Adam hears noises from Will and Hannibal’s room during the night. They’re so loud it carries down the hall—weeping and yelling, moans and the sounds of hitting. It makes Adam’s stomach clench and his bed feel cold.
He doesn’t see Will at breakfast that day, nor the day after. Whatever quiet vulnerability Adam had seen in Hannibal that night in the kitchen is gone, buttoned up under pressed shirts and put back wherever it came from. It’s easier when he doesn’t have to look at it.
They talk about little things at meal times. Hannibal knows a lot about theater. He tells Adam about the productions he saw in Florence and Palermo and answers all his questions, and he listens with rapt interest when Adam tells him about the history of the St. James Theatre. Hannibal never makes him feel like he talks too much.
He can tell, somehow, that Hannibal is trying to make sure he doesn’t feel left out, to make up for all the times he and Will disappear behind closed doors.
Several days pass before Adam sees Will at all. When he does, Will looks thinner, subdued and troubled. There are dark rings under his eyes, and he looks like he hasn’t slept all week. He picks at his food and avoids Adam. When they’re in the same room, he doesn’t talk, but Adam can feel hungry eyes on him all the time. Will and Hannibal argue constantly. He can still hear crying from their bedroom at night.
Adam stops Will in the hallway on the third day. He says it as fast as possible before he can think about what he’s doing.
“You can hold me, if you want. If it will make you feel better.” He peers up at Will through hair that’s getting too long—he’d meant to cut it, before, and had never gotten the chance. “Do you want that?” he asks quietly.
Will looks around like it’s a trick. He nods.
It’s awkward and terrifying.
They just look at each other for long moments, wide-eyed and startled. Will brings his arms up around Adam’s back, and Adam stands there letting it happen. He doesn’t move. He barely breathes. Will lets out a shuddering breath against his shirt, and Adam thinks he might be crying.
After a few more minutes, Adam wraps his arms around Will too. They lean into one another, drawing strength from each other or maybe consuming it. Burning it on a pyre.
He doesn’t want to let go.
They stand there forever, and for a while he doesn’t have to think. Stars burn out and die as they embrace.
“Hey,” Will says softly after forever ends. “Do you want to move this to the bedroom? I won’t do anything you don’t like.”
Adam nods, and Will takes him by the hand and leads him there. They don’t speak, as if speaking would make this real. Would shatter the fragile shape of whatever this is—wanting, comforting, needing.
Adam freezes when he sees the cuffs curled up on the bed. Four of them, leather lined with midnight blue. He presses his hand to his mouth so hard he can feel the imprint of his own teeth.
“Those aren’t for you,” Will says. “They’re for me. For when I don’t take my meds like I’m supposed to. When I lose myself and Hannibal has to find me.” He smiles, and it looks so painful. “I never like it when he finds me.”
He brushes the cuffs aside, brushes them to the floor like they’re nothing but leather—like they haven’t haunted Adam’s dreams for months—and he holds his hand out. This is a decision; Adam doesn’t pretend it isn’t. It’s something for which he won’t be absolved. He takes Will’s hand and lets Will tug him down to the bed. Will lays on his side, and Adam fits his back against Will’s chest. They press together all over.
“Like this?” Will asks.
Adam nods. “It’s better when I can’t see your face.”
He breathes out a shaky sob when Will wraps arms around his chest and pulls him snug, pulling Adam’s ass flush against his crotch. It feels dangerous. It feels good. Everything makes him want to cry.
“It’s okay,” Will says. “It’s okay not to know. It’s okay not to be sure.” He nestles his chin against Adam’s shoulder. “It’s okay if you’re sad. I can feel it, you know. I can feel it too.”
“It hurts,” Adam says. “It hurts so much, all the time. When I stop moving, when I sit by myself.” His voice cracks. “I used to like being alone.”
“I’m sorry,” Will says. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I hurt you so badly, didn’t I?”
The apology cracks something open in Adam, and he starts crying in earnest.
“Why did you do it?” he asks. He turns so he can see Will’s face. He wishes he could tell if Will looks sorry.
“I wanted to know what it was like, to do something terrible. I wanted to watch him love you through it. I wanted you to be me.”
“That’s awful,” Adam says. “That’s awful, and I don’t forgive you.”
He buries his face in Will’s chest, and Will holds him tighter.
“You shouldn’t,” Will says fiercely. “Don’t ever forgive me as long as you live. Promise me that. Don’t you ever forgive me.”
* * *
There’s something healing in being miserable together. Something addictive. It becomes part of their routine, holding each other in Hannibal and Will’s big bed every afternoon while the sun sets and paints everything orange. Sometimes they cry. Sometimes they talk. Mostly they say nothing but cling together and breathe each other’s air, with mouths almost-but-not-quite touching.
Sometimes Adam thinks Hannibal might say something, might make them stop, but he never does. Adam looks up from where his nose is buried in the collar of Will’s shirt, chin pressed against ridges of a too-bony spine, to see Hannibal standing in the door. He has an odd expression on his face, but when Adam opens his mouth to ask, Hannibal just shakes his head. He presses a finger to his mouth and disappears again.
Adam can hear steps growing faint as he walks back downstairs.
It should make him feel strange that Hannibal watches them sometimes, but it doesn’t. It feels a little like family.
As long as nobody talks about it, it’s still okay.
* * *
“I want you to be my child,” Will says one day, smoothing the hair from Adam’s eyes. They do that now. That’s a way they can touch.
They’re lying face to face on a copper bedspread that smells like brine.
“I’m an adult,” Adam says. “I’m 28 years old.”
“You could still be my baby. My darling boy. I’d keep you safe from everyone who isn’t me.”
Adam shivers, and when they’re lying like this, he can’t hide it. It travels from his body into Will’s, so that Will can feel it too.
“You like it,” Will says. “It’s okay. I won’t make you say it.”
* * *
Sometimes Adam gets hard, and sometimes Will does. They never, ever talk about it.
Will doesn’t do anything to Adam but hold him close, petting his hair and whispering things in his ear that send shivers down his spine. He wants Will to touch him. He’d die before he asked for it.
He’s pretty sure Will is actually crazy—he doesn’t think the medication Hannibal gives him helps as much as they both think it does. He tries so hard not to think about what it means if he likes it.
“Why do I like you?” Adam asks.
He can ask when they’re like this. From their vantage point on the bed, the world almost seems kind.
“Because I ruined you,” Will says like it makes sense. “I bent you out of shape, and now your broken places only fit when they’re scraping against mine. We’re only free when we’re together.”
Maybe it makes a certain kind of sense. Maybe it makes sense here, at the end of the world where he can’t leave and nothing can matter but this. Adam nods and presses his lips to Will’s for the very first time.
It tastes like crying.