn blinks at him, and his head tilts, but he smiles. "You care to make it interesting?" he asks.

Will laughs. "Sure," he says, drumming his stack of cards at the side, on the table. "Ten bucks says I win the first War."

"You're on," Franklyn says. They exchange another set of cards – Will's loss – and then they both lay down a King.

"I. De. Clare. War!" Franklyn grins, seeing that his War card was the Ace of diamonds, Will's, the Queen of clubs. Will sighs and gives a conceding nod, fishing a ten out of his pocket and handing it over. "Double or nothing on the next?"

"You got it," Will says, smiling. Franklyn, for all his nervous puppy-like energy and tendency to ramble on about things no one else in the house finds interest in, is a calming presence, especially to Will's nerves as they are at the moment. They keep playing, and then next time War comes up, Will wins with the Ace of spades, and collects his bounty as Franklyn sighs and returns his ten-dollar bill.

Will takes another long pull of wine. "How are you liking it here, Franklyn?"

"Oh, it's wonderful," Franklyn says. They exchange another set, and Franklyn wins the pair with a nine of hearts. "Everyone here is so interesting and nice, and Doctor Lecter has been great for me, I think. It's cheaper than my old therapy."

Will huffs. "I'll take your word for it," he says. "I've never been to therapy."

Franklyn looks up, and tilts his head. "What?" Will asks, taking another long drink from the bottle. It's already half-empty and his mind is swimming and relaxed.

"I just…figured you and Doctor Lecter knew each other," Franklyn says slowly. "That you might have been a patient of his, or something. The way you act around him."

Will arches a brow. "The way I act?"

Franklyn nods, and smiles easily, either not picking up on or completely brushing past Will's tone. "It's pretty common for people to get crushes on their therapists," he says lightly. "Lord knows I'm guilty of the same."

Will laughs, though it's strained – has he been acting like this for so long, that so many people think he has the hots for Doctor Lecter? God, what a world people live in. He clears his throat and shakes his head. "I promise, I don't have a crush on Doctor Lecter," he says, huffing a laugh.

Franklyn hums, and his eyes shine when he smiles at Will. "Fifty bucks says I win the game?"

Will laughs. "You're on."

 

 

Will wins, but refuses to take Franklyn's money. He stands, his bottle finished, and bids Franklyn a good night before he leaves the game room.

The lights are on in the living room, and he freezes when he sees Hannibal sitting there, just like he was the previous night.

He swallows, and looks down at the empty bottle, flushing guiltily. "Hope you don't mind," he says, and his words are slurring. "Helped myself."

Hannibal tilts his head. There's only one glass in front of him – he probably knew, the Goddamn cocky bastard. "Please, Will, it's no trouble," he says, and gestures for Will to sit. And Will goes, because he's an idiot, and because he's too lazy to climb the stairs. "I meant what I said when I offered you whatever you desired."

Will huffs, and sets the wine bottle down, before he flattens face-down on the neighboring couch. He can already tell this will be a bitch of a hangover come morning. He arches, rolling to a position most comfortable, and folds an arm under his head so he can turn and regard Hannibal with low-lidded eyes.

"Can I ask you something?" he murmurs.

Hannibal's head tilts.

"What made you agree to do this show in the first place?" Will sighs, drumming his fingers on the bottom edge of the couch. "I mean, you're clearly loaded, and you seem like the kinda guy who enjoys his routines and privacy. So why open your 'cabin'," he scoffs the word, "to a bunch of strangers and film crew?"

Hannibal is silent, and Will lifts his eyes, finding Hannibal's expression one of deep, deliberate consideration. His lips purse and he sips at his wine – white, since he did not have to accommodate for Will.

"I suppose there were many factors," he says slowly. "Namely, I am fascinated by the changes in personality and behavior within a locked-room dynamic. People become strangely open about some things and completely closed-off about others." He tilts his head, considering his wine. "It's interesting to observe."

"So that's the reason?" Will asks. "Curiosity?"

Hannibal laughs. "Well, the monetary incentive was certainly nothing to scoff at, even when one is 'loaded'."

Will grins, and rubs his nose across the back of his hand. "You wanna know why I hate you?" he asks.

Hannibal hums. "Please, tell me," he says, and his voice sounds like he's trying to be offended but Will knows he desperately wants the answer.

Will sighs, and lifts his eyes again. "The truth is…I don't hate you," he admits. "Not really. It was an irritation, mostly, brought on by my own shit and not made any better by the fact that you seem so put together and capable of literally everything. But I guess I figured it out when you called me a liar."

Hannibal frowns. "I'm sure I didn't," he says, and his voice is apologetic.

Will waves it away. "Shut up. Not my point. I figured it out because, well, you're pretending, just like the rest of us." He lifts his head and props his chin on his hand, head tilted wildly off-kilter, and he smiles. Hannibal meets his eyes, and the light makes him look almost skeletal, his cheeks and brow forming sharp lines where shadows gather underneath. "Everything you say and do is fake. Not the factual shit – I know you're a psychiatrist, you own this property, whatever – but you're performing, just like we all are. And I can't figure out what you're hiding."

Hannibal regards him for a long moment, and then he smiles, and the pleased, proud expression causes a strange little flip of warmth in Will's chest. Probably just the wine. "You're so sure I'm hiding something?" he asks coolly.

Will nods, and drums his fingers against his jaw. "I'm certain of it," he replies. "You told me yourself you have secrets. I'm…curious if you've ever let someone peek behind the veil."

"You paint me as a man of mystery. Am I so fascinating to you, Will?"

Will frowns, sucks in a breath through his teeth, and tenses his shoulders. "I wouldn't call it 'fascination'," he mutters, and scratches his beard. He needs to shave soon, it's starting to become uncomfortable. "But," he adds, smiling, "I appreciate the implication that you think I'm somehow your equal, or your better."

"I do not look at men as equal or better," Hannibal says. "They merely are, or they are not."

Will blinks, and looks at the empty wine bottle, considering this.

He presses his lips together. "Do you know what happens, when there's only one contestant left?"

Hannibal tilts his head. "Then the show ends," he says with a shrug. "And the winner receives their reward money and goes on their merry way."

"Doctor Du Maurier's introduction leads me to believe that's no longer the case."

"Oh?"

"I mean, can we out her? Is she hiding something? Can I get her evicted – and what if she figures all of us out first? Then is she the winner? Because that hardly seems fair. And what if -?" He sighs, pressing his lips together, and lets his head drop.

Hannibal moves, standing, and gathers the empty bottle from the table. Will doesn't move as he goes to the kitchen to dispose of it, and then he returns with a glass of water and two aspirin, which he sets on the table and taps Will's shoulder to get his attention.

"Drink," he says, and Will rolls his eyes, but shoves himself upright and takes the pills, chugging half the glass. He gasps, setting the glass down. After a moment, Hannibal leans forward and takes a coaster from the corner, sliding it under his glass, and Will rolls his eyes again, slinking back into a vaguely upright position on the couch.

He runs a hand through his hair and sighs, blinking up at the high ceiling. The lights make the shadows appear starker, and he heaves another sigh. "You know what's really fucked up?" he mutters.

"Tell me," Hannibal replies, his voice as soft as ever. Encouraging. Will can't even find the energy to bristle at it, because he's never enjoyed the idea of a therapy session but every conversation with Hannibal feels like one. He never turns it off.

Then again, neither can Will.

Will sighs. "Everyone keeps telling me how cool a guy you are," he says, rolling his head so he can see the flash of pleasure in Hannibal's eyes before it's concealed, wiped away behind that same veneer. Will wants to see him crack, wants to see, just for a second, what's behind the curtain. Curiosity is a dangerous thing.

His fingers curl. "And I…appreciate what you've been doing for Alana. Really."

Hannibal smiles.

"But."

"But," Will says, nodding. He looks at the ceiling again. It seems all he does nowadays is stare at walls and shadows and sigh. He runs a hand through his hair. "I don't know if I can trust you, Hannibal. And I know you want me to – you want to be my friend, or at least for us to be friendly with each other, but I honestly don't know, seeing what I see, if I can."

Hannibal is silent, and then he sits forward, his elbows on his knees. "May I ask you something, Will?" he murmurs, and Will blinks, slowly, and nods. The wine is hitting him harder now – he's not long for the waking world.

He turns, and meets Hannibal's dark eyes.

"I have noticed that you spend a lot of time with Alana," Hannibal says, his voice even and soft. "And the second-most partner in your conversations, and who you spend time with, is me." Will blinks again, frowning. "Do you really, truly believe, that we are not capable of being friendly with each other? Of socializing, like adults?"

Will bites his lower lip, trying to get his alcohol-heavy brain to catch up with what Hannibal is saying.

He scoffs. "What, you think I'm not being friendly towards you because we are already friends?"

Hannibal smiles, and tilts his head. "You are…an adaptable creature," he says, and his fingers lace, hanging between his knees, absently drumming against the back of the opposite hand. "I have seen it, many times, in how you move in this house, and with whom you interact – and before that, in the previous season. One could argue you have a veil of your own."

Will frowns.

"But you are also a frightfully honest man, when it comes to your negative emotional reactions," Hannibal adds. "When you are angry, or offended, or even afraid, you show those things clearly. Happiness, and contentment, and humor – those things are harder to pull from you."

Will's nose wrinkles in distaste and he huffs. "I'm not an onion."

"Of course not," Hannibal replies with a grin, showing his teeth. He looks monstrous and focused in the low light, but not predatory – Will feels warm, but not afraid, not like he did when he looked at Matthew. "You are simply a complicated creature. And I will not play coy; I find the prospect of penetrating your own façade an enticing one."

Will shivers, pressing his thighs together. He clears his throat and looks away. "An interesting word choice," he says slowly. "Do I entice you, Doctor Lecter?"

"I think you know the answer to that." Hannibal's voice is a purr, and Will's hands shake and curl tighter. He should leave, before he does something stupid – something damning, and definitely recorded.

But he does know the answer. It's easy to see, clear as day. Will can't help the intrusive thought that Hannibal would be a very easy client to service, back when Will did that sort of thing. He hasn't had more than his own hand for company in far too long – he threw out most of his toys and all of his costumes, ready to shed himself of the temptation of going back to that kind of life. For the sake of his own safety.

But Hannibal oozes safety and protection like a cologne, and Will is breathing it in deeply, raggedly.

He stands, and runs his hands through his hair. "I should go," he says. Hannibal sits back, his smile wide, and he nods cordially, as if their conversation had been no more interesting than a discussion on the weather, and Will's departure from it easy to accept as a refill of wine.

"Sweet dreams, Will," he says brightly. "I'll see you in the morning."

Will nods, and turns away, before he stops. "Before I forget," he says, and looks back to Hannibal. "Can we go into your office? I have another theory."

Hannibal tilts his head, but nods, standing. He leads Will to his office and unlocks the door, allowing Will to step inside. Will goes to the desk and tears out another piece of paper, circling his name. On it, he writes 'Franklyn has a gambling problem/addiction', and stuffs it into the box. He turns, and brushes past Hannibal without a word.

 

 

Morning brings with it a bright, cloudless sky, and a hangover so severe that Will wants to die.

He pushes himself to his feet with a groan, wiping at the tacky innards clinging to his lips, and lurches across the hallway, pounding on Alana's door.

She opens it and he pushes past her, into the en suite, and falls to his knees to empty his guts into the toilet bowl. He hears her laugh, and can feel her amused, faintly judgmental eyes on his back. He flushes the toilet and stands, rinsing out his mouth, and sees her in the mirror, arms folded and weight resting on the door frame.

"Rough night?" she asks.

Will winces, and washes his mouth out again. "Did I wake you?"

"No," she replies, shaking her head. Will wipes his hand across his clammy forehead, down the side of his face, grimacing at the dark circles under his eyes and the too-long hair clinging to his cheeks and jaw. Yeah, he needs to shave, desperately.

He leaves the bathroom and gives her an apologetic, thankful smile. "Hey, c'mon," she says, catching his arm as he makes to leave. "Talk to me. You doin' alright?"

Will sighs, and rubs his hands over his face. He doesn't want to think about last night. He doesn't want to think about the look in Hannibal's eyes, the subtly flirtatious talk and banter between them. It had been so easy, so…nice, and he hates that it was nice.

"I drank a bottle of wine," he tells her, folding his arms across his chest, his eyes on the ground.

She lets out a low hum of disapproval. "Will."

"I also think I figured out Franklyn's secret. If I'm right, he'll be gone at the end of the day."

She blinks, and tilts her head. "I thought your focus was going to be on Matthew."

Will's shoulders lift, a shrug almost helpless. "Can't help seeing what I see."

"Mm." Alana presses her lips together, and sighs, untucking her hair from the collar of her robe. "Well, eagle eye, you need to leave so I can get dressed."

He smiles, and nods at her, going back to his bedroom. He grabs his toiletries and heads to the main bathroom, only to sigh, internally, when he sees it's occupied. He knocks.

"Sorry, gonna be here a while."

Will freezes. That's Matthew's voice. He shrinks back, and cannot stand the thought of the man opening the door, of them seeing each other, being in close proximity to each other. He clutches his toiletries to his chest and hurries past the bathroom before the door can open. He goes to Hannibal's room – the door is closed, and he knocks.

There is no answer.

Will shivers, pressing his lips together, and goes inside.

Hannibal's room is exactly the kind of thing Will imagined, with a large bed big enough to easily fit three grown men, a miniature sitting area of black leather chairs and a clear coffee table, upon which sits a chess board. The sheets on the bed are black and red, the pillowcases and sheets red. The walls are painted a soft cream color, and there are heavy drapes framing the window, pulled back to allow sunlight in.

Will winces, turning to shield his eyes, and spies the bathroom. The door is open, and he goes inside and closes it behind him, setting down his toiletries and spare change of clothes on the counter. He presses his lips together, eyeing himself in the mirror again.

"You look like a mess, Graham," he tells himself, the drawl of his father and cousins slipping in. His reflection rolls its eyes.

There are no cameras in the bathrooms, of course, and Will is sure Hannibal's room isn't monitored either. He strips down quickly and goes into the shower, moaning with relief when hot water beats down on his head and shoulders immediately. It's a powerful pressure, absolutely heavenly, and he takes his time washing his hair and his body, wiping away the sweat of nightmares and the tacky cling of vomit in his mouth.

When he's done, he brushes his teeth and sweeps his fingers through his hair to encourage air through it to get it to start drying. He has his electric razor and plugs it in, quickly shearing off the excess of his facial hair. He used to be clean-shaven, back when he did videos. Men like his clients preferred their boys to look as young and innocent as possible. But now he keeps a fine layer.

He's sure Hannibal would have some theories about that, if he knew.

He changes quickly, shrugging on a long-sleeved black shirt, his underwear, and his jeans. He notices that the floor is heated, and huffs to himself. Calling this place a Goddamn cabin is getting more and more ridiculous by the minute.

That done, he puts his handle on the door, and pauses. He looks around. This is Hannibal's bathroom. There might be things worth seeing in here.

He hesitates. It's a terrible breach of privacy to say the least, discarding the fact that Will already made his way in uninvited. Rifling through his medicine cabinet and the area beneath the sink would be taking it a step too far – and what if he was caught?

Well. What if he was caught. What could Hannibal do?

What might he do?

A voice in his head that sounds a lot like Alana tells him, in no uncertain terms, that he should absolutely not go snooping around his host's and pseudo-friend's stuff.

He listens to her, gathers his things, and opens the door.

"Oh, shit! I'm sorry!" Will turns away immediately, flushing and blocking out the sight of Hannibal, dressed only in a pair of underwear, standing by his dresser. Will clears his throat, runs his hands through his hair and side-steps his way to the main door. "Sorry, the bathroom was occupied and -."

"Will."

Will freezes.

There is a pause, and a rustle of fabric. Then; "Please, turn around."

Will shakes his head, stubbornly. "Are you decent?" he asks.

Hannibal's voice is soft with humor when he says, "Yes."

Will chances a look over his shoulder, letting out a relieved breath when he sees that Hannibal has donned a pair of suit pants, and pulled a shirt over his head – a black t-shirt, and he looks much more approachable when not dressed in his three-piece armor. Will thinks if he had met Hannibal looking like that, the first time, he would have been a lot more inclined to be friendly.

"I'm sorry," he says again. "Um. Matthew was in the bathroom, so -."

"So you thought you'd make use of mine," Hannibal finishes for him. He's smiling, like Will is a child that's just been caught by the more indulgent parent, trying to steal from the cookie jar.

"I didn't go through your stuff or anything," Will says.

"I never said you did," Hannibal returns, his head tilting. He's still smiling, and it's a gentle, affectionate smile, and Will really hates how much he doesn't hate it. Hannibal's eyes are dark, glimmering with mirth.

"Right," Will says, and clears his throat. "Well, I'll just, ah…"

"Do you know how to play chess, Will?" Hannibal asks. Will blinks at him, frowning, and Hannibal nods to the board. "I haven't played in a while. Would you like to join me?"

Will swallows. "I really don't think I should."

Hannibal's head turns the other way, and he takes a step forward. "Why?" he asks.

Why indeed?

It feels like a challenge, and Will has never been one to back away from a challenge. He sighs, and tosses his things onto the end of Hannibal's bed, as cavalier as if he'd been doing it all his life. Hannibal's eyes follow the arc of his old clothes and his toiletries, and then snap back to Will when Will takes his seat in one of the leather chairs.

A chair which he registers immediately as one of the most comfortable things he's ever sat on in his life. He relaxes, and not even the sunlight streaming in through the curtains makes his head hurt.

Hannibal smiles, deeply pleased, and passes him, pulling the bedroom door open. "For the sake of propriety," he explains, and Will huffs, rolling his eyes. "I'd hate for the others to think there was something untoward happening between us."

Will hums, and sits forward as Hannibal takes a seat, and begins to set up the pieces. "Right, I'm sure you'd hate rumors like that," he says dryly. "You're the one reading porn about us."

"I never said I read it, simply that I knew it existed," Hannibal replies coolly. But his eyes are sharp and pleased when he meets Will's. Will hums, and sets his elbows on the table, rubbing his hands over his face. "How's your head?"

"Steamrolled," Will mutters.

"I have some more aspirin in my medicine cabinet," Hannibal says, and, smiling, adds; "You'd have found it if you'd gone looking."

Will grimaces at the reminder, and rolls his shoulders, but he stands and goes – that was as much an invitation as he's going to get, after all. He opens the cabinet and, indeed, there is a bottle there of generic painkillers, along with a shaving kit and a stick of deodorant. He takes two pills, swallows them dry, and comes back out to find that Hannibal has completed setting up the board. Will is white.

He sits, eyeing the board. "I haven't played chess in a long time," he mutters, and pushes the queen-front pawn forward two spaces. "You're probably going to kick my ass."

Hannibal hums. "One should never approach a game assuming defeat," he replies. Will huffs, and watches his hand extend, the flex of tendons and bulge of veins, as Hannibal brings forward his queen-side knight, up and over in front of the rook and pawn.

"And one should never go to war assuming victory," Will returns. Hannibal meets his eyes, and smiles.

"Would you like to make this more interesting?" he asks.

Will tilts his head, eyes narrowing. "How so?"

"Every time you take a piece, I will tell you something about myself. And the same in reverse." Will taps his foot, considering. "It can be anything you'd like, from the mundane to the ridiculous. And if it piques either of our interests, we will discuss the subject in its entirety."

"Don't you have patients to see?" Will asks.

Hannibal shakes his head. "Doctor Du Maurier has reign of the office for the day," he replies. "Francis, Alana, and Franklyn are scheduled first, but Franklyn is a talker. I'm sure we have plenty of time."

Will hums, but nods in agreement, and pushes his freed bishop diagonally to the middle of the board, beside the pawn.

For a while, they simply play in silence. Will is the first to lose a piece – a pawn, to Hannibal's knight. He sighs, and rubs his hand over his face, drumming his nails against his chin as Hannibal eyes him, bright and eager.

He is silent, for a while, and Hannibal's head tilts.

"I'm wary of telling you anything," Will says.

Hannibal smiles. "I promise, Will, I wish nothing more than to learn a little bit about you."

"Exactly," Will replies.

"I'm sure there are things you can share that are not damning," Hannibal says with a shrug. "What's your favorite color?"

"Black," Will says without hesitation. Hannibal blinks at him, a flash of intrigue in his eyes. "It's every color. It needs every color."

"According to artists," Hannibal murmurs. "Physicists would argue the opposite – that white light is the light in which every color exists." Will huffs. "Do you consider yourself more as an artist, then?"

"I was never very interested in school," Will replies, but that's not quite true. "Or I guess, I was more interested in the institution as a whole, rather than the watered-down model they use now from the times when all they needed were people smart enough to man the factories."

Hannibal smiles, and drops his gaze to the board. It's Will's turn, and Will looks at the pieces, and then moves his bishop to capture a pawn of his own.

"I was a surgeon, before I became a psychiatrist," Hannibal says after a beat of silence as Will places the pawn on the side of the board.

Will hums, tilting his head. "Did you grow soft in your old age?" he asks, grinning when a flicker of amused annoyance flashes across Hannibal's face.

"On the contrary, I found the idea of treating mental illnesses much more satisfying than physical ones," Hannibal replies coolly. He slides a pawn forward but doesn't take a piece. "When I was a surgeon, a patient was wheeled into my O.R., and either they lived, or they died, but my involvement ended when their immediate need for surgery did. I never got to see much in terms of their recovery."

Interesting. Will considers him, eyes narrowed. "That makes sense," he says, and Hannibal regards him curiously. "You always have to get involved. Have to know everything that's going on." He smiles, sharp and wide. "You're a control freak."

"Putting it mildly," Hannibal says with a smile. "I have managed to somewhat temper that in my 'old age'. I transferred my passion for anatomy into the culinary arts, as I changed professions. And I can confidently say no one has died as a result of my therapy."

Will huffs, and looks down. He takes his knight and moves it so it's cornering Hannibal's king. "Check," he murmurs, and sighs when Hannibal takes the knight with his rook.

"I'm not lying about Matthew," Will says. He watches Hannibal's face closely, takes in the fact that there is no visible reaction at all. That says as much as if Hannibal had gasped. "He's dangerous."

Hannibal sits back, apparently content to let Will think, or speak, before their game continues. "You're so certain," he says, and Will nods. "Why?"

"Because I -." Will winces, looking away. "I just know he is, alright?"

Hannibal hums. "Was he your lover?"

"What?" Will grimaces, shakes his head. Lover is too poetic, too nice a word for what Will did. "No. I'm not -."

Like that.

Hannibal tilts his head, something flashing behind his eyes as he considers Will's reaction. "Surely you're not going to insist that you're completely heterosexual, Will," he says, and he's smiling without smiling, his eyes brightening with pleasure at Will's negative reaction.

"I never fucked him," Will hisses. "And you have no idea what kind of sexual I am."

"Of course," Hannibal replies, as cool and aloof as ever and Will really, really hates that look on him. He'd throw a punch if he thought it would get Hannibal to react. "But the world is full of pleasures, Will, and I don't think I'm remiss in saying you're prone to indulgences just like the rest of us."

"Is this based on the fact that I drank your wine?" Will demands.

"That's part of it," Hannibal concedes. "But you are also a creature of mutual satisfaction. Quid pro quo. You refuse to give pieces of yourself unless you feel you are gaining something in return."

"Psychoanalyzing me again," Will huffs. "First colors, now my sexuality. I thought I told you not to do that."

"Yes, well, I believe you sacrificed some transparency when you decided to make use of my personal space without permission." Will winces, and swallows, looking down, and pushes his queen out towards Hannibal's king in another attempt to check him.

"Quid pro quo, I guess," he mutters.

Hannibal sits forward again, one elbow resting on the edge of the table, his bared forearm very dark against the clear surface. Will lifts his eyes. "I think this is one of the reasons you chose to come back for this season – not for the money, or the personal connections, or even for the sake of being somewhere no one could come find you." Will frowns, and swallows, and finds Hannibal smiling. "You chose to enter into a game where you could prove you were better than anyone else."

Will swallows harshly, again, his throat dry. His shoulders roll in and tense. "You said there are no better or worse men," he rasps. "Just men that are, and men that are not."

Hannibal sits forward. He takes his queen and pushes it along the board, sliding to a halt in the corner of Will's king. Will cannot take her without putting his king in the way of the bishop, and he cannot escape. It feels oddly poetic, and so well-timed Will could imagine Hannibal planned the whole thing.

Hannibal smiles, showing his teeth. "Then I suppose it's up to you, Will," he purrs, and knocks Will's king onto its side. "Are you, or are you not?"

Are you, or are you not?

What are you? Will wants to ask. What do you want me to be?

Hannibal stands before Will can answer, and goes to his things, toppled askew on the bed. He corrects and pile and hands it to Will, patting the top of the stack. "Go return these to your room, and come downstairs for breakfast," he says, that charming, plastic smile returning to his face. Will shivers under the heat of it. "Perhaps you will solve another mystery before noon. That would be quite something."

Will swallows, and nods, and lets Hannibal pull him to his feet and corral them out of his room after Hannibal pulls on a sweater, covering his arms. The door closes behind Hannibal and Will shivers again, seeing that the hallway bathroom door is now wide open. Matthew's door is closed. He rushes past, to his room, and closes his door behind him loudly, sinking to his haunches.

He runs his hands through his hair, breathes in, breathes out. His hands are shaking and he can't make them stop.

"Will?" It's Alana's voice, and she knocks lightly on the door. "Are you alright? You need some more painkillers, or water?"

Will groans, and shakes his head. "No, I'm fine," he calls. "Thank you. I'll be down in a second."

"Alright," she says, though she sounds unsure. Will hears her steps go back down the hallway, towards the stairs. His fingers clench and he pushes them tight to his thighs.

"Get a fucking grip," he tells himself, running his hands up through his hair again in an effort to calm down. He has to keep a clear head – he has to figure out Matthew's secret, and Francis', and figure out a way to get Bedelia to keep to herself so she doesn't cause too much trouble. There are too many variables and Will's fight or flight reflex is going haywire, his heart pounding.

He takes in another deep, slow breath, closes his eyes and counts to ten before letting it out. Alright, think. There has to be a way, an easy way – or at least a way that guarantees the least casualties – to get Matthew evicted. Will doesn't know his secret, and he doesn't want to spend enough time with the man to figure it out, which means he'll have to get him thrown out on some other charge.

He tilts his head, cracks his neck, and sighs. Telling Freddie and Chilton anything about this just threatens to open up a can of worms he's not prepared to face. And if something were to go wrong and Matthew knew Will was onto him, he might react unpredictably, perhaps violently.

But Will has no doubt that, when Matthew becomes a little braver, a little more settled in, he will start to target Will. That's his M.O., that's what he wants. He wants Will scared. He wants Will terrified, looking over his shoulder, frantic and shaking.

Just like he is now.

No. He cannot let Matthew win. Will didn't shrug off that life, destroy all public evidence of it, and try to leave it all behind just for that son of a bitch to rear up and tear apart everything Will has tried to do. Will can win this game, he knows he can – he's a far better player than most people would give him credit for, but Hell, that was his job. To look at men and women and know what they wanted out of him, and to provide it. He can do that.

It's just like catching a fish. And he's a good fisherman.

He just has to figure out the right kind of bait.

He sighs, and takes in another steadying breath, before he pushes himself to his feet. He won't catch or accomplish anything hiding in his room, and he will give neither Hannibal nor Matthew the satisfaction of seeing him shaken.

He leaves his room, and goes downstairs. Let the games begin.

Chapter Text

Hannibal had said Bedelia had the room for the morning, so Will does not take her and Francis' absence with any worry. It's mid-morning, and it looks like it's due to be a really nice day; the sun is shining brilliantly, the sky cloudless. Will knows better, of course – the sea wind will always bite, always claw, no matter how brightly the sun shines and how warm the air looks.

Alana is sitting on one of the couches, nursing a mug of tea. Beside her, sitting far too close for Will's liking but technically not close enough to be considered inappropriate, is Matthew. Franklyn is on the second couch and, opposite him and closest to Alana's perch, is Hannibal.

Will tells himself that what he's feeling is not relief. Tells himself that seeing Hannibal sitting close to Alana, his eyes watchful while pretending not to be, doesn't make him feel safer and more assured.

He gives them a nod as they look up, and heads to the kitchen to grab some coffee. As he enters, the door to the office opens, and he grunts in acknowledgement as Francis and Bedelia step out. Francis is dressed plainly, like he wishes to become one with the shadows, and Bedelia has a warm light in her eyes that seems proud.

"Thank you for your time, Mister Dolarhyde," she murmurs, and puts a hand on his arm. Then, she turns, calling for Franklyn as she goes towards the living room.

Will looks at Francis, gives him a sharp nod that he returns. "Want some?" he asks, gesturing to the coffee maker.

Francis folds his long arms across his chest and leans on the kitchen counter. His eyes stare out, towards the porch, the cliffs, the dark stretch of the sea beyond all of it. He clicks his tongue, and neither nods nor shakes his head, so Will rolls his eyes and pours himself a mug and doesn't offer again. Bedelia and Franklyn pass by, and the office door closes.

"How does she compare to Doctor Lecter?" Will asks, figuring it's best to be blunt about situations like this. And Francis has never been one to mince pretty words – there is an earnestness about him that Will rather enjoys. He seeks, simply, to exist, in a way few others do.

Francis lifts a shoulder, his eyes still fixed outwards. "She takes a long time to say things," he replies. Will grins into his mug and takes a sip, and does not wince despite the heat of the coffee on his tongue. It tastes old, somewhat stale, but he's certainly had worse. "And I get the feeling that everything I say is being judged."

"Isn't that the role of psychiatrists?" Will asks.

Francis shakes his head. "No," he replies, and finally turns his head, looking to Will. "They are meant to evaluate, explain, and improve. They are the mechanic to the broken engine, not -." He presses his lips together, though the lifted part still shows teeth, and looks away again. "Not judgmental."

"Is Doctor Lecter judgmental?" Will asks.

Francis shakes his head. He looks out to the sea, then to the door, like he's waiting for them to swap places. "I don't like the new guy," he says, and though it seems random, Will has been around him enough to know that Francis is an internal thinker, jumping from conversation to conversation, point to point. He's the kind of man who doesn't talk because he has nothing interesting to say.

"Yeah," Will replies, taking another drink. "Me neither."

"There's something off about him," Francis says, and though Will agreed, his tone doesn't suggest he even heard it. "And for Freddie and Chilton to bring him in now, after we lost three people…? Doesn't sit right with me."

"Me neither," Will says again, and Francis blinks, brought back to reality, and looks down at Will. Will sighs, and finishes his mug, and this time he does wince at the heat. "Do you think he's dangerous?"

Francis tilts his head. "Dangerous is a strong word," he says. "And a matter of perspective."

Will smiles.

"Do you think you could figure him out?" Francis continues, when Will doesn't speak. He tilts his head and looks to the living room again. Just visible is a slip of Alana's hair, her shoulder, and Hannibal's profile as he sips his coffee. The picture of refinement and assuredness. Will hardly reconciles this man – for he is the Doctor now, in his three-piece pinstriped suit, yellow tie, plastic smile – with the man who showed bare skin and smiled at him over a chessboard.

He clears his throat, looks at Francis. Leans in, says, low and conspiratorially; "Not in the time frame I'm comfortable with," he says. "I'd rather get him out of here sooner than later."

Francis hums, tilts his head and his body so he's facing Will more fully. "You called him dangerous," he says, and Will nods, head tilted up, for Francis is quite a few inches taller than him, and looms. "Dangerous how? Violent?"

"Maybe," Will replies with a nod.

Francis seems to consider this, and then he looks up, looks away. "I had a friend, a long time ago, who used to work in a zoo," he says. Will blinks, frowning, but doesn't bother trying to figure out the mental leap that took Francis from Matthew to a zoo. "He said that no matter how docile a creature looks, no matter how friendly it appears and how loud it purrs, they are still wild animals, and will react as such if threatened."

Will tilts his head, and Francis meets his eyes.

"Tigers are dangerous," he says. "And we are in the same place as a tiger."

"Are you saying we should provoke him?" Will asks, and he's not sure if he's more appalled or impressed by the idea. Or impressed simply that Francis came to the same conclusion he did far more quickly, and with far less of alcohol's help.

Francis nods, and smiles. "Our producers think they have sent us a kitten," he says. "So we need to show them they are wrong. Kittens don't roar like tigers do."

"That's true," Will murmurs. His eyes drop, and he looks to the doorway again, and folds his arms over his chest, pressing his lips together as he considers. "Alana thinks he's dangerous, too. I told her to be wary of him."

Francis hums, though it comes out as more of a hiss. "Does Franklyn know?"

Will shakes his head.

Suddenly, Francis laughs, and it startles Will. He looks at the other man and sees him smiling widely. "You are certainly clever, Mister Graham," he says, and Will frowns at him heavily. Francis holds a hand out. "To wary alliances, and the Devil we know."

Will licks his lips, and shakes his hand. So, Francis will help him, and Alana will keep her eye out, too. That's good – and the most he can get, because if he's right, Franklyn will be out of the house come nightfall.

Will refills his coffee cup, and Francis doesn't follow him out into the living room. He hesitates, because the way everyone is positioned, he'll either have to sit on the third couch, nearest Matthew, or next to Hannibal, and neither of those options are particularly pleasant.

But then Francis emerges, a cup of orange juice in his hand, and he takes a seat on the third couch, sprawling out so his long body takes up the entire space. Will eyes him, and huffs, and so circles behind the opposite couch and sits next to Hannibal. He leaves as much space between them as he can and thinks, out of the corner of his eye, he sees Hannibal smile.

"Man, I gotta say," Matthew declares, as though they're on a movie set and he was waiting for everyone to take their places before saying his lines; "It's gorgeous out here. How long have you owned this place, Hannibal?"

Will winces, and doesn't like how Matthew says Hannibal's name – which is ridiculous. He certainly doesn't speak rudely, there's nothing more than guileless curiosity in his eyes, but Will cannot help thinking that somehow, suddenly, the mask will slip, and Will doesn't like the anxious, anticipatory thrill that rushes through him at the prospect. He doesn't like how Matthew is sitting so close to Alana. He doesn't like how many teeth he shows when he smiles.

Hannibal sits back, relaxed as ever. "I've owned this property for several years now," he says coolly, but Will is sure he feels the bubbling mess of tension Will is putting out, sees the subtle whiteness of Alana's clenching knuckles and her curled up posture – relaxed on the surface, defensive when one looks deeper. "I quite like the atmosphere of the ocean, and the trees."

Matthew nods, and whistles low. "I'll bet. You can really lose yourself out here." His eyes slide to Will and Will swallows, harshly, and forces himself not to curl up like Alana is. "Shut out the real world and just do what you want. I respect that."

"Says the same person who tucks in crazy people at night," Francis says with a lofty wave. "I've heard all sorts of things can happen in places like that." He turns his head and grins at Matthew, showing his teeth as Matthew's eyes darken. "Abuse, sexual misconduct, stealing drugs."

"In lesser facilities, perhaps," Matthew says tightly. Will frowns at Francis – is this what he meant by goading the tiger? Crass, and utterly without skill. Will rolls his eyes and takes a drink of coffee. "I can say without a doubt nothing like that ever happens in the State Hospital."

"I'm inclined to agree," Hannibal remarks. "I've visited that place several times – to interview the inmates, conduct research, and so on. I'm sure if such things were going on they would have been eager to tell me."

Matthew's eyes snap to Hannibal's. He tilts his head, expression one of focused study, like Hannibal is a strange new bug he has never seen before, and hasn't decided if he wants to squish or collect it for himself. It's a predatory look, one Will doesn't like at all, and he can't resist the urge to clear his throat, bringing Matthew's and Hannibal's gazes to him.

He says, "You interviewed the criminally insane?"

Hannibal smiles at him, looking pleased that Will is showing interest in something he said, and nods. "Yes."

"Any particular flavor?" Alana says. She's a psychologist, too. Will learned that about her later – not a psychiatrist, and Will is sure there's a difference, but he's never wanted to ask in case it came across as being interested. She probably actually finds this stuff genuinely fascinating – Will could never think of such things without a subtle flare of revulsion. To walk inside the minds of sexual deviants was bad enough, but serial killers? He doesn't want to see that kind of mind. Doesn't want to understand it. Can't help himself either way.

"There was one that was particularly interesting to me," Hannibal says with a nod. "Doctor Abel Gideon. He murdered his wife and children some time ago."

"Ah! Gideon," Matthew says, grinning. "He's still there, rotting away, the little slug."

"Is that so?" Hannibal asks, brushing past the crass remark. "He was not in the best of health when I last visited him. Perhaps the care in that facility is better than I assumed."

Matthew hums, but does not rise to the bait. He stretches out his arms on either side of him on the couch, and Alana tenses, pressing her lips together as he drums his fingers behind her head. His eyes are on Hannibal for a while, then they slide to Will, and he smiles.

"So, that's enough about my job," Matthew says with another airy sigh. "Doctor Bloom." He turns to Alana, smiling. "What is your degree in?"

Alana takes a drink of her tea. "Child development and psychology," she replies. "I work as a family therapist, particularly with foster children to ease their socialization."

Matthew whistles lowly, his brows raised in a look that appears impressed. "I imagine that can get quite overwhelming sometimes," he says, and Will doesn't want to think his concern is fake but it's hard to take anything Matthew says at face value, knowing what he knows. Right now the tiger is purring and Will has to get him to roar.

He thinks back to those years ago – three years, three years and four months, during the autumn, when the days were long but the nights were very dark. When there had been an eerie storm blown in from the ocean and everything had been covered in a thick veil of fog.

He thinks of this man. This 'Stranger'. He had wanted to control every part of Will – he was a sadist, and the kind of man that would turn into a power-domineering sexual offender if given the right triggers, Will is sure. He liked the idea, the fantasy – Will calls it a fantasy but he has no doubt in his mind that he would have done it for real – of breaking into Will's home in the middle of the night. Of finding Will, fast asleep, dead to the world. Of sliding into his bed and holding him down when Will woke up and it wouldn't matter how much he struggled -.

"Will?"

Will startles, jumping at the sudden touch to his knee. It's Hannibal's hand and he shies from it, hot under his arms and his hairline, flight reflex triggered. He flushes when he sees Hannibal and Alana staring at him in concern, though Hannibal recovers quickly, like his touch was meant to be a light pat and not the – don't use the word – caress it was.

Will clears his throat.

"Sorry," he murmurs. "Lost my train of thought. What were we talking about?"

Hannibal smiles at him, and he's showing a lot of teeth. "Mister Brown inquired what it was you did for a living, before coming on this show," he says, gesturing to Matthew. There is something dark in Hannibal's eyes, something that growls too low for the human ear, that is perked up and attentive at Will's obvious distress.

"Oh. Um." Will swallows, and runs a hand through his hair. He shifts his weight, knuckles to the couch cushions, and reaches forward to grab his coffee. "I haven't actually worked for a while," he says.

Francis huffs, and gives him an ugly smile. "Trust fund kid?" he says, and Will rolls his eyes. Apparently their alliance will not extend to being pleasant with each other. That's alright. He doesn't have a beef with Francis – he has bigger fish to fry.

It occurs to him that Matthew has had plenty of opportunity to out Will. He could have done it his first night here – Hell, he could have done it this morning, before the theories were sent out to Freddie and Chilton. But he hasn't.

He hasn't because he has you right where he wants you.

Of course he does. Like this, Will can't escape, and neither can Matthew, which means it's only a matter of time before he makes good on that fantasy. Until he does something terrible. Will's fingers flex and he swallows, and eyes Matthew beneath the fall of his hair.

He needs something that will buy him time. Some obstacle, some warning that will stay Matthew's hand. Just enough for him to come up with a concrete plan. He needs something, needs something…

Alana snorts, snapping him out of his thoughts. "I've seen enough trust fund babies in my time," she says with a teasing wink Will's way. "He ain't no trust fund baby."

Will rolls his eyes.

"Then how on Earth have you managed to get by without working?" Matthew asks, eyes wide and appropriately curious, guileless. He drums his fingers on the back of the couch again and folds one leg over the other, ankle to knee, spreading out to take up as much room as he can.

Will fixes him with a look, and rubs a hand over his mouth. Technically, the camera work he used to do is his secret, and if he wants to protect Alana and see this through, he can't afford to out himself as doing videos like that.

He swallows, and looks at Alana. She's shaking her head, her eyes wide, but the motion is subtle and could be shrugged off as shifting her weight since Matthew is pressed so close to her now. In Will's chest, something ugly and growling shifts its weight at the sight. He threatened violence if anyone hurt Alana last season and he'll be damned if he lets it happen this season, originator be damned.

Beside him, Hannibal is still, but Will feels his gaze burning into the side of Will's face. He takes a deep breath, another flash of intuition and an idea coming to him in a swooping pendulum of golden light.

This is stupid, a part of him hisses, that sounds like himself.

This is delightful, another voice answers, and it sounds like Hannibal.

He fixes Matthew with a wide, charming smile, sits back on the couch, and deliberately puts his hand on Hannibal's knee. He squeezes, warning the man from moving. "I managed," he says coolly, and takes a drink of coffee, one eyebrow raised. He cannot help feel a gut-deep, visceral spike of pleasure in him when he sees Matthew's eyes drop, narrow, and flash black in outrage.

Beside him, Hannibal is positively vibrating with amusement.

Francis gives a soft crow of delight, sits up, and claps his hands together loudly. "I fucking knew it!" he says, and slaps his thigh. "Franklyn owes me twenty bucks."

Will sighs, and pets Hannibal's knee, before he cups both hands around his coffee cup and takes another drink.

"Surely," Matthew says coldly, "that violates some kind of rule. Doctor Lecter is privy to all our secrets, after all."

Will glares at him, but Hannibal speaks first; "I assure you, Matthew, everything that is said to me is in confidence." He smiles. "Will and I don't even share a room."

Will nods. "And we keep all of our interactions public," he says, letting the ball of glee in his stomach flex and purr. Matthew looks outraged, and Will knows it's stupid, but it will certainly buy him some time – he wouldn't dare move against Hannibal so soon in the game. Alana's eyes are wide but dark, like she knows Will is full of shit – of course she does. She knows Will is lying, either about his relationship with Hannibal, or about how much he hates the man. Truthfully Will is more grateful than anything else that Hannibal is willing to play along, and adjusted so quickly and smoothly.

But of course he did. The man is good at everything.

Before anyone can say anything more, Franklyn and Bedelia enter from the kitchen. Franklyn's eyes are red-rimmed and Bedelia has that same serene smile on her face. She comes to the back of the couch, scanning all of them, and then her eyes alight on Will.

"Will," she says, and smiles. "You're next."

Will frowns. "I thought Matthew was next this morning," he says.

Matthew grins, and shakes his head. "Please," he says, with a gracious gesture. "If Doctor Du Maurier wishes to speak to you next, I don't mind waiting." Will grits his teeth, but nods, knowing a losing battle when he sees one. He sets his coffee cup down and pushes himself to his feet, and follows her into Hannibal's office.

"Please, have a seat," she says, and gestures to the pair of thickly-padded, black leather chairs. Will sits in the one on the right, so that his eye is on the door and he's not the first one visible if the door should open. The armrests are wide enough for his entire hand to span it and he sits, jogging his knee up and down as Bedelia crosses to the other chair. She folds herself into it like an expensive dress, one leg over the other, and rests her laced hands on her raised knee.

There is a notepad on the armrest, though she doesn't reach for it.

Will huffs, and rubs a thumb at the corner of his mouth. "So, what, am I allowed to just sit here for an hour while you stare at me?"

"If that is what you would like to do," she replies placidly, sitting back. Her smile doesn't change, and she lifts her chin, and Will has gotten used to assessing looks sent his way, but hers feels like a particularly sharp kind of glass on his skin. "But I have to say, Will, I think that would be a waste. You clearly are a man who is constantly observing, and constantly thinking."

"If you're trying to flatter me, you're not doing a great job of it."

She smiles, showing teeth. "Are you always this hostile to strangers?" she asks.

Will winces at the word. "To snitches, sure," he replies.

"A label you refuse to apply to yourself," she answers, one golden brow arching up. "So far you have been the only one to evict your fellow contestants."

Will presses his lips together, and drums his knuckles on the armrests. "Alana got one," he replies. "Freddie and Chilton said so."

Bedelia huffs a short, low laugh. "Please, Will," she says. "I think it would be best if we were more honest with each other. Don't pretend that I am stupid, and I will not pretend that you are stupid." Her head tilts. "You have remarkably keen insight."

"No I don't," Will replies, shrugging. "I have hunches. Lucky ones."

"Your modesty is unbecoming," Bedelia says.

Will looks at her, finds her unmoving as stone. She doesn't even appear to be breathing. He lifts his chin and sinks low in his chair, relaxed and spread out like he owns the room. She watches him do it, and her other brow joins the first.

"What do you gain out of this?" he asks her. "You're a therapist, psychiatrist, whatever. You're meant to be able to pin down our innermost secrets, is that it?"

"I'm not a mind reader, Will," she replies, low and amused. Haughty. "But you are not exactly subtle." Her head tilts. "You know Matthew Brown. From the outside world."

"What gave me away?" Will says icily.

She smiles. "He frightens you." Will's jaw clenches and he huffs, but refuses to break gazes with her. "I can't imagine why. He appears to be a pleasant enough gentleman."

"We all appear pleasant when it suits us," Will murmurs. His head tilts when she presses her lips together. "Do you have a secret, Doctor Du Maurier? Is there a way you end up evicted from the house?"

"We all have secrets," she says slowly, shifting her weight. "You. Me. Doctor Lecter."

Will's eyes narrow. "You knew him," he says, and straightens when she doesn't answer. "Of course you knew him. You know something about him, and he knows something about you, doesn't he?" She doesn't answer, still, and he lets out a ragged, angry laugh. He sits forward, putting his elbows on his knees, and folds his hands together. "I wonder who was the patient, and who was the psychiatrist."

Her brow arches and she hums. "I'd love to hear your theories."

Will rolls his eyes.

"I wonder if Miss Lounds and Doctor Chilton know Matthew had a previous relationship with you," Bedelia murmurs. "I'm sure that would skew the results of their little experiment."

"You know what I don't get?" Will asks, sitting back again. She hums once more, crossing her other leg over, and Will slouches in the – admittedly, very comfortable – seat. He runs a hand over his mouth and looks up, spies Dante and Plato on the bookshelves. "Chilton's a psychiatrist too. I guess you all flock together, whatever. I wonder why he didn't sidle his way into this job. I mean, he's producing the show, he can do whatever the Hell he wants and I'm sure he'd love to learn about all our dirty little secrets."

He lowers his eyes and sees her smiling.

"The gritty details?" she asks.

"They say that's where the Devil is," Will replies with a shrug.

Bedelia tilts her head, her eyes dropping to somewhere around Will's chest, then back up. "Are you religious, Will?"

"Are you?" Will answers.

Bedelia smiles. "I believe there is a higher power, yes," she says. "But not in the…classic sense. There are hierarchies in Man, and each tier submits to the one above it, and there are some daring few who try to reach above their station."

Will's eyes narrow. She was in this room with Franklyn when Will alluded to a possible relationship with Hannibal. She can't possibly know about that. Unless she, like everyone else it seems, deduced from their interactions that something was going on. It's an aggravating thought, but made more so by the implication.

"And what, pray tell," he says archly, "is my station?"

She smiles at him, her pale eyes bright. "I suppose that's up to you to decide, Mister Graham."

Will huffs. Just like a fucking psychiatrist to say.

 

 

Will packs his bags when he's released from Bedelia's claws. He's sure he's right about Franklyn, which means his room is about to open up, and he tells himself it's a matter of survival to put himself in a room next to Hannibal's. He'll take over that room and hopefully the man is a light sleeper and would hear if Matthew decides to act on his depravity in the middle of the night.

Dinner is a muted affair, and has the same ambiance as a funeral. Hannibal knows Franklyn is going to leave them – and, predictably, Freddie and Chilton come at the normal hour. They are each holding one of the 'CB' trophies and Will's heart stutters in his chest.

"Hi everyone!" Freddie chirps, her smile wide and shark-like. "We have two more evictions tonight. You guys are really on a roll here."

Will looks to Hannibal, finds his gaze fixed on Chilton. His fingers flex under the table – maybe he was wrong. Maybe Matthew did out his secret and he wants to get rid of Will. If Will leaves the house, he won't be able to protect Alana, but he also won't be protected by the cameras.

"Franklyn," Chilton says, and the man looks up, a pout-like frown on his round face. "Pack your things. Will successfully identified your secret. You'll be coming home with us."

Franklyn swallows, and sighs. He looks at the rest of the table and offers a sad smile, before getting to his feet. He takes the trophy and plods towards the stairs, head down and shoulders curled in.

Then, Freddie speaks; "Francis." Will's head snaps up, his eyes wide as he looks at the other man. "Doctor Du Maurier submitted an accurate theory about you, as well. You'll be packing up and leaving with us and Franklyn tonight."

Francis growls, but shoves himself to his feet with a glare sent in Bedelia's direction. She smiles at him, placid and serene as always, and he takes the trophy from Freddie's hands, sighing, and follows Franklyn upstairs to pack.

Freddie flips her hair, rubbing her hands together. "You guys are getting way too good at this," she says brightly. "Honestly, at this rate we'll run out of people by the first week."

"The price of placing a group of remarkably keen-sighted people under the same roof," Hannibal says with a look Bedelia's way. "With shared history."

Freddie purses her lips, and nods. "We do have one more possible contestant to bring in," she says, almost considering. "He'll be joining you all tomorrow morning. I think it'll be fun! A new gang and an old one; survival of the fittest."

Will glares at her. "No need to sugarcoat it, Freddie," he says darkly. "You just want to keep us all here for as long as possible."

Freddie smiles at him, sharp, no teeth showing, but it is Chilton who speaks; "Don't sound so suffering, Will. From what we've been hearing, you must be having a lot of fun here."

Will flushes, and stabs a bite of steak viciously, eating so that he doesn't let loose a sharp retort. Beside him, Alana's fingers are pale and shaking, and she sips at her water.

Bedelia is eating salad – she eats only vegetables, he's noticed, and doesn't seem keen to stomach any meat that Hannibal offers her.

"Who's the new guy?" Alana asks after an uncomfortable silence.

Chilton smiles at her. "His name is Tobias Budge," he replies. "He is a string shop owner in Baltimore, and teaches violin lessons as well. Quite the accomplished musician – if you get the chance, you should have him play for you."

"Oh! That would be lovely," Alana says, smiling at Hannibal. "Do you still play the piano?"

"I do," Hannibal replies with a nod, sipping at his wine. Will looks at him, brow creased. Of course he can play the piano – he can probably play the violin too, the overachieving dick. "It would be lovely to play with an accomplished musician, if Mister Budge is so inclined."

Franklyn and Francis come back down the stairs, their bags in hand. Francis has a dark look on his face, but he looks at Will and nods, and Will returns it. He pushes himself to his feet, circling the table, and offers his hand to shake. Francis takes it, shaking once, sharply.

"Good luck," he says, and Will nods.

Franklyn looks close to tears. "It was, ah, wonderful getting to know you all," he says thickly, wiping at his face. Alana lets out a soft, concerned sound, and stands, bringing Franklyn in for a hug that he eagerly returns.

"You have my number," she says kindly, and Franklyn nods. "When the show is over, please feel free to give me a call and we can catch up."

"That would be awesome," Franklyn says, smiling with water in his eyes. He looks at Will and Will swallows, and shakes his hand. "Good luck, guys."

"Have a good night, Franklyn," Will replies, and moves away, taking his seat again, two seats down from Hannibal who is at the head of the table. Francis was across from him, Franklyn across from Alana at Hannibal's left side, and now there is just Matthew, and Bedelia, at the second head and across from the last seat.

His stomach clenches at the thought of their table getting smaller, of Matthew creeping closer.

He sees Matthew and Bedelia share a conspiratorial smile, and swallows back his snarl.

Old and new gang, indeed.

He only waits long enough for Freddie, Chilton, Francis, and Franklyn to leave, before he goes upstairs and moves all of his stuff into Franklyn's room, next to Hannibal's. Francis had the next one, which Will imagines will go to Tobias, and then there is Bedelia's room, then Matthew's – Will shudders, knowing their rooms were right next to each other – and Alana's at the end, behind the curve. He doesn't like the fact that Alana and Matthew are still so close together, but there's nothing he can really do about it, except hope that she's vigilant and smart enough to watch her back.

Franklyn's old room is decorated similarly to the rest. There is a blue accent wall framing the headboard, which sits against the wall he shares with Hannibal. There are two oak dressers and the floor is covered in a cream carpet that matches the other three walls, and a large window that looks out to the little front garden and the forest beyond it. It's a larger room, and Will doesn't miss the fact that the camera is fixed so that there is no blind spot during sleep.

It is a somewhat comforting thought: there's nowhere to hide, and nowhere to run.

He leaves the room to see Hannibal entering his. They both stop, and Hannibal tilts his head and offers a smile. Will rubs his hand over the back of his neck, eyes straying down to see that the table has been cleared, and no one is in the dining room or the living room. They're all in the game room, probably.

"I want to thank you," he says before Hannibal can speak. "For playing along."

Hannibal tilts his head, his smile widening. "You are proving to be a diverting play partner," he replies smoothly. Will flushes, biting his lower lip, and shifts his weight. "Am I to assume that this is not a one-time thing?"

Will looks up, meets his eyes, which are dark and shine with a reddish hue in the low light. "What do you mean?"

"If your intention is to imply that we have a physical relationship, there are natural steps to be sure that impression is maintained." Will is silent, and Hannibal pauses, and says; "Unless I misunderstood your intentions. That is what you meant to suggest, is it not?"

"No," Will says. "I mean, yes. I did mean to suggest that."

Hannibal's smile is wide, his gaze calculating. "I wonder, for whose benefit?"

"I'm sure you can guess."

Hannibal hums, and turns so he's no longer looking like he intends to enter his room. He leans against the closed door and tilts his head again. "Interesting," he says, and Will rolls his eyes. "In one moment, you claim Mister Brown means you harm, and in the next you design to incite his anger." Will's shoulders roll, and he folds his arms across his chest. "If he is as dangerous as you say, then I can only read your actions as…what? A play for protection?"

"I can defend myself just fine," Will says icily.

Hannibal's eyes flash with amusement, and he looks to the door of Will's new bedroom. He smiles. "You are fascinating, Will," he murmurs, and Will huffs, rubbing his hand over the back of his neck again, then up through his hair. He doesn't miss how Hannibal's eyes track the motion. "Well, whatever your plan is, I promise you have my full support, and my help, however you ask for it."

Will bristles: he doesn't need anyone's Goddamn help. But he does, he certainly does, and he doesn't like that one bit. "Let me ask you, then," he says, and lowers his voice, stepping closer. "Are you willing to pretend that we're in a physical relationship?"

Hannibal's eyes are dark, and the fingers of his left hand flex like he wants to reach out and touch Will. "Yes," he replies plainly.

Will nods, pressing his lips together. "It's just part of the game, Doctor Lecter," he adds, firmly. He won't have Hannibal getting it into his head that they're friends, that this is anything other than pretend. "Until I figure out Matthew's secret."

Hannibal smiles, cordial, and still dreadfully amused. "Of course, Will."

Will's eyes narrow. "You think I'm lying."

"Do I?"

Will huffs, and steps back. "Whatever," he mutters, rubbing his hand through his hair again.

"Will," Hannibal says, as Will makes for the stairs, and Will turns to see that Hannibal has not moved but his stance is changed, somehow – he looks magnetized, like every part of him has somehow curled into Will without moving a muscle. "I'd like to ask for clarification, if that's alright."

Will's head tilts.

"I certainly don't want to do anything untoward, without your permission."

"Mm."

"If we are to pretend we're in a relationship, I think it's only natural that there are some physical displays of affection we engage in." Will's eyes narrow, and Hannibal smiles. "For the sake of the game."

Will laughs. "Does it ever go this way in those fan stories?"

Hannibal blinks, and huffs, but he is smiling. "I never read any of them, but I'm sure that's the case," he replies, and Will doesn't know if he's lying. He doesn't much care. "When it comes to sex, even men like you are somewhat predictable."

Will's eyes narrow and he turns to face Hannibal fully. "We're not having sex," he growls.

Hannibal nods. "Of course not," he says with a dismissive wave. "But I want to ask what you will allow."

Will swallows, and scratches the back of his neck.

"I mean…" He trails off, and wonders when the Hell he got so fucking shy. He's never been one to deny himself what he wants, especially when it comes to any and all things to do with sex, because sex is easy. Sex is an exchange, a give and take, supply and demand.

He winces, internally, and fights off the urge to tell Hannibal that. He's sure the man would have more than one interesting way of picking that particular mindset apart.

And, Will must consider, he hasn't actually had a relationship, had a sexual partner, or even let anyone touch him in a remotely sexual way for…years. The woman he made videos with was a lesbian and she would beat him and they'd cuddle afterwards, both because she liked to do it and he needed to know that she was something solid and real afterwards, but he can't actually remember the last time he had anything but his own hand or a toy for company.

Hannibal shifts his weight when the silence stretches on just a little too long, and Will flinches, stepping back. Hannibal's fingers curl and his lips purse, and he says, very carefully; "Are you sure this route is one you wish you take? You can back out."

Will huffs, snaps his teeth together, and shakes his head. "I'm not a fucking coward," he says.

"I never said you were," Hannibal replies, somewhat sharp. "But most men who are sure of themselves don't…" He doesn't finish the sentence – it's a challenge, but Will isn't sure Hannibal means it as one. Nevertheless, he takes it as one, and sucks in a breath, rolls his shoulders and folds his arms across his chest.

"I'll start sitting next to you at the dinner table," he says, and Hannibal nods. "We're sleeping in separate rooms. We're not going to be alone together anymore."

At that, Hannibal smiles. "What?" Will demands.

"I find it interesting that with the 'truth' out, you're even more secretive," Hannibal says, leaning against his door again and mimicking Will, arms crossed. "Surely a couple would be expected to try and get a little private time together?"

Will winces. "That's not…"

"Oh, of course, you're right," Hannibal adds with a dismissive wave of his hand. "This isn't a relationship. Not even a fake one. This is a fake…arrangement." His eyes are dark, suddenly, and he sounds almost…insulted. "A benefactor and his kept boy."

Will freezes, like someone shoved a shard of ice along his spine. Something sour and hot in his stomach twists itself up into a tight knot, outrage and mortification and righteous anger. "I'm sorry," he says, cutting. "Have I insulted your pride?"

"No," Hannibal huffs, but his eyes move from Will's, settle away. Weakness.

Will bares his teeth, and it might be a smile in the same way wolves smile. "Of course I did. To imply that the only way you can get laid is by buying -."

Hannibal moves swiftly. Will is in the middle of the hallway one moment, and then he is against the wall, one of Hannibal's hands around his neck. He pins Will there with just that – and the hold itself is not even strong, and he isn't tightening his grip, but the threat of it is enough to make Will freeze. That, and the look in his eyes – a crack in the veneer showing Will something wild, something angry.

Hannibal goes still as well, blinks once, though for someone like him it's as emotional as a shout of alarm, and he flattens his hand, gentles it, and moves it to rest over Will's collarbones.

"I…am sorry, Will," he says, and he sound earnest. "Please, forgive me."

He pulls his hand away and Will catches it before he can stop himself, wrapping both hands around Hannibal's and holding it to his chest. Hannibal watches him, blinking again as Will sighs, swallows. He considers Hannibal's hand – the stretch of thin, delicate skin along the inside of this wrist, the bulge of veins and tendons along the back of his hand. The soft warmth. He sighs again, and meets his eyes.

"I forgive you," he says, and Hannibal nods, shoulders sagging down just an inch in relief. "I shouldn't have said that shit. It was insulting, and rude, and I didn't mean it."

"You are an incendiary creature," Hannibal says, lips quirking up in a smile.

Will rolls his eyes. "Just call me an asshole like a normal person," he replies, and Hannibal huffs a laugh. Will looks down, petting his thumb over Hannibal's knuckles, and lifts them, pressing his cheek to them. A fine tremor runs up Hannibal's arm, into his fingers, when he does it.

"At the risk of earning more sharp words, I don't think affection is a good reward for my behavior," Hannibal says. "I certainly hope you're not attracted to violence."

There's something in his voice – something that catches, that conjures a deep, deep ache in Will, and he lifts his head, lifts his eyes, and meets Hannibal's dark irises in a level gaze.

"I'm attracted to transparency," he breathes. "To the genuine. I think, just now, I have caught a glimpse of your most honest self." He tilts his head when Hannibal's jaw bulges, his nostrils flare and his fingers curl around Will's hand. Will smiles. "Perhaps there's something in you yet, Doctor Lecter, that I could be friends with."

Hannibal breathes out, heavily, and he aches, he aches, he aches. His thumb lifts, brushing Will's jaw in a gentle touch that sends sparks down Will's neck, catches at his throat and makes his heart stutter. Just a touch, and he's starved for them, and ravenous for more.

He swallows, and wonders what it would take to get Hannibal to crack again.

"I would very much like to be your friend, Will," Hannibal murmurs after another long moment of silence. His thumb hasn't moved, still rests on Will's jaw, sweeping through the short, fine hairs at the corner.

Will smiles, pulse thrumming. "Then you have to help me. That's what friends do."

Hannibal nods, his eyes lifting from Will's like he might be able to physically see his train of thought. "I can't divulge anything Matthew tells me, for the sake of the game," he murmurs. "But I'm beginning to think you see layers in everything people say. Even when they're careful about it."

Will nods, and resists the urge to point out that Hannibal flat-out told him Alana was pregnant, even though Will already knew that. Clearly what Hannibal deems secret-worthy is not set in stone. Or maybe Alana said Will already knew. He'd give anything to know what goes on in Hannibal's office, both during his sessions and Bedelia's.

Before he can respond, he hears movement, the click of stilettos, and Hannibal pulls back, turning so that they can see Bedelia and Matthew emerge from Hannibal's office. Matthew is grinning at Bedelia, and kisses her hand, to earn one of her placid, serene smiles in return. Then, Matthew's eyes snap up, and Will's chest goes cold and tight at the look on his face.

His upper lip curls into something angry, but there's a smile there too, lighting up his eyes. Bedelia touches Matthew's arm, directing his attention away, and she gestures towards the game room, and Matthew nods, and goes. Will tenses – he hopes Alana isn't in there. He hopes she's safe, in her room.

He breathes out when they disappear from sight.

Hannibal lets out a curious sound, his thumb brushing idly down Will's neck to rest over his pulse. "I will admit," he says quietly, "whatever you might say, or do, you can't hide your physical reactions to him." Will swallows. "You're shaking."

Will can't deny that. His fingers tighten around Hannibal's hand, before he lets go, and Hannibal steps away from him to give him room to breathe. The loss of his warmth feels so strangely sharp, and Will resists the urge to reach for him again.

"I guess I can only hope I've bought myself some time," he says. "And maybe this Budge guy will distract him for a while."

"Until what?" Hannibal asks, his head back to that perma-tilt. "Something will change again, Will. I sense that, like you, Matthew will seek to form alliances. Perhaps he will turn Mister Budge into a confidante, to unseat the favorite." At that, he smiles, and Will rolls his eyes.

"Not if he sticks to his pathology," he says darkly. "He wants me afraid."

Hannibal makes a curious noise, and Will finds his eyes bright with eager curiosity, as he looks down to the living room again. "…Perhaps I should see if Mister Brown is willing to converse with me," he says lightly. "Man to man, so to speak."

Will laughs, and it's weak, and somewhat bitter. "Don't tell me you're going to try and challenge him for my honor."

Hannibal smiles. "Now that would make some excellent television."

"Hannibal, seriously. No. You don't know what this guy is capable of."

Hannibal hums, pressing his lips together, and looks to Will again. "With all due respect, Will, you don't know what I'm capable of, either." Will blinks, and swallows, and thinks he sees another shadow of that predator behind Hannibal's eyes. Oh, it's interesting, a dark spark of intrigue lighting up his chest, and he sees another crack in the façade, showing golden eyes and sharp teeth.

"So that's it, then," he murmurs. "A bunch of psychopaths trying to help each other out."

Hannibal smiles, and laughs lightly. "Do you think I'm a psychopath?" he asks.

"No," Will replies, and shakes his head. "No. I don't know what to call you."

"Perhaps just a friend, for now."

Will swallows, and nods. "Right," he breathes, and resists the urge to reach out again. "For now."

Chapter Text

Tobias Budge is tall, put-together, and oozes refinement and pleasantness like a statue. He smiles with only his eyes, like Hannibal does, when Freddie and Chilton present him at dinner, and introduces himself with all the fair Blue Blood high society Baltimore could offer. Even Alana and Bedelia seem charmed by him.

He has brought a violin, and leaves the case on the piano bench in the dining room with a promise that he and Hannibal might play together, later, for entertainment. Will doesn't want to like the guy, but he doesn't altogether dislike him either – he owns his civility like fine clothes, but Will senses it runs bone-deep, not a suit or shadow like Hannibal wears.

And he only calls Hannibal by his title, which Will appreciates more than he cares to think about.

"Doctor Lecter, this is truly a wonderful vintage," he says over glasses of wine. Alana is sipping her mint tea, across from Will, Will at Hannibal's left side, Tobias beside him, Alana and Matthew taking up the other side and Bedelia at the second head of the table. Will doesn't like that Matthew is sitting so close to her, but he's been fairly well-behaved so far, like a cat sitting at the top of the stairs, watching house guests and deciding if it will join the party after it has made its assessment. "Where is it from?"

"Linden," Hannibal replies with a smile.

"Virginia?" Tobias asks, and raises a brow, considering his glass. "I could have sworn it's French."

"The Virginian wine revolution is upon us," Hannibal says, back to his peacock-shine and lax posture. Will feels it like oil on his skin, and resists the urge to glare. Now that he has seen a glimpse behind the curtain, he finds the curtain's existence all the more intolerable. "I will say that most wines I have sampled from the area have been remarkably good this season. Perhaps there's something in the water."

Tobias smiles, all teeth. "I'll say."

"So, Tobias," Matthew says, his eyes lighting up, his posture slouched as he fixes Tobias with a smile, "what made you want to come on the show?"

"I was actually approached by Miss Lounds, after a performance at the Baltimore Symphony," Tobias says. "I had trained one of the new violinists when she was younger, and we got to talking. One thing led to another."

Will has no idea how an orchestra performance leads to this complete farce, but he says nothing.

"Have you seen the first season, then?" Alana asks.

"I'll admit, I haven't," Tobias says. "I don't even own a television, but the premise intrigued me. I find it interesting – the idea that there are secrets that develop who we are, no matter how much we try to hide them."

"Not a novel idea, truly, though the attempt to broadcast such study is new," Bedelia says with a light drum of her manicured nails on the table. "I suppose it speaks to us, then; the dichotomy of the challenge and our assuredness in our own capability to sniff out other people's deception."

"Well, clearly there's something to it," Matthew says, and gives Will a wide smile. "Our golden boy here has wildly impressive stats."

Tobias turns, fixing Will with a raised brow, and Will is certain in this moment that, until now, Tobias has wondered what on earth Will is even doing here. Which makes sense – Will isn't a therapist, or psychiatrist, and he arguably has the least hands-on experience that they know about. Something ugly twists in his gut at the idea that they might think he's here just because of his and Hannibal's 'affair'.

"Yes, the most-observant Will Graham," Tobias says, in a tone that is neither praise nor prejudice. "Doctor Chilton told me you're the one to watch."

Will offers him a smile. Tobias' presence feels opaque, like a block of marble waiting to be cut and shorn into shape. There is a quality of strength to him, and Will thinks he's the kind of man who liked his boys sweet. So he tilts his head and lets out a soft, self-deprecating huff, and shakes his head.

"Just lucky, I guess," he replies, just enough humility that he can see it land.

Tobias nods. "Yes," he says, his dark eyes sliding to Hannibal, and then back to his wine as he takes a drink. "Luck."

There it is. For all his feigned ignorance, he's clearly heard about Will's play for Hannibal's affection.

Well, in for a penny.

Will sets his glass down and reaches under the table, smoothing his hand against Hannibal's knee. It's not an overtly obvious gesture, but he knows Matthew sees it, and he feels Hannibal's eyes settle on the side of his face. Then, just barely, a shift of his weight, pressing into Will's hand.

Will smiles.

"So do you play just the violin, or other instruments?" he asks Tobias.

"I am capable with most of the string section," Tobias replies with a nod. Whether he noticed Will's gesture or not, he doesn't show it, but Will can feel Alana watching him as well, her head tilted to one side just so. "And I source strings for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra as well. Only the best for my students, wherever they end up going."

Bedelia smiles, and fixes him with a lofty look. "I would very much like to hear you play sometime," she says kindly.

"I would be happy to," Tobias replies.

Will straightens when he hears, suddenly, a shrill ring coming from the direction of the kitchen. Hannibal blinks, and stands. "The phone," he offers by way of explanation, and moves from his seat. As he passes behind Will, he gives him a brief touch to his shoulder – it is light, and could almost be passed off as making sure he doesn't bump the seat accidentally, but it sweeps just barely below Will's hair and Will shivers, flushing deeply despite himself.

Hannibal disappears and Will is very, very aware that he is outnumbered without him there. His fingers flex and he takes a sip of wine.

They sit in silence, uncomfortable and charged. Bedelia is picking at her salad and oysters, and Will clears his throat, raises his chin. "Pescatarian?" he asks her.

She gives him a thin smile. "I don't like to eat anything that once had a central nervous system."

Matthew raises his eyebrows, and looks down to her plate. "Oysters, acorns, and Marsala. That's what ancient Romans would feed animals to improve their flavor." Bedelia freezes, and looks at Matthew with wide eyes, swallowing her mouthful.

Alana lets out a weak laugh. "Do you learn interesting tidbits like that at the Hospital?" she asks, sipping at her tea.

Matthew smiles at her, wide, coyote-like. "You pick up all kinds working there," he replies with a dismissive wave of his hand. "But I suppose it takes a particular flavor of crazy to want to eat your own kind."

"Assuming that person regards other people as their own kind," Will says before he can stop himself. A shadow moves behind Bedelia as Hannibal returns from the kitchen. "Cannibalism is only cannibalism if you're equals. Sounds like the Romans were onto something."

Matthew blinks at him, and Alana is staring, and Bedelia has a look on her face like she might be sick. Will swallows, and lifts his eyes, sees Hannibal regarding him with a wickedly pleased gleam in his eye. He smiles, and comes up behind Bedelia, resting a hand on her shoulder. Will doesn't miss how she tenses up visibly at the touch.

Interesting.

"Alana," Hannibal says. "There's someone on the line for you."

Alana blinks at him, and nods, getting to her feet and leaving the room to answer. Hannibal smiles at her as she passes, and then releases Bedelia with a tap to her shoulder, returning to his seat at Will's side. Will watches him, and wonders if he ever moved so feline.

"I find I have returned to quite an interesting conversation," Hannibal says mildly, taking his seat and settling in place.

"We were just discussing Doctor Du Maurier's dinner," Matthew says brightly.

"Ah," Hannibal says with a cordial smile. "I'll admit, I may be singlehandedly keeping the oyster business in practice, as it is, but it's no trouble making accommodations for anyone's specific palette." His eyes slide to Will, and darken almost imperceptibly, but it's enough to make Will feel warm from the base of his neck, down his spine. "My own is quite sensitive, and I have never been one to deny a person their tastes."

"It must be taxing, to feed so many every day," Tobias says, either ignoring or not noticing the tension in the room. "But I will say you're doing so admirably. I have never had finer food."

"Thank you, Tobias. Your compliments are appreciated."

They return to eating, although Will notices that Bedelia seems even less inclined to eat her food now. Interesting – a strange reaction to an arguably innocent comment. Will thinks of what he knows – he is certain that Bedelia and Hannibal know each other, from before the show. Perhaps it was one of the reasons she agreed to come on; to keep an eye on him. There is something undeniably other about Hannibal, Will can see it now, and though he finds he is liking what he sees, she may not.

You don't know what I'm capable of either, Will.

Beneath the table, Hannibal's knee touches his, and Will hides his smile into his glass of wine.

 

 

Dinner ends, and Matthew, Tobias, and Bedelia go to the living room while Hannibal clears away the plates. Driven both by a desire to be nowhere near Matthew, and because he figures it'll help the appearances of a relationship, Will decides to help Hannibal with the dishes. They fall together easily, in a way Will realizes they have always moved together – even with his hostility, and his steadfast refusal to be friendly or share space with Hannibal in the first season, he cannot deny Hannibal was right. Will feels, not calm, not really in his presence, but settled. Like a sheepdog might eye a wolf on the horizon, ready to fight if it comes too close to the flock, but also grateful for the help against the coyotes.

Hannibal hands him a plate to dry, and Will takes it, wiping it dry and stacking it at the side of the sink. "So," Hannibal says after a moment. Will looks at him with an arched brow. "Matthew seems to be behaving himself."

"For now," Will replies. He sighs, and takes another plate when it's given to him. "I don't think he'll make a move unless he's sure he can get away with it. He's bold, certainly, but he doesn't get any satisfaction from making me squirm in public."

Hannibal laughs, and Will eyes him.

"A satisfaction you get, though."

Hannibal smiles at him, unapologetic. "Flustered is a good look on you," he says mildly. Will bites his lip and tries not to blush, though it's involuntary and he can't help it. "So is relaxation. If I cannot have one, I will gleefully seek to foster the other."

"You want me to relax?" Will asks, and Hannibal nods, humming down at the soapy dishes as he cleans another plate. "I can't relax. Not with him here."

"Then you must finalize this plan of yours quickly," Hannibal murmurs. "Matthew does not strike me as a patient man, when all's said and done."

"You don't know him like I do," Will mutters.

"No, you're right," Hannibal replies. "And unless you suddenly feel inclined to share, I doubt I will. Unless he tells me." He pauses, and in his silence, hands Will another plate. "Perhaps I should. I think it would be quite entertaining to see how he reacts to me in close quarters, when we're alone."

"You think he'll just attack you or something?" Will asks, brows rising.

"Nothing so heavy-handed as that," Hannibal says with a smile. "But he's not the first person on this show to threaten me."

Will clears his throat, stacking the plate with the others. "I had an uncomfortable realization," he says, and Hannibal tilts his head to show he's listening. "Something Matthew said. It occurs to me that it might…look a certain way. If I'm the only one making correct guesses about people's secrets. I know you didn't have as much leeway in the first season and we definitely didn't spend any time together like we do now, but I think it…looks bad. That you know everything, and I seem to know everything."

Hannibal seems to consider this, his lips pursed. "I suppose," he says, slowly. "The thought hadn't occurred to me, given how it is obviously not the case." Will huffs, and resists the urge to say that he's positive that the thought had occurred to Hannibal. Hannibal is the kind of man who thinks of everything. "Are you worried about your image?"

Will rolls his eyes, and wipes the innards of a cleaned wine glass with a towel. "I don't give a shit about that," he replies. "Like you said, it's obviously not the case, and I don't care what people who watch this show think of me. Or what people in the house think of me, for that matter."

Hannibal smiles at that.

"I just feel like it should be said."

"You are hardly the kind of person to just say things for the sake of saying them," Hannibal replies coolly. "You are afraid."

Will sucks in a breath, and sets his teeth on edge. "Yeah. I think I have a right to be."

"Because of Matthew. Do you think he'll do something to prove that you're not as smart as everyone thinks you are?"

"I can't let him think I think I'm winning. That's the kind of behavior that gets taken down a peg."

"Ah," Hannibal says, nodding. "So you are worried about your perceived betterness."

"How would you react, if the person you wanted to hurt pretended like nothing could hurt them?"

Hannibal pauses, at that, and turns his head to meet Will's gaze. Will's eyes lift, and lock, and there is something dark in Hannibal's iris, that does not shine even with the sunlight and the lights overhead. Hannibal watches him for a long time, until Will feels a distinct sympathy with a butterfly pinned behind glass, and then Hannibal pulls his hands out from the water, and dries them, and turns to regard Will fully.

Will sets the wine glass down, and mimics him.

"I won't let anything happen to you, Will," Hannibal says, and Will blinks, because he's not sure what he expected Hannibal to say, but it wasn't that. He fights the urge to withdraw, to fold his arms and raise his shoulders and lower his eyes. "I consider you my friend, and I protect my friends."

Will swallows, and thinks of Alana. "I don't know if there's anything you can do," he replies.

That lightless place in Hannibal's eye flashes, and he smiles in a way that makes him look sharp. Will is suddenly, achingly aware of how soft his own throat is. He swallows, and pets over it, and averts his eyes, to the door that leads to Hannibal's office.

He frowns. "She's been in there a long time," he says.

Hannibal hums. "Yes," he replies.

"I should…. One of us should go check on her."

Hannibal nods again when Will looks at him, but makes no move towards the door himself. Will huffs, rolling his eyes, and dries his hand on his dishtowel, setting it beside the clean dishes. He goes to the door, and knocks tentatively.

"Alana?" he calls. "It's Will. Can I come in?"

He doesn't hear her respond, but after a moment there is the sound of her shoes on the carpet, and then the door opens an inch. She looks, well, she looks awful, her eyes puffy and mascara running down her face, and Will frowns, and steps inside when she reaches out and pulls him in by his arm.

She shuts the door, turns, and buries her face in his chest, a heavy sob shaking her shoulders. He hugs her immediately, his cheek in her hair, and holds her tightly as she clings to the front of his shirt. There's a balled-up tissue in one hand and Will's chest grows damp under her cheek.

"What happened?" Will asks softly, petting through her frizzy hair. She merely sobs in answer, and clings more tightly to him, and Will swallows, presses his lips together. He's never been the best at consolation, giving or receiving it, but there's something to be said for the power of a hug and just letting someone cry for a while.

He guides her to one of the chairs and sits her down, grabs the box of tissues and puts them in her lap. Then, he sits down next to her, on the armrest of the chair, and lets her cry against his flank as he gently runs his fingers through her hair, pulling it back from her face and neck.

Finally, she settles, giving a little hiccupping sob, and straightens, wiping at her face with a fresh tissue. Will waits as she takes in a deep, shuddering breath, her hands flexing and nervously tearing at the wet tissue in her lap until it resembles shreds of paper. She looks up at him, her eyes red-rimmed and bright, and Will presses his lips together, squeezing her shoulder.

"It's Margot," she says, before he can ask again. "Mason attacked her. He found out about…about us. About the baby. She wouldn't tell me how, but he thought she was the pregnant one and he…. He…" She stops, and sobs again, covering her mouth. "He broke her fucking arm."

Will's hand goes still, and the fingers of his free hand tighten, knuckles turning white. He swallows back the white-hot ball of rage that gathers in his chest, forces his voice to be calm when he says; "You need to go home."

Alana shakes her head, vehemently. "I can't leave you."

"Alana, touching as that is, that's a load of horse shit," Will says tightly. She looks up at him again. "I'll tell Freddie and Chilton to give you my bonus. Take it, and get the fuck out of town, with her. Go somewhere far away."

"He'll find us," she says weakly. "I know he would."

And Will wants to argue, but he can't because he knows exactly how far dangerous men will go to pursue what they want. Matthew is proof of that.

Still, he swallows, and says; "You have to try."

She shakes her head again, and stands, tissue shards falling to the ground and trampled underfoot as she paces away. "No. I have to stay. I can't leave you with Matthew, and I can't run away with her because Mason will find us. It's too…. It's too soon."

"Alana," Will murmurs, and she turns and looks at him. He stands, and goes to her, and takes her hands in his. "Don't worry about me. I'm serious – I can handle myself, and if it were up to me I'd go find this Mason guy and beat the shit out of him." She swallows loudly. "Hell, I'd probably do a lot worse." He forces himself to smile. "Prison might be safer than here."

His lame attempt at a joke works – she laughs, though it's somewhat hysterical. "Right." She grabs another tissue when he hands her the box, wiping under her eyes and smearing her makeup. "Fuck."

"You need to go home," Will says again. She shakes her head, and he sighs. "You're not safe here. At least, with Margot, you both might stand a chance."

"Will, I -."

"Alana, I'm not going to argue with you. I'm sorry, but…" He stops, and shakes his head. "I know your secret. I'm going to tell it. I'm getting you out of here."

She regards him, her jaw clenching tightly, her nostrils flaring. "Come with me," she says after a moment. "We can out each other, and get away from this place."

Will smiles. "I can't do that."

"Why the fuck not?" she demands, glaring at him. "You think you're some kind of white knight by saving me and getting me evicted, and then staying behind so he can…do whatever it is you're afraid he's going to do? That's fucked, Will, and monumentally stupid. I can't leave you alone."

"I'm not alone," Will replies. "I have Hannibal."

She blinks at him, and her eyes narrow. "Right. What the Hell is going on there?"

Will tilts his head.

"So you're jumping in with the affair angle? Why? What are you doing?"

He smiles. "Tiger-baiting," he says.

She huffs at him, and looks like she'd hit him if she had the energy. "You're so stupid," she hisses. Will blinks at her, and fights the urge to smile. "You're going to get yourself hurt, or worse."

Will presses his lips together, and sighs. "Are you going to out me?" he asks.

She shakes her head. "No," she says.

He nods. "Alright."

"You're a reckless, awful, terrible person," she says sullenly, and Will smiles when she walks over to him again and pulls him into a tight hug. "The second you get out of here, you call me, you hear? I need to know you're safe."

"The same goes to you," Will says into her hair.

She pulls back, takes another tissue, and blows her nose, before she does her best to wipe her face clean and throws all the mess away. "Asshole," she mutters.

Will grins at her, and walks out with her. "Yeah, love you too."

 

 

Will asks Hannibal to let him into the office again so he can write out Alana's secret. Hannibal escorts him there, long enough for Will to tear off another piece of the notepad and write 'Alana is married to a woman, and pregnant', as well as 'Give her my disclosure bonus when she leaves' along the bottom, and puts it in the box. Then, they leave, and Will helps himself to another bottle of wine and goes out to the patio, coat drawn up tight to ward away the windchill, curled up on the chair that is still right on the edge of the cliffs.

He sighs, drinking straight from the bottle. It's the same kind as the bottle he drank before, the night with Franklyn, and is heavy and syrupy on his tongue. He wishes it was something stronger – maybe later he'll go to the game room and raid the top shelf for the whiskey or tequila.

The bottle is almost empty when the door slides open, and Will smiles, his eyes still on the cliffs, and says, "Hey."

"Hey yourself."

Will freezes, his eyes widening and snapping to the door. It's not Hannibal, as Will expected, but Matthew.

Fuck.

He swallows, and takes another drink of wine, and tries not to think too hard about the fact that they're not monitored, out here. He searches past Matthew, but sees no one in the living room, or the kitchen. No one watching him come out here with Will.

Panic rises up in him strongly, and he forces himself not to move, not to flee, as Matthew smiles at him, something wide and ugly, and slides the door closed behind him. He prowls to Will and takes one of the chairs, sliding it too-close, and sits.

He sighs. "Lovely night."

Will nods. Wonders if he could smash the wine bottle and cut Matthew's throat before Matthew got his hands on him.

Matthew's eyes are dark, black in the weak light coming from the moon, and the waves sound suddenly ominous and loud like the roar of a lunging wildcat. He trembles, his hands white-knuckling the bottle and holding it to his chest, behind his knees, like a shield.

Matthew grins at him, too-wide, and sighs, lashes low. "I missed you, Will."

Will doesn't like the sound of his name on Matthew's tongue at all. He hates that Matthew knows it now. Unbidden, sickening with their flurry and franticness, memories come rushing back to him. Matthew's texts, his emails, the sound of his snarl over the phone. He swallows and looks away, alcohol-addled brain racing to remember how he'd behaved. How he needs to behave, to make it out of this alive.

Matthew laughs. "Do I scare you?"

Will swallows, licks his lips. "You did."

"Mm, and now you have a big strong sugar daddy looking out for you, is that it?" Will looks at him, sees Matthew's face contorted into a black mask of anger. "You seem to be doing pretty well for yourself."

"You, too," Will says weakly. He doesn't want to bring Hannibal into this – it's not his fight, despite the fact that Will basically demanded his involvement. Matthew smiles, and leans forward, his elbows on his knees, and Will goes tense all over. "Is that why you're here? To scare me?"

"No, sweetheart," Matthew purrs, and Will doesn't believe him for a second. Matthew reaches out, his knuckles cold on Will's cheek, and Will flinches, and hates that he does. "I couldn't believe my luck, when I saw the show, when I saw you again." He sighs. "You're still so pretty, and so smart. I wanted to make amends for my behavior."

His hand doesn't move, and Will shrugs him off. "Don't touch me," he hisses. Then, he blinks, and his eyes widen, and he looks at Matthew. "It was you," he breathes. "You're the one who recognized me. Who tried to out me on the forums."

Matthew grins. "Guilty as charged."

Fuck.

"Why?" Will asks weakly. "So I'd get kicked off the show?"

"It would have made it a lot easier to get a hold of you again," Matthew says, smiling wide. "Poor Randall can't take a shit without the media knowing about it. It wouldn't have been hard. But, alas, the stars weren't in alignment then. So I had to come to you."

Will's hands are shaking. He doesn't like this, this feeling of fear, because it's real, it's far, far too real. He swallows and forces himself not to look away, but in Matthew's eyes is danger, is an animal, feral possessiveness. He is possessive of Will, and believes Will is his to command and control. Will isn't ready – he doesn't know what to do.

Except the obvious thing, which makes him want to be sick.

He swallows, fingers flexing, and shows Matthew his fear. "Are you going to hurt me?"

"Oh, baby, I'd never hurt you," Matthew purrs in the way men do when they most certainly are going to hurt you. "How could I?" He reaches out again, touches Will's jaw and tightens his grip when Will tries to shrink away. He growls, and his nails dig in, his eyes flash. "You're mine."

"No I'm not," Will snarls, teeth gritted. The edge of the table is too far away, but he could stand and try to break the bottle on the chair. It's better than no weapon at all, but his feet are cold and his legs are frozen and he can't move. A deer in the headlights, he's trapped, and it's causing a visceral reaction to roll in his stomach.

Matthew growls, showing his teeth. "Because you're his now, is that it?" he says, and takes Will's chin, squeezing hard enough to hurt. Will winces, and tries to push his hand away but it just gets tighter, and it occurs to Will that Matthew is strong. He might be able to overpower Will physically, and it's a terrifying thought. "I'll fucking kill him if I have to. No one takes you away from me."

Will's heart stutters, stammers, and then slams double-time. He snarls, and shoves Matthew off him, wincing when he earns a rake of nails through his neck for his trouble, and he pushes himself to his feet.

"Don't fucking touch me!"

Matthew stands as well, advancing on him, so that his body blocks Will's way to the door. Will could run, down the path leading down the cliffs where Francis liked to walk, but it's dark and he has no light and he's bleary with wine, and it screams a recipe for disaster. Besides, Matthew might follow him, and there are no cameras down there.

Matthew advances, and Will snarls, grabbing the wine bottle by the neck and swinging as hard as he can, the liquid running down his hand and arm, falling to the ground. Matthew catches the bottle on his shoulder, and laughs, and grabs Will, hauling him close. A hand goes to Will's hair, the other wrapped around his neck, and it's not like Hannibal doing it at all – Matthew grabs him to hurt him, digs in with his nails and Will chokes, clawing desperately at his arm, and then Matthew's mouth is on his.

His tongue forces its way into his mouth and Will bites down, hard, but Matthew just laughs. The coppery taste of blood is in his mouth, and sharp whiskey in Matthew's, and Will tries to shove at him, dropping the bottle so it knocks between their feet, and pushes as hard as he can. Matthew goes, but not far enough, and yanks savagely on Will's hair so he's forced to follow.

Will stiffens, snarls when Matthew tries to kiss him again, and headbutts him, their skulls colliding with a sharp crack. Matthew stumbles back, finally releasing him, and Will's forehead hurts but there's blood on Matthew's lip and running from his nose, and he clutches his face and fixes Will with a thunderous look.

"That's it, you little bitch," he says, and straightens to his full height, and he's taller, and bigger, and Will won't make it to the door. He advances and Will steps back, desperately searching for somewhere to run.

And then, the door opens suddenly and loudly enough that it catches Matthew's attention. It's Hannibal, and Will doesn't think he's ever been so happy to see the man. Hannibal's expression is thunderous, and Will doesn't know how much he saw, but he's too weak with relief to care.

Hannibal glares at Matthew, openly, and there is nothing human about the way he looks at the other man. There is no veneer, thin or otherwise. Matthew glares right back, unafraid, and Will shivers.

Hannibal's eyes snap to him, his lips thin out, and he holds out his hand. "Will," he says. "Come here."

Will doesn't need any further incentive. He flees past Matthew and takes Hannibal's hand, allowing himself to be guided inside. As he passes, Hannibal's anger is warm, blistering on his raw skin, and he trembles as Hannibal helps him inside. His mouth aches, his head hurts, and he's not sure how long he has until his knees give out. His pulse is hammering, teeth too sharp.

"Goodnight, Mister Brown," he hears Hannibal say, savage and curt in a way the man has never been before. Then, the door slides shut, and Will flinches when he feels Hannibal's warm hand on his shoulder.

"Will," Hannibal says, his voice soft. He touches Will's forehead and Will winces. If the wine didn't give him a headache, that knock certainly will. "Will, look at me."

Will shakes his head, runs a hand through his hair, over his mouth. It feels like he's tasted poison. "Oh my God," he whispers. His hands are shaking. "Holy fucking shit."

"Will."

Hannibal's fingers, gentle and warm, tuck under his chin and force him to lift his head. Will meets his eyes, finds them dark, the riotous anger still present on his face even though Will can tell he's trying to appear unshaken. Will swallows, licks his lips, and Hannibal's eyes drop to his mouth.

He touches Will's lower lip, smears saliva, and his thumb comes back with a sheen of red. "Yours, or his?" he asks.

"His," Will rasps. "I bit his tongue."

Hannibal's eyes flash, outraged, and yet not without a hint of pride. He nods to himself, and takes Will's wrists in gentle hands, leading him to the kitchen. He has Will stand by the sink, and fills a bowl with warm water, and grabs a small hand towel, handing it to Will to clean his mouth and forehead.

Will looks down at his wrist, and sees Hannibal do the same.

"I dropped your wine," he says, wiping his hands clean.

"Wine is not my concern at the moment," Hannibal replies. The kitchen is darkly lit, only a small light below the cabinets above the oven illuminate them, and the shadows make Hannibal look monstrous, like the visage of Death with all of Hell's fury in his eyes. His fingers flex as Will wipes his mouth, and then presses the towel to his forehead to try and soothe the ache there. "Are you alright?"

Will huffs. "No."

Hannibal nods. "I apologize, it was a stupid question."

"Hey, it might have been consensual. You don't know."

"I -." Hannibal stops, another wave of visceral, black anger coloring his face. He seems to be having trouble stitching his person suit back into place. He breathes out when Will watches him. "Forgive me. Of all the sins in the world, I find sexual assault to be…particularly abhorrent."

Will smiles, and then stops, because it hurts to do it. His lips might be bruised. He resists the urge to ask.

"Will," Hannibal murmurs, and Will looks at him, finds him staring at the bowl of warm water, before he lifts his eyes to meet Will's, and his voice is heavy, so heavy, and gentle as silk. "I'm sorry for asking, but I must know. Has he ever touched you like that before?"

Will winces, and looks away.

"No," he says, and hopes Hannibal can hear his honesty so he doesn't have to show it. He can't stand the thought of looking into Hannibal's eyes right now. The heat of him is too raw, and Will hisses, shrugging off his coat, too warm. "We've, ah, never actually met. Before now."

In his periphery, Hannibal's head tilts. Will knows he wants to ask, to press for more information, but he is mercifully silent. And it's the same lure he used before – lesser men are compelled to fill expectant silences with more conversation, but Will has never fallen for that trap before and he's not about to start.

He swallows, and lowers the hand towel, folding it and setting it down with a vaguely grimacing smile sent in the direction of Hannibal's shoes. "Thank you," he says, quietly. "I don't…want to think about what might have happened if you didn't rescue me."

Hannibal makes a sound, low in his chest. "It wasn't a rescue, Will," he says, and Will frowns down at his feet. "And I'm afraid I must ask your forgiveness again. I promised you I would protect you, and I failed."

Will lifts one shoulder, rubs the back of his neck, and looks away. Sighs, "I suppose it was going to happen sooner or later." The cold kept his head reasonably clear but now it hurts, and even though his brain is still whirring, his pulse thrumming with adrenaline, the crash is coming for him and it's coming hard. He's exhausted.

"I don't see that as much of a consolation."

"Good," Will says crisply. "I didn't mean it as one." He sighs, sags, and rubs his hands over his face, winces at the dull ache in his mouth and the pulsing hurt on his forehead. Then, down, and he winces again. He can feel red lines along his neck and jaw from Matthew's hand. "Fuck."

Hannibal reaches forward, and then hesitates, his touch a mere inch from Will's skin. Will eyes him, finds Hannibal watching closely, the lion with the thorn in its paw and the human set to help him. Will presses his lips together and turns, showing his neck.

Hannibal's exhale is heavy, but his touch is so gentle and light it stings. "He didn't break skin," he murmurs, and Will closes his eyes. Small mercies. "Still, you would benefit from cleaning them. Warm water will lessen any bruising."

"I'm not taking a shower," Will says, harshly. Hannibal pulls back, looking surprised. "There aren't any locks on the bathroom door, Hannibal."

Hannibal's eyes darken again, his mouth tics down at the corners, and he looks away, past Will's shoulder, to the door that leads to the living room. "Use mine, then," he says, and returns his gaze to Will. "Mine locks."

Will blinks. Hates the sour line of suspicion burning his throat like cheap whiskey. "And where will you be? Guarding the door?"

Hannibal sighs. "Will, please," he says quietly, and withdraws his hands. Will's neck feels red and raw where his fingers were. "I know you're scared, and it's natural to want to lash out when caught in an uncomfortable position, but at least try to save your anger for the people who deserve it."

Will presses his lips together, breathes out heavily, and nods, dropping his eyes. "I'm sorry," he whispers, and he means it. Hannibal nods, and Will supposes that settles that. "And thank you for the offer, but no. I think I'm just gonna go to bed."

Hannibal nods again, showing neither surprise, nor concern, nor offense at Will's rejection. He gestures for Will to go first, pours out the bowl of water, and they walk together up the stairs to the hallway of rooms. Will nods to Hannibal as they get to Hannibal's room, and offers him a small smile, which Hannibal returns behind the patchwork pieces of his person suit. He's getting his stitches back.

Then, Will turns away, walks down the hall, and knocks on Alana's door.

He pushes it open and she stirs, sitting upright. "Will?"

"Hey," Will murmurs, closing the door behind him. "Can I sleep here tonight?"

She makes a tired, noncommittal sound, flopping back down, but scoots closer to the wall so Will can slide in behind her. He sighs when she reaches back, shimmying up to him, and he wraps an arm around her, tucking his fingers beneath her other arm, against the sheets.

She shivers. "You're freezing," she complains, slurring with sleep.

"I was outside," Will says, muffled by her hair.

She pauses, and then turns around in his arms. They can't see very well in the darkness, but the frosted glass allows a little glow of light, enough that he can see the edge of her dark hair, the shine of her eyes as his own adjust. And knows she sees the red lines on his neck. Her eyes widen and she touches his chest.

"What happened?" she demands.

Will sighs, shakes his head, and closes his eyes. "I don't wanna talk about it."

She hums, shifting and getting comfortable beneath his arm, her head on his chest as he settles on his back. His head is killing him, and he plants his other hand against his forehead, seeking comfort in the warmth and press of his palm.

"Am I leaving tomorrow?" she asks after a while.

"Yeah," Will says. "And not soon enough."

She nods, and taps her fingers over his heart.

"What did Matthew do?"

He sighs. "Almost did."

"Oh, Will." Her arm wraps around his chest and clings, tightly. "I'm sorry."

"It's alright," Will says, and he knows it's not alright, and she knows it too, but mercifully doesn't call him out on his bullshit. "Hannibal showed up. He stopped it from…going too far."

Alana pauses, and then lifts her head, and Will blinks up at her from under his hand.

"Why aren't you in his room, then?" she asks, and sounds genuinely curious.

Will regards her. He wants to say so many things. Because if Matthew can't get him, he might go after her. Because here at least he can protect her until she's out of this place. Because Matthew would expect him to be in Hannibal's room, which makes them both vulnerable. Because he doesn't like how much he liked the look in Hannibal's eyes, the blackness, the shine of his teeth. Because he doesn't like the fact that when Matthew grabbed him, the first thing he'd thought is how different it was to Hannibal's touch.

Because there's something there, something in Hannibal that is peering out at him, something that doesn't frighten him, that calls to him, and Will can't help looking at him, can't help seeking him out, and he's too proud and too Goddamn stubborn to show weakness now.

Because Hannibal protected him, when he had no reason to, and talks to Will like Will is the only other person in the world who speaks his language.

All those reasons. And more – deep shame at being caught off-guard, of almost being overpowered. Anger, at himself, for letting it get that far, for poking Matthew when he knew exactly what the consequences would be. For dragging Hannibal into his world by force. He hates how fear makes him act.

There are so many reasons not to be in Hannibal's room right now. But he wants to be, because Hannibal is…

Hannibal is.

So Will swallows, and says, "I don't know."

Alana sighs, and rests her head on his shoulder again, and Will turns his head, and closes his eyes.

Chapter Text

Will wakes up with a bruise on his forehead and four bright, thin red lines in his neck. In the light of day, Alana sees them, and her eyes widen and she lets out a heavy gasp as he emerges from the bathroom.

"Oh my God!" she says in an almost-shriek, and Will flinches, presses the heel of his hand to his head.

"Shh," he says, waving at her frantically. "Jesus. I had a bottle of wine too, tone it down."

Alana's eyes are dark, still-wide, and she glares at him. "I swear to God, Will…"

"It's fine," Will says, and combs his hair forward so it hides more of the discoloration on his forehead. He can't do much about the scratches, but he'll play it off as…something. Whatever he has to, if people don't just make assumptions themselves. He is, after all, living with his alleged boyfriend.

She gets out of bed, long nightgown falling to her ankles, and cups his chin, forcing his head to one side so she can see the marks. He growls at her, halfheartedly, and she huffs and lets him go.

"Regretting turning me in now, aren't you?" she says sharply, folding her arms across her chest.

"Yeah, like you would do anything," he replies with a roll of his eyes, sullen. She huffs, and turns away from him, going to her closet. Inside are some of her dresses, and he sits on her bed and watches as she pulls her suitcase out and begins to pack. A flash of guilt runs through him, because really, he doesn't want her to leave and certainly not because of him, but this is better. Will won't have to worry about her around Matthew, and she won't have to worry about Margot. They'll be together, and take the money and run, and Will can focus on his very real problems here.

They remain in silence, for a while, and then there is a knock on Alana's door, and they share a look. She clears her throat, and calls, "Yes?"

"Alana? Is Will in there with you?"

It's Hannibal. Will sighs, and gestures for her to open the door if she wants. She gives him a thin smile, squeezes his shoulder, and goes to the door, letting Hannibal inside. He's back in his veneer, three-piece suit black and red, white shirt and red tie, even a Goddamn pocket square. Will lifts his eyes and Hannibal stops, regarding him, and his eyes burn, rake Will up and down as though surveying the damage done to his car. Will hates that look.

Hannibal presses his lips together. "How's your head?" he asks.

"Fine, thank you," Will replies curtly, lifting his chin so Hannibal can see his neck. That darkness is there, the red in his suit highlighting that in his iris, and Will thinks of red wine and blood on his hands. "What's up?"

Hannibal's eyes shift to Alana, and Will sighs. "She knows," he tells Hannibal. "Or at least, she knows enough. Out with it."

Hannibal's mouth tightens, and thins, but he nods. "I wanted to let you know I intend to call Miss Lounds and Doctor Chilton and inform them of Matthew's behavior last night," he says to Will. Will blinks, straightening. "I find it unforgivable, and given the level of planning and forethought I believe he put into making sure you were alone and unmonitored, I believe he is dangerous to the point where I cannot allow him to remain under my roof."

Will stares at him. Then his eyes narrow, and he presses his hands together, fingers lacing tightly.

"Where do you get off," he hisses.

"I should go," Alana says gently.

"No," Will says, and shoves himself to his feet. And immediately regrets it, blinking past the spots of dizziness and the hangover tugging at the base of his skull. "We'll go." He shoves past Hannibal, to the door, and into the hallway. Hannibal follows with an apologetic murmur to Alana, and Will doesn't stop until he's at Hannibal's open door.

He strides into Hannibal's bedroom, and turns around when he hears the door close, sealing them both inside.

Hannibal stands, his hands in his pockets, his head tilted.

Will snarls at him. "Where the fuck do you get off doing that, now?" he demands. Hannibal blinks at him, and lifts his chin, but gives no answer. "You didn't believe me before. You called me a Goddamn liar, and then you promised to help me, and now – what? Now that he's insulted your sensibilities, you're just going to ship him off?"

Hannibal blinks at him again, unruffled. His lips purse, and his voice is cutting when he says, "Clearly I've misjudged the situation. Would you rather he remains here?"

Will glares at him, and shows his teeth – sees just a flicker of something animal in Hannibal, before it's beaten back. "Fuck you," he hisses. His head hurts and he doesn't want to meet Hannibal's eyes, but he forces himself to. His voice feels too loud, ricocheting around his skull and down his neck. "You don't get to decide how this ends for me."

"How this ends," Hannibal says coldly, "is with a dangerous, predatory man being removed from the object of his obsession."

Will grits his teeth, grinds his molars.

"Tell me, Will, if he had attacked Alana the same way, would you be arguing with me?"

"It'd be moot," Will says, black, black with anger. "He'd be fucking dead at the bottom of the cliff."

Hannibal's eyes flash. His lips twitch at the corners before he forces them flat. There is a sound, like a purr, and then Hannibal lifts his chin and looks upwards, at the ceiling.

"You want to be the agent of your own justice," he says, slowly.

"I deserve it," Will hisses. "You have no idea what the fuck he did to me."

"No, I don't," Hannibal says, and his voice is still flat, so cold. Will hates that, he hates it worse than the jovial fakeness of Hannibal's plastic façade. Hannibal's eyes meet his and Will swallows, runs a hand through his hair, and over his mouth. "But however he knows you, however he wants you, Will, he won't stop. You have a grasp of pathology, of social grooming. He will escalate. He will attack you again."

"I'll be ready, next time," Will says sharply.

Hannibal's brows rise at that. "Will you," he says, flat and cold. Will shivers, and tenses when Hannibal takes a step towards him. "So you intend to live out the rest of this show's lifetime, looking over your shoulder, waiting for an attack you know is coming, and will not allow anyone to help you, or to act in your best interests."

Will sets his teeth on their edges, shows them to Hannibal, and resists the urge to ask if it's his best interests Hannibal intends to serve.

"And then what?" Hannibal asks. Another step. "You know Miss Lounds and Doctor Chilton intend to let this run on for as long as it takes until there's one man standing. How long will you let him terrorize you?"

"I don't know," Will snaps. "As long as it takes."

"And what if he tries again, Will," Hannibal says, and there's a growl in his voice, his hands sliding out of his pockets and though they hang by his sides, Will is very aware of them. Hannibal is close enough to grab him. "What if he's smarter, next time, and I'm not around to stop him?"

"I don't need you to save me," Will replies. "I'm not a Goddamn victim, Doctor Lecter. I'm not a damsel you need to save for the sake of your own image."

Hannibal blinks at that, head tilting.

"I've handled him before," Will snarls. "I can do it again."

"Mm." Hannibal lifts his chin, fingers flexing. "He knows where you live now, Will."

Will freezes. Tenses up all over.

"This isn’t a matter of hiding away," Hannibal presses, another step forward, and Will shows his teeth again, his hands balled into fists, his eyes lowering down to Hannibal's neck. "You can't just close yourself off and ship everyone away and hope for the best."

"I can take care of myself, Doctor Lecter," Will says, very softly. He lifts his eyes, and Hannibal is so close, Will's heart leaps forward and his fingers curl, nails digging into his palms, teeth gritted. "I've been doing it for a long time, well before you, and when we part ways, I'll keep doing it."

Hannibal lets out an angry-sounding breath, and finally turns away, releasing Will from the power of his gaze. Will sags, in his shoulders, in his knees, and fights the urge to collapse on the end of Hannibal's bed, robbed of the weight of him.

"I knew you were a proud man, Will," he says quietly. "But I did not take you for a stupid one."

Will huffs, and rubs his hands over his wrists. "Do you consider me a man at all?" he asks. Just as quiet. Just as cruel.

Hannibal stills, and his expression turns into one of deep consideration, as if it's a question he has only just realized might have a different answer than all the ones previous. Will supposes, in his silence, he is given his answer.

"I don't want you to call Freddie and Chilton about Matthew," Will says. "But I guess I can't stop you."

With that, he leaves, and though he wants to slam it, he treats Hannibal's door gently. It is just in time for Alana to be walking to the stairs, and he gives her a weak smile, and walks with her down to the living room.

Alana tugs on his sleeve. "Come here," she says, and nods to the patio. "I want to tell you something, before I go."

Will nods, shivering as he looks out to the patio. It looks so different in the daylight, but there is still the wine bottle there, and the dark stain of red. He swallows, grabs his and Alana's coats, and they go outside, wrapped up tightly against the bracing wind.

"I suppose it's no use playing close to the chest anymore, since I'm about to leave," Alana says. If she notices the bottle and wine, she gives no indication, and steps out to the edge of the cliffs. Will joins her, looking down. It looks so much shallower in the daytime, and he wonders if the fall is long enough to kill a man. Wonders if Matthew would survive it. Hopes not.

Alana worms her arm through his, her fingers pale when she tucks them into the opposite sleeves of her coat. She stares out, squinting at the bright reflection of sunlight on water, and then turns to meet his eyes, and smiles.

"You've been holding out on me?" Will asks, smiling.

She shrugs. "I actually talk to people sometimes," she replies. "I'm pretty good at it. You should try it."

Will rolls his eyes. "Alright, know-it-all, tell me your secrets."

"Not my secrets," Alana says with a wink. She presses her lips together, and looks out again. "You ever get the feeling Doctor Lecter and Doctor Du Maurier know each other? Like, from before?"

Will presses his lips together, and nods. "Yeah," he says. "She basically told me as much the one session I've had with her so far."

Alana hums, tilting her head to try and get her hair to blow out of her face. "You know, granted, my experience in the psychiatric community isn't as long-lived as theirs is, but when you tend to know someone from there, it's rarely just in passing. And given what we know of Doctor Lecter, I don't think he's the kind of man to just have casual connections with a woman like that."

Will blinks, and frowns.

"Do you think they slept together or something?" he asks, and tries very, very hard to keep his voice neutral, before he even wonders why. It's not like he's jealous.

"Or something," Alana murmurs, shrugging. "I don't know. I just think it's really weird that they've never actually…talked to each other, since she came here."

Will tilts his head, considering that. He supposes that's true, but then again Will hasn't really been paying attention. He should be paying attention.

"I mean, they're sharing an office. Sharing patients. Stands to reason they'd cross paths at least a little, right?"

"You think they're avoiding each other?" Will asks.

"I think that, whatever he knows about her, or she knows about him, they'd rather not know."

Will swallows, and hums, thinking of the veneer Hannibal wears around the world. Maybe he's not the first person to get a peek behind the curtain. Or, maybe, he's the first person who didn't recoil from what he saw. He thinks back to her food, how she'd gone so pale and stiff at the mention of flavoring meat, at Hannibal's casual touch to her shoulder. Looks at it again, with eyes more suspicious, and thinks it similar to how Alana looked when Matthew sat too close.

She knows he's dangerous, but not quite what he's capable of.

He smiles. "You're right," he murmurs, and feels her eyes on the side of his face. "Hannibal doesn't do casual." He has, after all, certainly not been casual in his regard to Will. He is either all-in, or barely interested at all. Men, and not men. Obsession and indifference.

Alana sighs, catching his attention again, and fixes Will with a sad look. "I'm gonna miss you," she confesses, and Will smiles, softening to her, and squeezes her arm.

"You too," he replies. "I'll call you the second this is all over, deal?"

She smiles. "Deal," she says, the word a happy chirp. "And, I mean, I know it's not really any of my business but…." She clears her throat. "Does Hannibal know your secret? Know why Matthew is…like that, around you?"

Will sighs, and shakes his head. "I've never told him," he replies. "And he said he doesn't know. All he knows is that Matthew's been obsessed with me for a while. I said as much last night."

She sighs. "Will." It's all she says, for a while. Then, "Do you think he'll think less of you?"

"Honestly, I don't know what he'll think," Will replies. "And I don't know why I care. If I care. It doesn't matter – it's not like he can tell anyone. Nothing is jeopardized on the show by him knowing since he can't give me away." Which means Will only cares about telling him because he cares what Hannibal thinks of him. Which is ridiculous, and so out of character for him he doesn't know what to do about it.

"If I might go all 'therapist' on you for a second," Alana says slowly, and Will rolls his eyes, but nods, "maybe you spent too long being what other people expected and wanted of you that you don't know what to do with someone who has no expectations."

Will's brow creases, causing a sharp ache in his forehead, and he bites his lower lip.

"Not only that, but I genuinely don't think Hannibal would look at you any different."

Will huffs.

"I think he just likes you, Will. Like, I know, it's shocking." Will laughs, at that, and nudges her playfully. "But every time I see him looking at you, he's smiling. I think he finds you completely, delightfully interesting, and if he did know, it would just be another thing he knew about you."

Will sighs, through his nose, his breath misting and being carried away by the sharp wind.

"Maybe I should just fuck him," he says flatly. "I think he'd be down for it."

"Oh my God," Alana mutters, slapping a hand to her face. "Fine. Forget I said anything." But she's grinning, and rolls her eyes at him. "Asshole."

Will grins at her, and their attention is caught by the rumble of the NT America van, the shine of its grey sides reflecting off the sun as it rolls its way up the driveway. Alana sighs, heavily, and Will squeezes her arm again.

"Good luck," she tells him.

"You too," he replies, and she smiles, kisses him on the cheek, and they go back inside.

 

 

"Today we say 'Goodbye' to Alana," Freddie says, and she actually looks genuinely crestfallen at the notion of Alana leaving the show. Will wonders if she mourns the loss of a more balanced gender group, but that's what happens when your show relies on the invasive task of uncovering people's secrets. Men are more insidiously inclined to get under someone's skin, he's found, than women are; brasher, less respectful of people's boundaries, at least in his very specific experience.

Alana smiles when she leaves, and gives Hannibal and Will a hug, shakes hands with Bedelia and Tobias, and exchanges a nod with Matthew. Matthew seems upset to see her go as well, though his emotion is less sadness and more confusion, and he looks to Will with his head tilted and his eyebrows raised.

"Who outed her, may I ask?" Tobias muses aloud as Alana leaves to gather her bags.

Chilton smiles, wide. "Will did," he says, preening. "Which I must say surprised us as much as I'm sure it surprises you."

Bedelia hums, and regards Will with an arched brow. "That is surprising," she says airily. "I thought you and Doctor Bloom were close friends, given how you're always sneaking off for some time together."

Will lifts his chin, meets her gaze steadily. He smiles when Hannibal hides a laugh into his mug of coffee. "What can I say?" he asks with a one-shouldered shrug. "It's every man for himself in this place."

Bedelia hums again, and turns her attention back to her spinach omelet. Alana comes back down and gives Will one more hug, and he rises to go to her, embracing her tightly and kissing her hair. He will say, she seems more relieved than anything else. Now that it's happening, she can embrace it and move on, and get the fuck out of dodge with Margot and her child and, hopefully, go far away, where Mason can't touch them.

He will worry for her, of course, until his own shit is ended and he can confirm she's okay. He wonders if he could persuade Hannibal to call her every now and again to make sure. Wonders if he'll be here long enough for it to matter.

He takes his seat at the table, beside Tobias. Matthew is opposite him as normal, Bedelia at the second head of the table. Chilton and Freddie leave, and Will breathes out, resting both elbows on the table and rubbing absently at the side of his neck.

Matthew notices, and his eyes are black and his smile is wide. "Rough night?" he asks, leaning back in his chair and slinging his arm casually along the back of Alana's empty one. Will can feel Hannibal's demeanor darken at the mention of it.

"Yeah," Will replies, smiling wide and sweet. "Someone got a little carried away."

He knows Bedelia and Tobias are looking at Hannibal, but Will's eyes are fixed on Matthew. Your move, stranger.

Matthew clears his throat, and looks Hannibal's way, closer to a glare. "I thought you two weren't spending any alone time together," he says curtly. "Lord knows what kind of things you tell each other when no one else is around."

"If you would like some one-on-one time with me, Matthew, my office door is always open," Hannibal replies mildly. Matthew's words are slower, today. His tongue probably hurts. Will thinks it viciously, satisfied at the idea.

"I just think it's inappropriate, is all," Matthew says coolly. "One can't deny that the odds are in Will's favor, since you're fucking him."

Bedelia stiffens, and Hannibal's eyes turn black. "Now, Matthew," Bedelia says, and touches his arm. "There's no need to be so crass. I have known Doctor Lecter a long time and I can say he is unimpeachable when it comes to doctor-patient confidentiality."

Will blinks at her, surprised that she would defend them. But her eyes are on Hannibal, and she looks…scared? No, not quite afraid. Hopeful. In the same way a dog is when it brings its master a hunted animal.

And Hannibal is smiling.

"Thank you, Doctor Du Maurier," he purrs. "Your confidence means a lot."

She smiles, weak and thin, and removes her hand from Matthew's arm.

"I suppose it's just us, then," Tobias says, breezing through the lingering tension. "I will say contestants are dropping faster than I thought they would. I was told three were evicted within the first day, and now barely over a week in, we are almost a brand-new cast." He looks at Will. "You have sharp eyes, Mister Graham."

"I didn't take all of them," Will says, and nods to Bedelia. "Doctor Du Maurier can claim Francis. And Alana outed two of the three on that first night."

"Of course," Tobias says, smiling. "Still, it's admirable. I wonder what goes on in that brain of yours."

"Nothing interesting, I'm afraid," Will replies crisply.

Bedelia hums. "Well, my first session was with Alana, this morning, but since she is no longer here, I will have the pleasure of finding out first," she says, and looks to Will. "Will you be ready in half an hour?"

Will huffs, and clenches his jaw. He really doesn't want to go for another session with her. But he nods, and forces a smile. "Sure."

"Excellent." She stands, food abandoned, and pulls her hair forward to hide the side of her neck. "I'm looking forward to it."

 

 

Will goes to Hannibal's office at the appointed time, opens the door and finds Bedelia already inside, sitting in the chair Will chose the last time he was in the room. He huffs, and closes the door behind him, and she gives him a charming, placid smile as he takes his seat and settles in place.

"So, Will," she says, and folds one leg over the other, her skin pale and shimmering behind her stockings. She's wearing beige, and it makes Will think of camouflage, of lionesses sunning themselves on the Savanna. "How are you?"

He raises a brow. "Really?" he mutters. "How am I?"

Her head tilts. "You're on your second season of this show, under intense scrutiny, with a man who seems to make you very uncomfortable to be around, and in the same place as your current lover, and your closest ally on the show was just sent off by your design." Will swallows, and she smiles. "So, yes. How are you?"

"Fine," Will snaps. He regards her, beige and porcelain. "How are you?"

"Fine," she says. She smiles the same way Hannibal does, sometimes, in a way that doesn't move her mouth but bulges her cheeks and lifts her chin.

He rests one elbow on the arm of the chair and rubs his thumbnail along his lower lip. It stings when he does it. "How long have you known Doctor Lecter?"

"A few years," Bedelia replies. If she seems surprised by his choice of topic, she doesn't show it. There's a notebook in her lap. "And you?"

"I met him for the show," Will says. "So, I guess a little over a year now."

She nods. "He seems quite taken with you."

"How d'you figure?"

Her eyes flash, and lower to Will's neck. Will resists the urge to touch the nail marks, and instead plays coy, shifting his weight and smiling sheepishly. "Right." She hums, and he meets her eyes. "I guess so. He draws me a lot. I've seen the sketchbooks."

"Hannibal has always been quite the artist," she says, and her tone makes Will think of the delicate method of skinning fish. He shivers, feeling sliced. "He finds beauty in all things, even things we might look at with horror or revulsion."

Will hums, and doesn't fall for the bait of asking if he is one such thing. If she is horrified, or revolted by him.

"You hold him in high regard," Will says. She arches a brow, but says nothing. "If you've known him for longer, one might argue you know him better than I ever could." Her lips thin out, and Will smiles. "Does that annoy you?"

"Should it?" she asks coolly.

Will tilts his head, considering her. Lets his brow furrow, lets a flicker of worry spark in his eyes and twist his mouth. He sits forward, elbows on his knees, and looks at her earnestly.

"Sometimes he says things," he says quietly. Her eyes flash, spark with intrigue. "Does things. I mean…" He swallows, and gestures at his neck. "I'm not into this. He's never been that rough before, and he apologized and swore it would never happen again but…"

He licks his lips, flattens his tongue between his teeth, and looks at her. Sees a crack in the porcelain, a softness in her eyes. Sympathy.

"If you know anything about him, if I need to worry about something with him, I think I should know." She presses her lips together, her fingers whitening around her pen and notebook, and uncrosses her legs, folding the other one over the first in the opposite direction. "Before it's too late."

Bedelia watches him, and if she is looking for any kind of lie, any trace of deception, she won't find any. Will has been a liar from the moment he could walk, and he made a living out of picking out men and women like her and showing them what they wanted to see.

Pushing forward, he bows his head, wrings his fingers together, and sits back with a sigh. "I'm sorry," he says, and gives her a weak smile. "I shouldn't have asked for you to betray his confidence like that."

Her eyes flash, and her head tilts. She smiles. "Do you think you're very clever, Will?" she asks.

Will frowns, swallows. "I mean, I get by," he says. "But even the smartest people can find themselves in over their head."

She hums, and lifts her chin. "If Doctor Lecter scares you, Will, then I would advise you to ask yourself why. Our stomachs have powerful instincts, and it is through them the strongest of us survive."

Will presses his lips together, and thinks of her choice in diet. "And your stomach wasn't strong enough, was it?" he asks before he can stop himself.

Bedelia's brows rise, her lips thin, and her expression goes cold. The porcelain reforming. Will's fingers flex. "You do have sharp eyes, Mister Graham," she says coolly. Will smiles. "Be careful they don't see too much. Some things cannot be unseen."

"I'd rather see too much than be blind," Will says.

"Words only a truly arrogant and ignorant man would say," she replies with another cold look, another brush of her hair as she tucks it behind her ear. Then, she smiles. "You're not sleeping with him, are you?"

She asks like she already knows the answer.

"Does it make a difference, if I was or wasn't?"

"It means you're smarter than I gave you credit for," Bedelia murmurs. "A mistake I will not be making twice."

Will smiles, wide. "I'd like us to be friendly with each other, Bedelia," he says, and her cheeks color with aggravation at the way he addresses her. She prefers her title – maybe to distance herself, maybe because she got enough of that when she and Hannibal were closer. "I think we can use one another to mutual advantage."

"You have something I want?" she asks, brow arching again.

"I have Hannibal," Will says. Her eyes sharpen. "And you have Matthew's confidence."

"Matthew," she repeats, frowning in that way that is all in her eyes and not in her mouth. "What do you want with Matthew?"

"I want him angry."

"Why?"

"Because angry men make stupid decisions," Will says. "And him being here makes Hannibal angry."

"Hannibal is not the kind of man to make stupid decisions," Bedelia says sharply. "Nor do I think is he capable of feeling anger. Not like you or I do."

"Still, wouldn't you rather he entertains himself with someone else, so you don't have to worry about his teeth?"

She stares at him openly, blinking once. Twice.  Her throat flexes when she swallows and she shifts her weight, putting both feet on the ground. "You righteous, reckless, twitchy little man," she hisses, and Will smiles, and lifts his chin. "You have no idea what he's capable of."

Will's smile widens, shows his teeth. "He said the same thing," he replies, fingers flexing on the arms of his chair. She stares at him, sharp and sallow and so, so beige. She could use a splash of color. "But you do, don't you? Know what he's capable of."

"Are we speaking of Matthew, or Hannibal?" she asks coldly.

"I'm asking for your help, Bedelia. Are you going to give it to me or not?"

Her eyes narrow, and her lips press together harsh enough to white out their edges. "What do you need?"

"I need Tobias gone," Will says. He is, after all, not part of this game. This is a new game. One he is finding more and more interesting when the threat to Alana is gone. Reckless, maybe, but fun for certain.

She blinks at him, straightening. "Tobias," she says.

Will nods. "Collateral damage."

She considers him, and nods. "I have some theories about him," she says, returning to her placid, slow speech, sitting back in the chair. "I need time."

"How much?"

"As much as you can give me."

Will smiles, and nods. "Alright," he says.

"What of Matthew?"

"Leave him to me, for now," Will replies, and stands. She is still looking at Will like she's not quite sure what she's seeing – an animal, or a man. Nevertheless, something she would rather see from far away. "It's been a pleasure. Good luck out there."

She stiffens, hissing out a sharp breath, and Will smiles, feeling her glare on the back of his neck as he leaves Hannibal's office.

 

 

He finds Hannibal and Tobias by the piano. Hannibal is seated on the bench, playing a note as Tobias tunes his violin to match. He doesn't see Matthew anywhere, and tries not to let that unsettle him.

Tobias looks up, and gives Will a smile, nodding to him as he passes and takes a seat at the dining room table. "Hello, Will!"

"Hello, Will," Hannibal echoes, much softer, his eyes heavy on Will's neck.

"A little mid-morning concert?" Will asks.

"There is little reason to ever miss a practice," Tobias says, lifting his bow from its case and running it across the strings. It creates a harmonious chord, and he smiles and nods to Hannibal. "And I have found that even the most troubled people can find peace with a little music."

Will hums, having nothing to say to that.

"What shall we start with?" Hannibal asks, his fingers idly drumming up the keys to create a chord. Tobias thinks for a moment, and then he smiles, and straightens into his playing stance. He runs the bow across the strings and produces a single, long note. Then another, higher, and Hannibal tilts his head, matching the notes on the piano. Tobias continues, and it's a tune Will vaguely recognizes in the same way children will remember music teachers preaching about composers with hard-to-spell names. It seems they agree on a song, because it isn't long before they are playing together, and Will sighs. It's a pleasant melody, major and bright, and reminds him of falling rain and wildflowers.

His eyes skate over Tobias, and land on Hannibal. Hannibal is mostly turned away from him due to the angle of the piano, but Will can see his shoulders as they move, catch glimpses of his hands as he reaches for the low notes or plays among the higher range. He moves easily, confident as he is in all things, but Will doesn't look at him and see the same pretending man he has come to know.

Rather, this animal likes music. Genuinely.

It is another peek behind the curtain, one Will is ravenous for, and he can't stop staring at the back of Hannibal's head, his neck with its high collar hiding most of his dark skin, his broad shoulders as they flex with his movements. He wets his lips, his mouth dry, as the music fills the living room and sweeps into him, through him.

Hannibal looks up at Tobias. "Perhaps some free-style," he suggests. "I'll remain in D major."

Tobias bows, not pausing in his note, a little nod of his head and then the music changes, turns much slower, less springtime in the forest and more night – glistening dew on grass, the gentle sway of trees, the soft giggle of two lovers as they chase each other through the woods.

Will's fingers flex, and he audibly gasps as the melody surges, though he is sure it's lost under the music. Tobias follows along well, his ear keen and his skill obvious. He meets Hannibal's swelling chords with little trills, songbirds and starlight and Will closes his eyes, breathes in deeply.

He used to listen to music after his videos. It would help calm and ground him, and for the 'Sweet' ones, he would sometimes play little riffs over them to muffle the sound of him shifting his weight or changing from one outfit to another. Music calms him, settles him, helps pull him back from the character of the day and into himself, and as he listens, he imagines listening with Hannibal.

Imagines that this might be playing during one of their evening talks over red wine. Imagines firelight, casting long, long shadows, that make the monster in Hannibal's eyes purr and stretch. Imagines a smile, showing teeth, and strong hands wrapped around his flanks, his shoulders, his thighs.

He hasn't allowed himself to think like that in a long time, but it comes now, feral and fierce like a caged animal set loose and ready to tear him to shreds. The piano notes go low, swoop soft and lulling while the violin stays high, teases Will's ears with promises, promises.

The melody changes again and Will's spine tightens, he opens his eyes to see Tobias still engrossed in the music, but Hannibal's head is tilted, so Will can see the corner of his eyes.

See his smile.

Will's fingers flex.

The song comes to an end, and he breathes out heavily, and Tobias lowers his violin from his chin and grins at Hannibal. "You play well," he says, warm with pleasure. Hannibal returns the smile, his attention pulled away from Will, and gives him a respectful nod.

"As do you," he says quietly. Oh, he purrs it, and it feels like he does it just for Will. Side-stepping flirtation and straight to seduction, just like before. "I haven't had a play partner in a long while. Thank you for the pleasure."

"The pleasure was all mine," Tobias replies, and begins the task of tucking his violin away. Hannibal rises, and closes the lid over the piano keys, and pushes the bench back underneath them. Tobias, then, gives them a nod and takes his leave, towards the kitchen and Hannibal's office. Perhaps he is next with Bedelia.

Will breathes out, as slow and soft as he's able so that he doesn't make a sound. His head is bowed, but he can see Hannibal's attention and body turned to him. Angled, in orbit, waiting for Will to come closer.

"You didn't tell Freddie and Chilton about Matthew," Will says.

"You said you didn't want me to," Hannibal replies mildly, like it's as simple as that. Perhaps it is, to him. "I won't pretend to understand your logic behind keeping him here, but the fact of the matter is that it is your problem, and therefore not my place to solve it for you."

Will winces, because he knows he's being scolded despite Hannibal's mild tone.

"Thank you," he says instead of anything else. He lifts his head, chances a look Hannibal's way from beneath his lashes, and clears his throat. "That was a pretty song. I haven't heard it before."

Hannibal smiles, subtly preening. "It is one of my own compositions," he says, and Will huffs, because of course he fucking composes as well. "For a while, I had a terribly prolific muse. I wrote many pieces for the piano, the harpsichord, the Theremin."

"The Theremin," Will repeats, and raises his head.

Hannibal's smile widens, and Will rolls his eyes. "Of course you did."

"It's a wonderful instrument, Will," Hannibal says, and steps up to the table, taking his normal seat beside Will, at the head. "It is capable of producing every single note in existence, and requires the rare gift of perfect pitch to play." His head tilts. "A quality I see some echo of, in you."

Will frowns.

"I think you are capable of being whatever you wish to be, but only someone who can see and recognize every note would be able to use you to your full potential."

Will swallows. "I'll try not to be offended by the implication," he says, and also ignores the little flip-flop of his tense stomach that tells him Hannibal might be right on the money. Hannibal merely smiles when Will meets his eyes. Will swallows. "You said you 'had' a muse."

"I did," Hannibal says, and then he sighs. "And never a more beautiful source of inspiration has existed."

Will wets his lips, swallows harshly. "What happened?"

"What always happens," Hannibal replies. "I neglected him, and so he disappeared. My art suffered greatly for it."

"'He'?" Will repeats weakly.

Hannibal nods. Then his head tilts. "Does that surprise you?"

"Not…. No, not really," Will says. "But I've been working on this theory that you and Bedelia slept together a long time ago so I'm trying to reconcile that."

Hannibal laughs, like he was taken off guard. He straightens up and fixes Will with a look that is supremely pleased, and his eyes shine. "What brought you to that conclusion?" he asks.

"Alana thought so too," he replies. "I guessed you guys had history, Bedelia basically told me as much. Maybe a working relationship, but then she reacted to your food and that was another clue. Then, just now, she basically told me to be wary of you."

Hannibal tilts his head.

Will merely shrugs.

"And do you think you should be wary of me?" Hannibal asks, after a very long silence.

Will smiles. "No," he replies. "Not everyone can play the Theremin."

Hannibal's eyes flash, and his brows rise.

"You should find your muse again," Will says, his voice gentler now. There is something genuine shining at him from Hannibal's eyes, something almost vulnerable, almost soft. Will knows that, for all his openness in conversation, Hannibal closely guards intimate details of himself. "I'd like to hear you play more often."

Hannibal smiles. "Then I will," he murmurs, like it's as simple as that. Maybe it is. Then, he sighs, and looks towards the kitchen. "I suppose Bedelia will be leaving us shortly, then."

"Oh? No." Will laughs, and shakes his head. "I'm not finished with her."

Hannibal blinks, and gives Will a curious look.

"I still need her. I need to get rid of Tobias, too, and having her help will hurry things along." Hannibal's eyes flash, he looks dreadfully curious, but doesn't press. "Unless there's something you'd like to share with me now."

Hannibal smiles. "Now, Will, I couldn't possibly disclose anything Mister Budge has told me, in confidence or otherwise." Will grins at him, and Hannibal's expression softens to something not quite affectionate, but very close. "But perhaps I can tempt you into sharing a drink with me, in the game room."

Will hums. "Where's Matthew?"

"He went upstairs, claiming that Alana's departure upset him too greatly for socialization."

Will nods. "Good," he says, and stands. Hannibal follows suit, and leads the way towards the game room.

 

 

They spend the rest of the day in the game room together, unbothered by any other housemate. Hannibal, it turns out, can make a dangerously smooth cosmopolitan. Will hates that, but it tastes good, even though after his first one he insists on nursing a tumbler of whiskey on the rocks. Hannibal has poured himself wine, and Will eyes it.

"Do you drink anything but wine?" he asks, trying to remember if he has ever seen Hannibal nursing anything aside from it, or coffee.

Hannibal smiles. "Water, occasionally," he replies, and Will rolls his eyes. "I have sampled most of my stores here, but I find wine to be the most palatable for conversation, over dinner, or simply to indulge in."

"I feel like you're just, like, constantly buzzed."

Hannibal laughs, low and soft. He regards Will with a warm smile. "How's your head feeling?"

"Mm, fine," Will says with a dismissive wave. "It wasn't that bad. Could have been much worse."

Hannibal nods, expression turning momentarily sour. Will reaches across the bar and taps on his wrist.

"Hey. Stop that," he says insistently. "It's over. Move on."

"It's not over," Hannibal murmurs, but he sighs, shoulders rolling, and nods as though to himself. "But you're right. One mustn't dwell on past ugliness, especially in the presence of much more pleasant things."

Will laughs. "I don't think I've been very pleasant to you," he says. "Even recently."

"No, but you're learning," Hannibal replies. Will frowns at him, able to see the shine of amusement in his eyes. He huffs, and swipes a hand through his hair, pushing it away from his face. "And I will say, despite our rocky start, I have felt truly blessed by the introduction of our new friendship, even though it is mired in deceit."

"Yeah, well," Will mutters into his glass, taking another sip, "deceit kind of comes with the territory until we're out of here."

"I'm sure that's not true," Hannibal replies. "Unless you count sins of omission."

"I'd rather have sins of omission than outright lies."

Hannibal makes a soft sound, and Will raises his eyes, and lowers his glass. His head tilts, and Hannibal isn't looking at him, gaze fixed contemplative on his glass of wine. It's a white, so Will didn't even ask to try it, but he can smell it from here over the burn of his own whiskey.

"You haven't lied to me, have you, Hannibal?" he asks.

Hannibal presses his lips together. Will's eyes narrow.

"Tell me," he demands.

Hannibal looks at him, brows raised, and he smiles. "I don't owe you anything, Will," he says, and Will tries not to wince at the words. They are said gently, but feel like a slap on the wrist. "And you don't owe me anything. Isn't that what you wanted?"

"I don't know," Will replies honestly. "But I do owe you. For helping Alana. For Matthew."

"You said you could handle yourself," Hannibal says quietly. "I just stopped it before you had to."

Will lets out a bitter sound, and grits his teeth, ducks his head. "Right."

"I'll confess something to you, Will. Your behavior troubles me greatly. I offered you a way out, and you refused to take it. Scolded me for even trying. Perhaps there is some strain in you that thrives in chaos."

"The whole universe is chaos," Will bites back. "Destruction and disorder. Anyone who says otherwise is a fool."

"Self-preservation, then," Hannibal says. "Surely you agree that's something we should all strive for."

Will sighs. He can't argue with that. He takes another drink.

"You don't like chaos?" he asks.

"On the contrary, I agree with you – the world is beautiful and mad and though there are rules, we are all blissfully flung through the Heavens and can only hope to control a small part of that place which we call home."

"You like being in control," Will says flatly, and raises his eyes.

Hannibal smiles. "Yes," he replies.

Will swallows, and sets his elbows on the bar counter, sliding forward until his chin almost touches the surface. He folds his arms and rests his head atop them. "I used to work for men like you," he murmurs. Hannibal's head tilts. "Well, men who liked the same things as you. And some who didn't." He pauses, biting the tip of his tongue, caught in the dark, fierce look Hannibal is giving him. The fish is swimming closer, enticed by the promise of food. Will smiles. "I wasn't a Theremin for them. I was a…guitar, I guess. Limited by my strings and frets."

He sighs, drops his head and runs his fingers through his hair. The counter is cool against his tender forehead, his breath misting up the surface.

"Matthew wanted to play," he breathes, and hears Hannibal's weight shift, and raises his head, setting his chin on the backs of his hands again. "But the things he wanted to play were…wrong. They felt wrong."

"So you stopped," Hannibal says. "Cut your strings and broke your neck and hoped you would be forgotten."

Will hums. He's drunk, he's definitely drunk. He can't remember eating anything today, nothing substantial, and finds that odd, since Hannibal has always been more than eager to provide the guests with food. The alcohol buzzes on the back of his tongue, clogging up his throat. His fingers flex, and then curl until his nails touch the counter.

"You already knew, didn't you?" he asks, and lifts his eyes to meet Hannibal's. Finds his expression perfectly neutral. "You always knew my secret. You knew everyone's."

He doesn't say it angrily. He's not sure he's even angry. Rather, this feels like resignation, and when Hannibal presses his lips together and looks down, Will knows it's true. "Of course you did," he says. "You would have had to, so that you could be a good therapist for us. So you could keep us in line. You know what I used to do."

Hannibal looks like he would rather say anything else, but "Yes," he confesses. Will sighs, closing his eyes. "I knew." Will nods. "Are you angry with me?"

Will's lips twitch at the corners. "Technically you never lied," he says, and thinks of all the careful ways Hannibal has always phrased his responses. That perfect façade. Maybe what's behind it is just as fake as the rest of him. Will's shoulders lift, and fall, and he wishes Hannibal would stop pretending. Wishes he was sure enough to ask him to. "Did they give you files?"

"Yes," Hannibal says.

"Have you seen any of the videos?"

Hannibal hesitates, and Will sucks in a breath through his teeth, lets it out harshly. "Come on, Doctor Lecter," he says. "Don't get all closed up now." But he knows what he is really asking - Will's site hasn't been live for years, and if Hannibal has seen any of the videos, it means he has known Will for a lot longer than he's been letting on.

"I was never a patron," Hannibal says, and Will hums. That doesn't mean anything – all of his videos were available for download and free viewing after a week or so. Except the 'Mine' ones. "And I need you to understand, Will, I didn't watch them simply for the sake of gratification."

Will's brow furrows again. He straightens up and wipes a hand over his mouth.

"Let me guess," he mutters darkly, "you used them for anatomy study."

Hannibal makes a soft noise, his expression almost sheepish when Will looks at him. "Of a kind," he confesses. "I liked drawing you. I liked the music that I would hear in my head when I watched you."

Will's frown deepens, old and tired synapses in his brain firing, trying desperately to connect.

"I was your muse?" he asks.

Hannibal smiles, and it is affectionate, now. "Yes," he murmurs. Will blinks, and looks down at his hands. "And when I met you, it had been quiet in my head for so long, and suddenly it was as though I was thrust back into a whirl of music, and of color." He huffs. "Imagine my surprise when you seemed determined to hate me."

"Well, it's not like I would have known you from Adam," Will mutters.

"I know," Hannibal says. "And I wasn't repulsed in the slightest, Will. Even something inaccessible, and fierce, and severe, can be beautiful. And I knew I was seeing a piece of you that you had kept hidden, even from the dark place where I found you. You are so…delightfully honest, and genuine."

Will bites his lower lip, hard, regretting now having had so much to drink. This feels like something he needs to hear sober. He wonders, now, wonders which things Hannibal saw. Which he preferred. Did he like Will better dressed up and pretty, did he prefer Will bruised and crying out in pain? Domineering and cocky, submissive and demure?

He meets Hannibal's eyes, and thinks the answer is 'Yes. To all'.

He lowers his lashes, and swallows harshly, eyeing the rest of his whiskey. "Why are you telling me this now?" he whispers.

"Because, my dear Will, I think we are finally at a place where we are starting to understand each other." Hannibal head tilts, and the lake thaws, and Will sees teeth. Sees something black and shimmering. "Am I wrong?"

Will licks his lips, and shakes his head. "No," he replies. "You're not wrong." Hannibal smiles, and lowers his eyes to Will's hands. His lips part, and show Will the edges of his teeth, the slip of his tongue.

"Good," he purrs, and rests his hands on the other side of the bar, on the outside of Will's. Not close enough to confine, but enough that Will could reach for him, if he wanted. He wonders when he started wanting to. Maybe he always had.

His fingers curl, and lace together, and he lifts his eyes. The world might fall away, and he wouldn't notice, because behind the veneer, behind the person suit, cracked open and frayed at the edges, Hannibal is smiling.

Show me your smile, monster.

He breathes out. Breathes in. "What happens now?" he asks, and feels small for asking.

"I suppose that depends," Hannibal replies. His eyes drop to Will's hands, thumbs sweeping out wide as if begging Will to push his own into them. Will wants to, so much his knuckles turn white. "You know that I know, that I have always known, and so you know I am not lying when I say my regard for you has never faltered." Will nods, and wets his lips. "So it comes, now, to how you want me. If you want me at all."

"I think I do," Will says, whisper-soft. Hannibal nods, and he aches, he aches, God he aches. He wants to know what it feels like when Hannibal touches him.

Hannibal is silent a moment, and then he presses his lips together, and withdraws. "It is, perhaps, a decision that can wait until morning," he says – not a rejection, but a gentle reminder; "When your head is clear."

Will nods. He shouldn't be doing something stupid like getting drunk and fucking his not-boyfriend. That's reckless.

He stands, and Hannibal clears away his glasses, rinsing them in the little sink behind the counter. Will does not stumble, but walks slowly, waiting for Hannibal to catch up to him, and they both go out into the living room, and towards the stairs. Hannibal's bedroom door is a black rectangle, Will's no better, both of them equally unwelcoming.

Will shivers, and folds his arms across his chest as Hannibal comes to a halt at his shoulder.

He turns. Hannibal is there, of course, solid and warm and Will wants, he wants. He swallows and tries to dull his teeth on his tongue.

Hannibal sighs, hardly more than a breath. "Get some sleep, Will."

"Hannibal."

He pauses, mid-turn, and rights himself.

Will's hand doesn't shake when he reaches out, and takes Hannibal's wrist in a loose grip. Hannibal's fingers curl and Will lifts his hand, lifts his eyes, and lets Hannibal's knuckles touch his face, at his temple. In the darkness, Hannibal is unmoving, but his gaze is sharp, and his fingers stretch out and gently tease at the curl of Will's hair.

Will reaches, with his other hand, and smooths it over Hannibal's clean-shaven cheek. Feels just the beginnings of stubble, and his thighs tense, his spine grows tight. He steps in and Hannibal stiffens, lets out a soft, protesting sound.

Not for the action – no. He doesn’t want Will to act in a way he might regret in the morning.

Will smiles, and tugs Hannibal until he bows, just enough that Will can press his lips to Hannibal's forehead. He can smell his shampoo, his hair gel, and Hannibal's hand tightens in his hair, he gravitates nearer, breathes out warm and heavy on Will's neck.

Will's smile widens, and he ends the kiss, drops his head and lets their noses brush.

"Kiss me back," he says.

Hannibal lets out a low, wanting sound, lifts his face and pulls Will to him, brushes his free hand tender and light along Will's scratched neck. Wraps, just to hold, and Will's eyes close as Hannibal kisses his hair. Breathes in, and Will feels a tremor run through him, feels Hannibal's nose crushed against his skull as he takes a deep draw of Will.

He pulls back, and lets Hannibal's hands drop, and Hannibal parts from him. He is no longer solid, but moving like molten gold, and Will smiles. "Goodnight, Doctor Lecter," he says, and reaches for the door.

"Goodnight, Will," Hannibal replies. "Sleep well."

Chapter Text

Will doesn't think it's paranoid to fashion a knot from one of his sweaters, which he ties from the handle of the door to his closet, so that no one can open the door with ease. Still, no one comes for him in the middle of the night – not Hannibal, or Matthew, or even nightmares. He is lulled down by whiskey and warmth and rises feeling better than he has in a while despite the echoing ache of a hangover pressing behind his eyes.

He really needs to stop drinking so much, before he ends up like Brian.

He rises, changes into a blue t-shirt and jeans, and grimaces as he runs his hands through his hair. He needs a shower, he hasn't taken one since the morning he and Hannibal played chess, and definitely not since Matthew attacked him on the patio.

The thought of showering in the communal one still fills him with unease, so he grabs his toiletry bag and goes to Hannibal's room, and knocks on the door.

There is no answer, and Will hums, looking down over the railing to the floor below. He sees Bedelia out on the patio with Hannibal, and hears someone else pottering around in the kitchen. He nods to himself, and opens the door to Hannibal's bedroom, ducking inside.

He closes and locks it behind him, and sighs, headed to the bathroom. Before he gets there, it opens, and Will freezes, stepping back when he sees Matthew emerge from the other room. Matthew's eyes snap to his, flash, and his smile widens.

"Hey, sweetheart," he says, like he and Will are old friends that spotted each other across a crowded café. There's something in his hand, a handle, small and black, and Will's mind flashes through knife and weapon before Matthew looks down at it, as though just noticing it there himself. He raises it for Will to see, digs his nails into one edge and delicately pulls the blade of a straight razor out, smiling when it clicks into place.

Carefully, Will sets his stuff down, and angles for the door.

But Matthew, if he was patient on the patio, is smarter now. Will doesn't know if it's a testament more to his trust in Hannibal's power, or Matthew's bravery, that he's so surprised to have found him here. He strides towards Will quickly and Will flinches, going still as Matthew fists his hair, his other hand pressing fever-warm with the blade of the razor beneath his knuckles, flat on Will's flank.

Will doesn't meet his eyes, stares doggedly at his shoulder and breathes in sharply, testing the angle of the blade. It doesn't cut, but it wouldn't take much – Will has no doubt that, wherever Matthew got the razor from, he made sure it was sharp.

"If you mean to kill me, I'd suggest somewhere easier to clean," he says.

Matthew laughs, pupils big and black, he looks alien when he smiles that wide. "I'm not gonna kill you, baby," he says, and Will isn't sure that's true. He hears the 'Not today' that goes unspoken. "I just wanted to talk."

"To talk," Will repeats.

Matthew nods, humming in agreement. He leans in and Will wants to flinch, forces himself to remain still as Matthew's teeth settle around the arch of his ear, bite down too harshly. Will's hands flex, he sucks in a breath and hates the revolted clench of his tight throat, but he wraps a hand in Matthew's shirt, tugging him close, and when Matthew growls and goes to him, pushing him back against the door, Will reaches with his other hand, slowly twisting the locking mechanism in the door handle back, so that it's not locked anymore.

He tenses up when Matthew mouths at his neck, and hates that he shivers warmly anyway. His neck has always been sensitive.

"What did you want to talk about?" he makes himself ask. Matthew's hand on his flank goes tight, tight enough that Will is uncomfortably aware of the edge of the blade, and thinks it would take just another little bit of pressure, one wrong angle for it to split fabric and skin, to make him bleed. Matthew seems like the kind of man who gets excited by blood.

Matthew growls, and hauls back suddenly, tugging Will towards the bathroom and Will digs his heels in but Matthew is strong, and he forces Will into the second room, turns him and presses him front-facing against the counter, in front of the sink. Words like 'secondary location' and sharp images of blood on tile flash into and out of Will's head like street lights, and he sees the open shaving kit he'd noticed his first time in here, and finds it particularly insulting that Matthew isn't even threatening Will with his own knife.

But then there are more immediate concerns, as Matthew shoves himself up against Will, slots nice and tight against his back until their bodies lock together, and Will braces himself on the counter and locks his elbows, grits his teeth.

Matthew tugs on his hair and forces him to lift his head, for their eyes to meet in the mirror. His other hand comes to rest at the side of Will's neck, thumb white along the back of the razor, angled to cut his throat.

"Now that's a good lookin' pair," he purrs, and smiles at Will's reflection, and Will is definitely going to be sick. If he doesn't do something stupid like throw a punch, razor be damned. It's very, very close to his neck, and Will thinks he might be able to see his own pulse, feel the way his veins and arteries are coiling wildly beneath his skin, trying to get away.

Matthew smiles, and turns in to Will, bites hard at the corner of his jaw. "Just missing a little something extra, don't you think?" he says, and Will presses his lips together, feels wild and trembling. The second there's a moment of slack, he doesn't know what he'll do.

He swallows, and winces when he sees the edge of the blade press against his skin. "Like what?" he whispers, barely more than a breath because one wrong move and this could go very, very badly for him.

Matthew hums, and parts his jaws, sets his teeth behind Will's ear, and Will grits his teeth, flexes his fingers on the edges of the sink, and watches as Matthew draws the edge of the knife up his neck, to the soft underside of his jaw, swiping through the cling of his facial hair and revealing pale skin beneath.

Will blinks, for a moment too stunned to move. Matthew grins at him in the reflection, and does it again, shaving off another thin strip from Will's neck. The razor is warm against his skin, Matthew's fingers and wrist dragging along his neck as he moves, and Matthew's other hand slides up, wraps tightly in his hair. He hums, purring, pushes his hair up and nuzzles Will's nape and Will flinches.

The razor slides off course, nicking the corner of his jaw, and Will goes still. It isn't a deep cut and certainly nothing more than a traditional razor could do, but the bright bead of blood is a shocking speck of color on him.

Matthew tuts, meets Will's eyes in the mirror, and swipes his thumb through it, smearing it. "Careful, baby," he says, the words gentle but spoken with unmistakable threat. "I don't wanna hurt you, but if you make me, I will."

Will's fingers curl up, his wrists hurt from holding up his weight and Matthew's, his elbows want to give in and he wants, desperately, to turn and throw a punch, but the razor returns to his neck, sliding around the front of his throat, and upwards. His skin and hair is too dry and the razor burns, turning his skin pink in the aftermath.

He swallows his growl and nods, just a little. "I'm sorry," he breathes, makes his voice sweet, makes it soft. "I'll be good."

Matthew smiles widely, his eyes practically glowing with pleasure. "Good boy," he purrs, and tucks his thumb behind Will's jaw, makes him lift his chin and show his neck. His hips roll against Will's ass and Will hisses, resists the urge to smash the mirror and take a swipe. Matthew's free arm is heavy on his shoulders, hand tight in his hair, and he turns the razor upwards and drags it along Will's jaw.

Matthew hums, pushes with the meat of his thumb and the flat edge of the razor, forces Will to rear up and hold steady as Matthew grinds against him, and Matthew mashes his mouth to Will's neck, parts his lips and sucks loudly. Will flinches away from the feeling, his skin prickling sharp and hot between Matthew's teeth, and because of his sudden movement, the razor cuts him again. On the corner of his mouth, this time, a single thin line along the bottom edge that bleeds suddenly and steadily, and makes him look like someone hit him hard enough to cut the innards of his cheek, to split his lip.

Matthew huffs, an ugly smile on his face. He merely tightens his hand in Will's hair and growls. "Turn on the water."

Will does, twisting the cold tap to 'On', and Matthew grins, runs the blade under the cold water to clean off any lingering hair and speckles of red. He returns it to Will's skin, smearing blood and too-cold water and it's making Will burn, makes his skin pebble and makes the graze of the razor feel sharp and ugly on his cheeks and jaw. Matthew does nothing to wipe away the blood on his mouth, nor the still-oozing little cut on his neck.

But, he notes with some relief, it's almost over.

Matthew smiles. "Much better," he says, washing the razor again before he straightens, and grabs Will's chin harshly, edge of his palm pressed tight above Will's Adam's apple and threatening to choke him. His weight is heavy against Will's back as he forces Will's face up and plants the razor over his upper lip. He drags down and Will swallows, presses his lips together and tries to stay still. "Shouldn't be trying to hide that pretty face." He pauses, and wraps his hand around Will's neck, and Will doesn't like that his hand is big enough to cover his throat completely. Matthew's grip tilts, makes him show his scratches in the reflection. "I think you look better, this way. Don't you agree?"

Will swallows, shoulders tight. But he makes himself nod, and goes still when Matthew drags the razor along his cheek, cleaning off the final patch of hair. There's some errant ones still clinging to his face, around the corners of his jaw and his cheekbones that he'll have to get later, but it's done.

Matthew makes a soft, satisfied sound, petting over Will's neck, up through his hair. He doesn't fold the razor, but holds it close to Will's collarbones.

Will breathes in, slowly. His fingers flex. "I'm sorry for how I behaved, the other night," he says. Matthew's eyes flash, and his head tilts. "I was drunk. I wasn't thinking straight."

Will's heart is flying, and he wants to wipe the blood off his chin, but forces himself not to. There's only one way to read the way Matthew eyes it in the mirror – hungry. Get the tiger purring, get his attention. Matthew's hand tightens in his hair, tugs, and Will's lashes go low, he lets his lips part and flushes, rolling his shoulders and making it look like an involuntary shiver of pleasure.

Matthew hums, and turns Will around, shoving him harshly against the edge of the counter. Will winces, swallows, and lifts his chin so he doesn't catch himself on the razor, which is still pressed tight to his collarbones. Matthew grabs Will's chin hard, tilts his head up. There is a pale smudge of bruising around his nose and beneath his eyes from where Will headbutted him.

Will forces himself to smile, though he's not sure it's more of a grimace, and touches Matthew's hips lightly. Digs in, teases with his nails, when Matthew's thumb swipes through the blood on his lip. The cut stings. "I'm glad you found me," he whispers, watches Matthew's eyes darken, pupils blowing wide.

"Why?" he breathes.

"Because I know what you want," Will murmurs.

"Mm. And what is it that you think I want?"

"You want me afraid," Will says, and swallows harshly when Matthew growls, and Will has to part his thighs to let Matthew between them, can feel his cock thickening with interest, can smell the musk of his arousal. "Because it's exciting. The fear."

"You know I'd never hurt you, don't you, sweetheart?" Matthew says, and Will wonders how he can see the blood on his mouth and genuinely believe that. If he even thinks the things he wants to do will hurt, in the same way men rarely consider the emotions of the pig when it's led to slaughter. "You'd like it. You just need someone who knows how to take care of you."

Will's jaw clenches. He whines. "I can't," he says, makes his voice soft and desperate. Meek, and it tastes like poison. "Hannibal will -."

Matthew shushes him, leans in, and Will turns his head away because he can't keep pretending if Matthew kisses him again. Matthew's lips touch the cut, instead, and he licks through the slick of his blood. He growls, pressing closer, hard against Will.

"You let me worry about him," Matthew says. "When I'm done, we can be together. Nothing's gonna keep us apart, baby, I promise."

Will feels like he's swallowed glass. He lets out another weak sound, and nods. Matthew sighs, drags the razor across Will's throat, flat and blunt, and then he lets go of Will's hair and slides his hand down, grabs possessive and hard at Will's hip.

"Now turn around."

Will stiffens, his eyes wide, and he shakes his head vehemently as Matthew tries to turn him. "No," he growls, and pushes at Matthew's hands, tries desperately to put distance between himself and the razor and Matthew's sharp eyes. "No – not here."

Matthew snarls, and grabs Will's neck. "I wasn't asking."

"Mister Brown."

Will and Matthew go still, and Will sags in relief when he registers Hannibal's voice. Thank God. The temperature in the room goes abruptly icy, though it certainly wasn't warm before, and Will turns his head, meets Hannibal's eyes. Matthew follows suit, glaring wrathfully at Hannibal.

"This doesn't concern you, Doctor Lecter," he hisses. Will is trembling, his knuckles white around Matthew's wrist. He shoves him away and flattens himself to the edge of the shower, backs of his knees hitting the lip of the tub. Matthew doesn't seem concerned about letting him go – he has the razor gripped tight in his hand, but Hannibal doesn't seem to notice or care for its presence.

Of course, men like Matthew don't believe in a fair fight. Nor do they believe in confronting someone who is not afraid of them.

"Mister Brown, I'm afraid I must ask you to leave." Oh, there is danger in Hannibal's voice, a predatory snarl barely-contained and a deep, dark anger on his face. Hannibal shows himself openly, his body looming in the doorway, and he feels cavernous and huge, monumental as stone, solid. Will doesn't know if he'd win but he wouldn't bet against him, either.

For a long, long time, they simply stare at each other, and Will thinks he might explode if the silence drags on too long. He has to do something, has to break the tension somehow, has to make sure he and Hannibal get out of this alive.

So he swallows, and reaches out, grabbing Matthew's arm. Matthew rounds on him, eyes wild, and Will cups his face and brushes his thumb along Matthew's jaw – a tender mockery of how he'd touched Hannibal the night before.

"We can talk later," he murmurs, soft with promise.

Matthew blinks at him, and then he grins, and slants his eyes Hannibal's way with a smug expression. "Sure thing, sweetheart," he says, and before Will can stop him, he has a hand in his hair and kisses, roughly, biting Will's lower lip hard enough that he flinches. He pulls away and Will's hands curl into fists, fighting the urge to wipe his mouth clean when Matthew is still there.

Then, Matthew makes a show of folding the razor, and setting it down on the edge of the sink. "See you around, Doctor Lecter," he says darkly, and Hannibal nods, and steps back to allow him to pass. Matthew leaves and Will is frozen, watching Hannibal prowl after him. He hears the bedroom door open and close. Hears it lock.

With the sound, whatever strength and stillness he'd been holding onto leaves him. He turns, heaving over the sink. The water is still running, and he turns it from cold to scalding hot, cups his hand beneath the burning water and splashes it on his face frantically, as though he might be able to burn the skin from his skull.

He can feel Hannibal's presence when it returns, big and black with fury. He shakes his head, wipes the blood from his chin and splashes the water against his neck, hissing at the sting of razor burn and the scalding temperature of the water as it soaks into the collar of his t-shirt.

Hannibal's hand appears, taking the razor and unfolding it, and Will closes his eyes, presses his lips together. His hands flatten on the counter and his elbows lock, he shivers and shifts his weight, trying to forget the feeling of Matthew's body against his.

"He's going to kill you," he whispers.

Hannibal makes a sound, low and angry, like a snarl. Will raises his head and looks at himself in the mirror, takes in the remaining hairs on his face, the red marks of razor burn on his neck. There's still a patch of hair on the side of his throat that Matthew didn't get. Without his beard, he looks years younger, looks like he used to when he made his videos, and he hates it. Hates the implied innocence. Hates the weakness. Hates that he let it happen.

Hannibal's fingers brush, gently, along his shoulder, and Will looks at him in the mirror. "May I finish?" he asks.

Will swallows, and nods.

He can't quite figure out the look in Hannibal's eyes. There is a black, lightless place in his irises, but also a shine of red, the anticipation of fresh blood. He steps up beside Will, does not crowd him like Matthew did, and Will tilts his head, offers his neck, and Hannibal presses the razor gently at the top of the remaining patch, swiping it off in a single, clean stroke.

He then tucks it behind Will's jaw, cleans up that haphazard mess there, too, and on his cheeks, until it looks like a more precise job. He sighs through his nose. "This isn't the proper way to do it."

Will laughs, hysterical and loud. "I don't think that was the point."

Hannibal nods, his lips thinning out, and he folds the razor and sets it down. "Perhaps it is time to reconsider my offer."

His offer. Calling in the cavalry. Will growls, and runs a hand through his hair. His lip has started to bleed again and he sucks it between his teeth, bites down, and hates that he can still taste Matthew on them. He cups his hand and rinses his mouth again.

"Don't," he snaps.

"Will, if I hadn't come in here -."

"I know what would'a happened," Will says. "You don't."

"I can guess."

"Do you think I'd let him do that?"

Hannibal tilts his head, like the question surprises him. "In the interest of self-preservation. Maybe."

"This is my fight, Hannibal. Back off."

Hannibal's eyes flash, and his upper lip twitches to reveal his teeth. "No," he says. Will straightens, glaring at him from beneath the wet ends of his hair. "I'm sorry, but I won't. He held a razor to your throat and tried to assault you. That is beyond unforgiveable."

"I'm not asking you to forgive him," Will hisses, turning so he's looking at the real Hannibal, not his reflection. "I'm telling you to back off." Back off or join me. Hannibal's person suit is reforming, static and plastic and false, and Will hates watching it piece back into place.

"I will not let him terrorize you, Will," Hannibal snarls, and oh, there's a monster there. Something that smiles like a wolf, something that is prowling and salivating. Something that, Will thinks, feasts exclusively on his fellow man, and does not want to duck back behind the curtain. "Regardless of our relationship, he is getting bolder and openly threatening you. And in my rooms, no less." His eyes drop, flash with outrage. "With my belongings."

"What, you're worried I'm going to be afraid of you by association?" Will snaps.

"What if he were doing this to Alana? Would you be so blasé about it then?"

"Look," Will hisses, stepping forward and jabbing a finger into Hannibal's chest. "Freddie and Chilton aren't going to evict him. There's not enough people left in the house, and they need the ratings. And he's being smart about this, doing this shit where he won't be recorded, so even if it did come out, it's a 'He said, he said' situation, and no one is going to believe me if they find out I used to be a sex worker."

"So you'd rather bury it," Hannibal says coldly, brushing Will's fingers away. "Just another secret."

"You don't get to decide to do this your way just because you're finally given proof of what I was saying all along," Will growls, dropping his hand. His mouth hurts, stings sharply. He wants a fucking shower. He wants to be sick, to shove fingers down his throat and force out all the poison Matthew planted in his mouth.

Hannibal's jaw clenches, his nostrils flare around a sharp, angry exhale.

"Forgive me for thinking part of you might be enjoying this," he growls.

Will blinks, and steps back, a harsh flare of anger sparking in his chest. "Fuck you," he snaps. "You think you know me so well, just because you used to watch me jerk off for money. Because I made you hear music. Just…fuck you, Hannibal."

"I think you're forgetting that I know just how talented you are at pretending."

Will snarls, wipes the back of his wrist below his lip, and fixes Hannibal with a cold, cold look. Hopes it cuts, hopes it hurts. Hopes even the thing behind Hannibal's person suit can see it. "Takes one to know one, doesn't it?" he says, flatly. Hannibal blinks, his chin lifting. "You think I don't see you for what you are?"

"And what am I, Will?"

Will feels hollow, feels like he is made of nothing but brittle bone. "Fake. Just like me. I thought I was seeing something else, behind your mask, but it's just more of the same." Hannibal's head tilts, and his hands slide into the pockets of his suit pants. He is looking at Will strangely, like Will is a color he's never seen before. It is not like how one stares at an insect, or an interesting new animal – not so much curious, as fascinated. "You called me honest, once. Genuine. But I'm not. And you're not, either." He barks a laugh, soft and sharp, and his eyes fall to the razor on Hannibal's sink. "Maybe we're perfectly suited to each other."

Something flashes in Hannibal's eyes, and his cheeks bulge in that not-smile he does. "Perhaps so," he says, and he's gentler now, knowing a wary and beaten animal when he sees it. "At the risk of earning more of your wrath, I feel I must ask." Will tenses, shows his teeth, upper lip twitching. "Do you think there is any part of me you find genuine? Any part of me you feel you can trust?"

Will's brow furrows, and he looks at Hannibal. Looks at him, and sees something starving. He wipes his lower lip again, glad that there's less fresh blood there than before. Hopefully he can pass it off as a stupid mistake with the razor, but he doesn't really want to think about it right now.

"Yes," he finally admits, because Hannibal will not leave without his answer. Hannibal's lips thin, and Will lowers his eyes to Hannibal's shoes. "But I don't care about the thing you're wearing to cover that part up. I don't like it, and it doesn't interest me."

Hannibal's head tilts again, a flicker of understanding softening his face. "I see," he murmurs.

"Do you?"

"Yes," he says. Then, he smiles. "I was a fool, not to have seen it before." Will's shoulders roll, and he pets over his neck, and wishes Hannibal would just leave and let him finish his freak-out in peace. But maybe that is Hannibal's intention – to make sure Will is calm, or at least calm enough not to do anything drastic.

It's a leash, a collar around his throat, and Will's stomach rebels at its presence, and he wonders if that's why Hannibal wears his clothes so well. If there's any slack, it leaves room for a foot in the door. He meets Hannibal's eyes, imagines blood in his teeth, imagines Matthew, torn to shreds between them as they pace and pant at each other, ready to lunge.

To what end, he's not yet sure. But he can guess.

Hannibal nods, as though to himself, and his eyes fall to Will's mouth. "I'll get you some antiseptic for that cut. Feel free to make use of the shower. I'll return shortly."

Will nods, petting over his neck again. "Hannibal," he murmurs, as the other man turns away, and Hannibal pauses, like he did last night, and meets Will's eyes. "Thank you," he says, quietly, but heartfelt. After all, Hannibal did make it stop, whatever was going to happen. One way or another, Will would have suffered much worse had he not shown up.

And he knows the power of a reward, a kind word, for a deed well-done. Even monsters like being praised.

Hannibal smiles, his lashes dipping in a slow blink, and he steps over the threshold and reaches for the door. "Take all the time you need, Will," he says gently. "I'll be out here when you're done."

Will smiles, without effort, and nods. He turns away and stops the flow of water into the sink as the door clicks closed, and then, after a moment, reaches out and locks it behind Hannibal.

It wouldn't do him any good to get complacent.

 

 

Will emerges from the shower in a cloud of steam, dresses and runs his fingers through his hair to try and calm it. His toiletry bag is still out in the room, and he leaves the bathroom to find Hannibal there, sitting at his chessboard and contemplating the pieces. His bedroom door is open, revealing the hallway, and Will sighs, and goes to his bag. He puts on deodorant and eyes his razor, lips pressed together when he feels a small pang of resigned acceptance at the sight of it.

Next to the chessboard is a glass of water, two painkillers, and a little tube of Neosporin. He goes to Hannibal and sits at the second chair, pleased that Hannibal gave him the one that allows him the view of the door. He takes the painkillers and washes them down, before opening the tube and squeezing out a little bit of the paste, and dabs at his lower lip.

Hannibal's eyes lift, when he sets it down.

Will nods the board. "Wanna play?"

"If you'd like," Hannibal murmurs, but he straightens in his seat, and seems eager enough. He's playing white, this time, and moves his queen-side knight over the row of pawns, towards the center.

Will eyes the board, and moves his king-front pawn forward one space. "I'm sorry for what I said, before," he murmurs.

Hannibal smiles, and moves his king-front pawn forward two spaces. "Care to be more specific?"

Will winces. "I deserve that," he says, and frees his bishop, running it from beside his king to the middle of the board. "But I guess I just meant…all of it. You've been nothing but pleasant to me, and I've been a less than stellar guest, let alone a friend or anything else we might be to each other."

Hannibal nods, his eyes on the board. "You do have a thick streak of hostility in you," he says. Will hums, and resists the urge to roll his eyes. "Were you my patient, I would be very determined to figure out the root of it."

Will's head tilts, and he watches Hannibal free his queen, bringing her into play.

"Would it be easier, for you?" he asks, and moves the pawn in front of his king-side rook forward. "If I was a patient?"

"Perhaps," Hannibal admits. "But there's an implied power dynamic in that set of roles. Ones I would never presume to force on you." His eyes lift, finally, and meet Will's. "I would rather speak to you as if we were just enjoying friendly conversations."

"I think I've proven I'm not good at those," Will says, and smiles when Hannibal does. He moves his knight again, bringing it to a halt near Will's pawn. Will sighs. "I'm not…good at having friends, Hannibal. Much less anything else."

"I'm inclined to disagree," Hannibal replies coolly, but he's still smiling. "Unless you mean to say you're only good at being friends with people who do not threaten you."

Will frowns. "Isn't everyone?" he asks, and when Hannibal merely hums, he tilts his head. "You think I'm threatened by you?"

"I think you're uncomfortable when presented with someone whom you cannot read." Hannibal's smile widens, and Will moves his rook up to behind his pawn. "It's a rare gift you have, to be able to know and understand what someone wants, and even better, to know how to give it to them, or how to behave in your refusal. Matthew, at least, is blessedly obvious about what he wants."

"You, less so," Will says, finishing what Hannibal does not say. He receives a nod for his trouble, and moves his other knight forward. Hannibal shifts his weight in his seat, blows out a breath, contemplating the board. "But I think you're right." Hannibal meets his eyes. "There are versions of you, just like there were versions of me. Sweet, Bossy…. Dark." Hannibal's mouth twitches upward at one side, his eyes black. "I wonder which version Bedelia saw."

"One she did not care for, in the end," Hannibal answers, without inflection, and moves his queen so that, when Will tries to reveal his rook, she will be in a position to take it if she dares get so close to the pawns. Will thinks it odd, to move towards such a compromising position, to sacrifice the most powerful player early on. "A version I call myself a fool for thinking I could hide from someone with eyes like yours."

Will smiles, warmed by the compliment despite himself. He slides his rook in front of the pawns, past the queen's line of threat, in an attempt to lure Hannibal's bishop closer.

"Alana told me I don't know how to behave around someone who doesn't expect anything from me," he says. Hannibal's head tilts, and his free hand drums, fingers in a line, on top of his knee. He is smiling, and doesn't fall for Will's trap, instead pushing forward with one of his pawns. "Maybe it would have been different."

Hannibal lets out a quiet noise, watching Will as Will watches him. He lifts his free hand, elbow on the armrest, and taps his nailbeds against his jaw, before he lets his temple rest against his knuckles. "I don't regret any aspect of our friendship, Will," he says, so quietly, and honestly – Will can feel his honesty like warm water, sliding up his arms. "Rather, perhaps, the circumstances and limitations we currently face."

Will blinks, brow furrowing, and leans forward so his elbows rest on the edge of the table. "What do you mean?"

Hannibal meets his gaze, unwavering, and he smiles. "For every course in the universe, there exists a multitude of others. I'll simply say that if, for instance, we had met somewhere else, through some other set of circumstances, much would be different."

Will hums, and folds his fingers together, resting his chin on top of them. He thinks it might be his move on the chessboard, but he ignores it for now, much more interested in the subtle gleam of mirth and affection in Hannibal's eyes. Behind Will, the heavy curtains block out everything but a single shaft of sunlight, which shines just so, across the bridge of Hannibal's knuckles where they rest against the table.

"How?" he purrs.

Hannibal's smile grows wide, and he leans in, mimicking Will, elbows on the table. It gives a soft creak of protest under their combined weight. Unlike Will, who holds his head up lax and lazy, Hannibal folds his arms, digs his nails around the backs of his elbows, shoulders rolled up. It makes him look bigger, more aggressive, and Will breathes in.

Breathes out.

"How," Hannibal repeats.

Will nods, wets his lips and doesn't miss how Hannibal's eyes drop to his mouth. He turns his head, rubs his thumb along the uninjured side of his mouth. "Does Doctor Hannibal Lecter have any signature moves?" he asks, teasing, and Hannibal huffs, but he is smiling widely, his irises colored like whiskey. "Would you have tried to woo me with tall tales and 'dangerously smooth' cosmopolitans?"

Hannibal's eyes shine with mirth. Even the monster in them is purring.

"If you're trying to fluster me, Will, I'm afraid you'll have to put more effort into it," he says, and he is unapologetic when he adds; "If I thought for a second you would return any romantic intent, I would stop at nothing to make my own known."

Will smiles, warmed beyond reason. He cradles his chin in one palm, lets his other hand fall forward until he touches Hannibal's wrist, flexes his claws and wraps them gently around his pulse. His forearm nudges the chess pieces, some falling to roll to the feet of their neighbor. He doesn't care.

Hannibal's eyes, though, they fall, hyper-aware of any sound, of any movement. Will hums, lifts his fingers and tucks the very ends of them under Hannibal's chin, making him raise his face again until their eyes can meet. He feels like he's holding Hannibal's entire attention, holding him by the backs of his ribs, and his smile grows off-kilter and fond as he brushes his thumb down the sharp arch between Hannibal's nose and the corner of his mouth.

"I'm not trying to fluster you, Hannibal," he says, as Hannibal's lips part, his knuckles whiten, and the corners of his eyes go tight, his gaze turns sharp. Will's thumb rucks in, traces the bottom of Hannibal's lower lip, mirroring his own where Matthew cut him. Hannibal's eyes drop, like he can hear Will's thoughts.

Hannibal's arms unlock, and he cups his hand over Will's, turns his face and kisses the meat of Will's thumb, breathing soft against his palm. Lets out a little rumble of pleasure when Will's hand flattens, tilts to show his pulse for Hannibal's teeth. Knowing what he knows now - that Hannibal watched him, for years - he can only imagine how Hannibal is feeling, to finally touch him. Or perhaps that explains the pulse of warmth that runs down his arm when Hannibal kisses the cluster of veins, the flexed tendon.

"Oh, Will," he breathes, lashes dipping low and rising again, to meet Will's eyes. He presses his mouth to Will's wrist, curls his fingers around Will's hand. "You are devastating, aren’t you?"

Will smiles, for this is surely the tamest thing he's ever done, and yet Hannibal's reaction is bone-deep, so visceral and tremulous, and pleases him greatly. He thinks of how Hannibal might move, in the darkness, flesh bared, and his shoulders roll, his thighs press together.

His fingers cling, slide down to cup Hannibal's neck, and he's almost surprised to feel his pulse racing. Just like Will's is. Hannibal's fingers spread out down his wrist, cup bone and muscle and flex around them, nails a tempting set of marks ready to be laid. He wants to taste Will – Will can see the ravenous darkness in his eyes, sees it, feels it echo in his chest like a gunshot.

"If you say so," he murmurs, soft as sunlight and summer rain. Then, aching and sure, he says, "I like the thought of devastating you."

Hannibal's eyes flash, and he smiles, another rumble caught in his throat. Will feels it against his palm, and he bites his lower lip, free hand curling and petting down the unmarked side of his neck. Hannibal's gaze burns, makes him ache sharply in his belly, and he breathes out as Hannibal's claws flex along his forearm.

"Then I yield, happily," Hannibal breathes.

Will smiles, and then he catches movement behind Hannibal, and he blinks, the moment shattering like glass as he spies Bedelia's golden hair above Hannibal's shoulder. He stiffens, and straightens, and Hannibal lets him go, turning in place so they can both see her.

"Will," she says, her hand on the door frame, her face pale. "You have a phone call."

Will sighs, inwardly, swallowing back his growl. He rises from his chair and Hannibal remains sitting, watching him as he passes. Though Will aches to touch him, he will not do it in front of her. He still needs her favor, and needs her to think that Will is wary of Hannibal's sharp teeth.

He gives her a smile that is overly-grateful, watches her take in his clean-shaven jaw and cut lip with raised brows. "Do you know who it is?" he asks her, as they walk together down the stairs. He can feel Hannibal's eyes on the back of his neck, before they turn and his line of sight is broken.

She shakes her head, leading the way through the living room, into the kitchen, and then into Hannibal's office. The red phone sits off the hook, whoever is on the other line left on hold. She gives him a nod, a placid and thin smile, and then leaves, and Will goes to the phone.

"Hello?"

"Will!" It's Alana. Will sighs, closing his eyes, relieved beyond measure to hear her voice. He turns and rests against the edge of the desk, running his free hand through his hair as he holds the phone to his ear. "Hey. It's good to hear your voice."

"Yours too," Will replies. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah. I mean, I'm pissed off and scared to death but I -. I got Margot out. We're going to leave the States for a while."

Will nods to himself, swallows harshly. "Good," he says. "Did Chilton and Freddie give you the money?"

"They said they would. But Margot has some stashed away; we won't be hurting for a while," she tells him, and Will nods, pleased that she was smart enough to do it. "I just needed to let you know I'm okay, and not to worry if you don't hear from me for a while."

"Good. I'm glad you called me," Will says, and he means it.

She hums, and then there's a pause. "How are you?"

Will huffs, and rubs absently along his lower lip. "I'm fine," he lies.

She makes a soft, aggravated sound. Behind her voice, Will hears a tone like the PA of an airport, announcing a boarding call for a flight. She works fast. "I don't like the thought of you still being there, with him," she says darkly. Will's lips twitch in a smile.

"I'll be okay," Will says, trying to be reassuring. "I'm working on it."

"Still."

"You need to worry about yourself, and your wife, and your kid," Will murmurs. His eyes go to the closed door, and he presses his lips together and scuffs his feet, sighing down at them again. "Name him after me, or something."

She laughs, at that. "Don't flatter yourself," she says warmly, and Will smiles. "At least you have someone watching your back in there."

Will hums, and thinks of Hannibal, thinks of his offer to tell Freddie and Chilton what Matthew has done. He understands, absently, that Hannibal is simply trying to do what he thinks is right, but that's just the point – the proper, right thing to do is…wrong. It won't fix the problem, just make it worse if Matthew thinks he's under threat or close scrutiny. If he gets thrown out, he'll take it out on Will, either when the show is over or as soon as he thinks he can.

And the whole thing is wrong. It reminds him of the Hannibal he used to see, plastic and fake and unreachable. Will doesn't think for one second that Hannibal would do it that way if he thought he could get away with something else, which is the whole point – it's not a genuine reaction, it's the proper, unimpeachable reaction. Will has seen enough to know the monster in Hannibal's eyes is demanding blood, and that's genuine, that's what he really wants.

That's what Will wants, too. He doesn't want lawful; Matthew surrendered the right to that when he attacked Will. Will's justice has always been a little less refined than the rules of morality. He's not a guitar, he won't force himself to play like one.

"Yeah," he says, when the silence stretches on a little too long. "I've been thinking about what you said. About me, and expectations, and I realized you're right." He huffs. "I need to get out of my own head and just, I don't know, do something."

Alana laughs. "At least you're taking my advice for once," she says warmly. Another call echoes over the PA behind her, and she makes an annoyed sound. "That's our flight. I have to go. Be safe, Will."

"You too," he replies, and sighs, because he knows he won't hear from her for a while after this. "Give Margot my best. I'll talk to you when I can."

"Alright. Bye!" And she hangs up, and Will sighs again, setting the phone back on its hook. He rubs his hands over his face, up through his hair, and cups his fingers along the back of his neck, his eyes on the door. He doesn't know when the next scheduled session is in here, nor who it's with, but he can't stay in here forever.

Almost on cue, there's a knock at the door, and Will swallows, pushing himself upright and opening it. He freezes when he sees Matthew on the other side, only relaxing a little when, behind him, Bedelia is obviously in view, both of them waiting to use the room.

He clears his throat and steps to one side, ducking his head. Matthew grins at him, reaches out to thumb under his chin. "That's a good look on you, Will," he says, and there's nothing in his voice to suggest he had anything to do with it. Will doesn't like how his cheeks flush, outraged, and he forces himself not to bare his teeth.

"Have fun," he says sharply, and closes the door behind him once Bedelia and Matthew are inside. He hopes she's sticking to her part of the plan – which is, he'll admit, to leave Matthew alone and focus on Tobias. But they can't go around changing therapy schedules or making it seem like they're up to something. All eyes are on Will, so to speak, and he has to tread carefully.

Absently, the thought crosses his mind as to whether any of the stuff they are recording is interesting, or useful. Seems like all the dramatic shit is happening behind closed doors.

He goes to the kitchen and pours himself coffee, finds it bitter and lukewarm at best, but he drinks it down in two long swallows. Tobias is in the kitchen as well, fixing himself a little plate of goat's cheese, agave, and peppered water crackers. Will refills his mug, turns and rests his hip against the counter, watching as Tobias hollows out a little bowl into which he pours the agave syrup.

He puts the bottle away and looks at Will, giving him a smile. "Would you like some?" he offers, politely.

Will shakes his head. "No, thanks," he replies.

Tobias hums, and his dark eyes rake Will up and down. Tilt, when they catch the little cut along his mouth and neck.

"Would you care to join me?" he asks. "I was just going to the dining room."

Will presses his lips together, and then he nods. Maybe if he gets some of his own insight, he and Bedelia can get Tobias evicted, together. He follows Tobias out to the dining room and they sit, Will in his normal space and Tobias taking Hannibal's spot, at the head of the table, his back to the piano.

"I hope you're settling in well," Will says, sipping his coffee as he watches Tobias daintily separate a piece of goat's cheese and spread it over the thin, brittle cracker. He sets his knife down, dips the edge in the agave syrup, and bites with a hum. "I wish you could have been here when there were more of us. It was more…diverting."

Tobias smiles at him. "I am not lacking in diversion," he replies, his voice low and warm. Will hums, and takes another drink, his eyes flashing up to try and glimpse the upper corridor, and maybe Hannibal's room. He can't see, from where he's sitting, but Hannibal is not on the patio, and he wasn't in the kitchen or his office, so Will assumes he's still in his bedroom. Probably cleaning up the razor. Will swallows. "I have always been able to entertain myself, since I was a young boy." His head tilts when Will doesn't answer. "Do you find it boring, now that our cast is so small?"

Will huffs. "On the contrary, I can barely sleep at night," he replies, a little more honestly than he'd meant to. He swallows. "I don't know. I got to know most of these people, from the last season. Now I'm the only one left."

"And Doctor Lecter," Tobias says, after he eats another cracker.

Will flushes, and tries to hide his smile. "Yeah," he murmurs.

"I wonder, and of course feel free to tell me if I'm overstepping, but how did that occur?" Will blinks, and lifts his eyes. "I imagine it would be hard to build any kind of trusting relationship in a situation that is built on lies, and secrets."

Will bites his lower lip, rubs his thumb across the corner of his mouth.

He knows Tobias is right – one of the reasons he resisted Hannibal's friendship for so long was precisely that; they couldn't have a real friendship based on lies, on Hannibal's unrelenting desire to figure out Will's secret and Will's steadfast refusal to give him an inch. But Hannibal had always known – known, and given Will the privilege of thinking he didn't. He let Will come to him of his own accord, over and over, because in a twisted way the only way it could be genuine was if they pretended it wasn't. Will sold himself a fantasy, and Hannibal let him play along.

And Will considers Alana to be a dear friend. He was protective of her from the start, seeing someone too smart and brilliant to be dragged through the mud by the likes of him. Even before they knew each other's secrets.

"I suppose," he begins, and then stops, and swallows, lifting his eyes up again, to the ceiling. "I suppose after a while I just…got used to him being there. And then I started to like him being there." He shrugs one shoulder and smiles. "He makes me feel differently than everyone else does."

Tobias is smiling, and gives a little appreciative hum. "We owe it to ourselves to be surrounded by people who bring out the best in us," he says, and Will's brows lift.

"Do you think you're doing that, by coming on the show?"

Tobias eats another cracker, his eyes shifting from his plate to Will's hands, and then the other end of the table where Bedelia normally sits. His lips purse, and he takes a small cloth from his pocket, dabbing at the corner of his mouth to get rid of crumbs and the cling of the sweet syrup.

"It is a stepping stone," he finally says, and Will cocks his head to one side. He hears movement, and looks up to spy Hannibal coming down the stairs, dressed in another one of his suits, which is black and severe-looking, monochrome like he rarely is. He has his veneer set back firmly in place, but it feels…different, like water on Will's skin and not oil.

There is something in Hannibal's gait, in the way his face is carefully neutral, that feels distinctly feline. Like the cat that ate the canary. Their eyes meet, and Hannibal's gaze sharpens so suddenly Will shivers.

He gives them a smile, one that makes the lines around his eyes crinkle, and nods. "Good morning, gentlemen," he says. Tobias lifts a cracker in response, since his mouth is full, and Will raises his chin when Hannibal's eyes slide to him. "Is there any coffee left?"

"None worth drinking," Will replies with an unapologetic grin.

Hannibal huffs, lips twitching up at the corners. "Unfortunate."

Will shrugs. "I can make more. Figured it was getting a little late for that."

He receives a smile for that. "No, that's alright. I was, however, going to start making lunch. Perhaps you would be interested in helping."

Tobias hums. "Thank you for the offer," he says, though Will suspects he wasn't really being addressed at all, "but I have a session with Doctor Du Maurier soon."

Hannibal nods, gives Tobias a cursory look, before he settles on Will again.

Will smiles. "Sure," he says, and pushes himself upright, grabbing his coffee mug and saluting Tobias with it. "To be continued." Tobias gives him a little wave and goes back to eating, and Will follows Hannibal into the kitchen. As they go, he looks outside, and sees that the wine bottle is now gone, the stain of red removed.

The memory sends an unwanted little shiver down his spine, and he flexes his fingers around his mug and follows Hannibal into the kitchen.

"What are we having?" he asks, setting his mug down by the sink. The coffee really isn't worth drinking anymore. He turns around to find Hannibal standing by the fridge, the door open, the bright light from within highlighting the sharp rise of his cheekbones, casting a dark silhouette behind him despite the daylight. His lips purse, and he reaches in to pull out a long log-like package, wrapped in butcher's paper and tied together with rows of thin string an inch apart. The entire thing is as long as Hannibal's forearm, thick, and makes a solid noise when he sets it down on the counter beside the fridge.

"Perhaps a roast?" he says. Will lifts a brow.

"Don't those take hours?"

"Yes, well, we all got a late start this morning, and as Mister Budge has made clear, there are snacks readily available." Will grins, wants to laugh at the vaguely aggravated tone in Hannibal's voice. So, he disapproves of snacking. Or maybe he just disapproves of people helping themselves to his kitchen when he's not around to give permission. Control freak; it's endearing.

"Alright then," Will says, and pushes himself away from the counter, coming to a halt at Hannibal's side. He mimics rolling up his sleeves, though in a t-shirt that's unnecessary, and presents his hands. "Tell me what to do, maestro."

Hannibal looks at him, brows raised, a terribly intrigued look in his eyes. He presses his lips together, huffs out a breath, and nods to the sink.

"Wash your hands, first," he says. Will rolls his eyes, but turns to obey.

 

 

Cooking with Hannibal is, as it turns out, a pleasant affair. They fall into step easily together – Hannibal, it seems, is perfectly comfortable guiding Will to perform tasks he could probably do much better himself. Will's chopping and slicing is far from perfect, his cubing is more like rectangling and that's being generous, but Hannibal meets it all with a pleased gleam in his eye, a gentle word of praise whenever Will completes a task, and soon enough the roast is in the oven, pillowed with parsnips and onions and potatoes, and Hannibal closes the door and rinses his hands in the sink.

Will follows suit, and accepts Hannibal's offer for a glass of wine. He pours them each a healthy amount of red, and then leads the way towards the patio, which is unoccupied. They don their coats and sit, close together, gazing out to the grey shores and the little string of bright blue marking the horizon.

After a moment, Will clears his throat and takes another drink, lets the sweetness of the red soothe his tongue, and resists the urge to rub his cut lip along the edge of the glass. He nods to where the stain was. "I'm sorry I left that for you to clean."

Hannibal's eyes follow his, and darken a few shades, mouth turning down at the corners. He sighs, cradles his wine glass stem, and turns his head to meet Will's eyes. "It's quite alright, Will," he replies. Then, in an action that seems resigned, like he's tired of fighting against his own desires, he reaches out and gently brushes his knuckles along the back of Will's hand. It is a light touch, utterly without presumption – so careful, always, to keep his claws sheathed. To ask permission.

Will smiles, cheeks pale but chest warm, and turns his hand so that Hannibal's fingers sink against his palm. Slide out, after a moment, and lace with his own. Hannibal's hand is soft, warm – his fingers flex, testing the strength of them and finding no fault.

He sighs, says in a quiet murmur, "You seem different."

Hannibal blinks, and Will is reminded of a cat, showing its belly and starting to purr.

He wets his lips. "How so?"

Will smiles, turns to set his wine down on the floor, and brings his now-freed hand to Hannibal's. Tilts it, so he can run his nails along Hannibal's wrist, test the give of delicate skin beneath the crisp cuff of his shirt, until he feels his pulse. Finds it ticking sharply, picking up speed as Will holds his hand.

"I'm not sure," he says. Hannibal blinks again, keeps his eyes on the water. Takes a sip of his wine until the innards of his lips turn dark. "I feel like, until now, you were a boat on a river, content to let the current take you where it would as long as it remained pleasant for you. Not anymore."

Hannibal tilts his head, brushes his fingers along the edge of Will's palm. Flexes them, tightening them until Will feels nails. Will shivers, and looks up to find Hannibal's eyes on him.

"There are rocks on my shores, now," Hannibal murmurs. "An unpleasant thing living under my roof." His eyes drop, and he breathes out like a thoroughbred post-race, catching his breath. "Threatening someone I hold very dear."

Will swallows, bites the tip of his tongue. Says, "I don't want to talk about him."

"What, then, would you like to talk about?"

Will smiles. "You," he says. Hannibal looks at him, wets his lips. "Me." His nails drag along Will's wrist. "Devastation and yield. Multiverses and Shakespeare." He laughs when Hannibal smiles. "Teacups and time and the rules of disorder?"

"A daunting amount of subjects," Hannibal says, but he is pleased and purring, delighted by Will's attention.

"I think you can handle them," Will replies, and lifts Hannibal's hand, his own elbows resting on his knees so he can cradle his own jaw, press Hannibal's fingers flat. They are cold, and Will shivers as Hannibal's touch brushes along his smooth jaw. His lashes lower and he covers Hannibal's hand in a mimic of earlier that morning, breathes out when Hannibal sets his wine glass down and gives Will his full attention.

The weight of it is like a thick blanket over Will, soothing his nerves, gentling his teeth. Still, he shows them, ducks his head as Hannibal leans in, his nose in Will's hair, his lips brushing gentle and chaste over Will's temple. God, he's warm, and solid as stone, and smells like ocean spray and sweet red wine and Will aches for a taste of it.

He closes his eyes, turns his head. "Do you think I've had too much to drink?"

Hannibal pulls back, and Will opens his eyes, meets Hannibal's. Finds his head tilted, surprised by the question. "No," he says with a smile, but his fingers go stiff and unsure on Will's face, and he pulls back as though only just realizing how intimately they are sitting, despite the fact that Will was the one who took it this far. "Why?"

"Because I don't want you to pull away when I kiss you. I don't want you to think I don't want it, and that I'm just doing what you expect me to do."

Hannibal's free hand is on Will's thigh, pulled there for balance, and his fingers tighten. Will takes his hand again, takes it and cradles it between both his own and presses his lips to Hannibal's knuckles.

Says, very quietly; "Are you going to pull away from me?"

Hannibal breathes out, heavy, so heavy, and whispers, "No."

Will smiles, and it's easy to reach for Hannibal again, to flatten his palm to Hannibal's cheek and draw him in for a kiss. Hannibal is warm, his hand flying to Will's neck, petting through the soft hairs that curl at his nape. His hand is gentle, strong, flattens over Will completely, and then their lips meet and he's soft here, too, and it's chaste at first, as Will's eyes close and he feels Hannibal shiver. Feels it, aches for more; he parts his lips and lets Hannibal do the same, aches for him to press forward. His thigh tenses beneath Hannibal's hand, spreads for balance as he leans in.

Hannibal is unmoving, neither yielding nor pressing advantage, and Will growls, ends the kiss, and presses the words "Kiss me back" to the corner of Hannibal's mouth.

His reaction is immediate. He lets out a low, rumbling snarl, and his hand tightens, slides up to fist in Will's hair. Will trembles at the action, gasps, and Hannibal is quick to steal his air; he bites, drags his teeth along Will's lower lip, kisses him so fiercely, a thousand years of longing behind it, so desperately and aggressively relieved that Will feels it ricochet through him.

Hannibal has been starving for months, now, and he's gotten his first taste of blood.

Will isn't immune to it, either – he hasn't let another person touch him like this for years, for longer than he'd been doing camera work, and Hannibal's hands are big, and warm, and strong. All of him is strong, makes Will feel like a mold being filled with gold and iron. He clutches at Hannibal's suit with one hand, the other braced on his knee as Hannibal kisses him, and again, and again, until Will's lips are sore and pink and his heart is hammering.

"Fuck," he whispers, when he's allowed air, and Hannibal merely smiles. Shows his teeth, that lightless part of his iris pulling Will in. Will's mouth feels tender, and yields readily when Hannibal leans in again, presses gently, so soft, and his hand is gentle in Will's hair. Not at all like Matthew pulled. Though Hannibal's touch is powerful, there is something unmistakably reverent in it, like Will is some treasured thing that he yearns to touch.

He touches Will's face with his other hand, cradles his jaw, and Will lets out a throaty, ragged sound when he pulls back, panting for air.

"No, don't -," Will begs, tugging at Hannibal's clothes. "Don't stop."

Hannibal matches him with a snarl of his own, a low, predatory rumble that makes Will tense up all over, ready to leap. "You must have mercy on me, Will," he says, rasping the words.

Will presses his lips together, feels them warm and burning from Hannibal's lips and teeth. He presses his fingers to them, feels the thin cling of saliva and the specific tenderness of fresh bruises. They pull back just enough to see each other, and Hannibal's lashes are low, no color in his iris now, all of it black and starving, a ravenous animal ready to lunge. And Will burns, to the bones, desire hot and pulsing in his belly, so strongly he doesn't even feel the wind.

Hannibal's hands move from him, cup Will's together in a mimicry of prayer, and he kisses Will's pale knuckles, lifts his eyes and shows Will the cavernous want in them, a darkness that aches and echoes in Will's chest.

He shivers, and says, "Will you stay with me, tonight?"

Hannibal's eyes flash, drop to Will's mouth. His own is pinker than normal, lips made fuller by Will's kiss, and there's a flush high on his cheeks.

He kisses Will's hand again. "I don't think it would be appropriate," he replies, in that way men do when they desperately want to ignore what is and is not appropriate.

But Will understands. "What about in my room?" he asks, and Hannibal's eyes lift. "If people say shit about it, we'll just have them look at the cameras. I can behave." Hannibal's mouth tics up and Will grins at him. "I can."

"I have no doubt you can, darling," Hannibal replies, and Will doesn't fight the little fissure of pleasure that runs down his spine at the new pet name. He grew used to them, but they were always so…distant, so unimaginative. 'Boy' and 'Whore' and 'Bitch'. He likes 'Darling', he likes it when Hannibal says it. "But I'm finding my own self-control more difficult to hold onto, in your presence."

Will smiles, wide and sharp. He tugs on his hands so Hannibal is forced to straighten in his seat, frees his fingers to tuck under Hannibal's chin. He's pleased when, despite the high collar of his suit, he can see a little vulnerable strip of neck, just begging for a mark.

"Well, you wouldn't touch me without my permission, would you, Hannibal?" he asks, falsely innocent, and grins when Hannibal's eyes darken and flash, and his fingers tighten around Will's other hand.

"No," he growls. "I wouldn't."

"Then I don't see a problem."

Hannibal stares at him, for so long Will thinks he might have been frozen in place, and then he smiles, and sighs, closes his eyes and nuzzles Will's wrist, before he straightens in his seat, and lets him go. Will retrieves his wine glass as Hannibal takes his, settling together and looking out towards the sea. Will's mouth is tender, sensitive and throbbing to the beat of his pulse, and he rests his lips against the cool glass.

For a while, there is only silence, comfortable and companionable, and then Will looks up, sees Matthew and Bedelia moving around inside. Sees Tobias and Matthew greet each other, sees them all sit together at the dining room table. Old and new cast, again – they separate like two species of penguin trying to share an island.

He huffs, growling into his wine, and rolls his eyes when the action causes Hannibal's attention to snap to him. A flicker of amusement passes over his face, and he presses his lips together and looks out to the waves.

"Don't say it," Will warns.

"I didn't say anything," Hannibal replies, and he's smiling without smiling.

"I know what you were going to say." Will looks down at his glass of wine, thinks of it running down his arm. Winces, and finishes it in one swallow.

Hannibal's lips purse, his chin lifts, and if Will didn't know any better he'd say the man was pouting. "I find myself…protective of you," he murmurs, and then sighs. "An emotion I feel you resent more than anything."

"I don't resent it," Will replies. "I just don't understand the manifestation."

Hannibal blinks, and their eyes meet.

"I don't think the way you're suggesting we deal with Matthew is the way you really want to deal with him."

His eyes are dark, unfathomably so, like an open enclosure at night, and Will knows there is something prowling within, something that shines in moonlight, golden-eyed and snarling. Feline and fine and ready for a hunt.

"In a perfect world," he murmurs, slow and deliberate; testing, "how would you like me to deal with him?"

Oh, and isn't that just the question. Will smiles, and sets his wine glass down again.

"I thought you said you weren't going to solve my problems for me."

"I won't," Hannibal replies, smiling. "This is all hypothetical."

"Of course."

"You said you wanted transparency from me, Will. Please do me the honor of giving the same."

Will sighs, and rubs his hand over his mouth, feels it still warm. His fingers curl and he bites at his thumbnail. "Removing Matthew from the situation won't solve anything," he murmurs. "It just removes him from the immediate threat, but he'd still be out there. Waiting. Watching." Unbidden, a shiver runs down his spine. "He's been doing it for years. Since I took my site down – he told me so. Told me he's been looking for me ever since I stopped."

Hannibal's eyes are black, his expression carefully neutral. His lips purse and he takes another drink of wine. "He is persistent," he says, and Will nods, closing his eyes and rubbing his hands through his hair. His face is unbearably cold in the wind, and he hates the reminder of what Matthew has done. The choice to grow out his beard came naturally, knowing he would be harder to recognize, and now he can't help think of all his other 'fans' who might recognize him, when the second season airs.

"Men are persistent hunters," he says. "They possess a dogged determination that is rarely seen in other animals."

Hannibal makes a sound like a scoff. "Matthew is not a man," he says darkly, and takes another drink.

Will smiles. "I suppose you're right."

"If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were suggesting we deal with this problem in a less…conventional way," Hannibal murmurs, and Will's smile widens. He looks at Hannibal under the swoop of his hair, finds his expression one of careful consideration. Hannibal smiles at him, that creature showing its claws. "But there are complications."

Will nods. "Witnesses."

Hannibal hums. "And cameras."

"Shame," Will murmurs.

"Is that why you're waiting? If you can figure out Tobias' secret, and Bedelia's, it eliminates any collateral damage."

"I know Bedelia's," Will returns, a strange excitement curling up in his chest. Something in his own stomach, that purrs and flexes and shows its belly to this other creature. Something that howled when it was beat, that panted and pawed at the ground when dark men asked him to be theirs for the night. "She's helping me with Tobias."

"Perhaps you'll allow me to help as well," Hannibal says.

"Can you?" Will asks. "Do you know?"

"My interactions with Mister Budge have been unfortunately few, and far between," Hannibal replies. He finishes his wine. "A situation easily rectified."

"But you can't tell me what you know," Will says.

"Mm, that's true," Hannibal concedes with a nod. "But you are very perceptive, and it's much easier to bring truths to light when you share an understanding with your teammates. And, perhaps, Bedelia will give me some insight."

Will swallows, bares his teeth and sucks in a harsh breath. "Is it stupid of me to be jealous?" he asks.

"Jealous?"

Will nods. "I'm…possessive of you. Parts of you, at least. The idea that she knows you better than I do unsettles me."

Hannibal's eyes shine with pleasure at that. "Darling, I assure you, you are capable of knowing pieces of me she could never dream of. Our conversation right now is proof of that."

Will doesn’t doubt that. Still; "What were you guys talking about?" he asks, and nods to the cliffs. "This morning."

"She found me cleaning up the wine, and asked what had happened. I told her there was a mishap, someone helping themselves to my stores and getting a little carried away." Will flushes, biting his lower lip. The cut stings, and he winces, rubbing over his mouth. "She correctly guessed that you had something to do with it. I suppose Tobias and Matthew aren't the type to drink an entire bottle by themselves."

Will swallows. "That's all she knows?"

"I didn't tell her what happened," Hannibal says, and he sighs, and nods to Will's neck. "As far as she knows, that was done by my hand."

"Did that surprise her?" Will asks, though he thinks he already knows the answer. Hannibal's lips flatten, and he looks away. "Hey." Will reaches out to him, curls his fingers in Hannibal's sleeve and tugs until their eyes meet. "I want you to know that I…would be okay with it. If it's something you like."

Hannibal frowns. Intrigued, certainly.

Will smiles, drags his hand down and laces their fingers together. He bends down to retrieve his wine glass, and stands, pleased when Hannibal mimics him, rising to his feet as well. He doesn't pull his hand away – lets it linger at their sides, his thumb brushing gently over Will's knuckles.

They're standing so close, and Hannibal's eyes, after a moment, drop to Will's lips. His own part, just enough to show a slip of his tongue, and Will smiles, presses in, squeezes Hannibal's hand. God, he doesn't know when Hannibal started looking at him like that – maybe he always has – but it sends a sharp stab of aching desire through him. He wants to reach out, to tear apart suit and skin, to see what pulses behind Hannibal's mask.

He gives Hannibal his wine glass, presses it into his hand until his fingers curl around the stem, and then flattens his freed hand on Hannibal's chest. Slides up, until he can wrap his tie around his knuckles. Tugs, and Hannibal gravitates to him with a low sound.

"You don't have to ask permission every time," he whispers, almost lost beneath the breeze. It's starting to pick up, and Will is shivering, and he doesn't know if Matthew or Tobias or Bedelia are watching, and he doesn't care. He's never been shy in front of an audience. Hannibal's eyes lift, lock. "Kiss me, and stay with me tonight."

Hannibal growls, lets go of Will's hand and knots his fingers in Will's hair instead. He surges forward and they collide, tender mouths, savage teeth, seeking tongues, and Will can't stop the ragged, desperate noise he makes. A noise eagerly swallowed, as Hannibal grips Will's nape and pushes Will against the metal table, and it's cold, a sharp note of discomfort when compared to the warmth and heat of Hannibal's lips, his body, but then Hannibal is against him, pressing close. There's a soft skate of glass on iron as he pushes the wine glasses onto the table, out of the way, and then his hands are on Will's hips, steady and secure, and Will shivers and wants to spread his legs.

Wants to. Does, grabbing at Hannibal's coat and suit jacket and yanking him in. Until there is just him, flattened against Will, a tempting press of heat and solid muscle and Christ, he is solid. Will can feel how strong he is, the flex of his ribs and the tension in his shoulders. He could do terrible things with strength like that.

Hannibal nips his lower lip, growls when Will moans and shows his neck. Fuck Bedelia, fuck Matthew; he wants Hannibal. Wants him, wants this, and he doesn't care if they see.

Hannibal ends the kiss, presses his mouth to Will's jaw. Drags teeth, down, to his hammering pulse and Will shivers, thighs tensing, a sharp fissure of pleasure running down his spine. His neck has always been sensitive, and Hannibal's teeth are a tempting promise; pain, savage intent, a monster that has looked at him and not seen prey, but a feast nonetheless.

Will clutches at him, musses his fingers through Hannibal's hair, finds it soft and silky in his hands. Hannibal breathes out, flexes his claws on Will's hips, trembling like he wants to grind closer, take Will right here, and torn back, held in check with iron-clad control.

"Will," he breathes, warm and harsh against Will's neck.

Will sighs, closes his eyes. His mouth stings in earnest, now, and he drags his nails along Hannibal's shoulders and wishes there wasn't so much clothing between him and where he wants to touch. He turns his head, mouths at Hannibal's ear just to feel him shake again.

"Stay with me tonight," he growls. "And kiss me like that every single time."

Hannibal lets out a rough, ragged sound. Desperate. Hungry. He lifts his head and there's a flush on his cheeks, his eyes dark, so dark. He cups Will's face and pulls him upright, but even then he towers over Will, absolute and unrelenting. Will shivers, and slides his hands to Hannibal's chest.

He lifts his eyes. "Promise me," he says. He can be unrelenting too.

Hannibal's gaze turns sharp, and his eyes move from Will's, following the line of his thumb as it traces, feather-light, over the cut on his lower lip. An almost imperceptible change – almost, but Will is watching, always watching.

"I promise," he breathes, finally, and Will smiles wide enough to hurt his cheeks. He nods, standing, and gathers the wine glasses.

"Good," he says, and lets Hannibal see how pleased he is – a reward, however small, for good behavior. And Will would see Hannibal richly rewarded. Hannibal smiles, softening to him, hooked and caught, and Will takes his hand and leads him back inside.

In the dining room, only Matthew remains, and his expression is black.

Chapter Text

By the time the roast has begun to flavor the air, Will thinks the flush has finally faded from his cheeks, and Matthew has made himself mostly scarce throughout the day, so he's in a good enough mood that not even his scheduled session with Bedelia can sour it.

She greets him with a genteel smile, and takes a seat in Hannibal's office. Will wonders, absently, if Hannibal even bothers anymore. It seemed the only people who were actually interested in using his services were Alana and Franklyn, and now they're gone. He feels a small pang of sadness, thinking of Alana, and hopes she's okay, wherever she is.

"You seem to be in a good mood," she notes after a moment of silence. He grins at her. "Much more…in your element."

Will hums, sits back and spreads his knees, flattens his hands on the armrests of the chair. Calm, in control. "How goes the hunt?" he asks, and she lifts her chin. "Anything on Tobias?"

"Unfortunately, no," Bedelia replies, her tone somewhat cold. He tilts his head and she presses her lips together, drumming her nails against her notebook. "I don't appreciate being taken for a fool, Mister Graham."

"Who’s taking you for a fool?"

"Don't play coy, you don't have the grace for it," Bedelia says sharply. Will's grin turns off-kilter, widens. "You pretended to be afraid of Doctor Lecter. Either you were lying then, to gain my trust and sympathy, or you're not afraid anymore, in which case you are far more stupid and reckless than I gave you credit for."

"Did it ever occur to you that, perhaps, Hannibal is just a man, like any other?"

"There are no men like him," she says, like she's forcing her voice to turn even and steady again. But there is tension in her shoulders and her ankle rolls, just enough for it to crack. "He is one of those…wretched things, born too early from the womb. And they put him on machines and watch his breathing, expecting him to die. But he doesn't die, and no one can tell what he is."

Will frowns, and bristles, for if there is any word he would use to describe Hannibal, 'wretched' is not one of them.

"You don't deserve him," he snaps before he can stop himself, watches as one of her pale eyebrows arches high.

"And you do?" she replies, and gives him a smile that is almost kind. Will's fingers curl, dig into the edges of the armrests. "Will, there is no need to be hostile with me. I am uniquely sympathetic to your situation. There is an allure, of course, to staring down the belly of the beast, but not all of us are lucky enough to survive."

"You survived," Will growls. Her lips press together, her chin lifts again.

"Does that make you angry?"

Stupid thing to ask. "Is this all a game to you?"

"We are, in our very nature, compelled to play games and accept challenges when they are placed before us," Bedelia murmurs. Her head tilts, waves of hair falling down her shoulder. "You have chosen to play one that is dangerous, aligning yourself, further still, with monsters of men. You may survive it, Will Graham, but you will be marked by it, too." Her eyes fall, to his neck, her throat flexing as she swallows, like her flesh holds a similar memory. "It excites him, you know, to know you have been marked by him in this way."

Will huffs, but doesn't correct her. It may be the truth, anyway – Will cannot deny that seeing Will marked up causes a reaction in Hannibal, be it anger or desire. Perhaps he would feel different, if those marks were his own. Will would be a fool to think that Hannibal didn't possess some need, however buried or well-hidden, to lay claim over his territory. It's obvious in everything he does, every way he exerts his power and control within his life.

He eyes her, hums, lifts one hand to rub over the scratches on his neck. "You think you have the advantage, because you got a peek behind the veil," he says, and smiles, lifting his eyes to the secret box. To the red phone.

"Veils are sometimes put there for the protection of the outside world, as much as for what lies beneath them," she replies, mouth thinning. "One might think it wise to respect whatever barriers are put there to separate Us from Them."

Will huffs. "A lot of civilizations thought the same," he replies. "Where are they now? Ruins and memories."

"Monuments."

"Mm." Will's head tilts, he drums his knuckles along the armrest of the chair.

She sighs, after a moment, and uncrosses her legs, corrects her posture to straight-backed and rigid, her fingers folded against her stomach, her elbows spread out wide.

"You have a propensity for catching the attention of dangerous men," she says, her voice gentle. Will meets her eyes and finds them almost earnest. His own narrow, thinking of Matthew. "It is not unlike watching two competing predators fight over the same carcass. But whoever wins, the poor thing is still dead."

Will laughs, at that, a startled and rough sound. She blinks, head tilting at the reaction, and he forces himself to swallow it back, to cover his mouth and run a hand through his hair so he doesn't laugh again.

So that's how she feels. A prey animal, one of the gazelles lucky enough to escape now that the lions have turned their attention to something else. He wonders if her desire to help Will even stems from genuine understanding, or the desire to keep her neck safe for a little while longer.

He calms, eventually, and grins at her. "You're right," he finally says, and she blinks again, lips pursing. "Veils are there to protect us, but you're not special for thinking you got a peek behind it. You just…" He stops, gesturing vaguely, "Crawled so far up his ass you couldn't be bothered. Just to save your neck."

Her mouth thins, and twitches at the corner. "If that's how you choose to see it," she says, coldly. "A reckless bride for a wretched man. Perhaps you're perfectly suited for each other."

Will swallows, tightens his jaw, grinds his teeth together. Breathes in.

"Perhaps," he says, and watches her eyes flash and darken, watches her nails drum in an aggravated two-step against her notebook.

"Well, Mister Graham," she says mildly, "I wish you the best of luck."

Will hums, and refuses to let her see his reaction. She wouldn't like what she saw.

 

 

Dinner is a quiet affair. No one was outed, and so Freddie and Chilton do not come, and Matthew is sour and surly at the table. Despite the free space made by Alana's absence, they remain in their regular seats, with Bedelia as far away from Hannibal as she can get, at the other end of the table.

Bedelia eats her oysters and salad, and Will notes with a laugh that there are no acorns or Marsala or whatever else was in there before – instead, she has been fed dark spinach, splashes of pomegranate seeds and pine nuts, bright ears of corn. A smaller version of it adorns each of their plates, as well as the roasted vegetables and thick slices of meat. As well, wine, Matthew and Bedelia drinking white while Tobias, Hannibal, and Will enjoy a red.

She really doesn't have the stomach for much.

Dinner's conversation is a slow thing, with two participants not actively taking part. In fact, Matthew and Bedelia seem much less energetic than usual, though Will appreciates that they're not having to be entertained, and Matthew seems to have quelled whatever dark, angry thing had glared at Will and Hannibal earlier that day. Around him, Hannibal and Tobias discuss music, composers, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the high society of Baltimore which Hannibal is apparently part of when not doing things like hosting locations for TV shows.

Finally, just as the plates are nearing empty, Bedelia stands. "Forgive me," she says, and waves Matthew away when he makes to help her. "I think the sudden chill has tired me out. Have a good night, gentlemen." She nods at them all, and then goes to the stairs, walking slow but determined. Will tilts his head.

"I think I'm gonna hit the hay too," Matthew replies, stifling a yawn. He stands and gives Will a slow, wide grin. "See you around." Then he turns, and Will's eyes narrow suspiciously. The thought that he and Bedelia are getting a little closer than they should occurs to him only briefly, before being resolutely pushed aside. If it were true, Bedelia wouldn't be so obvious about it, and Will doesn't think Matthew has any desire to go after anyone except him.

Perhaps Matthew intends to wait until everyone else is asleep, and then he can sneak out and prowl around Will's room when he's sure he won't be interrupted. Will remembers his promise, after all, and doesn't think Matthew will have forgotten either.

He reaches out and squeezes Hannibal's knee, and tries not to take that thought too far.

"Perhaps a lullaby for our friends?" Tobias suggests, and Hannibal smiles, and covers Will's hand on his knee before releasing him. Will lets him go, shivers and sighs as he watches Hannibal and Tobias go to their respective instruments.

"Any requests?" Hannibal asks, casting a playful look over his shoulder at Will as he plays a few notes for Tobias, to make sure his violin is in tune.

Will smiles, rests his elbows on the table, fixes Hannibal with a look from beneath his lashes. Purrs, "Something sweet."

Hannibal blinks at him, watches as Will hums, raises his glass to his lips and tips his head back, showing his neck. Watches, eyes darkening, and sliding low, then snapping up when Will sets his wine glass back down.

He smiles. "I know just the thing." He turns to Tobias and says, "E major."

Tobias nods, and sets his violin to his shoulder, tucked beneath his jaw. Hannibal starts his song, and it's a graceful melody at first, conjures images of soft breezes, of shores painted yellow and red at dusk. Makes him think of wet sand between his toes, under his soles, of watching children and dogs chase each other through the shallow spray.

The sound is unmistakably liquid; flowing, gentle river currents and calm oceans, not a wave or storm in sight. Tobias joins him, soon enough, with the violin, and the crisp, clear notes are the shining scales of fish, the little bubbles that rise and pop with their movements. The skitter of pond flies and the high notes of the sun, bursting with its lovely light, shining down on the place that Hannibal creates with his piano.

Will sucks in a breath, slow, opening his eyes to gaze down at his red wine. Thinks, as Hannibal teases with the introduction of lower chords, of softer things now. Thick pelts that hide claws and soft lips that hide teeth. The purr of a great beast, the heat of it against Will's back. Thinks of bedding down with wolves and lions and being safe and secure amongst them.

Tobias weaves between the notes, fireflies and night-bird songs, and Will sighs, tilts his head up and takes another drink of wine. It really is a beautiful piece, and Will wonders which of his videos inspired it. There's something so gently pleased about the melody, that makes Will feel warm and cradled in softness, like he's looking at a beautiful new masterpiece created by his favorite artist, and he wants to soak himself in this feeling, and he doesn't know which piece of his inspired this. He doesn't think any of them could. Perhaps this is something Hannibal thought of when he met Will in the real world.

The song slows, and comes to its natural end, and Tobias smiles at Hannibal, untucking his violin and holding it loosely. "That was beautiful, Doctor Lecter," he says. "Another original of yours?"

Hannibal nods. He's not looking at Will, but the way he's not looking makes it as obvious as if he were. His fingers traipse lightly over the keys, pressing down on one white, high. Perhaps he's thinking of their chess games.

"I have been working on this one for quite some time," Hannibal says, quietly, and he finally straightens, and closes the lid over the keys. "Thank you for indulging me."

"Any time," Tobias replies, and then he packs his violin away. Hannibal stands, and meets Will's eyes.

Pauses. Considers. Then; "Would anyone like a nightcap?"

Will raises a brow, and looks down at their glasses. His own still has a fair amount in it, and Tobias' is near-full, though it's his second glass.

"I'm good," he says, and lifts his own to show. Hannibal nods, but just as before he did not address Tobias, Will gets the impression that the question was not, in fact, directed at him.

"Mister Budge? I have a lovely port I've been meaning to try; I simply must insist."

Tobias gives him a wide smile, and nods, closing the lid of his violin case. "How could I refuse?" he asks. Hannibal smiles, and Will stands to help him clear the plates, only to be waved away. Hannibal touches his shoulder, gently but firmly pushing him back to his seat. Will's eyes lift.

"Relax, darling," Hannibal says, quietly, low enough to send a shiver through Will. "I'll take care of this."

Will wants to protest, but if Hannibal is busy, that means he and Tobias will be able to speak together, and maybe Will can figure out more about him. So he nods, and offers a sweet, charming smile – one that draws Hannibal's eyes, draws a short, rough exhale from him.

His hand slides to Will's nape, squeezes gently, and then he lets go, gathering plates, and disappears into the kitchen.

Tobias' laugh draws his attention, and Will smiles, and hands him his wine glass when Tobias takes a seat in Alana's old chair, across from him, instead of circling back to his own. Will much prefers him in her chair than Hannibal's.

They sit, for a while, merely silent, watching each other and pretending they aren't. Will drinks when Tobias does, lowers his glass when Tobias does, swallows and clears his throat and shifts his weight when Tobias does. Understanding, adaptation, through mimicry.

"I imagine once the show airs you might have no end of hopeful students, wishing to learn from you," Will finally says.

Tobias smiles, showing his teeth. "Flattering," he says. "Thank you."

"I might not be the most musically-inclined person in the world, but I know skill when I hear it," Will murmurs. He drinks, as Tobias does; an unconscious tell. He doesn't believe compliments should be received with smiles, but humility, but his ego will not allow for it, so he drinks, and tries to play humble. "Were you a child prodigy, I wonder? Or simply determined."

Tobias' head tilts, like he has just encountered a dog that can speak. An off-balance, amused smile stretches his lips. "I showed a natural inclination for music, when I was young," he replies smoothly. "I suppose I simply evolved as I went, and practiced."

"And are you satisfied, now?" Will asks, one brow rising.

"Why do you ask?"

Will shrugs, and gives Tobias an appeasing smile. "You have the air of ambition around you," he says. Tobias hums, and does not answer. "They say those who can't do, teach. A stupid thing to think," he adds, seeing a subtle gleam of outrage in Tobias, a tension in his shoulders and a downward pull to his mouth. "How is the next generation supposed to learn without being taught? Not all of us have natural talent, and even then, how is that talent meant to be honed and harnessed, if it's not given direction?"

"Well said," Tobias mutters, staring into his wine. Then, his eyes lift. "And what do you believe your talent is, Mister Graham?"

Will smiles. "I don't have one," he replies.

"Oh, I doubt that," Tobias murmurs, and smiles. "Your history on this show suggests that's not true. You have keen eyes. Who taught you, I wonder, to use them?"

Before Will can answer, Hannibal returns with a small tray. Despite Will's refusal, there are three glasses set upon it, with a generous helping of port in each. Will's nostrils flare, able to smell the thick, cloying sweetness from where he's sitting, and Hannibal smiles at them both, comes to the head of the table and sets the tray down with a small flourish.

Will reaches out, his wine discarded, and takes the nearest glass. Hannibal smiles at him, and takes his own, leaving Tobias the third. Will presses the lip of the glass beneath his nose, breathing deep, and parts from the glass enough to swirl the port around, watching the rise of it stick to the edges, heavy with syrup.

They all take a sip, and Will blinks in shock at the flavor. It's delicious, undoubtedly, and tastes mildly of cherries, and is so sweet and smooth it's like juice save for the thickness. Tobias gives an appreciative hum as well, wetting his lips when he's finished with his taste.

Hannibal merely cradles his glass, smiling, eyes heavy-lidded with pleasure, the same way he watches them eat.

"This is very good," Tobias says, and takes another sip. Hannibal looks up, blinks, eyes sharpening and focusing. Will watches like he might watch a cat gear up to ambush. "I swear, when this is over, you simply must refer me to your suppliers. Between the drink and the butcher, I shall be a very happy man."

Hannibal hums, gives a good-natured smile. "It would be my pleasure," he replies. "I cannot speak for the wine, but I'll say I source everything from an ethical butcher, who believes first and foremost about treating his animals kindly."

Will laughs. "Of course," he says, and Hannibal looks at him. "Fear and abuse makes the meat taste bad."

Hannibal regards him, frozen like he was on the patio, but there shines in his eyes an unmistakable pride, pleasure, and he smiles wide enough to make the lines around his mouth and eyes crinkle deeply.

"Happy meat and happy grapes," he purrs, and Will bites his lower lip, ducks his head, flushing with pleasure. He likes making Hannibal happy. Happy meat, happy grapes, happy monster.

Tobias laughs, low and throaty, and takes another drink. So does Will, still caught in the act of mimicry, and Hannibal drinks as well, ingratiating himself into the social circle by copying the native behavior. It's so interesting to watch, so entertaining for Will – he hasn't gotten to really watch people like this since season one, and even then, he saw so little. He thinks himself a fool, now, because this could have been far more entertaining from the start if he'd just learned to play well with others a little sooner.

"We were just discussing natural talents," Tobias says after a while. Hannibal gives a soft hum of acknowledgement. "I'm trying to discover Will's."

Hannibal smiles, at that. "Will is a man of many talents," he purrs, and Will shifts his weight, his blush darkening. Hannibal knows better than most, he supposes.

And, though he's not exactly wrong, Will doesn't like the small, lecherous sneer that passes over Tobias' face. He schools his expression quickly, for the sake of that Blue Blood politeness, but Will sees it, feels it wrap around his shoulders like a too-tight shirt. Unlike Hannibal, who has never once judged Will for what he did, Tobias is not so accepting.

But Tobias doesn't know about that, so much as Hannibal and Will's alleged affair. Not so alleged anymore, he supposes.

Hannibal nods, brushing past the look. Will is no longer fool enough to think Hannibal didn't see it. "As you've no-doubt already seen, Will is quite a skilled observer." Tobias hums, and takes another drink as Will does. "A keen study of human behavior."

"I wonder, what do you do for a living, Mister Graham?"

Will swallows, remembering that Tobias wasn't here the last time he was asked that question. When he made the allusion that he had been living on Hannibal's dime, a 'kept boy', as Hannibal had called him. "I was a physical therapist," he says, because that's an easy lie and not exactly incorrect. One might argue what he did was more cathartic for his clients than hours of simply talking about their feelings, at least in the short term.

He can feel Hannibal's eyes on the side of his face, amused and intrigued, but Tobias' look doesn't waver. "Interesting," he says, politely, because it's not interesting, at least not to him. "I wonder how that skillset translates to this show."

Will smiles. "The same way a music shop owner's skillset translates, I imagine."

Tobias laughs, at that, and lifts his glass, nodding in a lazy salute. "Touché."

"I daresay if this experiment has proven anything, it's that degrees and accolades are worth just as much as experience and natural talent," Hannibal says, drawing their attention. His eyes are on Will, dark, his smile faint. "There have been impressive leaps of intuition in this house, both with Will, Doctor Du Maurier, and Doctor Bloom."

"I'm amazed they managed a second season, quite frankly," Tobias says. "Not meaning to insult, but the premise of this game lacks a certain…cinematic flair."

Will grins, and takes another drink of the sweet port, lets it soften his teeth and loosen his tongue, and he says, "You just have to know how to work the camera." Tobias laughs. "And if Freddie and Chilton are good at one thing, it's making everything way more dramatic than it was. If you had seen the first season I can promise you, half the shit they did with editing didn't happen the way it did."

"It's true," Hannibal says mildly. "The way they cut together the first season showed Will threatening me with bodily harm if someone mistreated Doctor Bloom."

Tobias snorts, a rather unruly sound. The port and music has put him in a good mood. "And that didn't happen?"

"No," Hannibal replies fondly, looking to Will with an affectionate smile. "He was threatening everyone. I just happened to be the one he told about it."

Will rolls his eyes, blushing.

"Quite a rocky start to a relationship," Tobias says, chuckling.

Hannibal smiles, and sighs, and reaches out to take Will's hand. "On the contrary," he says, and Will goes still, their eyes meeting. "I found Will's protectiveness wonderful." There's a softness, something unspoken now, hanging behind Hannibal's teeth. He will not voice it, but Will doesn't want him to – not right now, not with someone watching them.

There are some things too intimate, even for cameras.

Tobias hums, and then is suddenly taken by a wide, loud yawn. He blinks, breathing out harshly, and exhales into the back of his hand. "My, my, forgive me," he says, somewhat sheepish. "I suppose the drink is catching up with me."

Hannibal nods. "It's getting late," he says, and though his expression is neutral, detached, his fingers squeeze around Will's in unmistakable eagerness. Will bites his lower lip, shivers, heartbeat suddenly quickening with anticipation. He wants the night to end – he wants the dining room cleared, wants everyone in bed, wants his door closed and Hannibal, there, touching him in any way Will lets him.

His brushes his thumb down Hannibal's, flexes his claws. Soon, baby, I promise.

"Have a good night, Mister Budge," Hannibal says cordially, smiling as Tobias rises and gives them both a nod. He takes his port glass to his room, Will notices, as well as his violin, the black case of it gleaming in the low light. They watch him ascend the stairs and go to his room and Will's heart beats loud, fast, and he imagines they are two wolves, waiting for the rabbit to creep close enough to bite. Pack hunters.

Hannibal does not rise and rush to him immediately. Will half expected him to, but he doesn't, instead nursing his port, taking a deep inhale, then a drink. Will mimics him, because it's easy to mimic Hannibal, and he likes the look of him, like this; stark in his black and white suit, severe with shadows. He looks skeletal and monstrous.

Will squeezes his hand, drawing Hannibal's attention. "Do you need help with the dishes?" he asks.

Hannibal tilts his head, a spark of pleasure in his irises. He smiles, and lifts Will's knuckles, brushing his lips along them as Will shivers.

"Thank you, Will, I'd appreciate that," he murmurs. Will nods, finishes his port with one swallow, and then his wine with the next, and he rises as Hannibal does. They gather the rest of the plates and glasses, using the tray, and Will follows Hannibal to the kitchen and sets it all down on one side of the sink as Hannibal fills it. Inside, the roast's dish is there already, having been soaking while they all ate. There lingers in the air the scent of the meat, the potatoes and onions, the thick gravy and crisp aftertaste of spinach.

Will comes to a halt on the other side of the sink as Hannibal turns on the faucet, until the water that comes out is faintly steaming. He doesn't seem to mind the heat, and squirts soap on a sponge while Will grabs a second towel, ready to dry and stack.

"I spoke with Tobias some today," he says, in the comfortable silence. Hannibal tilts his head, and hands him a plate. "I feel like I'm getting closer. He's…ambitious. He wants to be famous, I think, but I don't know how to articulate that in terms of a secret. Or if it has anything to do with it."

Hannibal nods, neither denying nor supporting Will's theory. "He certainly seems eager to perform," he says, after a moment. "I have a great love of music, but playing it elicits a separate pleasure from simply listening."

Will grins. "Yeah, you like just sitting back and enjoying yourself, don't you?"

Hannibal huffs, gives Will a sidelong look, narrowed with playful agitation. "Only when the view is particularly stunning," he replies, and Will rolls his eyes, unable to hide his blush. He nudges at Hannibal's elbow, asking for another plate, and receives one once it's cleaned and rinsed.

They continue, and then Hannibal says, "I'll confess, Will, part of me is still hesitant at the idea of sharing your room tonight." Will hums, and nods, neither offended nor surprised.

"Because of the cameras?" he asks.

Hannibal sighs, and shakes his head. "No, darling. Well, perhaps, but that is a lesser concern." He gives Will another sidelong look, blows out a breath and cleans another plate before handing it to Will. "I find it…difficult, to restrain myself with you."

"Take a mile when I give you an inch?"

"I don't want to overstep."

Will sighs. "Look, Hannibal," he says, and flattens his hands on the edge of the sink, looks at the pool of soapy water, and breathes out. "Despite what you've seen, I'm actually more than capable of letting someone know if something's not working for me. This isn't like making a video, or being threatened with a knife, okay? Not even close."

He lifts his eyes, finds Hannibal's dark, contemplating the water as well.

Will lifts his hand, tucks it under Hannibal's chin. Turns him, so they're facing each other.

"I want you," he says, low, growling, watches Hannibal's lashes dip and his hands flex, wet, by his sides. "We'll figure out everything else as we go, hmm?"

Hannibal nods, pressing his lips together, and Will smiles. He drops his hand, and makes to turn away – sees, in the corner of his eye, hesitation, then hesitation overcome, and then Hannibal's hands are warm and wide, damp from the water. He grabs Will by the hip, at the shoulder, tugs him back and plants him against the counter. Will gasps, surprised despite himself, but lifts his mouth to meet Hannibal's.

They crush together, Hannibal's hand sliding from his shoulder, warm and tender, to the back of his neck, and Will shivers, groaning weakly, clutches at Hannibal's biceps as he's kissed. He parts his lips, trembles as Hannibal cups his head and holds him still, lets out a rough snarl, bares his sharp teeth against Will's lower lip.

Then, dips his head, and bites, and Will goes stiff, shivering. It's not a hard bite, doesn't hurt, but it's an unequivocal sign of desire, a primal thing that lesser men think they've evolved from. His nails dig into Hannibal's arms, through his jacket and his shirt, tug as he arches, shows his neck, shows his teeth as Hannibal's hand on his hip tightens, pulls.

Hannibal's fingers flex in his hair, scratch along his scalp, and he pulls Will back, kisses wide and wet along his jaw, until he finds his mouth again. His eyes are open, slits of black beneath heavy lids and Will's are no better, swallowed, sharp. Hannibal kisses him again, tilts his head, pressing in with tongue and Will shudders, nods, breathes "Yes", and runs his hands up Hannibal's arms, to the back of his neck, to his shoulder. Needs, needs it, and heat runs down his spine and pools in his belly as he licks behind Hannibal's teeth and hears him snarl.

He parts from Will, breathing heavily, his cheeks blossoming with red and his eyes wild, near-gold in the light. His lips, pink and bruised. Will touches his own mouth and finds it tender. Hannibal's eyes drop, and he swallows, and his hand flexes on Will's hip.

"Terrible, devastating boy," he growls.

Will shivers, sucks in a breath, raises his eyes and smiles. Trails his fingers lightly over Hannibal's shoulders, down his chest. Finds his tie again, fists, tugs just a little until Hannibal's eyes flash.

"You like it," he purrs. The thing that is staring at him from behind Hannibal's eyes is easy to read. It is hungry, and Will is a feast. He leans in, cups Hannibal's face and licks into his mouth, pleased when Hannibal sighs, arching against him, feline and purring. Will kisses him until he needs the air back, and parts with a sigh, smiling when Hannibal's fingers curl and tug gently at his hair.

"I do," Hannibal breathes, after a moment of silence, catching their breath. He tilts his head, nuzzles Will's hair, presses gentle kisses to the side of his face. "You are beautiful, enchanting, tempting beyond measure." Will smiles, and Hannibal sighs. There is another catch of hesitation, something desperately wanting in the way Hannibal touches him, and he is warm and solid and fine.

Hannibal nudges him, their noses brushing, and catches Will's lips with his own like he just can't help himself. Will sighs, moans, and pushes gently at Hannibal's chest.

"Come on," he murmurs. "We need to finish these. I know it'll bother you if they're not done."

Hannibal blows out a breath, looking towards the remaining dishes. His jaw bulges, an adorable combination of impatience and fondness crossing his face; fondness, for Will acknowledging his need to keep everything in order, and the impatient desire to bring Will upstairs and have his wicked way.

Then, a decision comes over him, and he shakes his head and tugs on Will, pulling him away from the counter, to the door.

"Leave them," he breathes, and Will blinks, huffs out a laugh of surprised pleasure. But he doesn't argue, and allows Hannibal to take his hand and lead him upstairs.

 

 

They part ways at Will's door, because Hannibal shouldn't have to sleep in a suit and they're pretending that everything will be perfectly chaste once they are together in Will's bed. Will smiles, but allows it, and goes into his room, changing into a too-large white t-shirt and a pair of boxers only. Then, he rolls his shoulders, and looks up, spying the little blinking red light of the camera in his room.

He huffs. No, whatever happens in here, they're not going to see that. It's exactly the kind of shit Freddie and Chilton would love to air.

Decided, he eyes the bedside table. It should be tall enough. He leans down and takes the lamp, setting it on the bed, and carries the table over to the corner where the camera is fixed. He takes his shirt from the day, wraps it around his knuckles, and carefully climbs up, wincing at the soft creak of wood.

He braces himself against the wall, and reaches up, pleased that he's tall enough to get to the camera. He wraps the shirt around the body of it, making sure the lens is covered, and uses the head hole to twist it and loop again, and again, until he's certain that the camera is blinded.

Hannibal enters, just as he's climbing down. He looks up, head tilted curiously, and smiles.

"Privacy?" he murmurs.

Will nods, dusting his hands off. "I don't want them to see anything," he says, and huffs. "Don't know about sound, though. We'll have to be quiet."

"You certainly have a way of setting the mood," Hannibal murmurs with a low laugh.

Will grins, and shrugs. "Well, I'd rather ruin it now than later," he replies. "Of course, that's assuming you want to do anything. Or, even, that I want to do anything." Hannibal laughs, and Will fixes him with a look, haughty and detached. "Something funny?"

"Terribly amusing," Hannibal replies, showing his teeth. "You are delightful."

"I'd hate for you to get cocky," Will says, and brushes past Hannibal until he's at the door. He grabs his pile of clothes that he'd used to fashion his little defensive measure, tightens it with a grunt, and turns to see Hannibal looking at it, expression unreadable.

Until he sighs, and then it's obvious. "I wish you felt safe here, Will."

Will presses his lips together, resists the instinctive urge to laugh the sentiment away. It warms him, to think that Hannibal even worries about stuff like that.

He turns off the light, lets the light coming from outside illuminate the space, color everything pale and silver – in the middle of it all, Hannibal, a tall silhouette. He steps into Hannibal's space, shivers at the feeling of soft cotton instead of layers of suits and high-collared shirts. Hannibal's t-shirt sags at the neck from years of use, hangs from his broad chest, warm and so thin between Will's fingers.

He turns, and tugs, leading Hannibal to bed. He sits, and crawls back, pleased when Hannibal leans down and prowls into place beside him. Will's hand knocks against the lamp and he huffs, flopping to his back and rolling so he can set it down gently on the floor.

A move that Hannibal takes advantage of, as Will hoped he might – good. He flattens himself to Will's back, cups Will's collarbones with a wide-spread hand and Will shivers, biting his lower lip, lifts up until he feels heated muscle along his back, pressing between his thighs. Hannibal entwines himself like a snake, his lips soft at the arch of Will's ear.

Will lifts his hand, slides his fingers into Hannibal's hair, finds it damp, product combed out. He smiles, lets his eyes close as Hannibal edges his teeth gently down his neck. He bows down, clenches his free fist.

"There," he whispers, when Hannibal's lips brush over his nape, just shy of his spine. Hannibal stalls, snarls, parts his lips and bites down on the bared skin and Will moans, weakly, feels Hannibal's hand tighten at the base of his neck, hears the shift of duvet and sheets as he spreads his legs and lets Hannibal rut. "Fuck, shit -."

Hannibal releases his neck, presses his nose to Will's hair and breathes in deep. "Turn around, Will," he commands, and Will whines, but obeys, turning onto his back and pressing his hands to Hannibal's chest. Hannibal rears up, large and savage in the darkness, and takes Will's wrists in his hands.

Flattens them, to the bed, nails dug in.

Pushes them up until he has Will pinned, wrists locked together.

Will gasps, looks up. Flexes his arms, to test Hannibal's strength, but finds him unmoving.

"Oh, God," he whispers.

Hannibal smiles, a rumble in his throat when he leans down, claiming Will's mouth, and Will moans, loudly, arches his hips and spreads his legs and oh, there he is – Will can feel him, feel the insistent bulge of Hannibal's cock sliding against his own through their clothes. His mouth floods with saliva, his heart spasms and his lungs seize, and if he doesn't get to touch Hannibal soon he might actually die.

Hannibal bites down on his lower lip, dragging a ragged, raw sound from Will's throat, and then releases him, kissing his way down Will's jaw, to his bared neck. Will growls, lifts his thighs to cage Hannibal in, ruts upwards until he feels Hannibal's cock, can dig his heels against Hannibal's calves.

Hannibal shakes above him, drags his nails down Will's forearms, still heavy, warning him against moving. Will keeps his hands up, reaches and curls his fingers around the topmost ridge of the pillow. Hannibal, it seems, can't decide where to put his hands. They flatten behind Will's shoulders, cup the blades, drag down with pressing nails until they reach the soft flesh above his hips. Widen, tighten, and Hannibal snarls against his throat.

He lifts his head, and in the low light, his entire eye looks black.

"Tell me now," he breathes. "How far do you want this to go?"

Will swallows, wets his lips just to see how Hannibal's attention flashes to them. His heart is racing, his voice weak when he says, "Do you have a condom, or anything?"

Hannibal huffs, a sound more of self-deprecation than annoyance, and shakes his head.

"Shit," Will mutters. He lifts his hands, needing desperately to feel Hannibal's warmth, wraps his legs around Hannibal's waist, drags him close, trembles at the press of him. He tilts his head back, hears Hannibal growl in the darkness, and shivers. "I want you inside me."

Hannibal rears up, plants one hand by Will's head. His other hand touches Will's cheek, thumb to the corner of his mouth. His breathing is loud, burns into Will where he lies, and he aches, God does he ache.

"Will," Hannibal breathes, and Will can tell how desperate he is as well. He'd do it, if Will asked.

Will leans up, cups Hannibal's nape and kisses him, drags him close. He slides his hand down Hannibal's chest, feels his breath catch, his stomach sink in. He grabs at Will's hips, holding him tightly, rears back so he's on his knees and Will is in a slack, vaguely-upright position, using Hannibal for leverage, drawn to his teeth and lips.

He sinks his hand down, below the waistband of Hannibal's silky pajama pants, and they both let out soft groans as Will wraps his hand around his cock. He's thick, uncut, soaking wet at the head. Will shivers, clinging tighter, twists his wrist so that Hannibal's cock ruts against his forearm, peeking out of his clothes.

"Will," Hannibal growls, and he's showing his teeth, now, baring his claws. Will kisses him, squeezes his cock, runs the ring of his fingers all the way down, back up. His mouth is watering, a sharp hunger piercing his belly, begging for it.

"Fuck," he hisses, as Hannibal's hands finally figure out how to lift his shirt, bare skin. His fingers drag, blunt but heavy, down either side of his spine as Hannibal clings to him. "God, look at you." He rubs his palm over the head of Hannibal's cock, shivering at how slick he is. His jaw aches from clenching it so hard – if he parts his teeth, he'll have to let Hannibal fuck between them, it doesn't feel like a choice. Hannibal is trembling, so desperately wanting to claw. Will tugs at his hair, kisses the delicate skin beneath his ear, which is starting to grow warm and damp with sweat. "C'mon baby, that's it, mark me up."

Hannibal makes a low, ragged sound, gathers Will up and presses him down onto the mattress. Will moans in encouragement, sitting up just long enough to take off his shirt, throwing it over and off the bed. Hannibal pauses, eyes wild, lips parted. He looks at Will like he wants to eat him alive.

Will takes one of his hands, presses it flat to his neck, low. Where Matthew's scratches end. "Touch me," he whispers. Hannibal's nostrils flare, his upper lip twitches. "Do whatever the fuck you want to me."

Hannibal's hand flexes. Fingers, curling, nails sharp. Will gives a soft sound of encouragement; he wants it, he wants it. Hannibal leans down, nudges Will's head to one side, parts his jaws and kisses, wet and wide. It sends goosebumps all down Will's arms, he's shaking under Hannibal's heat.

"Please, Hannibal." Hannibal's shoulders tense and roll beneath his hand, tighten when Will reaches between their bellies and wraps his fingers around Hannibal's cock. Hannibal growls, and Will feels teeth. "Yes, yes, please."

Hannibal bites, and Will shivers, rolling his hips up. He shoves his underwear down to expose his own cock, slicks Hannibal's wet cockhead against his shaft and gathers them in one hand. He can't squeeze as tightly, this way, but Hannibal's teeth set him alight, and his nails rake down Will's chest. Hannibal shudders, rutting against Will, and finally, finally, Will feels his person suit shatter entirely.

Hannibal leans up, nudges their foreheads together, noses brushing, and then his hand wraps tight in Will's hair and he kisses Will, wet, open-mouthed. His other hand finds its mark behind Will's knee, claws it up and folds him as Will moans, spreads his legs, lets Hannibal fuck against him as if he were buried deep inside Will.

Hannibal lets him breathe, only long enough to whisper a ragged cry of Hannibal's name, and then there are teeth at his neck, spread wide, biting again, and it sends ricochets of heat down Will's spine. Hannibal tucks Will's leg over his arm, keeping him pinned in place, heavy and warm and strong. He lets Will's hair go, lets his leg go, digs his nails in the small of Will's back and rakes, harsh, burning lines rising up on Will's back.

It makes Will shiver, his cock twitching in his hand. Hannibal pauses, panting, lifts up to meet Will's eyes.

"Do you like pain?" he asks, and he doesn't sound human anymore.

Will bites his lip, and nods.

Hannibal smiles, slow, wide, showing teeth. He prowls up Will's body, nudges until Will tilts his head back, exposing his throat, gasps as Hannibal kisses him, cupping his face – a stark moment of tenderness that makes Will's body tremble.

And suddenly, the fact that Hannibal is still clothed is unbearable. He releases their cocks, paws at Hannibal's hanging shirt with a low whine. "Off, take this off," he demands, and Hannibal purrs, bowing his head so Will can pull his shirt up, lifts his arms and allows Will to tug the damn thing off, and throw it away. Will's hands spread out along Hannibal's chest, feeling thick hair.

"Fuck," he growls, rears up and yanks Hannibal to him. Hannibal cradles his head, lets out an amused hum as Will kisses his chest, rubs his cleanshaven jaw over it. He buries his nose against Hannibal's heart, breathes in deeply, purrs as Hannibal pets him.

"Mm." He lifts his eyes, finds Hannibal staring down at him. His lips drag, he hears Hannibal growl, lashes fluttering when Will licks over one of his nipples, sucks it into his mouth, tongue wet and wide. His nails drag through Hannibal's chest hair, down over his stomach. "I like this."

"I can tell," Hannibal murmurs, not laughing, but distinctly pleased.

Will huffs, nuzzling, unrepentant. "Give me a break. I haven't let anyone touch me in years."

Hannibal's fingers still, just for a moment. Enough that Will sighs, looking up, finds Hannibal looking down at him with a heady mix of desire and affection. He tugs Will back, leans down and kisses him, deeply, pressing him down onto the bed.

"Then we have a lot of injustice to make up for," he says, and Will bites his lower lip, shivers as Hannibal wraps a hand around Will's cock. His own precum has made it wet, but still Hannibal removes his hand, licks his palm, and then returns his touch. Will's lashes flutter, close, he arches his neck and moans, clawing Hannibal's chest as Hannibal strokes him. Hannibal kisses his bared throat, licks over the pink remnant of his teeth, bites lightly at Will's jaw. "You are the most thoroughly deserving man I have ever met, Will. You deserve to be touched, and kissed, whenever possible."

Will swallows, thighs tightening, stomach sinking in. Hannibal's touch is firm and assured on his cock, his thumb dragging through the slit; Will must have tells, because Hannibal seems to know just how to touch him. He puts pressure at the base of Will's cock, tugs gently, eases his fingers up and goes suffocatingly tight around the head. It's perfect, Will claws at his shoulders and bares his teeth, moans loudly when Hannibal grabs him by the back of the neck and digs his nails into where Will asked him to bite.

Hannibal kisses him, swallows down Will's plaintive cries as they get sharper, needier. Will wraps his arms and legs around Hannibal, spasms sharply as he feels Hannibal's thick cock rut against the crease of his hip, wet and soaking into his underwear.

He pulls back, gasping desperately for air, and rests their foreheads together, pawing at Hannibal's hair – wants him mussed, a mess, by the time Will is through. "Fuck," he snarls, when Hannibal tugs on his hair. "God, yeah, m'gonna -."

Hannibal growls, rears back to his knees and lets go of Will's hair. He wets his other hand and lets it take over, his first one sinking into Will's underwear, forcing it to dig into his hips. Will whimpers, arching, lashes fluttering as Hannibal's thick fingers cup his balls, working behind them to where Will is pliant and sensitive.

"Please," he gasps, pawing at Hannibal's wrists, his forearms. Hannibal tilts his head, lifts his upper lip, and Will forces himself to look up, to meet his eyes. Hannibal's hand drags up his cock, tendons and veins standing out, muscles flexing in his arms. He's so strong, so absolute, Will's thighs tremble, his knees hitch up, chest heaving. He's sweaty and shaking and so fucking close -.

Hannibal pauses, and Will whines sharply, panting as Hannibal's hand slows on him. "Don't stop," he begs, and Hannibal's mouth twitches in a smile, feral and savage. He pulls his hand out of Will's underwear, prowls over Will and pushes his fingers against Will's lower lip.

Leans down, so Will's lips part on instinct, and Hannibal slides them in. Will moans, trembling at the casual ownership. He holds Hannibal's wrist, meets his eyes and slicks his fingers, and Hannibal huffs, pulls back with a growl.

"Tempting boy," he whispers, and Will bites his lower lip, arches, desperate. Hannibal returns to stroking his cock and his fingers slide into Will's underwear, and now they're slick – slick enough to brush over his rim. Hannibal's cock twitches at the sound he lets out, thick and heavy between Will's legs, and Hannibal's jaw clenches, he twists his hand and Will moans, clawing at him, eager, as Hannibal presses a finger inside, shoves in like Will has been doing this for years. It's a sharp sensation, but one Will remembers, he knows how to bear down and relax through it, knows how to make it feel good.

"Oh, God," he pants, blinking up, dazed, at Hannibal's silhouette. Bares his teeth and knows Hannibal can see them. "Crook it up, just like -." He stutters, breath catching, as Hannibal does exactly that. Of course, he was a surgeon, he knows just where to touch Will. His finger is long, brushes just shy, and Will grits his teeth and growls, "Give me another."

Hannibal doesn't ask if he's sure. Will moans, pawing at the innards of his thighs, cups his balls beneath Hannibal's other hand as Hannibal pushes in with his second slick finger. It burns, but God it's a good burn, and Will senses they both like the feeling of forcing Will to take it. His muscles seize, clamping down as Hannibal's fingertips brush against his prostate – an assured, firm touch.

"Fuck," Will gasps, "fuck." He closes his eyes, rakes his free hand over his own neck, as Hannibal's hand wraps around the head of his cock and goes tight. His other fingers stroke, that delicious 'Come here' motion and Will wants to go, he wants, he wants -.

So close.

Needs.

Hannibal tugs on Will, forces him closer in his lap, and Will whines and writhes and reaches for him, claws at him. Pushes himself upright, sitting across Hannibal's thighs, clings to his shoulders and kisses him desperately.

He pulls back, panting for air, and rests his forehead on Hannibal's shoulder, clutches with his nails, whines. And then Hannibal's mouth is at his ear, Will can hear his ragged breathing, feel the heat of it and the drag of his sweat, rubbing against his own smooth chest, burning a stain against him that will linger for days. It's been so long since sensation like this came with so much heat, and he's shivering, melting like ice in a thaw.

Hannibal growls, and Will whimpers, pets up through his hair, clenches his eyes shut. Hannibal's hand pulls out, accommodating Will's shift in position, instead slides down his back to fuck him from behind and Will moans, sagging. "That's it, darling." Will nods, absently registering the words, grinding desperately against Hannibal's hand and cock and stomach, back onto his fingers. His thighs tense. Hannibal lets out a ragged noise, nudges at Will's neck.

Bites.

Will groans, stiffening up as that final, sharp sensation registers in his brain. He shoves his forehead against Hannibal's shoulder, bearing down around his fingers, and comes with a hoarse cry, clinging to Hannibal's nape. He feels his come wetting Hannibal's hand, pooled with his fist so tight and nowhere for it to go. It's warm, and his whole body flushes, shaking, his breath coming in panting gasps as Hannibal purrs, nuzzles his sensitive neck. He pulls his fingers out of Will, wipes them on his pajama pants, and then fists a hand in Will's hair.

"Beautiful," he murmurs, and Will shivers as he strokes down, pulling a sharp aftershock that makes Will's stomach tighten, his sore rim spasm and clench around nothing. Will lifts his head, heavy, kisses Hannibal lax and sated. He rolls his hips, shivering when he feels Hannibal's erection press between his thighs.

"How do you want me?" he whispers, gathers Hannibal's come-soaked hand in his own and wraps them both around Hannibal's cock. Hannibal snarls, shoulders rolling, nostrils flared as Will spreads his scent.

He lifts his head, nudges Will's nose with his, and says, "On your back."

Will nods, smiling, and lets go. He pushes himself from Hannibal's lap, settles against the bed with his head on the pillows. Hannibal prowls over him, nudges his thighs apart and flattens his hands on them, one slick, the other dry.

Hannibal's eyes rake over him, and Will hums, smiling, arches his back and drags his nails along his neck, down his chest, raising little red lines. Hannibal's exhale is heavy, and his palms slide in, slicking Will, marking him. Nails dig into his flanks, rake down to his hipbones in a way that makes Will's eyes fall shut, his exhale soft and pleased.

Hannibal, it seems, is content to hold him just like that; fingers cupping Will's hips, he tugs on Will, fucks forward with his cock, drags it along Will's bunched-up clothes and his flagging erection. It's something very…unrefined, Will thinks, the primal desire to spread scent, to soak in Will's. Will swallows, reaches down and wraps his fingers around Hannibal's thick cock, hums when Hannibal growls, tilts his head back, lips parted.

Will smiles, taking advantage of the view to figure out what Hannibal likes. He brushes his nails up the underside of Hannibal's cock, tightens his hand at the head, gently thumbs at his foreskin until the leaking slit is revealed. Hannibal likes a thumb just below the head, he learns, likes it tight at the base, likes slow strokes down and quick ones up.

Really likes it when Will gathers his precum on his thumb, then sucks it into his mouth to taste. Hannibal snarls, fucking forward, both hands digging into Will's hips as Will moans, makes a show of sliding his fingers deep into his mouth, sucking them clean with a loud noise.

"Will," he snarls, and shakes his head. Sweat shines on him, lit up silver by moonlight, shards of precious metal in a cliff face. Will reaches up for him, pets through the thick layer of hair on his chest, drags his nails down just to feel Hannibal's muscles flex and judder.

"I want you to come on me," he breathes, watches with delight as Hannibal's rhythm falters, just for a second, feels his cock twitch in Will's hand. "Wanna rub it in, make you lick it off."

Hannibal growls, low, and his hands move from Will's hips, claw at his thighs. He pushes at Will's legs, folds him, strong shoulders and heavy weight keeping him pinned. Will shivers, and thinks of how good it would feel for Hannibal to fuck him, just like this. Next time, maybe.

But oh, Hannibal is making it so easy to imagine. He ruts his cock against Will's belly, tucks Will's knees over his elbows, corrals and keeps Will pinned, weight heavy over him. He grabs at Will's shoulders, claims his mouth in a rough kiss and Will whimpers into it, paws at Hannibal's nape, wanting him close.

Hannibal clings to him, kisses him again, again, parts only when there's no more air and breathes out, pressing Will to the mattress. He couldn't get away even if he wanted to. Will closes his eyes, nuzzles his neck, sighs and strokes with his other hand.

"Will." The way Hannibal says his name sounds like a prayer and a curse all at once. Will shivers, bites his lower lip. "My beautiful boy," Hannibal rasps, and Will's eyes fly open, his body tenses up all over with a sharp spasm of pleasure. Hannibal snarls; a wolf with the scent. "That's what you want to hear, isn't it? That you're mine."

Oh, God.

Will swallows, buries his forehead against Hannibal's neck, clings with everything he can, and nods. Hannibal lets out a heavy, pleased sound. Ducks his head and bites Will again. Will draws in a breath, slowly, through his parted teeth. He presses as close to Hannibal as possible, claws desperately at him, heart racing, his stomach aching sharply despite the fact that he's already finished. His cock twitches, aches as he forces Hannibal's against it.

"That works both ways," he breathes, his heart in his throat, building, building.

Hannibal is smiling; Will can feel it against his neck.

"Was there any doubt?"

Will shivers, and shakes his head.

Hannibal lets out of a soft, pleased sound, and grabs Will's wrists again. "Wrap your legs around me, darling," he purrs, and Will obeys with another weak sound as Hannibal flattens his wrists to the mattress, pinning him down. Lifts them, sliding under the pillows, and laces their fingers together tightly. Will tightens his grip, knuckles white, heels locking at Hannibal's back and pulling in, so Hannibal grinds against his stomach and soft cock as hard as possible.

Hannibal growls, bows down to dig his teeth into Will's collarbone, shows him a glimpse of the ridge of his shoulders, tensed and arched like a winged beast about to take flight. Hannibal goes still, suddenly, and Will feels the shiver run down his spine.

He closes his eyes, bites his lower lip to stifle his whine as he feels Hannibal's cock twitch, thicken, and then the warmth of his come as it spills between their stomachs. Hannibal growls, and continues to rut, smearing his seed and prolonging the sensation since Will's body is so eager for it. Will unhooks his ankles, petting down Hannibal's flanks, his thighs, since he can't use his hands. Hannibal's grip on him is tight, almost hurts.

Then, Hannibal snarls, beast-like, all animal, and forces Will's head to one side, presses in, and bites down. Hard enough that Will feels delicate blood vessels burst under his teeth. He doesn't split skin, but it hurts, and Will flinches, squeezing Hannibal's hands weakly. It's high on his throat, where shirts won't hide it; a public and thorough marking.

Which, Will knows, is precisely the point.

Hannibal's body stills, he sighs, licks over the mark he left on Will's neck. He lets Will's hands go, rumbling in pleasure when Will immediately pets over his bare shoulders, up through his sweaty hair. They're both slick, the room reeks of sex, and Will eagerly lifts his head and claims a kiss when Hannibal meets him.

His hands are idle, dragging down Hannibal's back, petting him. He tucks Hannibal back into his pajama pants, corrects his underwear until it sits low-slung on his hips. Too warm for shirts, and he wants to touch Hannibal's chest, feel his strength and the heaviness of his pounding heart.

It feels like he should say something to break the silence. But silence with Hannibal has always had that challenge, that pressure; lesser men feel compelled to break them, and Will isn't one of them. So he contents himself with soft noises, sweet sighs of pleasure meant to coax and lure, gentle kisses to Hannibal's mouth and jaw and sweaty neck.

Finally, Hannibal pulls back, and smiles, settling on his side. He lets Will stretch and roll to his stomach, and reaches out to pet over his bare spine.

Then, he takes one of Will's hands, sticky and smeared with come. There's a mischievous glint in his eye and Will shivers, biting his lower lip as he leans in and licks into the saddle of Will's thumb, up over his forefinger, and sucks his dirty fingers into his mouth.

Will's breath catches. "I was only half-serious," he murmurs.

Hannibal huffs, and pulls his mouth away, kissing Will's knuckles instead.

"I like indulging you," he replies.

Will rolls his eyes, but he's smiling and sated, and tugs at the rumpled sheets until he can pull them over his body. Hannibal settles at his side, beneath the duvet, and pets over Will's back once more. Will can feel the warmth of him, emanating like a space heater, and it's nice, soothing, to have someone like Hannibal in his bed.

It feels like he should say more, but before he can, Hannibal smiles. From the angle of the bed, the light shines on his face, reveals muscles lax with satisfaction, black eyes, an expression of fond, simple pleasure, the same after any good meal. He leans in and Will meets him, kisses with a simple press of lips that, unlike all the others, is simply good. Pure, simmering joy that runs no risk of turning to lust.

Will likes it; he's never been kissed like that before.

Hannibal pulls back, and pets through his hair. Sighs, through his nose. "Get some sleep, Will."

Will's brows rise. "Just me?" he teases.

"I…" A somewhat sheepish smile crosses Hannibal's face. "I'd like to go finish the dishes now."

Will snorts, and rolls his eyes. "Fine," he replies. "But I'm rigging the door behind you. So anything you wanna do or say tonight, do or say it now."

Hannibal smiles, sweet and pleased, and, in answer, simply asks for another kiss. Will gives him one.

Chapter Text

Will wakes up happy, groggy, and undeniably sore. He stretches out, rolling to his stomach and muffling a soft groan of complaint, feeling the subtle twinges in his thighs, his shoulders; muscles that haven't had to deal with strain for a long, long time.

Still, sharper, his neck. He sighs, petting over the side of it, lips twitching in a smile when he finds it tender, subtle bumps marking Hannibal's teeth. It doesn't feel bruised, just a pink-ringed bite like that of a dog. If he were so inclined, he could probably cover it with makeup.

He's not going to.

He pushes himself upright, pleased to see that his rig is still intact. He runs his hands through his hair, absently picking at the dried come on his belly – his and Hannibal's. His chest is sore, little red lines along his flanks, his back, and a burn spreading from his collarbones to his sternum from Hannibal's chest hair. All in all, he's quite thoroughly marked, and likes the feeling of it as he changes his underwear, pulls on a new set along with a pair of jeans, and then a long-sleeved shirt. It won't cover his neck, but it'll hide the soft fingerprint bruises along his wrists.

And imply that there's more to hide than what he got.

He pulls on a pair of socks, undoes the rig and leaves the room, hands in his back pockets. He can smell food cooking, and eyes the clock hanging halfway down the hallway. It's just past nine in the morning, the sun has long-since risen. He looks downstairs and sees Bedelia on the couches, nursing a cup of tea. On the patio, Matthew.

He doesn't see Tobias anywhere.

He presses his lips together, weighing his options. If it's Hannibal in the kitchen, or Tobias, Will knows Matthew won't try anything. He swallows, rubbing absently along the back of his neck, winces when that, too, proves sore. He goes downstairs, as quietly as he can manage, and prowls to the kitchen.

Hannibal is in the room, wearing only suit pants and a white shirt. His collar is open, his sleeves rolled up to his forearms, his hair not slicked back like it normally is, but softer, a sleek mesh of silver and ash. He's turned away from Will, his attention on something in a large skillet, but as Will comes to a halt, he freezes, lifts his head.

Breathes in, and turns, their eyes locking.

Will smiles, brushes his fingers along the door and comes to a stop beside Hannibal. The dishes from the night before have all been put away, and the counter is spotless. "Hey," he murmurs, barely resisting the urge to nuzzle Hannibal like a needy housecat.

Hannibal, it seems, has no such qualms. He smiles, turns his head, and plants a kiss to Will's hair. "Good morning, darling," he replies brightly. In the skillet is a mess of diced onions, chili flakes, and ground pieces of sausage. It smells wonderful and Will gives an appreciative hum.

Hannibal turns to him again, breathes him in again, lets out a soft, pleased sound. "You absolutely stink of sex, Will," he says, and he doesn't sound unhappy about it in the slightest.

Still, Will flushes. He rubs his hands together and pets over his mouth, down the side of his neck. Doesn't miss how Hannibal's eyes flash to it, and his hands momentarily go still. "Whose fault is that?" he teases.

Hannibal's eyes are bright with mirth. "I shoulder the blame happily, though I claim only half of it," he says. Will smiles, fingers flexing and falling to his sides. It's strange, but not unwelcome – the desire to touch Hannibal. Will hasn't shared space with anyone like that for a very, very long time, and now it's like being offered a bite of food, only to realize he was starving. He wants to feel Hannibal against him, wants to pet his shoulders and nuzzle his hair, bite at his chest and touch everywhere Hannibal will let him.

He folds his arms across his chest and brushes their shoulders, and that will have to do. "This breakfast for everyone?" he asks.

Hannibal shakes his head. "Bedelia has already eaten, and Matthew said he wasn't hungry." He smiles at Will. "This is just for us."

"What about Tobias?"

"No one seems to have seen him about the house this morning, but I intend to leave some of this for him." A brief pause. "Perhaps he is still sleeping."

Will frowns, and hums. "Perhaps." Of them all, Tobias has consistently been the earliest riser as far as Will could tell. It seems strange to him that he would be sleeping this late.

He swallows, and runs a hand through his hair. "I'm gonna go shower," he says, and Hannibal nods. Will hesitates, and then turns to him, cups his face and rises to his toes, stealing a chaste, warm kiss. When he pulls away, Hannibal looks stunned, and then his expression softens in a wide smile.

"Go, you tempting thing," he purrs, and Will flushes, grinning, and turns away. He passes the backs of the couches, makes sure Matthew is still out on the patio, and then goes upstairs, to his bedroom. He grabs his toiletry bag and then leaves, and heads to Hannibal's room. Bedelia looks up and Will waves to her, earning a thin smile in return, before he ducks into Hannibal's room and closes the door. He tosses the bag onto Hannibal's bed, and counts to thirty.

Then, he leaves, and closes the door very quietly. Bedelia doesn't look up, Matthew is still on the patio, and he hears Hannibal in the kitchen.

Nodding to himself, he prowls down the hallway, to Tobias' room. Knocks twice, very lightly, before he grabs the door handle and silently opens the door. It swings inward, the lights are off, and Will bites his lower lip, looks over his shoulder, and then steps in and closes it behind him.

He turns on the light, wincing at the sudden brightness. Tobias' curtains are drawn, letting in no sun. His bed is perfectly made, not even a dip to suggest he was here last night. Will frowns. There's no bag, no clothes in the closet. For all intents and purposes, it looks like this room was never used – there aren't even scuffs in the carpet to suggest shoes.

He sucks in a breath, and wonders if he's even in the right room. But, no, this one is definitely Tobias'. Bedelia's is next door, Will could smell her perfume from here.

He turns off the light and leaves the room. Closes the door, winces at the click. Still, Bedelia doesn't look up. Matthew is still on the patio. Hannibal, still, in the kitchen.

Will's heart starts to race as he approaches Alana's old room. He opens the door and looks inside, finds nothing out of the ordinary. She took everything with her. The room Will was staying in, too, is unmarked except for where he slept – clearly no one has been in here to remake the bed.

He pauses outside the communal bathroom, and presses his ear to the door. No sound in there, either. He knocks, and opens the door to check.

Nothing.

Breathing deeply, and trying to convince himself that this isn't paranoia, just thoroughness, Will approaches Matthew's door. He reaches out, opens it silently, and creeps inside. The curtains are wide open, letting in a stark amount of sunlight. There's nothing especially extraordinary about Matthew's room – he has a suitcase open on the floor at the foot of his bed, a few coats and pairs of shoes in the closet, his toiletries spread out haphazardly on the little bedside table.

Will breathes out, steadily, fingers flexing by his sides. He walks into the room, unable to stop the shiver that runs down his spine – he's seen enough crime drama to half expect a fucking shrine built in his honor, but sees nothing of the sort, thank God. Not even one picture on the nightstand with his eyes scratched out, which is reassuring.

He swallows, looks over his shoulder as if able to see through the walls. He doesn't have a lot of time.

He kneels down, and looks under the bed, seeing nothing aside from a set of running shoes. He nods, then slides his hands down the edges of the mattress, underneath it, feeling for anything hidden. Nothing there, either. In the bedside table drawers, there is a little pocketbook filled with doodles – some of them very graphic, and Will ignores the sheer amount containing figures that look too close to him for comfort – and a pencil. As well, a self-help book about anger management. Clearly going to waste.

He huffs, closing the drawers. Lifts the pillows and finds nothing. He sighs, shakes his head, runs his hands through his hair. Honestly, he's not sure what he was expecting – there's no reason to suspect anything, and even further to suspect Matthew was involved. For all Will knows, Tobias got a call in the middle of the night from someone in the Famous Opera People Club and wanted him there. Or maybe he got bored of playing mind games with people he found unrefined and uninteresting.

Will sighs, straightens, and rubs his hands over the back of his neck. His eyes gravitate to the closet, and then lift.

He frowns.

There's a box on the top shelf.

Will prowls forward, reaches up and takes the box. It doesn't look like it once held anything Hannibal owned – it's an old shoebox, emblazoned with the Nike symbol, which are the same brand as another pair of shoes in the bottom of the closet.

Will presses his lips together, fingers shaking, and he holds the box to his chest. He doesn't know if he has time to look through whatever's inside right now, but if he takes it, he'll have to put it back before Matthew notices it's gone.

He opens it.

Inside is…well, it's closer to what Will expected. He swallows back his revulsion, his fear, at the sight of his own face, pictures that have clearly been cut out from tabloids. Some, though, some are older, and look like screengrabs from his website, printed out and saved. Ones where he was young, without facial hair, smiling at the camera. Some, coy, low-lidded. Some with bruises around his neck. Some that are far more obscene, and have stains on them.

He grimaces, grits his teeth, and pushes them to one side. Below the pictures is what looks like a box of medicine, and he frowns, turning it over, tilting his head. It's a sleeping aid, and in a flash of memory, Will recalls Alana saying Hannibal had gotten her some to help with her nausea.

Either Matthew needs help sleeping, or he stole these before she left. Will can guess which is the more likely option. He thinks of everyone last night, how suddenly tired they'd all been, all except him and Hannibal, and his stomach turns.

He's about to close the box and put it away, when the light catches a soft gleam on something thin, like a coil of hair. Will wraps his fingers in it, delicately, feels a flexing twine-like curl between his knuckles. It's a string, a violin string, and Will's eyes widen. He tugs it up, out of the box, and part of the string is red.

"Fuck," he whispers, and hurriedly stuffs it all back into the box, shoving it onto the shelf. He turns off the light in Matthew's room and makes sure everything looks as he found it, before he opens the door. Outside, the hallway is unoccupied, and Will carefully sidles out, closes the door, and flees to Hannibal's room.

Once inside, he turns and locks it, checks the bathroom – he won't be caught out like that twice – and then paces around Hannibal's bed, anxiously running his hands through his hair, jaw clenched as he muffles a series of curses behind his teeth.

Tobias is missing. Tobias is gone, and Matthew has a bloody fucking violin string hidden in his room along with a bunch of photos of Will and a Goddamn box of sleeping pills. There's only so many ways to interpret that, and though he is trying desperately to remain calm and think about this logically, there's a voice in the back of his head that is screaming panic, panic, and he can't stop pacing the floor, can't calm his breathing or his hammering heart.

He freezes at the sound of the door handle turning, the soft groan of wood as someone tries to push it open, only to be stopped by the lock. There is a pause, and Will hears over the roar of his pulse; "Will? Are you in there?" And a gentle knock.

He breathes out. It's Hannibal. "Yeah."

"May I come in?"

Will swallows, rubs his hands over his mouth, and forces his shoulders lax. Walks to the door, unlocks it and lets it open. Behind Hannibal, he sees Bedelia on the way to her room, and she pauses as though feeling his eyes on her.

He bites his lower lip, and steps to one side. "Both of you, get in here," he demands. "Now."

Bedelia blinks, fixes him with one raised brow, her head tilted, and Hannibal is doing the same thing, and for a moment they look so alike that Will would think they were hatched from the same clutch of eggs. But he doesn't have time for this – he grabs Hannibal's wrist and pulls him inside and gives Bedelia a look right back; challenging, one carcass to another.

Her lips purse, and she sighs through her nose, and walks with the same grace a princess might walk towards the guillotine. She is dressed in blue, today, the same grey-shell of storm clouds making her look pale and ethereal.

Will peers down as she passes, but doesn't see Matthew. He closes the door and locks it, turns to see Hannibal sitting on the end of his bed, by Will's discarded toiletry bag. Bedelia takes a seat at the chess table, in the chair facing the door. Unlike Hannibal, who sits with his feet apart, his hands clasped, elbows on his knees, she crosses one leg over the other, points her toe up as though ready to kick, sits back in her chair in a relaxed posture, shows her neck when she lifts her chin.

"Well, Mister Graham?" she asks coolly. "What can we do for you?"

Will resists the urge to bare his teeth at her. "We all have to get out of here," he says. "Right the fuck now."

They blink as one. Whether Hannibal is trying to match his reactions to Bedelia's or not, Will could not say – it's like putting something in a house of mirrors and trying to figure out which reflection is real. They mirror each other, a room full of liars and manipulators. Will has never felt more at home.

But Bedelia hums, her eyes flashing to Hannibal, briefly. "Why?"

Will swallows. "Tobias isn't here. I looked in his room – all his stuff's gone. It's like he was never there."

Hannibal blinks again, straightening, and Bedelia does the same a second later. Her hands are folded on her raised knee, and her eyes drop to the chessboard, which has been corrected from the topple Will created earlier.

"Perhaps he left during the night," she suggests slowly, and looks to Hannibal. "If Miss Lounds and Doctor Chilton contacted him…"

"An easy thing to confirm," Hannibal says with an agreeing nod, but his eyes are on Will. "He did have an early night. It's not unreasonable to think he rose before all of us did, and left without saying 'Goodbye'."

It's not unreasonable, but Will doesn't want reason. He knows, he knows that's not what happened.

"No," he growls. "Matthew did something to him. I'm sure of it."

"What do you think he did?" Bedelia asks, brows rising.

"I don't know!" Will snaps, and then shudders, shoulders rolling. He bares his teeth and swallows back the next snarl. "I just know he did something."

"Has Matthew shown any hostility towards Tobias?" Hannibal asks, and looks to Bedelia. She shakes her head, brow creasing in a fine line. "There's no discernible motive."

"He's trying to get rid of us," Will says. "Picking us off, one by one."

He knows Hannibal knows the endgame for that. He has no protective urge for Bedelia, not like with Alana, beyond some red-blooded male desire to defend the stereotypically weaker sex. Bedelia doesn't seem like a fighter, not in the way that matters to someone like Matthew. But Hannibal, oh, he'll defend Hannibal, and himself. To the death, if it comes to that.

"You don't believe me," he murmurs in the wake of their silence.

Hannibal breathes in, slowly. Exhales just as soft. "You have a hypothesis, Will," he says, and Will hates that tone of voice – it's a psychiatrist's tone. How does that make you feel? He swallows so he doesn't growl at Hannibal. "Where is your evidence?"

"How can you ask me that?" he demands, just as softly. "You know what he's done."

"What has he done?" Bedelia asks, tilting her head. Will winces – he doesn't want to tell her. Doesn't want to, but might have to.

"Matthew has shown a certain…obsessive regard for Will," Hannibal says, carefully neutral. Will watches, as her eyes flash, and her lips thin out. Her throat flexes as she swallows. "One that may prove violent."

Will scoffs. May prove.

She hums, and Will doesn't know if Matthew has told her as much. They do seem to spend a lot of time together, or at least a lot of time away from the others in close proximity.

"What would he gain, by ridding the house of Tobias?" she asks, in that same slow way she speaks, like she tests every word before giving it life. Her eyes move to Hannibal, then back to Will. "Tobias isn't the challenger for your affection."

"Gets rid of witnesses," Will says with a helpless shrug. "Anyone who might interfere." He looks at her, and sees she understands what he isn't saying. You're next, Doctor. "He's smart about it. He knows where the cameras are, where he can get away with doing shit without being noticed."

She nods. Drums her fingernails against her other hand. Says, very carefully, "We're getting ahead of ourselves. We should confirm, before anything else, if Miss Lounds and Doctor Chilton know anything that might shed some light on his whereabouts."

Which is reasonable, and suits her personality. Not his. Not Hannibal's.

Hannibal stands. "I will reach out immediately," he says. Will sighs – he can't argue with both of them, and she is right; he can't start making wild accusations without proof. He doesn't want to tell them about the box he found.

Hannibal moves to the door, squeezing Will's shoulder as he goes. Will turns to him, grabs his hand, and their eyes meet. "I'll only be a moment," he says, soft with promise. Will nods, swallows tightly.

"Be careful," he whispers. "Please."

Hannibal smiles, a soft shine of affection in his eyes, before he lets Will go and leaves the room. The door closes with a quiet 'click', and Will closes his eyes, listens to him descending the stairs until he cannot hear him anymore.

Bedelia is silent, for a long while, and Will sighs again, sitting where Hannibal left a dip in the bed. It's warm from him, and he looks over his shoulder, sees where the sheets and duvet have been pulled back into place after he slept, after he left Will's room. He swallows.

"I'm sure there's nothing to be worried about," Bedelia says, carefully calm.

Will laughs. "That's bullshit," he mutters, and looks at her, finds her still eyeing the chessboard. "You're as scared as I am; you're just scared of the wrong person."

She hums, and lifts her chin. Folds her hands together and squeezes. "Tell me, Will," she says, and turns to meet his eyes. "Is Matthew the only one you think we should be considering, if it turns out Mister Budge's absence is not explainable?"

Will frowns. Grits his teeth. "Are you accusing me of something?"

She smiles, and looks back at the board. Reaches out, idly, picking up the white king, rolling it around in her palm. "No," she says. Her eyes flash, pointedly, to his neck. "But he is not the only one with…violent inclinations."

Last week, Will would have argued with her. He knows better, now.

His frown deepens. He ducks his head and looks at his hands. Rolls his sleeves up, to reveal the little bruises left by Hannibal's nails. He's not stupid; he knows Hannibal is capable of it. Even in adoration, in worship, he shows his teeth. Will's neck throbs tenderly, his heart beating heavy.

But it doesn't make sense – Hannibal has no reason to get rid of Tobias, not like Matthew does. The only goal he can see is dwindling the residents of the house down, until there is no collateral, nothing standing in the way of Matthew and Will. Matthew said as much, that he'd get rid of whoever he had to so that he and Will could be together.

He sucks in a breath, corrects his sleeves, and runs his hands through his hair.

The door opens again, and Will looks up to see Hannibal entering. Bedelia sets the piece back down.

"I spoke with Miss Lounds," he tells them when the door is closed. He looks troubled. "She received no word from Mister Budge, but apparently her assistant received a phone call in the early hours, asking for him, and there was a call made to the red phone shortly after according to her logs. Though it's not monitored, it lasted for a long while. Perhaps he answered, and whatever he heard caused him to leave."

Will frowns. "Is there a car missing?" he asks. Hannibal's Bentley is the only car that has remained in the driveway, so that he might be able to chauffeur anyone in case of an emergency. Other than that, the NT America van is the only one that has come and gone.

Hannibal shakes his head. "No," he says, and gives Will a small smile. "But perhaps he arranged for a taxi from whoever he spoke with. It's not unreasonable to think so."

Will is really starting to hate that word.

"I have asked that Miss Lounds reach out to me, should she hear anything. I understand it's quite troubling, to have someone up and disappear in the middle of the night, but stranger things have happened."

Bedelia smiles thinly. "Well, I suppose that's that," she says, and stands. "Unless you have any additional evidence to support these wild accusations?"

Will huffs, and glares at her. He will get no help from her, today.

She pets down her skirt, and nods. "If that'll be all, gentlemen," she says, and then she leaves in a bright wave of golden hair and perfume. Will's nose wrinkles at the cloying, floral stink of it. He can't imagine how Hannibal, sensitive as his nose is, could stand it. Maybe she wears so much to hide the true scent of her flesh.

The door closes behind her, and Hannibal gives Will a smile, and turns to leave as well.

"Wait," Will snaps, and stands, his fingers clenching. Hannibal stops, and turns to regard him. "What the fuck was that about?"

Hannibal blinks, and his head tilts as Will approaches him. His nostrils flare, his eyes darken, and he reaches out to touch Will's wrist, over his shirt. Will shivers, shakes his head, but doesn't fight Hannibal from lifting his hand and pressing a warm kiss to the meat of his thumb.

"I don't believe in causing upset when there's no need," he says mildly.

Will huffs, a strangled sound. "He attacked me and you looked ready to rip him apart," he whispers. "Now he might have hurt someone else, killed him, and you'll do nothing."

"Perhaps I am playing favorites," Hannibal concedes, his fingers curling around Will's as he lets their hands drop. "But I am also not in the business of acting when there's no evidence to support my theory." Will huffs again, closes his eyes as Hannibal lifts his other hand, thumbs over the scratches and tiny cut on his jaw and neck. "I saw what he did to you. I have proof of it. Tobias? None."

"What if I could get you proof?" Will murmurs, and opens his eyes. Lifts them, to meet Hannibal's.

Hannibal tilts his head again. "Can you?"

"There's a box in Matthew's room," he says. "It's full of pictures of me. Sleeping aids. A violin string with blood on it."

Hannibal's jaw clenches. "That is…damning evidence," he says.

"He must have gotten the pills from Alana. Drugged everyone so he could do it easily."

Hannibal hums, and tugs gently at Will's wrist, guiding him to the bed. They sit on the end of it, thighs pressed tightly together. "Alright," he says. "Walk me through it. We're the last ones that saw Mister Budge. You're saying everyone was drugged, last night?"

Will nods. "Bedelia and Tobias hit the ground like a sack of bricks. He could have put one of the pills in their wine. Matthew and her were the only ones drinking white."

"I served the wine," Hannibal murmurs. "No one else touched it. He couldn't have drugged Bedelia without doing it to himself as well, if he tampered with the bottle. And there was no chance to do so during dinner, when we were all there."

Will frowns. "The port, then?"

"We all partook of that, and unless my memory is frighteningly vibrant and convincing, you and I were not tired in the slightest when we went to bed."

Will huffs. "True," he murmurs, and shakes his head, running a hand through his hair. "Fine. I don't know how he did it. Maybe he didn't use the pills. But the fact of the matter is no one can account for his whereabouts."

Hannibal's lips purse. "Perhaps the cameras?"

Will blinks, looks up, stares without seeing at the chessboard. Of course. "Did you ask Freddie and Chilton to look at them?"

"No, but that's something I can easily fix."

Will nods, swallows. He sighs, and turns his head, presses a gentle kiss to Hannibal's cheek. "I'd appreciate it," he murmurs. "Just for my own peace of mind."

"Of course, darling," Hannibal murmurs. His hand rises, sliding into Will's hair, and Will sighs again, lets himself be angled for a proper kiss – Hannibal is warm, his mouth so gentle. Will could easily get used to being kissed like that. Hannibal sighs, a deeply aching sound, his fingers curling and tightening around Will's nape. Will shivers, the bite on his neck throbbing tenderly, sending a ricochet of heat down his spine.

Then, Hannibal growls, and pulls away for air. "You smell like me," he breathes, irises dark, thin around his wide pupils. Will smiles.

"I haven't showered yet."

"Mm, evidently," he purrs, and smiles. Will blushes, head warm, and leans in for another kiss. "I'm so tempted to ask you not to, if only for my own perverse satisfaction."

Will's smile widens. He won't, if Hannibal asks him not to.

"I like it," he replies. "Being marked by you."

Hannibal's hand flexes on his neck, hints at nails. "Beautiful," he breathes, and kisses Will's jaw.

Will shivers, wets his lower lip, lifts his hands to cradle Hannibal's forearms. "You think so?" he asks, only half-teasing, his ego purring finely under Hannibal's touch.

"Yes," Hannibal says, without guile, utterly transparent. "You are already a masterpiece, and you bear my marks wonderfully." He pauses, breathes in. "And I like seeing them. Knowing I was the one who made them."

"Maybe I am attracted to violence," Will murmurs.

Hannibal hums, a slight tension in his shoulders, and he pulls back so he can meet Will's eyes. "Violence and fear can be exhilarating things," he says, "if used right. But you know that already. I only take pleasure in hurting you, knowing you like being hurt."

Will nods, lowers his lashes. Smiles, and tugs Hannibal for another kiss.

"Hannibal," he murmurs, and receives a hum in answer. "If I asked you to help me hurt someone else, would you?"

Hannibal blinks, tilts his head. Behind his eyes, his monster perks up, attentive. "I don't think there is a limit to the things I would do for you, Will," he says, and he is speaking honestly; Will can see it. "To make you feel safe. To make you comfortable being mine."

Will hums.

"Is there something specific you had in mind?"

"Maybe," Will says. "But not yet. Not right now."

Hannibal nods. The beast is in his pen, waiting to be released. All Will needs to do is open the door.

He sighs, and stands. "I'm gonna shower," he murmurs. "Then we can have breakfast. Deal?"

"Sounds wonderful," Hannibal replies. He smiles, and kisses Will's hand, before letting him go. He stands. "Come, lock the door behind me."

Will nods, and follows him to the door. Hannibal leaves, and Will locks the door, sighing in relief despite himself. He pulls off his shirt and heads to the bathroom, leaving it discarded on the floor.

 

 

Will emerges from the shower, clean and warm, pink-cheeked, and pulls his clothes back on with a sigh, running a towel over his head before tossing it in the hamper in the corner of Hannibal's room. Though, after a moment of consideration, he goes to his room and changes out his jeans for a pair of sweatpants – he hasn't gone clothes shopping in a while, and the waistband feels a little too tight when combined with Hannibal's excellent cooking. When he's done with the show, he knows he'll drop the excess, and stress makes him gain weight like a monster, but for now the looser waistband is a welcome change.

He leaves the bedroom and goes downstairs to find Hannibal sitting at the dining room table, with Bedelia and Matthew. There's a plate of food in front of him, and one in Will's spot, still-steaming.

His shoulders stiffen when he sees Matthew, and he shoots the back of the man's head a glare before he schools his expression, and takes his seat. Beside his plate is a cup of coffee, and a glass of water, and he gives Hannibal a grateful smile, settling in. The food smells delicious; eggs and sausage and onions. He takes a bite with a soft sound of pleasure.

Matthew's eyes move to him, and narrow, and his lips curl in an ugly snarl. "Looks like someone had fun last night," he spits.

Will smiles at him. "Don't worry, Matthew," he says lightly. "We didn't do much talking."

Hannibal coughs, uncharacteristically reactive, and hides his smile behind another bite of food. His knee nudges Will's under the table.

Matthew lets out a soft, angry sound, and jerks his head away like he's fighting a bit in his mouth. "Where is our dear friend?" he asks, and looks to Bedelia. She lifts a brow, regarding him coolly. "I haven't seen him since last night."

"Mister Budge has decided to leave the house, it seems," Hannibal replies mildly. "Unfortunate. I was quite enjoying our little concerts."

"You'll have to entertain yourself some other way," Matthew says darkly, his eyes back on Will. "I'm sure you'll have no trouble."

Will tenses, swallows back his growl, and takes another bite of food instead of responding.

"I wonder why he would have left," Bedelia says, and Will must admit, she is a lot better at being nonthreatening, playing to the softness of her voice and the natural slowness, set in mind, Will thinks, to provoke a feeling of calm, and deep thought. Unlike Hannibal, whose silences stretch out as stark, blank pages, she peppers hers in, compelling her conversation mates to speak more openly when they are allowed the chance. "I thought he was enjoying himself here."

"Maybe he didn't appreciate the obvious bias," Matthew says sharply. "Or certain people flaunting themselves around the house."

Will's jaw tightens. He hums, and takes a drink of coffee. "You're the only one who seems to mind it, Matthew," he replies.

In his periphery, he sees Hannibal's head tilt.

Matthew's eyes flash, blazing with anger. "Maybe something happened to him," he says. "Those cliffs are dangerous, and not well-lit. He could have fallen."

Will shakes his head. "All his bags were packed."

"You went in his room?" Matthew straightens, eyes sharpening, and Will winces internally, realizing his misstep.

"I went in to check on him. He had a lot to drink last night; he might have needed some water or painkillers." He swallows, clenches his jaw, and meets Matthew's eyes. "Or something to help him sleep."

Matthew stares at him, and Will is reminded of a wild bull, the whites of his eyes stark. He presses his hands on the table and leans forward. "Somethin' you wanna say to me, Graham?"

"Is there something that needs to be said?" Will replies sharply. He doesn't think Matthew is the kind of man to attack him in broad daylight, in plain view of other people and the cameras, but who knows how a tiger might react when provoked. They certainly don't care if they have an audience.

Matthew growls, and shoves himself to his feet, chair squealing along the wood floor. Will sees Hannibal tense, sees his chin lift.

For a moment, there is only stillness. Will thinks he might combust if something doesn't happen.

"We're all tense," Hannibal finally says. Matthew's eyes snap to him, his upper lip lifts. "Perhaps it is being cooped up in here with no diversion. Some of us might benefit from a walk outside. Some distance."

There is a coldness to his voice, a barely-concealed knife edge of threat that makes Will shiver. He presses his lips together, eyeing Matthew as Matthew, apparently, senses the same. He straightens with a snarl, and shoves his chair in.

"I'm not going anywhere with you," he snaps.

Hannibal smiles, cordial, unruffled. "Very well," he replies, and looks to Will. "Perhaps you will join me, then?"

Will manages a tight smile. "Sure."

Matthew growls, and stalks away, up to his room. He slams the door with a heavy thud and Will winces. Matthew is strong, too, and acts in the way men act when they want to hurt you, but can't get away with it. He imagines Matthew tearing up his bed, throwing his clothes and his belongings around. Imagines him taking out the string and pretending to wrap it around Will's throat.

He pushes his plate away, suddenly not hungry. "Can we go now?"

Hannibal's eyes flash, dark, and he nods, and stands. "I'll clear everything away," he says. "Get your shoes and coat. Bedelia, would you like to join us?"

"No, thank you," she replies. Will nods, and goes to fetch his shoes and coat.

 

 

The air is biting, bracing against his cheeks, as he and Hannibal step out onto the patio and make their way to the edge, where there is a path that leads down to a small, stony beach. Upwards, as well, curling into the forest. Hannibal takes him up this route, citing that the trees will help protect them from the wind, and since Will has no opinion either way, he nods, accepting, and allows Hannibal to hold his hand, soft and warm, and lead him that way.

They walk in silence, companionable and charged. Will presses close to Hannibal despite the relative warmth in the trees, humidity clinging to the air beneath the boughs. "Will it rain, do you think?"

Hannibal hums, and lifts his eyes. "The clouds seem to promise a storm."

"Pathetic fallacy," Will mutters, and Hannibal smiles, looks at him with bright eyes. "Using the weather to denote rising tension, or reflect human emotion in a scene."

"Poetic," he replies, and squeezes Will's hand. "Do you think some storm will happen tonight?"

"Yes." He can't deny it – no one would see what he saw in Matthew's eyes and think he doesn't intend to act. None of them can reach the outside world, except Hannibal, which means their fates are in their hands. He swallows, and rubs over his neck with his free hand. "I won't lie, Hannibal – I'm worried."

"For yourself?"

Will nods. "And you."

That earns him another gentle squeeze. "We can speak freely here, Will. There are no cameras. No microphones."

Will knows that, but the trees have ears, and will whisper to each other. Some dim superstition from his youth rises up, but he swallows it back. "I used to live in a place like this," he says. He still does, technically, in his little white house in an open field, but living there is a generous term. Existing, more like, as a ghost. He can't remember the name of a single one of his neighbors and doubts they would know him on sight either. "Remote. Covered by trees, with an open field."

"I myself have a house in Baltimore," Hannibal replies. "Sometimes it's easier to blend in – the closer your neighbors are, the less people see."

Will laughs.

"I bet they like to tell themselves all sorts of stories about you."

Hannibal smiles. "Perhaps. Certainly, my social group wax poetic about my parties. They are…sycophants."

"Yeah, I'm sure you hate being praised."

That earns a low laugh, warm and rumbling. "Guilty as charged."

"Do you like it there?" Will asks, and busies his gaze with the flutter of brown birds above them. Near them, a small creature chitters, and scurries away. "In the city?"

"I enjoy the luxury of convenience, certainly. I have lived in many places, and find Baltimore just vibrant and classic enough to suit my tastes."

Will hums.

"But I spend most of my spare time internally, in walls and rooms I have created." Will blinks, and looks at him. "My mind palace is vast, even by medieval standards. The foyer is the Norman Chapel in Palermo – severe, beautiful and timeless, with a single reminder of mortality." He pauses, and looks to Will, and they come to a halt on the little running path. "A skull. Graven in the floor."

Will smiles – it sounds beautiful, lofty and untouchable. "All I need is a stream."

Hannibal's head tilts, his expression soft. He cups Will's face and pulls him closer, rests their foreheads together in a light touch. "I would happily join you there, Will, if you allow it."

Will sighs, his breath misting. He nuzzles Hannibal, a light brush of their noses, and pulls away, tugging them to walk side by side again. "I wonder," he says quietly, "is there any room in your palace for me?"

"It is a constantly-evolving place," Hannibal replies, and Will nods. "But, yes." He smiles, blushing. "Though I feel as if I am only beginning to understand you, I have known you as a great work of art, for many years." Will nods again, blush darkening at the reminder, because Hannibal has seen him. Sitting there, separated by screens, unnoticed amidst the rabble just as he prefers. "As such, the wing I have dedicated to you is shifting in place, growing stronger, and more beautiful by the minute. It might soon become the most breathtaking part of my memory."

Will shivers, lacing their fingers together. "It doesn't have to just be memory," he says, quietly, feeling oddly vulnerable when he says it.

Hannibal stops, and pulls Will to a halt as well. He turns to Will, slides a hand into his hair. Kisses, chaste at first, then deepening when Will gasps, his lips parting. He tastes like coffee, sweet cream, the salty hint of their breakfast, and licks into Will's mouth, like Will tastes just as good. Will shivers, a soft moan rising in his throat, unbidden, and feels Hannibal's hand tighten in response.

Their lips part, and Will is buzzing, breathing heavily. Gratified, to see Hannibal affected in the same way.

"Will," he breathes. Swallows, his lips pinked by Will's kiss. His thumb brushes along Will's jaw, still-smooth, and he growls. "I would gladly keep you with me forever."

Will shivers. He wants it – once Matthew is disposed of, there's nothing stopping them. That thought brings with it a visceral hunger, a dire need. He growls, pushing at Hannibal's chest, until his back collides with a nearby tree. He lunges, claims another kiss when Hannibal snarls, both hands in Will's hair now, tightening.

He needs, he needs. He paws at Hannibal's coat, unbuttons it and parts it to reveal his white shirt. Slides his hands down, to Hannibal's belt, tugging the tail free. Hannibal shivers for him, and Will ducks his head, kisses at the open collar, the bared slip of flesh revealed. Hannibal is vulnerable, like this, exposed as if he were naked, and Will's teeth ache.

"Will," he growls, when Will unbuckles his belt, slides a hand down his stomach, beneath his suit pants and underwear, to wrap around his hardening cock.

"Let me," he whispers to Hannibal's neck, feels Hannibal's claws flex on his nape. "I want to."

Hannibal's pulse rushes beneath his mouth, heavy and hard, like his blood wants to leap to Will's tongue, flavor him like thick wine. He's leaking, thickening in Will's hand, and Will pulls back just enough to watch himself undo the button and zip of his suit pants, shove the halves apart.

Then, he sinks to his knees, and coaxes Hannibal's cock free. He strokes tightly, gently pulling the foreskin back, his mouth watering at the black look in Hannibal's eyes. Hannibal's hands are tight in his hair, not pulling or guiding, but he wants to, Will can see the raw desire to take control.

He smiles, and drags his parted lips down the shaft of Hannibal's cock. He didn't get a good look at it before, admires now the blood-dark skin, the pink head that's the same color as Hannibal's lips. He swallows, wets his tongue, and sucks the head into his mouth.

Hannibal snarls, eyes closing to slits, head tilted back, and Will growls, pulls off, tugs until he gets Hannibal's attention.

"Watch me," he demands, and Hannibal's eyes flash, widen. He nods.

Oh, this is decadence. This is something he never got, making his videos. To see the live, raw reaction of a man is a heady thing. Will parts his lips again, guides Hannibal between his teeth. His cheeks hollow and he moans, ravenous. Hannibal's precum is thin and salty, sour almost, but as his mouth floods with saliva and as he takes more down, the flavor is muted.

He realizes, with a huff of amusement and a sharp, wanting ache in his gut, that he can't take Hannibal all the way. His throat spasms, unused to such abuse, as Hannibal's cockhead hits the back of his tongue. He's too thick to fit the rest in Will's mouth, and his jaw twinges sharply in protest, so he wraps his fingers around what he can't swallow, closes his eyes and sucks as hard as he can.

Hannibal lets out a rough, ragged noise, his thighs trembling when Will puts his free hand on them, squeezing tightly. Hannibal tugs on his hair, pets, and Will's knees are cold against the ground and his jaw aches already but he won't stop, he won't. He pulls back, tongues where he knows Hannibal is sensitive, drags his thumb up to meet his lip and gather wetness so he can use his fingers to spread it.

He digs in with his nails, drags his hand down to Hannibal's knee, and then behind his leg, up again. Coaxes, gently, for Hannibal to thrust forward, to take over the rhythm until he finds one he likes. He can feel Hannibal watching him, feels the weight of his rapturous gaze, and moans as Hannibal tenses, flexes, pulls back and sinks into Will's mouth. Will whines, the sound muffled and choked-off, tilts his head and tries to take more in, sinking down another inch, his throat tightening in protest but ignored.

He slides his fingers down Hannibal's shaft, cups his heavy balls and lifts them, teasing behind like Hannibal did to him. Hannibal's cock twitches in his mouth, another heavy spurt of precum landing on his tongue, and Will hums in pleasure, delighted by the reaction. He drags his mouth down again when Hannibal tugs, gently, soaked with saliva, feels it pool at the corners of his mouth and drip down his chin.

Hannibal feels it, too, drags his thumb along Will's jaw, below his lower lip, and he shudders full-body, gasping, fucking in again. His cockhead meets the back of Will's throat, feels him spasm. Pushes, tentatively, and Will moans, nodding as best he can, forces his throat open around Hannibal's cock until he can't breathe.

He gags, clinging tightly, holds Hannibal there for a second longer before he pulls back, gasping. Hannibal pulls out of his mouth and there's an obscene set of slick trails hanging from the head, connected to Will's mouth. He licks his lips, breaking them, and licks up the clear bead of precum from Hannibal's slit.

Hannibal groans, jaw clenching, nostrils flared. There's a flush high on his cheeks and Will knows he looks no better, his lips bruised, jaw aching. He leans in again, sucks him down, whimpers when Hannibal wraps a hand in his hair and pulls. Fuck, that's good, that's fucking perfect, and Will is warm all over, his own cock aching and neglected. He drops his hand, squeezes his erection through his clothes, whines for more.

"Will," Hannibal breathes; a warning.

And then it's suddenly not enough.

Will pulls off completely, releases Hannibal and climbs up him. Fists a hand in his hair and kisses him savagely. "Fuck me," he demands. Hannibal's eyes flash, wanting. Oh, he wants it too.

He swallows, shaken by how fucked-out Will sounds. "We don't have -."

"I don't care," Will snarls, showing his teeth. He tugs on Hannibal's hair, shoves his clothes down. "I don't fucking care, Hannibal. I'm clean." Hannibal swallows, his hands sliding down to Will's flanks. Will can feel his nails, even through his coat. He kisses, and feeds Hannibal his own sharp aftertaste, dropping his hand to wrap around Hannibal's split-slick cock.

Breathes, "I trust you."

Hannibal growls, grabs Will and turns him, planting his chest against the tree. He yanks at the collar of Will's coat, tugs it down and bites, right where Will asked him to the night before. Will whines, sharply, his knees sagging, clutching the tree for balance.

"You devastating, tempting creature," Hannibal snarls. His other hand wraps in Will's sweatpants, pulls them down until the waistband bunches under Will's ass. Just enough room to get what he wants, and Will trembles, moaning at the feeling of Hannibal's leaking cockhead sliding against him. Hannibal wraps an arm around his waist, holds him steady and firm against Hannibal's solid chest. He parts from Will's neck long enough to wet his fingers, and Will feels the brush of his knuckles as he slicks up his cock, then turns his attention to Will's ass.

He presses in, two right away, and Will flinches and moans. It's rude, unrepentantly, transparently rude, and Will aches for it.

"Fuck, yes," he groans, lets go of the tree so he can reach beneath his clothes with one hand, stroking his own cock tight and quick. Hannibal snarls, presses in, presses deep, and Will braces his forehead against the tree, smells pine sap and moisture, knees sagging again when Hannibal bites at his nape, and sucks the beginnings of a dark, savage mark. "Yeah, just like that, come on." He reaches back with his other hand, claws at Hannibal's hip, urging him closer. "Please."

Hannibal snarls, pulls his fingers out and slicks his cock again. Then, with one guiding hand, he tightens his hold around Will's waist, nails digging in beneath his coat, and presses his cockhead against Will's hole. Will shivers, bites his lower lip hard, forces himself to relax, his eyes closing with a flutter of lashes as Hannibal forces himself inside.

"Oh, God," he gasps. Hannibal feels huge, the entry burns but in such a good way. Hannibal's teeth find his neck, bite again, the sting of heat at his nape and in his ass forming two places for a current to run between, right down his spine. He only gets a few inches before Hannibal shudders, rutting back and forward again, forcing Will's muscles into pliancy.

Will whines, lets go of Hannibal's hip and slams his fist against the tree, only to have Hannibal cover his hand, bring it to Will's neck. Both their hands flatten and Will gasps, pulled back from the tree, utterly reliant on Hannibal's strength to keep him upright.

"My sweet boy," Hannibal whispers, and his voice is ragged, animal, barely more than a growl. "Relax, darling. Let me in."

Will wants to. His body spasms, and he swallows, completely in love with the feeling of Hannibal's arms around him, holding him fast. He bows his head, shows his neck, and bears down, giving Hannibal the tightness and heat he needs, the incentive to fuck forward, to drive his cock in.

The sound Hannibal lets out is fierce, primal. He lets go of Will, grabs instead at his hips, holds him still as Will braces himself against the tree and lets him fuck. His hips roll, slow, deep half-thrusts, he's not all the way in and Will already feels split apart, graciously giving ground and having the rest taken from him.

He strokes himself tightly, spasms and lets out a low whimper when Hannibal's cockhead brushes his prostate. Feels Hannibal push up his coat and his shirt, so he can see where he's piercing Will. Will knows how he looks, debased and caught in the middle of the Goddamn woods, and he can only imagine how it feels. His cock twitches, leaks, and he moans weakly as Hannibal fucks in again, brushing that sensitive place in him like a taunt.

His muscles loosen, forced into acceptance, and he groans when Hannibal sinks in another inch. Hannibal growls, looms over him, tightens his nails in Will's hips and ruts into him, pulls back barely at all, like he can't bear to leave Will for a second.

He bites again, this time at Will's shoulder, like he wants to tear through clothing and skin, taste Will's heart from the source. It's a decadent thing, soaks into Will's gut like whiskey. He closes his eyes and braces his hand on the tree, forehead to his knuckles. Shivers, as Hannibal thrusts forward again, at once so gentle and so rough.

Hannibal goes still, tightens his nails. Growls, against Will's neck; "Where would you like me to finish?"

Will moans, loudly, lets go of his cock to claw desperately at Hannibal's thigh. "Inside me. Please, please come inside me."

Hannibal's rumble vibrates in his chest, pressed tight to Will's back. He drags his nails from Will's hip, to his cock, the air trapped there warm and wet. He wraps his hand tight around Will's cockhead, squeezes, presses in and goes still again. Will gasps, feels his rim sting sharply as Hannibal's cock twitches inside of him. "Fuck, yeah, that's real good, baby, come in me, that's it." It's shallow enough that it immediately leaks out, running down Will's perineum, coating his balls, soaked between his thighs.

He's never felt a man come inside him before, and immediately knows he'll demand that every single time. He turns his head, catches his teeth on Hannibal's jaw, groans and rolls his hips in encouragement, knowing he's smearing Hannibal's come between their clothes. Hannibal takes advantage of the new slick, finally pushes in as deep as he can, past Will's prostate, and his free hand slides up to Will's belly.

He lets out a low, visceral growl, pushing down. Will whines, flinching, able to feel all of Hannibal inside of him, feel him jutting up against his own palm. It's dirty, it's obscene, and Will flushes hot all over at the sensation.

Hannibal doesn't stop – fucks back, and in, still hard enough to fill Will completely. Will gasps as he resumes his pace on Will's cock, stroking him tight and quick.

"Fuck, yeah," he whispers, grits his teeth and drags his bruised lips along Hannibal's jaw. He grabs Hannibal's hair, tightens around him just to pull another shivery aftershock from him. Growls, "Just like that, baby, work it in nice and deep."

"Will," Hannibal snarls, turns and bites at Will's neck. But he obeys, rutting his hips tight to Will's ass, keeping him full and dripping as he strokes Will's cock. Will comes like that, clamping down around Hannibal and letting out a weak moan from his abused throat. Hannibal tugs him out of his sweatpants, angles him towards the tree, and Will watches with low-lidded eyes as he spills over Hannibal's knuckles and the tree, staining it off-white. It's thick, heavy, and Will shivers, thinking of the same inside him.

He bites his lower lip and releases Hannibal's hair, releases his thigh. Sighs as Hannibal drags his fingers up, wiping Will's cock clean as best he can, before tucking it back in. He pulls out a moment later and Will trembles, closes his eyes and gasps as more of Hannibal's come leaks out of him. It's warm, thick, dripping down to the saddle of his clothes, dirty.

He likes it. A lot.

Hannibal pulls his clothes back into place, mindful of his dirty hand, and Will turns to return the favor, knowing Hannibal's clothing is too complicated to manage one-handed. He nudges Hannibal's shoulder, grinning wide, and Hannibal tilts his head, lifts his hand, eyes flashing when Will swallows his fingers down and licks them clean, tugging his belt back into place with a final, pleased hum.

Hannibal looks wild. His hair is mussed, his eyes blazing. He looks like he can't sheath his teeth properly. Will must reek of him, satisfying that deep, primal desire to see him marked, claimed. The back of his neck is sore from the newest bite, and he releases Hannibal's fingers with a smile, pets over his neck, lets Hannibal see how pleased he is at the bite's presence.

Hannibal snarls, lunges, cupping his head so he doesn't knock it against the tree and steals his breath in a deep, desperate kiss. Will moans into it, shivering with pleasure as he feels another thick drip of come leak out of him, and is breathing heavily when Hannibal allows him air. He looks at Will like Will is a work of art, above and beyond any masterpiece he has seen before.

He brushes his thumb over Will's flushed cheek, breathes out. "Will," he whispers, and in his name is everything, anything. Will need only ask.

Will smiles, cups his wrist and turns his nose to it, breathing in and then kissing, lightly, over his rushing pulse.

He hums, and bites, and Hannibal's claws flex, he shivers, and the animal in his eyes is howling. "Let's stay here a little longer," he murmurs.

Hannibal nods, still looking shaken, but pleased at the prospect of stealing some more time together. He turns his hand, laces their fingers together, and lures Will back onto the path with a kiss.

 

 

They wander for a while, talking of all the things Will wanted to – Shakespeare, Multiverses, mind palaces and fishing lures. Obsession, and storm clouds, until finally the lingering promise becomes a reality, and the Heavens open, pouring down cold rain. Even under the trees, it reaches them, and both of them are shivering in the cold.

They head back to the cabin – not a cabin, but Will thinks that with fondness now, rather than maliciousness – and duck inside, shedding their wet shoes and soaked coats. It's dark out, blackened by the storm and pending nightfall, and there is a fire lit in the living room's hearth. So, too, there is a light in the kitchen, and one visible under the door of Hannibal's office.

Will eyes it, and huffs. "Thick as thieves, those two," he mutters.

"You're hardly one to talk," Hannibal replies, soft with mirth. He has not stopped touching Will for a single second, and only breaks this routine to pour them both a glass of red wine. Will hesitates before taking it, but drinks. He didn't see a break in the seal, and if Hannibal or he grow drowsy, he will make sure they make it to Hannibal's locked room before anyone can come for them.

He huffs, and thinks of rich people with their panic rooms, and wonders if Hannibal would appreciate the joke. Probably not.

They sit on the couches, and Will puts his socked feet up on the table. Hannibal lifts his eyes upward, as though praying for patience, which makes Will grin, but he doesn't protest, and sits close to him, their knees brushing together.

Will hums, and takes a drink, pleased at the sweetness of it. Hannibal, it seems, has figured out just what he likes.

Hannibal makes a quiet sound, a sigh, heavy and content. His free hand rests over his stomach, his knees spread wide. He looks good like that, hair wetted, cheeks flushed, his eyes dark with satisfaction. Will smiles, and leans over to kiss his cheek.

Hannibal turns immediately, seeking more, but Will pulls back, brings his heels from the table and tucks his feet under him instead. There's a wet spot there, hidden by rain, but clinging and sticky. He shivers. "Freddie and Chilton haven't called you," he says.

Hannibal shakes his head. "No," he replies, his brow lowering in a concerned frown. "Perhaps we will never know for certain."

Will huffs, raising his glass. Says, darkly, into it, "I know for certain." He sighs, and lifts his eyes. "I wish we had access to the camera feed."

Hannibal's lips purse. He reaches out and flattens a hand on Will's knee, tapping his fingers there gently.

"I will tell you something, Will," he murmurs. Will arches a brow. "I don't believe the cameras are running anymore."

Will stiffens. "What?"

"The one in the kitchen hasn't been showing the little red light. Nor the one in the upper hallway." Will swallows, trembling, cold to the bone over what that might mean. "One malfunctioning, I could excuse, but I investigated the one in the game room as well. I don't believe they're watching us anymore."

"Oh God," Will whispers, and rubs a shaking hand over his mouth. "If that's the case, that means -."

He stops. He knows what it means.

He looks up, towards the kitchen.

"Do you think Matthew disabled them, somehow?" he asks, and then frowns. "The one in my room was blinking. Last night."

"Perhaps he didn't feel confident enough disengaging the ones in our rooms," Hannibal replies. He is keeping his hand very steady on Will's knee, as if to stop him rearing up, bucking against the truth. "He might have done it while you and I were…distracted."

"Fuck." Will runs a hand through his hair, takes a long pull of wine to try and calm his racing heart. But it doesn't calm him – he's panicking, he knows he is. This feels like those days did, before he took down his site. Waiting and watching and hoping that he didn't hear anything in his house that felt like an intruder.

But the fox is in the henhouse, now. He slipped in, right beneath their noses.

"We have to get out of here."

Hannibal doesn't react immediately, only to take a sip of wine. Then, he makes an ungracious sound. "I won't be chased out of my own home, Will."

Will closes his eyes, swallows back his anger. "I know," he breathes, and tugs on his hair again. Winces, at the ache in his neck. "Okay. Fuck. If the cameras are out, that means nowhere is safe. We have to watch our back."

Hannibal nods.

Will rises, pushing Hannibal's hand away. "Wait here," he says, and finishes his wine. He rushes upstairs, to his room, leaving the door open so he can hear Matthew and Bedelia if they emerge.

He goes to his suitcase, kneeling down and opening it, and unzips the inside top pocket, reaching in and sighing with relief when he finds his gun. He wraps his fingers around the grip, pulls it out. It shines in the low light, gleaming as though overjoyed at Will's touch, the handle quickly warming. It's a smallish thing, silver, a .22 that Will bought more out of paranoia and to use as a deterrent than any real desire to do harm. Some people back down just at the threat of a gun. But in close quarters, it'll do the trick.

It's light, and Will ejects the magazine, frowning when he sees there's no bullets inside. No, this was fully loaded, he made sure of it before he came back to the house. His frown deepens, and he returns the magazine and pulls the slide back. There's one, still in the chamber, and he breathes out.

He sets it down by his knee, pushes the lid of his suitcase up to check for his spare box of bullets. Freezes, as underneath a thin layer of clothes, he feels something hard.

Fingers shaking, he pulls it back, revealing the black shimmer of Tobias' violin case. His stomach goes cold at the sight of it, and he trembles, unclipping the locks and opening it. Inside, Tobias' violin sits, shining and brown. It's missing a string.

Fuck.

He rises, swiftly, and goes to the bedside table, corrects it under the camera still covered by his shirt. He unwinds it, breathing a sigh of relief to see the little red light still blinking. He moves back, and goes to Tobias' violin case, lifting it into the camera's view.

"I didn't put this here," he tells the thing, snarling the words. "And the missing string is in Matthew's room. Whatever happened, he did it."

The camera, of course, doesn't answer, except to blink at him.

Will shudders, and returns the case, covering it with his clothes and shoving it under his bed. Then, he takes his gun, bullets forgotten. He only needs one. He makes sure the safety is on before sliding it into his deep pocket, wincing when it pulls on the waistband. He rucks it up, tries to cover the bulge of it with his shirt, and goes back downstairs.

Hannibal doesn't appear to have moved, but Will's glass is full again. He looks up as Will approaches, and raises a brow at the obvious line of the gun in his sweatpants. "What's that?" he asks, a little too evenly.

Will meets his eyes. "My gun," he replies. "I wasn't kidding."

Hannibal hums, and Will takes his seat again, wincing and adjusting the firearm between their thighs. "It's loaded, I presume."

Will swallows. "Yeah," he says, and doesn't mention the missing bullets.

Hannibal's lips purse. "I'm surprised," he finally says, carefully, Bedelia-like. Will looks at him with a raised brow. "I thought, given your nature, you'd opt for something a little less…detached."

Will's other brow joins the first.

"Guns lack intimacy," Hannibal explains.

"I don't intend to get intimate with Matthew."

At that, Hannibal smiles. "Killing is an intimate act, Will," he murmurs, low-lidded. He speaks like he knows. "During my time as a surgeon, even if I did not know the person on whom I was operating, I felt my failures starkly; felt their life, their soul, flit away beneath my hands." He sighs, like this is a memory that is dear to him. "And your relationship with Matthew is borne out of one of the most visceral emotions mankind may experience."

"Fear?" Will asks.

"Dominance," Hannibal replies, their eyes meeting. "Unwillingly taken from you."

"I'd rather be alive, and submit for just a moment, than dead and proud."

Hannibal smiles, in that way that only marks a change in his eyes. In the firelight, he is golden and stern, like those hallowed halls he constructed his palace from.

"I'm not going to do anything rash," Will says, because it feels like he should. "But I'm also not going to let him bite me three times. Animals like that should be put down."

Hannibal's eyes drop to his neck. His head tilts.

"And Bedelia?" he asks. "Will you let Matthew bite her?"

"I don't care what happens to her," Will snaps. Hannibal smiles. "She tried to turn me against you."

"Oh?" His brows lift.

Will nods. "While you were calling Freddie and Chilton. She asked me if I was sure it was Matthew who would have hurt Tobias. She accused you of having something to do with it, even if she didn't say it outright."

Hannibal nods, a small flicker of displeasure passing behind his eyes. The animal, grunting, shrugging off mud from its pelt.

"Perhaps," he says slowly, and looks away, "if she is an intelligent as she thinks she is, she might be convinced to leave, this time."

In it, Will hears, And let us do what we will. Before I make her.

He frowns. Watches the side of Hannibal's face, for any tic, any sign of what he's thinking. His claws flex, and he sees Hannibal's do the same, unconsciously mimicking. He leans forward, sets his wine glass down, and Hannibal does the same. They turn to each other, and Will tilts his head. So does Hannibal. The house of mirrors, but the lights have suddenly turned off, leaving the bare, stark truth of the original object.

Hannibal's creature stares at him, unblinking.

Will thinks of how, technically, he can't account for Hannibal's whereabouts for the entire night. Thinks of the cameras, deactivated only in the places where he would be able to move around, unseen. Will took care of his own for him, and Hannibal did the rest.

"It was you, wasn't it?" he breathes. Hannibal's mouth tightens, his jaw bulging at the corners. Will is not afraid – no, this feeling is too buoyant, too hysterical, to be fear. He doesn't blink – maybe he's trying to stare Will down, but Will cannot let himself be cowed. "Why?"

Hannibal's chin lifts. "Why do you think?"

"No, don't -." He snarls, shows his teeth, sees Hannibal's upper lip twitch in answer. "Don't fucking do that. Don't lie to me, or avoid the question." Hannibal's eyes flash, undeniably pleased, his creature purring.

Cunning boy, it whispers.

"Why?" he asks again.

"You asked for my help," Hannibal replies. "You would not let me help you the proper way, and you would not act out of fear of witnesses. You said so yourself." And he did, he absolutely did, fuck. Hannibal eyes darken, and the firelight paints him monstrously.

"You planted the wire," he says. Hannibal nods. "And the pills. You knew I'd find them, that I'd accuse Matthew. Drive him to act." Another nod, and Will does laugh, now, the warm air in his chest bubbling over before he can stop it. "What else have you done?"

"Only this; defended, fiercely, what I love." Will gasps, and swallows, and the words ping his own thoughts back to him; he will defend Hannibal to the death. Apparently Hannibal feels the same way. "I didn't lie, Will – from the moment he touched you without your permission, his fate was sealed."

"No, you didn't lie," Will breathes. "Just let me believe my own lie."

Hannibal sighs, through his nose, and allows Will to see some regret. His eyes dart away, to their wine, and he breathes out harshly.

"And now that lie is dissolved," he says, barely a whisper. Their eyes lock again, and Hannibal's fingers flex. "So where does that leave us?"

Another hysterical laugh spills out of Will. Where indeed.

"You watched me," he says. "Years ago. You let me believe you didn't know me, when we first met. You tricked me, deceived me, and now you've…" Killed for him. Helped him – believed him, when no one else would. Drew him in under his wing and let Will see parts of himself no one else has. Mutual trust. Mutual destruction.

Hannibal swallows, his façade cracking, revealing another flicker of vulnerability. Will could reject him now – not without consequences, he's sure, but he has a gun and Hannibal knows that. And he doesn't enjoy Will's fear, doesn't enjoy Will's suffering. Not like Matthew does. He is sitting, simply existing, waiting for Will to make the next move. He feels like a fish, suddenly, bobbing around an enticing lure, weighing the risk verses the reward.

Will has always known the reward – this man, this monster, forever his.

Will breathes in, deeply, through his nose.

"I've changed my mind," he says, and watches Hannibal's eyes shine, watches his mouth turn down, his shoulders curl in, awaiting the rejection. Will leans forward, tucks his fingers beneath Hannibal's chin, and forces their eyes to meet. "I don't like sins of omission, either. I won't tolerate them anymore."

Hannibal's eyes flash. He takes Will by the wrist, breathes out shakily, ducks his nose to press to his pulse. Will's fingers curl around his jaw, and he smiles when Hannibal's eyes lift to meet his, wide and shining and so very dark. They gleam in the firelight, reflecting shadows and monsters.

"We finish this," he growls, and Hannibal parts his lips, wets them, and nods. "Tonight."

"Yes," Hannibal replies, fingers tight, and the monster is howling, howling for Will. Will purrs in answer. "Tonight."

Chapter Text

They prowl to their rooms. They will wait, until the night is very old, or perhaps the next day is very young, to strike. Will laughs, now, when he looks at his suitcase – Hannibal must have planted that there, too. So that Will would think it was Matthew that did it. So that he'd work the camera to their mutual advantage.

"Clever boy," he whispers, warm with pride.

He sits on his bed, the lamp left on so that he can see, and takes his gun out, resting it between his knees. He sighs and, for nothing better to do, pulls up his laptop and opens it. Types in his password, and pulls up his page.

'How do you like your boy?'

He clicks through to the next page, propped up against his pillows, eyes heavy-lidded as he looks through the different sections. It seems like the person who made them is a stranger to him now. He goes to the 'Dark' section, the one where he was bruised and bloodied, would cry and beg for mercy that would not come. He thinks these were Hannibal's favorite, even if he won't admit it. Will knows purple and red are good colors on him.

He might be red, by the end of the night. Images flash through his head, knuckles bloodied and lips bruised, blood in his mouth, on his hands. Thinks that Hannibal might like to lick him clean. He shivers at the thought.

Outside, the storm is raging on, rain pelting in heavy smatters against his window, branches creaking and tapping against the glass. He watches it without fear, for he cannot be afraid of the weather, in this place, not when he is under the same roof as such violent men.

He closes his eyes, and thinks of kissing Hannibal with bruises on his mouth. Thinks of Hannibal breathing in the scent of gunpowder from his fingers. Thinks of him, teeth bared, no self-control left, pelted and feline as he lunges for Matthew's throat. Wonders what he might do, if Hannibal might look at him with that animal howl in his eyes, if Will would not simply drop to his hands and knees and let Hannibal touch him as he pleased, lay marks of his own to wipe away every other touch Will has borne. He will burn Will, skin him to the bone, mark him inside and out, and Will swallows, ravenous for it.

Another flash of lightning splits the sky, and then the entire room goes dark. Will's breath hitches, and he closes his laptop and leans over to the lamp. Turns it off, then on again. Nothing happens – the room is pitch black save for the glow of moonlight. Not even his camera light is blinking anymore.

"Fuck," he whispers.

He grabs his gun and rises to his feet. There's no time to waste.

Outside his room, the house is black, only the patio showing a curtain of grey rain, the white couches gleaming dully like the handle of his gun. Will creeps out, closes the door behind him, his heart hammering in his throat. There are no lights anywhere, and he blinks, trying desperately to get his eyes to adjust. It's late, but the house is creaking and groaning beneath the onslaught of the wind.

He hears a door opening, and shrinks back with a growl. Hears footsteps, and reaches out blindly, grabbing and spinning the other person to the wall. Breathes in a thick cloud of perfume, and hears a second later a gasp that is far too feminine to be his prey.

Bedelia.

"Will?" she asks, and sounds shaken. He has his gun pressed under her jaw.

He growls, and pulls away from her, tugging on her arm. Her hand is heavy, and he feels a bag knock between their knees. He huffs. "Going somewhere? Good," he says, before she can answer. "Get the fuck out of here. Now."

She doesn't protest, and hurries with him to the stairs. She has her cell phone out, the light illuminating their path as Will leads her to the door. He stops, fishing in Hannibal's coat for the keys to his Bentley, and hands them to her.

"Drive far away," he tells her. "Don't come back."

"Come with me," she says, frantic and soft. She reaches for him, tugs on his sleeve. "There's no reason for you to stay. You should leave as well."

He huffs a laugh, and shakes his head. "Consider this my gift to you," he says. "One carcass to another." Then, he nudges her towards the door. "Go. Go now, and don't come back."

He leaves, then, and doesn't remain to see if she obeys. Her light disappears, and he hears the door open and close, a brief roar of rain and thunder to mark her departure. He hurries back up the stairs, feeling half-blind, and just as he reaches the top, Hannibal's bedroom door opens.

"Will?"

"Come on," Will mutters, and flicks the safety off his gun. "Let's finish this."

A deep inhale. "Bedelia?"

"I had her take your car. A sudden family emergency came up and she had to leave."

Will hears a soft, fond huff of laughter. Hannibal's warm hand flattens on his back, and Will leads the way to Matthew's room. He opens it, squinting into the pitch black. He doesn't hear anything over the weather and the creaking of the house.

Hannibal reaches in, and tries the light switch.

"He threw the breaker," Will says. "Or the lightning did it."

"Convenient," Hannibal mutters. Will steps into the room, but hears nothing. Feels no presence.

"He's not here."

"The breaker is outside of the house, around the back," Hannibal says. "He may be there. I will go check."

"We'll both go."

"Will, no," Hannibal says, and takes his hands. Lets out a soft sound, at the feel of the gun. "I can go alone." Will shakes his head, only to stop when Hannibal touches his neck. "Darling, please. Let me do this for you."

Will frowns. "Worried about keeping my hands clean?"

"Killing is not new to me, Will," Hannibal says, and Will doesn't know if he means on the surgeon's table, or something else. Probably both. "Taking a man's life, no matter how deserving that man is, changes a person. I would save you from that, if I can."

Will laughs – a short, sharp sound. But he presses his lips together, sensing Hannibal will not be swayed, and presses the gun into his hands.

"Take this, then," he whispers.

Hannibal sighs. "Will -."

"There's only one bullet in there. Don't miss."

Hannibal is quiet, for a moment, and then he nods, and pulls Will into a kiss. "Stay here," he says, and turns, heading for the stairs. Will sees his silhouette move, goes to the railing and watches him prowl to the patio, through the sliding door. He's wearing only a long-sleeved shirt and suit pants, and the rain soaks him through immediately. Silver, shining, he looks to the side of him, and slithers out of sight.

Will waits, with baited breath. Closes his eyes and tries to calm his hammering heart, tries to time his breathing to the roll of thunder above them. Then, he hears a sound, and frowns.

It's a shrill ring. A phone. The red phone.

He swallows, and goes to the stairs, rushes down them and through the kitchen. Pauses, for a moment, and feels his way along the counter, to the knife block. He pulls out the one with the most heft, testing the edge. It's a long, straight blade, made for scoring meat, and he smiles. Perfect.

He ducks into Hannibal's office. It has no windows, and so when he closes the door, he's surrounded in pitch black. He heads towards the phone, and answers it.

"Hello?"

"Hey, baby."

Will startles, and looks around, because the voice came from the earpiece, but also in the room. He drops the phone and hears a low laugh, coming from the corner. Fuck. Stupid, stupid move, putting himself in a confined space in the darkness. He's blind, completely unable to see, no light given to him from the outside.

He grips the knife tightly, listens as intently as he can for the brush of feet along the carpet.

"Shh," comes Matthew's voice, far too close. He flinches, knocking into the desk, and circles it, trying to put distance between them. "Hey, now, come on, there's no need to be like that. We're all alone now. I'm not going to hurt you."

"Forgive me if I don't believe you," Will replies.

Matthew laughs, the sound rumbling and low. "I know you're scared," he says, and Will swallows, and doesn't deny it. "That's my fault. Maybe if I'd been better to you, you'd know I was only playing." Will hears him circling the desk, freezes, when he hears the drag of something sharp against the wood. Maybe it's Hannibal's razor. Maybe it's another knife. He tightens his grip around his own.

A bright light shines, suddenly, illuminating Hannibal's desk, the red phone, and his own hands. He flinches from it, because it's very close, lifting a hand to shield his eyes. Matthew is holding a cell phone – Hannibal's phone, he guesses, since it's the only one with cell service in this place, and the only one that could call the red phone.

"That's a pretty big knife you got there," Matthew says, and Will winces, looking down at it. "You should put that down before someone gets hurt."

"What do you want from me?" Will growls, and steps away as Matthew creeps closer. "You wanna fuck me? Kill me? What?"

Matthew lowers the light, sighing. The reflection of it highlights the shadows under his eyes, makes him look little more than a skull, all teeth and bone. "I don't want anything from you, Will," he says, and he sounds almost honest. "You and me, we're like hawks. Little birds come and try and harass us, but we're bigger and better beasts than they are." He shakes his head. "I thought you understood that."

"Hawks are solitary," Will bites out.

Matthew smiles, and looks at Will with black eyes. "Imagine if the hawks decided to work together," he purrs, and steps closer. Will flinches, knocking into the rolling chair behind the desk, and can't get away before Matthew reaches out to him, fists a hand in the collar of his shirt and pulls tight enough to choke. "We'd rule the sky."

"I don't want to do anything with you," Will says. Matthew has a knife in his other hand, it's big and shining and looks too dry, like it aches for blood. "Let go of me. Walk away."

"Walk away," Matthew repeats in a snarl. "You think I'm just gonna walk away? I know what you and Lecter have been doing, conspiring against me. You let that fancy-ass bitch touch you, let him fuck you, put his fucking hands on you -."

Will's mind is racing. He sees the anger building in Matthew, feels it slicking along his skin like the old scales of a snake. Matthew presses closer and Will stiffens, snarls.

"Look, Matthew," he says, shrugging the touch off. "I guess it doesn't fucking matter now. Hannibal was my secret."

Matthew blinks. Steps back, frowning.

"Freddie and Chilton wanted me to make it look like we were having an affair. So I pretended, okay? It's all fake, all of this is fake." He gestures to the room, lit in severe shadows from the light of the phone. "I don't love him, I can barely stand him, but I did what I had to do, I can't help it if he got a little too into it."

Matthew's frown deepens. His head cocks to the left like his neck is broken.

"Look, the truth is…. I only let him do the shit he did because I was afraid he'd get me kicked off the show if I didn't let him." There it is – a flash of outrage. Hook, line, sinker. It's almost laughable how easily Matthew wants to believe it. Laughable that anyone might think Hannibal would do something like that. "I need this show, man, I need the fucking money, I let him take advantage of me because I didn't have any other choice."

He sucks in a breath, forces it to shake. Forces his voice quieter, helpless. "I know you might judge me for it. Call me a whore, think of me however you want, just…please. Stop. The thing I had with you and what I have with him is night and day." And that's the truth – it's the best way to sell a lie.

Matthew's face is a mask of indecision; he wants to believe the lies Will is feeding him, but instinct is telling him not to. Will swallows, and sets the knife down, next to the phone. He steps forward, revulsion curling in his chest, but he refuses to let it show on his face as he cups Matthew's cheek.

He presses closer, shivering when Matthew goes tense. Lifts his chin. "No one knows where we are," he whispers. "No one knows what we're doing."

Matthew licks his lips, his eyes dropping to Will's mouth.

Will smiles, and curls his hand around the back of Matthew's neck. "Kiss me," he whispers, and pretends it's Hannibal standing in front of him. He slides his hand down Matthew's arm, cradles their fingers together and twists, coaxing Matthew into dropping the knife. "Please. Show me what it's like to be yours."

Matthew snarls, drops his knife and shoves Will onto the desk. Will winces, grits his teeth, and then Matthew's mouth is on his – biting savagely, tugging on his lower lip. He bites hard enough, wide enough, to pierce the cut on Will's lip, reopening it, and Will whines, but forces his lips to part.

He spreads his legs, letting Matthew rut between them. Matthew is hard, his cock burning and brazen against Will's thigh, and he grabs Will by the hair and kisses him again. Will shudders – Matthew kisses like he's trying to eat Will alive, devour him whole, it's messy and uncoordinated and not at all pleasant, but he forces himself to kiss back, to lick into Matthew's mouth. Flinches when he feels teeth on his tongue, clamping down.

Matthew snarls, pulls back, his lips shining with red. "You are a little fucking slut," he hisses, digging his nails into the bruises around Will's neck. Will's stomach tenses with anger at the word, but he swallows it down before it can show on his face.

"Your slut," he purrs, and it tastes like acid. He tugs on Matthew's shirt, draws him closer. "Prove it."

Matthew growls, kissing him again in that terrible, devouring way. Will winces, makes a weak sound he turns into a moan last minute, and forces himself to be still as Matthew paws at his sweatpants, yanking them down his hips.

He grabs Will, and turns him around, flattening him to the desk and shoving his sweatpants down. Will grits his teeth, runs a hand through his hair. His eyes search out the knife, find the gleaming edge of it. He could do it, turn and slit Matthew's throat right now, consequences be damned. He might have to. Submit for a moment, or go down swinging.

He flinches, when Matthew bites through his shirt, and then he feels Matthew's cock rut between his thighs, through the dried mess still flaking between them.

He freezes. Snarls.

"Fucking whore."

He yanks Will upright and Will goes with a whine, grabbing his knife frantically. He turns, as Matthew lunges for him again, and he digs the tip of the knife below Matthew's sternum.

Grits his teeth, and pushes as hard as he can.

It's almost startling, how easily Matthew's stomach gives to the tip of the knife. He freezes, his eyes wide, one hand still mercilessly clenched in Will's hair. Blood wells up around Will's fingers, spilling thick and hot down his wrists, and he clenches his jaw and plunges it in deeper, feels the edge of it skate through muscle, through organs.

Matthew chokes, blood welling up in his mouth, and Will shoves him back and pulls his clothes back into place.

Then, the door opens, and the light flickers on.

"Will!"

Will winces at the bright light, scrambling backwards, sending notebooks, the other knife, the red phone and Hannibal's cell flying. He's smearing blood everywhere, contaminating the space, but his heart, if it was silent before, is abruptly making itself known. A stricken, animal noise spills from his throat as he looks at Matthew, sees him clutch the knife that's jutting out of his gut. It's high, angled up. Will doesn't know what he hit but he hopes it was something important.

Matthew snarls, stumbling forward, grabbing the other knife. Will shrinks back, around the desk, until he collides with Hannibal's chest. Hannibal wraps an arm around him, uncaring for the blood, the fever sweat soaking Will. Hannibal is cold, slick with rain, and he holds his free hand up, gun cocked, aiming for Matthew's forehead.

Matthew freezes, snarls and shows his bloody teeth.

Will shivers, wipes his red wrist along his red mouth, trembles when Hannibal places a gentle kiss to his ear.

He breathes in. Can probably smell Matthew on him, below the blood. Snarls.

"Did he touch you, darling?"

Will swallows. "I asked him to."

Hannibal's arm tightens. His knuckles are white around the gun. "That wasn't my question."

Will sighs. Nods, once. Hannibal's nose presses to his neck again, then lower, finds the slick ring of teeth marks Matthew left behind. He breathes in again, and lets out a noise that isn't quite human.

Matthew grins, pawing at the desk, knife in hand. Blood pours as a thin river down his chest, staining him. His cock is still out, wilting, but undeniable evidence of what he was planning to do, and Hannibal's chest vibrates with another snarl.

Then, when Matthew is in front of the desk, he stumbles, his eyes glazed. Still, he grips the knife with white knuckles. "Would you like me to shoot?" Hannibal asks.

Will swallows, and looks down at his hands. Registers, absently, the shine of blood, and realizes that he's admiring it, not just seeing it. His eyes lift, meet Matthews.

He doesn't want it to be over that quickly.

"No," he replies, and Hannibal lowers the gun immediately. Will nods to one of the chairs, between which they're standing, and Hannibal sets the gun down on the armrest farthest from Matthew. Matthew growls, lunges, stumbles to his knees a few feet in front of them. He swipes wildly with his knife, but the motion is uncoordinated, easy to anticipate, and Will frees himself from Hannibal's arms, his back now damp and chilled, and catches Matthew's wrist.

He twists, forcing him to drop the knife, and picks it up. Kneels down and grabs the other one by the handle.

"What'll happen, if I pull it out?" he asks.

Hannibal's shadow appears at his side, and Will looks up, sees his head tilted. "You likely nicked his lungs," he says. "Perhaps his heart." He lifts his chin, sniffs the air. "Definitely his liver. He won't die immediately, but he may have a hard time breathing."

That sounds nice.

Will yanks the blade out, cleanly. The wound doesn't gape – it's a neat cut, almost invisible within Matthew's shirt. But it wells up, and fresh blood spills, and Matthew coughs, and groans, clutching his hands over it.

Will swallows, looks down. "We're ruining your carpet."

"It can be replaced," Hannibal replies, like the thing isn't easily four figures and probably sourced from an obscure weaver in a fancy shop in Israel or something. Will huffs. Hannibal smiles, and pets through Will's hair with a gentle hand.

"You were right," Will murmurs, lashes fluttering as Matthew stares at him. "I need this to be…intimate."

He feels more than hears Hannibal's rumble of pleasure. Hannibal kneels down behind him, sliding his hands down Will's arm, through the smear of blood, until his large hands wrap around Will's, lacing their fingers together around the blades.

"Allow me to help," he whispers, and kisses Will's neck. Will shivers, smiling, and lets Hannibal guide his hands – for this is the kind of help he wanted in the first place. This feels right, just, vengeful and vindictive, and Will's heart is thrumming. He watches, as Hannibal releases him, cupping Matthew's hands and forcing them apart. He's weak, now, limp – not long for this world. His head droops, eyes closing.

Will snarls, leans in and butts his forehead against Matthew's.

"No, sweetheart," he growls, when Matthew's eyes open. "Watch me."

Hannibal growls as well, presses tight to Will's back. He's hard, a subtle but undeniable press against Will, and Will smiles, sagging back, letting Hannibal's knees fall to surround his thighs. They are intimately joined, neither one ending or beginning.

"Separate the wound," Hannibal whispers to his nape, sending a shiver down Will's spine. He obeys, digging the tip of Matthew's knife in on one side, blade slicing cleanly until it resembles a 'T'. "Peel him apart, darling, just like that."

Will's hands shake, he sets the knives down out of Matthew's reach, digs in with his fingers. Matthew is burning hot on the inside, his flesh soft and yielding, and Will peels it apart, grits his teeth and tugs, and it's not unlike descaling a fish. He sees the slick redness of organs, the grey mush between them. Hot, clear liquid and blood runs down his hands, down Matthew's torso, staining his flaccid cock, his thighs.

"Push in," Hannibal murmurs, and Will does, two fingers in as Hannibal ruts against his back, and Will's lips twitch in a wide, feral smile, he watches as Matthew convulses, eyes rolling back in his head. If Will didn't know any better, he'd call it ecstasy.

"Is this how it feels?" he whispers, as he crooks his fingers up, pulls back, watches as Matthew groans and trembles and tries to breathe. Will can feel his heart, feel the unsteady pulse of it. He wants to wrap his fingers around it and feel it beat its last.

"How what feels, Will?" Hannibal's voice is low, breathless, utterly enraptured.

Will shakes his head. He doesn't know how to describe what this is, what it feels like. Hannibal, warm and hard at his back, guiding his hands. Matthew, in front of him, bleeding out and gaping like a landed fish. His prey, his prize.

Whatever this is, whatever this feeling and action is, Will knows he likes it. This is power. This is dominance, taken from a thing that tried to call itself his equal. Will has no equal in the world, except the purring monster pressed tight to his back.

"It's beautiful," he whispers, choking from behind his ribs. He plunges his hand through the wound in Matthew's chest, turns his hand up, finds his heart. Squeezes it, crushes the powerful muscle as Matthew gurgles, spasms, and goes limp in his arms. "God, it's fucking beautiful."

Hannibal releases Matthew's hands, wraps his arms around Will, and kisses the bruised nape of his neck.

"You're beautiful, Will," he murmurs. Will closes his eyes, soaking in the lingering warmth of Matthew's body around his fist, and shows his neck to his monster, shivering when he feels teeth.

"So are you," he replies, and in this quiet, silent room, with the storm raging around them, he feels it in his bones. He puts his free hand over one of Hannibal's, and slicks their bloody fingers together, squeezes tight.

 

 

The cameras are still out of order. They wrap Matthew up in the carpet, haul him out to the patio, and throw his body over the cliff. The carpet, they burn in the furnace beneath the cabin, and then Hannibal helps Will to clean up all the blood, from hands, from clothes, from his desk. Will knows how to do it; he had to sometimes, for his videos, and unlike when cooking a meal, both of them move in perfect sync and capability. Through it all, Hannibal is smiling.

When it's done, Hannibal lights a fire, and Will peels his still-damp clothes from him, and they add their clothing to the furnace. They pack up Tobias' violin, and Matthew's clothes and suitcase, and take the camera from Will's room so the memory card can't betray him accusing Matthew – if it was even working at all. Will is starting to think Hannibal disabled it long before this became something else. Perhaps he wanted Will to have privacy – maybe he knew what would happen. Will doesn't ask; he doesn't care.

Will hands Hannibal the box of pictures without a word. Hannibal doesn't open it. He doesn't need to.

Soon, it will all be ash.

They sit together, drinking wine on the couches, and Will is trembling, adrenaline leaving him now and rendering him shaken. He doesn't regret what he did, not for a moment – nor does he regret Hannibal, and all that he has seen under his care and command.

He pulls himself over Hannibal's thighs, clutches at his strong shoulders, and lets Hannibal fuck him right there. Slow, deep, lit only by the fireplace and the lightning. He buries his cries against Hannibal's neck, claws fresh wounds to Hannibal's nape, to his shoulders, as Hannibal caresses and kisses him and wipes away any lingering stains.

He touches himself, grinds his cock against Hannibal's belly and thinks of the warmth still clinging to his hands. There's red under his nails, and blood behind his teeth, staining his lip, and Hannibal licks it all away, kisses, and kisses, until there is nothing but them – nothing but air and storms and two monsters moving together in golden light.

When Hannibal is close, he digs his nails into Will's hips, forces him down, forces him to be still, and comes with a silent prayer of Will's name, his eyes wide open – Will's open, too, all-seeing, and he cups Hannibal's face and kisses him, trembling as he falls over his own cliff, and dirties Hannibal's stomach.

When they are finished, they simply lie together beneath a fetched blanket, warm and sweaty and sated. Will is on his side, Hannibal behind him, petting through his hair and placing idle kisses to his neck when the mood strikes.

Then, he hums; "Are you familiar with the 'Passionate Shepherd' poem, by Marlowe?"

Will smiles. "'Come live with me, and be my love'?"

Hannibal wraps an arm around his stomach, holds him gently. "'If these pleasures may thee move'," he whispers to Will's hair.

Will turns, and smiles, reaching up and cupping Hannibal's jaw. He brushes his thumb along the corner of Hannibal's mouth, lifts his lip, to see his teeth.

"Can we get a dog?"

Hannibal blinks, and smiles widely, letting out a huff of amusement, of pure joy. "Anything you desire," he promises, and leans in for another kiss.

 

 

"And now, for our guest segment, we have the producers and showrunners of NT America's riveting show, The Chesapeake Bay, Miss Freddie Lounds and Doctor Frederick Chilton, as well as the star and winner of the competition, Mister Will Graham! Welcome, everyone!"

Freddie is aflame in gold again, today, Chilton in a sky-blue suit. Sandwiched between them, Will, looking fairly out of place in his toned-down black slacks and salmon button-down. The host, Amanda, smiles at each of them in turn, and rests her elbows on her white desk.

"Thank you all for joining us here tonight." She clasps her hands together, her expression one of eager interest. "The Chesapeake Bay has been a wild ride this season! We just saw the finale last night – it looks like there were technical difficulties?"

"Yes," Chilton says, sitting forward. "Unfortunately, we can't control the weather. A terrible storm knocked out our cameras and power for almost a full day, before Doctor Lecter contacted us to come investigate."

"It looks like we missed some interesting developments! The lights go out, and when they come back on, only Doctor Lecter and Mister Graham were still standing."

Will smiles, donning the air of sheepish, camera-shy man. Behind one of the cameras, he catches sight of Hannibal, standing imposing and still, but looking at Will with unrestrained mirth. "I'm afraid nothing all that interesting happened," he says with a laugh. "We did our best to recreate the night's events, but without Mister Budge or Mister Brown, a lot is missing except testimonials."

"Which," Freddie chirps, "Mister Graham and Doctor Lecter have been so kind to give us, as well as Doctor Du Maurier, who had to leave that night due to a family emergency. We received word that Mister Budge was contacted by an agent, and left to go chase his dream of being a concert musician." She waves her hand dismissively. "Mister Brown has, apparently, quit his job and sold his house, and he's in the wind."

"Doctor Du Maurier confirmed that Mister Brown was, unfortunately, a rather unbalanced individual," Chilton says. Will hums, looking at him with a carefully neutral expression. "He proved to be a threatening presence to some of our guests – a fact further confirmed with Doctor Bloom, when we contacted her after her departure for her post-show interview."

Will nods, absently, smiling when he remembers calling Alana, confirming that she was safe, happily pregnant and relaxing with her wife on the shores of some Italian beach.

Chilton sighs, long-sufferingly, and shrugs, putting a hand on Will's shoulder. "We're lucky to have had someone like Mister Graham, keeping a keen watch over everyone to make sure nothing bad happened."

"Of course," Amanda says, nodding. Her eyes rake over Will, her cheeks color a pale pink, which darkens further when Will smiles at her. He's laying on the charm thickly, well-groomed, his beard grown back and his hair carefully mussed. Playing the part of roguish love interest well. "And you'll be releasing the final testimonial episode next week, is that correct?"

"Yes!" Freddie says, smiling wide and sharp. "Same time slot next week."

Amanda nods, smiling. "Mister Graham -."

"Please," Will says, holding up a hand and giving her a warm smile. "'Will' is just fine."

Amanda's smile widens. "Alright, Will," she says, pressing her lips together. "You proved yourself to be one of the most engaging and capable contestants on the show, and won the competition! What's next for you?"

Will shrugs, biting his lower lip. His rubs his hands down his thighs, and subtly pushes Chilton's hand off his shoulder. "I think I'll travel," he says. "Get out of the spotlight for a bit. My husband insists we visit Italy, and I've never been." One reason – another is Alana, which Hannibal graciously acknowledged, and accounted for. Will wants to see her, and see that Chapel in Hannibal's mind, and all the beautiful golden places Italy has to offer.

Amanda blinks, and her eyes widen. "Husband?" she repeats. Her eyes flash to behind the camera, to where Hannibal is standing. "So it's true! Your relationship with Doctor Lecter wasn't just for the sake of the show?"

Will laughs, brilliant and fine. "Opposites attract," he says warmly. "We got off to a rocky start, I'll admit, but yes, it's true – we got married shortly after the show ended, and I moved in with him. I couldn't be happier."

"Well!" Amanda says, beaming. "Congratulations! Though I'm sure you've just broken a lot of hearts," she teases.

Will winks at her, and she blushes, and tilts her head.

"Now, I have to ask – since the show is over, do we get to learn what your secret was?"

Will laughs, good-naturedly. "And ruin the potential for a season three?" he teases.

Beside him, Freddie and Chilton are smiling, and Amanda grins wide. She turns away to put her eyes on the camera.

"That's all for now! Come back after the commercial break and we'll be showing clips from the testimonial episode, coming to you next week! Make sure to catch the thrilling finale – there's a link up on our website so you don't miss it. Doctor Chilton, Miss Lounds, Mister Graham – Will. Thank you so much for joining us."

"It was our pleasure," Chilton says, his smile wide and pleased. The buzzer rings out, and Will stands immediately, running a hand through his hair as the platform darkens.

He goes to Hannibal, smiles, and tilts his head up for a kiss. "How was I?"

"Skill unparalleled, wonderfully poised, darling, as always," Hannibal replies. His eyes are bright with pleasure, his smile soft and adoring. "Shall I take you home?"

Will nods, lashes low, and pets down Hannibal's chest, just to watch his eyes darken. He bites his lower lip, shows his neck, and reaches into Hannibal's pocket until he finds his wedding ring. Takes it out, and slips it on.

"That's better," he murmurs, and Hannibal smiles, the monster in his eyes purring and arching under the touch of its mate. "Let's go."