The neon sign illuminates the alley. This is it; this is what Will has been looking for.
He hesitates outside, deep breaths. He can see both sides of the thin veil between worlds, the decadent nightclub creatures like him can see, and the crumbling condemned building that greets a mortal eye.
This is where the Ripper holds his court.
Will could be making a mistake by coming here. His kind of monster is territorial. Territorial, but not solitary, though they are often one and the same. They are made, not born, and while the older ones will sometimes take younger ones under their wing, as it was for Will, they do not tend to linger in family units.
But Will remembers what it was like to have someone looking out for him. He’d been nine years old when he was changed, and it had taken a few decades for him to properly grow into his form, growing pains and all. It had been a bit of a relief, to not go through it alone, even if he’d been chased out when sexual maturity finally came to call.
His kind doesn’t breed, but they mate for life, and their possessiveness has fangs.
He’s risking a lot, creeping into the Ripper’s territory uninvited. Their hunting grounds brush up against each other, Will’s net cast a lot wider to accommodate for the isolated rural area he calls home. No other cannibal fae has settled in Baltimore, that Will is aware of. Will will be the first to poke his head in, and his heart hammers thick in his throat as he steps into Maneater. The name is some hungry fae’s little joke, a name that makes them all snicker behind their glasses. Too apt, tonight.
The club does not belong to the Ripper, despite the name, but it might as well. Every fae creature in Maryland knows him by reputation, if not by name. Even the mortals whisper about him, though they call him ‘serial killer’ and will never see his face. In contrast, none have ever heard of Will. He prefers it that way. He consumes his kills in their entirety, as much as he can before they decompose, and casts the remains out to sea when he must. He doesn’t leave the sort of displays the Ripper is fond of, though he’s admired them. Will has a lot more to lose, should he be caught by the mortals. He doesn’t have the resources the Ripper has, would not be able to flee far enough before someone tried to kill him and found him undying.
Will is unknown when he steps into Maneater, but he will not remain so for long.
Will’s world brushes up against the mortal world, overlaps with it, but the mortals do not see it. They are not aware of Will’s kind, nor any other magic that they might encounter. Will works where he can and moves on when his stubborn agelessness threatens to expose him, buying new identities from the fae whose talents lie in illusion. He can bargain a few more years if he shaves his face the first few, bringing a new youthfulness to his frozen features, but eventually, he will have to move on.
Currently, his employers think he’s 29. He’s lived in Wolf Trap, Virginia long enough to get a forensics degree, his second time through college. He has references claiming he was a cop in New Orleans, references good enough to get him a teaching position at the FBI academy. They’re true enough, even if they leave out that the last time Will was a cop, a Roosevelt was president. He’ll probably make it to 35, here, maybe 37 if he’s patient enough to dye a silver stripe through his beard.
Will usually isn’t that patient. Patience is reserved for fishing. For hunting. Everything else… Well, it’s a waste of time when you’ll just have to move again in another year.
The Ripper moves too. He was in Italy before this, Will has tracked his history with a keen and curious eye. He is always curious about the others. They form groups of two, three if they’re generous. Will once tripped into the territory of a foursome, and the power dynamics there had been enough to make his head spin.
They’re dead now, the lot of them. Three is really as big as their clans should ever get.
But Will is alone, and the Ripper is alone, and Will isn’t seeking anything; not really. He’s just…
Alana meets him, a bright, blazing smile. She isn’t like him. Will shifts in and out of forms whenever the mood strikes him. Alana shifts with the moon, four-legged and growling. Werewolves are territorial too, and with bigger packs, but the Verger pack Alana runs with has enough land to leave Will his little slice, and cities like Baltimore are meant to be shared among creatures. Even if some creatures will hold more dominion over the city than others.
Will met Alana when she stumbled onto his land. His dogs are well trained, some of them ageless in and of themselves. They can sense the magic, and they’d come howling the second Alana showed up to nip playfully at their heels. Werewolves are harmless to other canines, but the dogs had ratted her out anyway. Will had come prepared for a fight, but Alana had merely wanted to play.
They are only a danger to their food, after all, and Alana’s belly had been full of a waylaid hunter. She’d promised not to eat on Will’s lands, but she hadn’t promised she wouldn’t come back. And so she did, sometimes human, sometimes wolf, always poking and prodding at Will, trying to keep him active, keep him smiling. Will might have loved her, had she not been entirely the wrong sort of monster.
It was Alana who’d summoned him tonight, Alana who’d told him about the Ripper. That he wore horns in the moonlight like a blackened stag, that he had a form of feathered hooves and a form of gangly limbs and claws. And a third form, human glamour, high cheekboned and put-together.
Three forms to match Will’s own. One to run, one to kill, one to hide. And Will had been alone for so long…
Alana has a beer in one hand and a whiskey, neat, in the other. The whiskey she gives to Will. He swallows it in a single gulp, feels it intertwine with his magic. Enough of it would make him slow, clumsy, would make horns poke through his curls and feathers sprout along his back. But one was courage, liquid and cool.
Two would be even better. He flags the bartender down and treats Alana to another beer. She takes it with a grateful smile and a knowing little wink.
Will chuckles into his whiskey. “He could tear me to pieces,” he murmurs, “Or I could do the same to him. I never know until I actually meet another one if they’re going to trigger fight or flight.”
“Or friendship,” Alana suggests, “You could socialize like adults. The rest of us do.”
“I might not find him that interesting.” Will sighs, leans back against the bar. There’s a vampire to his right and a woman who is more glamour than girl across the room, both of them eying him like he might show them a good time. They’re out of luck. There’s nothing sharp enough to get to his blood beyond the fang and claw of another of his kind, unless they were to go for the kill rather than for pleasure. and for Will, it would be practically bestiality. His kind doesn’t mix well.
“Maybe he’s the one who won’t be interested,” Alana teases. It doesn’t relax, as she intended. Instead, it brings Will’s shoulders back up.
“Exactly,” he growls, “If he sees an enemy in me, it could all turn to blood in a blink of an eye. But his territory is starting to encroach on mine. We can’t avoid each other forever.”
“Will.” Alana sets her hand in the crook of his arm, peering up at him with a worried expression. “Don’t turn this into a competition. This is neutral ground. I’d like to be welcomed back.”
Will downs the last of his whiskey, slamming the glass back down on the bar. “He won’t fight me here,” he assures her, “Even if I goaded him. I’ve heard about him. He likes his appearances. And I like a low profile. If he wants to… eliminate the competition, he’ll come calling later.”
“If you’re sure,” Alana says, and for the first time, a crease appears across her brow, as if she might regret this introduction. Alana is fond of Will, he knows that, and she’d mourn his loss, should the Ripper try to take a bite out of him. She leads him away from the bar anyway, back through smoke and shimmer until a glamour with a more familiar flavor touches Will’s senses.
No amount of research could have prepared Will for the presence that greets him in the back of the bar, settled primly in a three-piece suit, looking out of place and yet entirely comfortable.
He looks older than Will does, only a bit, but enough that he could stay in one place longer, could pass for middle-aged while Will sometimes barely passes for legal. He straightens up immediately when he smells Will, the corner of his lip curling up, not quite a smile.
Will can taste him in the air, thick smoke, the savory taste of meat, dirt over a grave. Will stops in his tracks.
This is it, this is the moment; live or die. The Ripper will either come to investigate further, poke and prod at the glamour Will wears, or he will bare his teeth and his horns and Will will flee, because he promised Alana he wouldn’t fight.
They stare at each other, watch, contemplate. Will’s magic is a hazy thing, spilling out from him, flooding the air around him. The Ripper, in contrast, is precise, tentacled. He stands and steps forward, curiosity across his face.
Will lets his form shift.
Three forms, the stag, the man, the monster. Will shows the monster to the Ripper, tall, lanky, long-limbed. His hands are claws, his teeth are fangs. The horns of a stag protrude from his skull. The Ripper smiles and shifts himself.
He’s bigger than Will. Older, and therefore taller, more firmly muscled. They grow forever, as far as Will can tell, though the growing slows dramatically after what passes for puberty for their kind. The Ripper is not the biggest Will has seen, but he creeps towards that height. He sets off alarm bells in Will’s head, the instincts that scream to protect himself from someone who might lay claim to his hunting grounds.
But these are not his hunting grounds, and Will is more than just a beast. His human skin slides back into place. He holds out his hand.
“They call me Will Graham,” he says.
The Ripper looks back at him with the face of a man and the glinting eyes of a hunter. He takes Will’s hand. “Hannibal Lecter.”
Hannibal Lecter does not lay low like Will. He prefers the glint of the spotlight, a certain amount of attention from a captive audience. His picture shows up in the society pages of the papers. He hosts dinner parties for fae and humans alike. He serves the same type of meat at both, but only the fae know what it is they’re eating.
Will finds it impressive that he manages to share his kills. Will can barely stand to serve the scraps to his dogs, much as he loves them. It was hunger that had changed him, and while many things have settled over the years, the hunger never leaves. It lingers in the pit of his stomach, a dull ache that is never quite satisfied, that always yearns for the next bite. A whisper of a thought, reminding him that one day, there might not be any left. Better eat all he can now, while the food lasts.
“There will always be leftovers,” Hannibal tells him. “Seven billion people on the planet, and more of them each day. I take more than I need.”
“Wasteful,” complains Will, who has seen what the Chesapeake Ripper leaves behind for the humans to find. All that meat.
Hannibal grins at him with teeth that are as sharp as fangs in any form he takes. “There are more things to hunger for than flesh, dear Will.”
They meet, always, on neutral ground. Always at Maneater; Hannibal does not come to Virginia and Will does not cross to the other side of Baltimore, where Hannibal’s house sits. Even his trip to the nightclub feels like too much, the city streets tasting of that thick, savory smoke. The scent of Hannibal in the air.
Knowing each other is a delicate dance. Hannibal knows, of course, must know, why Will has sought him out. Loneliness and isolation can kill just as much as an empty belly, and just as slow.
Their kind only rarely forms friendships. Rivalries and intimacy are far more common.
They don’t speak of it. If Hannibal aches the way Will aches, he does not say. Perhaps Hannibal fills that void with the dozens of creatures that flitter around him, he the bravest of them all, he who leaves a trail of breadcrumbs for the humans to find, and never once fears their retribution.
They meet each other weekly in the club, sip wine and whiskey in quiet corners, and talk about everything but the reason Will came.
“Who was it?” Hannibal asks him, four weeks in and knowing Will’s accent, his job, the names of his dogs, but not Will, not the layers that make up the man who would become Will Graham.
Will sips his whiskey and pretends he doesn’t understand. Pretends the story doesn’t clutch at his insides and rip him to pieces, even now.
“Who was it who made you what you are,” Hannibal clarifies, “Who did you consume?”
Will downs the remnants of his glass. He can feel feathers creeping along his skin. Fight or flight, Will? He wants to flee. He hates this story.
“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” Will bargains. It comes as no surprise to Hannibal, but he still sips thoughtfully at his wine, takes a long moment to answer.
“My sister,” he finally says, with the first true emotion Will has seen from him. It pains him, deep down, sharp and fresh, every time. Will can see the cracks in his surface, left by this girl. “We were young,” Hannibal continues, “Very young. The snow had come heavy and thick that year. It sealed us all in, drove the game away. We were all hungry, the whole town. My family had money, and some took that to mean we would have food. They were disappointed to kill my parents and find that all they left behind was my sister and me. They ate through the stores quickly enough. By the time the darker thoughts crept in, my parents had been buried too long. They needed something… fresh.”
Will swallows. The whiskey warmth has fled him; he feels as though he too has been buried in the snow.
“They shared their meals with me,” Hannibal says, with a bitter laugh, “Perhaps thinking it would give me more meat on my bones. It was an old, old home. My grandfather used to say ghosts stalked the halls.”
It takes more than cannibalism to change into what they’ve become. It takes desperation, and rage, and the natural magic of the world. Magic latches on to strong emotions, feeds on them until it burns bright and white-hot. It would not have cared for pathetic men who ate children to keep themselves whole. But a boy, on the cusp of adulthood, in that in-between place between a child and a man…
Children can see through the veil, can touch beyond what mere mortals can. Children are half-fae, in their own right. It is only age that rips belief from their grasp.
“They didn’t eat me,” Hannibal says, and his laughter this time is more real, more cruel. “I ate them.”
Will can picture it, the sharp crunch of bones between baby teeth. Hannibal would have been smaller, then, much smaller, practically a babe in the ways of their kind. He imagines men gathered around a warm fire, their bellies full of unshed baby fat, certain in their decisions. “It was them or us,” they’d justify to themselves, “No one wants to starve to death.”
No one wants to starve to death. Starvation is slow, it hurts. So does the slide of fangs through flesh. The men would have slept, would have relaxed in the surety that, of course, anyone else would have made the same decision. Tiny, tar-black, sharp-edged, Hannibal would have devoured them all. Will was never hungrier than he was in the moment he first changed, his body demanding flesh to fuel the transformation it was undergoing.
Hannibal looks at him, expectant. Will flags down a waitress and orders another whiskey. “I was old before my time,” he grumbles, “Even then. Even when boys helped with all the grown-up day-to-day things, I was never really a ‘boy.’”
He was Billy, then. He’s always kept his first name. William is common enough, and he hates the level of memorization that comes with each new persona. “Billy-boy,” Pa would say, “Billy, my strong lad, we’re going on an adventure, you and I.”
An ‘adventure.’ That’s what Pa would call it, every time they packed up and moved, town to town, job to job. By nine years old Will could muck out a stable, fix a wagon wheel, darn his own socks and anyone else’s who might be willing to pass a coin for the favor.
“We’re going on an adventure, my Billy,” Pa said, and Will had looked around the ramshackle quarters they’d rented, and known Pa had blown the rent money on liquor and tobacco again.
The adventure had been different, that time. Before it had been apartments and rented rooms, paying every penny they earned to stay in someone’s barn, Will tucked up in the loft with a scratchy pile of hay for a pillow.
That adventure, the last adventure, had been the woods. Acres and acres of land left unclaimed, or if it was owned by someone, they didn’t check on it very often. They wandered and wandered, and it took Will days to realize that Pa had not had a specific spot in mind, that they were as thoroughly lost as anyone could be. “We’ll make our own fortune, Billy-boy,” Pa had said, and his eyes had looked half-crazed with the drink, and Will had not been brave enough to argue.
They’d set up their things by the river – “Fresh water, Billy, that’s the most important thing, don’t you forget it,” – and Pa and Will had spent the whole first day building a little look-out in the trees, the nails bought with grandpa’s old pocket watch. It had been the only thing of value they’d still kept. Grandpa had left the watch to Will, but Pa had known best, and shelter would get them further than some dusty old watch, anyway.
They’d slept in the trees at night, shivering beneath the clothes they had to spare. In the morning, they ate fish burnt over the fire, and berries Will had scrounged up, hands bleeding from the thorns. Will learned to snack on acorns, to chew pine bark when the grumble in his stomach was too much to bear, to trick his brain into thinking he’d been fed. Some days, they’d have to break a thin sheen of ice away from the best fishing spot.
Will got sick first, but it hit Pa harder.
The nights were darker, in the woods, even with the light of a campfire. “In the summer,” Pa would wheeze, “In the summer, Billy, there’ll be bears. Wouldn’t that be nice, a nice bear-skin for my Billy-boy.”
Pa was never going to kill a bear. Will knew that even before he knew that Pa was dying. But he’d nodded, just the same, “Of course, Pa. Can I help you skin it?”
“Help me? Billy-boy, you should know I ain’t ever done nothing without your help.”
He hadn’t. Will had often felt much more like the parent than the child, always with the heavy weight of responsibility on his shoulders.
In the morning, the weight had doubled. He didn’t bury Pa. There was no way for a child to have done it. He left Pa there, in the tree, and wandered off up-stream. Winter was settling over the forest, heavy, thick. Will was too small to build another shelter on his own, and there were no more nails. Will’s breath was raspy, his chest ached. The woods wrapped around him. There was nothing but the river. There was no way out. When night came, he forced himself to go back downstream, to climb up and rest beside Pa’s stiff body, covered in a dusting of snow. He was cold. He was scared.
He was so hungry.
“I think I was delirious,” Will says to Hannibal. Hannibal has been quiet through the whole story, giving Will his full, enraptured attention. “I’m not sure I realized what I was doing, not entirely. Or maybe I did. I felt like it was the least he could do for me, after all that, but I can’t be sure that isn’t the bitter thought of an adult, superimposed over my memories.”
“You did what you had to,” Hannibal said, and it was really that simple, for them. Any shame Will might have felt at the taboo had died years ago. He’d left it in the woods with what remained of Pa.
“I was pretty scared the first few weeks,” Will continues, “I didn’t know what was happening to me. But I could cover more ground. I could get out of the woods. An older couple found me in the bayou, raised me up until I was big enough to be a threat, and then shooed me out of Louisiana.”
“And you’ve been alone ever since,” Hannibal murmurs.
Will shrugs. “I’ve never felt alone.” He has the dogs, for one, and for another, no one who lives on this side of the veil is ever truly alone. They can see the sparks that make up the world, the creatures that live between the walls and under the leaves. Will has not been alone in decades.
But he’s been very lonely, regardless.
“Come to dinner,” Hannibal offers, “I’m having a gathering for the holidays. A party.” They’ve been doing this dance for several months now, long enough for the leaves to change and the first snowfall to cover the ground. Snow brings out the hunters, fresh meat for Will’s aching stomach, but it also makes them sloppy. Humans were not meant to be so cold; it slows them down, plays tricks on their feeble bodies.
It was snowing the night Will changed, and he hates the snow for the way it starved him, and loves it for the way it feeds him now.
Hannibal suits the snow. He wears a dozen patterned layers and plans enough winter festivities to be frankly terrifying for a man as isolated as Will is. He doesn’t understand how Hannibal can stand to have so many people wrapped up in his space, in his home. Maybe he’s not as territorial as Will, or maybe the attention is worth the discomfort.
The discomfort is too much for Will. He can barely handle Maneater, the steady thrum of music and bodies. He and Hannibal sit at a table in a far corner, and when they sit together, no one comes to call on Hannibal. There’s too much of a threat in their auras, two cannibals with sharp teeth and sharper eyes. Will makes it a point not to eat anyone on this side of the veil, but that doesn’t mean he can’t, and the two of them together is an intimidating mass of energy.
Will thinks about Hannibal’s home, about smaller rooms with dozens of people, brushing up alongside him, some of them smelling temptingly of food. Mortal throats pulsing with blood, the curve of a thigh full of muscle and fat, Hannibal serving Will’s preferred meat at the table. Will has never had it cooked before. He keeps a low profile, only hunts when he is so starving that he consumes everything in one go. His mouth salivates at the thought of salt, spices. He’s eaten human food since his change. It still tastes good, but it doesn’t satiate, doesn’t hit that spot inside of him that only human flesh can fill. He wants, he wants…
“No,” Will says, with a shake of his head, “No thank you. It’s not a good idea.”
Hannibal tilts his head. “You teach,” he points out, “You’re around humans in enclosed spaces five days a week.”
“Not when I’m eating,” Will points out. Not when the hunger inside him, the monster inside him, is roaring, yes, yes, this is what I wanted.
“You need practice.” Hannibal surmises, but Will shakes his head.
“It’s not something I have any interest in practicing. I’m not a… social person. I don’t do well with other people.”
“You do just fine with me.”
That gives Will pause. He does, doesn’t he? He sits here, week after week, talking with Hannibal, laughing with Hannibal.
“We aren’t people,” He finally says, but they both know that isn’t exactly true.
There are different kinds of hunger, Will knows. He can see it in people’s faces, in the seedy corners of Maneater, in the way some of them look at him.
He cannot see it in Hannibal, cannot see anything in Hannibal. Will reads people like books, their thoughts left open for him to peruse. Hannibal’s are in another language, the script unfamiliar to Will, who has never had to try to understand someone.
He had seen it as a possibility when he came to meet the Ripper. His kind can form friendships, but they don’t. Too territorial. Too possessive. So, when Will came to scope out another monster, sniffing around his territory, edging his way into the Ripper’s personal space… He’d had a certain possibility, in the back of his mind. He would have accepted any interaction with someone like him, but he would be lying If he said he hadn’t hoped.
And Hannibal is beautiful. Even as a human, even before magic overtook him, he must have been something to look at. His eyes are brown, but they look almost red in the right lighting, the maroon of drying blood sprawled across the floor. High cheekbones, tall, broad. He, of all fae creatures, is one who truly looks the part. One that even humans can sense. They flock around him, drawn to something they cannot explain. Moths to a flame, unaware that the light hurts, burns, consumes.
Even his other form, one that Will is not used to looking at sexually, has its appeal. The only other ones of their kind that Will had known had been like parents to him, and they had discarded him the second he showed signs of sexual maturity, as it appeared in creatures like them. He hasn’t come across any others since, and the burst of want he felt towards Hannibal’s other form had startled him.
Will dreams of it. He doesn’t need to sleep, but his life is long enough that he does anyway. They are not technically immortal, as far as Will knows, but they are close enough to it. When the days are long, and Will has worked too hard, he crawls into bed and lets dreams take him. And in between nightmares and broken memories, he dreams of Hannibal. Hannibal beneath him, human and bared to Will, the softness of his skin, the damp taste of his blood in Will’s mouth. Hannibal above him, tar-black skin, pinning Will in place with his horns, with his hands. Big everywhere, so much bigger than Will, towering over him, fucking into him. Will imagines it a thousand different ways. Would Hannibal be soft with him? Sweet? Unlikely, not with what they are. They would devour each other. Violent, rough, immeasurably pleasurable.
Not that Will would know much about sex, but his mind fills in the blanks. He’s seen porn, after all. He can imagine. Can wonder.
But there is no lust in Hannibal’s eyes. There’s nothing in Hannibal’s eyes. Nothing but soft amusement, indulgent smiles. Will wonders if he knows, if he can see what he does to Will, and is just too polite to deny him publicly.
Hannibal has a series of regular orbiters. They give him space when Will comes to call, but Will has seen them when he first arrives, fawning over Hannibal, laughing at everything he says. These are the ones who have gone to Hannibal’s dinner parties, feasting on human flesh with knowing smiles. Will wonders sometimes if Hannibal has fucked any of them. There is a blond woman who touches him, who trails her hand over Hannibal’s shoulder and shoots Will knowing smirks as she flits away. Will does not mess with witches, not after decades in Louisiana, but she makes his teeth ache with the urge to bite.
Randall Tier is another matter entirely. He smells like desperation and wet dog. He’s not part of the Verger pack. Will isn’t sure he has a pack at all. Wolves don’t do well on their own, but Randall seems to embrace isolation like a lover. Perhaps he’s showing off for Hannibal, showing him that he doesn’t need the trappings of a pack.
It’s the wrong way to go about it. Hannibal has great admiration for Alana and her mate. It was Hannibal who had encouraged Margot Verger to eat the old pack Alpha, to take her rightful place at the head of the pack with Alana at her heels. Will had heard the whole story second-hand from Alana, but she’d said it with stars in her eyes. Randall’s shunning of the Verger pack will not endear him to Hannibal.
Nor will his eagerness, etched across his face. He’s just so young. When you live for an eternity, everyone is young, but Hannibal has lived longer than Will, longer than most of the fae who visited Maneater, and Randall, barely 20 and freshly bitten, is practically an infant. He acts his age, flitting around with a drink in his hand, bouncing from dance partner to dance partner, always circling back around to Hannibal, seeking approval, acknowledgement.
Will wants to bite him, wants to tear him limb from limb for even daring to talk to what is not Will’s to claim, but should be. Possessiveness creeps up on Will, sneaking into his life. He is thoroughly obsessed with Hannibal Lecter before he realizes it, and Randall only makes him angry.
But Hannibal never spares a glance for Randall. When he is with Will, his full attention is on Will. His eyes track the way Will moves, when he leans back in his chair, crosses his legs. There is no lust, that Will can see, but nor does his gaze wander. It fills Will with a flutter of warmth, a heady pleasure that he cannot tamp down.
Randall watches him from a corner and looks hateful, ravenous. Will drinks his fill of Hannibal and thinks to himself, this. This could be enough. This could stem that loneliness, there is nothing else I need.
Will has always been very good at denying himself the things he needs.
The dogs had been wary at first. Animals always are. Will smells wrong to them, smells of power and magic and an inhuman musk. He smells much larger than he appears, the true shape and size of him bleeding through into something that sets fur on edge.
Each dog had been greeted with careful, practiced patience. Will had all the time in the world to coax them, after all, and they all warmed up to him in the end. Now all seven of his current pack were loyal to a fault. Those faults included a wariness towards strangers, and, apparently, running barking into the night through snow deeper than their heads.
Buster is easy to track, despite his small size. Will can see further in the dark than a human, and can sense the steady thrum of a pulse for well over a mile if he is hungry enough. Will bolts after him, scooping Buster up while he continues to bark frantically. Buster is bleeding, a sharp scratch across his back. Someone is trying to lure Will out, to make him angry. Will can practically taste them.
Buster’s blood holds no appeal for him. Animal meat cannot satisfy the specific craving he feels. But there is something in the woods that can, something neither wholly man nor wholly beast, but with enough humanity to make Will salivate.
“Hello, Randall,” he growls, “Come out and play.”
Will bolts across the field, heavy footfalls loping behind him. There is nothing about Randall that Will fears, but Buster will be safer inside the house. Will moves faster than any human, even in his comparatively small original form, and now he lets the change build up inside him, his limbs elongating as he runs.
He outpaces Randall, enough to lock Buster inside and then dive around towards the back of the house. He’s laughing. He can’t help it. It’s been a long while since there’s been anything like a challenge.
The full moon shines off the snow. Behind him, Randall growls.
“I can change too,” Will warns. He’s half into his most monstrous form, struggling to hold half a change, but he diverts at the last second. His curls twist into feathers as the stag comes to the forefront of his being.
Will likes appearing human. He likes the shape of his body, the feel of it. The potential for what could have been, although Will doubts he would have been as attractive growing up on the streets, half-starved and dirty. There were wars to fight, struggles to survive. The great depression didn’t hit a cannibal too hard, but a mortal Will would probably have starved even if he’d survived the woods. But the body he’d ended up with, by luck or by magic, Will likes.
Still, whenever he shifts, he feels like he can breathe easier. Something about running on all fours through the underbrush, ducking under branches and leaping over logs in a body that was made for it. He feels free. Fast. He can almost forget that there is a werewolf on his territory, tainting it with every step.
Will stops by the river. He’s let Randall chase him for almost two miles, but he will not let Randall push him off his lands. Legally, Will only owns the house and the few acres it sits on, but anyone who can see Will for what he is knows that everything from the river to the highway, and then some, belongs to him. And Randall is disrespecting that.
The wolf prowls into the light. His muzzle is wet with blood. Too much to be from the nick that had injured Buster. He’d eaten before he’d come, probably on Will’s land, just to spite him. He’ll be full, sated. His energy will be replenished. And Will is overdue for a hunt.
But if he can’t defend his home on an empty stomach, he doesn’t deserve it. Randall crouches, ready for a lunge. Will can see it as if in slow motion. The stag’s features are not built for smiling, but Will twists his mouth anyway. And changes. Fully, this time.
Less Will than his human form, but more real than the feathered stag, the monster towers over Randall. Werewolves grow alarmingly big, broad across the chest, heavily muscled. Will is leaner, unnaturally thin, but tall. His limbs stretch out, gangly, bony. Hunger roars at him. Will gives himself over to it.
Randall had hesitated at the first sight of the monster, perhaps not expecting eight feet of pitch-black demon, perhaps leery of the fangs and claws. Or maybe his self-preservation instinct had piped up, begging him to reconsider. Whatever it was, he had stilled for a heartbeat, two, and then let a growl ripple across the trees.
Will can grin now, and he does, rows of long, sharp teeth glinting in the moonlight. Randall bends again, body curving into the crouch that will give him speed and force in his leap. It takes him milliseconds. Will sees it as if minutes are ticking by. Randall may have the speed and strength of the full moon, but Will has decades of experience.
Will leaps into the trees. The night is bright, but he’s used to disappearing. His body twists and arches almost instinctively, wriggling through tightly gathered branches, circling. Randall tries to sniff him out, twisting in place, growling all the while as if he thinks he’s still a threat. Alana might have been able to find Will, attuned as she is to both her form and Will’s scent, but a little pup doesn’t stand a chance.
If Randall gets his teeth into Will, though, he could still do a great deal of damage. So, Will drops heavily onto his spine rather than let Randall come to him. To Will’s disappointment, Randall’s spine doesn’t snap from the force, although his pained whine is enough to make up for it. Will wraps a spindly arm around his neck, hauling backwards. Randall snaps his teeth, close enough to Will’s jaw for Will to feel the heat of his breath.
“You should have run,” Will whispers. A deep shudder runs down Randall’s back. Will knows what he sounds like, raspy and shuddering. He sounds like ice, the dead of winter. Starvation.
Randal rolls himself forward, shifting his shoulders, trying to dislodge the heavy weight across his back. Will wraps long legs around him and drops his head, digging his antlers into the dirt. “Should have run,” he repeats, and sinks his teeth into soft fur.
Werewolves don’t taste as good as humans, but they satiate Will better than real animals do. The blood spills over Will’s lips and down his chin. Randall howls his distress as Will rips a chunk of flesh from his throat and swallows it whole. The fur is unpleasant, but the taste is what Will has been craving. He takes another bite, and Randall flops onto his side in a desperate attempt to dislodge him. Will holds on with his teeth as Randall rolls over like a pedigreed show dog, tossing and turning, grinding Will’s spine into the ground. It’s too late. He’ll bleed out in minutes, even if Will lets go, and Will doesn’t intend to let go. He’s so hungry.
Will bathes himself before he goes to leave the house. The warm water takes the traces of dirt, Randall’s blood tinting it pink. Will dresses neatly and tidies the corpse. In death, Randall’s moonlight form had collapsed, leaving behind nothing but a boy, throat cut deep enough for Willl to see the sharp white of his bones, chunks missing from his shoulders. He looked young. It should have made Will pity him, but all Will felt was satisfaction.
He could devour Randall, in his entirety. The beast inside that is not entirely Will wants him to, is salivating for it. But Will is not only monster. There is still a man there, and the man has other plans.
Hannibal looks shocked when he answers the door. Will has a heavy duffle bag slung over his shoulder, and he knows Hannibal can smell the twisted corpse inside, even through the tarp Will had wrapped him in.
“You kept asking me to come to dinner,” Will says, faking much more confidence than he actually feels, “I thought I’d provide the meat.”
Hannibal gives him a long, searching look, then steps aside. “Of course. Come on in.”
Hannibal’s house looks like Hannibal lives there. Specifically, Hannibal the monster-man, Hannibal of curious and dark tastes. The antlers that decorate the oversized dining room table look as though they could have come from Will’s own head. He follows Hannibal through to the kitchen, unzipping the bag next to a large marble-topped kitchen island.
“I had to break his legs to get him to fit,” Will says apologetically, laying the tarp out onto the countertop.
Hannibal unfolds the tarp with steady, careful hands. He breathes out a sigh when Randall is revealed, tracing fingertips over the bloodied skin of his cheek. “Oh, Will,” he says, and his voice is nothing short of reverent, “What a wonderful gift.”
Will flushes, ducking his head. “It was nothing,” he says.
“On the contrary,” Hannibal says, vanishing into the pantry and coming back with a heavy bag of his own, “I know exactly what kind of willpower it takes to share a meal. I appreciate the effort, Will.”
Will shrugs, averting his eyes. It’s a bit embarrassing to have such praise laid at his feet, when all he did was defend his pack from a trespasser. “He practically gift-wrapped himself for me.”
Hannibal’s eyes tick sharply up towards Will’s. “He attacked you?” he asks, his voice filled with concern. Too much concern. A few things click into place.
“You knew he would.”
Hannibal does not bother to deny it. Good. A lie would only have offended Will. “I saw it as a possibility. He circled you.”
This observation catches Will off-guard. “He circled you, you mean.”
“No,” Hannibal says, pulling a lethal-looking knife out of what is clearly his Ripper kit, “I may have been the catalyst for his obsession, but you were the focus of it.” He draws the knife in careful lines across Randall’s chest, peeling back the skin. The ribs would need to be winched open under human hands, but neither of them is human. Hannibal gets his fingers under the curve of bone and pulls, opening up the chest cavity with a crack that Will once might have found sickening. Now, the only thing it pulls at is his stomach.
“Will you cook him?” Will asks curiously.
“Much of him,” Hannibal confirms. The sleeves of his button-down shirt have been rolled up. There is not a drop of blood on him as he reaches into Randall’s abdomen. “There are a variety of dishes I can make with an entire body. Provided I eat quickly enough.”
Will can eat an entire body in one go, but he suspects Hannibal keeps himself fed much more often than Will does. “And does it taste as good?” It slips from his mouth, a needy, hopeful question. Hannibal smiles up at him.
“It doesn’t matter how it is prepared,” he assures Will, “All that matters is that you get the right meat.” He pulls up a bloody kidney, grinning.
Hannibal serves offal seared in butter and garlic, along with a few herbs that blend together in a savory mixture that is heaven on Will’s tongue. Mortal food doesn’t taste like this, not anymore. Will swallows his first bite, and then his second. He takes polite nibbles of his vegetables; they taste good, but they don’t fill him the way the meat does. The plate is nearly empty by the time he remembers to speak, looking up at Hannibal over glasses of red wine. His face flushes, embarrassed at his manners.
“It’s a high compliment,” Hannibal assures him, “You must enjoy the food.”
“It’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted,” Will swears.
“I’ve perfected it over the years. Plenty of time to practice. “ Hannibal swirls his wine in his glass, sipping delicately at it.
“Do you ever do it the old-fashioned way?”
Hannibal takes another bite, closing his eyes to savor it. “I prefer the intricacies of a homecooked meal,” he finally says, “But yes, on occasion. One can grow to miss it, if they go too long without. There’s something to be said for a flavor so… visceral.”
Will can imagine. He likes the meal Hannibal has prepared for him, is now considering cooking up a few of his own leftovers, but he cannot imagine giving up the feel of a pulse between his teeth.
“I still don’t want to come to any parties,” Will warns. “It would be too much, all those heartbeats around and me with the taste of flesh on my tongue.”
“You’d improve with practice,” Hannibal suggests.
“Or I’d kill the whole lot of them, and you’d have to move,” Will protests, but he’s laughing when he says it. His control is not so abysmal.
“It will be time to move soon anyway,” Hannibal muses, “I can’t be a man in his forties forever.”
A sharp twist of pain grips Will’s gut. They roam far, when they wander, and there are very few like them. They cannot be born, and they cannot be made by anyone but themselves. If Hannibal leaves, Will could go decades without ever running into another like him. If Hannibal leaves, Will might never see him again.
His window is closing, but he cannot force the words from his mouth. He takes another sip of his wine.
Hannibal is never late, but Will is sometimes early. They meet more often at Hannibal’s house, now. Will prefers it to the crowds and the noise. But there is something pleasant about Maneater, something satisfying about being surrounded by others who drift beyond the veil. Will can be himself here, can let his aura spread out.
Besides, he has other friends besides Hannibal. One, anyway.
Alana slides into place on the barstool beside him, her long hair curled over her shoulder. She is still beautiful, but that beauty is muted even more so now than it had been before.
“I heard about what you did to Randall,” she says softly, “Everyone did.”
Will stiffens, his grip tightening on his glass. Alana tilts her head to the side and stares at him with questioning eyes.
“I’m allowed to defend myself on my own land,” he says, voice tight. The laws of the fae and other such creatures are much different than human laws. Randall had been courting death by even setting foot in Wolf Trap.
Alana nods slowly. “You are. And Randall had stepped on more than a few toes. We all know he was gunning for you. Nobody blames you.” She reaches out and settles a hand on the crook of Will’s arm. For one horrifying moment, Will worries she’s coming on to him.
But no. She just tilts her head back and smiles at him.
“What?” He asks uncomfortably.
“You’re different now,” Alana says.
“You are,” she insists, “For one thing, a few months ago you might have let Randall traipse all over your backyard.”
“I would not have!” Will yelps, appalled at the very thought.
Alana crinkles her nose and laughs softly. “Maybe not,” she agrees, finally. “I don’t think you could forgive yourself. But you wouldn’t have gone as hard at him. You wouldn’t have…” She stops to mull over her words, “You didn’t place much value on yourself, before.”
And it stings, the honesty of it. Slices right through to Will’s core. “I valued myself,” he lies numbly.
“You were surviving,” Alana tells him, “Day-to-day. You weren’t thriving. You sat at home with your dogs and I swear you wouldn’t have moved an inch if you didn’t need money for kibble.”
“I would never feed my dogs kibble,” Will says with disgust. Alana laughs again.
“See, that’s what I mean. You cared about the dogs, but you didn’t care about you. You’re different now, with Hannibal.”
Will stiffens again and shrugs off her hand. “There is no ‘with’ Hannibal,” he tells her, “We’re friends. Barely that.”
Alana scoffs. “Please, he spends more time with you than he does anyone else. And you, you actually leave the house. You know what they say, Will. If you like it, you should…”
“Please don’t quote Beyoncé at me,” Will groans. It’s not that he finds pop music appalling, exactly, it’s just that with decades behind him, it wouldn’t be his first choice. Alana rolls her eyes.
“You did recognize it,” she says playfully, “But I’ll leave you to figure it out for yourself. You’re good with him, Will. Don’t give that up.”
It all almost goes to hell, as most things involving Will do. It almost goes to hell because Jack Crawford walks into Will’s lecture hall on a day when all the students have started to smell like appetizers, even the sweaty one in the back who always reeks of pot, and who’s name Will has not bothered to learn. The drug testing will catch him eventually, and even if the FBI loosens its opinion on marijuana, Will is almost certainly going to fail him.
Will is hungry and irritable when Jack Crawford walks in and starts touching him. He slides Will’s glasses up the bridge of his nose. The last time Will actually needed glasses, he was too poor for Pa to afford them. They serve as a barrier between himself and the mortals, or they’re supposed to, but Jack will not be deterred by anything.
“We need your help, Will.”
“You don’t need my help,” Will scoffs, closing up his briefcase, “You’ve got Alana Bloom, she’ll help you.”
“Alana Bloom recommended you.”
She would. Always trying to get Will to socialize, to ‘enjoy life.’ When Will got his hands on her…
“What’s the case?” He asks, stalking out the door. Jack will keep up, or he won’t, Will doesn’t particularly care which. Jack powerwalks after him like it was his intent all along to walk Will to his car.
“They’re calling him the Chesapeake Ripper.”
When Will gets his hands on Alana, he’s going to buy her a beer. Two beers. All the beer she wants, because this, this could spell disaster.
It’s not like he hadn’t known that the FBI was searching for the Ripper, but to set Jack Crawford on the case… Jack has lost people to the Ripper, good people. He has a closed case record longer than most people are tall, and he never gives up. He chases everything down with a single-minded dedication. If anyone can figure out Hannibal, it’s Jack.
Hannibal would have to move. No prison would hold him, no electric chair would fry him. They’d try to inject him and the needle wouldn’t pierce his skin. He’ll have to flee Baltimore.
And Hannibal loves it here, he really, truly does. He loves the art and the music, he even loves the people, dull and insipid as Will tends to find them. He could pack up and move with ease, but he shouldn’t have to. He has so little time left in Baltimore as it is.
Will makes a choice. Will makes several choices, actually, each following the other like an array of dominos.
“I’ve heard of him,” he tells Jack, his voice filled with reluctance. He sighs, low and long, and holds out his hand. “Show me the file.”
It’s a thorough file. Will mulls it over for several days, absorbing it. They’ve narrowed things down. A surgeon’s skills (Hannibal had been a surgeon once, yes, but Will doesn’t want to think what sort of medical advice he might have been taught back then), a trophy hunter (wasteful with his kills, always so wasteful, but the bodies hold a beauty to them that Will cannot resist), intelligent (the most goddamn brilliant mind Will has ever met).
They’ll find him with this. Maybe not with the file on its own, but with this file, and Jack Crawford breathing down the necks of every agent sent his way, they’ll find Hannibal.
Will takes a trip. He leaves his car behind. He is not seen on any road. He travels overnight across state lines, does some hunting, fills his belly.
When he returns home, creeping in just before dawn, he calls Hannibal. Hannibal will be awake; he will have far better things to do than sleep away his near-eternal life like Will does.
Hannibal answers on the second ring. His voice is warm over the phone. Will’s had his number for months and never called.
“I’ll be busy this week,” Will says, “But I’ll be back around Friday. Get drinks with me?”
Will spends his days with Jack Crawford, mulling over the profile, dropping enough truth to keep Jack chomping at the bit. He won’t believe a lie, has put too much into this case to be led astray now.
He spends his nights contemplating, preparing.
On Friday morning, Jack Crawford kisses his wife goodbye. He leaves before the sunrises, armed with a cup of coffee and his legendary determination. He gets in his car and drives three miles down the road. He speeds past two cars and sees no other lights. Halfway through the fourth mile, something huge and black slams into the side of his car.
The car flips twice before Will, in all his honest, antlered glory, shoves a fist through the windshield and drags Jack Crawford out. He’s bleeding heavily from a wound on his forehead, and his eyes are wide and unfocused.
Jack struggles for words. They don’t come. They rarely do; no one quite knows what to say when Death stares down at you.
A moment of pity for the wife.
Will cleans up his mess.
They will not find Jack’s body, not until long after Will makes his move. Will has made sure nothing will interrupt him. He strings him up, takes his eyes. He looked so hard, but he was blind. Removes all the organs, they’ll keep if he’s careful. Inside the empty cavity, he places a newspaper headline. His life was empty. He gave up everything but the Ripper.
Will leaves behind nothing but a single black hair. They’ll trace the Ripper to a man in Ohio. They’ll never find him. Will ate him whole.
Will had requested drinks, because he didn’t want to dress this up. He didn’t want it disguised by spices and wine, huge decorative centerpieces. He wanted Hannibal raw. Nothing to hide behind. The two of them, the way they were when they met.
Hannibal meets him at the door. Will raises an eyebrow. “You’ve been waiting.”
“You’ve been missed,” Hannibal says simply. The neon sign blinks in and out of existence, wavering just beyond mortal sight. Will’s mouth is dry. He could go in. Order them both a glass. Talk. Everything the same. He’s saved Hannibal, kept him here in Baltimore.
Or he could keep going.
“Earlier this week, a man named Jack Crawford came to my class. He wanted me to help the FBI investigate the Chesapeake Ripper case.”
Hannibal stands in the doorway. His eyes are glinting. He is more monster than man, even now. “And what did you say?”
Will grins, all teeth. “Yes, of course. How else was I going to provide dinner?” And he hands Hannibal the cooler.
The blood has congealed in places, darkened to a deep brown. But inside, Will knows, the heart will be moist, damp.
“That’s quite a gift, Will.” Hannibal eyes him. Will feels translucent. He always does, around Hannibal. But perhaps he likes it.
“Call it a courting gift,” he says. It is all out in the open, now. No take-backs. No second thoughts.
Hannibal watches Will, his eyes drifting over him, taking him all in. He pulls the heart from the box and takes a bite. A thin trickle of blood floods the corner of his mouth. Will feels lightheaded.
“The best gifts are meant to be shared,” Hannibal says, and holds the heart to Will’s lips. Will was right. It’s still moist on the inside.
They stand between worlds, on the corner of mortality and magic. Two monsters, matched in blood and hunger. Maneater beckons. Will ignores it.
They go together.
Hannibal tastes of blood, thick and metallic. Will arches under him, rolling his entire body into the motion. It’s as good as he thought it would be. Better, even.
Hannibal’s bedroom is warm and dark, but Will can still see Hannibal rising up. He looks both ways, now, man and monster. Will aches, deep inside.
“No going back,” he whispers, as if Hannibal somehow wouldn’t know, “If we do this, it’s forever.”
“I’ve been trying to catch your attention for months, Will, I’m hardly going to back out now.”
Will flushes, turning to avoid Hannibal’s knowing gaze. “You could have had me,” he complains, “You had to have known that.”
Hannibal tucks his head into the long line of Will’s throat. Will can feel the curve of his smile as he sets his teeth to Will’s pulse. “Sometimes it is nice to feel desired,” he says.
“Manipulative bastard,” Will replies, but his lips have drawn into an easy smile. He’s getting everything he wanted, after all. He can’t really complain. Hannibal worries his teeth in Will’s skin, sucking a bruise over the thud of his heart. Will moans, arching up into him. “Have you?” he gasps, “Before?”
Hannibal pulls back, a crease between his eyes. “Yes…” He says slowly. Will is not entirely surprised. It’s different, with other species. Their kind mates for life, but only with each other. Anything else doesn’t have that spark, that connection. “I’ve lived for many decades. There have been a small handful.”
“How did you find it?” Will asks, unable to keep in his curiosity.
Hannibal thinks for a moment. “Unsatisfying,” he finally says. “Well enough to suit my needs, but lacking something.”
Will is sure his relief is written on his face. There is little he will have to live up to, no great loss Hannibal might compare Will to. He leans up to kiss Hannibal, hoping to distract from the way his hands are trembling. Hannibal nudges their noses together, lips brushing almost chastely.
“Will,” he says, pulling back, “Have you never…?”
Will’s face must be scarlet by now. He’s not old, not by fae standards, but old enough. Long enough into adulthood that most have experimented. But Will has never felt the need, and he has lived his many lives as an isolated bachelor. No partner cover story he needs to keep happy. He shakes his head. He feels hot all over, and fights back the urge to hide. Hannibal has learned everything else about Will, he may as well know this. “It was never necessary,” Will finally says, “And you’re the first like me I’ve seen since the ones who raised me.”
Hannibal’s breath leaves him in a rush. Will wants to hide his face, burrow so deeply into the covers he will never be seen again.
But then Hannibal rolls his hips forward, and Will feels the thick shape of his erection against his pelvis.
“Really?” Will asks, chuckling softly, “That’s what does it for you?”
Hannibal’s face is entirely serious when he answers. “It’s as if you were waiting for me, made for me to find.”
It stops Will’s laughter. He stares up at Hannibal, at the honest yearning in his eyes. “Oh,” He says, soft and small.
Hannibal kisses him, licking his way into Will’s mouth. His tongue traces the points of Will’s teeth as his hands battle their shirts. Will finds himself down to his underwear in no time at all, struggling to keep up, yanking unhappily at Hannibal’s pants until he concedes and kicks them off.
Even Hannibal’s briefs are pretentious, soft silk in a paisley print. Will does not roll his eyes. He’s too busy staring.
“So, how do we do this?” Will asks, his mouth dry. “Like… Like this? In this form?”
Hannibal grins, curling the tips of his fingers into the waistband of Will’s briefs. “In whatever form suits our needs,” he says. “Let your body do what it will. Enjoy.”
And damned if that doesn’t set off a flurry of hazy images in Will’s mind, of them tearing into each other in their monstrous forms, or of only Hannibal growing antlers while Will desperately rides his enlarged cock, so seemingly small and frail in his mock-humanity.
But for now, he wants Hannibal like this, in the form he fell in love with. Oh.
“I love you,” Will says, staring up at the ceiling instead of Hannibal. He feels Hannibal’s soft chuckle more than he hears it.
“And I, you, dear Will.” Will’s briefs slide down around his thighs, and a burning wet heat envelops the head of his cock. He gasps, hips rolling in an aborted thrust as he struggles to control himself. Hannibal hums his pleasure, gripping Will with two hands under his ass to lift his lower body off the bed. There’s nowhere to go but up, up into the heat of Hannibal’s mouth. Will throws an arm over his eyes and cries out, bracing his feet on the bed as Hannibal swallows him down.
He tries to be polite about it, but it’s not like either of them can suffocate, and Hannibal seems more than eager to have Will wild and unrestrained beneath him. One hand moves and a moment later, Will feels something nudging around the base of his cock. It takes very little to guess that Hannibal is slicking his fingers up in his own mouth, spread wide enough already around Will. He slides his hand back, and a spit-damp finger prods gently at the opening of Will’s body.
Masturbation is key in a lonely existence, but this is something entirely out of Will’s element. It’s not that he’s never tried it. When you’ve lived as long as Will has, you almost have to experiment sooner or later. But his own fingers always felt too clumsy and awkward, never deep enough, and he’d eventually given up trying.
Hannibal is not going to give up. He is slow, but firm, pressing forward until Will’s body welcomes him up to the second knuckle. It’s a slow drag, in and out, while Hannibal’s tongue traces the veins in Will’s cock and then back down again. Will’s stomach feels tight. Hannibal presses a second finger into him, and Will smacks a hand out against the headboard. “Jesus, Hannibal.”
It’s too much. Too big. Hannibal fills him with unyielding pressure. When Hannibal spreads his fingers wide, Will whimpers. He cannot imagine being any fuller, but he knows that surely there is much more to come. Hannibal curls his fingers, dragging against Will’s inner walls as if searching. Will realizes what he’s looking for a split second before he finds it, and rubs his fingers against Will’s prostate in a gentle, constant motion.
Will throws his head back, arching his spine until Hannibal has taken him as far down as he can go. “I can’t-“ he gasps, and Hannibal repeats the motion.
Will’s orgasm rolls through him. It comes from all the way down at his feet, toes clenched, and even his fingers are shaking as he floods Hannibal’s mouth. Hannibal uses his grip on Will’s ass to guide him through short, jagged thrusts, until Will’s moans trail off into an aching whine. “Too much, too much,” he mumbles, swatting helplessly at Hannibal’s head. Hannibal gives him another suck, enough to rip a keen from Will’s chest, before pulling off and lowering Will’s hips back down to the bed. His fingers retreat, leaving Will feeling empty and unmoored.
“You’re beautiful,” Hannibal tells him, kissing his cheek as he leans over him to reach the nightstand.
“I’m a mess,” Will mumbles happily. He goes willingly when Hannibal rolls him onto his front, propping his hips up onto a pillow. He knows what comes next, and while his body is still lax from his orgasm, he is shivering with the anticipation.
“I want to consume you,” Hannibal whispers, pressing kisses to the base of Will’s spine.
“Go ahead,” Will says with a pleased hum. It’s not like anything Hannibal takes won’t be replenished by dawn.
“Not just yet,” Hannibal murmurs against the curve of Will’s ass. Will spreads his thighs a little wider, making room for Hannibal’s shoulders.
“Sensitive,” Will warns, just as Hannibal licks a stripe over his reddened entrance. Will yelps, hiding his face in the pillow. Knowing it’s coming and being prepared for it are two different things, and he is clearly not prepared.
Hannibal’s hands feel large against him as he spreads Will open. It seems unfair. In this form, they’re of similar sizes, and Will has always been able to defend himself. He feels defenseless now, walls torn down around him as Hannibal licks him open, spears him with the point of his tongue. Will squirms, sensitive cock rutting against the pillow. It’s too much too soon, but he has no intention of asking Hannibal to stop.
Hannibal doesn’t waste time. He gets Will dripping, mouthing over him until he’s hard against the pillow, gasping into the sheets. When he finally pulls back, it’s only to replace his tongue with two fingers slick with lube. They slide in much easier now that Will has relaxed a bit, but it still feels like so much inside of him. A third finger begs entrance, and Will clutches his hands in the sheets, trying not to shake as Hannibal makes a place for himself.
He hasn’t even managed to glimpse Hannibal yet, but he can feel the length of him, pressed up against the back of Will’s thigh, hot through his silk briefs. It still feels like there’s no way he’ll fit. Will has seen porn, of course, he knows it will, but he finds it hard to believe it fully. A fourth finger slowly starts to fit its way inside, and Will can’t help a small sound of distress.
“Shh…” Hannibal murmurs, petting gently at Will’s sweat-damp back. “It’s alright. Open up to me.”
“I can’t get any more open than this,” Will growls. Hannibal chuckles and slides his fingers out.
“I’m sure you could. But that’s for another night.”
Will flushes, hiding his face in the sheets. “Oh no,” he complains, as Hannibal drapes himself over Will’s back, “If you want to try fisting, you have to bottom first.”
Sharp teeth tug at his ear lobe. Will tilts his head back with a soft moan. “I’ll hold you to that,” Hannibal whispers, close enough to make Will shudder.
Four fingers had spread Will wide enough, but it still does not prepare him for Hannibal. Hannibal feels completely different, physically and emotionally. Will’s feet shift, seeking purchase, as Hannibal begins to press into him.
They mate for life, and Will feels like he understands why, now. He cannot imagine giving this up.
Hannibal fills him, too big, too full, and this is just in human form. Will imagines hunting with him, killing with him, feasting and fucking, in every form imaginable. He wants to attach himself to Hannibal and never let go.
Will can’t keep himself still. Hannibal pants into his neck, fully seated, spearing Will open. Will reaches back and sinks his nails into Hannibal’s hip, and they are not nails but claws, and he is not Will, but the monster, and the man, thoroughly entwined.
Hannibal hisses in pain, nipping Will’s shoulder in warning. It only spurs Will on. He rolls his hips, fucking himself back onto Hannibal’s cock as much as he can with such limited range of motion. It hurts a little, even with lube and spit and sweat soaking him through, but mostly Will feels whole. More complete than he has in a long time.
He isn’t hungry.
“Behave,” Hannibal whispers into his ear. Will rolls his eyes and digs his claws in again.
“Move,” he demands in retaliation. He can feel Hannibal smiling against his skin, and then he finally, finally obeys. He sets his sharp teeth into Will’s shoulder, grabs his hips, and moves.
Will chokes on air. Hannibal fucks into him with a feral grace, maneuvering Will exactly where he wants him, tilting his hips up to slide in deeper. Every time he slides back in, Will moans into the bedding, trembling as his cock fills again.
“I want to consume you,” Hannibal says for the second time that night, and this time his voice rasps against Will’s skin like a cold winter breeze. The hands on his hips leave little pinpricks of pain where Hannibal grows claws. Will digs his hands into the sheets and hears them rip as he pushes himself up and back, throwing himself bodily into the next thrust.
“Then do it,” he growls, “Do it or I will.”
“I would let you,” Hannibal says, shoving him back down with a hand in his hair. Will growls again and snaps his teeth, and the age-old instinct to fight only makes everything feel sharper, stronger. Each brush over his prostate makes Will feel that surely, surely the next thrust will end him, but they keep going, moving with each other as if they’ve done it a thousand times before.
“Maybe next time,” Hannibal continues, and then he digs sharp fangs into Will’s shoulder and bites down.
Will screams. His flesh tears away under monstrous teeth, blood dripping down his chest to ruin Hannibal’s sheets. He tilts his head to give Hannibal more room to work. As Hannibal licks up the blood he’s spilled, he wraps a large hand around Will’s cock, and that’s it. Will is gone, spilling himself over Hannibal, over the sheets. He reaches back blindly to sink his hand into Hannibal’s hair, holding him tight to the wound he’d left as Will fucks down against the bed. Hannibal fucks him through it, too much, overwhelming and sharply painful and so good.
“Come on,” Will begs, “Come on, come on, I need you to.” It won’t be done, until Hannibal is too. Won’t be right.
Hannibal, it seems, has reached his limit. He moans into Will’s throat, leaving a sticky trail wherever he presses his kisses. Will whines into the next thrust, body shaking as Hannibal fucks him through the aftershocks, as he clutches Will’s throat between his sharp teeth and holds him still. Hannibal fills him up, sates a hunger Will never knew he could have. Will can feel him dripping out, staining the ruined bedding, leaving an indelible mark, proof of their joining.
“I have waited for you,” Hannibal murmurs, lips pressed tight under Will’s jaw. The wound on his shoulder is still bleeding sluggishly, but even as Will lays there, pinned in place, he can feel it closing. By morning, it will be gone, and he will repay Hannibal in kind. They will feed on each other, not to satiate the gnawing hunger, but for fun, for pleasure. Will closes his eyes with a pleased sigh.
“I’m not going anywhere.”
When the neighbors start to make joking comments about Will’s eternal youth, when Hannibal hears for the third time how he ‘looks so good for his age,’ that is when they move. Several of the dogs have passed on by now, from long, happy lives. Some were taken by disease, but were no less happy. They still have a few, though. Izzy, a huge mop of a dog who trusts everybody. Buster, who still wears scars from Randall Tier and still sees himself as a tiny guard dog. And Winston, who had taken the longest to warm up to Hannibal and is therefore Hannibal’s favorite.
“He wants to protect you,” Hannibal had told Will, “How can I do anything but love him for that?”
They move to Minnesota, to a quaint little house in the countryside. Hannibal, as it turns out, is Hannibal’s name by birth, and he is quite envious that he can only use it every couple of lifetimes, while Will’s is so common as to be a constant. In Minnesota, he is Magnus, but at home with Will, he will always be Hannibal.
Hannibal has a well-invested family fortune, held by bankers who know very well how long he has lived. In this lifetime, he lays low, a small pediatric practice instead of surgery or psychotherapy, both too similar to his life as the Ripper. Will stays home, as isolated as he prefers to be, and writes forensic articles under his old name from Baltimore.
He follows the case of the missing girls avidly.
“He’s eating them,” Will murmurs one night, as the news anchor reports the dramatic reappearance of Elise Nichols’s body. Hannibal looks up from the kitchen, open concept allowing him to share the evening news with Will.
“He’s eating them,” Will repeats, “Don’t you think? They never found a single hair of any of the others.”
“Why not this one, then?”
Will grins. The news anchors release very little, but he’s had many years to practice his investigative skills. “Something wrong with the meat. Kidney failure, maybe. It would taint the rest of the body.”
“Not in someone so young and seemingly healthy, surely,” Hannibal says with a shake of his head, “Cancer, perhaps?”
Will nods thoughtfully.
“Do you think he’ll become?” Hannibal asks.
“Nah,” Will says, turning the TV off. They really only use it for the news, indulging Will’s taste for the macabre. “He’ll be too old. He’s got a daughter. She’s the one he really wants. The others are just… knock-offs. Besides, there needs to be a desperation, a burning desire to live. He’s not eating to feed his stomach; he’s eating to fill the hole in his chest.”
Hannibal beams at him. “You are impossibly brilliant, my love.”
Will flushes, even now, after years of this.
They follow the news through two more girls. Someone emails Will Graham about it, but as far as anyone knows, Will Graham has moved to Nevada. He types up some theories, anyway, based on the information they’re willing to send.
Another body drops before they manage to do anything useful with his thoughts. Really, the entire FBI is useless without Jack Crawford. It’s almost a pity. He’d been delicious, though.
Finally, months after Will had made his observations, Garrett Jacob Hobbs is caught in his home, in a town not very far from their own. He locks the police out of his house and manages to kill his wife before they break down the door. The daughter, though, the daughter…
There’s a nick on her throat as she walks out of the house, trembling on the news cameras. Just a nick, just a tiny little cut. Her eyes are wide and dark with terror. Will straightens up in his seat. “Her,” he whispers.
Hannibal looks up from his book. He doesn’t need Will to clarify. He understands him as well as he understands himself. “You don’t think she’s too old?”
Will shakes his head. “The fae are older than all of us,” he whispers, “She’s what, seventeen? Still growing. Close enough to a child. Right on the border, maybe if he’d waited a few more months, waited until she was actually leaving. But he’ll have been stuffing her full since the first victim. And she wants to live, doesn’t she? Doesn’t want to end up next on the menu.”
“You think she knew?”
Will watches the girl settle into the back of an ambulance, a blanket wrapped tight around her shoulders. Even through the air waves, he can see it, the way she almost seems to flicker. She turns her head away from the camera. The cut is a pale pink line.
“I think she was the bait,” Will says, “Lured them in to keep daddy happy. Ate whatever he gave her to stay alive. Held back all that fright, all that desperation. Held back the itch at her skin.”
“She may not even know yet,” Hannibal muses, “May never have made that first shift.”
“Too scared,” Will agrees, “But there’ll be nothing to hold her back now. Not with mom and dad bleeding out inside.”
“I imagine she’ll be very scared, even still,” Hannibal says, eyeing Will knowingly, “And all alone in the world.”
Will looks at him with the wide-eyed gaze that earned him Izzy. “She’ll need someone to help her,” he says, “Someone to show her.”
“She needs a family,” Hannibal agrees, and Will grins.