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Sin Eater

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“Motherfucker! Cocksucking fucking assholes. I want my fucking lawyer! I know my rights!”

Will blinks tired eyes open with a sigh. He’s not alone in the holding cell. Of the other two men who are in here with him, one looks crumpled and scared. He’s barely more than a kid, looks like he’s probably still in college. The kid sinks in on himself, sliding down into his seat like he’s hoping to disappear while the other man—the drunk that keeps shouting—gets in his face. He cringes away, and the drunk keeps yelling, and Will closes his eyes.

He’s not sure how long has passed by the time a bland, faceless guard tells him he’s free to go. The reason why is trailing behind him.

Beverly looks at him with a closed-off expression, everything she’s thinking walled in behind tight lips.

“Go ahead and say it,” he says as she eyes his bruised knuckles, still crusted with blood, his and Hannibal’s.

“Do I have to say it?” she asks.

“No,” he says eventually.

They make it though the double doors of the police station and out into the parking lot before she huffs. “You fucked Hannibal up really bad, you know that?”

“That was kind of the idea.”

She purses her lips and narrows her eyes, and Will resigns himself to finding his own way back home. Homehe’s not terribly sure where that is these days. At this point, home probably means Wolf Trap and not Hannibal’s house in Baltimore, where he’s been spending most of his time for the last several months. At least Wolf Trap is in the same state. He’s lucky he got arrested in Quantico and not Baltimore.

She sighs. “Get in the car, Will.”

He does. His hand aches as he closes it around the handle of the car door, and there’s a twinge in his hip when he sits down. A memory unspools behind his eyelids when he closes them—Hannibal slamming him against the wall when Will had wrapped his hands around Hannibal’s throat and started to squeeze the life out of him. His hip had gotten clipped on the edge of his desk on the way down. That was before he’d beat the shit out of Hannibal’s face with his bare hands.

They drive in silence. The display on the clock reads 10:42. Bands of light illuminate the car in flashes as they drive under streetlamps.

“Hannibal’s decided not to press charges.”

“Good for Hannibal,” Will says.

Trees skitter by in a blur, and they pass a Ramada Inn on their way onto the I-95.

“It’s not funny, Will. What were you thinking?”

He knows it’s not funny. Nothing about this is funny.

He glances at her, illuminated by fleeting flashes of light, trying so hard to be a good friend. She’s a good person, he realizes. He’s always known it in an abstract way, but right now he knows, can feel it in a visceral way—that Beverly Katz is fundamentally a good person. Sharp and kind. Good. Not like Hannibal. Not like him.

If Will was a good person, he would turn Hannibal in. He would point the finger at him, the man responsible for the Chesapeake Ripper murders. Beverly wouldn’t believe him at first, but she would eventually. Even if Hannibal cleaned up the basement before an investigation team arrived, they would find evidence eventually. Will could make him pay for all the lives he stole.

“You wouldn’t understand,” Will says.

He leans his forehead against the cool glass of the passenger window, and Beverly’s silence is so loud.

* * *

Will doesn’t say anything about Hannibal being the Chesapeake Ripper. Not to Beverly, not to anyone. Price and Zeller exchange looks when he comes by the lab to consult on a case. The unnatural hush that falls over the room when he walks in leaves him no doubt as to what they were all talking about moments before—unstable Will Graham who finally lost his shit and beat the hell out of his perfectly nice boyfriend. Even Jack looks at him like a dog that pissed on the carpet.

Seeing Alana is the worst of it. She’s cold the next time they bump into one another, judgment written clear across her face. He wonders if she’ll bring it up, and he gets his answer when she corners him in a hallway, face full of righteous anger.

“I don’t care what’s going on with you. If you hurt Hannibal, I swear to God, I’ll kill you. Hannibal is my friend.”

He laughs, and she looks at him like he’s lost his mind. Like she’s seeing him for the first time. Like she hates him.

She would laugh too, if she knew just how funny it all was. Her well-meant bravado is hilarious in light of the way Hannibal himself would likely gut Will if he ever hurt him. As if the goddamn Chesapeake Ripper needs any help committing fucking homicide. Hannibal would probably eat his heart.

But she only sees what Hannibal wants her to see, and so Will is the villain in this story.

He could make it all go away if he just told the truth, but he keeps his mouth shut instead. ‘My boyfriend is the Chesapeake Ripper’ has a horrible ring to it.

He becomes the sin eater for a serial killer by default. Inaction is a decision all its own. The knowledge of what Hannibal is burrows under his skin like a chigger, needling him from the inside, making him itch and writhe.

It’s hardly a surprise when he finds himself back in Hannibal’s driveway not a week later.

For the first couple nights after the incident, he’d laid in bed awake, expecting Hannibal to come creeping into his house in the dead of night. Waiting for Hannibal to kill him, really. When that hadn’t happened, he’d expected a phone call. A text message. Something. Instead, he’d gotten nothing but radio silence, and now he’s here. He’d driven here on autopilot, body still drawn to a recognized source of comfort even while his head is screaming.

Will lets the engine idle, giving himself a last chance to change his mind. To go to Jack. To do the right thing.

He puts the car in park and turns off the ignition.

When it comes down to it, he’s here for the same reason he ended up in jail, for the same reason he’d slugged Hannibal in the middle of a deserted Quantico classroom—because he loves Hannibal too much to turn him in, but hates him just enough to make him pay—in blood, if necessary.

Will doesn’t bother knocking, just opens the door and lets himself in. He had always assumed that Hannibal’s unlocked door was a European idiosyncrasy—a trust in his neighbors, maybe, or else a certain privileged thoughtlessness. Hannibal lives in a good neighborhood; it wasn’t so farfetched to think that perhaps he had come to rely on it for protection. Will used to lock Hannibal’s door at night when he stayed over. He’d assumed he was protecting him; he’d felt good about it. Useful. Proud.

A fuller understanding takes shape in his mind now. The last puzzle piece clicks into place, and now Will can see the shape of the whole—Hannibal didn’t leave his door unlocked out of naivete or goodwill toward man. He left it open the way a hunter lays a trap, the way a cat chirps at its prey.

Step into my parlor, said the spider to the fly.

The wool has been pulled away from Will’s eyes, and now everything is so horribly, vividly bright.

The inside of Hannibal’s house looks no different than it did before Will had known the truth of him. It’s illuminated by the soft glow of ornate lamps. The scent of braised meat hangs heavy in the air, savory and inviting. Will doesn’t know what he expected. Bloody limbs hanging from the walls? A villainous cackle echoing down the hall? It’s a childish expectation, that the space would be changed just because his understanding of Hannibal has.

Speak of the devil. He finds Hannibal pouring two glasses of wine in the kitchen, and something bitter and dark stirs inside him. He imagines Alana comforting Hannibal, soft and tender-hearted, smoothing a hand over the split skin of his cheek.

“Am I interrupting something?” Will asks.

“Not at all,” Hannibal says, smiling at Will as though he still has any right. He holds one of the glasses out to Will, who takes it after the barest moment of hesitation. “I’m afraid you’ve caught me after dinner, however. I’d have had something prepared had you come a little earlier. I can warm up some leftovers, if you like. Pörkölt reheats well.”

“Don’t do this,” Will says.

Hannibal’s head tips to the side, exposing a pale length of skin mottled in hues of blue and purple. Will remembers all the times he’s kissed his way down it. He remembers the feel of it bruising beneath his hands.

“Do what?” Hannibal asks.

“Pretend. That everything is the same, that nothing has to change. Don’t.”

Hannibal inclines his head, face unreadable. They both sip their wine.

Hannibal breaks the silence first. “You didn’t tell Uncle Jack. Why is that?”

Will sets his wine on the counter and steps closer. Hannibal doesn’t flinch, not even when Will crowds into his space and brings a hand to his throat, fitting his fingers into the imprints he’d left behind like a gory map.

“Have you come to finish what you started?” Hannibal asks.

He looks as calm as if he were elaborating upon a dish, as though he were discussing the weather, but Will knows him now. He sees. He hears the slight catch in Hannibal’s breath when he squeezes his neck. He feels the pulse beating beneath his hand.

“Shut up,” Will says. He grabs Hannibal’s throat punishingly tight and slots their mouths together. He jams his hand down the front of Hannibal’s pants.

Hannibal comes alive as though he’s been waiting for this. His hands are frantic as they haul Will closer, kneading the flesh of his ass, digging into the bruise on his hip with unerring accuracy. He drags Will closer until they might as well be one thing. One monstrous, horrible creature dying phoenix-like in the ashes. Everywhere they touch feels like burning.

They kiss in a flurry of teeth. When Hannibal starts to choke for air, Will licks the desperate gasps from his mouth. He only lets go when Hannibal bites his lip hard enough to punch through the skin.

Hannibal pulls back, wheezing and bloody-mouthed, and Will’s heart squeezes in his chest.

He’s in love, and it’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to him.

* * *

“They all think I’m a monster. That I assaulted you.”

“You did,” Hannibal says placidly.

Will gives him a look. “You know what I mean.”

Hannibal wraps his arms around Will and tries to draw him closer. Will resists at first, but Hannibal is insistent, and eventually he caves, allowing Hannibal to pull him back into a naked embrace. Hannibal presses kisses into the back of Will’s neck, nosing at the hairs that curl around his nape.

Will stares into the fuzzy dark. He imagines he can see any answers there. “They think there’s anything I could do to you that you wouldn’t deserve. That you could ever be innocent of any of it.”

“Does one crime excuse another?” Hannibal isn’t goading him, isn’t trying to guilt him. He’s genuinely asking, trying to map the lay of Will’s morality.

Will sucks his lip into his mouth, feeling the throbbing ache where Hannibal bit him. He worries at it, drawing hurt from the wound like sucking marrow from a bone.

“There’s no excusing this. What we are.”

“We?” Hannibal asks. Will doesn’t miss the note of hope in his voice, plaintive and vulnerable.

Will can’t bring himself to say the words. Some things are too horrible to be said out loud. He pulls Hannibal closer and kisses the thin skin of his black eye.