They’ve only been taking care of Abby for a few weeks, but she’s already making it clear that she likes Will’s little farmhouse far better than Hannibal’s gothic mansion. Will is crediting the dogs; Hannibal is blaming his lack of kid-friendly decor. It may well just be that Will’s house is somewhere she gets to go, while Hannibal’s house is somewhere she has to be—technically only Hannibal is her legal guardian, since Virginia isn’t big on letting two unattached men adopt a child together. Hannibal joked that they should just get married, but Will can’t imagine that having been a serious offer. They’d known each other for barely a week.
Hannibal doesn’t seem bothered by the fact that their daughter has a preference for Will: on the contrary, when Will brought it up to him he said it was good that she’s comfortable enough to assert her desires like that, and it’s hardly a hardship for him to have an excuse to spend more time with Will. Apparently driving an hour to spend time in a small house without any of his typical luxuries isn’t a hardship for him. Will isn’t sure how to feel about that, but it’s not bad. It’s nice that Hannibal has been so insistent about including Will in Abby’s life at all, and it’s even nicer that he genuinely doesn’t seem to see any of Will’s oddities as a problem.
What is a problem, however, is that Abby is absolutely refusing to get in the car and head back to Hannibal’s house. Hannibal brought Abby over after he finished with his patients at four, and she got to play with the dogs while he made them all dinner. Will provided the fish and then let Hannibal get on with it, going out instead to watch their daughter run laughing through the fields with his pack of dogs on her tail.
But now they’ve had dinner, and Hannibal has been trying prompt Abby that they need to leave with increasing firmness and urgency for the last hour as she continues to find one more thing she needs to do before they go. It’s nearly eight and she’s supposed to be in bed at eight-thirty.
When Hannibal tries to take her arm to physically take her to the car, she grabs desperately onto Will’s leg and starts crying.
Will puts a hand on her shoulder and stares helplessly at Hannibal, who looks just as lost as Will feels. “Shh,” Will says to Abby. “It’s okay. I’ll still be here.”
“I wanna stay with you,” she says through her tears, face mashed into his thigh. “Hannibal’s house is scary and you aren’t there.”
Will looks back up at Hannibal and shrugs. He doesn’t really mind Abby staying: she doesn’t have any clothes here and he has work in the morning, but that’s not insurmountable, especially if it prevents her from having a full scale meltdown.
Hannibal looks like a man who was wildly unprepared to have his evening so upset by the whims of a five year old, but he nods. “If you’d like to stay with Will tonight, I can come back and get you in the morning.”
“No!!!” Abby roars, voice surprisingly loud and piercing considering her tiny frame. She lifts her head from Will’s leg to glare at Hannibal full force. “No, no, no!!”
“Abby,” Hannibal says, far more gently than Will could have managed, “you just said you wanted to stay with Will. Is that not what you want?”
“You hafta stay too! Don’t leave me!!” She flings out an arm and grabs onto Hannibal’s pants, tugging him closer so she can cling to both of them at once.
“I won’t leave you,” Hannibal says, more conviction in his voice that Will expected. He rests a hand on Abby’s head and strokes her hair. “We both want to be here for you and to take care of you. But this is Will’s home, and you don’t get to demand he house both of us.”
“But you keep saying we’re gonna be a family,” Abby insists, tears still streaming down her cheeks. “That means we hafta stay together.”
Hannibal’s face softens. “That’s true. But we still need to ask Will if we can stay, instead of insisting, don’t we?”
Will is watching Hannibal’s face, so he’s there to meet Hannibal’s gaze when Hannibal looks up at him. There’s something almost desperate in his eyes, and Will wasn’t really inclined to say no to this anyway. “Of course you can both stay. You’re always welcome here.”
“Yay!” Abby squeezes her arms tighter in enthusiasm, forcing Hannibal and Will to stumble forward into each other. They catch at each other to keep from tipping over, forming a sort of awkward, child-enforced group hug.
She releases them both a moment later, bolting for the stairs.
“Hey!” Will calls after her, letting go of Hannibal to chase her across the house. “Walk! You’ll hurt yourself, come back here!”
Will catches her at the base of the stairs and scoops her up into his arms. She’s grinning, all the distress from earlier gone, and he can’t tell if they’ve been played or if she’s just young enough to be so easily distracted. He shifts to hold her more stably and she leans forward to grab onto his neck with both her arms.
He nearly stumbles from the swell of affection he feels for her. This tiny being, clinging to him in love. His daughter. He tightens his arms around her and looks away, too overwhelmed to look at her face. What he sees instead is Hannibal, looking at the two of them with the softest expression Will has ever seen. That’s even more overwhelming, so Will closes his eyes and tries to speak as brightly as he can. “Time to get ready for bed?”
“Yeah,” Abby agrees, leaning her head on his shoulder. “Carry me?”
“Of course,” Will says. He can’t quite keep his tone even as he does so, but he’s steady as he opens his eyes to carry her up the stairs.
Hannibal follows them up and draws Abby a bath while Will goes back down and finds a t-shirt for her to wear to bed. He leaves Hannibal mostly in charge of bath time—Abby has spent the night at his house before, so he has all the right stuff for her, but he’s not nearly as comfortable touching a naked little girl as Hannibal seems to be.
Hannibal is a lot more comfortable taking care of Abby in general, which is part of why it blindsides Will so badly when she indicates she wants Will. That she likes Will as much if not more than she likes Hannibal.
Hannibal comes out of the bathroom holding Abby in his arms. She’s so tiny that Will’s shirt looks like a dress on her, and seeing her sleepy and comfortable with her head on Hannibal’s shoulder is too much. Will has to look away before the flood of affection and possessiveness he feels towards both of them makes him do something stupid.
He likes having them here far too much. It’s not safe.
Hannibal carries Abby into her room and tucks her gently into bed. Will comes and sits on the other side when Abby reaches for him, and they sit and listen as Hannibal tells her a bedtime story. It’s something Will has never heard before, and he’s not sure if Hannibal is making it up as he goes or if it’s a traditional story in one of the many other cultures Hannibal has experience with. Abby seems to appreciate it, and Will enjoys the sound of Hannibal’s voice almost as much as he appreciates being included in their evening ritual.
Hannibal presses a kiss to Abby’s forehead when he’s done with the story, and she smiles at him, soft and sleepy and at ease. Will loves her so much he feels like he’s going to drown in it. And then Hannibal looks up and smiles at Will, and it’s the same swell of affection, and he’s really fucked, isn’t he? They’ve known each other for less than two months, and it’s Abby who will suffer when Will inevitably fucks this up. Bringing feelings into it will only make things worse.
They say goodnight, then turn out the light and close the door. They’re quiet as they head back downstairs, but Will knows that won’t last long. Hannibal doesn’t do “quiet” very well. With anyone else, Will would find that wearing; with Hannibal, Will finds he’s always interested to hear what he’ll say next.
“I’m sorry to impose on you without warning like this,” Hannibal says as soon as they’re back in the living room.
“It’s really fine.” Will sinks into an armchair with a sigh. “This is as much my fault as it is yours. We’re really going to have to learn to say no to her eventually.”
Hannibal chuckles and sits down to join him. “I know. I find it difficult to be firm with her when she’s in distress.”
“Which she knows and is already exploiting.” Will shakes his head. “We’re going to spoil her terribly, aren’t we?”
“She’s recovering from an awful trauma,” Hannibal says, as if Will has forgotten for an instant. As if Hobbs’s ghost isn’t still lurking behind Will’s eyelids every time he closes his eyes. “I think we can be forgiven for being somewhat lenient with her. I’d sleep in this chair a hundred nights if it meant she got to have a happy childhood.”
“You think I’m going to let you sleep in a chair? You can have the bed, I’ll sleep with the dogs. They’ll love that.”
“Will.” Hannibal sounds appalled. “I’m not going to force you to sleep on the floor in your own home. If you’re that opposed to having me sleep elsewhere, your bed is large enough for two.”
“Then we’ll both be equally inconvenienced.”
“I suppose so.” Hannibal’s eyes crinkle with amusement. “A plan that will satisfy both your tendency towards self sacrifice and my desire to be polite.”
Will laughs. “I’m glad you didn’t try to say you were self-sacrificing.”
Hannibal grins. “Of course not.” The grin fades, and his expression turns pensive. “Although I have been finding myself making more decisions that might seem that way lately. It’s an odd feeling, putting someone else’s desires so far above my own.”
“I think that may be sort of inherent to being a parent,” Will says. “Or at least, being a decent parent. My dad used to say it was the duty of a father to suffer for his child.”
“I remember so little about my parents that I couldn’t tell you if they operated by any such adages,” Hannibal says, a kind of forced lightness to his tone. “Although I doubt it. From what I do recall, they weren’t particularly hands-on. My sister was born when I was barely older than our Abby, and they often left me to care for her.”
Will can feel the shape of it with his empathy, Hannibal and a baby he was barely big enough to hold. The image is much fuzzier than it would be with anyone else—there’s something about Hannibal that makes him harder for Will to read than most people. Hannibal’s feelings are quieter, and stay inside his own head better. It’s one of the things Will likes about him.
“She’s dead,” Hannibal says quietly. “She’s the last person I loved like this, and it’s been more than thirty years.”
Will’s hand lifts and moves toward Hannibal before he catches himself and brings it back to rest on his own thigh. “What was her name?”
Hannibal looks down at his hands, twisted tightly together in his lap. His voice is small and almost reverent. “Mischa.”
Will does reach out and touch him then, two fingers light on Hannibal’s elbow. “Thank you.”
Hannibal looks up at him, brow slightly furrowed. “She’s been on my mind often these last few weeks.”
There are a thousand questions Will wants to ask, but he’s afraid to push on this. It’s only the second time Hannibal has told him anything about his family at all, and Hannibal seems the type to snap closed if pressed to be more open. Will can relate to that. He’s pleased to be someone Hannibal shares himself with at all.
Will stands, letting his hand fall. “Do you want a drink? Since you don’t have to drive.”
Hannibal gives him a tiny smile. “Yes, thank you.”
Will takes his time pouring them each two fingers of whiskey, trying to give Hannibal a chance to collect himself.
Hannibal’s smile comes much more easily when he takes the glass from Will, and it broadens further after he takes a sip. “This is good.”
Will quirks an eyebrow at him. “You don’t have to sound so surprised.”
“Don’t I? I’ve been through your cupboards, I know how you feed yourself.”
Will laughs. “Most of what I cook is for the dogs. Especially since you’ve started feeding me every chance you get. I know how to make some things, but it doesn’t really compare.”
Hannibal smiles, and the warmth in his eyes is enough that Will has to look down. “I’m glad you appreciate it more than Abby does.”
“She’s five. I think expecting her to appreciate savory jello was a little ambitious. You’re lucky her father got her started on offal early.”
“Yes, I’m very lucky that our daughter’s father regularly fed her human organs,” Hannibal says dryly.
Will scrubs a hand over his face. “Not what I meant.”
“I wonder how she’ll take that, when she’s old enough to understand it?”
Hannibal’s face shifts unreadably. “However she reacts, we’ll be there to support her.”
Will looks down. He takes a drink of his whiskey and taps his fingers on the glass. “Do you really think I’m going to be around that long?”
“Where, precisely, do you imagine you will go?” Hannibal’s voice is carefully measured.
“You’re her father,” Will says quietly. “I’m not—I’m not really anything. I’m only in her life because you want me there, and I’m not even sure I should be there. I’m not stable, and I feel like I’m getting so much worse lately… and I killed her father, do you really think she’s going to want me around when she’s old enough to understand that?”
“If she’s old enough to understand that better than she does now, she will also be old enough to understand that what you did saved her life.” Hannibal is still speaking in that same measured tone, but it thaws as he continues, “And you have just as much a right to call yourself her father. I don’t care about the legalities. There is nothing wrong with you, Will. I want you in my life and Abby wants you in hers.”
“How can you be so sure? We haven’t known each other that long. What if I have the mental break Jack is worried about and I become a serial killer? What if I’m already a serial killer? You haven’t even looked in my basement.”
Hannibal laughs hollowly. “That isn’t something I’m concerned about. I know what kind of man you are, and I know you would never hurt our daughter. I cannot imagine a future in which that changed.”
“You can’t trust me. It’s not safe. I’m not safe.”
“You have no right to tell me how to feel,” Hannibal says, sounding more impassioned than Will has ever heard him, almost angry. “You’re so determined to see the worst in yourself. Is it so unbelievable that I see something else? That I like what I see? I wouldn’t have adopted Abby if I hadn’t known that you would be here raising her with me. You don’t get to back out on me now.”
“I’m not backing out.” Will looks up and is surprised by how tightly wound Hannibal looks, hands white-knuckled on his glass. “I want this. I want her, more than anything. I’m in this for as long as you’ll have me.”
“I don’t know that I can do this without you. I do know that I don’t want to try. I don’t know what I’d do if you left.”
This is so far from the reaction Will expected that he isn’t at all sure what to say. The idea that Hannibal is anywhere near as daunted by the prospect of fatherhood as he is has never even come close to occurring to him, largely because it’s difficult to picture Hannibal being daunted by anything. “I’m not leaving,” Will says, finally. “I’m sorry for implying I might. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“You didn’t,” Hannibal says, and there’s absolutely no tell that it’s a lie, but Will knows what he saw. “We’re in this together, Will. For better or for worse.”
“For richer, for poorer.”
“I did offer to marry you.”
“You weren’t serious.”
Will looks away from the earnestness in Hannibal’s gaze. “You couldn’t have been. You can’t be.”
“We have a child together. You agreed to tie your life to mine when you agreed to raise her with me. Marriages are easier to dissolve than parental bonds, and it would make things easier for both of us if we had the same legal rights with regard to her. Of course I’m serious.”
He certainly looks serious. He also looks tired, and a little bit at the end of his rope, which Will can relate to.
“Okay,” Will says. “You’re not wrong. I guess it just feels…hasty.”
“Abby needed us with haste. Neither one of us were prepared to take on the responsibility of caring for her alone, and she had no one else. I consider it a benefit that this has given me the opportunity to get closer to you.”
“I probably would have let you be my psychiatrist if this hadn’t happened,” Will says. “You’re the first psychiatric professional I’ve ever met who wasn’t more interested in my brain than in me.”
“And I am far more interested in you.” Hannibal smiles. “So much so, in fact, that I’m grateful I don’t have to pretend a professional distance between us.”
“You’d miss out on getting to sleep on my shitty mattress with me.” Will shakes his head. “I was going to say I wish she’d done this at your house—since I’m sure your beds are more comfortable, and that you have more than two of them—but I’d have had to turn her down or leave the dogs to piss on the floor, and neither one of those sounds like a good time.”
“It is fortunate that this was a demand that could be met without any particularly impactful complications.”
“See if you’re still thinking that way after I get you up six times in the night with my nightmares.”
Hannibal shakes his head, smiling slightly. “It wouldn’t be my first such night this week, and I suspect your nightmares won’t require near as much time out of bed as Abby’s. Even if you do require a glass of warm milk, the kitchen is much closer.”
Will laughs. “You’re such an optimist.”
“If one only looks at the negatives in an unusual situation, one may miss out on a great deal of opportunity for positives.”
“I guess. But if one only looks at the positives, one may not adequately prepare for the negatives.”
Hannibal cocks his head. “I always do my best to have contingency plans in place. I just prefer not to act as if they’re my primary plan until it becomes necessary to do so.”
“You’re unreasonably reasonable, you know that?”
Hannibal chuckles. “In this particular instance, I’m not overly concerned about a lack of sleep. I don’t sleep much in general and can manage quite well on a few non-consecutive hours. If you’re terribly worried about disturbing me, my offer to sleep in the chair is still open.”
“I’m serious about the possibility of disturbing you—I do have nightmares, and I get night sweats, and I haven’t shared a bed with anyone in years.”
“I have a tendency to steal all the blankets, and I snore terribly if I end up on my back,” Hannibal offers.
“You snore?” Will isn’t sure why he’s so surprised. “It seems like that would be something only us lesser mortals do.”
Hannibal laughs, bright and surprised. “Despite my best efforts, I am just a man. Don’t tell anyone.”
Will grins at him. “Your secret’s safe with me.”
They talk for a little while longer, until the dogs let them know it’s time for bed. Will lets them out for one last run, and while they’re outside he tries to find something Hannibal can wear to bed. They end up settling on a pair of pajama pants that are a bit on the baggy side for Will and will probably make it around Hannibal. None of Will’s t-shirts are even going to come close to fitting Hannibal’s shoulders, but Hannibal doesn’t seem overly bothered. He takes the pajamas and the toothbrush Will managed to find and heads up to the bathroom while Will calls the dogs back in.
Once the dogs are settled, Will digs out the extra blanket he usually reserves for the dead of winter. He put the space heater up in Abby’s room because it’s a cold night, and if Hannibal is a blanket thief that probably means he gets cold easily. He’s trying not to overthink this, but he wants to make it as easy on Hannibal as he can.
He feels strangely antsy in the few minutes he has to wait for Hannibal to come out of the bathroom, making a circuit of the ground floor and triple checking that everything is where it’s supposed to be. He never locks his doors, but he does tonight; it may not keep every danger at bay, but it’s all he can do to protect them, his daughter and the man who’s asked to marry him. God. Hannibal wants to marry him. This is definitely not how he imagined his first night in bed with someone he was going to marry would go.
Hannibal comes downstairs looking physically softer than Will would have thought possible. He has rinsed the gel out of his hair, and he cuts a much less imposing figure in nothing but flannel pants. He has more chest hair than Will expected, and more of a belly, neither of which in any way detracts from the fact that he’s absolutely gorgeous. Will has been worrying about his fondness for Hannibal being a problem, but his attraction to him is definitely going to present a more immediate one. He’s struck with the urge to sink his teeth into the swell of Hannibal’s bicep and bite.
He was going to say something, but he doesn’t trust what will come out of his mouth if he opens it. Instead he carefully avoids brushing into Hannibal as he walks past him and has to fight the impulse to run up the stairs.
All the same, he tries to be quick in the bathroom. It feels strange to know that Hannibal is waiting for him downstairs, and he’ll feel better once they’re actually in bed so he isn’t just stuck imagining what it will be like. Hannibal isn’t likely to be weird about it, and he certainly won’t get upset with Will if something awkward happens. Honestly, as uncomfortable as this will no doubt be, at least it’s Hannibal: Will feels safer with him than he ever has with anyone, and he’s surprised to find he isn’t worried at all about Hannibal judging him for anything that might happen tonight. If he were going to judge Will, he’d have done so already.
Hannibal is in the kitchen when Will comes back down, drying one of their whiskey glasses. The other one is already clean and dry, on the counter next to him. It’s such a Hannibal thing to do that Will can’t help but smile.
“You ready for bed?” Will asks.
Hannibal nods and smiles at him, and Will wants to be lucky enough to get to see that smile every day for the rest of his life. He wants Hannibal to be right about this, about them being able to stay this close for years.
Hannibal puts the glasses away before he leaves the kitchen, which doesn’t surprise Will at all, but it does stoke the terrible burning fondness in Will’s heart.
Actually going to bed is easier than Will expected it to be. Hannibal slides into bed, and Will gets the light and then slides in next to him, and there’s just enough space for no part of them to touch. Will can feel Hannibal’s warmth and the way the mattress dips with his weight, but that’s a comfort more than anything. Hannibal’s presence is always a comfort, which isn’t something Will has ever been able to say about someone before.
He didn’t know it was possible to feel like this about someone at all, much less so quickly. It feels silly to even be thinking about being in love with someone he’s only know for a month and a half, but what else is this? What other word is there?
After awhile, just as Will is starting to drift off, Hannibal shifts beside him and whispers, “Are you still awake?”
Will hums in acknowledgement, not really awake enough to speak himself.
“I’m glad it’s you I’m doing this with,” Hannibal says quietly, speaking less to Will and more just into the dark of the room. “It occurred to me, based on your earlier assertions, that you might not be aware of that. It’s not that I’m putting up with you because I need someone to help with Abby: I want to raise her with you specifically.”
Something about being sleepy in bed in the dark gives Will courage: he reaches out under the covers and laces his fingers through Hannibal’s, holding onto him. Hannibal not only moves to accommodate the gesture but squeezes his hand and doesn’t let go.
Neither of them says anything more, but the last thing Will rememberers before falling asleep is the feeling of Hannibal rubbing gentle circles into his hand with his thumb.
Unfortunately, the feeling of warmth and comfort doesn’t manage to follow Will into his dreams. He twists and turns down blood soaked hallways, flames licking at his heels, and then suddenly he’s trapped, wrapped in some kind of tangle of bloody vines as the fire comes closer and closer.
He jolts awake just as the fire reaches him, and there’s a moment of confused panic when he finds that he is in fact restrained, and far too warm. A few deep breaths later he remembers that he’s in bed with Hannibal, and he realizes that both the restraint and the extra warmth have the same source: Hannibal lying almost entirely on Will’s chest, one arm wrapped securely over Will’s waist, head pillowed on Will’s shoulder. He seems to be completely asleep, breathing deep and even against the side of Will’s neck.
The adrenaline from the nightmare leaves Will in a rush, replaced by the yearning fondness that’s been eating at his resolve for weeks now. He’s too hot, and one of his arms is trapped under the bulk of Hannibal’s body and has definitely fallen asleep, but there’s no way he’s going to wake Hannibal up and lose this closeness.
He feels a little bit guilty, because he’s wanted this so badly for so long and Hannibal probably just got cold and shifted toward the nearest heat source, but really, what good would waking Hannibal up do? It would just rob him of rest and probably embarrass him, and it’s not like Will is taking advantage of him. He’s just appreciating contact that Hannibal initiated; there’s nothing wrong with that.
And they did fall asleep holding hands. Maybe Hannibal wouldn’t be embarrassed after all—not that Will is even sure embarrassment is inside Hannibal’s emotional range.
He thinks about Hannibal rubbing his hand as he fell asleep, he thinks about Hannibal telling him about his sister, he thinks about the way Hannibal always seems to want to be closer, to stay longer, to know him more. He thinks about how in sync they always are, thinks about Hannibal’s quiet reassurance that he wants Will specifically in his life, about Hannibal’s weight on his chest and the warmth of Hannibal’s breath on his skin. He thinks, and it occurs to him for the first time that maybe he isn’t alone in this terrible longing. That maybe Hannibal wants this too, wants to marry him for more than just Abby’s sake.
Before he can overthink it and stop himself, he turns his head and presses a kiss to Hannibal’s temple. It feels good and right, and it calms the hungry thing in his chest enough that he can drift back to sleep, lulled by the evenness of Hannibal’s breathing.
The next time Will wakes he’s alone, and the sun is up. He hasn’t slept this well since before Jack came into his classroom months ago, and he takes a minute to bask in the sense of being well rested. Then he remembers why he slept so well and goes to look for his absent bedmate, letting the dogs out on his way to the kitchen.
He finds Hannibal there, of course. He leans against the doorframe and watches Hannibal pull out different things from his cupboards and inspect them. It looks like he’s trying to find ingredients to make into breakfast, but he knows Will’s kitchen well enough that Will isn’t compelled to offer help. Hannibal is still shirtless and wearing Will’s pajama pants, and Will would rather watch him.
Will likes the look of him, soft and undressed, wearing Will’s clothes, at home in Will’s space. It looks right. This still feels like a dangerous thing to want, but his train of thought from last night seems even more sound this morning. They’ve shared so many small intimacies already, what’s one more? And even if Hannibal doesn’t want it, Will can’t imagine him making it weird. Everything between them has been easier than Will expected it would be. Maybe this will be too.
He steps forward before he can talk himself out of it, crossing to where Hannibal is and resting a hand on his bare shoulder. Hannibal doesn’t startle but he does go very still, tension rippling through him briefly before running out of him altogether. His skin is warm and smooth beneath Will’s hand, and Will can feel how well defined his muscles are. He must be incredibly strong. Will wants to taste his skin, lick the muscles in his back, but that’s not the right way to do this.
Instead, he steps around Hannibal, into the space between Hannibal and the counter. It puts them very close together, but it’s not close enough. Will knows now what it feels like to have Hannibal entirely pressed against him, and it’s something he’s nearly desperate to have again if there’s any chance of it.
He slides the hand on Hannibal’s shoulder up his throat, to cup his face. He can feel how fast Hannibal’s pulse is going, and that’s nearly as good a sign as the way Hannibal’s eyes shift to Will’s lips. He looks almost as hungry as Will feels.
When Will leans up to kiss him, Hannibal meets him halfway, and it’s easy, just like everything between them.
Will has kissed a lot of people, he likes kissing, but kissing someone has never felt like this: like a piece of himself settling into place that he’d never known was out of alignment. Will has always thought the cliche that kissing the right person is supposed to feel like coming home was silly, but now? He thinks maybe he gets what they mean.
Hannibal lets out a soft sigh against his lips, shifts just a little, and it’s perfect. Will’s other hand goes to Hannibal’s waist, and Hannibal brings his arms up around Will and steps forward, pressing Will back against the counter with his body. And god, that’s exactly what Will wanted; he’d gladly stay like this all day, just kissing and touching and being so close.
Unfortunately, their daughter has other plans. Hannibal steps quickly away from Will a second before Will hears footsteps on the stairs. Will twists around to face the counter (because he’s just in his boxers, and they aren’t going to do anything to hide the fact that he’s more than a little hard) and rubs his hand through his hair, trying to flatten it. Hannibal got his hands into it after he pinned Will against the counter, and it feels like it’s probably a lost cause.
Abby bounces into the kitchen a few seconds later, wide awake in the way only small children seem to be this early in the morning. “Good morning!!” she says brightly, oblivious to the tension in the room.
Will turns his head to face her and smiles at the sight of her still wearing his shirt as a nightdress.
“Good morning, Abby,” Hannibal says before Will can speak, not sounding flustered at all. “How do you feel about pancakes for breakfast?”
She agrees with enthusiasm; Will mumbles something about pants and tries to make his escape. Hannibal catches his arm before he can step away, rubbing his thumb over Will’s skin before leaning in and stealing another kiss, quick and chaste in consideration of their audience. His eyes are so full of emotion when he pulls away that Will gets overwhelmed; he pulls out of Hannibal’s grasp and flees to the living room to get dressed.
By the time Will collects himself, puts on pants, and comes back, Hannibal has put on the apron he keeps here now and is at the stove, calmly explaining the process of making pancakes to Abby. She immediately gets distracted when she sees Will, bounding over to him and hugging his legs.
“See?” She says, her bright voice a dramatic contrast to the echo of her father’s last words that still lingers in Will’s ears. “Isn’t this nice? Aren’t you glad we stayed?”
Will strokes her hair and lets himself smile. Hannibal is smiling too, and there’s something about it… he’s practically glowing with happiness, pinging Will’s empathy in a way he almost never does. Will feels his smile broaden until it starts to hurt his cheeks.
“Yeah,” he says to Abby. “I’m very glad. It was a great idea, although I think we’d both appreciate it if you suggested things like this before you guys were already here.”
“But I didn’t think of it until we were here,” she says, looking up at him with a frown. “How’m I supposed to suggest it if I didn’t think of it before?”
Will laughs and ruffles her hair, crouching down so he can hug her. “It’s okay. I’m hoping we’ll be able to do this more often, without it being a surprise.”
“I would like that,” Hannibal says. “I’ve had a very nice time.”
Will looks back up at him, lifting Abby up with him as he stands and steps toward Hannibal. “You two are always welcome here, I told you that.”
Hannibal flips the pancake he’s working on over and then turns toward the two of them, still smiling in that soft, happy way. He lays a hand on Will’s arm and squeezes gently. “Might we impose on you again tonight, then? I think there are some things we should discuss.”
“You think?” Will says, smiling to make it clear he’s teasing. “Sure, tonight’s great with me. Jack wants me to come to an autopsy this morning, but I’m pretty sure I can be home by three.”
“No class today?” Hannibal takes his hand back to turn the skillet slightly on the stove.
“I was supposed to teach this morning, but you know Jack.”
Hannibal frowns. “He shouldn’t be taking you out of class so often.”
“Yeah, Alana is frustrated with covering for me. And it has really thrown off my lesson plans. But if it saves lives…”
Hannibal sighs. “Of course.”
“He’s already upset enough with me for insisting on taking all that time last month,” Will says with a glance at Abby. “This is a bad one. They need me.”
Hannibal still doesn’t look pleased, but he nods and turns back to the stove. “Perhaps you can tell me about it tonight.”
“Perhaps.” He likes talking cases through with Hannibal, but it feels like that might be weird to combine with what’s he’s hoping is going to be a relationship talk.
“When you took the time last month, that was because of me, wasn’t it?” Abby asks, frowning.
“Yeah, munchkin. When you were in the hospital. We both took time off to stay with you.”
Her frown deepens. “You didn’t have to. I don’t want Jack to be mad at you. He should like you.”
“He does like me,” Will reassures her. “And he likes you, and he likes Hannibal. He just wishes I had more time to spend helping him, because I’m really good at it.”
“That’s why you saved me!”
“It is.” Will kisses her forehead. “I’m happy to help Jack when I can, because I like saving people. But I also want to take time to take care of you, because I love you.”
“Daddy loved me too,” she says, looking concerned.
“Your daddy was very sick,” Hannibal says seriously. “That’s why he hurt you and your mother. Not because he loved you.”
“But he did love me, didn’t he?”
Hannibal flips the pancake onto a plate and turns off the stove before reaching out to take Abby from Will. “I believe he did, yes. And your mother.”
This isn’t the first time that Will has been grateful for Hannibal’s psychiatric training; Will wouldn’t have had any idea what to say.
Abby nods sagely. “So sometimes people hurt the people they love?”
“More often than you might expect,” Hannibal says. “But doing so feels bad, even when you don’t mean to.”
“Then why do they do it?”
“Sometimes they can’t help it. And sometimes when people feel very sad or very scared or very angry, they do things to sabotage their own happiness.” Hannibal looks over and nods at the stack of pancakes next to the stove. “Will, would you bring those to the table?”
Hannibal has already set the table, and there’s butter and an old jug of maple syrup that Will got as a gift awhile ago and had forgotten in the back of his fridge. It’s fairly impressive considering what Hannibal had to work with, but Will is past the point of being surprised by that sort of thing.
They sit and eat. Abby is sufficiently distracted by pancakes that she avoids asking further difficult questions, which Will at least is grateful for. It’s hard to know how she’ll react to things, both because she’s very young and because of what she’s been through. And Will isn’t always good at being tactful, even with less unpredictable people than this child whose worldview he’s helping to shape.
It’s hard to see how he’s in any way an asset to Hannibal with regard to caring for her; he feels hopelessly out of his depth. But Hannibal just keeps smiling at Will all through breakfast, and at one point reaches over to squeeze his hand, and it feels so domestic that Will can hardly breathe.
They all have places to be, so Hannibal doesn’t let Abby linger too long over her pancakes; as soon as she’s finished eating he takes her upstairs to get dressed, handing Will the shirt and pajama pants when they come back down in yesterday’s clothes. Will is leaving too, since Jack wanted him as early as possible; he tosses the clothes in the hamper and follows them out the door.
Hannibal stops before they get all the way to his car, reaching out to touch Will’s arm lightly. “Tonight we’ll come better prepared for a sleepover, yes?”
“That’s the plan,” Will confirms. “I’m looking forward to it.”
“As am I,” Hannibal agrees, and then he leans forward and captures Will’s lips in another soft kiss.
Will presses into it, leaning up to kiss him back and let it linger. There’s something like joy bubbling up in his chest, even as Abby shouts that they’re being gross and can they please stop.
Hannibal is smiling when he steps away, and Will is so in love with him it hurts. He wants to pull Hannibal back in by his tie and kiss him again, just keep kissing him, forget about Jack and his bodies and every other stressful thing in their lives.
But he loves Abby just as much; it’s incredible to think that he gets to have them both as a package deal. That he might get to keep them, that they want to keep him.
Will picks Abby up and hugs her close for a second before helping her into her car seat in Hannibal’s backseat, and she clings a little when he sets her down. He kisses her forehead as he buckles her in and reminds her that she’ll be back later today.
He stands watching the drive for a minute after they pull away, trying to imagine what it might be like to have this for the rest of his life.
“Are you and Will gonna get married?” Abby asks, a few minutes into the drive back to Baltimore.
As seems frequently to be the case, Hannibal finds himself unprepared for her question. “I hope so,” he says carefully. “Why do you ask?”
“You kissed him,” she says, as though this should be obvious. “Mommy says kissing is for people who are in love, and if you’re in love you should get married! Then we can all live together and I can play with the dogs every day!”
Of course it comes back to the dogs. Hannibal would prefer to live with fewer than seven of them, but he’s grateful that Abby is so endeared to them as it has provided an easy excuse to spend more time with Will. “That would be very nice. I’m certain Will would enjoy that as well, but he wants to be sure that we won’t change our minds about liking him before he’s willing to make a commitment like marriage.”
“That’s silly,” Abby says. “Of course we aren’t going to change our minds about liking him! Why would we do that?”
Hannibal is in agreement with her, although he knows Will’s caution isn’t at all unwarranted. It will be better for everyone if they do get married sooner rather than later, and Hannibal is quite confident that his fascination with Will isn’t going to change in nature, but he understands that marrying a relative stranger is something most people would reject outright. The fact that Will was willing to take it seriously at all is a very good sign, and the fact that Will kissed him this morning is an even better sign.
“Sometimes people feel differently about things over time,” he explains. “Will has had many experiences with people who believed him to be someone other than he is, who when they came to realize their assumptions had been incorrect no longer liked him. He fears that we will do something similar.”
“But we love him,” Abby says, firm and emphatic and without a trace of doubt. “You don’t just stop loving someone when they’re different than you thought they’d be.”
Hannibal himself is not entirely sure if what he’s feeling is “love”. It might be, which is an intriguing thought—romantic love is not something he’d ever even considered he might experience. His reaction to Will is entirely unprecedented: whatever it is, it isn’t a feeling he’s felt for anyone before. Affection is certainly a factor in it, and desire—both sexual desire and a desire for non-sexual intimacy, if the pleasure he experienced this morning from curling close to Will in bed is anything to go by. Fascination is arguably the largest part: he finds Will intriguing, and wants to know him more. Most unusual is his unexpected inclination to be known by Will in turn. He’s told Will things about himself and his past that he’s never even considered speaking about with anyone else.
But much of that is likely a side effect of his love for Abby, which has brought to the surface many tender feelings he hasn’t experienced in such depth since he was a child himself. Those feelings have come with memories attached, and it shouldn’t surprise him that that has led to him dwelling on the past in such a way he feels compelled to speak of it. Will has been consistent about offering support, which makes him a logical person to go to when he needs to unburden himself of feelings. It doesn’t necessarily mean he’s overly attached to Will as an individual.
“Not all love is unconditional,” Hannibal tells her, his pause too small for a child to have noticed. “Familial love is meant to be, but Will doesn’t have much experience with that.”
“He doesn’t have any family?”
“He has us,” Hannibal reminds her. “But beyond that, no.”
“Is that why he has so many dogs?”
Hannibal has to work not to laugh. “I suspect it is a factor.”
“It’s good he has us now.” Abby sounds definitive. “He should have a family that’s more than just dogs. Dogs can’t make you soup when you’re sick or even give hugs or anything.”
“We’ll take good care of him,” Hannibal agrees. “And I know he wants to take care of us, too.”
“Good,” Abby says. “You need hugs too. Nobody but me and Will ever touches you.”
“I don’t generally like it when people other than you and Will touch me.” Hannibal has been surprised by how much he enjoys their touch, how much he craves it when he’s alone.
“Do you have any family? Other family?”
“I had a sister and an aunt and uncle, but they’re all dead now. It’s just me.” It’s incredibly unlikely that Abby will ever have cause to meet the family he does have, and he’s not interested in letting his mind stray down those halls after how unsettled he got last night.
“I wanna have a sister!” Abby shouts, distracting him before he slips too far down that train of thought. “We could be best friends and we’d live together so we could be together all the time!”
“Someday, perhaps.” Hannibal had never intended to have one child, much less two, but Will seems to enjoy collecting strays of all varieties—and the more ties they have to each other, the less Will can do if he discovers that Hannibal is a killer.
Abby goes on to talk about sets of siblings she has known, and Hannibal keeps up his end of the conversation without much concentration. They’ve spent a great deal of time in the car together, with all their trips to Wolf Trap, and Hannibal has become used to the chatter. Abby is an interesting and intelligent child, and he enjoys her company.
This morning, however, he finds himself giving her less of his attention than he typically does. He can’t seem to turn his mind away from Will: the complicated tangle of his feelings about him, how good it felt to kiss him, the sheer indulgent pleasure of waking up wrapped around him. He really hasn’t ever felt so drawn to anyone, and it’s truly fascinating to examine the way attention from Will makes him feel.
Even just the small touch Will gave him when he told Will about Mischa was enough to make Hannibal feel a thrill. He’s never particularly enjoyed that sort of physical contact before, has only just tolerated it from anyone who wasn’t a lover, but with Will it actually managed to provide the comfort and grounding he knows it was meant to.
And when Will held his hand! If that had been all the progress made, it would have been more than worth the inconvenience. It was certainly more than worth the display of vulnerability that instigated Will’s desire for closeness. Hannibal hadn’t known that such a simple form of physical contact could make him feel so much, like it lit something up inside him that had been dark and void his whole life.
Perhaps he is in love with Will. It would explain his utter inability to stop thinking about him. Bedelia had insisted it was just obsession before telling him she wasn’t interested in seeing him again as long as he was still pursuing this “reckless flight of fancy”, but it doesn’t feel like obsession to Hannibal. Certainly it has some of the same elements, but obsession has never made him feel so vulnerable.
He keeps showing Will his belly and craving the feeling of doing it again. It’s not just wanting Will’s company and wanting Will physically, it’s wanting Will’s support and comfort and care. Hannibal hasn’t had any desire to let himself rely on someone in a very long time, and never to this extent. He needs Will’s help with Abby, yes, but more than that he wants it, wants the security and reassurance he feels around Will. He wants to cling to Will and never let go.
It’s absurd. It’s antithetical to his entire approach to interpersonal relationships. He’s spent years building himself an aura of unassailability—and Will makes him want to cast it aside entirely. It should be frightening, but instead he finds himself exhilarated, eager to see what new feelings Will will reveal in him next.
They stop at his house to change into fresh clothes—Abby could perhaps get away with rewearing her dress and leggings, but Hannibal refuses to go to his office in yesterday’s suit and a wrinkled shirt. And he prefers to bring his lunch to work, and to send Abby off with one. Abby ends up being a few minutes late to preschool, but Hannibal makes it to his office a good twenty minutes before his first appointment. It isn’t too bad, all things considered. Having a young child is more disruptive to his routines than he would prefer, but this particular disruption has overall been a positive one.
He struggles to focus on his work; the day seems to drag. He keeps thinking about tonight, about Will. Getting to touch him again, more freely. To sleep with him in more than just the literal sense—and to be free to curl close while Will is still awake, to have Will cuddle up to him in turn.
It’s fortunate that he can respond to most of his patients entirely on autopilot.
It’s a short day for him, which is also fortunate; his last patient leaves just before three, and he follows them out almost immediately, eager to pick up Abby and get on the road back to Will’s. To see Will again, to kiss him again, to be filled with that burbling enthusiasm Will inspires in him again. It’s an entirely different kind of pleasure than what he gets from killing, but it’s just as enjoyable. Perhaps even more so, which is certainly a first.
They stop at home to pack, since the morning will go much more smoothly if they’ve each brought a change of clothes. He’s learned from experience to encourage Abby to use the restroom before leaving on a long drive, and he goes himself, taking longer than he normally might. He’s thinking about tonight—he isn’t sure what Will’s preferences might be with regard to penetration, but it seems best to be prepared for any eventuality, and there are some things he prefers to do in his own bathroom.
Abby is impatient by the time they leave, and if he’s honest with himself so is Hannibal. But there’s more still to do: they need groceries, dinner and breakfast and something he can pack into lunches for all three of them. He wants to have as much time to linger at Will’s house in the morning as possible, which means they won’t be going home again before work tomorrow. The meat, of course, he brings from his own freezer.
It occurs to him that killing will be even more complicated to orchestrate if they start spending the night at Will’s regularly: last time he left Abby with Will, citing a vague evening engagement, but if he pursues this Will isn’t likely to let such vagaries stand. He feels unsettled to realize this hadn’t occurred to him sooner: it should have been his first thought. He’s even more unsettled to find he doesn’t particularly care. He’ll almost certainly figure something out eventually, and in the meantime he’ll have Will, which seems more important. He’s gone without killing for periods of time before, for much less enjoyable reasons.
He calls Will’s landline when they finally get on the road, and the burst of pleasure he gets at hearing Will’s voice through the car’s speakers is a shock. Maybe he is in love. Maybe this is what being in love feels like. Wouldn’t that be something? God has always had a wicked sense of humor.
“Will,” he says, because for a minute the need to say Will’s name is all that’s in his head. “We’re finally getting on our way. Are you still prepared to have us?”
“Of course,” Will says. “How many times am I going to have to tell you you’re always welcome? The dogs already miss their girl.”
Hannibal tries and fails not to hear it as “I already miss you”. “She misses them as well,” he says, and hopes the same sentiment comes across. “We’ll be there as soon as we can.”
“I’ll be here,” Will says, and hangs up.
It’s a terrible time of day to drive to Virginia, but they make it to Will’s house just after five. He’s standing on the porch with two steaming mugs and a smile that broadens when he makes eye contact with Hannibal. Abby runs into the field to chase the dogs as soon as Hannibal gets her out of her car seat, leaving Hannibal free to take a mug from Will and press a kiss to his waiting lips. Will tastes like coffee, and Hannibal wants to lick into his mouth, find a way to crawl into his skin with him and never leave.
Will steps back after only a moment, but he leaves his hand on Hannibal’s arm. He’s blushing, and it’s beautiful—he’s beautiful, it’s incredible that a man so beautiful is allowed to exist, more incredible that Hannibal is allowed to kiss him and not only view him from afar as one would an exhibit in a museum. No Botticelli can compare.
“It’s good to see you,” Will says, voice softer than usual. “How was your day?”
“This morning was exceptional,” Hannibal says, reaching to cup Will’s face with his free hand. He strokes his thumb over Will’s cheek. “After we left, it was largely uninteresting. I admit my attention may have been elsewhere.”
Will smiles, small and soft and pleased. “Elsewhere, huh? Can’t imagine why that would be.”
Hannibal breathes a laugh and rubs Will’s cheek again. His stubble feels good against Hannibal’s skin, and he wants to keep passing his thumb over it again and again. “How was your day?”
“Too gruesome to be ignored, unfortunately.” Will steps out of reach, setting his coffee on the railing and folding his arms across his chest. “It’s—well, it’s bad. This was the fifth one, and they’re all kids. The oldest was ten and the youngest was younger than Abby… I keep seeing her in their places. I keep thinking if we’d been five minutes later, that would have been her.”
“But it wasn’t,” Hannibal reminds him firmly. He steps forward and sets a hand on Will’s shoulder, watches Will flinch defensively before relaxing and leaning into the touch. “You saved her, and I don’t doubt that you’ll be able to save many of this new killer’s potential victims.”
“But I couldn’t save the ones he has killed,” Will says, looking away from Hannibal’s face. “They were all people’s children, and they’re dead, and there’s going to be more, because we still don’t know who he is.”
“You don’t usually empathize so strongly with the victims of these cases.”
Will laughs without humor. “I think it’s just more difficult now that we have Abby. It’s hard to distance myself the way I know I need to. And…I don’t regret this morning, at all, I don’t want you to think that I do—”
“But it didn’t leave you in the correct frame of mind for the autopsy of a murdered child?”
Will’s smile is more of a grimace. “Yeah. My emotions have been all over the place today. I’m sorry, I know this probably isn’t what you were expecting tonight, but I—”
“Will,” Hannibal interrupts. “Stop. I had no illusions that a few kisses were going to radically alter who you are, nor would I want them to. I knew you were going to be working on a difficult case today. My expectations for tonight were that I would get to have dinner with my family and then spend the night with the father of my child.” He pauses and squeezes Will’s shoulder lightly. “It doesn’t become a fairy tale just because it becomes a love story.”
Will looks down and bites his lip. “Maybe it’s that this isn’t what I expected for tonight, then. I was really looking forward to seeing you, and I guess in my head you’d get here and all the rest of this would go away. It felt so far away this morning, with you here.”
“If you’d like to be distracted, I can indulge you,” Hannibal offers. “But I’m also here if you’d like to work through the case.”
Will gives him a tiny smile, finally looking up at Hannibal’s face. “I do tend to think better about these things when I talk to you about them,” he says. “But I think right now I’d rather be distracted. I don’t want to talk about work when Abby might hear me, especially not a case like this. And when she goes to bed…well, there are things I’d rather do than talk about death.”
Hannibal smiles. “So long as you know that discussing these things is no hardship for me. I enjoy watching your mind work.”
“I know.” Will hesitates for a second and then steps forward and wraps his arms around Hannibal in a hug.
Hannibal sets down his own untouched mug of coffee and holds Will close, one arm behind Will’s back and the other pressing Will’s head gently against his chest. Will makes a small noise and relaxes against him, and Hannibal feels his heart swell in a way he hadn’t known it still could. He presses a kiss into Will’s hair and just holds him, wishing this moment could last forever, that he’d never have to let go. It’s a simple pleasure, but so much more acute and intense than Hannibal had imagined such a thing could be.
Maybe he really is in love.
Will breaks the embrace after a little while, looking considerably more settled. He leans up to kiss Hannibal softly before he steps back, and Hannibal is hit with the unexpected urge to crush him close and cling.
“So,” Will says. “Dinner? Did you bring stuff?”
“Yes.” Hannibal smiles. “And I brought ‘stuff’ for breakfast as well. The pancakes went over well, but I believe they can be improved on.”
Will laughs. “Yeah, probably.” He shakes his head, still smiling. “Can I help carry things in?”
“Of course,” Hannibal says. “Although you may want to greet your daughter first. The dogs can only distract her for so long.”
As expected, the moment Will steps off the porch he’s mobbed by dogs and girl alike. He crouches down to hug Abby, and as always when they interact Hannibal feels a deep sense of satisfaction, of rightness. They’re his family, they’re his, and he’d like to keep it that way forever.
He goes to his car and pulls the groceries out of the trunk, carrying them in himself since Will is otherwise occupied. Will’s kitchen is smaller and less well-appointed than Hannibal would prefer, but he’s found he enjoys cooking in it; like everything in this house, it feels entirely like Will, and Hannibal could bask in that feeling forever. He wonders how it would go over if he suggested they move in with Will here.
Probably best to wait until things have settled more between them. The shift to a romantic relationship is welcome, but, he thinks, somewhat unexpected on both sides; pushing Will further now could send him running and undo weeks of progress. He’ll let Will take the lead for a little while: so far that’s gotten them further than Hannibal expected.
If he’d known all it would take to get Will to kiss him was spending the night in Will’s bed, he might have encouraged such a thing sooner. It wouldn’t have been particularly challenging to plant the idea in Abby’s head, but he’d assumed that such a breach of boundaries would push Will away rather than drawing him closer.
He’d very much expected to move Will on the concept of marriage before they became physically intimate, if such a thing ever occurred at all. In honesty, it hadn’t particularly been a priority for him to escalate his physical relationship with Will. He hadn’t anticipated that he would respond the way he has: sex is enjoyable, and Will is certainly very attractive, but Hannibal has never been particularly driven by sexual desire. It’s a good way of cementing emotional ties, but it’s never had particular meaning for Hannibal. Kissing someone has never felt like kissing Will does; it excites him to imagine what more will be like.
He’s thinking about it as he cooks—nothing too explicit, just the joy of touching Will, of tasting Will, the prospect of getting to have both, as much as he wants to, indefinitely. They still haven’t discussed the shift in their relationship, but Hannibal feels confident that Will intends it to be a stable one: every action Will has taken this evening has spoken to that end, and it seems unlikely that Will would have instigated such a thing if he wasn’t entirely certain of it. He’s far too aware of how unrest in their relationship would affect Abby.
Hannibal hears the front door open and the pattering of many footsteps, and the indistinct but unmistakable sound of Will’s voice. It’s as if the pitch and timbre of it has made a home in Hannibal’s bones; the instant he hears it he feels himself both relax and become excited in a strange paradox of sensation. It’s been happening for a while, but it’s far more noticeable today. All the little things Will has been making him feel for weeks are so much louder now, clamoring for attention now that he’s become more aware of their significance.
If this isn’t love, he doesn’t want to know what is.
Footsteps behind him, and then Will’s arms around his waist, Will’s face hooked over his shoulder to watch him. Hannibal feels like he’s on fire, and yet the sensation is entirely pleasurable.
“You said I could help,” Will says, though he doesn’t sound put out about it.
“You were distracted.” Hannibal steps over to grab something from a different cupboard, mostly to feel the shift of Will against his back. He’s delighted when Will just tightens his hold and moves with him.
“Is there anything I can do now?”
“You can keep an eye on our daughter,” Hannibal offers, although he’d much prefer to have Will remain with him like this. “I know she was eager to tell you about her day.”
“She told me about the teacher bringing in her dog.” Will steps back to lean against the counter. “I’m touched that she thought of me.”
“I think you’re her primary dog association.”
“Still.” Will taps his fingers against the countertop. “I like getting to hear about her day. I like having you two here.”
“We very much like being here.”
Will looks like he’s going to say something else, but he’s forestalled by Abby bouncing into the room.
“Can I get my bag out of the car so I can show Will the drawing I did today?”
“Will can go with you to get it,” Hannibal says, and then turns to Will. “The keys are in my coat. It’s the purple bag in the trunk.”
“I probably could have guessed that,” Will points out. “You want me to bring in your stuff too? Save you a trip later, to make up for not helping with groceries.”
“I suppose you may as well.” Hannibal isn’t terribly keen on Will digging around in his trunk unsupervised, but there isn’t anything obviously untoward for him to find unless he were to somehow stumble across the hidden compartment. “Thank you. There’s a garment bag and a case.”
“Come on, Abby,” Will says, leading the way out of the kitchen. “Let’s go get your stuff.”
They don’t come back into the kitchen; Abby must really be eager to show Will the drawing she did. Hannibal hasn’t seen this one yet because she said it was a surprise for Will. None of her drawings are particularly quality, but she’s five; even Hannibal wasn’t a very skilled artist at five. He appreciates the enthusiasm with which she wields a crayon, and has hope that she may remain interested in art as she grows.
It’s very nice to hear their voices in the background as he works on dinner. He’s getting used to that—Will is over at their house or they’re at Will’s at least four nights a week, usually more, and at this point it’s more strange for Will to not be around at dinner time than it was initially to adjust to not being alone most nights. The few nights he’s left Abby at Will’s house and gone home alone were even stranger. He was alone for so long, and he’s gotten so attached so quickly… it would be frightening if it didn’t feel so good, solid and stable and comforting.
He hadn’t known he still had this much love in his heart.
Hannibal calls them in a little while later, when dinner is most of the way done. Will helps Abby set the table while Hannibal plates the food. There’s less flourish to it than there would have been in his own home, with all of his things available to him, but perhaps there’s something to be said for a more rustic aesthetic. Will’s house and everything in it is designed for comfort rather than presentation, but Hannibal is learning to see the appeal in having more of a home than a house.
Dinner goes well. Abby has worn herself out with her excitement and is visibly sleepy by the time they clear the table. It’s a relief to not have to drive home with her like this—in the past she’s fallen asleep in the car, woken up when he tried to carry her inside, and then taken hours to wind back down despite being grumpy with exhaustion. Tonight, he leaves Will to do the dishes while he takes her up to give her a bath. She’s most of the way asleep as he carries her to bed, and demands neither a story nor Will, which means she really must be tired.
That’s probably for the best, considering some of the ways the rest of the night may go downstairs.
The water has shut off in the kitchen by the time Hannibal closes her door. He’s a little bit surprised that Will didn’t come upstairs to say goodnight, but it obviously wasn’t necessary.
He finds Will in the living room, a strange anxiety to his posture. Hannibal thought he’d made it fairly clear he reciprocated Will’s feelings, but that’s the only reason he can think of for Will to be so nervous. Unless it’s his own feelings Will is uncertain of?
“Did she go down okay?” Will asks
“She didn’t even stay awake for a story. It’s been an exciting day.”
Will’s lips twitch with a smile. “For all of us.” The smile fades, and his eyes shift away, no longer able to come even as close to eye contact as Hannibal’s face. “So.”
Will huffs a laugh and shakes his head. “So, I really—I really like you. I know things are weird because of Abby and we just—I kissed you this morning—but I’m pretty sure that I’m falling in love with you. That I am in love with you. And you don’t have to say it back, but”—he gets down on one knee and pulls a ring box out of his pocket, opening it and holding it up—“you said you wanted to marry me. And I—I want to marry you. For real, not just for Abby.”
Hannibal is struck dumb. He can’t move, he can’t even open his mouth to speak. He can barely breathe. Will is always doing the thing he least expects, in the best possible way—it’s wonderful, it’s overwhelming, it is frightening after all. He feels choked with emotion.
Will looks increasingly agitated when Hannibal doesn’t respond. “I mean, well, obviously it’s mostly for Abby, I wouldn’t be proposing this soon if it weren’t for her. But I just—I want to do this right, and it wouldn’t be right to pretend like this isn’t what I want. I want you, and I’m committed to being here for you.” He looks up to meet Hannibal’s eyes. “Will you marry me?”
Hannibal still can’t move. He feels a little bit lightheaded, and for a moment he’s worried that he might actually faint. He forces himself to take a deep breath around the lump in his throat. He’s been worried about Will running away, when apparently Will is being drawn just as inexorably close.
Will is in love with him.
His heart thrills at the thought, even as fear grips him. It’s too early, too soon… he’s been more openly himself with Will than he’s ever felt comfortable being with anyone, but Will hasn’t seen all of him yet and isn’t ready to. And if Will loves Hannibal, he’s going to look, and he’s going to see, and Hannibal isn’t even sure he wants to stop Will from seeing because he wants so desperately for Will to love all of him, even though he knows that isn’t how this is going to pan out.
He still hasn’t said anything, which he realizes is a problem when Will’s face falls and he starts to lower the ring box.
“I’m sorry,” Will says. “This was probably a ridiculous idea, I just—”
“Yes,” Hannibal says, finally finding his voice. He’s shocked by how rough it sounds. The one word is enough to stop Will, which is good because it takes a few seconds for Hannibal to be able to get out anything else. “Yes, Will, yes, come here. Please.”
Will stands up and comes to him. Hannibal reaches for him and crushes him into a hug, burying his face in Will’s neck and holding him as tightly as he can. He realizes he’s shaking when he feels Will start rubbing his back and gently shushing him. It feels like ages before he calms down enough to lift his head and relax his grip.
“Are you okay?” Will says gently, still rubbing Hannibal’s back steadily.
“Of course,” Hannibal says, but it’s weak. He certainly wouldn’t have believed himself, and it’s clear Will doesn’t.
“I didn’t mean to overwhelm you.”
“Don’t you dare apologize,” Hannibal tells him, finally able to get some strength back into his voice. “Will. I’ve wanted to marry you since the day we met. I didn’t believe in love at first sight until I saw you.”
“God,” Will says, “This is such a fucking terrible idea. You’re a psychiatrist, aren’t you supposed to be reminding me it’s a terrible idea?”
“What if it isn’t a terrible idea?” Hannibal counters. “What if it works as well as we think it will? I love you. Every new thing I learn about you, I love you more. I want to be with you all the time. I can’t imagine a man I’d rather have at my side.”
Will laughs, and the sound is thick with tears. “You’re such a fucking optimist.”
“You’re the one who asked me to marry you the same day you first kissed me.”
“You make me want to be optimistic too. You make me want to believe that this might actually work, that I can have you and I can have Abby and I won’t ruin it by being myself.”
“Do you imagine that most people find me an easy man to love? That I’ve let anyone else in far enough to find out?” Hannibal buries his face in Will’s hair and breathes in the familiar scent of him. “I’ve never allowed myself to be this vulnerable in a romantic relationship, and we have a child who is bound to suffer if it goes poorly.”
“You’re just as scared as I am.”
“And yet I consider it more than worth the attempt. And you do too, or you wouldn’t have asked. How long have you had the ring?”
Will steps back out of the embrace so he can hold up the ring, twisting the box in his hands. “It was my dad’s. They found it in his stuff when he died. Felt weird to bury him in it when my mom had left him almost thirty years before. So I’ve just had it, and then I thought about this and I thought it looked like your size… the box is new, though. I got the box today.”
“Will you put it on me?” Hannibal holds out his hand.
Will takes it, hands gentle as he slides the ring onto Hannibal’s ring finger. It does fit, perfectly. Will presses a kiss to the ring once it’s in place and Hannibal feels his eyes water.
“Kiss me,” he says, unable to control the desperate edge to his voice.
Will obliges him, licking into his mouth almost immediately as he walks Hannibal back into the wall and presses against him. Hannibal melts into it, loses himself in Will’s mouth, in the shift of Will’s body against his. If he plays his cards right he’ll get to have this, get to keep this, and that’s enough that he can’t help letting out a choked moan.
Will whines at the sound, sliding a leg between Hannibal’s and rutting against him. Hannibal breaks the kiss, turning his head away as he pants for air. Will takes the opportunity to lick behind Hannibal’s ear, sucking at the skin just enough to tease, not enough to leave a mark. Hannibal writhes, trapped between Will and the wall and not wanting to get free. Will sets his teeth against Hannibal’s ear and bites down, not quite hard enough to hurt but more than enough to threaten pain; Hannibal expects to react with violence of his own, but instead he hears himself let out a needy whine and throws his head back against the wall, cock jerking in his pants.
“Will,” he gasps.
Will releases his ear, pressing a series of kisses to the underside of Hannibal’s jaw. “Mm?”
“Fuck me,” Hannibal says in the neediest voice that he thinks has ever come out of his mouth. He doesn’t care, he’s absolutely desperate for it, to have Will inside him, all around him. He’s grateful for his earlier foresight, because he’d had no idea how badly he would want this now.
Will pulls back to look at him. “Are you sure? We don’t have to.”
Hannibal gives him the best incredulous look he can manage while this aroused. “Do I look like I’m not sure? I want you. Please, Will.”
It’s the please that breaks Will, as Hannibal suspected it would: Will kisses him again, desperate and hungry, and then drags him toward the bed.
It’s every bit as intense and delightful as Hannibal hoped it would be, more than he could possibly have expected. They use a condom, which is usually Hannibal’s preference but wasn’t entirely what he would have preferred here: he likes the thought of having some trace of Will left inside him. But there’s only so much recklessness either of them is willing to indulge in one evening; they’ll have to revisit this after they’ve both been tested. Not that they won’t revisit it again before test results would be back, because honestly. Hannibal wouldn’t say he prefers “bottoming” in general, but like so many things, it’s entirely different with Will.
Possibly any sort of sex with WIll would be this exceptional, but Hannibal finds himself deeply enjoying the sense of being claimed. Will is his, but he’s Will’s too: he’d have expected to be alarmed by that, but instead he finds himself craving it.
They shower together after, and Will keeps hold of him the whole time, pressing kisses to whichever parts of Hannibal he can reach. It’s ridiculous how much Hannibal enjoys that, enjoys having Will show him affection and care. Usually it’s Hannibal who is the supportive one in relationships, and he hasn’t ever considered wanting something different. Will really does make him vulnerable.
They pull on pajamas and change the sheets before crawling back into bed together. Will curls around Hannibal from behind and presses a kiss to the suck mark he left on the back of Hannibal’s shoulder; it will be well hidden, but Hannibal will be able to feel it against his shirt all day tomorrow, which he thinks was probably the point.
“I love you,” Will murmurs against the back of Hannibal’s neck.
Hannibal grabs the hand Will has draped across his chest and holds it tightly. He feels the ring press into his hand. “I love you.”
Will is clearly thinking about the ring too. “You really want to marry me?”
“What’s Abby going to say?”
Hannibal chuckles. “I’m quite confident she’ll be pleased. She asked me on the drive home this morning if I would hurry up and marry you so she could live with the dogs.”
“Really? What did you say to that?”
“I told her I wanted to, but she shouldn’t expect it any time soon.”
“What are we going to do about living together? I want to, Abby wants to, I assume you want to since you’re here, but…?”
“Of course I want to,” Hannibal says, making sure it’s clear to Will how ridiculous his doubt is. “I assumed we would come live with you here, at least until we can buy a house together.”
“You don’t mind—this?”
Hannibal lets go of Will’s hand and turns over to face him. “Everything about this house is so full of you, Will. Being here is like being wrapped up in you. Are there things I would design differently? Of course. But I certainly don’t mind any of ‘this’.” He reaches out and lays a hand on Will’s cheek, rubbing his stubble with his thumb. It’s quickly becoming his favorite stim. “I do think we should buy a new house eventually, but this is a good home for now.”
“God, we have to think about things like school districts, don’t we? She’s going to be in kindergarten next year.”
“She is.” Hannibal hesitates, more for effect than because he’s actually unsure. “Abby also mentioned an interest in having siblings.”
Will frowns slightly, eyes searching Hannibal’s face. “I’m still worried about fucking up the one kid, and you want to talk about having more?”
“Not immediately, of course. But someday, yes. I think it might be nice to have more children with you.”
Will closes his eyes. “I’m still getting used to the idea that you really—that you really want this, want me, at all. I’m not against the idea of having more kids at all, but it’s a lot to talk about right now.”
“I suppose we may have made enough leaps forward in our relationship today,” Hannibal concedes. “Although I feel like I should get a pass to bring up a major subject unexpectedly after you sprung a proposal on me.”
“I really didn’t expect you to be so shocked. We talked about it yesterday, and I thought about it and I figured you were right.”
“We talked about it yesterday and you said it was ‘hasty’,” Hannibal says. “What part of that was supposed to make me think that you were thinking about proposing? I was worried you had changed your mind about us.”
“I really did scare you last night when you thought I was backing out, didn’t I? I’m sorry I didn’t realize how you felt sooner.”
“And I am sorry for not having been clearer about it from the start. I didn’t want to put you off with the strength of my regard.”
“I don’t think there was much chance of that.” Will shifts forward to lean their foreheads together, tangling his legs through Hannibal’s. “I’ve never felt this way about anyone. I’ve never felt this safe with anyone.”
The irony of that hurts Hannibal’s heart. He’s never wanted to be someone safe—and usually he enjoys the thought of having misled someone so thoroughly—but he desperately wishes Will’s trust wasn’t so misplaced. That Will would still feel the same about him when he comes to know Hannibal fully.
“It’s a new experience for me as well,” he says. “I had never even considered that I might find someone I wanted to marry. And then to have you ask me to marry you… I still feel like I might only be dreaming. Perhaps I never woke up this morning, and the whole day has been a dream brought on by you holding my hand.”
Will tilts his head to press a quick kiss to Hannibal’s lips. “Well, if you wake up, remember that I fell asleep holding your hand and kiss me.”
“And just hope you don’t notice the stain I’ve undoubtedly left on the pajamas you lent me? I’m fairly certain our earlier activities would have inspired a physical reaction.”
“Oh my god.” Will rolls onto his back and laughs. “You’re ridiculous. This is real: I love you, I want to marry you, and you definitely haven’t just had an incredibly detailed wet dream inspired by sharing a bed with me.”
“I have a very active imagination.”
“Have you spent a lot of time imagining me fucking you?” Will sounds genuinely curious.
“That depends on how much time constitutes ‘a lot’,” Hannibal says. He has thought about it some, less as something he actually anticipated happening and more as an enjoyable fantasy.
“And how did I stack up?”
Will laughs again. “What? What’s the point in having a fiancé if I can’t ask him to compliment my performance in bed?”
“I thought it was to help you raise your young daughter?”
“Hmm, I suppose you do have other uses.”
“You were magnificent, Will. Better by far than I imagined.”
Will grins. “Good,” he says. “Because you were amazing.”
“I don’t need to fish for compliments to know that.”
Will’s laughter is loud enough it makes Winston raise his head and bark lowly, which makes him laugh harder. “God, I love you.”
“Enough to marry me, apparently.” Hannibal keeps his tone light, though it doesn’t feel like a light thing. He feels light, though, like there’s a sun inside his chest, burning with the sheer joy of having Will here, laughing with him, loving him. Loving him.
“Yeah.” Will seems to sober slightly, rolling back toward Hannibal so he can lay a hand on Hannibal’s bare chest. “This is probably going to end terribly, but yeah.”
It is almost certain to go horrifically. But Hannibal is clinging to that “almost”: he’s seen Will’s darker edge, and maybe if he coaxes it out correctly this won’t end in blood. “What did I say about discounting potential positives?”
Will twists his fingers into Hannibal’s chest hair. “I think you’re not my psychiatrist, and I’ll be as pessimistic as I damn well please.”
“Far be it from me to stop you. Although I’d say things have so far gone fairly positively, wouldn’t you?”
Will taps his fingers on Hannibal’s chest, pretending to think. “Maybe,” he teases, and then he softens, leaning forward to kiss Hannibal’s chin. “Yeah. You make me so happy, Hannibal. Everything else about today was awful, but you’re here, so I’m happy.”
Hannibal cups Will’s face in one hand, tipping it up so he can kiss his mouth. He lets it linger, wraps an arm around Will to draw him closer. Will makes a needy little sound and rolls on top of him entirely, pressing Hannibal into the mattress with his body. Hannibal slides his hand down to cup Will’s ass and hold him there, trading slow kisses. Will kisses him deeply, and then less so, kiss after kiss lightening until he stops completely and shifts off of him, sliding down just far enough to rest his head on Hannibal’s chest.
Hannibal tangles the fingers of one hand in Will’s hair. “I want to make you happy,” he says quietly. “I want to be the person you come to when you’re upset. I want to give you comfort and reassurance and support.”
“You do,” Will tells him, speaking half into Hannibal’s skin. “You have for awhile.”
“You do for me as well.” Hannibal presses a kiss into Will’s hair. “I don’t know that I’ve ever been as happy as I’ve been today.”
“Then I’ve accomplished my goal,” Will says, and then yawns.
Hannibal finds himself yawning as well, which is something. Usually he doesn’t empathize enough with people to catch their yawns. It seems like a silly thing to notice after everything else unprecedented about Will, but there it is. There’s no point in fighting it. “It’s been a long day,” he says when he has control of his mouth again. “Rest, my love.”
Will makes a happy little sound in response to the pet name and nuzzles into Hannibal’s chest. “Promise you’ll still be here in the morning?”
“I promise,” Hannibal tells him, as earnest as he knows how to be. “I’m not going anywhere.”