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To Love a Dragon

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“Hannibal, have you seen my shirt?”

Will poked his head into the kitchen, lifting his head a little to sniff appreciatively at the delicious smell of beef stroganoff. The meat was tender, and it had been a particularly fit young man that had provided them with such a delectable feast. Will still remembered that hunt fondly, and he’d taken great joy in strangling the man, seeing as he was a known criminal who stole from the elderly.

The only indication that Hannibal had heard his question was the slight pause in his movements as he removed the sauce from the heat. “No, perhaps it hasn’t been washed yet.”

Will frowned, narrowing his eyes at Hannibal’s relaxed back. He knew for a fact he had worn it since they moved to this new house, and it wasn’t like he went out a lot so he kept track of most of his things. Will didn’t have much to begin with and he’d noticed that every once in a while an article of clothing went missing. Weirdly, it was usually one he’d worn once or twice and he’d plan to put it in the laundry basket only for it to mysteriously disappear.

“It wasn’t in the laundry basket,” Will said slowly, leaning against the wall with arms crossed as he watched Hannibal. “You wouldn’t happen to know where it is, would you?”

Hannibal was quiet, the silence dragging on long enough to fill the air with tension. Finally, he spoke up, turning the fire off and spinning around to give Will his full attention.

His eyes flashed red then, a sudden change in pupil shape that always left Will breathless as they flickered back to the unassuming red-brown of Hannibal’s human form. “Are you asking because of what I am? Do you suspect me?”

Will sighed, running a hand through his hair and tugging on the curls. He hadn’t had the opportunity to get it cut since after the fall and Hannibal refused to let anyone put a blade near him. Thus, the responsibility fell on Hannibal to keep Will’s unruly hair tamed. Unfortunately, Hannibal enjoyed Will’s hair wild and untamed so pleas for a shorter haircut went ignored.

“I’m not saying that, but I still have trouble differentiating between your actions and those that are more…instinctual. I don’t think you would have done so, but your other side…” Will trailed off and shrugged.

Hannibal tilted his head, distinctively reptilian as he stared at Will with unnerving intensity. “My instinctual side, as you put it, is just as much a part of me as my humanity. You need not worry, I am in full control of all my faculties.”

Will didn’t think that was much of a comfort because if it wasn’t Hannibal’s animal brain making the choice to steal Will’s clothes, then it was likely Hannibal himself that had resorted to such bizarre actions. Will didn’t know if this was some misguided attempt to replace Will’s wardrobe with something Hannibal found more tasteful, or if this was some other sadistic game he wanted to play.

“Right,” Will gave up on arguing the point, resigning to the loss of more clothes in the future. With a small chuckle, he wondered if Hannibal was divesting him of his clothes to try and get him naked. It was true that there had always been some sort of tension between them, and now that they were shockingly domestic, it had dawned on Will once or twice that there was nothing stopping them from consummating their relationship completely. Their connection was past romance anyways, and though they had never said it out loud, they knew that they belonged to each other in every way. It was no longer friendship, but Will didn’t know what to call their relationship.

Labels had always fluctuated, when it came to them.

“I can buy you new clothes if you’d prefer.”

Will smiled at Hannibal, knowing this was as close to a confession and an apology that he would ever get. Maybe this whole thing really was as simple as Hannibal wanting to replace his wardrobe with fancier suits. Will mulled on the thought a little, wondering why he’d fought so hard against letting Hannibal do so. Perhaps the issue was that he felt he would lose a sense of autonomy if Hannibal picked his clothes for him, but he couldn’t deny a fissure of pleasure at the thought. Hannibal had been really considerate to Will and his many quirks ever since they started living together. Maybe it was time Will gave in a little.

“Sure. As long as it isn’t too complicated to put on and take off, I’m fine with whatever you choose.”

Instead of the triumphant smirk Will had anticipated, a soft smile graced Hannibal’s lips. “Of course Will, I always want you to be comfortable.”

The implied ‘here, with me’ was left unsaid but Will heard it anyways.

“Okay,” Will stared down at the floorboards, feeling the flush of warmth on his face as he backed out of the room. “I’ll just go read in the study. Let me know when dinner’s ready.”

Will left before Hannibal could say anything further, and he cursed himself for being so awful at feelings. This was probably why they would never move past friendship. At this rate, they’d be eighty before they got to touch each other’s dicks. Will groaned as he flopped down onto a chair.

God, he hated himself sometimes.

xxxxxx

When Will had learned who Hannibal was, he’d felt appropriately betrayed and the subsequent series of events left him even more angry, vengeance roiling in his gut and spilling out onto the floor as Hannibal forgave him.

It wasn’t until later, much later- with a man proclaiming himself the Great Red Dragon- and a cliff, that Will had realized how blind he’d been.

He shouldn’t have wondered who Hannibal was. Instead, he should have asked himself: what is Hannibal?

Turns out the answer was not human.

(“I am perhaps closer to the reptilian family than most. I believe humans call my species dragons.”)

The irony was not lost on Will then, that they had fought one false dragon, only for Hannibal to drag them out of the ocean with all the towering grace and sharp claws of an actual creature of mythology. Will had been held by Hannibal’s clawed feet, a swoop of vertigo causing him to cough up the sea water that he’d swallowed. When he’d looked up, dazed and confused, all he’d seen was a dark scaled being, blood red scales bleeding into the black, and large wings flapping effortlessly. The only thing that told him it was Hannibal were those familiar eyes staring back at him, though they were much more reptilian in shape, and the flowing blonde mane that resembled Hannibal’s hair color.

He’d only had a second to think ‘this explains so fucking much’ before he’d passed out cold.

It wasn’t until they’d recovered from the ordeal and safely tucked themselves away in a cottage on the Italian countryside, courtesy of Chiyoh’s quick and efficient plans, that Will had probed deeper into the mystery that was Hannibal.

He’d asked, eyes wide with wonder, and a tugging sense of disbelief in his head that this was all a fever dream and that he’d finally gone insane. “What are you?”

Hannibal had looked at him with those hauntingly bright red eyes, pupils contracted into thin slits. He’d bared sharp teeth, deadly claws stroking the side of Will’s face gently. “I’m yours, and you are mine.”

And the rest, as they say, was history.

xxxxxx

Will hummed a tune to himself, in high spirits as he hung up his coarse fishing jacket next to Hannibal’s suit jacket. It always pleased him, seeing the dichotomy between their beings even as they blurred more and more each day. It comforted Will, knowing that here they were equals, and that he could be himself around Hannibal.

He wandered around the house, and it wasn’t until his feet took him back to his room that he realized he’d been looking in vain for Hannibal. He felt a small tug of melancholy in his chest when his search yielded no results. It was likely he was out shopping for ingredients but Will had wanted to be near Hannibal, especially when he was in such a good mood.

With a sigh, he flopped belly first onto his bed only to let out a surprised yelp when something quite literally stabbed him in the stomach. He rolled away from it, heart pounding, and cursed as he tugged the entire bed sheet with him and ended up landing with a heavy thump on the floor. Will stared at the ceiling, panting slightly as he tried to get his bearings. He touched his stomach with a tentative hand and it came away with enough blood that he was slightly concerned. He lifted up his shirt, hissing as it peeled away from the wound.

Still wondering what the fuck just happened, he poked at the cut mark, relieved to find it had merely skimmed his skin right above the scar Hannibal had given him. With a disgruntled sound, he sat up and peeked carefully over the edge of the bed. Sitting innocently in the middle of his bed, now exposed to the light, was a blade.

He stood up carefully, eyes darting around and tense. This didn’t seem like some nefarious plot to harm him but it was strange enough that it left him on edge. He picked up the blade with some hesitance, turning it in the light as he studied it. It was beautiful, if he was one to care about blades at all. It was a dagger of some sort with jewels encrusted into the handle, but sharpened expertly in a way that implied the blade was meant more for use than for display.

Will’s grip tightened on the blade as he grit his teeth. There was only culprit he could think of.

xxxxxx

Hannibal stepped into a dark and silent house. Their new place on the coastal regions of France had given their summer stay a moist and humid heat. Hannibal unbuttoned the top few buttons of his shirt, breathing in the lingering scent of fish. The distinct taste tickled the back of his throat and told him Will was nearby.

“Will, why are you sitting in the dark?”

Hannibal flicked on the living room light, his eyes contracting and adjusting quickly to the change. Benefits of being a dragon.

“Hello, Doctor Lecter. I’ve been expecting you.”

If Hannibal wasn’t so befuddled he’d point out that Will had just said something completely cliche and bland. As it was, Hannibal could only stand next to the table, eyeing Will curiously as he took in his clenched jaw and the way he had his hands folded neatly on the table. Hannibal sniffed the air, and immediately bared his sharp teeth when he tasted Will’s blood in the air.

“Will,” His voice was barely human at that point, more a series of clicks and growls than legible vowels. “Who hurt you?”

Will blinked up at him with a small frown before he relaxed. He sighed, running a hand down his face and muttering something like ‘of course Hannibal wasn’t trying to- god I’m such a dumbass.’

“Will.” Hannibal repeated, hands fluttering by Will’s shoulders and reaching up to cup his face. His claws itched to unsheathe themselves, to break free of his human form and destroy whoever had dared to spill Will’s blood. “What happened?”

“Oh uh,” Will scratched the back of his head with his eyes focused on the wooden grain of the table. He shuddered when Hannibal caressed his cheek one last time, nails scraping across stubble before he let Will go. “I found this on my bed.”

Will lifted up a blade that he’d been hiding on his lap, and Hannibal’s lips curled into a pleased smile. Will watched Hannibal’s reaction, a flash of something indecipherably dark passing through his eyes before he hid it behind a blank face.

“I see you discovered your gift.” It had taken Hannibal quite a while of dilly-dallying before he’d decided that none of the blades in his treasured pile were worthy of Will. No, he would have to have one made. A blade just as unique as Will’s beautiful mind. It was an act of courtship that Hannibal had been hesitant to initiate, but he’d seen the looks Will shot him when he thought Hannibal wasn’t looking, and he’d decided it was time to move their relationship to the next step.

Most dragons courted other dragons with shiny objects, after all, they were creatures of vanity and appreciated the beautiful reflective surfaces of metals. Hannibal was unique even within his own kind, and though he’d briefly contemplated gifting Will with a wristwatch, he’d decided that was too banal for them. If he was going to court Will, it would be with something that represented both his beauty and his deadly nature. It hadn’t been hard to make the leap after that and search for the perfect blade for Will.

“This was a gift.” Will’s voice was deliberately blank, his grip tightening on the handle. It was less of a question and more a statement of disbelief.

“Yes,” Hannibal grinned, smiling fondly as he noticed the blood on the sharp edges. “And you christened it with your blood. Truly marvelous, Will.”

Will had marked the blade as his, and that explained the smell of blood that lingered on the man. It made the creature in Hannibal purr in contentment, more than smug that their potential partner had received their gift so passionately.

Abruptly, Will pushed his chair back, his movements stiff as he placed the blade on the table and walked out of the room with a few parting words. “Thanks. I’m tired, I think I’ll go to bed now.”

“But dinner-“

“I’m not hungry.”

Hannibal blinked in bewilderment as Will left. Distantly he heard Will slam his door.

Hannibal frowned down at the blade Will had left behind, tracing the flaking blood a little morosely. Maybe the blade hadn’t been to Will’s liking? He’d have to try harder next time.

xxxxxx

Over the next few days, Will kept a careful distance from Hannibal. He could tell the man was confused, and after a while, Will allowed the tension between them to dissipate.

It wasn’t until he walked into his room one day to find a pile of new flannel shirts that he admitted to himself that maybe, just maybe, he’d overreacted.

But seriously, what was Will supposed to think? Hannibal had quite literally created a bladed trap in his bed and it had succeeded. Will had assumed that Hannibal wanted to play their games again, except this time, one of them wouldn’t be coming out of it alive. It had made Will despair. It hurt to think that Hannibal wasn’t as content with their arrangement, that perhaps the peace he’d felt had been one-sided. He thought they’d finally reached an understanding, that they no longer had to half kill each other in order to find some semblance of connection.

But after a week of peace and Hannibal moping silently, Will realized that the blade had been exactly that: a gift. One he’d rejected by placing it back in Hannibal’s ownership.

Will sighed, wondering again why he was just so fucking bad at feelings. He lightly traced the flannel, much softer and probably with a higher thread count than his bed sheets, and smiled. It seemed that Hannibal stealing his clothes hadn’t been a ploy to change Will in some way. After all, Hannibal could have bought Will some awful three piece suits, instead he’d taken Will’s tastes into consideration and bought him flannel. It had probably pained Hannibal to purchase these items. He’d have to thank the man when they ate dinner tonight.

Will would still very much like to know what the fuck Hannibal was doing with his clothes, though.

At dinner, Will gave Hannibal more smiles than usual, and he was gratified when Hannibal brightened considerably. Will had only seen Hannibal’s dragon form a handful of times, and they’d purposefully chosen isolated countrysides and coastal areas so that Hannibal could stretch his wings without humans to witness it. But Will imagined that if Hannibal had turned into a dragon right then, his tail would have been swishing back and forth happily like a dog. It made him chuckle, comparing Hannibal to a dog, and he waved away Hannibal’s curious look.

Sipping wine and eating dinner with the man he loved with all his heart, Will could tell that everything was going to work out just fine.

xxxxxx

Everything was not fine.

After the nice dinner they’d had, Hannibal had acted a bit cagey so Will had left him alone. Sometimes, Hannibal’s instincts demanded he run wild a little, and it was always best to give him his space when he was in one of his moods.

The next morning, Will woke up to a knock on the door. Turning around in his bed to glimpse at the clock on his nightstand, he squinted bleary-eyed and realized it was five in the morning. With a heavy groan, he got out of bed and made his way to the door. He opened it and stared at a fully dressed Hannibal holding a….was that an axe?

“Good morning, Will,” Hannibal greeted cheerily. Will lifted his hand automatically when Hannibal handed him the axe, and the weight of it made him stagger backwards. “Breakfast will be ready in half an hour.”

“Wha’?” Will grumbled, completely done with everything right now. It was way too damn early for this shit.

With nothing more than a smug smile and a quick flick of his tongue on plush lips, Hannibal left.

Will stared down at the axe in his hands, fingers clenching and unclenching in small spasms. Was this a call to arms? A challenge? Perhaps this was Hannibal’s way of throwing down the proverbial glove. Maybe he wanted them to fight to the death at the ass crack of dawn.

Either way, Will couldn’t find it in himself to give a fuck. He leaned the axe haphazardly against his wardrobe and hoped that he would still be alive when he woke up. If Hannibal decided to gut him in the night, then so be it, Will had a date with sleep.

xxxxxx

Hannibal frowned, staring at the axe placed next to his door. It seemed Will didn’t like this one either. Maybe it wasn’t sharp enough? He would have to try harder.

xxxxxx

“As you can see,” Hannibal demonstrated on the tied up man, sticking the sword into his gut and through the chair as easy as butter. “This sword is very sharp and has excellent range.”

“Right,” Will squeaked, sweating nervously and tugging at the collar of his plastic murder suit. “Fantastic, how about we finish killing this asshole and you use your blade as much as you want on him and not on me.”

Hannibal scowled, his brows furrowed in confusion. “So this one is not to your liking either.”

Will wanted to cry. Why was Hannibal so adamant that Will find the perfect blade for Hannibal to gut him with?! Any old blade would do. Heck, the first time Hannibal had gutted him it had been with a switchblade!

“No?” Will’s voice rose up at the end.

“I see,” Hannibal’s eyes were fiery with intensity, a wide grin breaking out on his lips. “You are not an easy man to please. This will be a worthy challenge.”

Will hoped to god that this wasn’t some weird backwards way of saying he wanted Will to fight him to the death, because at this point he was resigned to letting Hannibal gut him in the foreseeable future. Putting up a fight just seemed undignified and messy.

“Sure,” Will said weakly, bending down next to the man staring at them with slowly dulling eyes, the life leaving them. “A challenge.”

With a long sigh, he started cutting the man’s abdominal area open, avoiding the sword. As expected, Hannibal has stabbed it clean enough that it hadn’t nicked any of the organs. It wouldn’t do to ruin the meat, after all.

xxxxxx

It wasn’t until Hannibal carefully slid a beautiful dagger (this one much thinner than the first he’d received) across the kitchen counter to him that Will had finally had enough.

“Hannibal,” His voice was stern, though it had a trace of fear in it. “I need you to stop giving me blades.”

Hannibal paused, eyes coming up to meet Will’s eyes with a mournful look.

“My apologies, Will,” Hannibal murmured, taking the blade back with slightly shaking hands. “I see this has made you uncomfortable. I will stop.”

Will opened his mouth to confirm, but closed it again when he felt a pang in his chest. Why was he feeling guilty about this? Hannibal had clearly been using this as some sort of threatening scare tactic and it had worked. It wasn’t unreasonable of Will to ask Hannibal to stop.

“Okay,” Will nodded awkwardly, turning to go. He paused at the doorway, something tugging at him to say something, anything that would take away that sad look on Hannibal. He sighed, cursing his feelings for Hannibal making him weak when he needed to stay firm. He turned around, and ran a hand down his face, staring down at the floor. “Look, for what it’s worth, the blades were really pretty.”

Will didn’t see it, but Hannibal’s head had shot up, something hopeful in his gaze. “You see the beauty in them, and you appreciate it.”

The words surprised Will into looking up, and he was gratified to see that Hannibal was wearing a familiar expression. His scheming one that usually didn’t mean anything good for Will, but at least he wasn’t being mopey. “Well, yes.” Will agreed reluctantly, because despite the weird threatening nature of it, Hannibal’s gifts had been gorgeous.

“Excellent,” Hannibal murmured absentmindedly, before waving Will in a clearly dismissive gesture. “I’ll let you know when dinner is ready.”

Will stared at Hannibal’s back as he pulled ingredients from the cabinets, a certain peppy quality to his movements that sent warning signs tingling down Will’s spine. With one last narrowed eyed look, Will left the room.

xxxxxx

Will was relieved that the next few days passed by without any issues. Besides the fact that his clothes were still steadily going missing (though Hannibal wordlessly restocked his closet now) Will had resigned himself to only wearing a shirt once and never seeing it again.

There had been no more not-so-subtle threats from Hannibal, and Will decided that it was likely Hannibal had changed his mind and no longer wanted to gut Will.

However, one new problem had reared its ugly head.

He’d opened his door one day, still sleepy and half awake, when he’d tripped over a heavy object of some sort and almost fallen face first onto the floor. As it was, he barely caught himself against the wall with a muffled curse, his face slamming hard into the wall.

“God fucking damn it.”

Will glared down at whatever it was that had dared to get in his way and found his eyes widening at the beautiful scale. It was about the size of a large dinner plate, and Will knew it was definitely from Hannibal. It was a gorgeous split of black and red, the scale shimmered when Will picked it up and turned it in the light.

“Wow…” Will breathed out. He glanced around, and once he’d confirmed Hannibal wasn’t lurking in some corner like the creep he was, he quickly took the scale and placed it on his bedside table. He positioned it until the sunlight from the window hit it at the perfect angle, reflecting shifting tones of red and grey on his walls and ceilings. He felt immensely pleased by the scale in a way that warmed his whole body. It truly was beautiful.

He only wondered for a moment why the scale was in front of his door. It was likely Hannibal was shedding. He still didn’t know much about dragons (in fact, nothing at all, as Hannibal was very close-lipped about it) and so most of his weirder interactions with Hannibal he’d attributed to the dragon side of him. Will hoped Hannibal wouldn’t mind him keeping this scale.

He headed down to dinner, a grin on his face that he tamped down when he saw Hannibal dishing out their breakfast.

“Ah, Will,” Hannibal smiled, a fond warmth in his voice. “Just in time. Please, come sit.”

Will agreed easily enough, and they found themselves eating in comfortable silence. He briefly wondered if the shedding of Hannibal’s scales altered his human form at all. He knew that Hannibal’s human form was an illusion, so it was unlikely that he was outwardly changed. He eyed Hannibal’s skin curiously, his gaze tracing his throat and what little of him he’d deigned to expose. As always, he was wearing a long sleeve button up and a vest with intricate swirls of dark purple. It was considered casual for a man like Hannibal, and though the pretentiousness of it always made Will scoff, he couldn’t deny that it made for a pretty sight.

Or, as Beverly would have said, the man was delicious eye candy.

There was nothing unusual about his skin and Will almost wanted to pout. Will always wanted to know more about him, and this was one thing that he would have liked to witness, even if it was as banal as Hannibal shedding his scales. Will sipped his coffee, eyes dropping down to focus on his meal. He was so distracted by his meal, that he didn’t see the gratified look on Hannibal’s face or the smug smirk on his lips.

xxxxxx

Over the next few days, Will had amassed a collection of sorts. It had become a large enough pile that he’d emptied out a portion of his closet and leaned the scales meticulously against the inner wall in order from largest to smallest. He especially liked the red ones, as they reminded him of blood, and when the light hit them, they flickered like firelight.

By the time he’d gathered a sizeable pile, Will’s curiosity got the best of him and he brought up the unspoken subject between them over dinner one night.

“You know, if you’re shedding maybe I can help you. I had seven dogs and they all needed grooming so it shouldn’t be too hard.” Will shoved another piece of meat into his mouth, moaning at the explosion of flavors on his tongue. He was so distracted, he didn’t see the way Hannibal had stiffened up.

Hannibal set his utensils down and carefully wiped his mouth with his napkin before speaking. “I beg your pardon?”

The words were said with such a dark air to them that Will instantly froze, his hand tightening on his knife. “Uh, I’m sorry if I offended you, I just thought I should offer at least. Since you seem to be dropping scales all over the place.”

“I don’t shed,” Hannibal sniffed in disdain, a grimace on his face as he pushed his plate away from him. “Excuse me, it seems I have lost my appetite. I believe I’ll be finishing my dinner later.”

Will watched in bewilderment as Hannibal picked up his plate and covered it before exiting the room stiffly. Will thought back to his words, wondering where the hell he’d went wrong.

Maybe it was considered a huge taboo to help a dragon with their grooming. Or maybe Hannibal just didn’t want Will helping him.

Will didn’t know which option was worse. He ate his dinner a little less enthusiastically that night before retiring to his room and petting his favorite scale. It was the first one he’d found, the one that had a pretty split between black and red. He’d started sleeping with it by his pillow. He’d even named it Frodo, though he doubted Hannibal would appreciate the name of his precious scale.

“I understand the human side of Hannibal, but sometimes, my lack of knowledge on his dragon tendencies leads to lots of awkward interactions.” Will sighed as he stroked Frodo again, imagining the scale shining brightly in sympathy. “Yeah, I know, Frodo. I’ll just need to be more careful around Hannibal. We’ll be okay.”

xxxxxx

Hannibal frowned down at his list, his fountain pen tapping a steady rhythm on the parchment. The first two were crossed out, and Hannibal was contemplating the third item on the list.

The list read as follows:

Present Will with shiny objects. Jewelry would not be appreciated, plan accordingly and find him a nice blade or two.

Will didn’t like the blades but he appreciated the beauty of them. Dragon scales could be a more personable alternative.

Will thus far has not been receptive to courting. There are two possibilities:
1. Will does not want me. Unlikely, he gave up everything for our bond.
2. He is very dense. Perhaps a less subtle approach would yield better results.

With a heavy sigh, Hannibal wondered if he should just murder someone and spell out his feelings in blood. Maybe the reason why his courting hadn’t worked was because thus far, their macabre dance of friendship had been a courting of sorts. Perhaps Will didn’t understand what Hannibal was trying to convey, unless there were bodies and blood involved.

Still, they’d moved past that, and Hannibal wanted to court Will properly in the way of dragons. He’d never found anyone interesting enough to attempt an official courting. No one had ever tugged at his mating instincts like this.

Hannibal pressed his lips together, lifting his pen when he realized the ink had welled into a thick splotch on the third item on the list. There was still one more approach that was considered very forward for dragons. Hannibal was a gentleman in every way, and he hadn’t wanted to resort to this…but at this point he was frustrated enough to try.

“Oh, Will,” Hannibal murmured, a small chuckle falling from his lips. “It still surprises me how far I’m willing to go for you.”

With one last glance at his list, he folded it carefully and slipped it into his drawer. He clicked off the light on the lamp and slid into bed. Tomorrow, he would enact his final plan.

xxxxxx

“Will.”

Will looked up from where he’d been reading his book, seated comfortably in his chair by the fireplace. When he noticed Hannibal standing at the doorway, eyes tight with determination, he set the book down on his lap. He lightly folded the edge of the page to keep his spot. When Hannibal didn’t glare at him for doing so, as he’d told Will multiple times not to disrespect his books, Will started feeling nervous.

“Is something wrong?”

Hannibal was silent for a long moment, long enough that Will placed the book on the table next to him and stood up, approaching Hannibal like he would a wounded dog. “What is it, Hannibal?”

Instead of answering, Hannibal extended a hand towards Will. It shook imperceptibly, and Will stared at the hand, his mind flashing back to the way Hannibal had pulled him close and gutted him years ago. Hannibal had a subtle shake then, just like he did now. Because despite his considerable self control, when it came to Will, his emotions often got the best of him.

Even though the memory of that night brought up a small shiver of trepidation, Will took Hannibal’s hand without question. Hannibal squeezed Will’s hand gratefully, before turning around and leading him to the bedrooms. Will glanced back at the warm fireplace longingly, wondering if this was the moment Hannibal would kill him. He realized with some amazement that he didn’t mind. It was just another way to be closer to Hannibal, to be changed by his hands.

He pressed closer to Hannibal’s back, closing his eyes as he breathed in that unique scent of smoke and forest that Hannibal’s expensive cologne never managed to fully cover up. Will knew it was probably a scent all dragons had, but to him, it was Hannibal’s scent.

He opened his eyes and noticed with some detachment that they were in Will’s bedroom. Before Will could open his mouth and ask, thoroughly confused, Hannibal cupped Will’s hands together and brought it to his mouth, laying a soft kiss on his fingers.

Will blinked, slightly dazed as he tried to reconcile the soft touch with the violence he’d expected.

“Will,” Hannibal pressed his face closer to Will’s hands, his mouth opening slightly so he could taste Will’s scent. Hannibal’s eyes were lowered purposefully, almost as if he was nervous, but after a long moment he looked up and met Will’s eyes with red-slitted eyes. “Would you do me the honor of allowing me to bathe you?”

Will’s mouth fell open and his eyebrows furrowed together. He pulled his hands out of Hannibal’s grasp, the question pulling him out of the hypnotic peace they’d fallen into. “Wait, what?”

“I would like to bathe you,” Hannibal proposed rather stiffly, and his gaze dragged longingly over the length of Will’s body. He let the silence drag out before huffing out a breath. “Please.”

“I-“ Will ran a hand down his face before surreptitiously lifting his arm and sniffing his armpit. Did he really reek that badly? Had he not showering thoroughly enough or something? Was he really so bad at washing himself that Hannibal had to insist he be the one to wash Will? “Okay, I have no idea what the fuck is going on here, but no.”

“No?” Hannibal looked absolutely downtrodden, as if he’d just been told he couldn’t have his favorite toy. “Are you certain you will not accept my proposal?”

Will eyed Hannibal dubiously, cursing the man in his mind when Hannibal pouted and let his lower lip tremble slightly. He could never deny a request when Hannibal gave him that look and the bastard fucking knew that.

“Fine!” Will threw his hands up, tugging at his plaid shirt angrily. He tugged it off and threw it on the floor before moving to his pants. “I’ll let you fucking wash me or whatever since I offend your delicate sensibilities so much,” Will grumbled as he dropped his pants and stepped out of them, ignoring the way Hannibal was watching him with desire, his tongue flicking out to lick his lips. “But I’m not budging on the underwear. I’m going to at least wear boxers for this.”

“Of course,” Hannibal replied with just a hint of smugness quirking his lips as he stepped forward. Will stumbled back until the backs of his knees hit the edge of his bed in an attempt to get some space between them. “I must insist you get comfortable.”

Instead of backing up and leading Will to the bathroom attached to Will’s room, Hannibal promptly pressed a hand to Will’s chest and pushed him onto the bed. Will had a brief moment of disorientation as his back hit the bed with a muffled thump.

“Wha-“ His confused question turned into a yelp as something wet dragged up his stomach. Will propped himself up onto his elbows, staring down in disbelief at the sight of Hannibal…licking him?

Hannibal was focused, and Will drowned in the intensity of his gaze as he dragged a rough tongue up the center of his chest and to his collarbone. His eyes were blood red, the usually narrow pupils blown wide with pleasure. He laved over the bone there before following it across to Will’s shoulder. He closed his eyes when he nibbled on Will’s skin, a rough purr emitting from his chest and startling Will. He traced the bulging vein in Will’s bicep with the tip of his tongue, and it wasn’t until Hannibal was perched on his lap and holding his arm up, languidly licking at every single finger on Will’s hand, that he managed to snap out of it.

“Hannibal!” Will yanked his hand away from the cloying heat of Hannibal’s mouth, face and chest flushing red as he felt the phantom impressions of sharp teeth nibbling on his fingers. He shuddered, mortified to find that he was half hard. “What the hell are you doing?!”

Hannibal looked down at him as if he was a particularly stupid child. He cocked his head, and studied the embarrassed look on Will’s face. “I’m bathing you.”

“This isn’t a bath! This is-“ Will waved his saliva-wet limb around before smacking it on Hannibal’s chest in a reproachful move. “This wasn’t what I agreed to!”

“Oh,” Hannibal frowned, his frustration tangible as he sighed and stroked his fingers across Will’s chest. Probably trying to spread his saliva on Will like the fucking weirdo he was. “You seemed to be enjoying it, though this experience was not meant to be sexual.”

Hannibal glanced pointedly down at Will’s prominent interest, a hair’s breadth away from touching Hannibal’s crotch. Will groaned, flopping back and covering his eyes with an arm. These past few weeks had been a confusing mess and this one took the cake. He wasn’t sure what Hannibal’s goal was here and he didn’t even know where to begin.

“Hannibal, don’t fucking play with me, you know what a bath is. Now tell me what the hell you’re doing so I can go the fuck to sleep and pretend this never happened.”

Gently, Hannibal pried Will’s arm away from his face, waiting patiently until Will reluctantly opened his eyes and met Hannibal’s gaze. There was something sad about the way he was looking down at Will, and Will’s breath hitched when Hannibal brought Will’s hand up to his face and pressed a soft kiss to his fingers. “My apologies, Will,” Hannibal murmured against his hand. “I didn’t mean to cause you undue stress. If you wish for me to stop, then I will do so. All you have to do is tell me.”

Will frowned, something heavy settling in his chest as he pulled his hand back and rubbed at his fingers absentmindedly. “Yeah, it’d be nice not to be confused anymore. I know this is probably something to do with your dragon side, but I’m going to need more words to understand what’s going on, Hannibal.”

Hannibal’s brows furrowed, and he opened his mouth before closing it again. Finally, he spoke up, words slow and measured. “I’ve been courting you Will, but I see now it wasn’t what you wanted. I hope that this hasn’t strained our friendship.”

Will sat up so fast he almost knocked his forehead into Hannibal’s chin. He pushed at Hannibal until he moved off of Will’s lap and positioned himself next to Will on the bed. Hannibal looked a little confused as Will held up a hand and then promptly pinched Hannibal’s arm with it.

“Will,” Hannibal growled, jumping a little at the sharp pain. He bared his teeth, feeling both hurt and reproachful at Will showing him such cruelty after dismissing his courting attempts. “My courting may have been unwelcome but being petulant isn’t kind of you.”

Will then pinched himself before letting out a breath. He threw his head back and started laughing, a little maniacal as Hannibal watched, increasingly concerned about Will’s sanity. When Will calmed down, he wiped the tears of mirth out of his eyes. “Oh god, you may be the smartest man in the room most days, but by god do you suck at this. How the hell did you expect me to know you were trying to court me?”

Hannibal blinked down at Will before pressing his lips into a thin line. “I didn’t think I would have to state it explicitly, as you’ve shown you are more than capable at predicting my intentions. My actions weren’t exactly subtle.”

Will shook his head, exasperated. “No, they weren’t subtle at all but in the wrong way. When you started handing me blades, I thought you were trying to not-so-subtly imply you wanted to gut me. When you started placing scales where I could find them, I thought you were trying to tell me I should help you with your shedding!”

Hannibal looked properly offended by Will’s interpretation of his first two courting attempts. “I assure you, I have no desire to hurt you nor would I require your assistance should I do something as undignified as ‘shed’.” Hannibal stared at Will, taking in the humor dancing in his face before Hannibal sighed. “So you were truly unaware I was courting you?”

“I didn’t know,” Will confirmed, but his lips broke out into a grin, almost giddy at the knowledge that Hannibal had wanted to take their relationship down a more romantic route. “But that doesn’t mean I’m adverse to it.”

Hannibal shook his head, and Will watched with a pang of uncertainty when Hannibal gracefully slid off the bed and fiddled with his clothes, trying in vain to smooth out the wrinkles. “I believe I may need some time to digest this new revelation.”

Will scrambled off the bed, almost tripping over the edge as he stood in front of Hannibal, subtly blocking his exit. “What? Why? Now that I know what was going on we can move forward.”

“Will,” Hannibal looked down at Will’s bare feet, words laced with exhaustion. “I have to admit it stings somewhat to realize you didn’t understand the meaning behind my gestures. I think that I will need some time to myself, as you would say, to lick my wounds in peace.”

Will opened his mouth to argue back, panicking a little now that Hannibal seemed to be backing out of his courting attempts. Hannibal raised a hand up and Will closed his mouth, swallowing hard as he scowled. “That is not to say I am not interested. I still am. I doubt I will ever lose interest in you, dear Will.”

Will’s stance softened at those words, and he stepped aside as Hannibal headed for the door.

“I understand,” Will whispered, hating himself for being so god damn dense and frustrated that Hannibal hadn’t tried to at least explain to Will what he was trying to do. “Will you let me know when you’re ready?”

Hannibal looked over his shoulder, a small, sad smile on his face as he nodded. “Of course, Will. I will be sure to let you know. Good night.”

“Night.” Will muttered, sighing heavily and flopping onto his bed as Hannibal closed the door behind him.

Whelp, that was a royally fucked up mess. Now what?

Will stared up at the ceiling, running through all the interactions he’d had with Hannibal thus far and grimacing when he realized that he should have known Hannibal was trying to court him. After all, every item he’d received had been presented as a gift of sorts. Even the tongue bathing made sense to him now that he’d peeked through the veil and seen Hannibal’s intentions. It was likely a heavily intimate action, probably something already mated dragon pairs participated in. Hannibal had been nervous about it, but excited, so it stood within reason that though it was crossing some proprietary lines, Hannibal had decided it was the best course of action to show Will his intentions.

He couldn’t fault the man for resorting to such direct measures, even if Will’s sadly human self couldn’t fully appreciate them. Still, it had been a pleasant experience while it lasted. He shivered, remembering the drag of Hannibal’s tongue up his body. He wondered if Hannibal would be adverse to doing that to him again some time. Though at this rate, Hannibal would probably pout for a week or two before he decided to approach Will about this again. He had truly fucked up. He’d essentially spit on Hannibal’s gifts and then laughed at him when he’d revealed he was courting Will.

Hannibal had brought his heart out on a platter for Will, and he had unknowingly stepped on it these past few weeks. Will groaned, pressing the palms of his hand hard against his eyes, black stars bursting behind his eyelids as he tried to think.

A plan started forming in his head then, and he resolved to give Hannibal some space before he tried anything. But first, it would probably be in his best interest to call Chiyoh and grill her on dragon courting rituals. It was time to even the playing ground, and Will needed to approach Hannibal in a way he would understand. Will may not have fully appreciated Hannibal’s gestures, but he sure as hell could make sure Hannibal would understand Will’s.

Mind made up, he got ready for bed, deciding he would call Chiyoh tomorrow and gather as much information as he could. In the meantime, he would just try extra hard to treat Hannibal like the treasure he was and show him that Will loved him despite this brief blunder in their relationship.

xxxxxx

“Chiyoh.”

“Ah, hello, Chiyoh,” Will’s phone was precariously clasped between his shoulder and cheek, his hands busy with cleaning the weapons they’d used on their most recent kill. He’d been a rude investment banker who’d been skimming money off of his client’s accounts. He’d had the misfortune of trying to do that to Hannibal and the cannibalistic serial killer had not taken kindly to it. “I had a few questions I was hoping you’d be able to help me answer.”

There was a long pause.

“Will, I commend your bravery but having sex with Hannibal in his dragon form is ill advised and near impossible-“

“What?!” Will was so shocked he dropped the blades into the sink and he let out a small sound of dismay as his phone slipped off his shoulder and landed with a clatter on the marble counter. Cursing under his breath, he washed off smears of dried blood on his hands, courtesy of the dirty blades, and quickly dried them before picking up the phone again.

“What the hell, Chiyoh,” Will deadpanned.

“Are you alright?” This time, he could hear a trace of wicked amusement in her voice, and Will groaned, pressing a hand against his face as he realized she’d been messing with him.

“Yeah, no thanks to you,” Will griped as he sighed, his mood darkening as he remembered why exactly he’d called. He crossed one arm across his chest, his other hand still holding the phone against his ear. “Chiyoh, do you know if Hannibal has ever courted someone?”

Chiyoh was quiet, and Will could tell she was taking his question seriously. “Not that I am aware of,” Chiyoh replied slowly. “But Hannibal is a hard man to understand.”

“That he is,” Will’s lips quirked into a fond smile. “But I think out of everyone, I understand him the best.”

“Two halves of the same whole.” Chiyoh’s voice was soft, almost reverential. “It is a rare bond.”

“Yeah.” Will bit at his bottom lip as he leaned against the counter, glad that he’d decided to do this in his bathroom where Hannibal couldn’t hear him embarrass himself. “But there are still some parts of Hannibal that remain a mystery to me.”

“You are speaking of his dragon side,” Chiyoh guessed, her intuition as astute as ever. “You wish for me to shed some light on his actions. I assume he’s tried to court you recently?”

“You’ve known Hannibal longer than I have,” Will breathed out, a small tendril of jealousy and yearning rearing its ugly head. Chiyoh knew of a Hannibal before he’d grown into the monster he was today, and Will wanted to know that Hannibal. He wanted to own every part of him, but he knew that wasn’t realistic. The best he could do now, was secure their future together. “He tried to court me and I…didn’t react well.”

There was a pause. “Did you reject him?” Her voice was low, threatening, and Will realized with a shudder of respectful fear that Chiyoh’s protective nature and subdued anger was something he shouldn’t underestimate. It was the reason why she’d survived Hannibal, after all.

“No,” Will weakly replied. “Not exactly.”

“Explain.”

“I may have…mistaken some of his courting gestures as threats and dismissed some of his other attempts.”

There was a long silence before Chiyoh spoke up, her voice openly exasperated. “For a man that Hannibal values for his insight and empathy, you are blind to the most obvious of intentions.”

“Maybe,” Will grumbled petulantly before perking up, remembering his original goal. “But that’s why I decided to call you, I wanted to see if you knew of any dragon courting rituals that I could possibly use to try and court Hannibal back. It’s the least I could do after all the effort Hannibal put in for me.”

Chiyoh sighed, and Will felt his heart sink. “There is no advice I can give you. Your courtship with Hannibal has always been unconventional and often leaves behind a body count.”

“But there must be something-“

“I do not know Hannibal like you do,” Chiyoh interrupted, a trace of impatience in her voice. “He is not a normal man, nor is he a normal dragon. Should you try to court him with dragon rituals, you would likely only annoy him. Hannibal would have tried to alter the customary courtship rituals to match your wants and needs, perhaps you should do the same.”

Will ran a frustrated hand through his hair, tugging at his curls. “But where do I even start?”

“Despite Hannibal’s murderous proclivities, he is still a dragon. Dragons like shiny things. Figure out the rest yourself, Graham.”

Before Will could respond, he was met with a sharp click and the dial tone of an ended call. He stared down at his phone a little despairingly before flinging it onto the counter.

Will tilted his head back, squinting at the bright lights and the way it reflected yellow across the walls as he tried to think. He couldn’t give Hannibal something as boring as jewelry, not when Hannibal had enough money to buy whatever he desired. Hannibal had given him blades, and Will played with the idea of giving him some, but quickly discarded it.

He wanted his idea to be unique and it needed to be something that represented them. Something that Hannibal would like but also showed the dark, twisted love they shared.

Will stared at the way the lights bathed the room gold and suddenly, he had his answer. He grinned wide, an almost giddy laugh echoing through the bathroom as he twisted on his heel and made a jerky step forward, intent to get out and start on his gift immediately. He stopped when he realized that his gift would take time and a lot of planning, and that Hannibal wouldn’t appreciate him leaving bloody knives in the sink even if it was in Will’s bathroom.

With an impatient groan, Will went back to cleaning the knives. Even as he tapped his foot, mind miles away as he saw the most perfect design in his head, he couldn’t control the broad smile on his face.

Hannibal would love it, and Will couldn’t wait to show him what he had planned.

xxxxxx

Will had taken to touching Hannibal more, and he couldn’t help but notice that Will seemed more settled somehow. The man was no longer agitated; rather, he had an air of anticipation around him.

As discussed, he’d given Hannibal his space. But after a few weeks, they’d slowly drifted back together, always reluctant to part for long and neither resisting the near gravitational pull they had on each other. Hannibal hadn’t minded the extra affection, in fact he relished in it. His wounded pride had stung less with time, and he’d taken to purring gently whenever Will pulled his head down onto Will’s lap and stroked his golden strands.

A development that had pleased Hannibal, was that Will was more comfortable with lingering touches now that they’d essentially confessed their feelings for each other. Hannibal had never shied away from touching Will, but Will had recently started reciprocating.

In between these now frequent quiet moments of domesticity, they hunted.

Will had been particularly antsy lately, and Hannibal attributed it to his restlessness regarding the stagnant nature of their relationship. It was true Hannibal had not broached the topic since that fateful day, but Will’s impatience made Hannibal preen. Despite the way his courting had failed, Will wanted Hannibal just as desperately.

His frustrations had led him to ask Hannibal to hunt at a higher frequency than usual. Hannibal was always one to indulge Will, so he hadn’t protested when Will picked their sheeps for slaughter. And slaughter he did. Bathed in blood, and eyes wild with passion, an unleashed Will always made Hannibal’s blood boil and his ironclad control over his human visage fade.

He knew it emboldened Will every time he let his control slip and his eyes flashed red, his bared teeth too sharp to be human. Will was the very image of confidence during a kill, and watching him separate head from bodies, and spine from tender skin was more than a little arousing.

Will had shown a particular interest in the parts they took as well. Usually Hannibal was the one to pick which pieces of meat they took, but Will had asked softly if they could take some arms and legs, and Hannibal had been too charmed to resist.

They left a trail of bodies in their wake, though a majority of it never saw the light of day and was buried secretly in the spot they used to hide the bodies that wouldn’t be missed. The few that showed up on the news were disguised as crimes of passion or robberies gone wrong, to assuage any manhunts that may occur. A select few would be displayed, both of them relishing in the artistic license they took with death and the blood of those lesser than them. It was a steady balance, one of compromise and art. Not every kill was for the public’s eye, some were merely a way of playing with their food before they harvested the parts they wanted.

It was because of their devious intelligence and careful planning that Hannibal was able to indulge Will in his murder spree as he coaxed Hannibal out with him at least once every two nights. Will took trophies from their kills consistently, always at least one arm or a leg. It continued like this for two weeks, before Will abruptly stopped insisting they sate their darker urges. Instead, he disappeared into his room and stayed there for long periods of time, only emerging to drag in heavy boxes of things he’d bought without Hannibal.

It had left Hannibal a little puzzled but amused, watching Will scamper around and trying to be secretive. Whatever Will was planning, it likely had something to do with the bones of some of their recent kills that Will thought Hannibal didn’t know he’d kept. Will could be subtle when he wanted to be, but it wasn’t easy sneaking an entire femur and various other bones including a skull and even a spine into his room.

He had assumed Will was doing some redecorating, and though his curiosity ate at him, he and Will were equals and he wouldn’t pry unless Will offered up answers of his own volition.

A week dragged on, and Will seemed haggard from the work he had been doing in his room. Still, he radiated contentment and had an excited air about him. More than once, Hannibal spotted what seemed like a trace of gold smeared on his stubble or stuck under Will’s fingernails, and when he’d given in and asked, Will had smiled secretively before answering.

“It’s a gift.”

“A gift,” Hannibal repeated slowly, his fork pausing where he’d raised it to his mouth, a piece of meat speared on the ends of the tines. He placed the morsel back down onto the plate, clearing his throat to try and tamp down his eagerness. “For whom?”

Will likely heard the hopeful lilt of his voice because he smiled fondly before reaching over and cupping Hannibal’s cheek with a calloused hand, a finger brushing across his sharp cheekbone with a startling tenderness.

“For the one who gave me his heart, bloody and still beating, and asked that I nourish myself on his life blood and tie my fate to his,” Hannibal’s mouth fell open in an unsteady exhale and Will’s thumb gently rested on his bottom lip. “Who else would it be?”

They stared at each other intensely for a long moment, Hannibal’s eyes flashing red as he struggled to rein in his desire to leap across the table and take Will right then and there.

“I look forward to it then,” Hannibal finally broke the heated silence with hoarse words, pulling back and letting Will’s hand fall from his face.

Will didn’t reply with words, but he grinned wickedly and Hannibal couldn’t help but become even more smitten with his clever boy.

xxxxxx

Will stared down at his work table, eyes narrowed as he raked a critical gaze over the bones laid out before him. He’d dragged in the table from his shed after realizing the work he had to do was messy as hell. It was true he could have just worked on his little project in the shed itself, but that drew the risk of Hannibal walking in on him before Will was finished with his gift. Will fingered an arm piece nervously, his fingers stroking over the sharpened bone and dragging onto the next piece that had been left unaltered but still polished.

Every single piece was laid out before him like the most macabre pieces of jewelry. There were leg bones, arms, and even a spine and a skull, all coated with a layer of beautiful gold that reflected the lamplight and gave his wall a nice golden tint. They were gorgeous, and Will had spent a ridiculous amount of time cleaning each one of the pieces of residual muscles and blood that marred the ivory white bone. It had been labor intensive, and it had taken him some time to purchase pure gold and send it to a goldsmith to have it melted down. From there, he’d paid an extortionate amount of money to have the place to himself, just long enough for him to bring in all the pieces of bone he’d cleaned and dip them into the liquid gold.

It had been a risk, but one he’d planned meticulously and with Hannibal’s happiness in mind. He knew with the man’s luxurious tastes that this would appeal to him. But the main reason Will had decided to use bones as a courting gift was because each piece represented the darker path they’d taken together.

And logistically, he had needed large pieces in order to allow for them to show up nicely when decorating Hannibal’s mane. Will had planned this to be not only a gift befitting Hannibal’s taste, but also a functional gift that he could use on his dragon form. Hannibal’s dragon form was massive, about three stories high the few times Will had seen him fly and stretch his wings. Hannibal didn’t have any accessories in his dragon form, and Will knew it was something that must rankle him. Hannibal was someone who preened and relished in the gaudiest of decorations. To have his beautiful dragon form left plain and without accessories seemed out of character for him.

It was then that Will realized perhaps it wasn’t by choice, but rather a lack of options. With that in mind, Will had created beautiful pieces of art that he knew Hannibal would be more than thrilled to wear.

His greatest achievement was the large crown he’d created out of various bones. It was hauntingly beautiful and if it wasn’t for the fact that it was made of bones, Will thought with some pride that it was something royalty would wear.

Today was their anniversary, the day they’d plunged from the cliff and Will had seen Hannibal’s dragon form for the first time. It was the day he’d given himself fully to Hannibal, and though he didn’t know it at the time, it was the day that Hannibal had taken Will and knew without a doubt that he could never let him go.

Will was nervous, but he knew that this was something natural, that it was time to take the next step. This time, it was his turn to go out on a limb.

xxxxxx

“Hannibal.”

Hannibal looked up from where he was preparing their dinner. It was just past six, the sun was still high in the sky but soon, it would set and drape their secluded bay house in shifting colors of orange-pink warmth. Not for the first time, Hannibal was grateful they’d decided to purchase this house, as it was right on the edge of the ocean and allowed for Hannibal to fly out to sea without fear of human contact. Hannibal tilted his head in consideration, taking in Will’s excited nerves, the way his arms were crossed and his fingers were digging into his own skin. He carefully set aside the meat to marinate and washed his hands before drying them.

“Is there something you need, Will?”

“I um,” Will’s voice pitched high at the end and he cleared his throat, glancing off to the side before meeting Hannibal’s gaze with a fiery determination. “I wanted to show you something.”

“Is your gift ready?” Hannibal smiled indulgently, a warm fondness unfurling in his chest as he watched the way Will flushed and bit at his bottom lip.

“Yeah, I think…” Will took a deep breath before unfolding his arms, body open and inviting. “I have a request.”

“Oh?” Hannibal asked, raising a brow in curious amusement. “Do tell, I’m always happy to indulge you.”

“Right,” Will nodded decisively, as if he’d settled on a decision. “I want you to wait outside near the beach. I won’t take long. I just need to grab your gift.”

“Of course,” Hannibal answered easily, eyes bright with emotions so strong he couldn’t put a name to them. He hadn’t missed the fact that today was a year since they’d plunged off the cliff, it was likely that was why Will chose this fateful day to give Hannibal his gift.

Hannibal followed Will’s request with a brief nod, heading out the door and standing by the ocean. He dug his bare feet into the shifting sands. He was dressed in a sweater today, and his slacks were the ones he used for casual wear. He found that Will appreciated him more when he let himself relax a little, and this extended to things such as his wardrobe.

After what felt like a few minutes, Will settled in beside him, his steps quiet and familiar. They echoed in Hannibal’s mind palace, every inch of him painted lovingly in Hannibal’s memories. Hannibal turned to Will, taking in his wind tousled curls and the way the sunset suffused his skin with a healthy glow. He was breathtaking, the greatest treasure Hannibal had, meant to be free and admired rather than locked away in seclusion.

Will cleared his throat before holding up a large bag. It was a cloth sack of sorts and looked very heavy. In fact, it was almost the size of Will, and Hannibal had a moment where he wondered how exactly Will had managed to bring it over from the house, even if their home was a mere few feet away from the beach.

“So,” Will started nervously, playing with the drawstring of the bag as he rested it at his feet. “I know that I messed things up between us, as usual.”

“It is no fault of yours, dear Will.” Hannibal protested gently, reaching a hand out and holding Will’s fingers with his own. “Though you may not have been receptive to the courting, I saw it as experiencing another facet of you that I had not previously seen, and every part of you is just as exquisite as the rest.”

Will groaned, pulling his hand away and wiping at his face before gesturing at Hannibal in exasperation. “See! This is what I mean. You try so hard for me, and you both say and do the right things, but I…” Will shrugged self-consciously, shifting on his bare feet as he sighed and stared out into the horizon. The sun shone on his eyes and Hannibal was mesmerized by the way Will’s eyes looked just like the ocean beside them. “I’m just me and I can’t even do one simple thing right.”

“I will have you as you are,” Hannibal replied fiercely, stepping closer and cupping Will’s face with a soft grip. “No more and no less.”

Will smiled up at him helplessly, and when he closed his eyes and turned his face to press a kiss into Hannibal’s palm, Hannibal knew he was lost. There was no going back; every piece of him already belonged to Will.

“Yeah,” Will breathed out with a content sigh before shaking himself out of his dazed stupor and stepping back. He clenched his jaw and fixed Hannibal with a determined look. “But it’s my turn to treat you right.”

Will took a deep breath before holding the bag out and carefully opening it. He slid it down, revealing a bundle of gold objects that glittered almost obscenely bright in the setting sun. As Hannibal watched, mouth slightly agape and eyes bright with pleasure at the shiny objects, Will spoke. “And so I ask you, Hannibal Lecter,” Will was on his knees now, untying the bundle and letting it spill out onto the sand with a dull thud and the clatter of metallic bones. “Will you do me the honor of accepting my courtship?”

Hannibal blinked down at the bones with wet eyes, realizing that this was what Will had worked so tirelessly on. These beautiful pieces of art, pieces of the people they’d transformed and a physical marker of the changes their relationship had taken.

“Will…” Hannibal whispered, overwhelmed as he tried to find the words. “These are exquisite…”

“Yeah,” Will smiled a little self-consciously, rubbing the back of his neck. “I know they’re not amazing because I’m not exactly a professional at this stuff, but I did my best.” Will lifted up one of the pieces, and what Hannibal had previously assumed was a large mass of bones revealed itself to be a crown.

It was huge, much larger than something made for a human sized head.

“Are these for…?” Hannibal trailed off, stunned as he took in the large pieces and connected the dots in his head.

Will nodded, looking appropriately proud at how he’d rendered Hannibal speechless. He placed the crown back onto the pile almost reverently, a small smile on his face. “I figured since dragons like shiny things you could have your own pieces to decorate your mane. I thought that gold would look amazing with your natural hair color and uh…” Will trailed off with a stutter as Hannibal stepped close enough for Will’s hands to rest on his chest.

Without another word, Hannibal tugged Will close and pecked his lips before turning the kiss into a sensual push and pull between their lips. Will reciprocated almost immediately, moaning enthusiastically as he clasped his hands behind Hannibal’s back. It wasn’t until they were both panting slightly that Hannibal pulled back and stared down at Will with hungry eyes.

“I’m guessing you liked it then?” Will asked breathlessly, a shaky grin on his lips.

“If it wasn’t for the fact that your gift deserves to be worn immediately, I would take you right here and now.”

Will’s grin instantly fell into a stunned look and he flushed a brilliant red as Hannibal pressed a chaste kiss to his forehead and flashed Will a smug smirk. He stepped back before they could both be distracted again, and Will watched with anticipation as Hannibal moved from Will until he was about a good twenty feet away. Hannibal never hid his dragon form from Will, in fact, he took great pleasure in twirling in the sky and showing off to him.

Still, no matter how many times Will witnessed Hannibal’s true form, it always left him breathless with wonder. The dragon was huge, and as he watched, Hannibal’s skin shifted in a waver, almost like a mirage before his form started stretching and scales appeared on his skin.

He was magnificent, and Will stretched his neck back to look up at Hannibal, the dragon blocking out the sun and casting Will in his shadow. Will had never measured him, but he estimated that Hannibal was about the size of a three story building. From below, Will could see his soft underbelly, the scales there an elegant black ombre that merged with the rest of Hannibal’s blood red scales. He had giant horned antlers that spread out in a dangerous arch, framing his face and the sides of his mane. The only part of him that reminded Will of his human form were the familiar red eyes and the sandy blonde color of Hannibal’s mane that matched the color of his human hair.

Hannibal stretched languidly, settling in on all fours as his long tail whipped back and forth. His red leather wings opened wide before folding against his back with poise. He let out a soft rumble, leaning his snout down to nose at Will. Will laughed, almost knocked off his feet as he hugged Hannibal’s jaw, stroking the softer scales there. Hannibal was watching him tenderly and Will couldn’t help pressing a kiss to his nose. Hannibal huffed out a breath of air, as if the touch was ticklish. Or he was laughing at Will. Either way, he liked Hannibal when he was relaxed and in high spirits. He stepped back, noting the way Hannibal kept his head bent low, his neck curved and his mane resting against the sand.

Hannibal was a creature known only in whispers and tales of terror, yet the thing that always struck him with a sense of awe wasn’t the fact that Hannibal was a dragon, but rather that Hannibal had chosen Will of all people to share himself with. It was humbling, especially knowing Hannibal’s lineage. He was practically dragon royalty, but here he was slumming it up with a scruffy human.

As if sensing his self-deprecating thoughts, Hannibal let out a subvocal rumble, the sound vibrating through the ground and sending shivers up Will’s spine. He nosed pointedly at the gold bones, and Will chuckled as he picked up a long leg bone.

“So impatient,” Will grumbled good-naturedly, smirking when Hannibal sent him an unamused glare. “How do you want to do this?”

Hannibal leaned closer to Will, turning his head until he was facing away from Will but he could access Hannibal’s mane. Taking the hint, Will grinned and set to work. He trailed his hand through Hannibal’s mane, relishing in the surprisingly soft, silky strands. Grabbing a bunch of hair, he followed it until he was grasping the end of the strands and tied the bone to it with a solid knot. He carefully set the bone atop the mane, and marveled at the way it both blended in with but also highlighted Hannibal’s natural mane color.

As he worked, he settled into a steady rhythm. There were several bones he’d sharpened into a point to give the shapes some dynamism. The spine pieces were the most fun to tie in, and he enjoyed using a braiding design on some of the bones. Those he didn’t tie at the ends of the strands, but rather braided the bone into the mane so that it blended in.

It was more fun than he had anticipated, and after finishing up with the bones, he walked back towards Hannibal’s snout. The dragon had been steadily purring the entire time, his tail swaying back and forth lazily. Will thought that he resembled a spoiled house cat, but he didn’t dare say it to Hannibal’s face lest he swallow him whole.

“I finished with the mane,” Will smiled when Hannibal lifted his head and tried to crane his neck so he could see all the pieces. When he noticed the braiding and all the different types of bones, he let out a pleased trill, his wings flapping in excitement as he brought up a clawed foot to paw at the shiny gold bones. Will took in his work, loving the way it made Hannibal look both more dangerous and elegant. The jewelry was a mark of his savagery but also of his love for aesthetics.

“Hannibal,” Will called out, smiling when Hannibal gave him a pleased rumble and leaned down to nose at him with affection. “There’s still two more pieces left. They’re special and I wanted to put them on last.”

Hannibal started lifting his head but Will placed a hand on his snout. “Stay just like this, I need to reach your head for this.”

Hannibal obeyed quietly, his eyes following Will as the human walked back over to the bag and pulled out an interesting design. It looked to be an earring of sorts, if earrings were the size of a human torso. The largest part was a loop created with two fused rib cage bones, and attached to that loop was a smaller loop. At the very end of the smallest loop was a skull, the bones piercing through one side and out the other so that the skull was securely attached to it.

“This is for your horn,” Will held it up with pride. It had taken him forever to figure out the logistics. He knew Hannibal’s love for centerpieces and accents. The crown was what Will considered the centerpiece, but he had wanted the skull to be an accent. However, figuring out a way to create an attachable, dangling skull had been a pain but he’d created one in the end. He walked over to Hannibal and stood on his tiptoes before opening the large loop a little and slipping it onto the thickest part of Hannibal’s horn. He then used his considerable strength to bend the gold covered bone until it was clamped tightly to Hannibal’s horn and the two spiked edges overlapped.

Stepping back, he sighed happily before grabbing the crown.

Will bit his bottom lip, his hands hefting up the heavy crown before placing it gently on Hannibal’s head. He looked barbarically regal, both descriptors a reflection of Hannibal in every way. Once the crown was in place, Hannibal lifted his head immediately, preening and looking smug as fuck as he stretched his head and stared down at the ocean, using it as a mirror of sorts. He let out an approving trill at his new gifts, turning his head this way and that as he admired them.

Dragon

Will smiled indulgently before he gestured for Hannibal to lean his head back down. The dragon complied easily enough, happy rumbles echoing and blending in with the sound of crashing waves.

Will stroked a hand down the crown before trailing it along the scales between Hannibal’s eyes. He stepped forward with a sigh, and pressed his forehead to Hannibal’s snout.

“Hannibal…” He smoothed a hand over the edge of Hannibal’s mouth, the scaled hide covering the sharp teeth underneath. “I know that your family was- is important to you. I know that when you lost them, you lost more than just the people you loved but also your identity. You were a Count of the Dragon Courts, and I wanted to give that back to you in some way. This might not be much, but I hope that this crown is enough of a tribute to your lineage, and that it will be something to remind you of all that you are, and all that you will be.”

Hannibal was quiet and still for the first time since they’d started this whole thing. Hannibal had never told Will the specifics of how his family had been killed but Will could infer just from what he knew of Hannibal and from the visit he’d made to the Lecter mansion. There had been marks of a huge fight, the scale of destruction too large to be created by anything but beasts.

The Lecters had all been dragons, and the likelihood of humans killing them off was zero to none. It was more likely that Hannibal’s family had been betrayed by the Court of Dragons, and exterminated like pests. An entire lineage wiped out. The fact that Hannibal was here, masquerading as a human and taking part in human customs only spoke more of his disconnect with his people.

Will wanted to give him back a small part of it, and to remind Hannibal that no matter who he once was, he would always have Will.

Will let out a startled yelp as Hannibal suddenly changed back, the mirage slipping back into place as Hannibal appeared in the same clothes he’d had before the transformation, Will’s gift hidden under his illusion.

“Will,” Hannibal’s voice was hoarse, and when he pressed a kiss to Will’s lips, he felt his heart break a little. There were tears on Hannibal’s cheeks, and Will could taste the saltiness of his pain in his mouth and in every desperate press of his lips. Hannibal pulled back after a few long moments and Will couldn’t help pressing forward, kissing every inch of Hannibal’s face in an attempt to comfort him.

“It’s alright,” Hannibal said softly as he brought up his hands and clasped them on Will’s arms, pushing him back until they were face to face. Will almost wanted to let out a whine, affected by Hannibal’s distress and wanting desperately to make it better. “I’m here now, and I’m not going anywhere.”

Will looked into Hannibal’s eyes, and the truth and devotion there took his breath away. “I’m your family now.” Will whispered, and it was a fierce declaration, not a suggestion but a fact. Will would destroy anyone that tried to argue otherwise.

“Yes,” Hannibal’s lips quirked up, his eyes brimming with renewed tears, but this time they were a product of overwhelming happiness. “You are everything I never knew I was searching for. Living a monochrome life and following a rhythm of mediocrity, it wasn’t until I met you that I realized how dull everything was. You brought back the light in my life, Will, and if you were to ever leave me I don’t believe either of us would survive the outcome.”

Hannibal’s words would have been threatening to any other person, but to Will, they were a promise of forever.

“Then,” Will pressed closer, looking up at Hannibal from beneath his lashes, expression coy in the way he knew Hannibal was weak against. “You accept my courtship?”

Hannibal looked helpless then, as if undone by Will’s very presence. He chuckled, expression smoothing out and looking years younger as he shook his head in slight exasperation. “Yes Will, I accept your courtship despite the fact that you absolutely failed to notice my attempts.”

Will shoved at Hannibal lightly, a mock frown on his face. “It doesn’t matter. You’re stuck with me now.”

“Together, or nothing at all?” Hannibal asked, his gaze soft as he brought Will’s fingers to his lips and brushed a gentle kiss on the knuckles.

“Together,” Will replied firmly, tightening his hold on Hannibal’s hand. “Or we burn this world to the ground to find each other.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Hannibal’s eyes sparkled with glee and an emotion Will realized he should have seen all along. Ever since the day he stepped into Jack’s office, that look had held him steady and chipped away at his defenses.

It was a look of love so deep that it threatened to consume him whole.

They pressed together, staring out into the setting sun and hands clasped tightly. And to think, all it took was some shiny objects and ritualistic dragon courting to get to this point. Despite the misunderstandings, Will wouldn’t have changed a single decision that led them to this moment. Because he knew that this time, they would never let each other go.

It wasn’t until they stumbled into bed together, passionate and unyielding in their intensity that Will discovered where all his clothes had disappeared to. And Jesus fuck, seeing what was almost a literal nest created out of his clothes and situated primly atop Hannibal’s bed had done nothing to stifle his libido.

“You are so fucking weird.”

“That’s rather rude, Will.”

“What are you going to do, eat me?”

“Oh, I intend to.”

There was a deep chuckle, and a small yelp that quickly petered out into moans. There were no more words after that.