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“Five years.”

Will’s hand pauses. He blinks. “Five years,” he echoes, resumes carding his fingers through Hannibal’s sweaty hair and pushing them back from his face. “That's a long time. Not dramatically long, but...”

Heidee trots up to them, looks up at Will, sitting on one end of the sofa, then at Hannibal, lying with his head on Will’s lap. She pushes her wet muzzle against Hannibal’s arm, whining softly. Will shushes her and she sits on the floor. She lays her head on the couch beside Hannibal’s shoulder, her tail wagging against Will’s leg.

Hannibal sighs. He leans into Will's hands, their coolness a relief against his feverish skin. Smouldering in his own clothes—though Will already pulled off his tie and opened up the two top buttons of his shirt—he reaches up to battle with the third button. After a moment, Will bats his shaking hands away, and works it off for him. And one more. Hannibal sighs in bliss when cold air hits his collarbones and pectorals.

The world blurs at the edges and Hannibal rubs a hand against his eyes, dizzy with fever. “I don’t usually wait that long, but I had to postpone it as much as I could while I was in Italy.”

“Bedelia?”

Hannibal nods. She would have taken the opportunity to escape. Or kill him, perhaps. Fear and desperation make for a powerful catalyst. “And afterwards there was no way I was going into rut while incarcerated.”

“They didn’t take you off your suppressants back at the hospital?” Will asks.

Hannibal shakes his head.

“Really?” Will says, eyebrows pinched. “They completely cleaned my system when I was there. Thank god, I didn’t stay long enough to go into heat.”

“It was one of the privileges Alana granted me.”

“All three years?”

“All three years.”

“Hell of a privilege. I’m surprised she even allowed it, as a medical doctor herself. Your liver must be in a worst state than mine.” One of Will’s hands moves from Hannibal’s hair to the opening of his shirt. It rests on his sternum, feeling his rabbiting heart. Will's fingertips are cold as ice. Rapturously so.

“She cared little for my well-being,” Hannibal says, “as long as she had my cooperation. Though she did revoke that privilege along with all the others when the Dragon escaped.”

“Good thing I got you out right after that then.” Will’s hand slides lower still, fingers fanning and tangling in coarse hair.

Hannibal groans, arching slightly under the touch. Will strokes his chest a moment, grazing his nipples teasingly, before pulling his hand out to place it under Hannibal’s chin and cup his jaw instead.

“You can decide now, while you still have all your head,” Will says. “A week holed up in your bedroom alone,” he tilts Hannibal’s head back, meeting his eyes, “or with me.”

Hannibal swallows, his throat suddenly very dry. He used to spend ruts on his own, craving privacy more than gratification. But now, here, privacy has no place between the two of them, and the mere thought of being isolated from Will, even just for a few days, is agony.

“Do you often offer yourself so readily?”

Will shrugs, running his thumb along Hannibal’s jaw. “I expect you to return the courtesy for my next heat. You wouldn’t want me to go and find a heat partner—”

Hannibal snarls despite himself, teeth bared, bristling at the thought of anyone touching Will. Heidee pulls away and presses against Will's leg.

“Thought so,” Will says, mouth curled in a smirk. “Just don't get me pregnant.” He releases Hannibal’s chin to stroke his hair, purrs softly, gentling Hannibal until he settles down. Heidee lays her head back beside him.

Hannibal rubs a hand against his face, sighing heavily. Only pre-rut and already he feels the bone deep exhaustion of a week of senseless mating. He may have to stop taking suppressants altogether for a while after that.

“Ruts are… unpleasant,” he says. “The disinhibited state is not something I like to experience, let alone have anyone be witness to.”

“If you can’t control yourself, I will.”

Hannibal looks away. His gaze lands on Heidee, still staring at him with big, troubled eyes. She blinks when he gently rubs her head with the back of his fingers. On the other side of the panoramic window, snow still dances in the wind, covering everything in a flawless tapestry.

“Feeling shy, darling?” Will asks, and Hannibal’s breath hitches at the endearment. Will keeps stroking his thumb along his jaw. His voice drops low. “I saw you bathed in blood, fierce and monstrous in the moonlight, and I’m still here, aren’t I?” His hand rests on Hannibal's forehead, drawing his gaze up. “I’ll take care of you. Just like I took care of you—fed you, bathed you, changed your bandages and colostomy bag—when you could barely move, battling infection on death’s doorstep.”

The fever shifts from troublesome to unbearable. Hannibal's hands itch with the urge to tear his own clothes off to relieve the smothering heat, and then Will’s to satisfy his growing desire. He reins himself in, nods once. “Very well.”

 


 

Hannibal gasps, coming back to his senses at once, nerves alight with the need running through his body, the scorching heat in his abdomen. The world spins around him.

“Breathe, darling.”

Hannibal presses his burning forehead to the rug, sucks in shuddering breaths. His lungs struggle to fill up, rib cage constricted in the silk ropes wound tightly around his chest. His throat clicks as he swallows. He forces himself to inhale through his nose, exhale through his mouth, two, three, ten times, until his heart stops thumping against his sternum.

A quiet, slithering pain courses through his arms, tied behind his back from wrists to upper arms, so close his elbows touch. He lifts his head from the floor an inch—the most he can manage, held down with another set of ropes connecting his arms to his knees—and tries to roll his shoulders, stretch them and alleviate the strain. Nothing gives.

The slightest movement sends blood rushing in his numb legs—held from ankles to hip, and folded under him, keeping him on his knees—bringing with it an unpleasant, crawling sensation. He snarls, baring his teeth. Sweat rolls down his sides, pools at the small of his back.

“Shh,” comes Will’s voice in front of him, barely above a whisper. “Easy, now.”

Hannibal shivers when cold toes settle on his upper trapezius, and gently push him down. He relents, head falling back to the floor. His cheeks radiate heat, no doubt darkened to a deep cherry colour. The rug feels soft and damp under them, soden with his own sweat and saliva. But it does nothing to soothe the ache in his stomach, or cool his burning skin, and for a second Hannibal finds himself longing for the hardwood of the dining room or the tiles of the kitchen, however unforgiving they are on his knees.

“Good boy.” Will rubs the ball of his foot back and forth over Hannibal’s spine, pressing on muscles drawn tight and catching on the jutting knobs of his vertebrae. “Breathe.”

Hannibal closes his eyes, damp eyelashes grazing his cheekbones. He breathes. Forces as much air into his lungs as the ropes will allow. In, when Will’s foot slides up to his cervicals, out, when it moves back down his thoracic curve. He counts his heartbeats, until they melt into a steady rhythm, until his body relaxes, burning arousal brought down to a simmer. His hands unclench and release palms adorned with small crescents.

Will’s toes still under his nape, rise and fall with every breath. They move up to trace the long line of his sternocleidomastoid and slip under his chin. Hannibal open his eyes as his head is tilted back up through the strain in his shoulders. Tears cling to his lashes. He blinks them away.

The world comes back into focus and he falls into the playful blues of Will’s eyes.

Will smiles down at him. “Hello again.”

He is seated on the bench at the end of Hannibal’s bed. Naked and beautiful and ripe for the taking. Enthralling. Nothing to hide him but a soft cashmere robe hanging loosely off his shoulders—one of many gifts Hannibal lavished upon him. Hannibal feels his mouth water at the sweet scent of his skin laid out for him. He desperately longs for a taste.

“You went all alpha on me there for a moment.”

“Did I? My apologies,” Hannibal manages through the sting in his throat. His head pitches down when Will pulls his foot away, allowing him to lower his chin.

“It’s fine. Nothing I can’t handle.”

His eyes dart down to Will’s hand, where it fiddles with a thin remote control, thumb teasing the button.

Hannibal swallows a sudden lump in his throat, once again keenly aware of the steel sound in his urethra, its ring lying snug against his frenulum, and the small vibrator Will attached to it. He recalls with excruciating clarity each ridge sliding oh so slowly into him, bringing with it novel—and not entirely pleasurable—sensations. An eternity ago, now it seems. Already he apprehends the moment Will would have to pull it out, when Hannibal would no doubt be considerably more sensitive. He resists the impulse to rut against the rug. His body is completely immobilised from the neck down either way.

“I hope you—” His voice breaks on the last word, hoarse, ragged at the edges. He clears his throat. Will's pupils dance with mirth. “I hope you’re taking pleasure in my situation.”

“I’m always happy to provide.”

Provide.

“You’re happy to have me at your feet.”

Will huffs out a short laugh. “As much as you’re happy to be at my feet.” He pushes his toes under Hannibal’s jaw again for emphasis.

Hannibal feels a bead of sweat rolling down his temple, falling off his chin and on the rug. “A seamless match, the two of us.”

Before that fateful day in Jack Crawford’s office, Hannibal had long given up the prospect of ever finding a mate. Will was the miracle he never dared to hope for.

He sighs as Will lets him put his head back down. A needle of pain shoots up his shoulders at the movement, tearing a soft groan from him. He tries to stretch his neck but only manages to rub his cheek against the damp rug.

“You’ve always been particularly fond of my assertive streak,” Will says, and pauses. “Curious for an alpha, to choose complaisance over the thrill of control.”

Hannibal licks his lips. He readjusts his position, tries to lessen the strain in his trapezius. “Curious for an omega, to prefer confrontation to the comfort of surrender.”

Will chuckles, echoes, “A seamless match, the two of us,” and switches the vibrator back on.

Hannibal gasps.

He jerks in his restraints, pulls on the ropes around his arms and legs. They bite and burn and bore angry red lines into his sweaty skin. His shoulders twist erratically. His fingers clenching, unclench in vain. The pressure in his stomach sharpens. Arousal burns anew and cuts through his guts, ripping a high pitched moan from his lungs. He writhes at Will’s feet, hips thrusting forward, chasing release. Chasing relief.

Nothing gives.

Nothing gives.

Nothing gives nothing gives nothing gives—

It stops.

A broken cry. He slumps down at once, cheek back to the floor. Ragged breaths spill from his mouth, chest heaving, body trembling. Helpless. He blinks back tears. Bites down on a smile threatening to curl the corners of his mouth.

Will’s toes rest on his back again—so cold, so divinely good—stroking along his thoracic spine in a soothing gesture. Black dots appear in his vision. He shakes his head and squeezes his eyes shut, gulps down lungfuls of air, ignoring the sting of the ropes digging into his ribs. He can’t come. Not like this. He needs to free his hands, to slide his knees further apart and rub himself on the rug. Anything. He needs to touch, he needs to reach—

Will shushes him, presses on his upper trapezius once more, not bringing any comfort but the tease of his presence. So close, so far. Hannibal tries to crawl closer, but the ropes hold him fast.

“Still with me, sweetheart?”

Hannibal growls in answer.

“Speak. You’re not an animal.”

Hannibal swallows. His throat is sore, tingling. Had he been screaming? It is hard to tell his own voice apart from the din of the blood rushing in his head. “You certainly—” one corner of his mouth twitches up at the thought, “You certainly treat me like one.”

“I wouldn’t do that to an animal.”

Hannibal ought to feel offended by the statement. Worried, perhaps. And he probably would, were his mind not choking under the thick fog of rut. But there is only affection and, surprisingly, delight blooming in his chest. “What does that make me then?”

Will does not miss a beat. “My mate.” Hannibal sucks in a sharp breath at the words. “If you get through this, that is.”

“A bond for a reward,” Hannibal says on an exhale. They had not discussed bonding, had not felt the need to, but they knew. They only had each other until death parted them—they would not get caught. Not alive. Still, Hannibal had not anticipated the exhilaration of hearing those two words said aloud. “Do you see yourself as a prize?”

“I think we’ve skirted around the subject for far too long.” The ball of Will’s foot slides down Hannibal’s cervicals, then back up to his skull to rub damp hair. “Though now may not be the ideal occasion to bring it up.”

He presses down, follows the long, delving line of skin tracing Hannibal's spine, down to the junction of his elbows, just over the Verger brand.

“You never told me how you got this,” Will says. His toes slip inside the space between Hannibal's back and arms, over the raised skin of the scar.

“I was in a similar situation, sans the rut,” Hannibal explains, huffs a mirthless laugh at the memory. “Mason had me in a pigpen. Naked, bound, collared. I could barely move, on my knees much like now though the hay was much less comfortable. Mason wanted to brand my face.”

“Why didn't he?”

“It would have set me apart from his pigs.” The cold had been enough to numb his body, to push the pain in his limbs to the back of his mind, but the humiliation of the situation had burnt his flesh deeper than the sizzling iron. “I remember thinking at the time that I'd never let myself be put in that kind of situation again.”

“And now?”

“Now I wish we weren't separated.”

Will hums pensively, his toes inching further under Hannibal’s elbows to cover the brand. “Maybe I’ll replace this with a brand of my own, one day.” He presses a second longer before resting his foot back on Hannibal’s head. “Would you like that?”

Hannibal relishes the cold, soft skin of Will’s instep against his temple. “Yes,” he breathes out, “Anything.”

Will places his foot back on the floor and Hannibal takes the opportunity to kiss along the delicate bone of his ankle. He would let Will cut out every unpleasant memory and fill the gaping wounds with his own name. He would worship every inch of his body, every minute of every day, and draw his dying breath against his skin.

As though hearing his thoughts, Will pushes the robe off his shoulders and slips off the bench to kneel on the floor in front of him—finally. Hannibal looks up, not surprised not to see Will aroused by his current state.

Noticing his stare, Will shrugs, says, “I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for my heat.”

“I don’t mind,” Hannibal says, laying his head back down.

The remote control is placed beside Will’s knee, and Hannibal sighs in relief when cold, calloused hands cradle his head, slide over his burning skin. He presses his forehead to Will’s knee. The sweet scent of his—not his, not yet—beautiful omega now so close is both bliss and agony.

Will strokes his hair, from his crown down to the back of his head, and up again. “Good boy,” he whispers, again and again and again, raining praises and caresses on him.

Hannibal soaks it all up, body relaxing under his touch. He wants to crawl closer, to lay his head against Will’s thigh, to bury his nose in the trail of hair on his abdomen. He cannot move an inch.

Will strokes Hannibal’s bottom lip with his thumb, smearing saliva before slipping inside, pulling on his jaw to open his mouth further. He runs the pad of his thumb over Hannibal’s incisors, lingers over each canine, appreciating their sharpness.

Hannibal bites down on the questing thumb lightly, holds it there a few seconds before closing his mouth to suck on it instead.

“Hungry?”

“I’ve hungered for you,” Hannibal mumbles around his thumb, “for longer than I care to admit.”

This draws a short laugh from Will, who scoots closer until his legs bracket Hannibal’s head. The proximity is intoxicating. He lets Hannibal suck a moment longer before he pulls his thumb free. Hannibal licks his lips, chasing the taste.

“How much longer am I to stay tied up?” Hannibal asks, pressing kisses to the inside of Will’s knee. The muscles in his neck and shoulders protest at the angle. He ignores them. “Another wave? Two? Until the end of my rut?”

“What do you think?”

Hannibal comtemplates this, idly mouthing at whatever inch of skin he can reach. “I think,” he says between kisses, “that you’d like to wait until I beg you to release me.”

“Well, the ropes look striking against your skin,” Will says, stroking Hannibal’s hair back from his forehead. “Like rivulets of blood. It’s lovely.”

“You seem to love denying me as well.” Another truth that ought to worry him, but only sparks delight. The muscles in his arms relax gradually, and the ropes keep him together, keep him in control. Strain and discomfort aside, there is relief in their embrace, holding him as he lets go. “Would you forbid me release?”

“You won’t come like this anyway. You need more.” Will’s voice drops low, teasing. “The sweet, tight heat of an omega.”

A shiver runs up Hannibal’s spine, curling his toes. He turns glassy, pleading eyes to Will’s amused ones, and is met with a boyish smile. Hope curls warm and heavy in his stomach.

“Or maybe just more stimulation,” Will amends. “I think I saw one with a knot in there,” he says, jerking his chin towards the box beside the bed, containing Hannibal’s selection of toys.

“Two,” Hannibal breathes out, his body suddenly alight with the memory of being stretched beyond what his biology would allow, the exquisite burn magnifying each wave of pleasure. “One is inflatable.”

Will hums pensively, petting Hannibal’s hair. “I could use one of them, or...” he trails off, tilts his head, considering, “Or I could use my hands.”

A whimper escapes Hannibal’s lips despite himself. He bites down on it viciously.

Will exhales a laugh, pats Hannibal’s cheek one last time. He picks up the remote and stands, taking with him his heat and scent. For the few seconds it takes him to fetch the bottle of lubricant abandoned on the bed earlier, Hannibal feels irrationally bereft. He sighs in relief when Will kneels behind him, one hand caressing his flank.

Will kisses his sides and arms, pressing praises to his heated skin.

The cap of the bottle pops. Anticipation blooms in Hannibal’s belly. He shivers when slick fingers touch his exposed entrance, circling it a moment before pressing in. Hannibal tries to arch his back further, to push up on his knees and present properly for Will. The ropes hold on tight.

He turns his head, lays his other cheek on the damp rug, and closes his eyes. Luxuriates in the sensation of Will’s searching fingers inside him, the delicious curl on either side of his prostate. A quiet moan rumbles in his chest, not making its way up his throat, not yet.

“Let me hear you, sweetheart,” Will says, pulling on his rim.

Hannibal whines softly, barely audible. No amount of squirming would slacken his restraints so he simply sags down—as much as his position would allow—and lets himself be opened.

It is only when a fourth finger slides into him and Will’s knuckles brush his entrance that he tenses up, teeth bared in a hiss. Will makes soft shushing noises and strokes his side, but does not relent. He presses against the resistance, against the discomfort, in and out, deeper and deeper, until his knuckles rest against Hannibal’s rim.

One breath. Will’s knuckles breach him.

Hannibal gasps.

Hannibal’s hands clench as prickles of pain crawl up his spine and Will caresses his arms until his nails release the already marked flesh of his palms. Hannibal makes an effort to relax, to accept Will in him. He inhales deeply, holds onto each lungful a few seconds before exhaling. He can feel his rim quivering around Will.

Will rotates his hand inside him once, slow, agonising, before withdrawing, stretching his tight entrance again. Hannibal lets out a shuddering breath, relaxing at once. Will pushes right back in and pain flares up once more, drowning the pleasure brought by the steady pressure on his prostate. Hannibal whimpers, teeth clenched.

Will repeats the motion several times, forcing his knuckles in and out of Hannibal.

Hannibal can only endure it, and hold onto the prospect of release. And the prospect of being denied.

Will’s thumb slides inside him.

Hannibal’s breath hitches. “Will—”

The plea disappears in a mewl as his rim closes around Will’s wrist.

Will.

Inside him.

Close enough to feel his pulse. Deep enough to reach for his heart.

The thought alone could send him over the edge, but Will has not allowed him to come yet. Hannibal presses his mouth shut, chest heaving. His body shivers at the intrusion. Somewhere under the rush of blood in his ears, he hears Will’s voice. Solid, grounding. He focuses on it. On the whispered praises and tender caresses. It is not quite enough to distract him from the burn of the stretch.

“Okay?” Will murmurs.

Hannibal tries to answer, but another moan escapes him instead. Will peppers kisses on his sides, from his quivering ribs to his hip bone.

After an eternity, just as he adjusts to the sensation, Will’s hand starts moving in a slow rocking motion. Pleasure fights its way back in, and Hannibal drinks every single drop of it. Inside him, Will’s hand carefully closes into a fist. Hannibal bites his lower lip to cut off a sob.

Will draws back slightly, not pulling out of the tight heat yet, and stills just behind his rim, where Hannibal can feel every inch of him. He rotates his hand, knuckles rolling over Hannibal's prostate.

One.

By.

One.

Hannibal's breath stutters, his thighs tremble under him. His chest and lungs ache, caged in silk, burning under the pressure. He feels light headed. Suffocating.

Then Will gently pulls out, hand still curled in a tight fist. Hannibal’s chin snaps up, mouth slack around a silent, breathless moan.

A hand curls around his nape, guides his head back on the rug. Firm enough to keep him down, but not to choke him. Still, Hannibal feels pinned. He searches for Will’s voice, holds onto the whispers and sweet nothings like the air in his lungs. He blinks to clear the tears off his vision.

They spring back to his eyes when Will presses his fist back in. Hannibal’s eyes roll back in his head in rapture.

Amidst erratic breaths and the desperate beating of his heart, the click of the remote is thunder.

 


 

Awareness strikes him at once.

The first thing Hannibal registers is a relieved tingling coursing through his limbs—and further down, a pleasant, intimate ache. Deep marks snake along his arms, most likely on his legs and chest as well, where the ropes kissed his skin red.

Hannibal takes in a deep breath, lungs and diaphragm free to expand at last, holds it in for a blissful moment, and lets it out in a long exhalation. He stretches his arms and legs, arching his back and craning his neck. His spine gives a satisfying pop, and he sighs in content. He takes in the buzz in his limbs, now entirely relaxed. Despite the soreness in his muscles, his body feels much lighter, the pressure of his rut temporarily lifted off his frame by pleasure.

The second is the softness surrounding him. Pillows and blankets and clothes arranged in a circle around him, littering the bed, shrouding him in Will’s scent.

A nest.

“Nesting has always been a natural behaviour for alphas and omegas alike—”

The third is Will’s warmth beside him.

“—that is, until some dudes back in the forties decided to market it as the height of omegahood,” Will says.

Hannibal turns his head, blinks up at Will lying on his side and leaning on his elbow, chin propped up on his palm.

“Wasn’t sure if you’ve ever nested, but I figured you’d be too tired anyway, so I made this one for you,” Will continues, his hand resting on Hannibal’s abdomen, tracing slow circles with his thumb, just under his navel.

The fourth is the ring of the sound still hugging his frenulum.

Hannibal looks down. The shiny loop is still peeking out of his slit, warm and sticky and not quite painful, though he is relieved to see the vibrator has been removed. He traces the circle of steel and winces. Awfully sensitive, as expected. He takes the ring between his thumb and index finger to pull it out.

Will grabs his wrist, takes his hand away from the sound. “Nope, you’re keeping it until the end of your rut.”

Hannibal arches an eyebrow. “You shouldn’t have untied me then.” He reaches down with his other hand, but Will bats it away.

“I said, you’re keeping it until the end of your rut,” Will repeats. He leans in to nuzzle the crown of Hannibal’s head. “I spared you the vibe though. Be grateful.”

Hannibal sighs, relents. He rolls onto his side and curls against Will’s smaller frame. He tries to push the discomfort of the sound to the back of his mind, focuses on Will instead now that he does not have the strain of the ropes to distract him anymore. His arms snake around Will’s waist, pulling him closer until he can tuck his head in the crook of Will’s neck, their bodies flush together from chest to thighs. “Thank you,” he says, more out of habit than anything.

“Anytime, big boy.” Will's hands find his hair again, and Hannibal purrs as Will cards his fingers through sweaty locks, pushing them back from his face.

For a moment, they lay silently, basking in each other’s presence, gentle hands exploring skin bared and offered at last. Relief settles in Hannibal's bones at finally being allowed to touch. Will’s heat, his divine scent, his rumbling purrs, the rhythm of his breaths, the steady beating of his heart… Hannibal files it all in his palace, to guard in life and to treasure in death, if ever he were to lose him again.

His mouth closes on the skin of Will's shoulder, making him hum in content. Hannibal leaves a trail of wet, open-mouthed kisses down his clavicle. He tastes of milk and spice and the distinctive sweetness of an omega. And something else, sharp and rich, unnamed, unmatched, entirely Will.

“I thought I was to stay tied up until the end of my rut?” Hannibal asks softly, eyelids sliding close in the comforting quiet.

“I never said that, you assumed,” Will says, matching his tone.

“Any alpha would have you on your hands and knees by now.” It is a statement more than a threat.

Will snorts, cradles Hannibal’s head between his arms, holding him close to his chest. “Many have tried. All ended either in a cell or in the ICU. Any charge against me eventually dropped, of course. Being an omega in the force has its advantages.”

“Corruption at every level,” Hannibal mumbles, sleep tugging at his consciousness, the prospect of finally having Will not sufficient to chase the exhaustion. Or maybe it is precisely Will’s proximity that soothes him enough to lull him into sleep.

“Welcome to the real world, darling,” Will huffs into his hair, warm puffs of breath blowing damp locks. “It made up for the crippling sexism I constantly had to face. Being an omega in the force has its disadvantages.” At this, Hannibal’s hold tightens around Will’s waist, equal parts protective and possessive. Will hums, a low, pleased rumble in his chest. “Though if ever I come across an entitled asshole again, I’ll just have to deliver them to our table I suppose.”

Deliver.

Provide.

Hannibal quite likes the idea.

Will has already proven incredibly competent at taking care of the two of them.

While Hannibal was still barely conscious in the fog of recovery, they had never lacked food, medication or supplies. He only had to ask for antibiotics or mention they would soon run out of gauze and in the next couple of hours, Will had it all neatly stacked on the counter. Hannibal had not bothered to ask how or where he had procured everything, the specks of blood on his sleeves and the smell of iron clinging to his hands answer enough. Will has lived all his life as a provider, first for his father and himself, then for a growing family of strays, and now for Hannibal.

Hannibal had himself found delight in returning Will’s care, elated at the praises Will bestowed upon him for every meal and every gift.

He could live this way, he could die this way. Hold Will in the morning and hold him in the night. He would want for nothing else.

“One word,” Hannibal murmurs, awed, “and I’ll bring the world to its knees for you.”

Will exhales a laugh. “I’ve no interest in the world on its knees. Only you.”

Hannibal’s reply dies on his tongue as a sharp needle of—not pain, not quite—heat flares up in his abdomen. He groans, pressing his legs together, holds onto his clarity for as long as he is able to. Will shushes him softly, caressing his hair. He slips a hand down Hannibal’s thigh, hooks his fingers behind his knee to hitch Hannibal's leg over Will’s hip.

“I believe I still have another wave or two left,” Hannibal mumbles against Will’s skin, when the heat ebbs away, just a bit. He groans as Will nudges his own leg between his, allowing him to rut lightly against his thigh. The smallest movement of the steel loop drags the sound up and down inside him, not enough to push him over the edge, but enough to have him hissing at the exquisite sensations.

“I know, but we’ve passed the peak of your rut. I don’t think you’ll go feral on me again. And even if you do, I'll just take the rope back out. Maybe I'll tie you to the bed this time. Nests are good for gentling,” Will muses aloud.

“It's not—” Another wave crawls up his body, making him moan and press harder against Will’s leg. “It’s not something I can control, darling Will.”

“You'll learn. I’ll make sure of it,” Will says, pressing a kiss to the crown of his head, but there is a bite perched on the edge of his tone.

“But of course,” Hannibal replies, nuzzling Will’s chest.

All in all, this rut would have only lasted a couple days, which was to be expected after years of reckless medication. His next few cycles may be irregular as well, while his system weans itself off suppressants.

“And to answer your earlier question,” Hannibal says, when the knot in his stomach relaxes, “yes, I do nest for my cycles.” Given that said cycles do not spring on him out of the blue, like this one had. He would not sacrifice comfort for arbitrary gender stereotypes.

Will beams at him, his lovely ears wiggling slightly. “That’s great. You can make a nest for me when my next heat comes then.”

Hannibal dips his head to press a lingering kiss to Will’s sternum. “It would be my utmost pleasure.”

Will purrs, his chest rumbling under Hannibal’s lips, and folds his leg higher, sliding it over Hannibal’s. The soft skin of his inner thigh is velvet to the touch. Hannibal lets his hand run along Will’s ribcage, catching on the intercostal spaces. He rubs slow circles on Will’s flank, on his slim waist, then follows his obliques until he reaches the knobs of his spine, counting them with his thumb down to his tailbone, and lingers there.

Will reaches behind himself for Hannibal’s hand, and guides it further down. “Go ahead, you can touch,” he says softly.

“How much?” Hannibal asks, just as low. He kneads a supple cheek between his fingers, marvels at how easily the smooth, soft skin yields under his touch.

Will cups Hannibal’s jaw, murmurs, “To your heart’s content,” and seals their mouths.