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The soap is smooth and cool as it slides past his lips, made slick as it encounters his saliva. The taste is wretched. Bitter and astringent with notes of cloying perfume and a horrifying sweetness. Hannibal fights the urge to gag.

He’s naked on his hands and knees, exposed on the bathroom floor. The fluorescent lights beating down from above seem to add insult to injury as Will kneels before him, fully clothed, glorying in his power over Hannibal.

Their relationship is an ever-shifting thing, full of swirling eddies of resentment and devotion, care and malice. Right now, Hannibal loves and hates him in equal measure.

Will slides the soap as far in as it will go, until the knuckle of his thumb brushes the bow of Hannibal’s lips.

“Suck on it,” Will says, and Hannibal does, pursing his lips around the bar of soap and drawing more of the vile taste forth.

Will strokes a hand down the length of his spine, from nape to tailbone. He does it again and again, dark eyes trained on Hannibal the entire time. Hannibal shivers under his regard, feels his cock begin to stir in interest despite—or rather because of—the unfortunate position he finds himself in.

If he could feel shame, Hannibal thinks, now would probably be the time.

As it stands, he cannot, although he can feel other things—the radiant cold of the tile floor seeping into his fingers and making them ache, the bite of grout into his kneecaps. The sharp sting of Will’s hand as it comes down on his bare ass, seemingly bored of stroking Hannibal like an animal. The sudden impact jars the slippery soap free, and it falls wetly to the floor, denting against the porcelain.

“Pick it up,” Will says.

Hannibal reaches out a hand, unthinking, and earns himself another slap on the rear.

“Not with your hands.”

Hannibal bares his teeth in a snarl, playing his part without intentionally committing to it. He considers resisting. Considers seeing what Will would do, if he would be moved to further violence—if perhaps he would force Hannibal’s head down himself, grind it into the bathroom floor that’s still damp from his shower.

Neither of them move. Will waits, arms crossed and leaning against the counter. The message is clear—I can do this all day. Can you?

Hannibal could stand up. He could brush past Will and rinse out his mouth, put on his clothes and go about his day. There was an open air market he’d wanted to explore today; he could invite Will to join him. They could pretend this never happened—Will would allow it, he’s sure of it.

But Will would close himself off, shuttering in on himself—this would be a part of him that Hannibal would not be allowed to see, and that’s intolerable. He wants all of Will, constantly. Each lick of cruelty and every scrap of kindness.

Hannibal does as he’s told. He crawls forward until he can lower himself to the ground, grabbing at the soap with his teeth. It’s more difficult than he anticipated. The bar slides free whenever he touches it, until he’s reduced to lipping at it, licking along the floor like a fool.

He looks over at Will, who is watching him with parted lips and red-flushed cheeks. His erection ruins the line of his pants, tenting the front obscenely. The sight of him almost makes up for the thick taste of soap coating Hannibal’s tongue.

Hannibal bends to his task once more, keeping his eyes on Will for as long as he can, until the angle means he must look away. He grips the soap with his teeth, enamel pulling curls of soap away, which he does his best not to swallow.

Will is pleased, a smile crinkling his eyes at the corners. He crosses the bathroom floor to run a hand through Hannibal’s hair, and it’s utterly unlike every way Will has touched him before. It’s not the wondering reverence Will sometimes takes on when he’s too sated, too pleased to remember that he shouldn’t, nor is it the cruel way he handles Hannibal when he knows them both too sharply.

Will tousles his hair like Hannibal has seen him do with his dogs, careless and rough with affection. An easy gesture fraught with nothing.

“Good,” Will says. “Good boy.”

A gasp is punched out of him, and Hannibal remembers just in time to keep his teeth clamped around his prize.

Will opens his hand under Hannibal’s nose, and Hannibal drops the soap into his waiting palm. He’s beginning to find the edges of this game Will has chosen for the both of them, to understand what is required of him. It satisfies in an uncomplicated way, to be called good so easily. To have to do so little to earn it.

Will wears a thoughtful look for a moment. He considers the soap in his hand, and Hannibal wonders what he’ll do. If he’ll ask Hannibal to put it back in his mouth, choosing to draw out the childish torment for a while longer. He sees the moment Will comes to a decision, a subtle shift in his eyes before he stands and sets the soap on the bathroom counter.

He picks up one of the small glasses on the counter and fills it from the tap, while Hannibal watches from below. He wavers, unsure, while Will washes his hands and dries them, unhurried and unconcerned.

Should he stand up?

Does Will expect that he will? Does he expect that he won’t?

While he’s still debating, muscles strung tight with tension, Will sinks back to the floor and presses the rim of the glass to Hannibal’s lips.

“Drink.”

Hannibal does without hesitation. It means he ingests more soap than he otherwise would, and that’s likely to upset his stomach in the future, but for now it clears the retched taste from his mouth. Will smiles at him and strokes the hair back from his forehead, and he feels so grateful—there’s another strange, uncomplicated emotion.

The bitter afterbite of soap remains even after he’s drained the glass and Will has set it somewhere behind them, and his tongue feels thick and dry, but it feels completely natural to press closer to Will’s touch, butting his head into a gentle hand.

Will hums with approval, sitting on the bathroom floor heedless of the cold and damp. He opens his arms to Hannibal, and Hannibal crawls to him.

He’s bigger than Will, and older—far too old to be crawling around on the floor like a child—but he nestles into Will’s lap all the same, and he finds it in himself to feel comforted. Safe. As if the circle of Will’s arms could right all the ills that plague them both, as if it could ward off the scrutiny of Interpol. As if it could solve anything at all.

It’s pleasant to dream that it’s so.

He sits in Will’s lap, too-long limbs and reddened knees that he must be careful don’t hit either of them in the face. He cradles his head into the scratchy wool covering Will’s chest, sighing when Will tucks his chin over Hannibal’s head. He strokes his hand down Hannibal’s back, over his hair, his face, his ears, leaving no part untouched.

Hannibal lets himself be soothed.

“You know I love you, don’t you?” Will asks.

Hannibal could answer. He might, in a little while.

In a while, he’ll have words. He’ll put his clothes on, invite Will to that market on Vineyard. There’s a recipe he’d like to try for dinner, but it can wait a while more.

For now, he holds onto this tenuous peace, rare and fragile as sugar.

Yes spools out between them, unspoken and clear.