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If Your Heart is a Dog Fight

Chapter Text

“Why do we have to invite them?”

Hannibal is nonplussed. This isn’t the first time Will’s complained about their holiday plans, and the infinitely patient look on Hannibal’s face says he knows it’s unlikely to be the last.

He steps back to assess the placement of the garland that Will is holding up—a garland that looks nothing like the cheery, cheap tinsel strands Will usually associates with Christmas. This garland is woven from interlocking branches of juniper and eucalyptus. Dusky mauve berries drip down in an artfully haphazard way, and the wreath gives off a spicy, herbal scent when Will crushes it between his fingers.

“Because the Millers’ home is undergoing renovations, and the Fitzgeralds’ home is too small. A little higher, please.”

Will huffs but he does raise the garland, extending his arms as far as they’ll go and ignoring the way it twinges his bad shoulder. “No, not ‘why do we have to invite them here.’ Why do we have to invite them at all?”

“Because breaking bread with others is part of what makes us human. It reinforces the ties that bind.”

Will snorts. “Like you’ve ever been bound by those ties in your life.”

Hannibal doesn’t reply. He doesn’t point out the absurdity of the statement in light of the fact that they’re doing something as domestic as putting up Christmas decorations. He simply pulls the paper backing off the sticky side of a plastic hook and nudges Will’s hand aside to attach it to the wall. Will settles the loop of fishing line on the hook and drops his arm, admiring the way the garland drapes. Hannibal presses closer to him than is strictly necessary—takes longer than he really needs to put the other hooks in place.

Will laughs softly to himself.

“Hm?” Hannibal asks, adjusting the fall of a spray of berries.

Will shakes his head. “Nothing, it’s just. I don’t know, for some reason you didn’t strike me as the Command hook type.”

Hannibal tilts his head. His eyes crinkle. “What type did you think I was?”

Will shrugs, bringing his other arm down now that the garland is securely hung over the mantle, annoyingly perfect like everything else Hannibal does. He rubs absently at his sore shoulder. “Something more classic, I guess.” He squints at Hannibal, putting his empathy to a particularly stupid use. “Nails? Metal hooks? The finger bones of your enemies?”

He smiles despite himself, and Jesus, his sense of humor is getting worse for having spent so much time with Hannibal.

“The Millers might object to phalanges,” Hannibal deadpans.

“Right, I’m sure they’d much prefer metacarpals. How silly of me.”

Will catches Hannibal’s eye, and he’s struck by the depth of emotion there. No matter how many times he sees it, it’s still shocking. He looks away first. While he’s become somewhat inured to Hannibal’s gaze through long exposure (like a toxin, like a vaccine) eye contact still isn’t a comfortable thing for him. It probably will never be.

“I’d rather spend Christmas alone, with you,” Will says, leaning subtly into him.

This is new between them, still—exposing his soft underbelly. Trusting Hannibal not to maul it. Trust is another thing that doesn’t come easy between them, but they’re learning, little by little. Even old dogs can learn new tricks, if they care to try.

Hannibal’s face softens, and he threads his fingers through Will’s. “You will. We will. There’s time enough for that.”

“Are you sure?” There are echoes of old fears in the words, of all the ways he still can’t relax. He still can’t beat back the feeling that the FBI is going to come bursting through their door any day now—that they’re living on borrowed time. He wonders what Jack would say if he saw Will now, and the thought twists his lips in a smile.

Hannibal kisses his crooked smile, a dry brush of lips that tastes like coffee and cinnamon. “I’m sure. Time for all that and more.”

Chapter Text

Vilnius, Lithuania, 1973

It’s Christmas, but Hannibal has no way of knowing that. He hasn’t seen a calendar in months. He hasn’t seen another human being for days. Mischa is dead. He’d retched into the snow, falling on hands and knees like an animal when he learned what he had done. The men had laughed as he’d tried to scrub the feeling of her out of his mouth with dirty snow, delighting in his horror.

He’d fled into the treeline with the oily taste of her flesh still coating his mouth, the sound of their laughter still ringing in his ears.

Vargšas vaikas, one of them had said. Vargšas vaikas, poor thing. He snarls at the memory.

No.

His feet are numb within the thinning fabric of his shoes. The lancing pain of the first few hours had turned into something deeper and more enduring. He thought he’d known cold, but he’s never been cold like this—cold right down to the marrow of his bones, leeching into his heart and he will never recover.

Mischa is dead, and he howls until he laughs.

The men are gone when he returns, tear-streaked and shivering and hellbent on destruction. The cabin where they’d stayed is empty. The scent of rendered fat lingers in the air, charred hair and gristle mingling to make a ghastly perfume. Mischa’s dress lays crumpled in the corner. There is meat on the table, a picked-clean husk of a very small body. Only the parts deemed least desirable for consumption remain, offal gleaming sticky in the light.

Hannibal eats and grows strong.

He is a terrible tracker. He makes too much noise as he tramples through the forest, stumbling over roots and leaving obvious footprints in the snow. He clutches a battered hatchet in one small hand, its blade pitted and dulled from his inexpert attempts to chop wood and striking stone instead. He has no idea how to sharpen it, but a dull edge will open a neck just as surely as a keen one—in his bones, he knows this is so.

He stumbles again and cuts his palms against the hard-packed snow. He stares at the blood on the snow, red on white, then picks up the hatchet and staggers forward, propelled by hunger and malice, snarling at a world that dared to take from him.

He desires revenge. He might die before he gets it; his body is, after all, only a body, exhausted and cold and starting to quiver.

He sees lights in the distance, shining through the trees. He hears rough voices and laughter clustered around a campfire, unaware of their death lying in wait.

God isn’t what they said—he sees that now. God is hungry too.

Hannibal hefts his ax and smiles.

* * *

Far away, the lights of their Christmas tree wink back at him, white and gleaming. Will pauses where he’s carding his fingers through Hannibal’s hair, and Hannibal presses back into his touch until he starts once more.

“Where’d you go?” Will asks.

Hannibal breathes deeply, taking in the scent of pine, of Will’s aftershave and the light odor of seared meat still lingering from dinner.

“Nowhere,” Hannibal says, reaching up to curl his fingers around Will’s scarred cheek. “I’m right here.”

Chapter Text

The wind blows hard against Will’s face as he crosses the lawn. His hands are numb in his gloves, and he shifts his grip on the neck of the wine bottle in his hand. He glances at its label, a cheerful black and red. He’d asked Hannibal for a recommendation (“Something nice that isn’t going to break the bank.”) and Hannibal had showed up with this bottle at their next appointment.

Will had looked at him quizzically, and Hannibal had smiled.

“I thought I’d save you the trouble of going to the store. Parking lots are a nightmare this time of year.”

Will hesitated. I can’t; it’s too much hovering just on the tip of his tongue. Habitual denials from a boy who was raised to never accept handouts. His hand closed around the wine bottle, brushing Hannibal’s for just the barest of moments.

“Thank you,” he said finally.

They stood there smiling at each other, two moons each reflecting the light of the other

And now he’s walking up the steps to Beverly’s apartment, shifting from foot to foot when he reaches the top. He pulls the glove off his free hand with his teeth and raises his hand to rap on the door. It’s yanked open before he can make contact. The warm mahogany wood opens on Beverly grinning,

“Will! You made it.”

He smiles tightly, wishing it was an expression that looked less pained—smiles never look quite right on him, too ill at ease on his face. Beverly doesn’t seem to notice or mind. She ushers him into the house, warm and humid compared to the frigid air outside, and shows him where he can hang his coat. He can hear the patter of familiar voices floating in from the living room, and beneath that, there’s a strain of a song he recognizes.

“Aerosmith?”

Another flash of white teeth turned in his direction. “Well all right. Guess you’ve got good taste after all.”

“I took you for more of a traditionalist. You know, Frank Sinatra. ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,’ maybe.”

Beverly makes a face. “I wouldn’t ask you all to drive out here just to bore you to death. Maybe you should save the profiling for the actual serial killers.”

Will huffs a small laugh. “Thanks,” he says. “For inviting me.”

She smiles again, the edges of it softening slightly as she touches his arm. “I’m glad you came, really.”

Will thrusts the bottle of wine at her before the moment can grow awkward. “Here. I brought this. For the party.”

“Nice! Thank you.” She takes the bottle, glancing at its label before setting it down on the kitchen counter and fishing a corkscrew out of a drawer. “What’re you having, wine or beer?” she asks, bumping the drawer shut with her hip.

Will looks over from where he’s taking in the comfortable, homey disarray of her kitchen, hands stuffed in his pockets. “Uh, beer’s good.”

“You got it. Help yourself; it’s in the fridge.”

Will nods and drifts over to her refrigerator, shiny stainless steel like Hannibal’s. He grabs a bottle from where they’re all lined up, chilling on the bottom shelf. The inside of Beverly’s fridge is immaculate, if a little cluttered, the same as the rest of her house. It suits her. He pops the top off his beer and tosses the cap into the trash.

Behind him, the cork slips out of the wine bottle with a faint pop, and Beverly sniffs it. “Ooh, this smells like the good stuff.”

“Probably is. Hannibal gave it to me.”

“Oh, Hannibal gave it to you, did he?” She gets down a glass from the cabinet and pours herself a glass, humming appreciatively at the first sip.

Will gives her a look, flushed and a little annoyed. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

She puts up her free hand in surrender. “Nothing! Nothing, I didn’t say anything.” She steers him toward the door, where the sound of Price’s laughter echoes down the hall. “Come on, let’s go get you to say hi to everyone else. Jimmy’s already pretty loaded. It’s hilarious.”

* * *

The party isn’t that bad. There aren’t as many people as Will was afraid there’d be. It’s just Zeller, Price, Beverly, and a few of their friends that Will doesn’t recognize. No one tries to talk to him about work, and Beverly tries hard to make sure he’s included in conversations.

He appreciates what she’s trying to do, but they’re all more comfortable when she gets up to refill the snacks and he drifts away to stand against a wall at the far side of the room. Zeller visibly relaxes once he moves away. It doesn’t sting—it can’t, when he’s so used to it by now. He gets it. He’d be uncomfortable too, if he had to be in the same room as himself. The thought percolates through his beer-addled brain that maybe that’s why he’s always so ill at ease in his own skin. But for now, his blood is fizzing pleasantly with the warm buzz of just enough alcohol, and he’s content to watch from the edges.

The front door opens and closes—someone going out for a smoke, maybe. Will doesn’t bother to look up until he hears footsteps and a familiar accent right beside him.

“Hello, Will.”

Will’s mouth grins before his brain has any say in the matter.

“Hannibal,” he says, surprised. “What are you doing here?”

He winces as soon as the words leave his mouth—alcohol and shock are making him rude—but Hannibal is unbothered.

“Ms. Katz invited me to her annual ‘Friendsmas,’ I believe she called it, and when I learned you would be attending, I admit it piqued my interest.”

“You came for me?” Wow, he just keeps saying things tonight, doesn’t he? Will sends a memo to his mouth to stop.

Hannibal smiles warmly at him. “Does that surprise you?”

Will swallows. He shakes his head, a refusal of the question, and takes a nervous sip of his beer for something to do with his hands.

Hannibal looks incongruous here, his three piece suit at odds with the jeans and t-shirts of everyone around them. It’s strangely comforting—they’re both out of place in their own ways, even if Hannibal could never be truly out of place anywhere, with his easy charm and social graces.

“Thanks for the wine,” Will says. “Beverly liked it.”

“You’re very welcome,” Hannibal says. “I’m glad to hear it.”

* * *

Will sticks by Hannibal for the rest of the night. It would be easy to feel like one of his own dogs, following around and nosing at Hannibal’s heels, but it turns out Hannibal’s social graces work even on someone as graceless as Will. Hannibal is unfailingly charming to everyone at the party—Will knows for a fact Hannibal isn’t interested in the particulars of Beverly’s sister’s cat, but he listens with such polite interest that it’s easy to forget.

When Will starts to feel like a third wheel, when he starts eyeing the kitchen and wondering if it would look bad if he got yet another beer, Hannibal grounds him with a casual hand on his lower back. The touch is electric, lighting him up and rooting him in place all at once, and just like that, Will’s sure he really, really doesn’t need any more alcohol. Not when Hannibal is smiling at him like that, soft and fond, and Will can’t stop looking at his lips. Have they always looked like that?

He swallows and makes a hasty retreat—too sudden. It’s weird, probably. He stammers an excuse and finds his way out the nearest door, which happens to open onto Beverly’s porch.

He gasps like he’s run a marathon, breathing in the cold, biting air. It stings his lungs and makes him feel more real. He has a few minutes to himself before the back door opens and closes behind him with a soft sound. He doesn’t need to look to know who it is.

“You followed me,” Will says without turning around.

“I was concerned. You looked unwell.”

“It just got too hot in there. I needed some air.”

Hannibal tilts his head. The yellow glow of Beverly’s porch light slants over his face. “And do you feel better now that you’ve gotten it?”

“No.” Will shakes his head. He laughs at himself, a small, derisive chuckle. “Maybe I should just go home.” He squints at the backyard full of looming, indistinct shapes under the cover of night. They seem to undulate. “Pretty sure I could climb over that fence.”

“And deny everyone the pleasure of your company?”

Will snorts. “No one here finds my company a pleasure, Hannibal.”

“I do.”

The soft admission pulls Will up short. He looks at Hannibal, startled. Really looks. He sees.

Hannibal, who finds the party just as tiresome as Will, who drove out from Baltimore for him. Hannibal, who surely has better things to do, who left a gaggle of charmed admirers to huddle with Will along the side of a house in the cold. Hannibal, who—

There’s more there—more to see, more to uncover, but Will misses it because Hannibal is taking his chin in cold fingers and tipping his head up.

“Look,” he breathes, so close to Will’s face.

Will looks. He smiles. His eyes drop back down to find Hannibal’s, as Hannibal slides his hand along Will’s jaw to cup the back of his neck, strong and sure. There’s a moment that passes—a moment where he could leave, blame it on too much to drink at a holiday party; one that Hannibal gives him to know that he’s sure—a moment when Will knows his mind with perfect clarity.

He tilts his head up and presses his lips to Hannibal’s. They kiss under the mistletoe, and for a little while everything else feels far away.

Chapter Text

“I used to think you were the devil.”

Will says it without preamble as he emerges from the bathroom, damp from rinsing off the evidence of their lovemaking.

Hannibal hums from where he's perched on the bed. “Satan simply means ‘adversary,’ you know, and we have certainly been that. Lucifer, on the other hand—”

“Light-bringer.”

“He was said to be the most beautiful of all angels,” Hannibal muses. He gives Will a pointed look that’s obviously trying to be seductive (it is—that’s the worst part of all), and Will can’t help but laugh.

“So you’re telling me that if you’re the devil, at least you’re a hot devil?” Will asks, still chuckling to himself. “God, you’re so full of yourself.”

“You wouldn’t have me any other way,” Hannibal says, and Will can’t even argue. Not when he’s crawling over Hannibal where he’s draped languidly over the bed. Hannibal watches him like a great cat from a nature documentary, sated and lazy, lying in the sun.

They’re both tired. Tired and fucked out and probably going to regret this in the morning, when every muscle in their bodies are screaming. They’re not as young as they used to be. Still, it’s hard to regret anything now, as Will threads his fingers through Hannibal’s hair and drags him forward for a kiss, deep and wet. Their lips slide together, messy and inelegant. They open wide to devour each other. Will bites at Hannibal’s lips as they grind lazily against one another, aimless and wandering.

He probably won’t get hard again, but it’s nice to touch. He feels Hannibal stiffening against his thigh, improbable given their respective ages, and Will laughs at the innocent expression on his face. He wraps his fingers around Hannibal’s cock—half-hard but definitely interested—enjoying the way Hannibal flinches just a little.

“Sensitive,” Will murmurs, teasing his thumb along the head of Hannibal’s cock, dipping into the slit to make him gasp. “Do you want to come again?”

Hannibal shakes his head. “Tomorrow, maybe.”

Will considers doing it anyway, just to see Hannibal’s toes curl. Just to hear him bellow like he’s dying. Hannibal would let him. It’s an idle thought, considered and discarded. He gives Hannibal’s cock one last squeeze, proprietary and affectionate, before sliding his hand up to cup the crest of a hip. He drapes himself over Hannibal, running his fingers idly through the carpet of greying chest hair that tickles his nose. There’s always tomorrow.

“Did you ever think we’d end up here?” Will asks.

“Where’s here? In Provence?”

Will shakes his head, to the degree that he can without getting up. “Here,” he says, wrapping his arm more snugly around Hannibal’s middle and pulling him close. “You and me, like this.”

The afternoon is so silent he can hear the hum of the refrigerator down the hall. Somewhere outside a bird chirps.

“No,” Hannibal says softly. “Not really.”

The admission is so quietly devastating.

“We’re here now,” Will says.

He squeezes Hannibal as tightly as he can and listens to the steady metronome tick of Hannibal’s heart beneath his ear. Not a single beat of it sounds like regret.

Chapter Text

Nigel comes home to Adam smoking in the kitchen. His eyebrows shoot up, and his mouth decides to run itself off before his brain can catch up.

“What the fuck are you doing, darling?”

Adam frowns around the filter in his mouth. “I’m trying to figure out why you like these so much.”

Nigel tries not to laugh at how serious Adam looks right now. This kid. “Are you even inhaling any of that?”

Adam’s face scrunches up. “Of course I am.”

He’s definitely not.

A little laughter seeps around the edges of Nigel’s mouth, through his teeth where he’s trying to keep it caged.

“You’re laughing at me,” Adam accuses.

“Am not,” Nigel says. Admittedly, it’s not very convincing when he can’t stop chuckling.

He puts the grocery bags down on the floor and crosses the kitchen. It’s a testament to how comfortable they’ve gotten with each other that Adam doesn’t flinch away, even when Nigel gets into his personal space. He feels a bright swell of pride at that.

He puts a hand on Adam’s arm and rubs soothing circles into it. “I’m not laughing at you, I promise. I’d never, darling. This just isn’t something I expected, is all.” His lips quirk up. “It’s cute.”

Adam’s frown softens slightly. He takes another drag of the cigarette, pursing his lips and hollowing his cheeks, and fuck if that doesn’t do things to Nigel. His mouth goes dry as he watches, and okay, no—Adam definitely isn’t inhaling.

“Open your mouth a little and breathe in,” Nigel says. “Here—” He takes the lit cigarette from Adam’s fingers and ashes it lightly in the sink before bringing it to his mouth. He takes a pull and breathes in slowly, making a little show of it for the way the kid’s eyes are glued to him, lingering over his face and mouth. “Now you try.”

He holds the cigarette to Adam’s lips, pulling it away after he inhales a little. “Not too much.”

Adam does inhale this time—there’s a coughing fit to prove it, and Nigel thumps him on the back.

“That’s awful,” Adam says, eyes watering. “Why do you like that?”

Nigel shrugs, claiming the rest of the cigarette for himself. “It feels good. Sometimes it’s an excuse to step outside and get a little fresh air.”

“The air would be fresher without tobacco smoke polluting it,” Adam says. “Did you know there are at least 69 carcinogenic chemicals in cigarettes?”

“Is that so?” Nigel smokes the cigarette down to the filter and stubs it out against the inside of their stainless steel sink before flicking it into the trash. “Now why would you want to go putting all that shit in your lungs, darling? You’re smarter than that.”

Now Adam raises an eyebrow, unimpressed. “Drug use has nothing to do with intelligence, Nigel.”

“It’s not drugs, angel. It’s cigarettes.”

“Nicotine is a drug,” Adam says stubbornly.

Nigel huffs out a laugh and runs a hand through his hair. “Alright, you got me there.”

“And anyway you liked it,” Adam says, grinning up at Nigel. “You found it sexually arousing.”

Nigel opens his mouth to argue. He closes it again. He really doesn’t want Adam smoking—doesn’t want Adam doing any of the stupid shit he does—but he can’t deny it was hot as fuck, especially when Adam’s looking at him like that, already hooking his thumbs in the waistband of Nigel’s pants.

Nigel gets a handful of Adam’s ass and hauls him closer. He hoists Adam up onto the kitchen counter, growling into his neck and loving the way Adam squirms beneath him, laughing and half-heartedly trying to push him away.

“What am I going to do with you, kid?”

Adam grins. “I can think of a few things.”

Chapter Text

“Jack. What are you doing here?” Will resists the urge to cover himself, but just barely.

“What’s it look like? I’m apparently dead.”

“I can see that,” Will says. There’s an awkward pause where they both just stare at each other. “Why are you in my bathroom?”

An awkward silence settles, where the only sound is the steady plink, plink of water dripping from the faucet. It quickly becomes clear that Jack has no more idea what he’s doing here than Will does.

Eventually, Will does twitch the washcloth off the rim of the tub, watching out of the corner of his eye as it floats to the bottom. He pulls it over his lap. His ability to not give a fuck has its limits—even if this is a hallucination, he doesn’t need Jack Crawford seeing his dick.

“Unfinished business?” Jack suggests.

“Yeah, that—probably.”

Jack keeps talking, and Will sighs.

He sinks down into the bathwater, down and down until his head slips beneath the surface. He’s thrilled to find out that ghosts’ voices don’t carry underwater.

* * *

He’s apparently being haunted by the ghost of Jack Crawford. Apparently they both are, he and Hannibal. Will is just the unfortunate one who gets to see him, although it’s not the seeing that’s a problem so much as the hearing.

“Will!” Jack barks at breakfast, when Will is just trying to sit and drink his coffee and eat his eggs in peace. “You’re not really going to eat that are you? What the fuck?”

Will doggedly ignores him, cutting a slice of the ham on his plate and popping it in his mouth.

“Will, that’s disgusting.”

It actually is ham this time, normal pork ham. Will almost opens his mouth to say so—Jack is starting to look slightly green around the gills—but then he remembers all the times Jack dragged him out of bed to look at the handiwork of lesser killers. He remembers nightmares and cold sweats. He keeps his mouth shut and spears another piece of meat with his fork.

Hannibal gives him an odd look across the table. “Is something the matter?”

“Nope. Nothing.”

* * *

Will doesn’t talk to Jack when Hannibal is around. He’d rather not talk to Jack at all, but the man remains as terrible at respecting other people’s boundaries in death as he was in life. At least he isn’t corporeal. He can’t seem to actually touch anything—not Will and not any of the things in their house, although he does unsettle the dogs.

“Stop that,” Will snaps when Jack walks through Garmr for the third time that day. “He doesn’t like when you do that.”

“Well maybe if you didn’t have so many pieces of furniture in the way, I wouldn’t have to. Samurai armor, Will? Really? A whole creepy suit of it.”

“He doesn’t say anything about the boat innards on the floor, and I don’t say anything about his aesthetic choices. We compromise.” Will jabs the screwdriver in Jack’s general direction just as he’s about to walk through the dog again. “Go around.”

Jack mutters something under his breath, but to his credit, he does leave Garmr alone. Will almost smiles as he tightens the last screw on the motor he’s been tinkering with for weeks.

* * *

“You don’t, uh. Watch us when we—you know—do you?”

This is not a conversation Will ever wanted to have with Jack, but it doesn’t seem like his ghostly companion is leaving anytime soon, and Hannibal has started to notice that Will keeps nervously eyeing the corners of the room when they fuck.

Jack pinches the bridge of his nose like he feels a headache coming on. Will makes a mental note to ask Jack if he still gets headaches as a ghost—if he doesn’t, Will might have something to look forward to in the afterlife after all, in spite of the fact that he’s surely hell-bound if there’s an afterlife at all.

“If you’re asking if I watch you and Lecter have sex, no, I most certainly do not. There’s a list of things I don’t want to see in my lifetime, Will. I have unfortunately seen most of them in the past few weeks—did you really have to pull out Mrs. Walters’ vocal chords, by the way? I mean that was just gross, and I don’t think she meant what you thought she did when she said that.”

Will scoffs. “She definitely did. She’s had it out for me and Hannibal ever since Biscuit dug up her rose bushes.”

“She did not! She’s a sweet old woman. She brought you that apple crisp just the other week.” Jack huffs, cutting himself off. “Anyway, no. I’m not watching the two of you make the beast with two backs.”

Will nods, ready to stop having this conversation and to never have it again. He notices with trepidation that there’s a glint in Jack’s eye that he doesn’t like.

“Okay, but I have to ask—blowjobs. Do you let him—?”

“Yes.”

“With his mouth.”

“Yes, Jack.”

“But his teeth—”

Will walks away, already eyeing the bottle of whiskey on the wet bar. It’s only ten in the morning, but surely it’s five o’clock somewhere.

* * *

He and Hannibal get into a stupid fight. It shouldn’t have happened, but Will had overindulged a bit at dinner. He’s looking at Tattlecrime on his tablet (a terrible habit, one of many he’d picked up from Hannibal), and he’s blindsided when he sees Molly’s face when he scrolls down to the fifth page. It’s a blurry photo—Freddie obviously hadn’t been invited to the wedding, and it is a wedding.

“‘The Monster’s Bride Remarries’,” Will quotes aloud. The words leave a sticky, acrid residue on his tongue. “Could you be any less tasteless?” he mutters to himself.

Jack reads over his shoulder.

Unfortunately, Hannibal picks that moment to walk out of the kitchen. To stand behind Will and loop an arm around his shoulders, pressing kisses into his jaw and neck and sliding a hand beneath his shirt.

“Can you stop that?” Will snaps.

Hannibal blinks, taken aback. He pulls back, looking at the screen in Will’s lap. “Ah. I see you found Ms. Lounds’ latest.”

“You knew.”

“Yes.”

“And you didn’t think that maybe you should tell me?”

Something nearly imperceptible changes in Hannibal’s face; something shifts and hardens. “No. Why would I?”

Will laughs bitterly. “Yeah, of course. Why would you?”

Will retreats into the upstairs room he’s claimed as his workshop, and Hannibal doesn’t follow. He makes a beeline for the bourbon stashed there, restless with ineffectual rage crackling under his skin—at Freddie, at Hannibal, at himself. He grabs the bottle by the neck, startled when Jack’s hand covers his, translucent and ghostly. Physically, it does nothing to stop him. He can feel it if he concentrates, but just barely, like a shiver of cold air across the back of his hand.

In practice, it’s really quite effective. In the months he’s been haunting them, Jack has never tried to touch him before. It gets Will’s attention admirably well.

“Don’t you think you’ve had enough, Will?”

Will grunts. He unscrews the bottle anyway, out of a sense of pointless rebellion, but it turns out listening to Jack is pretty ingrained at this point—it turns out death and life as a fugitive, respectively, has done little to soften that particular bit of conditioning. The room sways lightly beneath this feet, and okay, maybe he really has had enough.

“Should’ve let you kill him,” Will mutters. “Wouldn’t’ve been so bad, right? I mean you’re here.” His mouth quirks up in a sour smile. “The bastard would probably have come back to haunt me anyway.”

“Will.”

“What?”

“The decisions you’ve made aren’t his responsibility.”

“Oh come on, you’re defending him? He’s a cannibal, Jack.”

Jack gives him a pointed look.

“It’s hardly the same,” Will mutters.

“Mrs. Walters.”

“Oh, let it go,” Will huffs. “It was one time. He’s being unreasonable.”

“And you’re being an ass.”

That actually pulls Will up short.

“Has it made me worse, being with him? Am I a monster for it?”

He’s a little bit drunk and a little bit lost, feeling like the most recalcitrant penitent. He lays his sins at Jack’s feet. He asks for absolution nevertheless.

A long, strange moment passes between them, a coin twirling on its side. Jack could heal or hurt him. Jack could do anything at all.

“I mean, there’s the whole killing-and-eating-people thing. That is objectively worse.” Jack claps him soundly on the back. It sets a wildly uncomfortable chill zipping through Will’s body, and he’s glad Jack isn’t the touchy-feely, Casper type of ghost. “Cheer up. You were always kind of an ass.”

It shouldn’t make Will feel better, but weirdly, it does.

Chapter Text

It’s been a cold winter. It’s cold still, even in the house. Pleasantly so. The kind of chill that makes you bundle up in soft, warm clothes and huddle under covers.

Will had expected that Hannibal would leave the thermostat turned up to something ridiculous—some part of him still balks at the idea of spending all that money on heat, even when he knows there’s more money than they could probably spend in their lifetimes—but he’d been pleasantly surprised to find that isn’t the case at all.

He comments on it at one point. “You kept your house warmer in Baltimore.”

“I didn’t have anyone to keep me warm in Baltimore.” Hannibal smiles at him, and Will smiles back.

Will isn’t blinded by love, not enough to think he’s the only person Hannibal has given that soft smile to. He isn’t blinded at all; not anymore. He sees Hannibal, and Hannibal sees him.

It’s why he’s sure Hannibal had showed Alana that same smile, the one that crinkles the corners of his eyes and curls his lips up in a soft pout. It’s why he’s equally sure that look was only ever meant for him. Something dark and possessive curls in his belly, stirring in its sleep where it lies banked and harmless, for now. Only ever for now.

There are days for blood and days for killing, and today is neither of those. Today is a day when it’s cold outside and they’ve been in their pajamas all day—something Hannibal had balked at, before finally giving in when Will had batted his eyelashes and said please with a smirk playing at the corners of his mouth.

It was terribly transparent manipulation—it always is, and it always works. They both love the way Hannibal can never deny Will anything. They love it in different yet frighteningly similar ways.

Today is a day for movie marathons, watching classic Christmas movies with their feet tucked under each other on the couch. After It’s a Wonderful Life, Will hits pause on the remote. He goes into the kitchen to fix them something sweet, and Hannibal drifts after him, staying near. Close enough to touch.

These days, they rarely stray from each other’s sides, not after so long of doing without. Will thinks they probably will, eventually. Their tether will lengthen, the one that connects them at the hip, at the heart. Eventually they’ll probably find other friends, connections to cherish besides each other. They’re both solitary men; they’ll want their space. He doesn’t expect that they’ll want to stay this close, just like this, forever.

But for now they do, so for now he simply enjoys it.

Will puts the kettle on. He gets two glass mugs down from the cabinet, sticking teabags in them while Hannibal leans against the counter, idly rubbing his foot along Biscuit’s back. Will grabs the smallest saucepan out of the bottom cabinet and pours a little milk in it before setting it on the burner to warm.

Hannibal watches with interest. “What are you making?”

“Fancy tea? I’m not sure what else you’d call it. It’s something a girlfriend used to make. Not very often—it’s hot in New Orleans more than it isn’t, but sometimes. In ‘sweater weather,’ she called it.”

Will rummages around in drawers until he finds the little electronic hand-frother Hannibal sometimes uses to whip foam for unbearably fancy garnishes on soups. He sticks it in the pot of milk and turns it on, tipping it to make sure the little whirring whisk gets into every corner. The kitchen smells like warm milk, sweet and comforting.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you make tea before,” Hannibal says.

Will shrugs. He scratches the top of one foot with the other. “There’s probably a lot you haven’t seen me do before.”

The kettle whistles and he flicks off both burners, moving the frothed milk to the side so it doesn’t scald. He fills each mug halfway with water, letting the tea steep while he swirls the pot of milk to keep the foam from separating.

“She was really into tea,” Will says, talking to fill the empty space. Not because because he thinks he should, but because he can. Sharing for the sheer pleasure of being known. “I used to just leave my tea bags in there, but she had this whole big thing about tannins.”

He lifts the teabags out, squeezing them against the side of the cup with a spoon. He tosses them in the trash and stirs a generous spoonful of honey in each cup before topping it with milk.

Hannibal starts to reach for his tea.

“Hang on,” Will says.

Hannibal waits as he roots around in the spice rack, pulling down a bottle of whole nutmeg and a shaker of cinnamon. He grates nutmeg over each cup, sending little curls of fragrant spice raining down over the foam caps.

“Careful,” Hannibal says. “Watch your fingers.”

Will huffs a laugh. “You’d like it if I caught my fingers in this thing. Then there’d be little pieces of me in your drink.”

Hannibal doesn’t deny it. How could he, when they both know it’s true?

Will pushes Hannibal’s cup across the counter and steps into Hannibal’s space where he’s welcome—always welcome. His hand curls possessively around Hannibal’s hip, and they drink their tea.

Chapter Text

Sometimes it’s strange to Will that there are still so many things he doesn’t know about Hannibal. He knows the big thing, the bomb that went off and leveled the town, the elephant lurking in every room: Hannibal is a serial killer.

It almost seems like knowing that, everything else should just slot into place. That once the deep, dark secret is dragged into the light, there should be no more shadows left for anything to hide. Of course that isn’t true. There are still so many things to learn, small things that are no less important for how they tuck themselves into the pockets of everyday life. The way Hannibal folds his socks, laying them flat against each other and rolling them into neat coils. The fact that he never goes to bed with dishes in the sink, that he lets the dogs in the bed but only when he thinks Will won’t find out.

Will Graham is not a man who skips meals. Hannibal apparently is.

The sudden knowledge bothers him more than he thought it would. Like realizing you’ve left the stove on when you’ve driven away from your house. Like something important you should have remembered.

It starts at breakfast.

Before Hannibal, breakfast had been whatever he could grab on his way out the door—toast, usually. A banana sometimes. Molly made breakfast on the weekends, eggs and bacon. Sometimes pancakes with sticky syrup kisses. Breakfast with Hannibal is always an event, coffee from a machine that looks like it might have come out of Frankenstein’s lab, homemade sausage or sometimes a cut of steak, eggs whipped fluffy and light and garnished with chives. This morning is no different, except—

“You’re not eating?”

“Not today,” Hannibal says.

Will frowns. He’s never known Hannibal to skip breakfast. “Are you not feeling well?”

“I’m fine,” Hannibal assures him. “You should eat before it gets cold.”

Will hesitates, feeling something niggling at the edges of his empathy—a feeling, a thought. He shrugs it off and picks up his fork, digging into the meal.

* * *

He doesn’t think anything of it until lunchtime, when he comes in from shoveling snow off the walkway, sweaty as he peels off his outerwear. He gulps down water in the kitchen and stands in front of the open refrigerator, pulling out mustard, pickles, and sliced meat. (It looks like roast beef—it’s definitely not roast beef.) It isn’t unusual for them to fend for themselves for lunch, but they usually offer the other a bit of whatever they end up making.

“I’m making a sandwich. Do you want one?” Will calls as he pulls out the Swiss.

He hears footsteps approaching and doesn’t bother to turn around, squeezing mustard onto two slices of bread and spreading it with a butter knife.

“Must you yell down the hallway?” Hannibal asks, exasperated but fond.

“Sorry,” Will shrugs, not actually sorry at all. “Do you want a sandwich?”

“No thank you.”

There’s that prickle again, that prickle of something. Something he’s missing, lurking just beneath the surface.

“Have you eaten anything today?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Why not?”

There’s a hesitation to Hannibal that’s new. There’s something he doesn’t want to tell Will, and that’s somehow beyond the pale. There’s a kindness in Will that wants to remove the pressure, to tell Hannibal it’s alright, that they don’t have to talk about it. There’s another part—the part Hannibal seems to bring out best—that wants to lean in and make it worse. He waits, and eventually Hannibal comes to a decision.

“Once a year, I fast for a week.”

It’s unexpected. Will pauses, integrating this new piece of information into his picture of Hannibal.

“You’re not religious,” he says slowly. “Or at least, not in a way any normal person would understand.” He looks at Hannibal. Interprets the evidence. “It could be for health reasons, but it’s not. This is a ritual.”

“A private one, yes.”

“Why?”

He tilts his head. “It’s a reminder. A way that I orient myself. I find it’s a good practice to pause and reflect at certain points in one’s life, especially at this time of year.”

Will looks out the window at the lingering gloom. It can’t be later than one o’clock, but the sky is gloomy and grey, and shadows hang heavy over everything. He doesn’t have to ask to understand what Hannibal means.

“What are you reminding yourself?”

Hannibal closes his eyes. For the barest instant, he seems farther away, somewhere cold and desolate. Somewhere a little girl cries. “That life belongs to the hunters.”

“Nature red in tooth and claw,” Will murmurs.

He takes his sandwich to the room he’s claimed as his workshop and eats it alone.

* * *

In bed at night, he can’t help putting his hands on Hannibal’s bare belly, pressing down into the concavity of it. He feels it gurgle under his hands, something like hunger gnawing at his insides. Hannibal gasps, and he presses harder.

“You do this to yourself, every year.”

Hannibal doesn’t reply, just looks at him with eyes dark as coal in the low light.

“Would you stop if I asked you to?”

“Do you intend on asking me to?”

I don’t want to see you in pain, is right at the tip of his tongue, but it’s not true. It’s never been true. He chooses his words carefully, meting them out like poisoned sweets. “I don’t like seeing you in pain that I haven’t caused.”

He is at his most honest, here in the dark. They both are. He can be.

“It bothers you,” Hannibal says, rubbing Will’s face affectionately, fond and unbothered as his body eats itself from the inside, little by little. It should bother him. It bothers Will that it doesn’t.

“It’s not mine,” Will says, abject and plaintive. At his most wretched, here in the dark. “Other people had you, marked you, claimed you before you were mine. You were a whole person before I knew you.”

“Yes.”

Neither of them say anything else. There’s nothing left to say.

Hannibal gathers Will close, and Will lets him.

“You still haven’t asked me to stop,” he says.

“No,” Will says. “I haven’t.”

He presses his ear to Hannibal’s belly and listens.

Chapter Text

Will opens the door wearing a hunted expression and carrying a particularly large hammer. As a general rule, Hannibal is highly adaptable, able to take nearly any situation in stride. He was not expecting this. Even so, his surprise doesn’t register on his face as anything more than a slight widening of eyes, a fractional raising of brows that has the delightful effect of making Will look sheepish before a stubborn gruffness replaces it.

“Doctor Lecter.”

“Will,” Hannibal says, taking in the scene he’s walked into. Will’s dogs skitter anxiously around the corners of the room, keeping a distance from their master. There’s plaster dust on Will and the floor, and a sizable hole in the wall above Will’s fireplace.

“What are you doing here?” Will’s fingers dance nervously on the handle of the hammer, even as he steps aside to let Hannibal in—reflexive—Hannibal doubts Will even made a conscious decision to do so, and it pleases him.

“Alana called me expressing a certain amount of worry for you. She’s concerned that perhaps you’re hearing things.”

Alana had of course done no such thing. Even if she has her suspicions—and he’s certain she does; Alana is a smart woman—she’s far too polite to betray Will’s confidences. He finds her willful blindness both endearing and useful.

Will makes a rude, dismissive snort, and ah, there it is. A tightening of grip, the acrid scent of fear rising to mingle with the sweet smell of Will’s brain alight. The encephalitis makes his presence almost cloying at times, like walking through a sweet shop full of perfumed, humid air.

Hannibal takes a few steps toward Will, intentionally invading his space, pleased when Will doesn’t step back. He brings his hand up to cover Will’s, gently prying the hammer from his grasp. Will surrenders it easily, and the fight seems to go out of him all at once. His shoulders slump, and he sighs, heavy and weary.

Will’s body trusts him. It bends toward him as a source of stability, a clutch for balance, and Hannibal welcomes it. He takes the opportunity to knock Will slightly more off-kilter, to send him tumbling so Hannibal can catch him before he hits the ground.

He keeps his voice gentle and concerned. “Are you certain there was an animal in your chimney, Will? At this time of year, it’s unlikely that—”

Will does not disappoint. The kiss is hot and fevered, and Hannibal drinks it down greedily.

Chapter Text

“Will, you should really go to the hospital.”

“I’m fine,” Will insists for the third time since the car laid him out flat on his back. “You checked me out, didn’t you? You said I’m fine.”

Hannibal’s mouth pulls into a moue. “I said you appear to be fine, from what I can tell. I don’t have the type of equipment I would need to check for signs of internal damage. I would really feel better if you let me drive you to the hospital.”

Will shakes his head, wincing a little as he puts weight on his bad leg. “I just need a hot shower and maybe a drink, and then to stay off my feet for the rest of the night.”

“Shouldn’t we at least call the police? You were the victim of a hit and run.”

Will waves the suggestion off. “It’ll take them at least half an hour to get out here, and I don’t really want to stand around in the cold answering a bunch of questions. They’re not going to go after a guy for clipping me with his car.”

Hannibal sniffs. “He hardly clipped you. You were unconscious. You’re bleeding.”

Will shrugs, and Hannibal isn’t sure if he’s ever seen a more irritating gesture. “Barely bleeding, now that you’ve patched me up. Look, I don’t need to pay a couple thousand dollars to be sent home with a bottle of overpriced aspirin and told to keep off my feet until it stops hurting.” He rattles the bottle of aspirin. “I can tell myself that for free.”

“If this is about the money—”

“Stop.”

Hannibal persists, undaunted. “If this is about the money, I’d gladly pay for it. You could consider it a favor for my peace of mind.”

“Nope. I told you I’m fine.” Will takes two aspirin and washes it down with a gulp of whiskey—definitely against medical advice. He raises an eyebrow at Hannibal, daring him to say something about it. 

Hannibal merely sighs. “Stubborn.”

He briefly considers subduing Will and forcing him into the car—an idle fantasy considered and summarily dismissed. He’d likely injure Will further in the process, which is counterproductive.

“Do you have any objections to my staying with you for the rest of the evening?”

“To make sure I don’t kick the bucket?”

Hannibal holds in an exasperated sigh. “Something like that.”

Will tosses back the rest of his drink with a shrug. “Knock yourself out.”

Hannibal shrugs off his coat, hanging it over the back of the nearest surface that seems to contain the least amount of dog hair. He plucks the bottle of whiskey out of Will’s hand before he can pour himself another glass.

“Alcohol is a blood thinner,” he says before Will can get out a word of protest. “Do you have tea?”

Will opens his mouth. He seems to think better of it and closes again, before nodding slowly.

Hannibal smiles. “Good. Go sit down and get comfortable, and I’ll bring you some.”

He screws the cap back onto the liquor bottle and sets it back amongst its brethren before turning around and heading for the kitchen. From the living room, there’s the sound of couch springs, shuffling and light cursing. Hannibal frowns at Will’s meager tea selection before pulling out a dusty box of Lipton tea that looks like it might have seen the Reagan administration. The tea itself is stale and nearly odorless. It’s dry as parchment—Hannibal is surprised it doesn’t crumble into dust as he sets it in one of Will’s chipped mugs, but it will have to do.

He wonders if he could convince Will that it’s a medical necessity that he spends the weekend at Hannibal’s house for observation. He supposes it’s possible, if he spins it correctly. He resolves to give it more thought. It would certainly be easier to take care of Will with the benefit of a proper kitchen.

“Hannibal?” Will calls.

Hannibal despises hollering throughout the house. He turns on the burner beneath the kettle before padding back into the living room to find Will, cozy among a pile of blankets and dogs. The sight makes him smile for unknown reasons. “Yes?”

“Thank you, for— You didn’t have to—” Will clears his throat and tries again. “Just, thanks. For doing this.”

“My pleasure.”

Strangely enough, it is.

Chapter Text

“What is this?” Will stares at the little rectangle of plastic in his hand, the bank statements and other cards sprawling out of an envelope on the table in an array of nauseating color.

“It’s a debit card,” Hannibal says, completely, deliberately misunderstanding the question.

“I can see that,” Will snaps. “Why does it have my name on it?”

“Technically, Alexander Morris isn’t your name.”

Will is going to kill him. He closes his eyes and counts to ten. He doesn’t reach for the serrated knife lying beside the half loaf of bread, the one that is certainly sharp enough to cut through cartilage and bone because they’d had it sharpened just yesterday.

Will sets the card down carefully atop the pile and shoves it all toward Hannibal. “Can you just answer the question you know I’m asking instead of the ones you think you can get away with?”

Hannibal sighs, and Will thinks he might see a little disappointment lurking around the edges of his mien. “It’s exactly what it looks like, the keys to the kingdom, as it were. I’d meant to do this sooner, but it took some time to get in touch with the necessary parties.” He slides the pile back toward Will. “I thought it might make you happy. It will give you more freedom, and it’s important to me that you have resources of your own in case we’re ever separated.”

Hannibal has a point, and Will knows it. This is absolutely practical. Logical, even.

Will still hates it.

It’s one thing to let Hannibal pay for things for the both of them—supplies, travel expenses, all the places they’ve stayed. It’s not like Will can just go to an ATM and pull out money—his accounts have definitely been frozen by now, and anyway it’s Hannibal’s fault that they’re in this position (On the run, his mind helpfully supplies) in the first place. It’s another thing entirely for Hannibal to just give him money.

It makes him feel like a kept thing, like a pet. It lights up a hot spark of resentment and shame, burning like a coal in the pit of his stomach.

“I’m not some kind of golddigger.” He spits it out before he even knows where it’s come from.

Hannibal blinks, the way he only does when he’s genuinely caught off guard.

“Of course you’re not,” he says, giving Will a wry look. “This may come as a shock to you, but I’m quite certain you’re not with me for the money.”

Will just stares at him for a second before the absurdity cracks through his foul mood, splitting it wide open. He gives a short, sharp bark of laughter, and the grin on his face is answered by its match on Hannibal’s. “No, I suppose if I was with you for the money, I would have given up sometime around the incarceration.”

“Yours or mine?”

He snorts. “Both. Either.”

“Or the stabbing.”

Will laughs again. “God, there’s something wrong with us.”

“Very probably,” Hannibal says, mischief dancing in his eyes. “I was declared criminally insane by a number of my peers.”

Will shakes his head. “Not your peers. There’s no one like you.”

“Nor you, širdelė.”

Hannibal kisses him softly, and it should be unbearably sappy, but it isn’t. It’s somehow just right.

Chapter Text

Will starts awake with an unpleasant jolt. He isn’t sure why he’s awake. There’s no telltale light or sound that might have disturbed him, no discernible change in the dark, quiet room. The silence isn’t oppressive. It’s filled with the soft snuffling of dogs at the foot of the bed, the slow, even breaths of Hannibal beside him, the gentle whisper of the breeze through a verandah door that they leave open all year round. The winters here are mild, and the salted air drifting in off the bay is a constant comfort.

He glances at the clock resting on the nightstand on his side of the bed, where numbers glow 12:03 a.m in soft green. His belly is still pleasantly full from dinner. He’s warmed through with the gentle buzz of good wine and better whiskey. Today was a good day, and tomorrow promises more of the same.

None of it explains why he’s awake after midnight, staring into the heavy dark as though it might have secrets to tell. None of it explains why he’s still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

He’s waiting constantly for some malady, some misfortune. For Jack to come bursting through the door—that one’s logical; he holds onto that one, a name to place to the quiet sense of dread that sneaks up on him in the night. It’s good to have reasons, things to be afraid of—otherwise you’re just afraid.

There are other fears, ones without a face or a name. Ones without a gun. There’s the strange, pervasive fear that he’s overdrawn his account—that the universe keeps a ledger and he’s in the red. That he’s used up more than his allotted share of happiness. That all of this is somehow a mistake.

He waits for someone to come collect. Murderers don’t get happy endings. People who’ve abandoned their wife and child, they don’t get to be happy. They don’t get to be this.

And yet it turns out they do. There’s no justice, and God is dead or else he’s the twisted thing out of Hannibal’s imagination, capricious and bloody and smiling down on them all the time. And thank the bloody God for it because otherwise they’d be— what?

Not this. Something else. Dead or miserable, at each other’s throats. Not smiling at each other over breakfast, holding hands while the eggs give off steam and the dogs hope for scraps.

The fear exhausts him, so he sets it aside. It’s a luxury he has now, one of many.

He considers getting up, walking through their house that’s tastefully decorated in his and his style, a perfect amalgam of their hobbies and interests. He could pour himself a glass of water water, sit in front of the open fridge and content himself with the fact that it’s still full—that hunger is a distant memory; that he’ll have this tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

He doesn’t. Hannibal’s arm is wrapped snug around his side, and the dogs twitch softly in their dreams. He wouldn’t want to wake them. He settles back into the pillows and lets his breathing drift.

He can’t quite believe this is real. That this is something he gets to keep.

Chapter Text

Will’s never been diagnosed with depression. There are a great many things wrong with him, things in his brain that hang askew, but he’s never laid claim to that particular flavor of mental illness. And yet he could still describe, with perfect clarity, exactly what depression feels like. The tarry stickiness of it, the wet blanket quality that smothers heavy and cuts out the light. The hopeless waiting for morning that dawns just as bleak as the night before, the terror of sameness—will I always feel this way?

That’s the thing about having an empathy disorder—Will’s had the opportunity to get closely acquainted with the landscapes of other minds, all of them, as sick or healthy as they come, whether he wants to or not.

That’s the other thing about having an empathy disorder: he never wants to.

Will’s empathy is good at scaling walls, finding the things other people prefer stay hidden. It’s made him about as popular as you’d expect—no one wants to know that the grimacing, ill-tempered man who smells of dog knows they don’t love their husband—but he can gain no purchase against the smooth walls of Hannibal’s mind. There are no handholds, no footholds. Nothing but placid, even calm that Will could eat with a spoon.

In that sense, he supposes he’s loved Hannibal from the start.

Hannibal’s mind has always been a relief in the way other minds aren’t, a cool, slick thing barricaded against all invaders, and Will wants to throw himself at its feet. Maybe then he could actually get some sleep.

Of course Hannibal has feelings. It’s only human, and despite what Abel Gideon thinks, Hannibal isn’t actually the devil. Will knows that, and yet it’s still disappointing to learn that Hannibal is just as common as the rest of them. That he’s prone to small, petty hurts. To lying awake in the dark with a roiling mind that threatens to sweep him away on the tide. To nightmares, which Will had thought were his sole purview.

He’s horrified with himself, of course. You aren’t supposed to be upset with people for having depression, for ending up with a mental illness by some roll of the dice—genetics and circumstance, maybe a splash of trauma in there besides. You aren’t supposed to, but Will can’t help resenting him, just a little.

You were supposed to be different beats out a dark rhythm somewhere close to his heart.

On bad days, there’s a peculiar screaming that echoes when Hannibal is near. Something howling far away and an unsettling hunger, bottomless and vast. On bad days, the hunger grows sticky and wet. It pulls at Will’s ankles and tries to suck him under, where gaping maws wait in the dark.

When Will was in college, his ex-girlfriend’s mom died. He hadn’t spoken to her for years, so he was surprised when she called asking to get coffee. She had no one, she said. The idea of sitting with an ex’s grief was unpleasant and oily, but he agreed anyway. If asked, he’d chalk it up to the fizzy tendrils of sadness tugging his heartstrings through the phone. They crawled in his mouth and made it impossible to say no.

He regretted saying yes as soon as he hung up.

‘What do I do?’ he asked his roommate.

His roommate: bored, middle class, probably sold drugs. ‘Let her do the talking.’

Will nodded, zipping up his coat and building forts in his mind. They’d all be knocked down by a gust of tears, but if he started building now, maybe he could stem the tide and keep from drowning. His roommate stopped him with a hand on his wrist—the touch, he remembers, even at the distance of memory; they never touched, before or since.

‘And Will?’

‘Yeah?’

A beat. Sear this in your memory.

‘Buy the coffee.’

He bought the coffee. They talked about her mom. They talked about sports and the weather. She didn’t cry, but he could feel the tears lodged in her throat like a saltwater grave. He wanted to leave the whole time.

She invited him back to her apartment, and he said no, even though he wanted to say yes. He never saw her again.

Nothing about this is all that different, except Will says yes to the wolf in wolfskin.

He wants to run away from Hannibal on the bad days, wants to throw him outside and leave him to his demons. He imagines the screams as they rip him apart—imagines the way they’d make him feel safe. Hannibal has teeth instead of tears, but Will still knows what to do—smother the feeling, offer his bed, buy the coffee. Bolster the door to keep the howling things out.

He does all the right things. He tells himself it’s enough.

Chapter Text

U.S. NEWS
Body found in Monterey county confirmed to be Pebble Beach man reported missing in late September

Dec. 16, 2019, 3:50 PM PST
By Virginia Schall


A body found earlier week has been positively identified as that of John Seaton-Hayes, who was last seen vacationing with his husband Andrew Seaton-Hayes in Carmel. The 42-year-old real estate agent was reported missing on Sept. 29 after he did not return to their hotel room following a minor altercation.

The body was discovered inside a vacant apartment in the Carmel Village neighborhood after neighbors complained of a foul odor. A Monterey County dispatcher received a 911 call at 12:42 p.m., from a woman who was later identified as the property manager of the apartment complex. 

When officers arrived on the scene, they found Seaton-Hayes’ mutilated body posed in what they describe as a “grotesque” display. The apartment was cordoned off until evidence technicians could arrive on the scene. After the crime scene was processed, the body was transferred to the Monterey County Coroner’s Office where it was later identified. The cause of death was determined to be exsanguination and blunt force trauma. County coroners also report that several organs were missing.

The murder of John Seaton-Hayes is the latest in a series of unsettling crimes that have police officers baffled and local residents frightened. The arrangement of Seaton-Hayes’ body after death has left some residents to speculate that this is the work of a Satanic cult. Deputy Chief Laura Duffell adamantly denies these claims, asserting that motive has yet to be determined.

The widower of the deceased, Andrew Seaton-Hayes, was contacted for a phone interview. “It’s sick,” he said of his late husband’s homicide. “John was a good person, a nice person. Everyone loved him. He didn’t deserve to die like this. Whoever did this is sick, and I hope they catch him.”

No suspects have yet been identified, but anyone with information relevant to the ongoing investigation is encouraged to contact the Monterey County Police Department at (831) 624-6403.

* * *

Hannibal slides a heaping plate in front of Will, piled high with eggs, sausage, and thick slabs of toast. Will sets aside the paper he's reading and tilts his head up for a kiss before picking up his fork.

"Is this the meat from California?"

Hannibal inclines his head. "The last of it. We'll have to go hunting again soon."

"Mm. Can we wait until the weather warms up? The cold makes my shoulder act up."

Hannibal kisses Will's neck. "We could travel. The world is full of warm cities. I think you'd like Barcelona."

"You mean you'd like to show it to me."

Hannibal hums against his skin, which is hardly a denial.

"We'd need to find someone to watch the dogs," Will says, and it isn't a no.

"There are services for that."

Hannibal keeps at his neck, sucking a gentle bruise into Will's skin at the place where his pulse leaps. He fights the urge to let his eyelids flutter shut. He wraps a hand around the back of Hannibal's head, twining his fingers through soft, silvered hair.

Will tips his head back and sighs, breakfast long forgotten. "After Christmas," he says.

He wants to spend Christmas right here.

Chapter Text

He’s lying exhausted, come cooling sticky on his belly. He’s wet between his thighs, lube and come smearing against the sheets. He’s too tired to do much more than grumble weakly when Hannibal rolls him over. Hannibal’s gaze crawls over him like a physical touch, and Will squirms under it.

He stills only when Hannibal places a heavy hand in the middle of his back, drawing it down sweaty skin to rest lightly on the curve of his ass. Hannibal’s fingers skim the line of his crack, dipping in and brushing against the sensitive hole that twitches on contact.

“Tell me how it feels,” Hannibal says, pushing the tip of one blunt finger against the worn out muscle. It slides in without resistance to the sound of a soft cry.

“Sore,” Will says. “Raw, like when you blow your nose too much.”

Hannibal hums. Another night he’d push Will’s body as far as it could go, and maybe further. Breaking his things is hardly a problem when he can put them back together again, but—another night. Tonight, he rubs hard against Will’s prostate to hear him whimper. To watch his hips stutter against the bed, even as Hannibal keeps his free hand braced against a knee to keep him pinned in place. Then he lets him go, withdrawing his probing hands to prop Will up against the pillows like a doll.

“I’m tired,” Will says. It’s followed by a yawn so big it cracks his jaw. He looks up at Hannibal with bleary eyes that keep slipping shut.

“That’s all right,” Hannibal says. “You don’t need to do anything but lie there.” He takes Will’s chin in a gentle hand and runs his thumb over Will’s bottom lip. “Open.”

He opens his mouth, and Hannibal fits his thumb inside, dragging it over Will’s tongue. His skin tastes clean and a little salty, and Will fights to keep his eyes open.

“You can close your eyes,” Hannibal says, warm and amused, and Will nods.

He closes his eyes with a sigh and lets everything happen. Lets Hannibal take care of them both. Hannibal pets his tongue for long, slow moments, then pricks his finger against one of Will’s eyeteeth. His blunt teeth don’t break the skin easily, so Hannibal helps it along, pressing down so hard it makes Will’s jaw ache. Will cries out at the sudden pressure, until his mouth is filled with something bitter and warm. He licks it from Hannibal’s skin, languid and uncoordinated, taking it deeper inside himself.

Hannibal plays with his mouth for a while longer, sliding more of his fingers in so that Will’s lips have to stretch to accommodate him. Eventually he grows bored of it and rises up onto his knees. He holds his cock up to Will’s mouth and paints pre-ejaculate across his lips.

“Open,” Hannibal coaxes again.

Will does, sleepy and pliant. Hannibal feeds his cock in, shifting his hips until the head of his erection brushes the back of Will’s throat. Will gags around it, and Hannibal gentles him.

“Shh, shh, it’s okay.” He pets the sides of Will’s face, stroking his hands over bulging cheeks. “Relax. Breathe through your nose.”

Will nods. He tries.

Hannibal takes his mouth slow and gently, and by the end, Will is fast asleep. Hannibal spends in his own hand, catching his semen so as not to disturb him.

He’ll have to get up in a moment to clean himself and turn out the lights. To lay Will down and tuck him into bed so the awkward position doesn’t hurt his frail human back. He’ll do all these things, but for now, he simply allows himself a moment to watch. To look upon the small, fierce human he’s claimed as his own, now quiet and still.

Chapter Text

Hannibal is weird about food.

It’s something that’s intuitive even on a surface level. Anyone who shares a meal with him will notice, although they’re likely to chalk it up to a refined palate or a certain fussiness, which is certainly what Hannibal intends. The image he projects is absolute: a gentleman of a certain age who enjoys the finer things in life, with the type of wealth to support such a lifestyle. His refrigerator is always filled with rarefied delicacies—he throws such glittering dinner parties; of course it is.

Will believed it, except

There are no dinner parties now.

Not now, when wherever they go there’s just each other. It’s intentional as much as it’s practical. The truth is they don’t want to share. They’ve grown in on each other, antlers locking together in an embrace that would surely kill them if they tried to separate. There’s a dark, hungry delight in allowing their parts to be subsumed into the whole, but

There are no dinner parties.

There is a refrigerator full of things Will can’t even pronounce and probably won’t eat. There are no excuses now. No socialites to impress, no carefully constructed cover to maintain. Only caviar that gets thrown away when the jar is half-full, a basket of peaches they can’t finish before it goes off. Only a whole shank of ham that molders on the bone—that one reminds him of that case in Maine, the one with the dead kids, and it sets his teeth on edge.

* * *

Sometimes Hannibal seems less a person and more a multilayered construction. The scales had fallen away from Will’s eyes in that bloodstained kitchen in Minnesota, and he’d thought then that he could see—really seethe monster blinking back at him with a look of concern. Except it’s just been scales and more scales ever since. Hannibal is a veritable matryoshka doll of pathologies.

Will loves him anyway.

That he loves Hannibal in spite of his monstrosities is the good lie. That he loves Hannibal because he is monstrous—there’s the ugly truth. If Hannibal was a man and not a monster, he would be something other than what he is. And Will Graham would not love him, and they would cease to be. I love him, therefore we are.

Hannibal holds up to the light all the ugliest, worst parts of Will, like the unflinching mirror double under sickly fluorescent lights, and Will hates him for it. He will always hate Hannibal, at least a little. Some days a lot. It really depends.

Will gets tired of seeing food in the trash can. He’s got his baggage too. Hell, he’s probably read the same papers as Hannibal. They could both list the common, lasting effects childhood food insecurity has on adults—that doesn’t mean they can either of them stop it. Will copes his way, and Hannibal copes in his, but Hannibal’s way of coping is starting to drive Will up the wall.

“You have to stop,” Will sighs, holding up a small collection of sausages that made its way into the trash.

He expects Hannibal to argue. When Hannibal doesn’t, he expects that someone will die.

The rebuttal comes two days later in a pot of soup. The pot of soup. The pot of soup that takes up residence on the back left burner of their six range stove and doesn’t leave.

At first, Will doesn’t think anything of it when he sees it simmering away. Hannibal spends at least half his time in the kitchen, and Will doesn’t tend to ask questions about the things he makes. He eats them when they’re presented to him. Mostly he just thanks whichever god whose joke this is that these creations don’t come with screams.

The second day, though.

“Hannibal, did you forget the stove is on?”

Hannibal is draped across the couch with bare feet, delicate ankles crossed at the bone. He scrolls through something on his tablet. “No,” he says without looking up.

“So does that soup really need to cook for this long?”

Hannibal’s lips twitch into a small smile, and he does look up now. “Perpetual stew. In medieval times, innkeepers would keep a pot bubbling on the hearth, ready to feed travelers. It’s a gracious, hungry soup ready to accept any scraps it might be given. The flavors are said to deepen and become more complex over time.”

“An edible history,” Will suggests, and Hannibal’s smile deepens.

* * *

Will finds the idea of perpetual stew suspect. Some part of his brain—the rational part that says things like don’t run into traffic and don’t elope with a serial killing cannibalbalks at the idea of a pot of soup simmering on the stove forever. First of all, it hardly seems food safe, and second, he’s half-afraid it’s going to burn the house down one of these days.

But risking life and limb for Hannibal is hardly new, and if he’s managed to accept the gruesome meat that Hannibal provides, then surely he can get used to this too. What’s a little salmonella between lovers?

The stupid soup makes Hannibal feel better. He’d never say it in so many words—not unless Will asked, and they aren’t in the business of asking each other those things. (How do you feel? Are you happy? Are you okay, are you well?) They communicate in the language of touch and metaphor, meanings scrambled and remixed, seen only at a distance.

The soup makes Hannibal feel better. Will knows because he can tell.

Because he can see it in the line of shoulders that sits just fractionally lower, relieved of tension. In the way the crease between Hannibal’s brows irons out. He knows because he ran away to join a life on the fringes of society, devoid of any rules, where he can spend his time doing whatever he wants—because he’s chosen to spend every minute since watching Hannibal, a moon tuned to the sun, crashing like meteors.

So he eats Hannibal’s soup, and eventually he starts tossing in pieces of himself. A bit of fish here, an andouille sausage there. Small offerings to a terrible god who smiles at Will when he makes them tea.

It is what it is. He’s chosen this, fistfuls and fields of it.

In this house, there is a pot of soup that’s always full.

Chapter Text

People always assume Hannibal doesn’t like dogs. He asks Will about it when he sees the idea mooted for the third time in as many weeks.

“Why do all these people think I hate animals?”

Will drifts from the kitchen to peer over Hannibal’s shoulder. His mouth pulls up into a smirk Hannibal can hear without turning to look. “The Tattlecrime message boards? Really?”

“It’s prudent to keep an eye on the news.”

“What Freddie does isn’t news. You’re just vain.” Will rolls his eyes, but he leans over Hannibal’s shoulder to scroll down the page. “Plastic_cosmos49 thinks you ate my dogs.”

Hannibal’s brows furrow. “Why would I eat your dogs?”

Hannibal considers writing a scathing rebuttal to Plastic_cosmos49, but in the end he thinks better of it. He closes the lid of his laptop with a decisive click. “How do you feel about sushi for dinner?”

* * *

Hannibal has always liked dogs. They’re pleasant creatures, infinitely biddable and with a capacity for bloodshed. He’s always liked creatures that follow their nature. They make fine companions, and the dogs Will has added to their household (only three—whether because that’s all he desires or because he thinks Hannibal would forbid him more, Hannibal’s never quite been able to tell) are better trained than most.

He’s fond of them. He enjoys strolling with Will as the dogs run ahead, nosing at the bushes and following scents even Hannibal can’t pick out. They run as far afield as Will allows, testing his boundaries, looking back at him with pleading eyes and tails that wag self-consciously as they beg to be loved. Testing boundaries—Hannibal can relate to that.

The dogs are never disappointed. Will calls them back when they roam too far, signaling them with a low, trilling whistle. They bound back to his side, tongues flopping as they pant merrily. They’re given careless, affectionate hands stroking over their faces and flanks for their service, and they desire nothing else in the world—that too, Hannibal can relate to.

Dogs are such happy creatures. Of course Hannibal likes them.

And yet it’s nothing like what Will himself feels for his dogs. Hannibal knows this is so, even before he wakes up wearing the wrong body (the wrong body—as if his person suit went in for dry cleaning, and not only picked up the wrong garment—he drove to the wrong cleaner in a town two states over and jumped on the counter to dance the polka).

* * *

Hannibal wakes up wearing the wrong body, and the first thing he realizes is that Will Graham loves his dogs.

It’s a strange thing to notice first. There are other matters that seem like they should be more pressing—the fact that he is now inches shorter, for instance. Will is not a particularly small man, but the height difference between them is just enough that the change in vantage is now extremely noticeable.

It’s the first thing he notices because when he sits up in bed and is greeted by a squirming pile of wagging tails and sloppy tongues, his first thought is how wonderful. He has a moment of uncomplicated joy. A moment where his heart feels warm and full inside his chest.

 

Then he looks at his own body, lying beside him sleeping peacefully, and promptly has a panic attack which wakes Will. (Hannibal has always had excellent hearing.)

“Hannibal?” Will sits up with a start. “Are you okay—whoa. Looking at his hands now. Hannibal’s hands. “Whoa, that’s weird.”

It’s extremely bizarre to hear Will’s American accent and colloquialisms coming out of his own mouth. His voice sounds odd when it’s not filtered through the resonance of his own skull. The strangeness of the situation is something he should find novel, and yet it only seems to intensify his anxiety.

Hannibal is not ignorant to the physiology of panic attacks—the increased yet shallow respiration, the rapid heartbeat, the racing thoughts and feelings of impending doom. He was a psychiatrist by trade, and before that he was an emergency room physician. He’s seen his share of anxious patients who believed they were dying of heart attacks. He knows intellectually that this is not a heart attack.

Somehow that doesn’t help at all, although he feels that it should.

Hannibal has never had to feel a panic attack before, and it turns out he doesn’t like it at all.

Will just watches this spectacle unfold before him, eyebrows scrunched together, until all at once his expression clears and he smiles.

* * *

Will adjusts to the entire situation more easily than he does.

He should, Hannibal thinks uncharitably. Such are the benefits of a low and steady heart rate.

Will doesn’t soothe Hannibal while he shakes himself to pieces in their bed, and Hannibal doesn’t need him to. He has the coping mechanisms required, even if he’s never had to employ them himself before. He doesn’t require Will’s help, but he would have liked to have it. He would have appreciated some—

Empathy.

“You didn’t try to comfort me,” Hannibal says, tipping his head to the side. Long curls brush his face, and he pushes them aside. His fingers get caught, mesmerized by the texture—he’s always appreciated Will’s curls, and now he’s been given carte blanche to toy with them as he sees fit.

“Sorry,” Will says automatically. “Huh. I didn’t mean that at all. His face breaks into a wide grin that’s frankly inappropriate for the given context.

Now Hannibal has a headache, of all things.

* * *

“I can’t believe you just walk around like this all the time,” Will says. “This is great. Shit, this is amazing. I don’t feel bad for anything. I have no guilt whatsoever.”

“I’m very happy for you, Will.”

Hannibal is shocked to find that he actually means it. Beneath the splitting headache and the fact that he’d like nothing more than to have his body back right this instant, Will’s joy is very literally contagious. He feels it in every cell of his body, infusing him with a kind of effervescent joy. Simply standing next to Will feels like angling his body toward a heat lamp on a frigid day.

Chapter Text

Alana spent her whole life being an easy woman. A woman who was easy to love, easy to get along with, always ready with a soft smile and a kind word. She spent a lifetime burying her own needs and wants in order to give other people what they needed. What she thought they needed. What she could see they needed.

Alana isn’t an easy woman anymore. Now she is difficult, all harsh words and unflinching gaze. Hard mouth and not a smile in sight. She’s a difficult woman to love, and yet she found love anyway, in another difficult woman, hard and unsmiling, bruised and battered by men.

They make themselves a fortress; they let no one else inside.

I will be your refuge.

She saves Will. In her mind, she chalks it up as her last selfless act. She doesn’t regret it immediately, but she does regret it in the years to come, when she’s looking over her shoulder in every room of every restaurant and house and hotel. When she has nightmares of finding Morgan’s tiny body with a bullet in his head, Hannibal standing beside the crib smiling at her and holding a gun. He’d smiled at her, before. She tries to forget, and most days she succeeds, but some days— 

Some days she remembers that smile, and she wants to scrub her skin straight from her bones.

Those days, she hides in Margot instead. Loses herself in the raised ridge of a well-loved scar, lips that curve into a politic smile in the presence of their enemies. Lets herself drown between Margot’s legs, salt in her mouth and soft thighs clamped around her ears. Loses herself to find herself here, in this kingdom.

“Why did I do it?” Alana asks.

Margot lays on her chest, heavy and content. Their combined sweat evaporates in the air conditioned room, raising goosebumps along her skin. The room smells like sex, animal and rich. Morgan sleeps on in a room down the hallway, and there are guards outside. Alana thinks she should get up and turn on the humidifier to save Margot’s sinuses, but strong arms tighten around her waist when she tries to move.

“Do what?” Margot asks.

“Let Hannibal go.” She thinks of Will’s half-baked plan to stage an escape that had seemed so plausible at the time, if she ignored the klaxon bells ringing in her head, the hair that prickled on the back of her neck at the thought of Hannibal Lecter loose and free in the world again. “Let him go twice.”

Margot shrugs. “You’re an optimist.”

Alana makes a face that Margot can’t see, but Margot knows her well enough to know that it’s there. She reaches up to pet the side of Alana’s cheek, smoothing her frown with delicate hands. “I like you that way.”

Alana kisses her fingertips, and Margot sighs. She turns her face so she can breathe in Alana’s skin, soft puffs of breath tickling as she nuzzles her way in between her breasts. It briefly reminds Alana of a burrowing animal, as if Margot could crawl between her ribs to live there, next to her heart. Margot’s fingers skim her ribs, and she’s suddenly reminded how small they both are—small and fierce in such a big world made of teeth.

Alana slides her hand through Margot’s soft hair, lightly scratching at her scalp, and Margot sighs again, a full body sigh that seems to take all the tension with it. It’s a familiar tension, one they share—the burden of knowing how they are likely to die, or by whose hand. One that comes from knowing there are predators in the trees, watching them whether they love or fight, so they might as well do both while they can.

It seems silly, tonight. Silly to worry like this, to etch lines into their faces from years of furrowed brows and hushed voices. Offensive to let Hannibal fucking Lecter change them even that much, young as they are, with as much money as they have.

“It’s supposed to be sunny tomorrow,” Margot says, startling Alana, who thought she was asleep.

“Good,” Alana says. Some sun would be nice. It’s been raining for weeks. Long minutes pass before she says, “Let’s go to the beach. We’ll make a picnic, get some of that wine you like.”

“Mm,” Margot says, and Alana can’t tell if that’s agreement or simply her drifting off to sleep.

They can’t have this, Alana decides. And she means Hannibal and Will, and she means the Mason Vergers of the world, and she means anyone else who wants anything from either of them. This is hers now—this family, this life. No one will take it from her.

They’ll go to the beach.

She waits until Margot is asleep, then gets up to turn on the humidifier and check the alarms.

Chapter Text

Adam is asleep next to Nigel on the plane. Nigel had given him the window seat both so that he could watch the night sky drift by (“It’s kind of like space, isn’t it, darling?”) and so Nigel could shield him from the worst of the noise—the blowing noses and crying babies and people who won’t shut up at 1 a.m. on an airplane. Hannibal had given Adam something, some sedative to take on the plane, and so Adam isn’t looking out the window at all but sleeping against it, snoring softly with his forehead pillowed against the safety glass.

Nigel studies him in profile—the long, dark eyelashes and cheeks flushed red from too much sun. Adam snuffles and mumbles something in his sleep, and Nigel’s mouth twists into a helpless smile. It’s fucking cute. He wonders what Adam dreams of.

His lip curls when he remembers that whatever Adam dreams of, it probably isn’t him.

Nigel’s gotten Adam back. It should feel like more of a victory than it does.

He looks the same as Nigel remembers, more or less. He’s put on some weight, and the bruise-colored hollows around his eyes have disappeared. He smiles more, unfocused and happy. Unconcerned.

And for all that, Adam feels like a fucking stranger.

When Adam had suggested this trip, Nigel had leapt at the chance to get away from those creepy cannibal fucks. It’s possible he didn’t actually consider what it would be like to spend time with Adam alone, after everything. With a stranger who looks just like the kid he used to love.

* * *

Sleep won’t come for Nigel. Adam had offered one of his pills, but Nigel had declined. (“I’m not taking anything from that asshole”) Adam had pursed his lips and told Nigel he shouldn’t call Hannibal names (“He’s only trying to help”) and Nigel hadn’t apologized, but he’d promised he would try to stop. For Adam. Only for Adam.

It’s not as though he’s had much to do for the past couple months—nothing but live in that house and stay by Adam’s side—so it’s not like a night of lost sleep matters in the grand scheme of things. The dogs are nice, he supposes. The beach is nice. Costa Rica isn’t all bad. It’s just mostly fucking terrible. There, Adam should be proud of him; he’s looking on the fucking bright side.

Nigel drinks the overpriced liquor aboard the plane and leafs through the in-flight magazine. He watches some movie about birds that doesn’t make any fucking sense. He sneaks little sideways glances at Adam.

By the time the pilot announces their descent into San Francisco, the sun has started to lighten the sky. The next time Nigel glances over at the seat beside him, he finds Adam looking back. Adam reaches over—he squeezes Nigel’s hand and smiles, and Nigel tries to smile back.

Adam’s face falls. “You’re upset.”

“It’s nothing, kid.” But Adam hates being lied to, so Nigel sighs and tries again. “I just wish none of this had ever happened.”

Adam is quiet for a while. “I know you do.”

Not ‘me too.’ This kid breaks his fucking heart.

God, he needs a smoke.

Chapter Text

Will pulls back the covers on the bed, mouth dry with anticipation.

“What the fuck.

Hannibal Lecter, notorious serial killer and cannibal, is wearing a fucking Santa Claus outfit.

More precisely, he’s wearing a fucking Santa Claus outfit, snuffling softly and sleeping like a baby. He doesn’t even have the decency to wake up while Will’s brain is having a meltdown. Will briefly wonders if the encephalitis is back, because seeing your lover wrapped in cheap, holiday-themed velvet somehow seems on par with having visions of feathered stags haunting hospital rooms and the woods behind your house.

He reaches out and takes hold of the fake beard curled around the bottom half of Hannibal’s face like a dead animal. It’s scratchy under his hand, and he meanly considers yanking the elastic back as far as it’ll go and letting it snap against Hannibal’s smug, stupid face.

“You bastard,” he breathes.

They’d talked about this—about what Will was going to do tonight. It was supposed to be a Christmas present for both of them. They hadn’t talked about this, though.

As soon as he asks the question (Why the fuck—?) the answer hits him immediately. Because Hannibal is a fucking asshole, that’s why. Because one night, a couple weeks ago, they’d been having a nice evening—wine in front of the fire, both of them tipsy and flushed, secrets and affection spilling liberally between them.

“What’s your fondest holiday memory?” Hannibal had asked.

“Mm. You’re going to laugh.”

Hannibal hadn’t denied it, but he didn’t push Will either. He just looked at him with infinite understanding—all that inconvenient compassionand waited. And Will cracked and told him all of it, everything, because he was tipsy and because he wanted to trust that Hannibal wouldn’t hurt him and because, despite everything, against all reason, he loved this man with all his fucking heart.

“When I was a kid, Christmas wasn’t a big deal. It couldn’t be. We were flat broke, and there was no money for a Christmas tree or presents. I was lucky if I went to bed with a full stomach.”

“Your father didn’t have the resources to properly care for you.”

“He did his best,” Will snapped defensively, and Hannibal inclined his head in apology. “But there was one thing we did, one tradition. Every year we would go to the shopping mall in whatever city we were in, and I’d sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what I wanted for Christmas.”

“You didn’t get what you asked for.”

Will shook his head. “Nah, but that wasn’t the point. I didn’t expect to. Even at that age, I knew Santa Claus was made up.” He tilted his head, watching Hannibal through lidded eyes. “It was nice, though. For a little while I got to feel like everybody else.”

Hannibal didn’t laugh. They melted into each other and didn’t make it to the bed.

It was a nice night. A good night. And now they’re fucking here, because Hannibal is a fucking asshole, and Will isn’t allowed to have anything in his life that doesn’t somehow involve him. He balls his hands into fists. He remembers Molly, Abigail, the baby he never had. All things Hannibal had taken away from him like a petty child, and it still wasn’t enough. He wants to take this too. He wants everything.

And Will bares his teeth in a silent snarl in the dark, and he wants to hurt Hannibal. He could hurt Hannibal. That is, in fact, the entire point of this exercise.

But he can’t just rape Santa.

The thought makes him laugh, short and sharp and bitter. He claps a hand over his mouth before any more jagged laughter can spill out. Before he can wake Hannibal and put an end to their game before it’s even begun. Before this decision, too, is taken from him.

He gets on the bed before he’s made a conscious decision to do so, slow and careful, distributing his weight so the bed doesn’t creak. He’s surprised Hannibal isn’t awake by now. Will hasn’t been particularly quiet while having his own private breakdown, and Hannibal isn’t a light sleeper. He wonders if Hannibal took something that knocked him out. The thought sends a sick shiver down his spine.

He crawls over to where Hannibal is lying prone and carefully settles his knees on either side of Hannibal’s hips. He lowers himself slowly, until he’s fully seated. Hannibal still doesn’t stir, not even when Will leans forward and runs his hands down the length of his arms. Hannibal’s either faking it or he really has given himself something. Will trails his hands across Hannibal’s shoulders, down the broad expanse of his chest, and pinches his nipples through the cheap costume.

That does something.

Hannibal squirms beneath him, sighing in his sleep, so Will does it again, harder. Hard enough that Hannibal fights his way back to consciousness, blinking up at Will through a sweetly disoriented haze.

“Will?”

“Hey, baby,” Will says softly. His voice sounds different to his own ears, low and menacing. He could be anyone in the dark. He slides his hand down to cup Hannibal through his pants. His dick is soft, warm and vulnerable in Will’s hand as he squeezes lightly.

Hannibal makes a low, distressed sound that shouldn’t light Will up like it does. Will plays with him, taking a perverse pleasure in the way Hannibal doesn’t get hard.

“Don’t,” Hannibal says, words slurring together. “Please don’t.”

“Shh,” Will hushes him. “Don’t make a sound.” He presses a hand to Hannibal’s throat in warning, feeling his breath grow labored.

He’s about to slide those ridiculous pants off Hannibal’s hips, faux fur trim and all, when inspiration strikes. He gets a handful of fabric in either hand and pulls, splitting cheap seams right down the middle and making a hole just big enough for a hand to snake through. He pushes his fingers against Hannibal’s hole, dry and rough, toying with the puckered skin there.

Hannibal’s breath catches in his throat, wet and scared. Will can feel the fear radiating off him, and fuck, it’s amazing. Hannibal is amazing.

“Will, what? I don’t want—”

Will takes his fingers away and crams them in his mouth, careless in his haste. He slicks them with his own saliva, wet and messy, and sticks them through the hole in Hannibal’s ruined pants. On any other night, he’d pay careful attention to the cues of Hannibal’s body. He’d find the spots that make Hannibal’s breath quicken, push his buttons until his knees shake and he’s begging for more.

Will likes to torture Hannibal, but he prefers to do it nicely.

But not tonight.

Tonight is for something different. Tonight, he shoves his fingers into Hannibal, hard enough to punch out a hurt cry. Hannibal’s muscles are slack—muscle relaxants? He clutches weakly at Will’s shoulders while Will roughly fucks his fingers into him.

“I’ve never done this before,” Will lies. “Have you?”

Hannibal shakes his head. “Please.”

“Please what?” Will thrusts his fingers in particularly hard, nailing Hannibal’s prostate dead-on in a way he knows is too much.

It has the intended effect. Hannibal bellows. He goes stiff and clenches around Will, body trying to expel the intruder while Will stays firmly put.

“Please what?” Will asks again, soft and almost kind, drawing his fingers out to circle the rim of Hannibal’s entrance.

“Please don’t hurt me,” Hannibal says quietly.

It hits like a punch to the gut. Will groans and clambers up Hannibal’s body until he’s straddling his chest. He pushes down his pajama pants just enough to free his cock, already hard and leaking. He brings the tip to Hannibal’s mouth, smears it across his lips, against the scratchy, snow white filaments of his beard. There’s something absolutely perverse about rubbing his dick against Santa Claus.

“Then you’re going to get this nice and wet so I don’t rip you open when I shove it in your ass.” He slaps his cock against Hannibal’s cheek, and Hannibal is so good at pretending. He clamps his jaw shut and only relents when Will grabs his face and forces it open.

“Now don’t fucking bite me,” Will pants, and then he’s pushing in, sliding into the wet heat of Hannibal’s mouth.

He isn’t gentle. He shoves forward and chokes Hannibal with his cock, forcing it down the back of his throat until he gags. Hannibal never gags, but tonight he does. Tonight tears prickle at the corners of his eyes, liquid and gleaming. A wet, weak sob bubbles up while Will fucks his mouth. He’s crying, tears cutting silvery tracks down his cheeks, and Will drags this thumb through it. He brings it to his mouth and drinks the salt down, torn between wanting to close his eyes and get lost in the sensation and wanting to watch this scene play out in front of him forever.

He gasps. “Nngh, fuck. Stop. Hannibal, I’m going to come.”

But Hannibal doesn’t listen. He keeps on avidly sucking until Will drags him off his dick by the hair. He slaps Hannibal in the face once for good measure, glaring at him. Will breathes through his nose in deep, shuddering breaths while he tries to calm down. Hannibal looks utterly unrepentant, licking his lips like the cat who got the cream, and there he is—there’s the insufferably smug man that Will loves.

It makes the rest of it easier, when Will slides back down Hannibal’s body and hooks his arms under Hannibal’s knees. When he wrenches Hannibal’s legs wider and settles between them.

“You’re going to fucking get it,” Will growls.

“What did I do?” Hannibal asks softly, broken and hurt, and fuck.

“You know what you fucking did.”

Will rips the hole in Hannibal’s ridiculous pants wider. He lines himself up by feel and pushes forward, breaching Hannibal’s body in one long, rough slide. They both groan at the feeling. Will braces himself over Hannibal and hangs his head. Their foreheads touch, and they rest against each other, just for a moment.

And then he moves, snapping his hips in an unforgiving rhythm that slams the headboard against the wall and drags animal sounds from them both.

“You know what you fucking did,” he pants. “You couldn’t just let me have it, could you? Not one fucking thing, not even my goddamn childhood.

Hannibal’s heels dig into his ass, urging him closer as his little grunts and moans unspool Will from the inside.

“Selfish,” Will hisses. “You want all of me all for yourself, none for anyone else. Not even me.”

“Yes,” Hannibal says, eyes glittering in the dark, fierce and possessive.

“Fuck you,” Will snarls.

He’s been on the edge of orgasm all night, a hair trigger since he saw Hannibal wearing that stupid fucking costume. He means to pull out, to come all over the hateful red velvet, to make an unholy mess of Hannibal, but Hannibal won’t even let him have that. He clamps his arms and legs around Will, holding him in place. Will bites into his neck and groans against his skin, and Hannibal’s body takes everything he has to give.

Chapter Text

Jack hates winter.

He didn’t always. He used to enjoy it, the way the snow blanketed everything, turning it white and muffling it all. The world was quieter then, nothing but the quiet crunch of snow under footfalls that barely echoed. He’d loved to spend evenings inside with Bella, sipping wine while they looked out the window, pausing the movie and bickering about whose turn it was to get up and refill the popcorn. (His turn—it was somehow always his turn, even when it wasn’t. He didn’t really mind. He never really minded losing to Bella.)

He doesn’t remember winter being this cold.

Maybe he’s just getting old. He swears he can feel the chill seeping into every one of his bones, the wet cold stiffening his joints and making old injuries scream along nerve endings.

They’d suggested he get a dog, they being his therapist, before he’d stopped seeing one, and the next door neighbors who know him as Bella’s widower—Bella was always better with people than he was. He hasn’t gotten any friendlier now that she’s gone, but he smiles at the Martinells whenever he sees them in the yard. He sees them more, lately, now that he has to walk this dog, rain or shine or fucking snow.

Get a dog, they said. It’ll be good for you to have something to focus on (now that you lost your job). It’ll be nice for you to have some company (now that your wife is dead).

He waits for the dog to do its business and stamps his feet, trying to return some feeling to his toes.

* * *

Get a dog, they said.

He’s pretty sure no one meant ‘get Will Graham’s dog.’ One of his dogs. He has guilt over what happened to Will, but not enough guilt to take in the entire pack. Not that much space, either. He doesn’t have the acreage for a whole herd of dogs. Hell, he doesn’t have a yard. He doesn’t even like dogs very much.

But Mrs. Graham had been loading the dogs into her car the last time he’d seen her, when they all still thought that perhaps Will would come home (after Jack was on the ropes, professionally speaking, but before he got fired).

“Taking the dogs out?” Jack asked.

Molly shook her head, swatting her bangs out of her face. “Taking them to the pound. I’m done with strays.”

Jack stood silent, taking that in as Mrs. Graham wrangled the last of the dogs into the sensible, midsize van.

He doesn’t know what possessed him to ask, “Can I take one?”

Molly cocked an eyebrow, hands on her hips, impatient and ready to be done with all of it. Jack could relate. “Are the dogs evidence or something?”

“No, nothing like that.” He smiled a little, wry. “People have been telling me I should get a dog.”

“Ah.” Molly leaned against the car, knowing. “Have they told you that you should take up a hobby too?”

“Fishing,” Jack said with a grimace.

Molly laughed, clear and bright in the cold morning sun. “Fucking fishing. I don’t know if I can ever eat another fish again, to tell you the truth.” She chewed her lip, studying him with tired eyes. Finally, she sighed and opened the door to the backseat. “Take your pick.”

Jack had ended up with a dog named Winston.

“Take care of yourself, Mrs. Graham,” Jack said the last time he ever saw her.

“Yeah,” Molly said, slamming the car door behind her. “I will.”

Jack watched her drive off down the road, until her van disappeared around a bend. She looked so tired.

“It’s just you and me now, buddy,” Jack tells Winston on the drive back to Maryland. He expected it to feel strange, talking to a dog, but he just finds it comforting.

Winston cocks his head in the passenger seat beside him, and Jack could almost swear that he understands.

* * *

Jack has never been a particularly quiet man. Bella tried to get him into meditation at one point, but he was never great at sitting still. Not when there was so much work to do, so many criminals to catch, so many employees needing direction.

He should have taken the time. He wishes he had, now. For her, he wishes he had.

But he didn’t, and old habits die hard. He no longer has a department of federal agents at his disposal, so instead he starts talking to the dog. He’s got to hand it to the people who wouldn’t shut up about him needing a canine companion—it actually does help. At the very least, it keeps him from feeling crazy. If you spend all day talking to yourself, you have a problem; if you spend it talking with a dog, you’re eccentric. He wonders if that’s how Will felt, why he kept so many goddamn dogs.

Winston is a good listener.

“Did you know, buddy?” Jack asks as he steadily makes his way through a bottle of bourbon in front of the fire. “Could you tell that he was—” What? A murderer? The biggest failure of my entire career, a ticking time bomb waiting to go off? “In love?”

Winston woofs softly.

“Yeah,” Jack says, ruffling his fur and scratching behind his ears. “Me too.”

Chapter Text

Snowflakes fall against Molly’s windshield as she drives home from the pound. The silence in the car is deafening, comforting and accusatory by turns.

You gave up the dogs.

Yeah. She did.

The dogs didn’t do anything wrong.

Yeah, they didn’t. They’re good dogs. They’ll get taken in by good families soon enough—they’re clean and well-trained, cute and friendly. Or they won’t, and that’ll be someone else’s problem. Molly is tired, tired all the way down to her bones. Let someone else take care of the strays for once.

She leans into the silence, letting it wrap itself around her like wings. She drives back home, toward Wally and Lady, the spaniel mix they’d bought from a pet store before all of this started. Back when she was still Molly Foster, and Will Graham was somebody else’s problem.

She sighs and leans her head against the steering wheel at a stoplight.

Wally will be disappointed, she knows. He’d liked the dogs.

Maybe it’s selfish, but she doesn’t want him to like dogs too much. Doesn’t want him to grow up to be the kind of man who owns seven of them, with a shy smile that cracks around the edges, with a whiskey habit and just enough charm to reel in a woman who’s inexplicably drawn to broken things.

She doesn’t want him to grow up to be the kind of man who thinks of someone else in bed, who stares into fires at things only he can see, who startles when that woman moves with too little warning, who comes like a freight train when she touches a scar on his body that belongs to somebody else.

No, Molly doesn’t want Wally to grow up to be a man like that at all.

She finds an alt-rock station and cranks the radio up so loud that she can’t even think. She white-knuckles the steering wheel all the way home.

Chapter Text

Will rests his head against Hannibal’s shoulder. “Kind of a miracle, isn’t it? That we’ve ended up here.”

“A miracle suggests that God had anything to do with it.”

“Oh, I forgot. You only believe in the God of church collapses. It doesn’t count if twenty praying grandmothers aren’t dying.”

Hannibal smiles. “You know, some physicists theorize that there are infinite realities. A veritable multiverse of possibilities, the choices we make branching out and spiraling into forever. In some worlds we live, in some we die.”

“Your kitchen in Baltimore,” Will says, pressing his hand against a phantom ache in his belly, a long-healed scar.

“My cell in the hospital for the criminally insane.”

“Dolarhyde.”

“The cliff.”

Will laughs and shakes his head. “Infinite you and infinite me. What a nightmare.”

Will feels Hannibal nod against the side of his cheek. He pulls away to look at Hannibal’s face, warm and charming and so well-loved.

“Do you think we’re together in all of them?” Will asks.

“If I have any say in it,” Hannibal says, pressing a kiss to the top of Will’s head.

Will smiles to himself. “Sounds nice.”