In the heart of the Tuscan countryside, Will and Hannibal take residence in a semi-detached three bedroom house made up of terracotta floors of chestnut accents, from the overhangs to the shutters. There are two dense chimneys which loom over the roof and a quaint pool located by the back entrance. Buster entertains himself by madly circling it to chase the wildlife, squirrels and muskrats. Their neighbors’ properties are no bigger than dots in the distance, and the province of Florence requires a mere ten minute drive into the urban sectors. Will can linger on the second story balcony and feel safe and not high-up in the slightest, while also recognizing the vast space of his new home. Hannibal knows to find him on the balcony on quiet nights, when Will eats their Italian-style dinner with no more than a smile, reminiscent of America.
He isn’t homesick.
With the luxury he’s been granted, and a lifetime appointed with the love of his life, Will doesn’t imagine feeling that way could become a possibility, but he wonders about the smaller things. Beverly. The politics of pornography. The dog park he’d take Buster once in a blue moon.
The panoramic view of the Tuscan hills calms Will when he finds himself restless. Hannibal will insist on giving him a massage and kneading away creaking knots in his muscles during such affairs, and Will wakes up every morning after feeling revitalized and tasting wine on the air.
Hannibal brews his own wine. It’s a hobby he’s taken up, harvesting and fermenting what he reaps. The first time they share a bottle is in the eleventh month following their arrival. Will crinkles his nose over his glass and Hannibal blinks fast.
“I suppose I could have further aged it,” Hannibal admits, and Will’s almost positive it’s the first time he’s heard Hannibal admit he’s less than subpar at something.
He kisses him, and Hannibal returns the favor on his ring finger.
Around the same time, Hannibal emerges from his study one morning and hands Will a heavy black key. Will never has time to ask questions anymore; Hannibal always knows what’s on his mind.
“The empty room you asked for,” he explains. “I finally had the extra study cleaned out. To do with what you wish, my dear. I hope it offers enough space.”
Will holds back a smirk and twiddles the key around in his fingers.
“I am sure it’ll be all I need.”
Will primes his new project with the stipulation that he wants its construction to be a surprise, so Hannibal gifts him with a credit card that will offer anonymity when it comes to payments. For now, Will can buy any furniture or décor he desires for the new room without Hannibal knowing.
He does, spending well over a thousand dollars while knowing it could barely amount to a dent in Hannibal’s finances. Hannibal raises a brow at the sum one morning, nose in his tablet, but he is amused, not chastising. He’d likely support any vision of his husband’s.
Will takes to spending Tuesdays and Thursdays screwdriving and hammering away in the appointed room, with the door shut and locked, despite Hannibal often taking the time away to go to the gym and work out, using the wider pool there for laps rather than their own.
In the evenings, Will resurfaces from the mysterious space to find dinner on the table. Hannibal is much like a housewife in this respect, but Will knows never to share that sentiment with him. He simply makes love to Hannibal on those nights. As long as it takes to drive a begging moan from the older man’s throat. He loves to hear Hannibal beg. It might be his favorite pastime.
Hannibal only asks about the room once. Three months into its construction.
Will smiles behind the morning paper and over a cup of sugary coffee Hannibal treats him to every weekend. On weekdays, he just serves it black.
“Nosey,” Will reminds.
“I ask because you’ve filched my buzzsaw for your purposes.”
“Shouldn’t have been keeping your buzzsaw in a kitchen drawer,” Will shoots back, taking a prim sip of his coffee. “Thought I was doing you a favor.”
“Perhaps I prefer my meat serrated.”
Will raises a brow at that, but no further accusations are tossed.
Will knew right when they arrived Hannibal was going to drag him across every inch of Florence, rural pastures included. And he does, though it surprises Will that their first few months are spent indoors, Hannibal even frowning upon Will joining him on short expeditions to the grocers.
He finds out soon enough Hannibal is more than a control freak. He’s a control psychopath. Will finds his schedule in his desk drawer one day after a spiteful scrutinization of his personal possessions within the study. Hannibal has an introductory week planned, down to the minute, of how he will present Florence to Will in all its glory. He wants to overwhelm Will all at once with glitz and glam, the most beautiful sights he will ever see in his lifetime.
He doesn’t put up much of a fuss after that, somewhat endeared by Hannibal’s nitpicking. When he finally does drive Will into the city, Will makes a show of being thoroughly impressed. It isn’t difficult, nor does he need to fake his reactions. The sights are truly beautiful, even if he’s more inspired to revel in them for his husband’s sake. Hannibal is in his element in Florence, and while Will can’t say the same of himself, he’s satisfied in any paradise with a stream close by and the person who can make it all, all the pain and sorrow of his meager existence, go away.
Will is particularly struck by the Uffizi Gallery.
When he sits on the bench in front of the Primavera with Hannibal at his side, hand in hand with him, he is awash with deja vu so potent he feels dizzy.
“I feel as if I have drawn this a hundred times, in a thousand lifetimes each,” Hannibal murmurs, eyes glued to the painting. Will has never seen him look so enthralled with an inanimate object.
“I feel like I’ve watched you do it,” Will whispers back.
Hannibal nods in understanding, and rearranges their interlocked hands so they rest over his thigh. He squeezes gently and Will lightly scrapes his nails over the other man’s knuckles.
“Will you ever make me pasta primavera?” Will asks in a teasing lilt.
Heartily, Hannibal laughs and nods again.
“Anytime you wish.”
They gaze at the Botticelli painting for a long while. Maybe their time at the gallery amounted to hours. Will isn’t sure why; they could visit this any day, any time, and it would be waiting for them.
When tourists begin hovering and muttering threads of unoriginal commentary, Will’s consciousness stirs and he takes one last, lengthy glance at the painting before Hannibal directs him out of the room. Mine, he thinks, as he always thinks of Hannibal. Ours.
Though nothing quite matches their wedding night, they screw their brains out regularly. Insatiably. Nearly every day, but sometimes they go more than a few without, content with nothing but one another’s company, losing time by the minute. Will wakes up to Hannibal sucking his cock one cool, autumn morning and breathlessly comes down his throat in seconds with a harsh grunt, grinning like a fool who discovered fool’s gold when Hannibal’s mouth searches his own. After the fact, Will asks, “What was that for?”
“It occurred to me when I woke, we haven’t copulated in eight days.”
A disapproving note rattles out of Will and he rolls Hannibal onto his back, wrapping a calloused hand around his husband’s cock. Whatever the reason, Hannibal is more sensitive this particular morning and gasps out Will’s name like a mantra by the time he spills over his fist.
That’s when Will realizes how worked up Hannibal has been getting.
They haven’t discussed therapy, sex, cognitive, or otherwise. Hannibal hasn’t spoken up about any need to see a psychiatrist, but Will would be all ears if he did.
It causes something similar to anxiety to marinate low in Will’s gut, so he’s incited to spend more time on his passion project, hammering and drilling louder than the construction necessitates. It helps him work out his stress and he can only hope the laps Hannibal is cutting through the water at the gym sufficiently eases his own perpetual disquiet.
Their sex generally remains vanilla except for the few instances Will asks for a hand curled around his throat or Hannibal becomes restive enough to warrant a tender spanking session. Will wants to tell him of his plans, his thoughts, his ideas, but he knows now isn’t the time.
Little over a year has passed, and Will still needs time.
To gather his nerves and his faculties, and to finish building.
They experience a single argument in fourteen months.
Progressively, the honeymoon phase naturally fizzles out. The love of course remains intact, and he doesn’t regret marrying Hannibal and running off with him. He doesn’t even regret the manner in which they left, wreaking chaos and leaving innocent bystanders to deal with the rubble. It’s the feeling of being wrong about himself and feeling trapped because of it. He harbors doubts about if he’ll be enough for Hannibal in the long run, if he’ll ever be able to take the leap over the last of his mental forts, just to sate his husband’s inner beast. If it’s worth it.
He takes it out on Hannibal and his nature.
Hannibal’s patience when it comes to Will’s volatile irrationality is rather low, as Will is often quite rational, and is only irrational when he wants to incense him in a self-destructive manner.
Perhaps a part of him thinks Hannibal will finally snap and dominate him, that he won’t have to make the choice to let him in the end, and Hannibal will just do a favor by giving into their game.
He doesn’t get that.
After a debate that turned into an argument which escalated into Will shouting and Hannibal snarling but keeping himself even-toned, Hannibal had not lashed out. He had taken the car and left Will alone in the house, in the countryside, with nothing but Buster to keep him company.
“Coward,” Will spits out over a third glass of bourbon.
No one is there to heed his bitter foul-mouth.
“Since when do you run away?” Will shouts an hour later, slurring at the door which had been slammed shut by Hannibal on his way out. “Hurt me like you wanted to you bastard!”
He tosses his drink at the door and the glass shatters all over the welcome mat. The bourbon spills down the chestnut door, matching its color.
Will collapses to his knees in the living room and waits.
When Hannibal returns, Will is hugging his legs to his chest and staring at where the barstools in their kitchen meet the grain on the floor. He’s still morbidly drunk.
“Bastard,” Will mutters childishly. The words lack any fight.
Hannibal doesn’t speak. He crosses the room in his morning coat and boots and haltingly kneels before Will, reaching out with gentle hands to raise Will’s chin up and surround his cheeks with those mesmerizing, firm, tactile palms.
“You cannot goad me into hurting you, my love,” he whispers.
Will’s throat tightens. “What if I’m not enough?”
“A parched man does not happen upon a freshwater stream and claim it is not enough,” Hannibal says, resulting in Will dragging him forward by his lapels and crashing their lips together.
They shared what averagely might be called ‘make-up sex’ in the aftermath. Will’s head was warm from the alcohol, and Hannibal’s skin was cold from the autumn air. They came together, propped up in the center of the bed with Will in Hannibal’s lap, grinding so softly, their stomachs rubbing and brushing, it’s a wonder either of them managed to get off. Will had felt the liquid rush between them and gripped his husband so tight he knew he would bruise.
Waking up the next morning with their heads resting at the foot of the bed, Hannibal’s legs dangling off an edge, and Will tangled in sheets, they laugh.
Will caresses the bite mark on his neck and sighs.
Buster wears bowties.
Will was never one to coerce him into a collar, but when Hannibal allows Buster to join them on city trips, Hannibal insists on the bowtie collars he purchased. Buster’s favorite is the chocolate brown plaid bow that lies perky on his neck.
“My little gentleman,” Hannibal muses one evening when Buster properly pissed in the park rather than atop pristine Florentine pavement.
Will grins and intertwines their hands.
Their dog adores the hills outside their property. Will often sits on the patio out back, amused as Buster bounds up and down the rises of land. Hannibal will occasionally join, emerging from the house with trays of tea and biscuits. They are always sweet and melt on Will’s tongue. And, if he adds the homemade butter, he may very well faint.
“What do you think about a second dog?” Will jokes one afternoon as they do just that. Hannibal sips at his Darjeeling and takes the question very seriously.
“My limit is two.”
“What, you’re serious?”
“You must allow me to choose my own…mutt. If you are serious.”
Will hadn’t been, but now he is.
They end up adopting a dapple grey-coated Dachshund from a local animal foster home. It’s owned by a man who rescues pets from bad homes or unhealthy situations and holds them as long as he can before he must relocate them to the pound. Hannibal chats purposefully with the seller, as the man is apparently well acquainted with scholars from the Florence Academy of Fine Arts. Hannibal certainly made his rounds as a youngster when it came to acquainting himself with high society. Will ignores them and plays with their new dog on the man’s porch.
She smells like sweat and grass.
Will knows why Hannibal picked her.
The pattern of her spots look more like an array of flowers. She is unique and pleasing to the eye, as well as being tiny. The fosterer tells them both that she is only two years old.
On their drive back home, Will strokes his fingers down her long back and ponders names. Nothing stands out to him so he turns to Hannibal and says, “I know you’ve got one. Spit it out already.”
“Flora,” Hannibal responds, not taking his eyes off the road. “The roman goddess of spring. The Primavera depicts her transformation from nymph to goddess, an eternal life bearer.”
“Named after the Primavera.” Will whistles, quirking a smile at Flora’s little yawn. Ours, he thinks again. “What a lucky girl.”
“I am quite sure our goddess and Buster Keaton will get along famously.”
Will snorts. Hannibal has taken to using Buster’s full name, not that Will ever considered that his full name. But, he enjoys it too much to tell Hannibal to stop.
He is right. They do get along famously.
Will’s heart strains one afternoon when he finds the two of them curled up together on the beige living room couch. He stares adoringly for a period before he shoos them away, knowing Hannibal will have a fit if he finds their pets on the furniture.
He whips out a lint roller for good measure.
He’d be loath to forget Hannibal’s control-freak pathology.
Both of them avoid news from home for a long time.
Beverly isn’t angry when months into their settling down, he finally bites the bullet and calls her. She apparently assumed they were on an extremely overly long honeymoon, and she’s been distracted since she’s been dating herself. Suspiciously, she’s reluctant to share details.
“Hannibal hasn’t said anything?” she asks, as if dumbfounded.
Will looks in the direction of the kitchen where he can hear pots and pans being rearranged and says carefully, “I didn’t know you were friendly with him.”
“No, not really. I’m not, actually, but…”
Will sits up and holds the phone closer to his ear. He suddenly experiences a violently vivid revelation, and can’t help but cluck his tongue in amusement.
“Have you seen Chiyoh lately, Bev?”
“Shut up, listen, I thought she might have told him already. Maybe don’t say anything to him? I don’t know if she wants him to know, damn, you’d think I’d stop royally fucking up one of these days – ”
“Trust me, she’ll want him to know. From what I’ve heard, she never calls him even though they’re close. Got some communication issues in the Lecter family.”
“Yeah, it takes lineman’s pliers to get her to open up. If you tell him and she gets mad, I’m blaming you. Just pre-warning,” Bev lets him know. Sincerely, he laughs.
“I’ll take the hit,” he promises.
They chat for a while longer, gossiping about the Lecter family. He feels dirty doing so, but he knows Hannibal deserves to be humbled, if just a pinch. He hears stories starring Chiyoh he never could have imagined considering how stone-cold she had presented herself.
Beverly sounds happy. Will finds himself relieved at that.
“Are you ready to hear about the big hooha?”
He sighs, rubbing a hand over his week-old beard.
“Yeah, might as well. Was it bad?”
“Terrible. Police were involved and everything. You were right about Hannibal having good papers, nobody’s figured out where you went. But, hey, even if they did what are they going to do, fly out to Italy and drag you back kicking and screaming? It’s just porn.”
“Just porn,” he agrees, hesitating. “Dolarhyde?”
He can basically hear Beverly’s grin. “His career fell pretty flat after that video. I’d suggest you take a look at it sometime. He went nuts. Lounds has taken it down obviously, but those imitation sites are really quick with the transferring. It’s scattered all over the web.”
Will winces. He’s curious, but not curious enough.
“Was Jack pissed?”
“Kind of,” she admits. “Though, he kind of looked more like he expected something like this.”
“Porn stars often run away together to escape a contract?” Will jabs tiredly.
“No, Will, they really don't.”
He is silent until Bev clears her throat and adds, “You guys certainly left your mark. I don’t think anything in the industry can top that for at least a decade to come.”
“Jesus, I hope you didn’t watch it,” he grumbles.
“Ew! No, notta.”
Will chuckles, exhaustion taking hold. “Call me anytime you want, Bev. I miss you, I think I’ve got to lay down for now though. Avoiding news from home was like avoiding a migraine that decided to wear a months-long disguise.” He rubs his head. “Tell Chiyoh we say hello.”
“Will do, sport,” Bev chirps. “Tell Hannibal he better be wearing those Gucci slides.”
Will winces again. Hannibal had immediately donated the Gucci slides.
They say their goodbyes and hang up. Will tucks his phone away and feels better than he thought he would, updated on Lounds and the Dragon. At some point, he’ll be able to go on the site with an objective eye and absorb the mass consensus of his and Hannibal’s final debut.
“Flora is pregnant,” Will informs Hannibal.
Hannibal’s reading glasses slide down his nose as he sits up abruptly from the couch. He sets his book down and blinks a few times before asking in a stupor, “Pardon?”
Will rubs the back of his neck, looking up at him apologetically from the floor. Flora has been acting strangely the last few weeks and today, he examined her to find her nipples swollen, enlarged, and a few of them dripping liquid. Milk.
“I never did end up getting Buster neutered,” he admits, shakily. “Kept putting it off, and uh, here we are.”
“Here we are,” Hannibal echoes.
“We can find homes for them easily,” Will forces out, rubbing Flora’s back. She breathes steadily, ogling him with an almost-smile. Shit. “People are always looking for puppies.”
Threateningly quiet, Hannibal rises from the couch and pads over to where Will is knelt beside their dog. He sits crisscrossed and lifts Flora onto his shoulder, supporting her body with broad hands. He sighs as he pets her, ignoring Will’s confused, surprised stare.
“Though burdens they may be, they are ours to bear. I am not sure I could stomach separating family, and they are our family as much as we are to each other. We will raise them.”
Hannibal pets her and whispers soft things into her ear, promises of larger dog beds and better food. Treats, unbeknownst to a snoring Buster, somewhere in Hannibal’s study.
Will swallows and scoops Flora up into his arms.
He lays her upon the nearest dog bed, a rose pink circular thing, and pets her head to steady her before he wraps a hand around Hannibal’s wrist and drags him to their bedroom.
He coaxes Hannibal to bear him down on the chaise at the foot of the bed, and Hannibal does, taking him hard and fast, bordering on the edge of delirium. He obviously hadn’t expected Will’s lust from the offer to keep the pups, and in a burst of inexplicable strength, he lifts Will bodily up and presses him against a wall, fucking up into his open hole as Will shouts and begs for more.
The house seems to tremble, but Will knows that’s not possible.
When he comes, his arms are loosely looped around Hannibal’s neck, Hannibal’s face buried in his hair, uneven thrusts coming in frantically, almost needily.
He gestures to be put down and when he is, he shoves Hannibal back toward their bed and ruthlessly takes his cock back inside, fucking himself to oversensitivity until Hannibal’s release flushes his insides, and he shouts, rivulets of pleasure rushing through him fast.
He might have come twice, but he is awash in aftershocks, too mindless to notice.
Sometime late in the night when neither of them is sleeping and Hannibal adjusts himself under Will’s weight, Will asks, “You don’t think of having children, do you?”
There is a severe quiet following the question, and Will’s nerves get the better of him.
“I’m aware it’s something we should have talked about in depth before marriage, I’m not trying to judge you for it if you do think about it. I’d rather know than not know.”
“I do not have any inclination toward accumulating children, Will,” he answers finally, in a voice like a man stuck with a frog in his throat. Will dances his fingers through his husband’s chest hair and waits for the frog to weasel it’s way out. It always does. “I was stumped momentarily because I do imagine children with you, but not in the way you may imagine, and not in any way that could be realized.”
Will lifts his head and meets his eyes. Hannibal’s are glistening black pools in the moonlight.
“Yours and mine,” Will intuits. “That’s what you’d want, if anything.”
“Even then, inheritance is a tricky business. I would readily give you a child if I could, but even if it were possible between the two of us, I am unsure of my resolve. I’d worry after its nature, and my own.”
“Fortunately, that’s not something we’re going to have to think about.” Will manages a dry laugh. “I don’t think our child would appreciate having porn stars for parents, if we’re being honest.”
Hannibal echoes his laugh, rubbing Will’s back.
Months later, Hannibal takes Will to the opera and despite not knowing the language as well as Will should by now, the play is gorgeous and out of this world. He wanted to meld into the bright lights and dazzling colors and become some reverberating, musical entity.
He can’t help but feel like a trophy in the lobby of the theater.
Before setting out for the showing, Hannibal had gifted Will with a long, golden fur coat. Faux, of course. He sticks out like a sore thumb, but more and more, he’s beginning to appreciate being dressed up by Hannibal. Draped in money and accessories which make him feel worshipped, never getting enough of that from his husband.
Will is startled when Hannibal kisses him in the lobby whilst handing him a drink from the open bar, not because of the affection, but because of how unstartled he’s been by the public displays of it for months now. He’s clouded with memories of Hannibal kissing him on the streets of Florence, and in the Uffizi Gallery on their way out the front door, with interlocked arms.
He realizes he's never been more at peace with himself.
He’s never liked himself enough to not worry about what others think of him.
Hannibal has inadvertently convinced him to appreciate himself.
His head is bubbling with anticipation on the drive home, hoping to suck Hannibal off and successfully deep throat him the way he’s slowly been learning as of late, but when they burst through the front door, they hear an unfamiliar mewling.
There are several squirming puppies, around five, suckling their mothers' teats. Flora is lying on her side in the crook between one of the larger sofa chairs and the television stand. Buster is sitting by the door, waiting for them patiently, like a proud father.
Will’s self-actualization is tabled for another day.
For now, he beams and turns to Hannibal.
Hannibal runs a loving hand down his fur coat, and smiles back.
Amidst the finishing touches of Will’s private room, Flora’s puppies have taken to gathering around him in something resembling a prayer circle as he paints. He nudges them away with crooning susurrations after several minutes, worried for the toxins in the air and watches fondly as they file out of the room one by one. Cinnamon, Clove, Ginger, Nutmeg, and Paprika (Rika for short, and the runt of the litter). Hannibal had attempted to name them after Greek Gods, but that was a step too far for Will. They compromised on cooking spices.
He shuts the door after they leave and gets back to work.
The paint needs to dry, and then he’ll be able to present the final rendition to Hannibal. Nerves flutter like butterflies more akin to moths eating away at the light inside him when he thinks about Hannibal’s reaction, but with each day and every moment of pertinent self-imagining, he grows confident. He perfects his vision, and swears to himself, it will be beautiful.
They have spent two wonderful years in Florence.
Will prepares the reveal on the night of their second anniversary. Hannibal made promises of cooking an extravagant dinner for Will once he arrives home from the gym, so Will places his note in the kitchen. One that reads; I’m in the room you’ve been waiting for.
Will sits on the fur rug and waits in the dark, heart rate spiking when he hears the front door jostle and Hannibal’s footsteps come to a halt in the kitchen. Then, they splinter toward him. Hunting down their new domain. Will forces himself to breathe steadily.
The only light in the new space comes from the lit fireplace. He wonders if Hannibal saw the smoke from the chimney when he parked the car, and then Hannibal appears in the doorway, shadows masking his face as the fluorescents from the hall frame his silhouette.
A light switch is flipped on.
Will smirks wide as Hannibal’s eyes scan the room in a fluster.
Chains and ropes hang from the ceiling. A padded chair identical to the one from Hannibal’s previous dungeon lies in the center of the fur rug, Will splayed out just before it, dressed in nothing but his fur coat. He wears the cock cage, padlock adorned, and the leather straps Hannibal had gifted him years ago, when he still planned for him to wear them.
Cabinets line the back wall, not obscuring the sole window. Inside they contain an array of toys and devices for Hannibal’s infernal purposes.
Hannibal’s eyes fall back on Will with a newfound lust, hope revealed in their depths.
Will takes a deep breath, and tames his voice, low and alluring.
“I’d like to resume our sessions, Doctor Lecter.”