Hannibal’s breasts are sore. The change is barely noticeable from the outside—a slight engorgement of tissue, nipples that have grown puffy and sensitive, yet are still easily concealed under clothing. Even his pants have yet to grow tight. He looks wholly unchanged and unremarkable.
And yet his body is doing the most remarkable thing.
He finds his hand lingering over his belly—not flat, not for several years now—but only curved with the same familiar arch that he is so used to. Time’s etchings on his body. And yet.
Hannibal was a doctor for many years. He knows that at this point in its development, the embryo is roughly the size of a poppyseed. He knows at his age, his pregnancy is considered geriatric. High risk. His baby is likely to be born premature and underweight.
It would be best if he had an abortion. Certainly it would be less risky. He’s likely to suffer from preeclampsia and to require a C-section, and all of this could be prevented.
Will would be upset, of course. If he knew. He doesn’t have to know. Hannibal could terminate the pregnancy and Will would be none the wiser. He can almost convince himself it would be kind, sparing Will the knowledge of gaining and perhaps inevitably losing yet another child.
It’s not kindness that motivates him. It never is. Selfishness and animal instinct reign.
The baby is theirs, of course. His and Will’s. He knows that, embraces it even. Yet in his mind, in this hallowed span of time where he is the only one who knows, he thinks of the child as mine.
* * *
Hannibal does not have an abortion.
He means to, in the same way he means, eventually, to have the chair in the sitting room reupholstered after one of Will’s dogs had chewed its way through the velour. It just slips his mind. Making an appointment at a clinic gets shuffled far down the list until the decision makes itself for him. Until terminating the pregnancy would be more troublesome than keeping it, and then it’s a simple matter of logistics.
As a general rule, things don’t slip Hannibal’s mind. He is not in the habit of lying to himself, so he knows this. Therefore, he can only conclude that the idea of ending the pregnancy was not so appealing after all. He’d thought he let the idea of having a family go, after Abigail. Abigail, who was not a failed experiment so much as a fleeting experience.
It seems some ideas are more tenacious than others.
The fetus inside him is now roughly the size of a lemon. It has begun swallowing amniotic fluid and excreting it again, a perfect closed system inside Hannibal’s uterus. He grins with bared teeth when he thinks on it—his child consuming parts of his body for sustenance. He can think of nothing more breathtaking than this.
He has not gone to the doctor. If he were his own patient, he would advise against what he is currently doing—it’s dangerous and negligent, more likely to end in disaster than not—but he can’t bear the thought of anyone else putting their hands on him. Of peeking at the life inside and insinuating themselves in this place where they don’t belong.
Will knows. He’s the only person who needs to.
They both know that Will knows, but neither of them have deigned to say it. They can call it yet another thing that has slipped their minds. Will lets Hannibal keep the illusion of secrecy, just as he always has, from the very start. He doesn’t say anything when Hannibal forgoes his customary tailored suits for pants with elastic waists in softer fabrics.
At night, in the dark, secrets spill out between them, unspooling from where they lay coiled in the day, deep in the sticky red core of him. It’s there in the fierce, possessive way Will grips his hip. The way he worries Hannibal’s collarbone with his teeth when Hannibal has him on his back, driving into him so hard his toes curl and he swears a blue streak.
“Hannibal, right there. Fuck. Fuck, don’t stop.”
I couldn’t, Hannibal thinks before he comes with a jerk and all thinking stops. I couldn’t if I tried. I don’t know how. Not anymore.
He doesn’t mean this—not sex, not bodies with nothing between them. He means something older, bottomless and hungry. Something primal and fecund.
Will drags his fingers through the come cooling on Hannibal’s belly. He cups the burgeoning flesh there and holds.
* * *
His baby is now the size of an orange. It has started to grow taste buds, and Hannibal begins to idly plan what its first meal will be.
Meat is the choice of his heart, specifically the flesh from one of their kills. It’s an impractical dream, but he contents himself that there will be time enough for that later.
Applesauce, he thinks. Apples boiled until their flesh crumbles and their sugar condenses, pureed into something soft and harmless. The first thing his baby tastes should be sweet.
This is life, sweet and fleeting. Take what you can forever.
He himself has started to crave meat in a way that’s entirely new to him. He’s always enjoyed eating flesh, but it’s been a psychological compulsion more than a physical one. (Before. That was before.)
Now he craves it with an animal ferocity that’s wholly unexpected. He needs it. Every cell in his body cries out for nourishment. He knows, in the same part of his brain that knows he should have booked an appointment with an obstetrician by now, that he only needs roughly 400 extra calories each day to sustain this pregnancy.
His body knows, in an entirely more animal way, that what he needs is to feel muscle tearing beneath his teeth, to feel slick fat and warm gristle slide down his throat. To be filled and fed.
To that end, he decides to find a pig to slaughter.
Will finds him. He slips into their bedroom while Hannibal is folding his vinyl kill suit into a briefcase. He has already tried it on, and while the fit is snug, he’s confident he can get in and out of it without any incident.
“Going hunting?” Will asks.
“Yes,” Hannibal says simply.
He smells Will before he hears him. He comes up behind Hannibal, looping an arm around his waist. He permits Hannibal to turn in his arms and allows Hannibal to kiss him until they’re both breathing hard. Hannibal is hungry for more than one thing these days. He wonders if Will might oblige him. Will has been more solicitous lately, in this and all things.
He cups Will through his pants. He’s soft, but warm. Alive.
It seems it’s not to be, or at least, not right now. Will pulls away, deftly plucking the briefcase from Hannibal’s hand as he goes.
Hannibal cocks an eyebrow at him.
“You’re not going,” Will says. “I am. You stay here and get comfortable.”
It’s the closest they’ve come to acknowledging Hannibal’s condition. Hannibal finds it equal parts exasperating and endearing.
“Will, I assure you I’m not some kind of wilting flower. I’m perfectly capable of—”
“I know,” Will says. The interruption is rude, but Hannibal finds that he’s quite incapable of holding it against him. What should be enraging becomes charming on Will Graham. His eyes soften, and he kisses Hannibal again. “It’s not that I think you can’t do it. I’m sure you could be nine months pregnant and still be the most dangerous person in any given room. Just—let me. Please.”
It’s the please that does it.
“All right,” Hannibal says at last. He lets Will go, but not without pulling him in for one more lingering kiss. “Bring me something tender and well-marbled.”
Will grins wickedly into his mouth. “Anything you want, baby.”
The words make him shiver.
* * *
Will brings back an entire body. It wasn’t what Hannibal was expecting; it’s not what they usually do. It’s a break in their pattern, one which feels reckless and bold, despite the fact that he’s sure Will took the utmost care. This will be a man no one will miss. There will be no evidence. No one will have followed Will here.
Nevertheless, it’s thrilling to see Will wrestle the dead weight inside, the muscles in his arms shifting and flexing as he hoists the body wrapped in layers of black trash bags. It stirs something in him to know that Will did this for him. To sustain him. To give life to their child.
“What?” Will asks when he catches Hannibal’s eye. He would be fiddling with his glasses, if he still wore them. “You’re looking at me weird.”
Hannibal shakes his head. “I’m just admiring you,” he says, seeing no reason to dissemble.
He sets his tablet beside him on the end table and smiles at Will, warm and open. He feels soft and languid, and he doesn’t bother to lift his head from where it rests against the back of the couch. He would have greeted Will at the door, but there’s a dog lying across his feet and another on his lap. They’ve taken to following him around the house in recent months, and besides that, he’s almost too comfortable to move.
“Shall I prepare that for us?” Hannibal asks, getting ready to rise anyway.
“No, don’t get up.” Will settles the body on the floor and walks around the back of the couch. He presses a kiss to the top of Hannibal’s head. “Let me cook for you,” Will murmurs against his hair.
“Yes,” Hannibal sighs. “Please.”
* * *
Hannibal is large enough now that there’s no hiding the fact of his pregnancy from anyone at all. People have begun treating him differently in subtle ways. No one has yet had the gall to put their hands on him—not a soul has tried to touch his belly without asking—but people have been more accommodating. They give him a wider berth. They coddle him, which is something he wants from no one but Will.
When he stops by Quantico to offer his psychiatric expertise on a case, people stand and offer him their chairs, even when he has only been standing for a few minutes. It grates on him, being treated like an invalid. There’s nothing wrong with him. He resents the unspoken implication that this pregnancy has diminished him.
He is more himself than ever, engaged in an act of symbiotic cannibalism with the child growing within the confines of his body. He nourishes her with his blood. She leeches the calcium from his bones, and he encapsulates her wholly. It’s a level of communion he never thought to have with another human being—perpetually devouring as the bush burns, unconsumed.
It’s more, even, than he has with Will. In this, he and Will are truly conjoined, bound by the child inside him.
He has no desire to cause a fuss. He takes the vacant seat politely and does not bare his teeth in the direction of the one who offered it. Will rests a solid hand on his shoulder and Hannibal can forget, for the barest of moments, that they are surrounded by enemies.
He places a hand over his belly and thinks of his child. How sharp her teeth will be.